Somewhere between showings of the indie films Trojan Eddie and Teeth today on IFC you’ll find the premiere of Bunk, a series IFC describes as “a new breed of comedy game show,” created by Ethan T. Berlin, comedy writer, performer, and one-time TNB 21 Questions interviewee. If you’ve seen Da’ Ali G Show, Crank Yankers, or Lopez Tonight, you’re already familiar with Berlin’s work. And now you can tune in to watch Berlin and other comedians (tonight’s episode also features Ben Garant and Kumail Nanjiani) compete in challenges like live puppy shaming and adding arms to the Venus de Milo. Mark my words – puppy shaming will be the new Plinko. Berlin was kind enough to answer a few questions about Bunk ahead of tonight’s debut:
Tell me if I have the premise of Bunk right: a different set of three comedians compete each episode in improv kinds of tasks for prizes and glory. Anything to add or change there?
Yes, this is correct. There’s a rotating panel of comedians, improvisers, comedic actors, and comedy writers who compete in bizarre challenges in order to win bizarre prizes … and ultimate glory!
What inspired you to create Bunk?
I was writing on a pilot for another network that was supposed to be a comedy game show. The problem was, though, that it was legally a game show that had to abide by FCC guidelines. So, most of the really funny ideas would get rejected because they didn’t fit these narrow legal rules. When it was done, I thought, “hey, what if we just made a game show that had no rules and was all about doing what we think is funniest.” I took this idea to my longtime friend and producing partner Eric Bryant, we brought in our friends including our now host Kurt [Braunohler], and started developing it.
Has the concept behind it changed much since being picked up by IFC?
Actually, not much and only in good ways. We originally produced a pilot on our own that got into the New York Television Festival. IFC saw it, liked it, and ordered a new pilot. The process of developing the new pilot was amazing. Unlike other networks that buy things they like and then slowly strip out the parts that made the show great, IFC encouraged us to keep the best parts and build onto them. The main addition that came out of this was what the contestants are playing for. It was through the IFC development process that we came up with Non-Charitable Causes, the surreal and selfish prizes that each contestant is playing for.
I saw that Braunohler was asked who his three-contestant dream-team would be for Bunk. He chose: “Bill Murray as a zombie, a talking walrus, and a sentient Cinnabon.” Your picks?
Oh, man. I wish Kurt had told me this during production. I totally know a sentient Cinnabon. I could have booked her!
Other than that, I’d love a centaur. I’ve always had a soft spot for their plight.
I’m a little excited to find out what a “surreal prize” is on the show because I’m thinking melting watches.
Ha. Yeah, melting watches would be great. Unlike on other game shows where contestants play for prizes that anyone would actually want, our contestants play for bizarre and usually impossible to deliver Non-Charitable Causes. For example, in one episode I’m playing for my long-ago divorced parents to remarry. My “parents” are in the studio and they’ve agreed to remarry if I win. Other contestants play to get probed by an alien, to be laid off by their boss so they can get unemployment, or to have a trustworthy member of society provide them with an alibi.
And your dream prize for your dream contestant would be …?
Hmmm … I guess a centaur would be tired of people not knowing what centaurs were, so he’d be playing for a PR agency to create a promotional campaign to bring centaurs to the forefront of our consciousness.
So, you compete in the premiere episode. I’ll include the clip “I Saw the Sign” so our readers can see a little preview of you in action:
I have to say, your sign is the most practical. Any commentary on this particular clip?
That’s awesome! Thanks. And yeah, you’ve always got to look out for women who are going to blame you. I’d say my main commentary is that as a player these magnet challenges always felt the scariest. You just hope that there are images in your pile that you can make some sense of … and then when the challenge actually begins it’s just panic and bullshit time. Panic to put something on the board and then figure out some sort of bullshit that makes sense of it. That’s one of my favorite parts of playing the game in general … justifying. “Okay, I was just forced to blurt something out. Now, let’s see how we can all make sense of it.”
Bunk premieres June 8 on IFC at 10:30 ET.