'Hot Date': Creators Emily Axford and Brian Murphy, EP Will Arnett talk relationship comedy

Kelly Woo
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

First comes love, then comes marriage… then comes a TV comedy series!

The husband-and-wife comedy duo Brian Murphy and Emily Axford have been making jokes about dating, relationships, and sex in their CollegeHumor sketch series Hot Date. Now, they’re transforming it into a half-hour sitcom on Pop TV, with the help of executive producer Will Arnett.

The show, which premieres Wednesday night at 8 p.m., features Axford and Murphy as versions of themselves, and also as numerous supporting characters in a hilarious variety of wigs. Each episode takes place over one night, and tackles topics like double standards, hookup culture, and adult friendships.

Arnett makes guest appearances, as do other big names, including his friend, Kevin Pollak, seen in the sneak peek above.

Yahoo Entertainment chatted with Axford, Murphy, and Arnett about what to expect from this modern romance.

Creators Emily Axford and Brian K. Murphy in ‘Hot Date’ (Photo: Pop)

What was the process of transitioning the CollegeHumor sketches to a full-fledged series?

Murphy: Emily and I had built up all these ideas, and we’d been doing relationship humor at CollegeHumor so often. We did a lot of sketches where we played ourselves and going through these relatable relationship problems, and we did other sketches where we were playing these big characters. The show is kind of the logical conclusion of that. Now, we have this show where we can tell longer stories, with Emily and I playing versions of ourselves and these big characters.

Axford: Yeah, previously we’d be like, “That’s an interesting idea about relationships,” and then we’d write a three-minute thing about it. But now it’s like, “What are the consequences of that? Where does that lead us for the rest of the night?”

So, we can expect more serialization now?

Murphy: Yeah, in two or three minutes it’s pretty hard to tell any kind of story. You just tell your jokes and get out. This is certainly a narrative show and it follows us through the night, and we have little arcs throughout the series.

Axford: We have friends of Murph and Emily’s that are recurring characters. We have characters that we play that repeat in multiple episodes and have their own story throughout the season.

Murphy: Emily and I break up at least four other couples. That’s kind of an ongoing joke that we keep getting these other couples to break up.

Axford: Yeah, and it keeps making us stronger. [Laughs] We’re absorbing their love.

Will, what’s been your role as an executive producer?

Arnett: I’m just here to be a fan and a cheerleader and a passenger on their journey, and to help in any way that I can. As a fan of Murph and Emily’s, I really was excited to see them take what they’ve already done and expand their comedic voices.

They did such an awesome job of taking something they already did very well on CollegeHumor and really expanding it. They each play upwards of maybe 20, 30 characters, which is pretty awesome.

I’d describe the show as a combination of Tracey Ullman meets Mr. Show, in the best way, where you get to have all these great characters, all these funny situations, yet it’s telling a story. It’s not just throwaway jokes. You get invested in all of these various characters, and you’re excited to see them come back and get woven back into the story.

Murphy: It’s been great having Will for his advice and words of encouragement. It means everything when we know Will likes something, because he’s been there and obviously has made so many amazing projects. He’s a guest star on our third episode, and it’s one of my favorite things that we’ve done.

Executive producer Will Arnett guest stars as podcast host Sam Keurig in episode 3 of ‘Hot Date’ (Photo: Pop)

What character does Will play?

Murphy: Will plays a crime podcaster called Sam Keurig. The episode is about navigating adult friendship. You know, as people get married, as people have kids, it’s hard to keep up all your friendships. Will’s character, Sam Keurig, is trying to find out where all his friends have gone.

Emily: It’s kind of a self-serious, NPR Serial type of podcast. And he’s trying to figure out why his friends disappeared as an adult, and as it goes on, you slowly realize it’s because he’s a s**thead.

Will: I liked it a lot. I didn’t see him as so much of a s**thead as misunderstood, but that’s a personal opinion. [Axfora and Murphy laugh]

It was really fun! That’s, in a lot of ways, the dream scenario — to come in and do stuff for fun and laugh and have a good time. I’m not a big podcast listener, so I spent a little bit of time listening to podcasts and trying to understand that cadence, that tempo, and some of the things they do. And along the way, I learned something you guys.

Murphy: You’re sounding very NPR.

Arnett: You can imagine me: I’ve got a 10,000-yard stare right now.

Kevin Pollak guest stars in ‘Hot Date’ (Photo: Pop)

Our clip features Kevin Pollak. How did he get involved?

Axford: Honestly, I don’t know how we got him, but he was so funny.

Murphy: Emily and I play twins, which is kind of weird. And Kevin Pollak plays our dad, who’s sort of bumbling with having a sex talk with his two kids. He treats the boy differently than he treats the girl. He plays such a good “flustered.”

Axford: He was so funny. And he also had such a good time filming, which is great to see someone who is so experienced just come on set and still enjoy himself.

Arnett: Kevin is so funny as that character. And that episode really makes me laugh. The highlighting of the different attitudes that we have, the systemic attitudes that we have toward sex for men and women, especially at a young age. Even though it’s very funny and heightened, it’s also very real.

Murph and Emily did such a great job of lampooning that and Kevin was so great, as they said, at being the dad who’s part of that problem and doesn’t understand why. He was the perfect guy to get.

He’s always a delight. I’ve known Kevin for over 20 years — the first pilot I ever did was with Kevin. I was a supporting character in his show, so I’ve known him for a long time, we’ve been friends forever. He’s one of the most naturally funny people that I’ve ever known.

Murphy: There’s a 20-minute version of that scene.

Maybe you should release that online as an outtake.

Arnett: Ooh!

Axford: There’s definitely a ton of outtakes. As comedians, we can be real unprofessional. [Laughs]

Hot Date premieres Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. on Pop TV.

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