Sarah Silverman Has Smart Take on ‘Stupid Pet Tricks’

Sarah Silverman is taking a new swing at David Letterman’s fondly recalled “Stupid Pet Tricks,” and it would be easy to say something about the comic “going to the dogs” or “hoping the new show has legs.” But Silverman has a lot more in store than skateboarding canines and bubble-popping reptiles.

That’s right, this isn’t your dad’s “Stupid Pet Tricks.”

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“The stupid pet tricks happen in front of the camera,” says Silverman during a recent interview, but “we wanted to make it kind of a ‘Muppet Show’ where you see behind the scenes.” Every episode has a storyline that might involve a writers’ room with just one human, or Jack McBrayer as a rival host with his own animal program.  Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Reggie Watts and Judd Apatow are among the other guests who take on roles within the program. Even Letterman makes an appearance.

The show “has layers to it,” says Silverman — just as “The Muppet Show” or “Sesame Street” or “The Simpsons all have “stuff that kids will love and stuff that parents will understand that will go over the kids’ heads.”

And while the original “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment dates back to the earliest days of Letterman’s “Late Night” program on NBC, this show is part of very modern changes taking place with the nation’s line-up of wee-hours favorites. Many of them have become content engines that keep creating new segments that are then turned into separate programs. Jimmy Fallon’s “That’s My Jam” and James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” were both turned into stand-alone series that are relatively inexpensive to produce yet generate new monies for the original creators. Letterman is an executive producer of the new “Pet Tricks” series.

Viewers conscious of how animals are treated will be comforted to know all the non-human performers had guardians and minders looking out for their interests. “We had people on the set at all times who might alert the crew if ‘the cat needs to rest,’” says Silverman. “I love animals, but that could go a dark way if you don’t’ take precautions and make sure they are extremely protected.” Silverman and other humans in the show kept calm around their animal guests and made sure to touch them only in ways they wanted.

“People are like animals in that same way. There are some people who don’t like to be touched, and we are only just learning to respect those things, aren’t we?” Silverman asks.

Warner Bros. Discovery has found a clever way to launch the new program. “Stupid Pet Tricks” is slated to debut Sunday, then air regularly on TBS on Mondays. But this weekend it will appear right after the annual “Puppy Bowl,” a Super Bowl counter-programming favorite, at 5 p.m. eastern on TBS, Discovery, truTV and Animal Planet. An encore will air later that evening. New episodes debut on TBS every Monday at 9:00pm eastern starting February 12.

There’s something very vaudevillian about seeing animals try interesting stunts, and Silverman says the “low fi” concept is part of the series’ charm — just as it was when Letterman would run the segment on his late-night show.

Better still, Silverman is pleased to “have my hand in producing something that is kind of for everyone, that is completely devoid of politics, something that everyone can agree on.” Few people, she says, want to fight about pets.

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