Conan O’Brien is helping to introduce Rebel Wilson to primetime, serving as executive producer of her new ABC fall comedy “Super Fun Night.”
“It happened very organically for me,” Conan told reporters on Sunday at ABC’s portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Tour of how he came to work with the Australian funny lady. “Rebel was on the show as a guest and… very occasionally… someone’s on the show who I haven’t met before and it’s a revelation, and Rebel was on the show and she was hilarious and when the show was over, I stood up and I walked over to the EP Jeff Ross and I said, ‘I want her back tomorrow and the next day and the next day. She’s fantastic.’”
Conan did a little research into the actress, catching up on a 2008 comedy series she did in her native Australia, “Bogan Pride.”
“I loved it, and again, what I saw was a television star,” Conan explained. “She is vulnerable, fearless, she is absolutely one of the most likable performers I’ve seen in a long career in television and so we had a meeting and we started talking.”
Eventually, it was Rebel who came up with the idea for “Super Fun Night,” about a trio of friends who spend their Friday nights together, and inside one of their homes. In the first episode, Rebel’s character, Kimmie, gets a promotion and her new position sees her meeting Kevin Bishop’s Richard, a friendly Brit who seems to have a thing for her character, and invites her out to a party.
But while Richard might see a friend (or more) in Kimmie, others do not and there are plenty of insults.
“Rebel writes these lines that people fire at her,” Conan said, when one reporter asked about a creative, but comedic-tinged insult line in the pilot about Kimmie’s appearance. “I saw that and I wanna defend [her] then I find [she’s] the person who wrote it, which is absolutely brilliant.”
Conan said Rebel, like many other funny actresses in the history of television, knows where the comedic line is drawn.
“Great comedians know the balance inherently. They know where it is… You think about the situations that Lucille Ball put herself in through all her of her best work, think of the situations that Tina Fey put herself in through all of her work — they’re brilliant because they understand where that line is themselves,” he said. “[It’s not our] place to tell Rebel where that line is. It’s up to Rebel. She just knows what she’s doing.
“You sometimes cringe when you see her going through something embarrassing, but she’s so winning and she’s so likable and you root for her so much that you’re in this with her and when she survives and when she actually achieves her goal, it’s exciting,” he added.
Rebel said she is pushing for some of the darker storylines in her upcoming ABC comedy.
“I’m always pitching the saddest storylines, like where I get punched in the face,” she said. “But, the purpose of the show, to me, is to really inspire girls who don’t think they’re cool and popular and pretty and all that, to get out there, that they can have fun and exciting lives too.
“I think, in order to do that, you need to present a very realistic version of what it’s like to be a girl who looks like me and is not the coolest and that often involves ‘Kimmie gets broken up with by one dude, ‘cause he’s says you’re too fat,’…So there is some very sad storylines coming down the pipe, but I think we have to present that,” she said. “But then, we present the wins for my character, which are awesome. It’s fun and gratifying, I think.”
“Super Fun Night” premieres October 2 and 9:30/8:30c on ABC.
-- Jolie Lash