Although Adam Pally’s comedic talents are obvious and prodigious—from starring roles in stuff like Happy Endings and The Mindy Project, to semi-regular appearances on all your favorite podcasts—one thing he is decidedly not good at is faking enthusiasm. That’s something that the organizers of The Shorty Awards found out to their detriment last year, when Pally’s eye-rolling attempt to present an in-memoriam segment for AIM and Vine—and subsequent booting from the web award show’s stage—became its own kind of wonderful viral moment. Still, fans of Pally could have seen it coming; all they’d have had to do was look back at January 2015, when he presided over one of the weirdest hours of late-night talk ever broadcast on CBS.
For those who don’t remember, Pally’s one-night tenure on CBS mainstay The Late Late Show was the product of a variety of factors; Craig Ferguson—no stranger to anti-talk-show talk show antics—had just departed after a decade on the air, making way for James Corden to take over the slot in March. CBS patched up the gap between the two runs with several months of fill-in hosts, including logical picks like Regis Philbin and Ferguson’s old pal, Drew Carey. Other choices were less obvious—Jim Gaffigan, Lauren Graham, and Will Arnett also helmed the desk—but nobody turned out to be a more wonderfully awkward fit than Pally. Faced with a guest-and-audience-deterring blizzard, an ill-fitting Gucci suit, and a clear sense of the absurdity of the situation, Pally did what apparently came naturally: He called up his old pal Ben Schwartz to serve as his sidekick, booked whatever guests he could, and proceeded to tear the entire structure of late-night talk apart.
Four years later, the singular existence of The Late Late Show With Adam Pally remains utterly bizarre; it’s still difficult to imagine which CBS executive signed off on letting this thing go to air. Schwartz—who passed the clip around on Twitter today, putting the credit/blame on CBS’s Nick Bernstein—is clearly relishing his opportunity to revel in the chaos and poke at his friend, while Pally’s dedication to his own discomfort is painfully palpable, from picking fights with the show’s crew, to asking intentionally awkward questions of his guests. (Author and animal rights activist Beth Stern, who’s married to Howard Stern, comes off best, bantering and rolling with the awkward vibe; meanwhile, talk show host terrorist Eric Andre mostly just makes fun of Jay Baruchel and spins around in his chair.) The end result is a symphony of comedic discomfort. Pally—clearly having a very particular kind of “Fuck it, let’s do this” blast—ends each segment by muttering about how terribly it’s all going, and by the time he finally introduces musical guest Death Cab For Cutie, you half-expect a lighting rig to crash down, crushing all involved. And yet there’s also a kind of manic perfection, best embodied in the closing moments, when Schwartz flicks a pen from across the studio at his buddy, who casually plucks it out of the air with the confidence of a veteran showman who’s giving the audience exactly what he wants.
Anyway, happy anniversary, folks. We’ll see you to celebrate this important television milestone back here again next year.