Comedy Central Star Ben Hoffman on How to Spice Up ‘Mad Men’

Credit: Ian White/Comedy Central; Ron Jaffe/AMC

Kentucky native and star of Comedy Central’s The Ben Show, Ben Hoffman is a puzzling comedic presence. His half-hour sketch show is part Jay-Walking (only he’s the one playing the clueless goofball) and part how-many-weird-people-can-Ben-find-in-L.A. (spoiler: a lot). On one hand, his purposely ditzy antics are clear schtick, but at the same time, he’s so ingrained in his comedy persona that during an interview, it’s hard to tell when he’s being serious and when he’s doing his thing. Naturally, we thought we’d further the confusion and seek his advice on a few things: namely AMC’s juggernaut series Mad Men

Six Ways to Spice Up Mad Men, According to Ben Hoffman:
1. More advertising talk! People love advertising!
2. How about a wacky neighbor? Imagine if Louie Anderson moved next door!
3. Speaking of Louie Andeson, what if the whole cast entered a diving competition? Splash is going well, right?
4. Sex scene between Christina Hendricks and Ben Hoffman.
5.The whole cast leaves work early one day to attend a Velvet Underground concert.
6. Sharon and Ozzy split up? I’m too depressed to talk about this anymore. 

Hoffman is coming up on the season finale of The Ben Show, so he knows a thing or two about television (are you listening, Matthew Weiner?). But in all seriousness, Hoffman is a beneficiary of the new age of comedy, one that offers up a spread of outlets for every possible brand of funny. “I think it’s the best time to be doing it because a show like mine couldn’t get made a few years ago when they were only a few outlets,” says Hoffman, who calls his brand of comedy “specific.”

“There’s an audience for everything now, unlike the old days where you needed 10 million viewers or you’re canceled,” he says. And it’s true. Hoffman’s show features almost painfully awkward encounters with Hoffman’s own father (who he says is so popular he’s getting his own interview requests as a result of the show), his buddy Norm MacDonald, and people from walks of life we didn’t even know existed. In Thursday night’s season finale, we meet a piñata maker, a Whoopi Goldberg impersonator, and a ballusionist (a balloon-illusionist is a real, lucrative job, it would seem). “We try to think of the weirdest professions possible and then we have a producer go see if that profession even exists. And the answer is always ‘yes’ … L.A. is where the crazies come out,” says Hoffman.

And while Hoffman’s crazies are certainly entertaining, the strangest and perhaps most rewarding moments of his hodgepodge comedy half-hour are the vignettes with longtime comedy vet MacDonald (Thursday’s finale involves a bathroom and a dangerous piece of machinery, so get ready). “Basically I’m trying to make him not funny and he’s still the funniest thing on the show … He’s amazing and it’s just him being himself. I can’t think of an example of wasting anyone’s talent more than me doing Norm movie parodies,” says Hoffman with a laugh. It may be a “waste,” but it’s certainly a memorable running bit. 

The Ben Show concludes its eight episode first season on Comedy Central Thursday night at 10 P.M.

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

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