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Mel Brooks defined the difference between comedy and tragedy thusly in his famous quote, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." To paraphrase, comedy is seeing other people's tragedies.
CBS's new comedy Worst Week offers weekly tragedies for poor Sam Brigg
CBS's new comedy Worst Week offers weekly tragedies for poor Sam Briggs, and weekly comedies for viewers. Sam means well, but finds himself in many Murphy's Law (whatever can go wrong will go wrong) circumstances. In the premiere, he helps a drunk girl get home safely even after she vomits on his clothes. But when he tries to clean up at her place, she awakens from her stupor and kicks him out… naked. Guess he should have asked her permission before showering off. All he can find to cover himself is a plastic bag twisted into a diaper.

Okay, so maybe some bad decision-making is part of Sam's problem. "We talk about how we're going to maintain it," said star Kyle Bornheimer. "I mean, I don't ever stop messing up. Life's folly keeps happening to me. I might reach a conclusion at the end of a bad week and I learned something there and then I start a fire. So it's like kind of life's folly. It's like make a plan and watch the universe laugh at you. I think that's sort of Sam's life in a nutshell."

Bornheimer may look familiar to viewers, as he has been a popular face on television ads for Sprint, Geico and Imodium. For the antacid, he played the personification of a man's irritated bowels. Now he enjoys carefully orchestrated pratfalls every week.

"I love it," he said. "It's fun to go into work, to figure out the mechanics of that and how to make each moment funny. I mean, we had the most bizarre conversations about 'How much urine is funny?' And 'Is a blue diaper funnier than a green diaper?' Just that kind of weird, creative bubble that you step into where that's your decision-making process for 12 hours a day is to me really fun."Kyle Bornheimer, Worst Week

That urine incident involves Sam accidentally peeing into an entrée dish. When it spills later, his father-in-law slips in it and gets a concussion. "I mean, I have a kind of a goofy smile on my face whenever I'm working with these people because it's just kind of a gleeful experience," Bornheimer continued. "To know that you're going to be able to do this physical stuff and each time come up with something new, a new reaction and all based on reality."
 
The show won't be able to coast on the outrageous for very long. Worst Week will need to have real characters if it is going to attract viewers. "That's why I think it's different. I mean, I love I Love Lucy and all that stuff, but it's more kind of how I've seen my father get upset at stuff. In reality, when you stub your toe, you don't do a very strict movement. It's funny when you see someone trip on the street, how they react to themselves. Do they do the 'Ha, ha, look, I tripped.' Or do they get mad at the stump that tripped them? I've seen people do that, like trip and [scream], 'Who put that stump there?' So I think it's like life."

Many episodes will focus on Sam's foibles with the in-laws, but there are just as many opportunities for disaster at work. "I would imagine every relationship that Sam has with everyone that he comes across presents a new problem, whether it's to impress a really strict father or to get on the good side of a really sweet mother. Even just hanging out with a buddy, I think Sam can mess that up somehow. I mean, all my relationships in my life are tense and stressful, and I seem to mess them up."

Sometimes Bornheimer contributes his own ideas to Sam's screw-ups. "When you get into that kind of physical stuff too, it's once you're presented with a pot of urine, the possibilities, or the 'pissabilities' are endless. That's when it gets really fun like batting back and forth, 'Well, what if I did this, and what if…' and something will happen in the scene that you weren't expecting because there's so much physicality going on and people are moving in different directions that no two takes are alike anyway."Worst Week
 
Sam must have the most understanding fiancée in the world if Mel (Erinn Hayes) puts up with his shenanigans week after week. She seems to get frustrated when he blows it with her parents, but perhaps in private she sees the softer side of Sam.

"Couples relate to each other so differently given the circumstances. I kind of tune out on shows and movies too where it's like the guy messes up and then there's a typical argument about it, like 'Why did you do this?' My wife and I, sometimes she'll surprise me and be like, 'I know. I would have done that too.' You screw with each other and sometimes, she's going to be on his side and a team member. They're almost like a comedy duo. They're getting into trouble together."

In real life Bornheimer is happily married and a new father. He was expecting his first child while doing press for Worst Week over the summer.

"The due date is actually August 1st. It's the day we start shooting. We wanted to pick a really inconvenient time. We decided the day we start shooting would be a little more interesting for the rest of the cast."

Seriously, balancing work and family could give Bornheimer a real life Worst Week. "I don't plan on having any grace or harmony whatsoever in pulling any of this off, which will feed the show some humor, I guess."

Worst Week airs Mondays this fall at 9:30 on CBS.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 85 - September 2218
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