Social distancing and staying inside is hard. Thankfully, accessing good things to watch during this time is not.
Taika Waititi is one of the hottest Jewish celebrities on the planet right now. The director, writer and actor is best known for his humorous “Thor” film and for “Jojo Rabbit,” his poignant Nazi satire that earned him an Academy Award. He was born to a Māori New Zealander father and a Jewish mother.
He’s also a co-creator of the best TV show you’re not watching: “What We Do in the Shadows.”
The premise is simple, if ridiculous: a documentary crew follows four vampires who live together in a house on New York’s Staten Island. The simplicity is what makes the show so successful — the tone is silly, deadpan, absurd and downright hilarious.
Much of the credit goes to the stellar cast — that includes some famous Jewish guest stars such as Nick Kroll, Vanessa Bayer and Beanie Feldstein — and Waititi’s co-creator, the “Flight of the Conchords” star Jemaine Clement.
Waititi and Clement have been collaborating since they attended university together. In 2004, they made the short film “What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with Some Vampires,” about vampire roommates in Wellington, New Zealand. Ten years later the Kiwi comedy stars turned it into a full-length feature, using the same title, that premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance.
The idea of mocking vampires came from a bit they used to do:
Clement: We had played this thing on stage one time. Taika, Bret [McKenzie] and I all went to Calgary, to do a show, where one of us was on stage playing a vampire, doing vampire jokes. The only one I remember is like [exaggerated Slavic accent]: “I just flew from Transylvania, and boy are my arms tired. Because they were wings, and I flew all the way.” I think that was Taika doing that, and then I’d get up from the audience, dressed as a vampire, too, and I’m heckling him.
Waititi: “You’ve been heckling me for 250 years!”
Clement: “You heckled me in Vienna in 1563!”
Waititi: “And then I chopped your head off!” “Ah, you have a new head, my friend.”
Clement: I forgot that joke. “Yes, I have a different head.”
Waititi: “Ah, but I remember the voice. And the heckles.” When we first met in Wellington, nothing was really open late at night except for video-game parlors. We would hang around, playing air hockey and doing those kinds of characters. “Ah, my old rival.” Just keep the stupid thing going on for ages.
Thankfully they’ve kept “the stupid thing” going through a wildly funny movie and television show.
When they initially pitched the film, Clement said, “The world needs ridiculous shit.” In a world where everything feels terrible, we need ridiculous and absurd and silly more than ever. Sometimes you just need to laugh at vampires trying to plan an orgy, or apply for a green card.
The second season premiered Wednesday on FX and also is available on Hulu (along with Season 1).