Greg and Zanna ponder the power of Paul Rudd
SCORES (FOR PAUL RUDD)
Easiness of charm: 5
Niceness of eyes: 5
Chance of friendship with: 0
We argued about whether The Shrink Next Door was funny. I said it wasn't funny and wasn't supposed to be. Greg argued that the subject matter wasn't funny but because its two leads are played by comedians Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell, it's innately comedic. I thought about it. I was definitely primed to laugh but there's a lot of ominous music and the Ferrell character is such a sad person that not until episode three did audible laughter leave my body - and only briefly.
Greg had listened to a good portion of the podcast on which the series is based and explained that it isn't funny at all. Then it clicked. Greg has always had a thing for Paul Rudd - a non-sexual infatuation with him. When he comes on the screen Greg gets all giggly and it's that giggliness that has deluded him into thinking this deeply dark show is funny.
Don't get me wrong, Rudd is definitely funny-looking as a middle-aged Jewish psychiatrist in 1980s New York. His character, Ike Herschkopf, makes a lot of incredibly dorky fashion choices and he has a sort of bouncy, enthusiastic professor way of moving that couldn't be more removed from the Sexiest Man Alive title that Rudd has just had bestowed upon him. Which is to say, he does an incredible job inhabiting this role of a duplicitous, unsexy conman. Greg must be proud.
Ferrell, too, is excellent as meek and grieving businessman Marty Markowitz, who enlists the help of Herschkopf to support him following the death of his father, the end of his relationship and his appointment as the head of his family's fabric business. Kathryn Hahn, who is consistently brilliant in everything, plays Markowitz's sister Phyllis, who pretty quickly senses something suspicious about Ike. And so unfolds an almost unbelievable real-life story of misplaced trust and skullduggery.
I hesitate to say this but I fell asleep every single time we put The Shrink Next Door on, even once at 11am when all the kids were at school or kindy, finally. But I think that has more to do with self-diagnosed lockdown fatigue than this series, the first three episodes of which I've really enjoyed. The setting of 1980s New York is so delicious: the hair, the fashion, the tired 1970s decor almost on its way out. The performances are impeccable - I think I might prefer these men in dramatic roles. Perhaps it's a little slow but more likely I'm just really, really tired and Paul Rudd in bad knitwear doesn't make me giggle with excitement the way it does Greg.
The first time I saw Paul Rudd was in the hit 1995 movie Clueless, but I didn't notice him then, because, from the moment Alicia Silverstone appeared on screen, I sat agog, unable to comprehend or even see anything else in the movie. I was 19 then, and hormonally incontinent. It was no wonder nobody liked me.
It was 14 years later, when I was in my early 30s, that I fell for him, as I sat alone in a cinema in Los Angeles watching him play a guy without friends in hit comedy I Love You Man. As he charmingly and hilariously bumbled his way through a series of failed attempted friend-making exercises, I thought, "I'd be your friend, Paul Rudd. I'd be your friend big time."
I actually tried once, at the beginning of lockdown last year, when I sent out invites for my fantasy A-list celebrity dinner party, to be conducted over Zoom. I could only think of two people I really wanted to come: World's greatest writer, George Saunders, and Rudd. Neither said yes but I didn't hold that against them. I wouldn't come to a dinner party with me either, and often haven't.
If you're not already in love with Rudd, an easy way to start is by watching the 2m 45s YouTube clip called "Would You Have Sex With Paul Rudd?" in which he runs down a street in New York City with comedian Billy Eichner, who offers people a dollar to answer the question posed in the title. Standing there looking into Rudd's infinite eyes, almost everyone says yes.
The clip is funny and beautiful but you don't need to watch the whole thing to get the Rudd effect - the first 15 seconds is enough. While Eichner - loud, enthusiastic and fast-talking - introduces the absurd concept, Rudd stands there, hilariously not doing much. Then Eichner says, "Are you ready, Paul?" and he replies, "Yeah." Contained within that monosyllable is the near infinite power of Rudd's humanity: Generosity, kindness, self-deprecation, personal beauty, comic genius and many other things I'm still working through. It's so good it feels wrong to be watching it during the daytime.
His career is a series of moments of equivalent brilliance. I have no truck with the idea of watching something because a certain actor's in it, but Paul Rudd's not an actor: He's the best friend I've never had.
The Shrink Next Door is now streaming on Apple+