John Lehr and Nancy Hower didn't know a lot about Westerns when they embarked on writing their new Hulu comedy, "Quick Draw." But they dug up comedy gold while researching the Old West.
"It's amazing the stuff that never made it into the Westerns because it was so ridiculous, but it was actually true," Northwestern grad Lehr said by phone from L.A. last week. "We stumbled upon this steam-powered vibrator from the 1800s that I was just like, 'You got to be kidding me!' No, absolutely true.
"It was just like, 'Nancy! A steam-powered vibrator!' So of course we worked that in immediately."
Obviously well-researched and bawdy, "Quick Draw" is a loose, improvisational show that hits way more than it misses. Hulu launched the series Aug. 5 with the first two episodes; new 23-minute episodes debut every Monday.
Lehr stars as Sheriff John Henry Hoyle, a Harvard-educated lawman who, with his reluctant deputy, Eli (Nicholas Brown), uses the emerging science of forensics and his sharpshooting skills to bring down the Wild West's most dangerous criminals. Unfortunately, what the sheriff has in book smarts he lacks in common sense, and things often don't go his way.
So far, Hoyle and Eli have crossed paths with outlaw Cole Younger and con artist Pearl Star, two characters Lehr and Hower based upon real historical figures. Monday's third episode, "Mail Order Bride," centers on the Bloody Benders, a factual Kansas family from the 1800s who would book people into their inn just to rob and murder them.
A bit of their research also has inspired a weekly drinking game for viewers.
"We found these Old Western recipes of drinks ... that are totally ridiculous," said Lehr, whom some fans may remember from his three season on "10 Items or Less," a TBS comedy he and Hower wrote, or from playing the Cavemen in the popular Geico TV commercials.
In addition to each week's episode, Lehr and company create a 2-minute "Quick Draw Mixology" video that presents the recipe for a drink like Gin & Pine or Whiskey Skin and the word—"sheriff" for example—that signals viewers to take a sip.
"These drinks are just horrid; they're just like nasty," Lehr said, laughing. "I don't know what these people were thinking back then."
Lehr, who trained at Second City in Chicago and live on Wrightwood and Racine, talked more about his inspiration for "Quick Draw," why he chose Harvard as the sheriff's alma mater and why comedians on horseback make him laugh.
QUICK DRAW MIXOLOGY: GIN & PINE
We talked a long time ago during "10 Items or Less."
Three seasons. We're thrilled. It's still on Hulu. It's funny because once "10 Items" went onto Hulu it seemed to really kind of find its audience. I got like 12,000 followers and people who are just really into that show. It's so great. Thank God for Hulu.
Was the resurgence of that show on Hulu a reason that you thought you should do an original show on Hulu?
It didn't work that way with me, but it may have worked that way with Hulu. When "10 Items" was canceled my partner Nancy Hower and I ... did a couple of pilots. We did one for Comedy Central and one for NBC. And in that time Hulu approached us about doing something for them. So maybe their interest was connected to the "10 Items" views on Hulu, I don't know. I never thought about that, but you're probably right.
What made you decide to do a Western?
Believe it or not I had been wanting to do one for a while. Nancy and I have been talking back and forth for a while about doing one. We just love the idea of taking our brand of hybrid improv comedy and putting it in a historical setting. ... Improv can get a little out there at times, which is one of the things that's so great about it. And when you set it in a historical context, in a weird way it feels more grounded because we don't know exactly how people behaved back then. So I think people give it a little bit more leeway. Whereas when you set it in maybe the current setting people might say, "I don't know anybody like that."
You set it in the cowboy days and people are like, "Well yeah, I can see a goofball like that coming from Harvard saying those things. It's possible." And then just the idea of putting a bunch of comedians in cowboy outfits with guns and horses just seemed hilarious to us. We loved "Blazing Saddles." I mean our show, the tone is totally different I think from "Blazing Saddles" but we did love "Blazing Saddles." And the idea of doing like a "Spinal Tap" in the 1800s, it just seemed like a good idea.