How to make TV’s funniest show during a pandemic

When the Emmy nominations were announced in July, nothing made me happier than the eight surprising nods (including Best Comedy Series) for FX’s deliriously funny vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, based on the film of the same name.

The deeply silly TV show turned out a second season that is one of the funniest TV seasons I’ve seen in ages, featuring riffs on whether vampires have ghosts of themselves because they’re already dead and an entire episode that largely abandons the show’s usual format as one vampire goes on the run and finds a small town where he fits in a little too well.

One reason the series is so good is that it’s a product of two great comedy minds from very different generations, working together as executive producers. Paul Simms has worked on everything from The Larry Sanders Show to Girls, but I will always love him most for creating the ’90s sitcom NewsRadio, one of my favorite TV shows ever made. Stefani Robinson, meanwhile, broke through as a writer on Atlanta (where she first worked with Simms) and is now one of the rising comedy wunderkinds of the TV world.

I recently sat down with Simms and Robinson via Zoom to talk about what they’ve learned from working with each other, how they evolved What We Do in the Shadows to turn a pretty good first season into a great second season, and the many ways Covid-19 has affected pre-production and impending production of both their show and TV as a whole.

Our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, follows.

2019 SXSW Film Festival Portrait Studio
Paul Simms and Stefani Robinson pose at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, shortly before season one of What We Do in the Shadows debuted.
Robby Klein/Getty Images