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Writer + Comic
It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Burbank, California. I’m sitting outside of a coffee shop with Jeff Wild. Engines from the highway hum in the distance.
Wild, originally from Tucson, moved to Los Angeles at 18 to study film at the University of Southern California.
“From seventh or eighth grade on, I was always making movies. That was one of the cool things about Tucson, it’s a pretty cool set drop for movie-making and you don’t need a permit. You just walk into a desert and make a movie.”
His father and mother - an orthopedic surgeon and a homemaker, respectively - had five children. Jeff fits in the middle.
One of his very first jobs in LA was as a personal assistant to Warren Beatty. It was run of the mill - answering phones, fueling the car - but one memory stands out in his memory.
“At the time I was in a rock band. I invited him to a show, which is something I would never do now. He came at midnight to this dingy club, pretty far from his house. After the show he made his way through the crowd and kinda patted my cheek. Then everybody thought I was cooler than I was.”
For many years, Wild’s ambitions revolved around music. He reflects on his choice to end that chapter with wistful resoluteness.
“Sometimes I have regrets that I stayed with it too long. I didn’t have my ‘come to Jesus’ early enough. This business has a way of keeping that carrot in front of you. It’s always something but it’s never anything. When you have a dream like that, you’re always going to leave chips on the table when you walk away.”
Ironically, making music has become a part of Jeff's work, just not the type he had once envisioned.
He and Josh Wolf, a friend and frequent collaborator, formed The Wild Wolf Band. An online favourite of their songs – a parody of the 2014 hit “Say Something” – revolves around the perils of having a small penis.
“This time I was singing songs about my dick and stuff, which was bittersweet. I was playing for way bigger crowds than I ever played. We opened for Chelsea [Handler] in these arenas with five or six thousand people. I never got to do that when I took music seriously.”
Jeff joined Chelsea Lately at the start of the series in 2007. He began behind the scenes, eventually joining the televised roundtable after Handler booked him.
“It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. The show went from nothing to this juggernaut. I remember it feeling like an overnight thing. Being out with some of my friends, who were working on the show, and people coming up getting pictures. We were so insulated.”
At the end of the series, Jeff had appeared over 100 episodes.
“All the way until the last show I did, I never got comfortable. It was a weird, masochistic thing. It felt like bungee jumping to me; I would be happy when it was done and kind of exhilarated in hindsight.”
Wild was one of the handful of Lately alum who joined Handler on her leap to Netflix in 2016. The show – now more political - ran for just two seasons.
“You could be a Republican or Democrat and like Chelsea Lately because we never talked about anything. She never pissed anybody off except for the celebrities, and that’s why everybody loved her ... It’ll be interesting to see if Netflix can crack the talk show format. I don’t know if talk shows are meant to be streamed and binged.”
Today, Jeff continues to work with Chelsea.
“She’s always been good to me. I think she was really good at finding weird people and giving them a voice. Half those people on that show would have never been on TV if it wasn’t for her saying, ‘I’m listening to you.’”
I solicit Jeff’s opinion on the populist fervor that appears to have swallowed his country whole. Jeff first acknowledges his current political fatigue.
“I don’t understand how so many people still support Donald Trump. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how even the most hardline Republicans aren’t like ‘fuck that guy, we can find somebody better than that.’”
At the time of our conversation, Wild was writing a sci-fi film, Max Winslow and the House of Secrets. The movie, now in post-production, stars Chad Michael Murray and was directed by Sean Olson. It follows five teenagers battling against a computer-engineered mansion.
Greater than all of the professional achievements, Jeff finds the most happiness with his family. He has a young boy and girl.
“I always wanted kids. I love them to death. It is weird to manufacture something that you love more than anything. It’s weird to just kind of like materialize, almost out of thin air, a human being. It’s sort of narcissistic because they’re partly you, so you see yourself in them and you see your wife in them. I look at my daughter and I’m like, I can’t believe I’ve only known you for five years…because it feels bigger than that.”
And, as for who he's inspired by:
“I respect when people are, whomever they are, when they’re doing what they love and they’re nice people because success makes it very easy to not be nice. I respect people that just are out there doing it. I respect people that have a little hustle and are trying.”
Interview Recorded: 2018 | Updated: 2022
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