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Workaholics' Journey From Small Web Series To Comedy Central Classic

For a 2010s generation unaccustomed to seeing work-shirking, slack-happy goofballs mired in entry-level existentialism, "Workaholics" became a show to identify with during its 2011 – 2017 run. Centered around three best friends/roommates/coworkers with the shared goal of performing as little work as possible while finding new and fun ways to alter their minds (like making a bong out of a chimney), an army of loyal viewers embraced the series as a second-hand breath of fresh air.

The trio of slackers would spend seven seasons getting into trouble, struggling to find romantic partners and navigating the fine line between unemployment and actually doing anything. Through it all, the comedic series was powered by a group of real-life friends — Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm and Kyle Newacheck — who simply love making people laugh. At times, the show took things to uncomfortable levels by turning the audience's stomachs or pushing the boundaries of racial humor. But the dim-witted charm of the leads made the show endearing enough to patch any potential potholes.

Prior to their near-decade on air (and the near-movie that once hoped to reunite them), the guys behind "Workaholics" set the stage with a work ethic and determination that runs contrary to their public persona. Even if you loved the series, there's likely plenty you don't know about what went on behind-the-scenes. Below are some interesting things about the "Workaholics" that — until now — were better left hidden from the boss.

How the group came together

Although the title "Workaholics" is intended as a sarcastic reference to the minimal effort the characters put into their telemarketing job at TelAmeriCorp, the actual creators have been working hard behind the scenes for much longer than you might expect. 

A couple of the "Workaholics" creators, in fact, have been making each other laugh since they were little kids. Anderson (who played the creatively named Blake Henderson) grew up with series regular/co-creator Kyle Newacheck (who portrayed Karl Hevacheck) in northern California. Their first collaboration was an elementary school comic called "Funyun Protectors" about anthropomorphic Funyun snack rings who were also superheroes. 

"We first met each other in 3rd grade," Anderson recalled in 2013. "We wrote comic books together called 'The Funyun Protectors.' It was about Funyun the chip."

"We would write it, and I would draw it," added Newacheck. "We would come up with stories about basically giant Funyuns with a ring of power, kind of like 'The Stone Protectors.'"

Later, they started performing together in high school, and after graduation moved to Orange County to attend community college. The pair soon became a trio upon meeting Adam DeVine (who would go on to play Adam DeMamp on the series; Anders Holm (a.k.a. Anders Holmvik) joined the fun after meeting DeVine while they were both part of the world-renowned comedy troupe Second City in Los Angeles.

With the quartet in place, they created a sketch comedy group called Mail Order Comedy, and began touring and posting videos in the infancy of the internet. "We were just making videos that we thought were funny, and if we got any hits or any kind of attention, that was cool," recalled Holm in a 2011 interview with MTV. "We were just hoping to someday get a movie or a TV show."

The group had a show on MySpace

Mail Order Comedy made their first big splash on the internet at a time when MySpace reigned as the most viewed website. As hard as it might be to recall now, MySpace was very creator-friendly, and was largely designed for artists to showcase their work, making it an ideal home for Anderson, DeVine, Holm and Newacheck as they released their skits and web shows, testing the waters of audience response.

The future "Workaholics" creators had multiple web shows featured on the social media progenitor. Their most notable MySpace joint may have been "Crossbows and Mustaches," a satire of classic '80s cop shows. Other popular videos included a prank skit called "Special Delivery," and a workplace comedy called "5th Year" (depicting a group of young guys who come out of the four-year daze of college to awaken in a 9-to-5 job, unsure what to do with themselves) that acted in many ways as a precursor to "Workaholics."

"That's how we started out," Holm explained in 2011. "Comedy Central happened to see a web series we did on a website called '5th Year.' It was basically what was the genesis of what became "Workaholics."

They wanted to make a show about rapping wizards

Fans of "Workaholics" are likely aware of a running gag involving the characters' affinity for dressing up like fantasy-inspired wizards and making music. What some might not realize is that the gag is a meta-reference to one of Mail Order Comedy's most successful internet videos, "Wizards Never Die." 

In April of 2008, the collective debuted the video, calling themselves "The Wizards." It was showcased on the live G4 series "Attack of the Show," earning the show's runner-up prize for Best Video of the Year. The rapping wizards would become more than a mere go-to sketch for Mail Order Comedy, however; it led to their first full-length album, 2009's "Purple Magic." 

Naturally, when Comedy Central showed interest in the group and they were invited to pitch show ideas, the wizard shtick was at the top of their list. "We kept on wanting to pitch ourselves as gangsta wizards," said DeVine in a 2013 interview with Vulture. "Seth Cohen, who works at Comedy Central, told us not to pitch 'that f***ing wizard show.' I think we still brought it up at the big meeting." 

Ultimately, their Comedy Central collaboration became "Workaholics" instead — but in some ways, they still got what they wanted. Flash-forward to the Season 1 episode "Muscle I'd Like to Flex," which opened with a stylishly-shot rap video sequence in which the guys performed a song about being wizards clad in long robes, beards, and floppy hats. In the plot of that particular episode, it was for a performance at a Renaissance fair — in real life, however, the running joke had substantially more behind it.

For some time, the group continued to bring hip-hop wizardry to the masses; in 2013, they even performed "Straight Outta Mordor" incognito on "Conan on TBS."

One of the co-creators directed most of the show's episodes

As the sketch comedians went from internet notoriety to TV breakouts, they proved once again that they were anything but slackers, diversifying themselves on "Workaholics" by earning credits as directors, writers and producers. Anders Holm took the boss's chair for a few episodes throughout the series, starting with the Season 4 classic "Best Buds" (where the guys quit their jobs to start a cannabis retail shop doubling as a taco stand). DeVine later stepped up to direct an episode that he had also written ("The Slump," from Season 5).

But one tidbit that might surprise the more casual fan is that the show's drug-dealing homeless man, in actuality, was the show's primary showrunner, directing more than half of the series. 

Kyle Newacheck, known as Karl on "Workaholics," graduated from Los Angeles Film School and directed most of the crew's online sketch routines. Since the conclusion of "Workaholics," in fact, his star has only soared higher.

Newacheck has gone on in the years since to direct episodes of popular comedy shows like "Community" and "Parks and Recreation," and was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on "What We Do in the Shadows." Not content with just series work, Newacheck also directed the Adam Sandler-led Netflix hit "Murder Mystery," as well as "Game Over, Man" (which starred the "Workaholics" trio). His producing career has similarly been blossoming of late; he serves as executive producer on 2023's "Murder Mystery 2."

They lived in the house on the show

When the "Workaholics" weren't sitting in their cubicle at TelAmeriCorp, the trio spent most of their time on the show in and around their suburban home. The house in Rancho Cucamonga became like another character on the series, with its eclectic décor, loungeable rooftop, and dingy backyard pool. 

The home deserved to become a television star, because in real life it was providing invaluable shelter for the struggling young funnymen behind the show. The location was where many of the Mail Order Comedy internet shows were filmed (per Crave Online), and at least three of the "Workaholics" creators lived there at one point or another — Holm lived in a real home with his girlfriend.

"We actually lived in that house before," DeVine explained on "Conan" in 2014. "While we were scouting, we were like 'We're gonna get canceled, we have to save money,' and so we continued living there. It's a pigsty; it's disgusting." 

Devine and Anderson moved out when the show's success enabled them to afford better digs; Anderson's younger brother also lived there for a spell, as did DeVine's best friend from high school. Nowadays, anybody can stay at the infamous home via AirBnB — making it the perfect place for a series binge.

They made a list of stale jokes they could never use again

How do you keep a TV series fresh over a run of 7 seasons and 86 episodes? For starters, you try and avoid the tired trappings of the medium. The "Workaholics" crew were so determined to avoid cliches at all costs, in fact, that they keeping track of pitfalls whenever they arose. By the final season, they had crafted two jam-packed, hilariously moan-worthy whiteboards of joke cliches, determined to avoid them at all costs.

In 2016, executive producer John Quaintance posted a photo of the whiteboards on Twitter. The series was beginning to wind down at the time, and in many ways, the image was a public service not only for other comedy writers, but for millions of viewers who never, ever wanted to hear another joke involving the phrase "awesome sauce."

"The two boards from the 'Workaholics' writer's room of comedy phrases that need to be retired, started season 2," tweeted Quaintance.

If you've watched anything with a laugh track in the past decade, many of these phrases instantaneously call to mind lazy gags; others are would-be catchphrases that were over almost as soon as they began. 

The boards included such cliched phrases as "X dot com" and "uh, define X" to "English please!" and "white people problems." Perhaps the highlight of the entire list, however, was one small notation that simply read: "Bacon anything." 

One of the actors (almost) got hit by a drunk heckler

"Workaholics" fans are familiar with the comedic stylings of Erik Griffin, who played Montez Walker on the series, appearing in some 44 episodes. But one woman in Kentucky, it seems, is decidedly not a fan.

In a 2016 clip that went viral, Griffin had a wince-worthy confrontation during a comedy set at The Laughing Derby in Louisville. The woman, sitting in the front row, had apparently been heckling Griffin throughout his set. Things came to a head when he began addressing her from the stage, and as comedy club employees and patrons urged her to leave, she became increasingly indignant.

According to TMZ: "The heckler got so riled up, she took a swing at Griffin. Club staffers tossed her just as cops arrived. Luckily for her, no one pressed charges ... and she left quietly on her own, instead of in handcuffs. We reached out to Griffin who told us the woman was indeed 'a hot mess.'"

It was initially an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia rip-off

A show about a bunch of terrible people doing horrible, but very funny things? It's no surprise, perhaps, that "Workaholics" spent much of its 2011 – 2017 run fighting off comparisons to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which had begun airing in 2005. And believe it or not, there was some truth to them.

In 2011, MovieWeb asked the "Workaholics" stars how they felt about the perception that loyal "Sunny" fans thought "Workaholics" veered too close to the tone lovingly nurtured by their beloved Paddy's Pub patrons.

"We went to Comic Con two years ago. And we saw all the It's Always Sunny dudes at a party," Holm recalled of the casts meeting for the first time. "We were really drunk. We bum rushed them. This was before we even aired. I was like, 'Yo! Dudes! We have a show coming out on Comedy Central that is kind of a rip-off of what you guys do. I am just giving you a heads up!' I cleared the air before the rumors even spread."

Anderson, however, says that although the success of "Sunny" might have helped "Workaholics" receive a green light at first, they became all the more determined to steer clear of Charlie, Mac, Dennis and "the gang."

"When we first started, I remember being in the writers' room. I was like, 'We are going to be called an It's Always Sunny rip-off. That's all we were," he said. "We then came into our own... I was pretty excited by how we separated ourselves from that show. Even though I love that show. There is no other show I'd rather be compared too. It is the funniest show on TV."

Showing once again why Philadelphia is dubbed the "City of Brotherly Love," series creator/Dennis Glenn Howerton tweeted a photo of himself, Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney hanging on set with the "Workaholics" guys in 2015, with a four-word question that united both fanbases and likely turned them all into drooling fanboys: "You want a crossover?"

Blake Anderson could have died in a party stunt gone wrong

Everybody knows that the "Workaholics" guys like to party. But in 2011, just as the "Workaholics" series was getting its footing, Anderson not only lived out a real-life event that sounds like it could've happened on an episode of the show, but nearly died doing it.

At a wild house party in Los Angeles, Anderson raised the stakes in a game of beer pong by attempting to dunk a ping-pong ball in a cup of beer —by jumping off a roof. He landed on the table on the ground below, and in doing so suffered a spine fracture. 

It's a wild story — but by the end, no one was laughing. Anderson had to undergo back surgery, tweeting the news to his fans with the message "See y'all in 2 weeks.... Broke Back Mountain." 

"We're pleased to report that the prognosis is for a full and complete recovery," Comedy Central said in a statement at the time. "Our thoughts are with Blake as he recuperates from this injury." 

Anderson would indeed eventually make a full recovery, and he didn't even miss a single episode portraying a character who... well, likely would've done the same thing. But the real Anderson most likely walked away from the incident having learned the lesson that in real life, you shouldn't do your own stunts.

All those great cameos

For a group that initially made their name posting silly videos on the internet, the boys of "Workaholics" sure have become Hollywood power players. Despite their comedy series operating on a relatively low budget, many big-name guest stars made cameos alongside them. In the first three seasons alone, "Workaholics" had Rebel Wilson, Jordan Peele, Tom Green, and Chris Parnell all drop by.

As the series broke out, it only upped its cameo game. In Season 5, it was revealed that the guys' landlord was none other than Ben Stiller; in "Gramps DeMamp is Dead" (Season 5, Episode 7"), Jack Black portrayed Adam's father. Additionally, music stars such as Lisa Loeb and the Black Keys made blink-and-you'll-miss-it drop-ins. Unfortunately, despite reportedly trying to make it work, pop star Justin Bieber never received his guest spot.

One of the most random and surprising cameos on "Workaholics," however, came courtesy of Mitch Hurwitz, TV writer and mastermind behind "Arrested Development." 

After the first season of "Workaholics" aired, Hurwitz contacted the troupe and told them they were "doing great work" and that he'd "like to be a part of it in any way." They offered Hurwitz the opportunity to write an episode, but instead he wanted the chance to act. So, they wrote the part of Cool Eric, human resources guy, specifically for him. Hurwitz would later repay the favor by giving the "Workaholics" guys (and Griffin) cameos as airline employees in Netflix's 2013 "Arrested Development" revival.

Their names have caused real-world confusion

As the "Workaholics" gang has become more famous, misunderstandings about who they are have only increased in frequency. For two of the series stars, the confusion has presented some difficulty as their famous quasi-doppelgangers have landed in hot water.

Blake Anderson, for instance, shares a name with the football coach at Utah State. This would be a minor annoyance, perhaps, but it got worse in 2021, when coach Blake Anderson was recorded telling his players that it "has never been more glamorized to be a victim" of sexual assault. For understandable reasons, the name "Blake Anderson" received some vitriol on the internet in the aftermath of the scandal.

Adam DeVine, meanwhile, takes it in stride that those who approach him often mistake him for Maroon 5 singer/songwriter Adam Levine. While some might see being mistaken for a sex symbol musician as a blessing, when Levine admitted in 2022 that he had "crossed the line" with a TikTok influencer named Sumner Stroh, the association suddenly required some distancing. 

"My wife [Chloe Bridges] and I are doing great and going strong," read a lighthearted Instagram post from the "Workaholics" actor at the time. "I am not Adam Levine. He's a different guy and a worse singer. We are however naming our future baby Sumner."

Anders' swimming fascination is real

"Workaholics" often paralleled the lives of its creators, and that was true for Anders Holm, whose character was depicted throughout the series as having an unusually over-the-top affinity for swimming. Whether making comparisons of his body to Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps or talking about his heyday of being on the college swim team, Anders mentions swimming in more episodes than he doesn't. Much of that aquatic enthusiasm was based on the actor's real-world experiences.

In actuality, Holm is a talented swimmer; he was on an impressive track when he swam for two years at the University of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, his sports career did not end well. 

"I was on the team two years in the summer, and then I made a mistake," he told the swimming podcast "Inside with Brett Hawke," in 2022.  "[I] got in a bar fight and was terminated from the team." 

"Yeah, I got booted," he added. "It was not great for the other person involved in the fight. There were police and hospitals involved. It was one of those shorthand mistakes you don't realize what you've got and take it for granted... I shouldn't have done it. It was instantly regrettable, and it took a lot away from me."

These days, Holm continues to harness his talents in aquatics; he competed in the Malibu Triathlon in 2022, finishing 62nd overall. Holm credits the work ethic he developed from swimming for giving him the drive to succeed in his comedy career.

They exchanged cameos with the stars of Neighbors

Each of the members of "Workaholics," post series, has managed to build and sustain their film and television careers in one way or another. 

Holm landed a spot on "The Mindy Project" and followed it up with a starring role on another Mindy Kaling project, "Champions." Getting regular work, Anderson can be seen on popular shows like "Woke" and "Freak Brothers." Meanwhile, DeVine has maintained his "Pitch Perfect" career, revisiting his character on the recent "Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin" television series. All the while, each of them have made guest appearances on popular sitcoms such as "Modern Family," "Arrested Development," and "Community."

But one of the trio's most notable cameos was performed together — when the group made an appearance in the 2014 comedy hit "Neighbors." In the Nicholas Stoller-directed film, while recounting the storied history of their fraternity Delta Psi Beta, Dave Franco and Zac Efron's characters describe the decades-past adventures of their frat forefathers. Viewers see "The Lonely Island" trio inventing the toga party in 1930, and then the "Workaholics" group in 1971, inventing beer pong. As a quid pro quo for that latter appearance, "Neighbors" stars Seth Rogen and Zac Efron cameoed in a short marketing clip for "Workaholics" ahead of its 2014 season finale.

The Workaholics cast decided to end the show

For most shows that make it to air, even the successful ones, quitting time comes when the network decides to pull the plug. After all, actors aren't typically accustomed to turning down work.

Amazingly, this wasn't the case for "Workaholics." It was the first network-backed project out of the gate for Anderson, DeVine, Holm and Newacheck, and together, they were the ones who decided to walk away.

In 2016, the group announced that the upcoming Season 7 would be the last. In a statement, the crew thanked their broadcast home, its executives, and the show's fans.

"We would like to thank Comedy Central, Doug Herzog, Kent Alterman and all of the fans for turning us from Boyz II Men," they said. "It was an incredible run but we've decided to leave on a HIGH note. Get it?"

There was (almost) a Workaholics movie

Long-standing "Workaholics" fans were thrilled when Paramount announced in 2021 that a "Workaholics" reboot movie (that could have potentially led to new episodes of the show) was in the works. Alas, it was not to be.

Mere weeks before the film was set to launch from its 2023 starting line — with sets built, crew hired, a Twitter presence rekindled and the creator's podcast "This is Important" teasing behind-the-scenes efforts — the rug was suddenly, unceremoniously pulled out from under the "Workaholics" boys.

"Welp, Paramount+ decided to cancel the Workaholics movie. Obviously, this news is the loosest butthole," read an Instagram post from DeVine. "[Paramount+] told us we don't fit their new 'global' strategy. We are deeply butt hurt about this decision because we were so excited to bring the weird one last time. I'm butt hurt that I don't get to work with my best friends again." 

Reportedly, the movie planned to address modern work in a pandemic-influenced era, and introduce a new generation of "Workaholics." After two years of development and scripting, it suddenly didn't have a home.

As with most pop culture franchise disappointments these days, the cast is hanging onto a slim hope that the "Workaholics" movie could be resurrected somewhere else. While the faces of DeVine, Anderson and Holm may have come to represent three of the most famous slackers of their generation, don't count them out; history has shown that when it comes to making their dreams come true, these "Workaholics" work hard.

Adam DeVine credits his comedy career to a near-death experience

Fate is a complex concept that serendipitously puts everyone where they need to be when they need to be there. If it were not for these four friends coming together and putting their ridiculous videos on the internet, fans would have never received their beloved show about slackers. Well, fate put DeVine through a tumultuous path on his way to helping create "Workaholics."

When DeVine was still in grade school, he was in a severe automobile accident that nearly took his life. "I was hit by a cement truck when I was 11," he said in an interview with "The Off Camera Show." "I broke everything except my right femur from the waist down and crushed my legs from the knees down. Took all the skin off. Broke my ribs. Punctured lungs." The event resulted in a two-week medically induced coma and 26 surgeries over the next few years.

The tragic incident that nearly took DeVine's life surely changed things. "I think that's kind of why I got into comedy," DeVine said on the Armchair Expert podcast (via People). "After that, I couldn't do anything, anytime anyone would make fun of me, my dad was like, 'You can't get into fights so you gotta punch them back with your words, think of some funny things to say back to them.'" DeVine spent years writing comebacks and insults in notebooks which inevitably brought him to performing comedy.

They have real-world telemarketing experience

The boys from "Workaholics" spend most of their days working the phones at TelAmeriCorp — or at least they are supposed to be. The occupation is rarely represented on television, but the boring office job helped emphasize the amount of slacking from the "Workaholics." Unsurprisingly, the creators of the show captured the real-world monotony of telemarketing from their own backgrounds.

While appearing on "What's Trending," Holm and DeVine each revealed that they had worked in telemarketing before achieving their big break. "That's why it seems so real," Holm jokes. "Telemarketers will come up to me and be like 'it's so real, thank you.'" However, when the actors were prompted on what they learned from their time as telemarketers, they took it as a joke, adding to the hilarity that the job was chosen for the series because of its uninteresting nature. Still, they did take away a couple of jokes that made it into the series, such as manipulating the elderly into making purchases over the phone.

They almost ghosted Comedy Central

It is a scary thought for anybody with aspirations of fame that they could miss their sole opportunity at making it big because of something as small as a missed email. Well, that fear almost became a reality for the creators behind "Workaholics" when they were still an unknown improv group. Admittedly, making a television series was always the goal for the crew behind Mail Order Comedy. Unfortunately, they forgot to put someone in charge of checking the messages.

"Comedy Central came to us and sent us a message on YouTube, which we didn't check for about a month," DeVine explained in an interview with Collider. "We never check those messages. It was always the same three super-fans. And then, one day, we were editing a video and we all showed up to do the edit session and Kyle [Newacheck] was like, 'We need to contact Comedy Central!'" "The weirdest thing was that we weren't excited enough to figure out how to contact them," added Newacheck. "We waited a week to figure it out." Meanwhile, in the same interview, the creators revealed that they had completed a project for Cartoon Network years before that never saw the light of day. Who else wants to see that project?

Why did Jillian Bell leave the series?

Audiences love the three stars that are the primary focus of "Workaholics." However, it was one of their coworkers that became a resounded fan favorite. Jillian Bell, whose name was adapted to Jillian Belk for the sitcom, played the office assistant who perfectly navigated the work-life balance between the slacker trio and their boss, Alice Murphy (Maribeth Monroe). Her placement in the series was completely intentional for the creators who saw her as their secret weapon. "We always knew that she had to be in it," Anderson told Vanity Fair. "She was actually part of another group, and we poached her because we needed a female presence in our Internet videos. Jillian, being one of the funniest people on the planet, man or woman, stuck out."

Unfortunately, the comedic powerhouse that is Jillian Bell could not be contained to sitcom television for very long. By the last couple of seasons of "Workaholics," fans noticed that Bell was becoming more absent from the series, and only appeared in one episode in the last year. As it turns out, Bell's career was moving too fast as she landed film roles in movies such as "Inherent Vice," "Goosebumps," and "The Night Before." Subsequently, her placement in 2014's "22 Jump Street" catapulted her career after star Jonah Hill went on record for saying, "Jillian makes me want to quit show business and realize I am a complete fraud."

Workaholics' NSFW inspiration

For those who have ever been curious about where the "Workaholics" crew get all of their amazing material, there is good news. The boys revealed their trade secret back in 2014 when they made yet another appearance on "Conan." However, the answer is certainly not what you would expect. "On the page, at first glance, the scripts could be officially porno," Holm joked. "Yeah, they are definitely loosely based on the things we see on the internet, porn," added Anderson. Finally, DeVine admitted, "I hate to let the cat out of the bag and tell everyone where we get our secrets but ... internet porno."

Hopefully, the trio is making a hilarious joke, but that is part of what makes them special and unique. The crew behind "Workaholics" never take themselves too seriously. In nearly every interview that can be found, the group is quick to make jokes and play off each other's immaturity. In truth, that is where their writer's room flourishes. This group of friends spends most of their time together trying to make each other laugh, and thankfully, that translates to rib-cracking comedy and audiences cannot get enough.

The Workaholics started a podcast

It is a devastating blow that fans may never witness what this group of friends had in mind for their feature-length "Workaholics" movie. Even worse, there has been a serious gap in television content since the series ended back in 2017. Thankfully, the four jokesters that created the series agree that the world could use more of their unique brand of comedy. In 2020, all four original members of Mail Order Comedy decided it was time for a new type of project. That year they launched their first podcast, "This is Important."

The podcast series is not another skit from the group, but rather a peek at their everyday conversations and behind-the-scenes workings. "This is Important" does not cover anything of real importance with episodes covering in-depth conversations about warm toilet seats or the best appetizers from Outback Steakhouse. The friends discuss pop culture, and random news headlines, and sometimes explore their experiences producing "Workaholics." Under the iHeart Radio brand, "This is Important" is already over 100 episodes deep with new episodes released weekly. Meanwhile, you can watch the episodes as they are released on the podcast's YouTube channel.