By Karl J. PaloucekMortified, and itâ€™s at the heart of his new series, The Mortified Sessions, premiering on Sundance Channel Dec. 5 at 8pm ET/PT.
The Mortified Sessions takes a slightly different approach from the stage show. Instead of putting the general public out front for all-purpose self-deprecation and humiliation, Nadelberg sits down with a shoebox full of childhood memories from various personalities â€” including Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Grey, Moâ€™Nique, Will Forte, Cheryl Hines and many others â€” and talks about the person who created the memories behind the objects. Nadelberg says that itâ€™s an often-cathartic process. â€śOur interview series is loosely based on our audition process,â€ť he explains. â€ś[Itâ€™s] kind of like an interview, and itâ€™s kind of like a casting session, and itâ€™s kind of like a therapy session. â€¦ So we just took that concept and built a show around that.â€ť
The stories he gets in the series are often hilarious â€” like Ed Helms remembering the time he sent Valentines to only the boys in his class, or Jennifer Grey talking about kissing Charlie Sheen in Ferris Buellerâ€™s Day Off. There are moments of pathos and genuine awkwardness as well, but Nadelberg insists that itâ€™s not so much about peeking into a celebrityâ€™s past for the sake if it. â€śIâ€™m interested in people who have achieved things,â€ť he offers. â€śThe goal of the show isnâ€™t so much celebrity voyeurism as much as it is finding the DNA of someoneâ€™s success. Our unusual â€” I think â€” theory is that if you peek inside the pages of somebodyâ€™s past, if you look at an old prom photo of the bad hairdo, or if you read somebodyâ€™s embarrassing rap lyrics that they wrote when they were 14, that you can actually see the ingredients and the blueprints for the person that theyâ€™ve later become.â€ť
Though most of the personalities interviewed on The Mortified Sessions are actors, theirs arenâ€™t the only success stories Nadelberg profiles, or wants to. An episode that features Alanis Morissette also finds him interviewing TOMS
But whoever appears on The Mortified Sessions, Nadelberg knows there are at least a couple of absolutes with everyone he interviews. â€śIâ€™ve spent nearly a decade being invited to peek inside other peopleâ€™s shoeboxes, whether theyâ€™re famous or whether theyâ€™re some teacher at a Midwest high school,â€ť he reflects. â€śYou learn two key things about people from this â€” and definitely, Iâ€™ve learned this from doing The Mortified Sessions â€” we are all very, very different. We have all led very, very different lives. Weâ€™ve all had very, very different outcomes. And that we are all â€” and itâ€™s a weird dichotomy â€” we are all the same. In some ways, thatâ€™s empowering â€” to know that whatever flaws and awkward tendencies we all have, that weâ€™re not alone in those. And in some ways, thatâ€™s weirdly depressing, because it means weâ€™re all going to be freaks for the entirety of our lives. But at least weâ€™re in it together.â€ť
Photo: Carl Bringas