Richard Karn on PEN15, Teen Awkwardness, and a Potential Home Improvement Reunion


In Hulu’s coming-of-age comedy PEN15, creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle famous person as variations of themselves reliving the rigors, pleasures, and cargo shorts that described the turn-of-the-century tween revel in. For two comedians raised inside the ’90s, who better to solid as a figure than one among that decade’s sitcom stars? Home Improvement’s Richard Karn, ingrained in millennial recollections as the plaid-clad Al Borland, takes on the position of Maya’s father, who in PEN15 is the drummer for a Steely Dan cover band that plays hotel swimming pools. In real life, Erskine’s father, Peter, is a successful jazz musician who’s played with the actual Steely Dan, amongst others. We talked to Karn about taking up the position, picking up drumming guidelines from the real Mr. Erskine, and the prospect of a Home Improvement revival.

Home Improvement

So, Maya Erskine cast her actual mother to play her mom in the display. However, she added you in to play her father. Was it intimidating to tackle the sort of personal role? What is the casting manner like?
Well, it was last summertime, and I didn’t clearly realize anything about the show itself. I had visible Maya on a display that she had carried out in Florida; she turned into pretty first-rate on that. I’m blanking on the name of that show — it changed into about a medical expert. I was given a name to play her dad, and it’s humorous because until I met him, I wasn’t quite positive why I specifically got this name. But I appearance a lot like her dad! Who’s a world-magnificence drummer, via the way. He changed into in [’70s jazz fusion band Weather Report] and the entirety. So he helped me look like I understand a way to drum.

What kind of recommendations did he come up with?

He, without a doubt, helped me with how he holds the sticks. There’s a bunch of various styles — you’ve were given Ringo, who does the cross-over, and also you’ve got him, which is extra parallel. He gave me an inherent ability for what he did. My man or woman isn’t pretty as well-known as him because Maya desired me to be in a Steely Dan cover band, so I’m in a band known as Stealing Dan. Which, you realize, required basic rock-and-roll drumming.

Were you a Steely Dan fan ahead?

Absolutely, their songs have been continually one among my playlists. I’m antique, so they were up-and-coming after I become an excessive college and university. [Laughs.]
Do you’ve got a favorite drummer?
Well, permit’s see. When you’re in high faculty, you learn how to drum in class to your pocketbook. There had been some runs from “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” or “Wipeout,” or even Ringo Starr had one little drum solo at the quit of Abbey Road. I bet the biggest issue turned into looking Buddy Rich on Ed Sullivan because he has become well-known in an abnormal way for being a drummer.

Did you ever play a device yourself?

I took saxophone in a simple school, and I was given to wherein I should rattle off a quite suitable “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

It seems like you can relate to Maya’s scenario within the display, where she’s a subpar instrumentalist in a faculty musical.
Oh God, that episode was a lot of fun to do. Working with Maya, the script is there, but every from time to time, you just move sideways a bit. It turned into honestly a laugh filming it. It didn’t feel like Home Improvement, like a chain where you rehearsed after which did it in front of a target audience. It turned into extra like doing an unbiased movie for a few months.

Was it peculiar to behave across Maya’s real-life mother, Mutsuko Erskine, considering she manifestly is aware of your position better than you do?

Well, I realize I enjoyed it. And for not being an educated actor, she becomes very adorable and herbal — and he or she knew that role inside and out because she became that position. She was Maya’s mom! She wasn’t seeking to do greater than what she became. And she never cited to me, “Oh, you should do this as it’s more like my husband could have finished.” We were given along properly.

The display is about inside the year 2000, glaringly for the creators became a completely nostalgic time.
Yeah, which doesn’t resonate with me that a good deal. It’s no longer like going to the ’60s or ’70s, which for me might be nostalgic. But the one element about the yr 2000, I bet, is the truth that there wasn’t as a great deal social media. That’s a huge issue. You had to do stuff over a landline phone.

What was that yr like for you?

The 12 months 2000 was very thrilling because it changed into the yr after Home Improvement was completed. I had eight excellent years of doing a regular task, and then it turned into a kind of like leaving faculty, in a way. All of an unexpected, a while isn’t as established; you need to discern what you want to do, what’s the following component to try for and be a part of. Plus, the 12 months 2000 changed into all mixed in with “Oh my God, we’re gonna pass into a new century. Are the clocks gonna work?” There was all that bizarre hysteria.

How a great deal of the youngster revel in depicted at the show is the same as it turned into when you got here of age?

Gosh, I assume it’s pretty comparable. Even though you didn’t have the explosion of MySpace or Facebook or any of these early matters. They had lots of greater channels on tv. When I changed into developing up, you didn’t have in the back-the-scenes stuff like VH1 or E! Entertainment. You knew the bands at face fee, and if you had been an actually big fan, you’d study their testimonies in magazines. For the youngsters developing up in the year 2000, there was greater statistics. So, you had greater of a transition from being oblivious to being state-of-the-art.

What form of youngster were you want when you were 13?

Well, it turned into locating out the way to deal with women for me. It’s nonetheless certainly tough because you’re seeking to navigate these kinds of special businesses. And who’re you? Are you the cool child, are you the nerd, are you the athlete, are you the popular one, are you the shy one? Today, it’s nonetheless gonna be lots of identical human reactions and developments.

Given Erskine and Konkle is a while, they probably grew up watching Home Improvement, right? Did they ask you approximately the display?

Yeah, they grew up with it, and they watched it with their families. That’s the remarkable issue about being in a display like that — it becomes very famous with children who then are actually grown-up, and they come up to me now and say that I become a large part of their early life. It’s no longer truly approximately me anymore; it’s about how the display influenced people’s technology.

In one scene, you can see a Jonathan Taylor Thomas poster on Anna’s bedroom door. And since you’re on display, that would mean a person else has to have played Al Borland inside the PEN15 universe. Any idea who it can’ve been?
Well, it could be my son now. Oh God, thank you for that idea! I would possibly pitch it to the writers.

Is your son vintage sufficient to play Al?

Oh, yeah. He’s younger than when I started; however, he looks like me.

Could you keep it in the circle of relatives?

Speaking of, will there ever be a Home Improvement reboot or reunion?

Great strides are being made. Tim [Allen] wanted to reboot Last Man Standing, so he’s taking a yr or two or anything to accomplish that. After that, perhaps we’ll look at Home Improvement. We’ll see what the manufacturers have in store. It’ll be exciting to look wherein human beings turn out to be two decades later and if we will sustain something thrilling for humans to watch.

What stage of talks has there been?

Talking to the actors who could have to be there. I think they’re all in accord. The producers, which are Wind Dancer and Disney, need to come to terms. They had a bit bit of a falling out they’re seeking to rectify.

Any idea what the show might seem like?

Yeah … we don’t have Wilson, obviously. So Tim notion it might be a great concept to have everyone meet at his funeral. That could be a terrific jumping-off factor. What would Al have were given into? Maybe he would end up a contractor once more, or maybe he could have some other little display like Yankee Workshop. I think that could be excellent.