Emmy Round Table: There’s room in TV comedy for a little sweetness, actors agree

Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family” and Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia” talk about doing comedy with heart with Times staff writer Greg Braxton.

The days of the mean-spirited celebrity roast have mostly come and gone, with the possible exception of Charlie Sheen’s screen time. From sketch comedies to sitcoms, today’s funnybone seems to have a gentler spirit.

That’s a topic the Envelope Emmy Round Table covered when we gathered some of comedy’s elite— Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia,” Tony Hale of “Veep,” Wendi McLendon-Covey of “The Goldbergs,” Taylor Schilling of “Orange Is the New Black” and Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family” — to talk with Times television writer Greg Braxton about their shows, their characters and the state of television today.

And for Brownstein and Stonestreet, the conversation turned to the good natures of their series, despite the rapid fire pace of punch lines.

“The idea that something can be sweet, and tug a little bit on people’s heartstrings, at the time that ‘Modern Family’ came out — this sounds ridiculous — was somewhat courageous in the world of comedy, to risk that sappiness, if you will,” Stonestreet said. “I love that we’re sweet, I love that stuff.”


“Portlandia,” the sketch comedy show Brownstein writes with Fred Armisen, carries a very specific tone as well, an affection for the people and place they poke gentle fun at.

“We didn’t want to make people targets,” Brownstein said. “And I think there’s something that really keeps people, especially an audience, at a distance, you know, when you’re snarky.”

See what else they had to say in the video clip above and look for the whole conversation in the related links.

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