So, Hank Azaria, are you optimistic that your Mets eventually will be OK this season despite their injuries and slow start?
“The short answer, to me, is yes,” he said Wednesday during an interview to promote his IFC show, “Brockmire,” about a baseball announcer whose career and personal life have gone awry.
Five solid minutes of detailed, well-informed analysis ensued about the failings of the training staff, Matt Harvey’s psyche, bullpen shortcomings and troubling similarities between Jeurys Familia and Armando Benitez.
Wait . . . what about the optimism? “That was my version of optimism,” Azaria said.
Spoken like a true Mets fan, one who grew up in Queens and channels his inner Bob Murphy by doing a distinctive voice that is not intended to mimic any particular person but that has a lot of Lindsey Nelson in it.
Bob Costas got an early look at the series before it premiered in early April, and his feedback let Azaria know he was on the right track.
“Not only did he get a good kick out of it, but he really analyzed it quite accurately,” Azaria said. “He called it ‘the generic baseball announcer from the ’70s,’ which is exactly how I really do refer to it.”
“Brockmire,” which already has been picked up for a second season, is six weeks into its eight-show run, and the episode that premieres Wednesday taps into the impact it is having on sports broadcasting culture.
Among those making cameo appearances are Joe Buck, Brian Kenny, Tim Kurkjian and Jonah Keri. (Buck also is in the May 17 season finale.)
“It’s been really, really fun to see the baseball community embrace it,” said Azaria, who in April interviewed Noah Syndergaard in character as Jim Brockmire and joined Howie Rose and Josh Lewin in the radio booth.
Azaria, 53, is known for his voice work, especially on “The Simpsons.” As Brockmire, he must sustain one over weeks and in multiple situations, including intimate ones with his love interest, played by Amanda Peet. (The show’s humor and subject matter are very much R-rated.)
“I don’t know how he did it,” Peet said. “He actually performed in a dynamic way, where it’s not just one note.”
Azaria said Brockmire is an easy voice for him.
“This is one that’s right in my register and one I’ve been doing since I was a teenager, seriously,” he said. “And it’s not only a sports announcer voice. This is also the voice that would say: ‘Batteries not included!’
“I got obsessed with: Why is this the announcer voice of our society? Why does information, sports and otherwise, get delivered by this kind of guy?”
While Azaria is an avid “Mets, Jets, Knicks guy,” Peet also grew up in New York, but not knowing or caring about sports. She was 14 when the Mets won the World Series in 1986 but does not remember much about it.
“I had other concerns,” she said. “Like hair removal.”
But she was willing to learn, beginning with her character’s family connection to Willie Stargell and the Pirates. “The uniforms were really ugly,” she said.
To get up to speed, Peet watched Ken Burns’ 1994 documentary, “Baseball,” and a 2014 film about the colorful Portland Mavericks minor league team. That and, she said, “I just asked Hank a million questions.”
She pulls it off on screen as the owner of the woebegone team for which Brockmire lands as a public address announcer after a previous life in the majors in Kansas City. But baseball still is not her thing in real life.
“It’s not that I’m not a fan,” she said. “I think I don’t understand it . . . It feels like nobody is making it to first base.”
Still, Peet said that after being offered too many “boring” roles, she jumped at the chance “to play someone who is the owner of a minor league baseball team and a functional alcoholic, and someone who’s making a very deliberate choice to be childless in middle age. I like all of those things about her.”
It was a bonus that Azaria “makes me laugh so hard I almost pee in my pants, and on top of all that, he’s brilliant.”
The finale contains a sly joke comparing the Mets unfavorably to the Yankees in prestige, but Azaria is a true blue-and-orange believer.
Nevertheless, he said he had nothing to do with one of his characters on “The Simpsons,” convenience store proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, famously declaring, “The NY Mets are my favorite squadron,” pronouncing NY like the word “nigh.”
“I think [the writers] just enjoyed the sound of Apu trying to sound American in that episode,” Azaria said. “So he was like, ‘NY Mets are my favorite squadron!’ It just sounded funnier than ‘NY Yankees.’ They liked the ‘NY’ part. But I was very happy that Apu was a Mets fan.”
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