John Lehr talks 10 Items or Less and Playing the Caveman

Recently I got the chance to speak with the very funny John Lehr about the upcoming season of 10 Items or Less. I want to thank John for taking the time to speak with us.

GVK: What was the inspiration for the show and for your part in the series?

JL: We actually started developing the show four years ago. My producing partner Nancy Howser who directs all of our episodes did a movie called Memron which was the winner at Slamdance. The improve style worked well and we wanted to try it in a comedy format. Shows like WKRP in Cincinnati and Mary Tyler Moore were in the vein where weird characters were in an everyday setting.

There was a grocery strike in L.A. a few years back and that is where we got the idea to set the show in a grocery store as oddly enough, it had never been tried before and we saw so many ways that we could go with the premise as it was an opportunity for people to have crazy ideas and play them straight.

GVK: To what do you attribute the shows success as often comedies like Arrested Development that challenge the audience fail to gain a large following of viewers?

JL: We gained a 10% increase in viewers in our second season which is almost unheard of. I was called by a rep at TBS and told that the New York Times had a great review of us and I got really worried that this was a death knell for the show.

We have been very lucky to be walking on the path were the critics like us and the audience digs us. I am from Kansas and went to school in Illinois so being from the Midwest the show is not aimed only at a New York or L.A. audience as so many shows are.

GVK: What have been some of the great moments in filming?

JL: We have so many crazy moments in the show. We film in an actual grocery store while it is open and this has lead to some surreal situations. I heard about Turkey Bowling where people knock over 2 liter bottles with frozen turkeys. I knew we had to have this in the show so we were filming the scene and a customer came down the aisle. She had no idea we were filming and thought we were crazy.
Another time a guy with a gun came in and tried to rob the store while we were filming in another section. We looked over in produce and saw a guy being handcuffed and being lead out.

I am also get along with the store manager Johnny and any time anyone ever has a Diva moment all we need to do is look around us and see real people hard at work and realize how lucky we are to do what we do.

GVK: What can viewers look forward to in upcoming shows?

JL: We have an episode where Leslie gets a cease and desist order from Paramount after he plans to hold a Star Trek convention in the store. In order to comply with the order Leslie decides to hold a Star Trok convention and makes slight changes to the theme. We did the show like an episode of Star Trek and they have to go into a Joffries, not Jeffries tube to try to make repairs and there is an explosion and costumes as well.

Leslie also finds out he is 1 1/16th Native American and really decides to embrace this. He turns the walk-in into a sweat lodge and things like that. There is also an episode where we celebrate the 130th anniversary of the store and Ingrid is mistaken for a polygamist.

GVK: How long does it take you to get into makeup as one of the Geico Cavemen and why do you think the Caveman series failed to catch on despite the continued popularity of the commercials?

JL: We have the top makeup and prosthetics guys in town doing it, and it takes about three hours. It is uncomfy as the body does not like to have things glued to it especially hair. But it is better than having to have a real job and I really love it. Once all the makeup is on it really frees me up.
I think the show failed as Disney/ABC are trying to find out what America wants as they have been trying to get a comedy to go and perhaps had to many chefs in the kitchen.

GVK: Thank you,

JL: Thank you and I appreciate you helping spread the word on the show.