If you don’t secretly want to be the host of a travel show, I can’t relate. Eating, drinking, and experiencing new cultures on someone else’s dime? Sign me up.
In that regard, comedians and best friends Adam Pally (Happy Endings) and Jon Gabrus (Game Over, Man!) are living the dream. Their new TruTV show, 101 Places to Party Before You Die (based on the book 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die), follows the pair as they visit (and booze their way through) cities like Denver, Miami, Moab, and San Juan. Their adventures run the gamut from being cut off multiple times in Moab, to Gabrus breaking a rib skiing in Denver, to waking up hungover before shooting for the Atlanta episode had even started.
Luckily, Pally and Gabrus have been bar-hopping (and rallying) together for years. In some ways, this is the job they’ve been preparing for since they first met at UCB in the mid-00s.
“We were placed on a team together early after tryouts and hit it off because we were both in long-term committed relationships by the time we met in our early 20s,” Gabrus explains over a Zoom call. “And both of those women hated improv or hated watching us do improv, so we connected over like, Oh, yeah, my wife’s not gonna come to the show, but she wants to grab dinner, and he’s like, Mine too, let’s figure something out.”
While their significant others were not enthusiastic about improv, they’ve gotten on board for the show (“Because it’s just on TV, and only 21 minutes long,” Gabrus jokes). They’ll sometimes call their wives on camera or, in Adam’s case, his kids too, and ask them what kind of souvenirs they’d like or other weekend-away chat.
“It’s the perfect amount of participation. I don’t need my kids running around thinking they’re the star of Thor. It’s the perfect amount for them to understand that daddy’s job is on TV, and sometimes he makes me do stupid jokes,” Pally says.
Besides the occasional call home, the typical episode of 101 Places goes a little something like this: the guys arrive in the new city on a Friday, spend all weekend sampling idiosyncratic restaurants and bars and enjoying local activities, and then Sunday evening debrief during their “Last Supper.” While some of the sites they visit are more standard, like the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, others are more tailored to their own interests, such as the International Church of Cannabis in Denver (Gabrus estimates he was stoned for about 85% of the Denver episode). Producers Michael Rucker and Justin Tyler were sure to find the sweet spot between places Gabrus and Pally knew they liked, ones they’d probably like, and ones that would make them uncomfortable (see: Pally tucked away in a corner at Richmond’s taxidermy-filled shop Rest in Pieces).
No matter what crosses their paths, though, Pally and Gabrus seem game for anything when it comes to travel.
“I think we’re both at best described as laid-back empaths, in a way,” Pally explains. “That’s kind of the vibe that you want to travel with, because traveling is about expectations versus reality. And inevitably, you’re going to have your expectations at one point or another dashed, and so the best person to be with is someone who constantly goes, Hey, it’s not that big a deal, or, We can do it this way, or, Oh, this actually is better. I feel like Jon and I do that for each other naturally in our friendship.”
Gabrus adds that, like true improvisers, they’re “yes people.”
“That attitude is super important, I think to the spirit of the show,” he says.
Not everything was smooth sailing, of course. Pally was surprised by the amount of antisemitism directed at him during their travels.
“I think sometimes, especially for a gentile or an atheist, like Jon, you don’t even realize it until you’re next to someone for eight weeks,” Pally shares.
“But even besides the antisemitism, I think the thing that surprised me the most was how joyful the road was, in a time when it was kind of stressful to be out on the road,” he adds. “We were lucky to be in a lull of COVID highs when we were shooting, but it was still present and people were nervous. But when you went into a restaurant, it was great for us, it was really healing for us, because when we started shooting Denver, we hadn’t done that yet. We hadn’t been in restaurants, on planes, so you rip the band-aid off, and the thing that made it so worth it was just how lovely and excited America was to be open.”
Gabrus and Pally’s joy is palpable on screen, during every bit and beer and bao bun. They dress for the occasion, all “peacocked out,” as Pally puts it, in their brightest Hawaiian shirts or hats or one particularly memorable sweater of Pally’s that he calls “Roseanne’s couch.” They must have made an interesting pair next to their crew (“a fucking absolutely elite SEAL team,” Gabrus raves), who tended to wear mostly black.
“Our sound guy only has black jeans, and at times you’d be like, We’re in the water,” Pally recalls.
“Yeah, [Ryan] Firth had black tight jeans on for every single shot and then when we shot on the beach in Hawaii, he just cuffed them, he moved them up like an inch. I was like, Okay, stay cool out there, bud. But these guys, these people are busting their ass. And they care, too, which is not something that they even need to do for their job description. And it means so much to Adam and I how much they care,” Gabrus adds.
Like any good vacation, of course, the first season of 101 Places to Party Before You Die will end, but Pally and Gabrus hope to embark on more on-camera adventures together soon. Wherever they go, there’d better be a bar and a greasy hangover cure just around the corner.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.