February 9, 2017 5:50 AM EST

The actor, 33, stars in the new Comedy Central series Detroiters, about a pair of bosom buddies and small-time advertising men in the Motor City. His co-star and co-creator is his best friend, Tim Robinson.

Is the show trying to say something new about male friendship?

We were just trying to show our friendship. In the show, if somebody tries to make a gay-panic joke, we’re like, “That’s real funny. Grow up!” Very purposefully, that’s not where the humor lies. What’s funny is these guys will make friendship bracelets for each other. As adults.

How did you want to depict Detroit, where you both grew up?

It was very important that we show a different side. The one you’re used to seeing is a place you go for a zombie apocalypse. I’m not saying Detroit isn’t a place where negative things exist. That would be irresponsible. But why doesn’t Detroit deserve to have a fun comedy? Why does it always have to be a bleak crime drama where everybody’s murdered?

How did you come up with the idea to be admen?

We love the old commercials we grew up watching. Everybody in America knows their local commercials. That gave us a parallel to writing comedy. The process for how we make our ads is similar to sketch writing, where you pitch, you do an all-nighter, then you film it.

Any specific ads that inspired you?

“Mel Farr, Superstar” was one we grew up watching. He was an ex–Detroit Lions star who had a Ford dealership. He had a brown suit and red cape, and they would do visual effects where he was flying.

Many of your characters are perpetually cheerful. Are you like that?

A lot of these characters use facets of myself and then expand them. Sam [on Detroiters] is essentially me but hyperbolized. With Richard [on Veep], I’m not as ignorantly optimistic, but there’s something funny about a guy who can shake off anything.

This appears in the February 20, 2017 issue of TIME.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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