What Was With 'The Comeback' Blowjob Scene? Paulie G Actor Lance Barber Explains The Scene & Why Valerie Cherish Is So Important

The latest episode of The Comeback, "Valerie Is Brought To Her Knees," featured one of the buzziest moments in the show's history. This particular scene involved Lisa Kudrow, as a character portraying a fictional version of herself, giving Seth Rogen a blowjob on the set of a fake HBO show — all of which is taking place inside a real HBO show. Confused? Then you definitely need to start watching the most hilariously awkward comedy on television.

Season 1 of The Comeback hardly needed a villain; Lisa Kudrow's hapless D-list celebrity Valerie Cherish was already so good at humiliating herself. Yet a villain there was, and his named was Paulie G., played by Lance Barber. He was the head writer of Room & Bored , the terrible sitcom that Valerie headlined, and it often seemed like his sole purpose in life was to terrorize the paranoid, aging actress. Imagine viewers' surprise then, when The Comeback returned for a second season after almost a decade off the air, only for Paulie G. to be... kind of a nice guy?

In the hiatus between seasons, it came out that Paulie had been high on heroin the whole time he was writing Room & Bored. He has since been to rehab (twice) and turned his life around. Now he's writing a dark comedy for HBO called Seeing Red, about a thinly-veiled version of himself named Mitch (played by Seth Rogen) writing a show while clashing heads with his demanding leading lady, Mallory Church.

Of course, this being the meta-comedy it is, Valerie is cast as Mallory, and the former archnemeses have to learn to work with each other again... all leading up to the infamous blowjob. I had the chance to chat with Lance Barber about Season 2 of The Comeback , that buzzy scene, and what it's like to have Seth Rogen playing him.

BUSTLE: What was it like returning to a role nine years after the fact? That's such a rare opportunity for an actor.

LANCE BARBER: It was a dream come true, honestly. The show coming back was part of the rumor mill over the years, a couple different times. There was talk of an Arrested Development type of thing where another company, Netflix or something, might pick it up and do something with it. But that never happened. Maybe someone would do a one-off movie with Valerie Cherish. And that never happened. When it became official, I was floored. It was my favorite role that I've had the opportunity to play.

Do you know, what was the tipping point that finally made this happen after so many years of rumors?

Definitely a lot of factors, but I think it started with HBO Go. New media allowed this thing to continue life and to garner a new audience so many years after it had been off the air. I was approached a lot in the last two or three years by people who'd seen the show for the first time and become fans of it. It's phenomenal that after all that time, the show is still picking up new fans. I think that gave it a new life, and I think there was some changing of the guards at HBO who were fans of the show. I think that helped.

Did you find it easy to slip back into Paulie G.'s shoes, or did you have to remind yourself of who this character was? Did you re-watch the first season at all?

My wife and I re-watched the first season. We started before shooting the second season and finished about halfway through. I had watched the show a couple of times over the past decade, I'll admit. Paulie G. never left me. Honestly, what I did in the first series was simpler than what we're doing in the second series. So I had some nervousness about the character because his relationship was more complex.

In Season 1, I was pulling faces. There were a lot of angry glances and that stuff worked really well. It was quiet and mysterious, and turned out to be a wonderfully horrible character thing. But I didn't do much more than that. And this time there's a lot more for Paulie G. to do. I had to trust [co-creator] Michael Patrick King and his wonderful script and add some new layers to Paulie G. And that gave me some trepidation, but I certainly felt confident mostly because I knew this was Michael's baby and he wouldn't let me do anything he wouldn't want to happen. I trusted him completely.

Obviously, a lot has changed for Paulie between seasons. He's been to rehab, he's moved from writing bad sitcoms to writing and directing for HBO. I'm curious what his motive is in creating Seeing Red. Is it to get back at Valerie? Is it part of his recovery? Is it to exorcise his personal demons? What exactly is his goal here?

Well, this is Paulie G.'s comeback. I think that, more than any personal vendettas, it's about a guy as desperate to be in show business as Valerie Cherish, and who has as much of an ego as she does, as well. It's mostly about coming back to the business after hitting rock bottom, and the opportunity to do a self-deprecating, gritty, anti-hero cable show. It's the perfect opportunity for a character like Paulie G. He thinks it's going to put him back on the map as the artist that he always thought he was... immediately foiled by his old pal Valerie Cherish.

So he's none too pleased that Valerie is cast as Mallory.

It is the last thing he thought would ever happen. When she came into that audition room, he never in his wildest dreams thought she would walk out of there with the role. I'm sure he had in mind some sort of ingenue, you know. I'm sure he was rooting for Kathryn Hahn playing the part of Aunt Patsy. For his big HBO show, he wanted a name. He got one: Seth Rogen.

But apparently he didn't have enough clout to veto that decision.

With his difficult past, there's no way he's going to argue with the bigwigs. What he wants is a success, and he will bend as much as he can without breaking to get what he wants. If that means working with Valerie Cherish, then so be it. As long as it puts him back on the map.

Paulie G. has always been a hero in his own eyes.

Their relationship is a lot more complex, like you said. Paulie G. seems genuinely moved by Valerie's first day gift to him, and he pulls her aside to tell her that he wants a fresh start. And yet immediately, he seems like he's almost trying to humiliate her with this blowjob scene — until of course Seth Rogen swoops in and sort of rescues her. So what is his mind set? Does he still resent her? Is he actually committed to that fresh start he mentioned? Where is his head at?

The way that I took all of that is, I think that Paulie G. is definitely exhibiting some 12-step behavior. So there's a lot of forgiveness and fresh starts, and he's making a genuine move towards those things. He wrote that blowjob scene long before Valerie Cherish was involved in the project. It's just coincidence, the circumstance happens to be Valerie is in that humiliating situation. And I think he hated losing that scene. It's his baby.

It's just like Room & Bored: it was chipped away to become nothing like the writer's original vision by the powers-that-be. But he doesn't want to threaten his star, Seth Rogen. He's in a position where he'll play ball because he doesn't want to lose Seth. Again, he's really set up in a desperate moment here. And I think there's some genuine moments between him and Valerie. I think he's touched by her gift and doesn't know how to deal with that genuine emotion, certainly not in her presence.

You said earlier that this was Paulie G.'s comeback. Obviously The Comeback is the story of Valerie Cherish, but I've been really struck this season that the titular "comeback" could just as easily be referring to Paulie G. I was curious if you think Paulie G. sees himself as the hero of this story, or if, now that he's been to rehab, he sort of recognizes that he was a bad guy? They say that nobody ever really sees themselves as the villain, so is Paulie G. a hero in his own eyes?

I think Paulie G. has always been a hero in his own eyes. The fact that he's writing about his failures as a tragic figure and has the opportunity to do so at a place like HBO makes him feel like more of a hero. To watch this potentially crumble, this comeback of his, may show him to be a little more pathetic in the way that Valerie Cherish has always been. Perhaps Paulie G. will be more of a sympathetic character than he ever was before, which is terrific because everyone in play here is pretty despicable in their own right. We all love Valerie, but she's also fairly atrocious in ways. Where Paulie had zero redeeming qualities before, just a quiet hatred, now we see some more depth to that this season.

What is it like to have Seth Rogen essentially playing a second version of your character?

Absolutely perfect. Seth Rogen's career trajectory in life has been the exact trajectory that Paulie G. wishes that he had had. The flight of his success has been phenomenal. And the power that he has now as a producer and a movie star is everything Paulie ever dreamed of back when he was on Room & Bored, and where he thought he was headed. But he went the opposite direction. He comes back and has this opportunity, and the guy playing him is the perfect guy to play him. I think that was just a genius get, to have Seth Rogen be a part of this. Let alone his being a talented, fantastic guy.

I personally know several people who claim they cannot watch The Comeback because it's too painful or too awkward...

I know a lot of people, including my family and my wife, who watches it through her fingers and seizes my wrist the entire time. She loves the show, but that's how she has to watch it.

And yet, at the same time, it really has achieved an incredible level of popularity in the almost-decade it's been off the air. What is it about the show, do you think, that draws some people to it? Is it just the morbid fascination of watching a train wreck? Is it the meta critique of reality television? Something else entirely?

We all know pathetic human beings who are cartoonish this way in real life, and some of us deal with those people with a sense of humor, and some of us cringe at those people. And I think this hits people the same way that it does in real life. There are some people that don't like to watch Valerie because they say they know people like that and it makes them angry and sad. And they don't get why it's funny. It certainly requires an element of darkness in your sense of humor, I suppose. Its popularity maybe shows that we have a fair amount of sick people in this country. Me being one of them.

I guess I'm one of those sick people, too.

Being a part of this show, it's right up my alley. It always has been my sensibility in comedy, is that uncomfortable stuff. Of course the British Office did it so well, and I think The Comeback does it equally well. And it's more difficult for a woman to play a character like that, I think. Lisa Kudrow is absolutely a genius talent.

Obviously, in both seasons, The Comeback is in no small part a very vicious takedown of reality television. What's your personal opinion on the reality TV phenomenon? Do you watch any Housewives or Duck Dynasties or singing competitions, etc.?

At the risk of sounding so super cool and hip, I don't really watch TV much anymore. Not because I don't want to, it's because I have kids. I watch a lot of cartoons, more than anything else. I'm not familiar with reality TV, but if I do seek out television to watch, that's very low on the list for me. I prefer to watch a good documentary, which I guess you could say is reality film. But shows like Housewives that are obviously contrived for entertainment purposes have very little interest to me. I do love television; I grew up on it and pursued a career in it. But as an adult with a family, I have more things that take too much of my interest and time to watch much TV, really. I need to get on the internet every time I have an audition and see what that show's like.

Do you think there will be a Season 3 of The Comeback?

It's hard to speculate. Michael Patrick King... I don't want to give anything away, but he's... Like how the first season of the show was wrapped up so neatly with a bow to stand on its own as a beautiful piece, I think this one will work as well. It doesn't mean it can't go forward, but it works beautifully to end where it ends. So it's yet to be seen. I think that if The Comeback did continue as a series, it would have to be a very different show than it's been so far. I'll just say that.

People should just prepare themselves for perhaps the unexpected.

If it were to come back, and it were to come back another almost-decade from now, where do you imagine Paulie G. would be another nine years down the road?

Paulie G. will have likely become a counselor in rehab after having visited again a number of times. Maybe he found Jesus and/or Buddha and maybe shacked up with Jane and adopted some kids and takes care of horses. I saw [Laura Silverman's] comment as well, I thought it was hysterical. I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. I love that vision of Paulie G. and Jane in the hills together for eternity.

Do you think you could give me one super vague tease for the rest of Season 2? Something that we should look forward to?

I think that people should just prepare themselves for perhaps the unexpected, and a triumph for Valerie in a way that she's never triumphed before. I'm so excited for the finale, I'll tell you.

Images: Damian Young as Mark Berman, Lance Barber as Paulie G., Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish; Michael Patrick King, Lance Barber, Lisa Kudrow; Lance Barber as Paulie G., Seth Rogen as himself; Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, Lance Barber as Paulie G.; Photos: Colleen Hayes/HBO (4)