SF-based Sitcom “About a Boy” Star Al Madrigal on the Daily Show, Hippies, & Growing Up in SF

No one has more San Francisco Bay water coursing through his veins than comedian-actor-“Daily Show” correspondent Al Madrigal. “I’m a total city kid,” he says. “I went to Notre Dame de Victoires grammar school, then to Saint Ignatius, and then USF. I met my wife here, and we had our kids here.”

So it was with considerable enthusiasm that he greeted the news that the new sitcom in which he’d been cast as co-star – the TV version of Nick Hornby’s “About A Boy” – had been reset in Baghdad by the Bay, transplanted from the London of book and film.

Why San Francisco? “Series creator Jason Katims [“Friday Night Lights”] wanted The City itself to be a character,” says NBC consulting producer Sarah Watson. “And when it comes to character, what better city is there than San Francisco? I'm a proud Bay Area native and can't think of a better place for a nomadic hippie chick, a charming man-child, and his quirky best friend to all call home.”

Agrees Madrigal, “It’s really the perfect location. The city has changed but it will always be known as this tolerant, hip place. It’s a great place for Fiona and her son to live because they lean toward the hippie.”

Fiona – the moody and slightly daft single mother of Hornby’s novel – will be played by Minnie Driver. And the character of Will Freeman, the hard-partying man-boy who wrote one hit song and hasn’t otherwise worked a day in his life, will be played by David Walton, best known from the hit show “New Girl.”

“I am the best friend, Andy – the guy living vicariously through his tall, handsome, single friend,” says Madrigal. “I’m a stay at home dad whose wife is a powerful SF attorney.”

He chuckles. “I’ve met a lot of those dudes.” In fact, for several years Madrigal’s wife Krystyn worked as a kindergarten teacher in Bernal Heights while he honed his stand-up skills on local stages and worked for his parents’ human resources management company, mostly firing people. (Of the film “Up In the Air” with George Clooney, Madrigal says, “I’ve never identified with a movie more.”) But then Madrigal heard the siren call, and, as all promising comedians must, headed to Los Angeles, seeking fame, fortune… or at least a steady paycheck. What he didn’t expect was to be hired as a correspondent by the country’s premiere fake news show.

“‘The Daily Show’ has been a dream gig,” he says. “I’ve gotten to talk back to the Black Panthers, ride tanks, ride manatees, interview Mitt Romney’s superfan, and more. Stand-up helped me prep for that.”

He imagined a happy future of flying back and forth to New York to do his “Daily Show” gigs, while appearing in the occasional sitcom (i.e. “Gary Unmarried”), but one fateful encounter changed all that. He met Katims backstage, and showed him a segment he was working on. He got the call later to audition for “About A Boy.”

“I was not looking to leave ‘The Daily Show’ but I could not pass this up,” Madrigal says. “And Jon [Stewart] said I was welcome to come back anytime.”

He sighs. “Going from firing more than a thousand people and actually crying at my desk to working with such great people – I feel like I can’t believe this is happening. I’m living the dream.”

With one catch: “I just learned that my character lives in Oakland!” he laughs. “I’m all right with it – though I’d have preferred West Portal.”

“About A Boy” premieres on NBC on Sat. Feb. 22

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