The 2011 Press Tour headquartered in Pasadena went off campus Tuesday, traveling to studios and sets to give reporters an up-close look at the shows they cover. The morning festivities were highlighted by a visit to 20th Century Fox Studios, where the scribes were treated to two distinct panels featuring "the funny men and women of 20th Century Fox," featuring cast members from several hit comedies, including "Modern Family," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Glee."
Jason Segel of "How I Met Your Mother" looked a bit concerned when he first gazed out on the sparse audience in Fox's Little Theatre gathered for his "Funny Men" panel.
"This looks like the opening night of 'Gulliver's Travels,' " said Segel, referring to the recent Jack Black flop. It wasn't a cheap shot — Segel was one of the stars.
The theater eventually filled up — the bus ferrying reporters from Pasadena was late — and Segel and his fellow panelists discussed the business of being funny.
Ty Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy on "Modern Family," gave enormous credit to the show's writers, who channel some of their experiences to characters on the series: "We constantly pray for catastrophes on our writers' lives."
Lucas Neff downplayed some of the difficulties he has working with a baby in "Raising Hope," the Fox comedy in which he plays a young single father of an infant: "Babies are really truthful. They never break character. And you can't blame them. So it helps with learning how to be patient."
The panelists kept referring to the current popularity of TV comedies, arriving only a few years after many in the industry speculated that comedy was dead. Said Segel: "The pendulum swung too far the other way on reality TV. Eventually people got tired of it. They wanted to watch something nice, that could make you laugh in a calm world at the end of the day."
Other panelists included Jesse Tyler Ferguson ("Modern Family"), Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") and Mattew Morrison and Chris Colfer ("Glee").
Said Colfer: "I'm not funny. I'm not sure why I'm here."
When the stage was turned over to the female performers, much of the discussion centered on the changing role of women. Julie Bowen ("Modern Family") said she was often cast as girlfriends whose main attribute revolved around her sexuality. Now women in comedies have more complex and dimensional roles in which they are involved in the humor rather than just reacting to it.
Added Lea Michele of "Glee:" "There are fresh rules. You can be beautiful and funny too."
The panelists included Alyson Hannigan ("How I Met Your Mother") and Martha Plimpton ("Raising Hope").
A slight buzz erupted when Jane Lynch ("Glee") was asked about recent comments attributed to Ed O'Neill ("Modern Family") that his TV wife, Sofia Vergara, should have won last year's Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy instead of Lynch. O'Neill later said his comments were taken out of context and apologized to Lynch.
"I love Ed," said Lynch, who sat next to Vergara on the panel. She said the fracas was stirred up by the media. "That was you guys, not us."
[Updated, 8:30 p.m.: A previous version of this post misspelled Jason Segel's name as Segal.]
— Greg Braxton
Photo: Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell of "Modern Family." Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC