Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan are perhaps best known as members of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, responsible for films like Super Troopers, Club Dread, and Beerfest. I sat down with them to discuss their upcoming film The Babymakers. Keep reading to learn about the origin of Super Trooper's "Meow Game," why an Academy Award winning writer is their "swinging dick guy," and the possibility of Super Troopers 2.
CH: Am I correct that this is the first film that you directed that was not your own script?
Kevin: Well, kind of, yeah.
J: Don't say Dukes of Hazzard.
K: Okay, I won't. Yeah, I guess so, right?
CH: What was it that drew you to this script and what was it like directing someone else's work instead of your own?
J: I guess what I liked about it is that it had a combination of a real relationship coupled with the types of jokes that we had already been making. So it was our tone, but it had a relationship that you felt like, "Oh, it's sort of male view of it" I mean, that was what we originally had, and then we sort of developed it and added a lot of jokes, and then made the relationship a little more real, and tried to even it out a little more and add more to the female side.
K: We still felt like it was our sort of sense of humor. A couple years ago I made a movie called Strange Wilderness with this guy Pete Gaulke who wrote and directed it, and he had written this script [for The Babymakers] he gave it to us because we had a deal with Warner Brothers at the time and he said, "Hey, this is kind of in your wheelhouse, check it out. You guys might be interested in this." We both really liked it because it had a real thing that this guy went through (it's autobiographical; he had problems having a baby) and then it had this heisty kind of humor stuff to it. It fit our sensibility.
CH: Now when you say "our sense of humor" I have a sense about what that means from watching your previous movies. But if someone were to ask "what is your sense of humor," how would you put it into words?
K: [laughs] Well, we both definitely like to have a healthy mixture of the lowbrow with the highbrow, right, which we like. I think probably kind of bawdy, but at the same time we have jokes that maybe take you second to get, or you don't get until the third time watching it.
J: Our humor's meant to be layered There's a whole verbal layer of jokes that are just coming fast and they're just constantly humming and it's in a certain rhythm. And then there's sort of a physical layer behind that. Then we do like to sort of push the envelopes of wild or bawdy; I mean that's sort of the third layer of it. You just want to try to keep the tone consistent so that all the jokes exist in the same movie. It's not a majority improvised film like some of the films that are being done now. It's highly scripted with some improv peppered in.
CH: You do get a sense the whole Broken Lizard team was in the same fraternity, right?
J&K: Four of us.
CH: There is a sense of camaraderie that comes across, or at least a sense of being able to play easily off one another.
J: There's always a lot of inside jokes that we would figure out a way to make work. They were jokes that we thought up in a hotel room and were just fucking around. Like the "meow" joke [from Supertroopers] sort of happened that way, and then we're like, "That was so funny. How do we get it into a movie?" A lot of those jokes come from hanging around.
CH: Was the meow game something you would actually play?
J: No, it was just, uh there are different versions of how it happened. I remember that somebody misheard the word "now" and we were laughing about it and kind of having a southern accent. Is that how you remember it?
K: Uh, there was a little bit of a riff where we were talking about a guy being afraid of a Cirque du Soleil clown and the clown could turn your tongue into a cat's tongue.
J: Oh my god.
CH: These are two completely different stories.
K: Well, then it evolved into that. It was like he could turn your tongue into a cat's tongue so you could just say "meow" in the middle of your sentences. It was like a stupid thing we were talking about, and then it evolved into this game of trying to say "meow" without someone knowing.
CH: I feel like a lot of your films have these moments of little games or competitions. You also have the syrup chugging in _Super Troopers. A lot of Beerfest is _
K: It's all competition.
CH: Yeah, even a moment in _The Babymakers where there's baby racing. Is there _
K: I dunno, I think guys are just competitive, and we're certainly competitive. We like sports; we like our sports teams; we trash talk each other and we've done that since we were in our fraternity. And that just translates into what we write.
CH: There's that moment where I'm watching the movie and I'm like "Oh hey, that's Avon Barksdale, hanging out having a beer." It's fun to see that. You also had Jurgen Prochnow in _Beerfest. I think it's interesting to see some of these actors known more for their dramatic roles sort of being a little silly. Do you direct them differently when they're on set? What's it like throwing them into this new environment._
J: Well, dramatic acting requires more pausing. They put pauses everywhere. And look. And basically what you have to do with dramatic actors is sort of push them to stop pausing so much, and pick up the pace, and join in on the rhythm that everybody else is on. But usually the great actors can adjust their rhythm.
K: But that's the beauty of those guys: that they don't get to do it [comedy]. Everybody loves comedies no matter how much of a dramatic actor you are. That's how we got Brian Cox to be in Super Troopers. Like, Bill Paxton wanted to do a comedy so we did a comedy with him. Paul Schneider is a guy who traditionally does dramatic films but he's a very funny guy, so you have a little bit of sneaky way to get people to come in and do your movie with you because they all want to do comedies. Donald Sutherland in Beerfest. You know, people want to do that stuff.
CH: You've both written, directed, and acted in different films. Do you have a role you prefer to do?
K: I don't know if I have a preference. I like them all. That's why you do them all. I think if I were stuck doing one thing I would probably get tired of it. It's so much more fun to be able to do everything. You get to be an actor, and a camera guy, and a sound guy. You get to do all that shit that allows you to do everything.
J: It's like choosing between your brain, your heart, and your dick. Which would you give up? I love them all.
CH: What is the writing process like with Broken Lizard? Usually in the Broken Lizard films it's billed as "Broken Lizard" but there are five of you. What is the creative process like where you have all these different voices coming in?
J: Well we decide on a concept of what a film could be and it usually, for Broken Lizard, it has to be able to star five guys: police station, beer drinking team, you know, that kind of thing. Once we have that and we're like, "Yeah we want to make something in that world" we sit around for a couple of weeks and just throw out ideas about what a story could be and what jokes could go in. Then we put an outline together, and another outline, then we split up the outline into five pieces and each guy writes 20 pages, and then we have a first draft. We give it to a point man and that guy we just have weeks and weeks of meetings, and he writes a new draft, and it takes like a year to do 20 drafts. And you just trying to pack it, pack it, pack it, and then focus on the weak spots.
CH: Any fun stories from the set you want to share?
K: Our buddy who's in the movie with us, he plays one of the guys in the heist, the character Zig Zag, his name's Nat Faxon and he's also a writer. He had written with his buddy The Descendants, the Alexander Payne movie that won the Oscar. But at the time [of filming] it was in the middle of the nominating process, and he's winning all these awards, and he's playing this stoner guy. He was in Beerfest with us and Club Dread with us and all these movies, and now this guy all of a sudden is being nominated for this Oscar and he's coming to the set wearing tuxedos and stuff, and we just started giving him shit the whole time and in the end [of the movie] he's the guy who's wearing the he's got the big swinging cock. We gave him a prosthetic, there's that funny story about you giving him shit on the set.
J: Yeah, he's standing on set in the cold with this big prosthetic dick hanging. And I just went up to him, like "Academy Award nominee Nat Faxon." All this cachet that he was going to gain, we were going to take away in one swoop.
CH: That's funny, because he co-wrote that with Rash, right?
K: Jim Rash
CH: It's funny to see him on Community too. That seems like quite a pair.
K: Those guys have been writing partners for a long time. They started in the Groundlings together Nat's the lead in a new show on Fox, and they're both having great success, but he's our swinging dick guy in the final scene of the movie.
J: Jim, yeah, I directed Jim quite a bit on Community as well.
CH: How was that?
J: It's fun. It's occasionally a touch chaotic, but it's fun. Everyone is really funny and the writing is great.
CH: How about a little glimpse of movie magic: what did you guys use for semen in the film?
CH: Of course!
J: I have a wide load. Indians have wide loads.
CH: Sure, at the start of every day you have to make the "props."
K: Savin' it up. No, we used a lot of lotion. Lotion and hair conditioner. My skin was very soft and creamy going home that night.
J: We used the things you use to get semen out.
K: That's true.
CH: Here's a weird question: I saw that you've passed the bar exam. Do you ever use your legal skills for anything?
K: No. Never. All I do is get abused for it in terms of, you know, "Why didn't you catch that in the contracts?" "Because that's not my job." You know what I'm saying? That kind of stuff. So, no. I guess I get into arguments, but that's about it.
CH: Your earlier films have a sense of "five guys, just sort of hanging out": Super Troopers Beerfest, and now this film is kind of like "suburbia and starting a family." Do you feel a little bit like it's growing up?
K: A little bit, yeah.
K: I mean you end up finding out what's funny with the shit that's funny in your life, like having kids, or trying to have kids. You just go through those stages. Like, we'll have our nursing home comedy.
CH: 70 years from now.
K: Yeah, like, "I can't piss!" That kind of shit.
J: That'd be a good movie.
K: Call it "I Can't Piss" starring Broken Lizard in their 70s.
CH: The movie has a great cast, even those little roles where you have Aisha Tyler and Wood Harris and these people who are filling out "the buddies," but they're all great actors.
K: Yeah that's the fun thing about making movies in L.A. We made several movies outside of LA, and then you don't have the same pool of people. But we shot this movie and our previous movie, The Slammin Salmon, in L.A. and it just gives you the opportunity to say, "Hey, can you come down for a day and shoot this thing?" And you get great people into your movie that way, which is great for a movie of this size because it looks like you have a lot of great people and it looks like a bigger movie.
CH: Is there anything else you want to say to plug the movie or any other projects?
K: Every day people keep asking us about Super Troopers 2, which we have written. It's written and we're trying to get it made now. Fox owns the rights to it, so we just have to negotiate with them to get them to make it. So it's ready to go, we're just starting negotiations right now.
CH: Well that's cool. That's pretty exciting. I bet you still have a lot of people who are I feel like it's an eminently quotable movie.
K: Oh yeah, it is. That's the wonderful thing. It's ten years later and people yell quotes at you from the audience, which is hysterical. We always thought we would do it, but finally we rallied to write it. It was fun to revisit the characters. We really want to shoot it, but we're just stuck in the slog of negotiations right now.
The Babymakers opens this Friday August 3, 2012.
After trying everything to get his wife Audrey (Olivia Munn) pregnant, Tommy Macklin (Paul Schneider) realizes to his horror that he may be "shooting blanks." Terrified that his marriage may fall apart, Tommy recruits his friends to rob a sperm bank where he made a deposit years ago. As with any half-baked scheme, everything can and does go wrong, testing the limits of Tommy and Audrey's relationship and showing how far one couple will go in hopes of getting pregnant.
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar.