“Super Troopers” comedy duo Jay Chandresekhar and Kevin Heffernan are back with a more mature subject matter, namely starting a family, with their own unique twist of course, namely a sperm bank heist. With a star comedic turn from Paul Schneider (“Water for Elephants”, “Lars and the Real Girl”) “The Babymakers” is a release to watch out for later in the year.
Mandy Griffiths spoke with the Broken Lizard team at a roundtable discussion following the premiere screening at SXSW, about the soon to be famous “Sperm Scene”, how Judd Apatow has influenced the comedy genre, the difference between digital and film, and what their parents think of their films.
So was it exciting to finally premiere “The Babymakers” in front of an audience?
Kevin: Yes it really was, it was the first time we had seen it with an audience.
Jay: We screened it once in New York but it was a very early cut, and we shot some new stuff since, so it was the first time to see where the laughs landed. You know you make a film with a studio, you test it and test it, and you’re like ‘Oh that line is getting laughed over’ so you build in pauses for the expected laughter, and this time you’re like ‘Oh that line lost’ but it was fun, it was nice.
What is it like when you’re have those moments in your mind where it’s like ‘Oh this is where everyone is going to burst out laughing’ and then it’s not quite as big as you want, or on the flip side when you have just a throwaway line and people just absolutely embrace it?
Kevin: Those are the weirder ones for me, if there’s a joke that you expect to hit, and it doesn’t, it’s like ‘okay whatever’, but the ones where there’s a line and a big laugh you’re like, ‘wait, what was that?’ Like Jay was saying when you test screen it you find out what those are, but that’s the beauty of going to festivals. When we took “Super Troopers” to Sundance, it was the first time we’d screened it for an audience, and people really loved the opening scene, and we just had no idea. And there was a couple of those last night I felt.
Jay: You never know, we made “Super Troopers” and we finished it and we were in the lab in New York and we watched it together, just me, him and the colour timer, and I looked at him when it was done and I said ‘We’ve missed dude, we’ve totally missed’. And he goes ‘No no it’s good’ and I’m like ‘You don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.’
How does that change the way you write a movie, if everything you think is wrong turns out to be right? Do you just write to please yourselves?
Jay: We only write for ourselves, we only write to make ourselves laugh, and hope that our sense of humour is in line with the country’s. [laughs]
I know when Kevin Smith made “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” he famously said that he had watched the rise of Judd Apatow and tried to mimic him in his original style that Judd sort of took over, do you look at the other comedy that’s out there and process that or just try to tunnel vision it and do your own thing?
Jay: To say we’re not influenced by him would be false, because he’s everywhere, but his style is dramatically different from what we do. I worked with Judd on a TV show called “Undeclared” before he had made any movies, and we had made Super Troopers at that point, but I’ve talked to him quite a bit about how he did “Knocked Up”. It’s a reliance on people to show up and deliver. He’s so good at getting it out of them, he stands by the camera and yells jokes at people like ‘Try it now, say you’re a crazy monkey’. And I watched him do it with Amy Poehler and I’m like ‘Oh that’s interesting.’ We like to make sure we write the shit out of these scripts, we have twenty drafts. And make sure if the worst thing we do is shoot what we wrote, that’ll be funny. We try to really work it out in advance. And people improvise because you have funny actors, but where we improvise about 10 per cent, they do about 90 per cent.
Kevin: We started with low budget films, we didn’t have the money to go off and shoot a ton of film so we’d be very prepared by the time the camera rolled. You had to be ready, you get two takes and that’s it. I remember hearing from a script supervisor that they shot like a million feet of film, and I was like ‘what?’ But that’s what they do, turn the camera on and go. We never really had that luxury.
Has that changed now that film can be shot in digital, and it’s not as expensive as film, has that changed the way you do it?
Kevin: Yes absolutely, but we didn’t come from that and the more movies you do you get more efficient, and with films like “Beerfest” we had an opportunity to do more improv.
Jay: We also shot this on film. If you film digitally, particularly with women over 40, there can be too much detail, and the beauty and soft curves of film just make things look better.
There was a scene in the film, the Semen Scene as you will, that you added in later, is it hard to knife it in with the rest of the film when you shoot it after the fact.
Jay: We made a conscious decision not to shoot THAT scene initially. We had some idea, you know, shouldn’t we have a big scene where a tub of semen falls over…
it did occur to you…
Jay: Yeah it did, we tried to not go there, we wanted to make the “classier” version if you will. And then we watched the first edit, and we were like, you know we could really use a semen scene. So we shot it, and Kevin was sliding around in all that cum, and we finished it and he was like ‘Well, we went there’.
Kevin: But so many people talk about it.
Jay: You have a sense when you’re making it, like; there goes the New York Times review.
You assembled a great cast; did you have anyone particularly in mind?
Jay: We have a great casting director who has a good eye for the kind of people that we like.
Kevin: It was cool to get people like Paul Schneider who doesn’t necessarily do a movie like this.
Yeah I got the sense when he left “Parks and Recreation” that maybe it was too mainstream for him, and then you see him in this and he’s throwing out ‘fuck’, and it’s like whoa he can go there.
Kevin: Yeah a really funny, regular guy but he has those chops, where he can do anything, All the Real Girls, Lars and the Real Girl and The Assassination of Jesse James. It’s nice to see a guy who can do all that stuff.
In terms of the roles you guys play, how much do you think about trying to do something different.
Jay: Everything thinks of Indian characters as being like, the taxi driver, computer guy, so we were like, yeah, mafia guy! Looking at a script we do try to eye where we can fit in. You don’t want to be the wrong guy to cast in your own movie. That part was originally written for a Russian, but because of what Sacha Baron Cohen did with Borat, you just can’t top that. So then we talked about, what if it was an Indian mafia? It’s never been done.
Kevin: And who could we get to do that? [laughs]
Jay: Yeah I valiantly jumped in. You’ll find in a lot of our movies, we give ourselves the best lines. [laughs]. It helps when you’re involved in the putting together of a film, it helps to get you good roles.
So your parents, are they still shocked when they do to your movies?
Kevin: Not anymore, not after “Super Troopers”.
Jay: My parents are both doctors so they have no issue with nudity, they see it all the time, and they inform me that they knew I was smoking grass when I was a teenager, so no surprises there. They just don’t like violence.
When spoilers exist, or things are said that aren’t accurate, do you take it upon yourself to publically correct it?
Jay: I admit that I have a pseudonym email that I use occasionally, to right wrongs.
Do you get replies?
Jay: No not really [laughs].