Having just watched the screening of Super Troopers 2 the night before, I had a really fun time when a very small group of us press members sat down with most of Broken Lizard, the men behind the hilarious film franchise, the next afternoon for a bull session.
I could have talked to them all day but was, unfortunately, given a time limit. I spoke to Jay Chandrasekhar, the member of the five-man comedy troupe who directs the films, the night before, but only slightly as I hadn’t realized in time that he wasn’t going to be joining in on the interview or I would have brought my recorder to get a quote or two for this piece. Luckily for us, the four who were there, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Kevin Heffernan were chatty enough and quite entertaining, as was their film.
In fact, I was nervous for them as I went into the screening because often times films suffer from the sophomore jinx, but ‘Super Troopers 2’ is not one of them. They were happy to hear that I felt that way about their efforts as they were worried, themselves.
Read on because they also hint of a ‘part three’ which sounds intriguing. I say, ‘Go for it!’ Why stop now? But they made us wait long enough for this film… they need to get moving already, right?! I digress.
Interestingly enough, the most serious of the bunch was Kevin, known to most as the frustrating but cuddly ‘Farva.’ He had a more contemplative tone and seemed to analyze the questions more before forming his responses, which, here and the night before at the screening, seemed to be direct and to the point rather than trying to fit some mold a person may have expected from him.
Steve (Mac) is the more playful in the group. The class clown, so to speak. They all fit that description, in a way, but he seems to always be on. When not speaking, he’s waiting to speak, however, does give the speaker his ear. He’s genuine and warm and a pleasure to get to know.
Erik (Rabbit) is the quiet one but he’s not shy. He’s very sweet. Respectful. You can tell when talking to him that he was reserved as a youngster. He’s the one who politely waits his turn to speak and sometimes gets skipped. No member is rude toward the other, don’t mistake what I’m about to say, but like brothers often do, they jump on top of one another, metaphorically speaking, in certain situations which can turn into a free-for-all. If it does, someone gets left at the bottom. Erik may sometimes take a place at or near the bottom but seems comfortable there. What I mean is, if you watch him, his wheels are always turning. When it’s his turn to work or speak, he’ll burst from the pile and you better watch out. Don’t get in his way. This is all conjecture, by the way… just an observance.
Paul (Foster) is a little of all these characteristics rolled into one. He’s studious and insightful and he respects the audience, as they all do. They share a mutual appreciation for their fans and are aware they’d be nowhere without them. Knowing this, they’re very approachable and grateful.
Broken Lizard. A brotherhood has been created here and it was fun to witness it come to life. They finish each other’s thoughts and are hip to where the other is going with a point, cognizant of where each one stands on a subject. There’s a comradery, a reverence and admiration between them, that I’d say will never break.
Kevin starts by talking about the film.
Kevin: There was a lot of pressure about whether people were going to like this movie or not. Because there’s so many fans of the first one that they don’t want you to screw it up. Inevitably the concern that they raise to you, even in those groups, you know, it’s like, ‘I was so afraid it was going to suck!’ My wife said the same thing.
Paul: Our fans have never been shy about saying what they feel because you get people every day, like, ‘Yeah! Loved ‘Super Troopers!’ ‘Club Dread’ sucked.’ Or ‘I loved ‘Beerfest’ but ‘The Slammin’ Salmon’ sucked.’ So, we know people. That’s actually good. That’s helpful to see. What’s working and what people like. I think it’s nice; the response. We’ve shown the movie a few of times, especially to the Indigogo backers, people are so positive. I really believe they’re satisfied.
Question: Do you think that’s because they have a stake in your game?
Kevin: Maybe. I think it’s more of a wedding toast kind of situation, like, they want you to succeed. They’re on your side. You’re like family, right? So, you can go up there and, hopefully, not screw it up.
Steve: Kevin’s right. You feel a sense of release. I mean, from us, too. We just didn’t want to suck and thankfully it doesn’t. A lot of people are saying it’s as good as the first one, maybe better, so…
Paul: Yeah and certainly, we spent a lot of time on both scripts, but I think that what I like here is we spent more time thinking about what makes a good story or what makes a good movie so, you look at the first one and we’ll admit that it’s really, sort of, an excuse for set pieces after set pieces but we really wanted this to be something with an interesting story and you wanted to know how it ends and a cool hook about this chunk of Canada and, you know, I think we’ve ‘plus upped’ just the story telling of it.
Erik: Let’s face it. We made a great movie.
They all laugh and talk over each other having a great time, most likely, remembering moments of making this film as they smiled with congratulatory grins. All earned.
Then Paul jumps in with a worried face.
Paul: He just jinxed the shit out of us.
Question: When writing, what type of research did you do, in terms of Canada? I know that Bruce McCulloch (Kids in the Hall) was on set but, myself, I’d watch ‘Strange Brew’ or ‘Kids in the Hall’ or something like that, but did you pull from your past or do research or–
Erik: Yeah. I lived up there for about ten years.
Kevin: We had a lot of interaction. There were times when we’d go up there and, you know, have fun.
Erik: And for Touring and stand-up.
Kevin: There were times when we’d go to Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival and you’d be in that area and there were… funny elements of it. There’s a lot of French Canadians who don’t want to speak English to you. There were a lot who were kind of gruff when it’s normally the Canadians who you think are nice people but they– so it was kind of a cool area; thought it would be fun to have some fun with it.
Steve: Plus, we’re neighbors and we know nothing about each other, truthfully, you know? We were in Calgary and we met a Canadian person who was saying some untruths about Americans and we’re like, do you know anything about the United States? How many states do we have? And he’s like, ‘I don’t know forty-eight?’ And we’re like, ‘Holy shit! That’s a ridiculous answer.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, how many provinces are in Canada?’ And we’re like, ‘I don’t know.’
Erik: What’s a province?
Paul: Forty-Eight? Seventy? That, to me, is why we left every joke in the movie is because, at the end, it looks like we’re all friends again and then Linda Carter basically says, ‘No. It’s going to be status quo again.’ And we immediately turn on each other. And that ‘Burn down your White House, again!’ and ‘What the hell are you talking about?!’ ‘The war of 1812. Learn your history.’ That’s my favorite joke because it is like, we didn’t even know our own history.
Kevin: We were in Calgary and someone, one of the Canadians, was telling us this whole story about how they burned down the White House and we were like, ‘What?! We don’t remember it that way!’
Steve: I had never heard that before. We were like, ‘The war of 1812 you burned down the White House? That doesn’t even sound familiar.’ We looked it up on Wikipedia. ‘No, actually, the Brits were renting YOUR land and THEY burnt down the White House in the war of 1812.’ But the Canadians were like, ‘No. We did it.’ We’ll let them have that one. We’ll give it to them. It’s fun.
Steve: We also didn’t realize they didn’t become a real independent nation until 1983.
Paul: The more you dig around, it’s just fun… just funny stuff; the real history.
Steve: But we don’t just take the piss out of them, you know? If you watch the movie, we’re the ones who come over the border and we’re making fun of them. We’re the ugly Americans. And then it gets flipped immediately and we’re kind of the bad guys.
Kevin: We cast Canadians in those lead roles, Will Sasso and Tyler Labine, Emmanuelle Chriqui; they’re all Canadian and we kind of brought that whole thing to the table.
Erik: And they’re all from different parts. Will’s from Vancouver, Tyler’s from Ontario and Emmanuelle’s from Montreal… it’s such a wide range.
Steve: And our philosophy with Broken Lizard, comedy-wise, is never to be mean-spirited and never to pick on anybody. We’re joking about how silly Canada is but the point was that we were setting ourselves up intentionally to have these guys smear us all over the place. That’s the thing about Canadians. They don’t take themselves too seriously.
Erik: I showed some clips up in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and they were very excited.
Question: Jay isn’t here right now so this is your chance to tell us about him.
Steve: Our chance to bash him? Terrible director. Terrible actor.
Question: C’mon. Give me something juicy.
Paul: He sleeps with his eyes open and snores really loudly.
Steve: It’s freaky as hell.
Paul: Days where we would share a hotel room and sometimes even share a bed with the guy, like, you’d wake up and he’d be staring at you and he’s snoring.
One of the four makes a snoring sound.
Erik: I wonder if he’s human.
Paul: And he’s deaf in one ear.
Kevin: It was also fun to have him direct this movie because… since the first Super Troopers movie, he’s directed 100 episodes of TV so he does have a different rhythm now than he did then and it was kinda cool to see how he did things a little bit differently. It was more about pacing and having efficient coverage. So, he definitely learned, you know?
Steve: This is my impression of Jay Chandrasekhar, (deepens his voice; speaks slowly) ’Uh… speak faster.’ (They laugh)
Paul: But I feel for him because he has to direct and act, which, I don’t think about how hard it is until I watch him. You can see he’s acting but his wheels are turning as a director and you have to snap him out of it. Brian Cox did that a couple of times, which is the great thing about having someone like Brian Cox on set sometimes. He wants to make sure you have your shit together as a director but as an actor too, so it makes you up your game.
Steve: And Brian Cox, naturally, when the sun starts going down, he starts to get a little crusty. He certainly doesn’t have time for any tomfoolery.
Steve: Cuz when the sun goes down, we start to become a bunch of monkey’s.
Erik: In Trooper, we worked him too hard. We worked him overnight.
Paul: He’s awesome. His eyeball exploded ¾’s of the way through the shoot. What happened with him? A blood vessel burst—
Kevin: He burst a blood vessel in his eye so, as a matter of continuity, we had to go in and digitally remove the red from his eye for certain scenes, otherwise, in his closeup you would have seen that his eyes was all—
Steve: If you know which scenes the blood vessel burst for, which we do, now I can only focus on the white of his eye and it’s brighter than it normally should be.
Kevin: We won’t give those secrets away. You can see it on the DVD.
Erik: I mean, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen Steve reacting to it.
Eric suddenly looks horrified and alarmed. The room bursts into laughter at the memory.
Erik: That bloody eyeball was right there. Makes you jump.
Steve: A bloody eyeball is a terrifying thing.
Paul: He has a malevolent presence at times. He’s a jovial guy and he loves doing these things with us but when he turns to you with a big bloody eye…it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Question: I enjoyed the hell out of the movie. You guys don’t take yourselves seriously and you’re very passionate about what you do and it comes through in spades but you’re never rude about it like, we know you make fun of the Canadians but you don’t blame the Canadians’ right?
Question: Your passion shows through. So, what influences you, beyond the sequel, what influences you as actors to want to continue these characters?
Kevin and Steve argue over who’s going to answer the question first.
Kevin: A lot of this is based on us being friends. And it’s on… the philosophy is, ‘Hey, we’re gonna create this world and you can come and hang out in our world with us and be happy and be comfortable in this world because we’re having a good time; you’re having a good time.’ And so, I think that influences us to want to do these worlds in this way, you know?
Steve: That’s what I was gonna say. And we have drafts of things where the guys are bickering with each other or arguing, and we look at it, ‘No… no. We don’t want it to be that way.’ These guys are just joking around and having fun with each other and there’s the one asshole that everybody has in their workplace that’s gonna come in and ruin everybody’s good time and that’s this guy (gestures to Kevin) and so any obnoxious line that isn’t pc or not what we want someone to say, we just pop them into his mouth and we can get away with it.
Kevin: But you still like me.
Steve: But we still like you.
Erik: You’re lovable.
Kevin: Thank you.
Paul: The guy you love to hate.
Steve: And now we have a French-Canadian version of Farva, too (Paul Walter Hauser).
Question: From ‘I, Tonya,’ right?
Kevin: From ‘I, Tonya.’ What’s a great story is that I had done a comedy show with him, a live show… I had met him. And so, we’re trying to cast a Canadian Farva and I was like, ‘This guy I met; he’s fantastic. Let’s have him come in.’ So, we sent him to the casting director to go on tape for our movie and so we did our movie and they were casting for ‘I, Tonya’ and it was the same casting director and she was like, ‘I’m gonna call that guy in again cuz he was so great.’ And she called him in for, ‘I Tonya,’ and he got the part because he did ‘Super Troopers,’ which we were so excited for him about. And now the guy’s taking off. He’s in Spike Lee’s new movie (BlacKkKlansman). He’s done a bunch of stuff since.
Paul: It’s like we’re going around launching everybody’s career except our own.
Kevin: It’s good. It’s exciting.
Question: So, ‘Rabbit’ gets a love interest!?
Erik: Yeah! I’m tired of being shaving creamed!
Paul: That’s the last thing I want to do, is do the love stuff. Go and make-out and be mushy and have to do real acting? But, as silly as our movies get, you still have to have that scene. You still have to have that.
Question: Is there a girl out there for Farva?
Kevin: I don’t know. We talked about that. Maybe in ‘Super Troopers 3,’ we talked about maybe Farva finally finds his love. Maybe. But for now, I locked lips with Lemme in the movie, so… yeah… I’ll stay with Mac. Farva and Mac having a moment.
Steve: Pretty romantic stuff.
Kevin: Why not do it with the guy you know.
Paul: There’s no mushiness here.
Steve: That would be a great thing. In ‘Super Troopers 3,’ (gestures to Kevin) if Mac says, ‘I need to talk to you for a second. I can’t stop thinking about you.’
Question: Tell me about the writing process. How do you bring it all together?
Paul: It’s like this. It’s us around a table and there’s sort of these stages of just general ideation. Obviously, the world had already been built so that was good but generally speaking, we ask, ‘Where do we want to go with this?’ You, sort of, refine with each phase of starting, ‘Okay. Let’s go with that… let’s beat it out, how would something like that work?’ And with every phase, you’re almost always just throwing out bits or set pieces or comedy that you keep off to the side and you kind of build the structure of the storytelling. It’s just about populating as much comedy as you can.
Steve: Yeah. ‘Lonnie Laloush,’ the Canadian Farva, is a great example of that cuz that’s something where he just existed as dialogue. Down the road we thought, ‘We should probably see this guy.’ So, we wrote him into one scene but then we loved his audition tape so much we were, like, ‘God. We gotta see this guy a bunch and American Farva and Canadian Farva should meet up with each other at some point so… you just keep rolling it out and with each new draft, you have three, five, ten more jokes. It just makes the script better.
Question: Does anyone ever get their feelings hurt?
Kevin: Yeah. It definitely happens.
Erik: I’d say it happens.
Paul: Not over a joke but…
Kevin: We’re passionate.
Paul: We are passionate but it’s not necessarily a ‘This is funny.’ ‘No, it’s not.’ ‘Yes, it is.’ ‘No it’s not!’ The fights seem to be more, ‘Is it, at all, realistic?’ It tends to be more tonal stuff like, ‘That’s too broad, like a Zucker Brother’s joke. It’s funny but I don’t know if it exists in that world.’ Then the guys tend to roll up their sleeves.
Erik: Sometimes it’s like ‘Survivor’ where you have to form an alliance. Like, if you have a joke you’re trying, you have to get three out of five people on your side to get the joke approved. (Kevin laughs) So, often times, you’re trying to form alliances. Sometimes you even have to act it out. If you catch my joke but someone else isn’t seeing it, you have to get on your feet and sell it.
Paul: But then you can also sabotage a joke by reading it in a shitty voice. (Mocks a bad reading of a joke.) ‘Well, when you read it like that, asshole, of course it’s not funny!’
Paul: That’s the best way to sabotage.
Steve: But that’s the problem, too. When you get in these creative disputes, after the first round of, ‘Hey. I don’t know if this’ll work.’ It becomes, you just want to win a fight! And so now you got guys who have their heels dug in and there’re just going toe to toe. And three guys will just sit back and watch it. Like, we’ll smirk at each other while these other two guys are just butting heads.
Paul: And when you’re one of those combatants and you want support from the other guys, you’ll always get shot down because there’s nothing more fun than when you’re one of those guys watching two guys fight. And you don’t want to get involved. You just wanna sit back and eat popcorn and watch it. But it’s also maddening when you’re like, ‘Come on! Help me out here!’ And the other guy’s like, ‘You guys figure it out.’
Erik: You’re doing great. Hang in there.
Question: Kevin, you have a law degree.
Kevin: I do.
Question: You passed the bar in two states.
Kevin: I did. In two states. Yeah.
Question: If you became a lawyer and didn’t do this, looking and watching these guys, how would you feel about them?
Kevin: I’d feel they need a Farva, these guys!
Erik: Everybody needs a Farva.
Question: Any other careers anyone else were considering, instead of doing this? Your passion?
Steve: I don’t know what else I would do.
Erik: I don’t think we’re qualified for anything else.
Paul: I had a desk job for, like, one month.
Kevin: You guys could come work for me at the law firm if you want. Come make some copies for me. Do some research for me.
Paul: That’s good to know.
I believe he would. I hope you liked this interview. I know you’ll like the movie.