For the Super Troopers 2 Phoenix press day, Electric Bento was invited to sit down with a Super Troupe as we discussed the film, the fans influence, the team’s influences and a few other Super Trooper surprises.
It was a temperate mid-spring day when Electric Bento joined two other Phoenix media outlets for the Super Troopers 2 Press Day. We sat down with a quorum of the comedic geniuses that make up Broken Lizard. Though Jay Chandrasekhar was unable to attend, his comedic spirit permeated his colleagues, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stohlhanke as we discussed the film, their production process, what it was like to work with Brian Cox and an interesting I, Tonya connection.
Note that no mustaches were harmed during the interview.
Kevin started out the conversation offering his perspective on the fan pressures that underpin this film. “There’s a lot of pressure about whether people are going to like this movie [Super Troopers 2] or not. There’s so many fans of the first one that they don’t want you to screw it up.” Paul joined in as he talks about the fans. “Our fans have never been shy about saying how they feel. ‘Yeah, I loved Super Troopers but Club Dread sucked.’ In a way, it’s helpful because we know what’s working and what’s not.”
The film was backed through one of the most successful Indie Go Go fundraising rounds which is what prompted their visit to the Valley. They had screened the film for their backers and select press members the night prior to our discussion. “We’ve shown the movie to a few Indie Go Go backers and the response has been positive. They’re satisfied.”
Speaking of their fundraising round, I asked if the backers were positive because they had a stake in Super Troopers 2 game.
Kevin responded first saying, “Maybe. I think it’s more of a wedding toast kind of a situation, meaning “we want you to succeed.” They’re on your side, We’re family, so you can hopefully go up there and not screw it up.” Steve added, “you feel a sense of relief. Kevin was talking about it. People say this across the board: ‘we just didn’t want it to suck.’” [and it doesn’t; read out review here.] “And, thankfully it doesn’t. A lot of people are saying it’s as good as the first one, maybe better.”
Paul touched on some of the differences between the first and second film saying, “we spent a lot of time on both scripts. What I like here is that we spent time thinking about what makes a good story or a good movie. You look at the first one and I think we’ll all admit that it was an excuse for set piece after set piece. We really wanted this to be something that was an interesting story and we wanted to know how it ends [with] this cool hook about a chunk of land on Canada.”
Erik chimed in. “Let’s face it. We made a great movie!”
No movie is complete without some bit of research. The next question focused on source material and what inspired them to write the Super Troopers 2 story. “I know Bruce McCullough (Kids In the Hall) was on set, but myself I might pop in Strange Brew or Kids in the Hall.”
Kevin talked about their experiences in Canada. “We had a lot of interaction. There were times where we went up there [Canada] for fun. There were times when we went to Montreal for the Just for Laughs festival. You’d be up there and there are these funny elements; French-Canadians who don’t want to speak English to you. There were a lot who were kind of gruff when you normally think of Canadians as nice people. It was kind of a cool area to have fun with.”
Steve raised an interesting point about American – Canadian relations. “We’re neighbors and yet we know nothing about each other.” He went on to speak of some of his experiences. “We were in Calgary and someone was saying some untruths about Americans. ‘You know anything about the United States? How many states do we have? I don’t know, 48?’ We’re like ‘that’s a ridiculous answer.’ ‘How many provinces are in Canada?’ And we didn’t have an answer.”
Erik jokingly added, “’What’s a province?’”
Paul talks about a joke at the end of the film (don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler.) “To me, one of the best jokes in the movie is at the end when it looks like we’re going to be friends and Lynda Carter basically says “no, it’s going to be status quo”. We immediately turn on each other and that ‘burn 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 adds to the story. “We were in Calgary and one of the Canadians was telling us this whole story about how they burned down the White House and we’re like ‘we don’t remember it that way!?’”
Steve comes to everyone’s rescue. “I’d never heard of that before. ‘The War of 1812 and you burned down the White House? That doesn’t even sound familiar.’ We looked it up on Wikipedia and it turns out ‘the Brits were renting your land and they burned down the White House in the War of 1812.’ The Canadians were like ‘no, we did it!’ We’ll give it to them. It’s fun.”
“We also didn’t realize they didn’t become a real independent nation until 1983,” Steve adds.
Paul chimes in. “The more you dig around, it’s just funny stuff, the real history.”
Steve talks about framing the research against the story. “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 and we’re kind of the bad guys.”
Kevin talks about casting Canadians in lead roles. “Will Sasso, Tyler Labine and Emmanuelle Chiriqui, they’re all Canadian and we kind of brought that whole thing to the table.”
“And they’re all from different parts [of Canada],” adds Erik. “Will’s from Vancouver, Tyler’s from Ontario and Emmanuelle’s from Montreal. It’s such a wide range.”
Steve brings the conversation around to the troupe’s 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 those guys smear us all over the place. That’s the thing about Canadians. They don’t take themselves too seriously.”
Regarding their Indie Go Go tour, Erik mentioned that he had shown some clips a few weeks before our interview and “they were very excited.”
“Jay isn’t here right now so this is your chance to tell us about him,” quipped one of the other journalists.
Steve jumped right in. “Our chance to bash him? Terrible director. Terrible actor.”
They all laugh when we probed a bit further.
Paul says with a straight face, “He sleeps with his eyes open and snores really loudly.” Erik jumped in with, “I wonder if he’s human.”
Kevin gets more to the point. “It was also fun to have him direct this movie. 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 kind of cool to see how he did things a bit differently. It was more about pacing and having efficient coverage. So, he definitely learned, you know?”
Steve offered his impression of Jay. He deepened his voice and slowed his speech: “Uh . . . . speak faster.” The entire room erupted in laughter.
You can tell they have respect and love for each other.
Paul talked about Jay from his vantage point. “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 [him] on set. 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 talked about Brian for a moment. “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.”
They all start laughing again, “Cuz when the sun goes down, we start to become a bunch of monkeys.”
Paul continues talking about Brian Cox. “He’s awesome. His eyeball exploded about three-fourths of the way through the shoot. What happened with him? A blood vessel bust – “
Kevin adds, “He burst a blood vessel in his eye.” He talked about some digital doctoring they needed to do in post-production, but Steve didn’t reveal the scenes. “If you know which scenes to [look] for, which we do, now I only focus on the eye and its brighter than it normally should be.” Kevin added, “We won’t give those secrets away. You can see it on [home video].”
Erik looked horrified and alarmed. “I mean, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen Steve reacting to it.”
The room bursts into laughter. “That bloody eyeball was right there. Makes you jump.”
Steve deadpanned, “A bloody eyeball is a terrifying thing.”
Paul had nothing but mutual love and admiration for Brian. “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.”
I complimented the guys on the film and mentioned that I didn’t think they took themselves seriously, which I appreciated. “You’re passionate about what you do and it comes through in spades, but you’re never rude about it. We know you make fun of the Canadians but you don’t blame the Canadians, right?”
They all agreed with that.
“So what influences you, beyond the sequel, what influences you as actors to want to continue these characters?”
Kevin and Steve jockeyed for position to answer the question.
Kevin won. “A lot of this is based on us being friends. The philosophy is ‘Hey we’re gonna create this world and you can come and hang out 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 agreed. “And we have drafts of things where the guys are bickering and we look at it, ‘No, no. We don’t want it to be that way.’ These guys are just joking around, having fun with each other and there’s that one [guy] that everybody has in their workplace that’s gonna come in and ruin everybody’s good time and that’s this guy,” gesturing to Kevin. “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.”
The guys banter back and forth. Kevin starts, “But you still like me.” Steve kicks in, “But we still like you.”
I even get in on the fun, “You’re lovable.”
Kevin is quick, “Thank you!”
Paul takes the moment back, “The guy you love to hate.”
And that’s how we got on the subject of the very funny Paul Walter Houser. “Now we have a French-Canadian Farva, too.”
“From I, Tonya right?”
Kevin confirmed the question. “What’s a great story is that I had done a comedy show with him, a live show. 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.’”
They had him meet 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. She was like ‘I’m gonna call him in [because] he was so great.’ She called him in for I, Tonya and he got the part because he did Super Troopers 2 which we were excited for. And now the guy’s taking off. He’s in Spike Lee’s new movie (BlacKkKlansman). He’s done a bunch of other stuff since.”
Paul joked, “It’s like we’re going around launching everybody’s career except our own.”
Kevin was supportive. “It’s exciting!”
We next talked about the love interest in the film. Erik replied right away. “Yeah! I’m tired of being shaving creamed!”
Paul laments roles with a love interest. “That’s the last thing I want to do, is do the love stuff. Go and make out, be mushy and have to do real acting?” He quickly recognizes the importance of its role in the film. “As silly as our movies get, you still have to have that scene.”
And the other shoe dropped. “Is there a girl out there for Farva?”
Kevin replied, “I don’t know. We talked about that. Maybe in Super Troopers 3 Farva finally finds his love. 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 added, “Pretty romantic stuff.” Kevin quickly retorts with, “Why not do it with the guy you know.”
Paul joins in on the fun, “There’s no mushiness here.”
Steve circles back, “That would be a great thing. In Super Troopers 3 if Mac says ‘I need to talk to you for a second. I can’t stop thinking about you.”
The room broke out in to laughter.
The story was so much tighter in the second film, so we touched on that next.
Paul responded first. “It’s like this. It’s us around a table and there’s sort of these stages of general ideation. Obviously, the world had already been built, but we ask ‘Where do we want to go with this?’ You sort of refine with each phase. 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 storytelling. It’s just about populating as much comedy as you can.”
Steve continued on that line of thought. “Yeah, the Canadian Farva is a great example of that [because] that’s something where he just existed as dialogue. Down the road, we thought ‘we should probably see this guy.’ We wrote him into one scene but we loved his (Paul Walter Houser) audition tape that we said ‘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.’”
The process of collaborative writing, especially in a comedy can be bruising to the ego. We asked how the team handled that aspect of writing.
They all agreed that it happens. Paul said, “Not over a joke but . . . “ Kevin finished his statement, “We’re passionate.”
“It tends to be more tonal stuff like, ‘that’s too broad, like a Zucker Brothers’ joke. It’s funny but I don’t know if it exists in that world,” said Paul in a summation. “Then the guys tend to roll up their sleeves.”
The guys mentioned ‘Survivor’ – like instincts for getting a joke in to the film, “where you have to form an alliance. You have to get three out of five people on your side.” Kevin laughed. “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 mentioned that they would sabotage each other’s jokes, “by reading it in a shitty voice,” with which he added a high pitched voice of a joke. “’Well, when you read it like that, of course it’s not funny!’” Erik agreed.
Steve got a bit more serious. “That’s the problem too. When you get into these creative disputes, after the first round it becomes ‘you just want to a fight!’ And now you got guys who have their heels dug in and they’re just going toe to toe. And three guys will just sit back and watch it. We’ll smirk as each other while these two guys are just butting heads.”
“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,” added Paul. “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 laughed. “You’re doing great. Hang in there.”
The last question was with respect to Kevin’s law degree. He has passed the bar in two states. He was asked if he became a lawyer, how would you feel about the other guys.
“I’d feel they need a Farva.” Erik added quickly, “Everybody needs a Farva.”
The room erupted into laughter as we asked the other guys if they had any other career paths they wanted to pursue.
“I don’t know what else I would do,” mentions Steve. The guys laughed.
Erik was quick to add that “I don’t think we’re qualified for anything else.”
Paul chimed in with his limited experience, “I had a desk job for, like, one month.”
Kevin swooped in. “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 was gratified. “That’s good to know.”
And with that, our time with this Super Troupe came to end. They are as generous as they are funny. Super Troopers 2 is now in theaters.