As part of their first ever nation-wide live comedy tour, Broken Lizard is stopping by Crackers Broad Ripple this Wednesday, Sept. 9. They will be doing a hodge-podge of improv, sketch and stand-up comedy - some of which will feature characters from their cult-classic movies Super Troopers and Beerfest. The tour is equal parts promotion for their upcoming movie Slammin' Salmon, and a much-desired return to their roots as a live sketch comedy troupe. Since achieving iconic college-cult-comedy legend status from Super Troopers, the team has gone on to write, direct and act in several successful movies, but they now finally have the chance to get back to doing what they love most. I sat down with Steve Lemme, who played "Fink" in Beerfest, and "Mac" in Super Troopers, to talk about their live tour, his real-life misadventures with cops, and the well-guarded secrets behind Super Troopers 2 .
NUVO: What can your fans expect to see at a Broken Lizard live show?
Lemme: We're going to do some stand-up comedy, we're going to do some sketches - we're going to do some sketches with familiar characters from the movies - it's basically a high octane, high energy, high laughs show.
NUVO: Is this the first time Broken Lizard has "toured"?
Lemme: Yeah, we started off as a stage-sketch comedy group - we all met in college and did sketch comedy, and in New York City we had four different sketch shows that ran for a period of about two years. But since we've had movies coming out, we haven't really been able to focus on the sketch shows. But like last year, we went to the Aspen Comedy Festival and did a one-act-play that we had written, and we loved it, so we decided what we really wanted to do was get back out there and do a live tour, and we're doing it - it's great. We're doing like 30 cities and like 50 shows around the country - doing a live show and having a blast - it's awesome.
NUVO: How has the dynamic of the group changed since doing sketch comedy at Colgate [University], to now making multi-million dollar movies?
Lemme: In terms of the creative side, we're more evolved in what we do - we have a lot of things going on - you know, we're doing a sequel to Super Troopers,and just sold a couple of movies to Universal that we're working on. And then we have the live show going on. So we have to be more efficient with our time. Certainly in terms of creativity, we learned - at least a little bit I think - how to divide and conquer and really maximize the path. In terms of the process, we just throw out ideas, and slowly write the script, and have one guy as the point man just sort of take over and do everything - and then you know, there are the squabbles, which are minor, and we're all mature and understand that it's just a part of the process - that you're going to disagree, and people are going to disagree with you.
NUVO: I imagine it's difficult to have that role reversal, where Jay [Chandrasekhar] directs one movie, then Kevin [Heffernan] directs the next - is it hard to have a colleague taking charge?
Lemme: [Laughs] Well, it's like, no two days are the same. You know Kevin directed Slammin' Salmon and did a great job on it, but we still have Jay [being successful with other projects], so politically we have to figure out what to do about that. The nice thing about our process is that we're all always there - we're always collaborating. Even when Jay's directing, there are days when he's on camera, so there are days when someone else is directing for him, and coming up with ideas for him. There are times when you show up, and you - say - have a scene with a girl, and you and the director are the only ones there, but you really wish everyone was there, because you'd love some creative input, but they're all home in bed because they don't want to wake up at 5 a.m. and watch you swap spit with some hot chick.
NUVO: What is the premise of Super Troopers 2?
Lemme: Well, I hate to be a jerk, but we're trying to keep the premise of that under wraps. But I will give you one hint - we do play Vermont Highway Patrolmen.
NUVO: That's the worst hint I've ever heard.
Lemme: [Laughs] Oh so you think you know about it already, huh? No, on IMDB (Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com) we had joked one time in an interview that we were going to go back in time and play our fathers, and that sounded like a good idea for a while, but what I really think we should do is pick up where we left off. But IMDB reported it - it says that we were all playing our dads, but that's not really true. The movie picks up where we left off.
NUVO: Is it fair to say that Broken Lizard is to the new millennium what National Lampoon was to the '70's and '80's - nailing down that particular demographic?
Lemme: You know - I don't know. When National Lampoon came out - Animal House and Vacation, they were dominating at that time, whereas I don't think we're dominating anything. There are comedies out there that do way bigger business than us, well, for a variety of reasons, but I think a lot of them are not as clever as our movies - just bigger and dumber - PG or PG-13. There are some great comedies that don't get the dues they deserve. Right now, in general, comedy is reigning supreme, I mean you have like the [Judd] Apatow, Will Ferrell, the whole Apatow gang - Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill - and even Jack Black and Adam Sandler - those are the comedy mega-giants. Super Troopers, and maybe Beerfest ... to a lesser degree have achieved a certain cult status. But I don't think we've achieved the dominance that National Lampoon did. I think our fans can certainly appreciate that we always try our hardest, and we always put a lot of care into everything we do.
No matter what our critics say, a lot of thought goes into every joke - even the stupid ones. And we try to make every single moment work together, right down to the very end - like you look at Club Dread, the very last scene is the killer's lower body. It's such a stupid thing, but we just thought it was hilarious - it's like comedy to the last drop. But I don't get a sense that a lot of people care about it. And knowing the way the machine works, you know, a lot of people just tend to throw out the first finished product they have, when things could be better.
To answer your question, I don't think we're to the National Lampoon level, just because those guys kind of owned the market place, and we don't. We're hoping to do that with the Universal movie, but it's difficult when you don't have stars in the movie that people are clamoring to see.
I think even the name Broken Lizard - they know the "Super Troopers guys," but not necessarily the name Broken Lizard. If you're only promoting one movie every two years, it's hard to get up to that. But we're not discouraged, I think we're just gearing up for the second wave.
NUVO: What were some of the difficulties in the transition from college sketch comedy into film?
We had always shot sketches on film that we would show in our transitions, and we always loved doing that - you can just do so much more without the limitations on a stage. We knew this guy that went to NYU and he wanted us to write and star in his thesis - and we did. So we went down to Florida on location for a week, and we shot a 30-minute movie, and absolutely fell in love with it. So we wrote the script for Puddle Cruiser, which was our first movie, and started raising the money for it, which was credit cards and money from parents - and we raised the 200,000 bucks, and made that movie.
In fact, I'll say that the transition for us from stage to film was easier than it was from our first feature film to our second, which was Super Troopers. Because $250,000 relatively speaking, turned out not to be the hardest thing to raise. Everyone had credit lines - so with the cards we could right off the bat, five guys and the producers, you already have 150,000 bucks, and from there - you know - Jay's family invested, so that was relatively easy. Then at Sundance, it took us five years to raise the money for Super Troopers. And there was sort of a doom and gloom in the group, and literally, you'd be one moment away from quitting, and then a TV pilot - so we'd have enough money to make it through a year, we'd all have waiter jobs. That was the roughest period for us. It's complex, but we were so eager to get into film, the transition was pretty easy.
NUVO: Has there ever been back-fire from the police community over Super Troopers?
Lemme: [Laughs] You know we're actually really big in the armed forces and police community. We have cops come to all of our shows. When we were gearing up for this live show we did a couple warm-ups at a small club in [Los Angeles] and a bunch of LAPD cops came down. One time I actually got pulled over, I just bought a new car and I was going off to San Jose from Los Angeles at like 11 at night. There was nobody on the 5-north, and I just had to floor it at like 110, on a flat, pristine highway. It was just when I was thinking to myself, "God, there are no fucking cops on this road," right then I saw the rollers, basically in my back seat.
And the dude pulls me over... and I've never been pulled over, so I rolled down my driver's side window, and I'm just sitting there waiting for him - and he taps on the passenger side window and I couldn't find the right button - I was rolling down the back windows, jumping around - he was looking at me like 'this guy's hammered.' He says "do you have ANY idea how fast you were... Super Troopers?!" He was like "ah man! You guys are crazy, we do all those games!" and I mean, he totally lost his cool - he was saying they do "the repeater," they do "the meow game," and I was like - "bullets to the jock strap?" He said "no, we're not that crazy! So what are you guys doing now?"
And I told him we're doing a movie called Beerfest, and he was like "ah you guys are hilarious" and then there's an awkward silence, and he says "well, you know, I got you at 110. But I'm going to let you off with a warning on this one. Not because of Super Troopers, just because - you know - it's late and you need to drive safe." So he asked me if I was in a rush to go anywhere, and I told him no, so he asked me, "can I trouble you for a photo and an autograph?" And he brings his ticket book over to me - and his hands are shaking. I just couldn't believe it, 'cause my hands were shaking. We took the photo with our arms around each other and him holding the camera out.
NUVO: Is there a release date for Slammin' Salmon?
We're having a marketing meeting tomorrow - I think it's going to be the first or second week of November, but it's going to be a smaller release. I'm thinking they're going to get it out there quickly, then take it to DVD. Which, that's fine with us, we're going to focus on promoting it, and focus on this next movie with Universal and also on Super Troopers 2.