Interviewing two comedians at one time means double the laughs, but it also means twice as much insight into the topics being discussed.
Among the topics Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme talked about during a Tuesday afternoon interview were the “Super Troopers” sequel, how they have grown to enjoy doing stand-up comedy after being terrified of it and why referring to a man’s naughty bits as a tuna can makes sense once it’s explained, at least in this case, by Heffernan.
As two members of the five-man moviemaking team known as Broken Lizard, Heffernan and Lemme, who are headlining Raleigh’s Goodnights Comedy Club this week, have played memorable roles in many funny films, but it’s Heffernan’s Rodney Farva and Lemme’s MacIntyre “Mac” Womack in “Super Troopers” that I remember most. I went on and on about my love of “Super Troopers” in an April interview with Jay Chandrasekhar, and it’s kind of mind-blowing to me that just a few weeks after chatting with Thorny, I got the chance to ask Farva and Mac some questions.
Of course, Heffernan, the man with a pistol aimed at his tuna can in the photo above, and Lemme are much more than just two characters in that, or any movie, but fear not, fellow “Super Troopers” enthusiasts. I did ask about them questions about the classic comedy and “Super Troopers 2” which has been filmed and is slated for a 2017 release.
Tony Castleberry: Jay Chandrasekhar was in town a few weeks ago. Now you two are coming here. Is this part of a Broken Lizard plan to take over North Carolina’s capital city through laughter?
Kevin Heffernan: Yes. It’s the first step in us taking over the world actually. We’re starting in Raleigh.
TC: Well, it is an international city.
KH: (Chandrasekhar) had such a good time, he told us we had to come to Raleigh.
TC: Have you guys played Goodnights before?
Steve Lemme: We have. We played it back in 2009 on Halloween weekend. All of Broken Lizard, we played there and that’s the last time we were there, but we had a good time.
TC: When I asked Jay a question about the powdered sugar scene in “Super Troopers,” he referred to Kevin’s private parts as a “tuna can.” I’ve never heard a man’s genitals called a tuna can before. Kevin, is that what Jay called your junk on set?
KH: Well, it wasn’t just him. It was a widely used term for something that’s, you know, wider than it is long. [interviewer laughs]
TC: It was new to me, but the more Jay talked about it and hearing your description just now, it kind of makes sense.
SL: It’s also filled with tuna fish.
TC: [laughs] At all times or do you sometimes let the tuna out, Kevin?
KH: [laughs] Occasionally.
SL: That’s what he calls it when he’s with his wife. He’s like, “I’m letting the tuna out.”
KH: We’ll do that at Goodnights this weekend. We’ll let the tuna out.
TC: Perfect! Steve, I watched “Open Water” recently. (Lemme is listed as “Scuba Diver, uncredited” in the 2003 thriller based on a true story.) Anything about that experience stand out to you?
SL: I have ichthyophobia because my father took me to see “Jaws” in the movie theater when I was far too young, so I’ve always been afraid of fish. (Filming “Open Water”) was not a pleasant experience for me. There were real sharks in that water.
I think the thing that I was really struck by was the fact that my girlfriend was the lead actress in the movie and she had full nude sex scenes in it, which is really a difficult thing to watch. She then was in “Beerfest” playing Kevin’s wife and had another full nude sex scene with Kevin Heffernan and I think my takeaway is that I just need to go someplace and hide because I can’t unsee any of those things.
TC: [laughs] Kevin, what is your assessment of that scene in “Beerfest”? Did you enjoy that?
KH: I very much enjoyed it. I think Lemme was on set, right? Were you there watching?
SL: No, I wasn’t allowed on set that day.
KH: Oh. Well, I think it was an Oscar-worthy performance by me.
TC: [laughs] Since “Super Troopers” is such a classic, were you apprehensive about doing a sequel?
SL: I think we were nervous about it because when you’re approaching a sequel you don’t know how much you should refer back to the first movie and how much of doing that will become a cop-out, where people will say, “Oh, it’s just the same thing all over again.” That was the only thing I think we were apprehensive about.
The truth is, we were really excited to make (the sequel) and when we were in the writing process it was so great to be familiar. We knew all the characters and it was like joining up with an old group of friends you haven’t been with in a while. We were really excited to do it.
KH: There was a little bit of concern that we were gonna mess something up. The first one is so beloved you don’t wanna screw it up. It was just fun growing the mustaches again and putting the uniforms back on. As soon as we did that, we just had a blast.
TC: Were there growing pains for you guys on stage doing stand-up or did it flow pretty naturally right away?
KH: There definitely were. It’s a different muscle, you know? We had always done sketches and films and things like that and we had the opportunity to start doing stand-up. It’s something that Lemme and I had never really done before. Now we’ve been doing it for seven or eight years and it’s a different muscle to flex.
The thing is, we didn’t cut our teeth the way other stand-ups did, so yeah, we had problems in terms of the kind of rudimentary things of stand-up, handling hecklers and that kind of stuff, things we weren’t as well versed in. It was kind of a steep learning curve.
TC: I’ve seen the Sklar Brothers at Goodnights and I’ve seen the Lucas Brothers on TV, but those guys are blood brothers. Unless I’m missing something, you guys aren’t related, are you?
SL: We are. Have you ever seen the movie “Twins”? That’s us. [interviewer laughs] That would mean Kevin is the Arnold Schwarzenegger and I’m the Danny DeVito. [Heffernan, interviewer laugh]
TC: As far as that on-stage dynamic goes, as Kevin just alluded to, when you’re getting started, the timing and things like that, it’s tough to work that out, isn’t it?
SL: Yeah, I mean, the truth is, when we had just all moved to New York City, Kevin and I made a bet and I lost the bet. The payment was, I owed him 10 minutes of stand-up comedy on stage. It might’ve even just been five minutes. I totally welched on the bet because I was too terrified to do stand-up comedy. Kevin allowed me to welch on the bet without a word ever said to me because he understood how terrifying stand-up comedy had to be (for a newcomer).
In 2009, we did this big Broken Lizard tour and we just decided we were going to do some stand-up comedy so we kind of just jumped into the cold pool and finally, we really loved it. It’s like Kevin was saying. You get out there, you get the feedback from the audience and there’s an energy about it and you can adjust as you go. You can correct mistakes from one show to the next and build something. We love it now.
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