Broken Lizard, the comedy hive mind behind comedy gems like Super Troopers, Beerfest and Club Dread began in New York in 1990. And while nearly 30 years have elapsed since the comedy troupe’s inception, these guys are as quick and funny as ever.
With Super Troopers 2 being released on Friday, April 20 this year, CULTURE sat down with Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme and Paul Soter; four of the five members of the comedy troupe. We discussed filmmaking, their long history in comedy and how cannabis helps them in their creative process.
What did it feel like to put the uniforms back on?
Lemme: Like mother’s milk.
Chandrasekhar: It felt great; you look in the mirror, and you’re like, “Oh yeah, there’s that guy from the movie.” I told these guys I wouldn’t roll camera unless everybody weighed the same as the first movie. So, they could say we looked older, but they couldn’t say we looked fatter and older.
“We write our structure sober, we write the magical flourishes and the jokes in sessions where we smoke a lot of joints.”
You guys have been doing comedy together for almost 30 years, can you tell us a little about the genesis of the group?
Heffernan: We all went to college together and started doing sketches there. Then we moved to New York and reassembled in the cabaret scene. We had been making short films and videos, and the idea was to make a feature film. So, we made this movie, Puddle Cruise, with credit cards and whatever.
Lemme: That was in the early ’90s, when the independent film scene was exploding then with Tarantino, Rodriguez, Linklater, Soderbergh and Kevin Smith making movies quickly and cheaply.
Soter: And you would go see them in the multiplex. We were like, wait a minute, a small movie can be on the big screen everywhere.
Was filmmaking always the goal?
Chandrasekhar: Originally, we really just wanted to do sketches. We were such big fans of Saturday Night Live, I think we would have liked to do a sketch show. We had an opportunity to do it, it was between us and a group called The State, and they won the show. So, then we were like “What are we going to do now?” There’s no need for another sketch show. So, we decided to try and make a movie.
Super Troopers came out in 2001 and became a cult smash when it hit DVD. Very quickly there were rumblings of a sequel, so why the long wait?
Heffernan: We didn’t want to dive back into the exact same characters again. We wanted to make a few other movies.
Chandrasekhar: We were afraid that if we did that, we would become, and I say this in a friendly tone, we’d become the Police Academy guys, who are mainly known for that one series of movies.
Lemme: In retrospect, we probably should have made Super Troopers 2 after Super Troopers. We made Club Dread instead, and that tonal shift threw our fans off quite a bit.
Beerfest ends with a tease of a potential cannabis-themed sequel. Was there, or is there a plan to possibly explore that idea?
Chandrasekhar: We’d written 40 pages of it, and we just kind of got too high and meandered away from it. Then we wrote an animated version of it, kind of never finished that, but I think if this movie does well, I think we’ll do it.
“Some of the most epic jokes from our movies came while we were stoned.”
One of the things that makes Super Troopers so great is the way you mess with the people you are giving tickets to. What’s the general feeling amongst law enforcement officers when they see you?
Lemme: I got let out of a 120 mph speeding ticket. The cop looked into the car and said, “Mister, do you have any idea how fast you were . . . Super Troopers? Oh my god we play all those games you guys play, the meow game, the repeater.”
Heffernan: It’s super flattering, that they play all the same games we do.
Lemme: There was a great one with an Atlanta Falcons football
player where he played the meow game on ESPN, and just carried it all the way through the interview. We saw a video from Felucca with guys at checkpoints playing the meow game with an Iraqi person, but the joke was lost because you kind of have to speak English.
Chandrasekhar: I was parked in a car smoking a joint with a friend of mine, and we literally saw a cop car stop behind us. The cop walked up, and I put [the joint] out and threw it out the window, but there was smoke in the air. I didn’t want the cop to see me, because I didn’t want to have a publicity arrest issue. He shines the light in my friend’s face and asks, “What the hell are you doing here?” He can see smoke in the car, and then he shines it up at me and says, “Oh, I’m sorry sir, you have a good evening.” And then he walks away.
Super Troopers is such a beloved classic. Did that put pressure on you guys to top it with the sequel?
Chandrasekhar: The problem is the first movie caught on in a way we didn’t anticipate. People sort of look at that movie that they all watched together with friends, they got high, they drank and they bonded over this thing. They have an emotional attachment to it. With the new one, we just decided to make another one. It’s a little bigger, the mustaches are a little bigger, the action’s better, we’re more skilled writers, but whether it catches that magic is sort of up to the audience.
Heffernan: That is the trick to making a sequel, though. You want to reference the first one, but how much do you reference the first one? How much do you revisit jokes versus creating new ones? It was a fine line.
“ . . . They’re putting so many people in jail for this generally harmless drug that I did vote to legalize it. It’s an interesting time; we’re in the moment of the end of prohibition.”
You guys mentioned cannabis. Are you cannabis consumers?
Lemme: It’s part of the creative process. There’s only so much you can do when writing a script without getting high. Some of the most epic jokes from our movies came while we were stoned. You’re in a different place, and you’re laughing your
ass off, and the hope is when you’re going over your notes the next day . . .
Chandrasekhar: . . . You’ll be able to fit it into your structure. We write our structure sober, we write the magical
flourishes and the jokes in sessions where we smoke a lot of joints.
Soter: In the opening of Super Troopers, the whole comedy is born out of how freaky things can get when you’re high, and interactions with the police especially.
Why do you think cannabis is so helpful to the creative process?
Chandrasekhar: It opens a portal to a joke machine that we are able to access.
What are your thoughts on the current state of cannabis?
Chandrasekhar: You know, I liked it when it was illegal. It was a little more underground, you could be rebellious.
Soter: It was dangerous.
Chandrasekhar: And I thought about it when legalization came up, that I might vote no, but really, they’re putting so many people in jail for this generally harmless drug that I did vote to legalize it. It’s an interesting time; we’re in the moment of the end of prohibition.
Heffernan: It’s certainly a wave. It’s interesting how much it’s changed. My kids aren’t going to grow up with the idea that this is a hide behind the building kind of thing. The way my parents look at it will be so different from how my kids do, which is super interesting.
Soter: There’s something very cool about the specificity of it now. The idea that I can find something that will give me a very particular experience. For our lives, up until recently, you just got what got you high. It’s wild that it has been science up to this point.
Your films are extremely quotable, what is the quote you hear the most?
Chandrasekhar: “Who wants a mustache ride?”
Lemme: “You boys like Mexico?” is a big one. People also scream “Eye of the Jew” at me a lot.
Heffernan: People call me “chicken fucker,” “shenanigans” and “liter of cola.” A lot of stuff gets yelled at me.
Soter: I go every day having “meow” yelled at me. ‘Til the day I die, I’ll be the “meow” guy.
- See it in select theaters on Friday, April 20!