Everyone's favorite sitcom dad shines in this hilarious new DVD release from Neal Brennan
Jeremy Piven, David Koechner, Ving Rhames, and Ed Helms headline an all-star ensemble cast in the hilarious used car comedy The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which arrives on DVD December 15th. Amongst the many famous faces making an appearance in the film is everyone's favorite TV dad Alan Thicke. And he's got a couple of clunkers he'd like to sell you. To celebrate the release of this shocking expose on used car salesmen, Alan took time out to chat with us about his war against Don Ready and The Goods. Here is our conversation:
How much fun did you have playing against your "nice guy" image with Stu Harding?
Alan Thicke: It was a lot of fun. Until I found out what I was up against. These guys are a machine. They turn out fabulous frat boy comedies. When I got on set, I found out how they do that. They get everyone in the right mood. When they get a couple of good takes from the script, they completely throw it out the window and they improvise. I about wet my pants when I realized that. My background is as a writer. That's how I started out, and that's what I did for the first few years I was on TV. I have confidence in that. Let me sit down in the corner alone for five minutes, and I will come up with a couple of good lines for you. But this was purely improvisational comedy. That is not my training. As soon as I saw what they were doing, I would go to the toilet. I would make an excuse for a bathroom break, then write down a couple of really good one-liners in the stall. I would come back and read them, pretending I was improvising. That's what I had to do to hang with this very bright and talented group of skillful improvisational actors. The fun was gone at that point. It only came back when I felt I was making my contributions. When I felt that I was hanging. When I felt I was doing okay with this large group of people whom I have a lot of respect for.
The director is also known for shouting out suggestions while you are in the middle of a scene. What is that like for you as an actor? To be pulled out of the moment by a director screaming new lines in your face?
Alan Thicke: It was all a little shocking. My confidence comes in having a couple of minutes to write down and think about a line. Once I understood what was coming at me, and once I knew that I had a line stashed away in my secret pocket, it became okay. It was like going on a talk show. My philosophy is that you always want to have a couple of good one-liners in your pocket. You want to have somewhere you can go. That gives you confidence. You know you are going to go out there and score sooner or later in this conversation. You have a couple of jokes in reserve. Most of the best guests on talk shows always come with a little something. I know this from hosting thousands of hours on various talk shows. Those that arrive relying purely on improvisation sometimes end up with dead are for a couple of minutes. It's hard to gather confidence in this arena. Once they start throwing things at you, you need to have an idea about where you are going. Eventually, I was okay with that. It is a real interesting way to work. The director was very clever. He created an environment where the creativity and the energy came from the comedy. And the fanaticism. You are already halfway to the laugh. Whatever comes out is going to be all right. That is part of what you create by doing what you described. You are all on the deck of the Titanic. How many lifeboats are there? Everyone is scrambling a little bit. But that creates a great comedic tension. That comes out in the characters. This film has a lot of momentum. It has a lot of energy. That comes from the characters. They don't all need to be over the top, especially in their performance. There is a great deal of energy and momentum. The film has a great pace to it. The music added a lot to it. The film has a certain momentum. That is created by the improvisational, scattershot nature of the lines that the director and the writers are throwing at you all of the time.
Your son in the film, played by Ed Helms, is an aspiring musician. Being a singer/songwriter yourself, were you able to offer any suggestions in terms of what Ed was going through as the member of a floundering boy band?
Alan Thicke: I understood Ed's character autobiographically. I have a son that is an accomplished musician. I understand the notion of a proud dad. I have plenty to be proud of with Robin and his music. I was able to carry that pride over into this onscreen relationship with Ed. What made that funny is that it's an unfounded, undeserved type of pride. Its misplaced parental braggadocio. Ed's character is a guy that clearly doesn't have it. And he's got stunted growth syndrome. Dad's there, never the less, saying, "You can Google him!"
You've played quite a few dads in your career. Where does Ed Helms fall as far as your own favorite on-screen sons go?
Alan Thicke: I was a fan of Ed's before I met him. I'd have to say he is certainly up there. I enjoyed being Kirk Cameron's father for years. I'm known as that. Recently I have become known as Robin Thicke's dad. In-between, I was Leonardo DiCaprio's stepfather and guardian. Now I am Ed Helms dad. It's a pretty good variety of parental relationships.
Selling used cars is certainly an art form. Do you compare it to acting, and how do you feel you'd fare if forced onto a lot?
Alan Thicke: I'm genetically predisposed to selling used cars. My grandfather was a used car dealer. He owned two dealerships in Northern Ontario. That was our family background. My first job at thirteen was cleaning out toilets at his dealership. That was my summer employment, cleaning out the stalls. I saw a little bit of it. I have it in my blood. I am proud of what my grandfather accomplished. This is probably no interest to you people, but he would be turning 100 years old this Friday. We will be having a little family memorial celebration in honor of my Grandfather turning 100 on December 4th. We will connect by Skype and by phone. We will exchange some photographs. We are scattered all over North America. He was a great, dear soul in our lives. He was the antithesis of the used car salesman. Especially of the character I played. I'll probably get on line with the family and say, "Sorry for this recent portrayal." My grandfather was a pretty great guy.
One of the funniest things I've seen in a while was your appearance on Star-Ving? How did David Faustino con you into that? And do you plan on returning for the second season?
Alan Thicke: I have known David for many years. I did a couple of guest appearances on /tv/married-with-children/Married...With Children many years ago, and David is closer in age to my own children. All of those little Hollywood brats were hanging out together while their parents were working. They all got to know and meet each other. There was a whole other sublevel of our familiarity. I have so much respect for David getting /tv/star-ving/Star-Ving up and running on Crackle. He did such a good job bringing in his friends and getting some really good cameos. He has great writers. Those are funny little pieces, and it's a decent looking product that he captured on film. Doing internet shorts is definitely the way of the future, in terms of distribution of material. I hope that somebody figures out a way to make money at it. I don't think anyone has yet. Including our very own Will Farrell, who's got his Funny or Die website. It is a great place to display product. No one has a business model for it just yet. Guys like Will and David are paving new roadways there. We all hope they can find the business model. Because it's a great place to see original and creative new wave material.
Speaking of David, you two star in the just released Robo Doc, which came out last week. I haven't seen it yet, but our site is calling it the funniest National Lampoon movie in years. What's your role in the film, and how did you get mixed up in this crazy mess?
Alan Thicke: David Faustino brought me into that, too. He is a pretty good salesman. He should have been a used car salesman. It starts with a call, "Hey, can you do me a favor? You just need to show up for a day. It will be easy." Then you end up spending six weeks in the Everglades working on some cockamamie movie. A lot of stuff gets done through relationships and favors. Coincidently, both Robodoc and The Goods were a little ahead of their time. They are very prescient as it relates to our current political and sociological challenges. The two biggest challenges of the Obama administration, with the third being Afghanistan. The other two are the melt down of the economy, which is reflected somewhat in The Goods. We came out right when the cash for cluckers program hit. There were the cash stimulation programs. That's what Jeremy Piven is trying to do in the The Goods. He wants to stimulate sales and keep dealerships alive that otherwise could have been going under. What Robodoc intended to be was a satire on the health care system. It claims that doctors will be obsolete. Certainly the ones that milk the system from an insurance standpoint. And they would be replaced by robotic medical practitioners. Both of those films have capitalized on global thematics. I am not sure how much that was intended before their release. It turned out to be fortuitous in their promotion.
A lot of younger people who may not be familiar with your past work are starting to see you in these films. How do you feel about garnering a whole new generation of fans?
Alan Thicke: I love it. I never planned on being an icon this early. It's flattering to have some sort of iconic status where they know you, identify with you, or have some vague familiarity of you. Being iconic means you're not doing anything at the moment. You're not working. And people say, "I remember him." I am happy with my image as a father figure. I am proud of my past work. But it's nice to still be doing something where people are saying, "I just saw him!" It's a good combination. You have a body of work to relate to, and then an occasional surprise you are able to throw in there.
Its no secret the powers that be are currently looking for a replacement for Oprah. You're no stranger to talk shows, and people genuinely love you. Have you considered stepping up to the plate and offering your services on this end?
Alan Thicke: No. My demographic has passed that. The smart move is to go younger and more happening. I do think there are roles for guys like me with a little experience. We can come in off the bench. We can be guests, or do reoccurring spots. I am getting a lot of those calls now. That is more comfortable. I'd like to have a two-minute editorial once a week on a show like that. I could make fun and take advantage of my perspective and writing background. I could bring my Boomer Nation perspective to a younger-minded show. I am happy to have gotten a couple of those calls lately. Hopefully I will pop up doing something like that in the future. To replace Oprah, or build a new show around someone, they have to be newer and fresher.
I would totally watch the Alan Thicke show.
Alan Thicke: That is very flattering. That is very kind of you, thanks!
I love Fernwood 2Nite. My parents made me watch that when I was a little kid. And it's stayed with me.
Alan Thicke: That's what my generation did. That's how we disciplined people. We made the kids watch that show.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard arrives in stores on December 15th, 2009.