The Broken Lizard Comedy Group talks about their first film, how they create their material and their upcoming movie Beerfest
The Broken Lizard Comedy Group is a testament to the idea that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And, have fun while you’re doing it. The group first gained recognition when their very independently made film Puddle Cruiser played to raves at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite that, the movie failed to land a distribution deal. Undeterred, The Broken Lizard Camp made another movie. This tale of “altered state police” again played to raves at Sundance and Super Troopers was picked up by Fox Searchlight. Shortly after this the Broken Lizard folks made yet another film titled, Club Dread, a whodunit of sorts that took place on a resort island.
With the success of the Broken Lizard Comedy Group’s other filmic endeavors, it seems only fitting that their first one should see the light of day. Puddle Cruiser is the comic tale of Felix Bean (Steve Lemme). This “average joe” falls for Suzanne (Kayren Butler) but their relationship has to remain open because she has a “jock” boyfriend on the rugby team. What ensues is a lot of jokes, dialogue and subplots that are deftly handled by The Broken Lizard Guys. They recently sat down with MovieWeb to discuss Puddle Cruiser, how they create their material, who their influences are and what they have coming up next.
Present for the interview from the Broken Lizard Comedy Group were Puddle Cruiser Director Jay Chandrasekhar (he also plays the role of Zach in the movie), Paul Soter (Matt) and actor Eric Stolhanske (Freaky Reaky).
Why did it take Puddle Cruiser 10 years to come out on DVD?
Eric Stolhanske: Good f*ckin question!
Paul Soter: We’ve been asking ourselves that very question.
Jay Chandrasekhar: We went into Sundance and had two offers for distribution, which would have put it out in the theaters and eventually gotten it out on DVD. They were for no money and we were going into Sundance so we thought, “Shit, we’ll sell this thing for millions!” And we got there and we had really great screenings, but nobody bought it. So we went back to those two companies and said, “Hey, do you want to release it now?” And they said, “Nah, go to hell.” And, they were hurt. We’d hurt their feelings apparently. And so it never came out. We sold it to Sundance Channel and it became that sort of lost little gem that people kept asking for. We said, “Oh, it’ll come out soon.” Here we go, 10 years later...
Paul Soter: We had that cockiness you get when you get your film accepted into Sundance. I’m sure there’s a “sniglet” for that somewhere, but we had that condition.
Did you guys ever give up hope that it would come out?
Paul Soter: I’m still not convinced. I know that’s supposed to come out tomorrow...
Paul Soter: But until I go to Blockbuster and see it I still don’t believe it’s going to come out.
Jay Chandrasekhar: I don’t know, we had been at the screenings and the film got really big laughs. It just didn’t make any sense. I always believed it would come out.
Did having your film in Sundance help get Super Troopers made?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Absolutely. We had a lot of people see us and a lot young people who were coming up in the business and now they’ve all got real jobs. It’s really helped sort of cement our reputation in the sort of show business world.
How does Broken Lizard create it’s projects? Do you write a screenplay? Do you improvise?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We sit around a room sometimes and say... you know people are always trying to think of ideas of what would make a good Broken Lizard film. The key is that you could have 5 lead guy parts. That’s one of the key elements to it. Super Troopers is obviously 5 guys in a cop thing. Club Dread we were able to work that out. Beerfest (Broken Lizard’s next film) is 5 guys drinking beer, that was gonna work. We throw out these ideas and we’ll all sort of chat about them for a day and see if there’s enough funny stuff there. We’ll start banging out an outline if we like it, and we’ll split up the sections of the outline and within a couple of weeks we can have the first draft of a script. And then we write 24 more drafts of that and we’ll shoot it.
Paul Soter: As much as possible, we try and create as much in the room with the 5 of us together, because then it is improvisation, guys trying to do routines and bits and jokes and characters. The test of whether something ends up in the script is did it make the other guys laugh when somebody did it?
How was it decided that Jay was gonna be directing the movies?
Paul Soter: Randomly assigned numbers on a piece of paper...?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I had started the group back in college and had directed from the beginning. I took a couple of film classes at NYU and sort of learned the technical side of it. That’s sort of how it developed.
Every role in your movies feels fleshed out. Not just for the main 5 guys. Every role has that feel, I was just wondering how you cast Puddle Cruiser which was your first movie?
Jay Chandrasekhar: There’s a world of funny, young actors who are not doing anything. Particularly in New York, New York. (Laughs) And they were all non-union actors, and we mostly called our friends who we thought were funny and just held auditions. It was a real basic way to go. We tried to write the jokes as funny as we could, then we found funny people to do them.
Paul Soter: I think in Puddle Cruiser it does have a very real feeling, because all of us were just a couple of years removed from that part of our lives. So the actors, like Jay said, were mostly guys we went to school with, who were also playing characters who weren’t far from who they were and the kind of stuff that we had done.
What are some of Broken Lizard’s influences?
Eric Stolhanske: Carol Burnett Show.
Jay Chandrasekhar: The Carol Burnett Show..., the Monty Python films, TV shows, albums.
Paul Soter: I think everybody just brought to the table what they watched as kids. So it really is, between the 5 of us, anything that was in the theaters or on TV somebody watched. There was just a ton of stuff that came in.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Spinal Tap. Richard Pryor Live in Long Beach. That’s why I decided to go into show biz.
Paul Soter: Richard Pryor in Long Beach?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, it’s Richard Pryor live but the concert is in Long Beach. It’s not the one from the Sunset Strip. It’s the best standup I’ve ever seen, I think.
Is Rodeo Clowns (a documentary on the films of Broken Lizard) going to cover just Puddle Cruiser and Super Troopers? There’s 17 minutes of it on the DVD and I was wondering just what else we’ll see?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It’s hard to say, I think right now it’s just those two films but it’s entirely possible it could have stuff from Beerfest and Club Dread too. There was a lot footage shot during Club Dread and I don’t think it’s going to any other documentary.
Paul Soter: The same group of guys have been kind of with us, behind the scenes, pretty much for all the pictures, tours and promoting. I think it would be cool. At some point you could have a really cool full length thing that’s covering us from back then, all the way to whatever the next few movies are.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Is there a 17 minute segment on there?
Yeah, a 17 Minute segment on the Puddle Cruiser DVD.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Oh, cool.
So what is Beerfest all about?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It’s about this secret, underground world of Beer games in Munich. It’s like Fight Club or Bloodsport. Or, Hoosiers. It’s a sports movie with hardcore beer drinking. And there are 5 man International teams.
Jay Chandrasekhar: We take on the Germans and the Russians.
Puddle Cruiser tests the waters on DVD December 6th, 2005.