The Derrick Comedy Team talks about finally bringing their first feature length romp home for the masses on DVD
Derrick Comedy has taken the Internet by storm with a series of hilarious sketches. Now this famed New York University Troupe is finally unleashing their very first feature film on a wider, unsuspecting audience. Sure to be a cult mainstay in the years to come, Mystery Team is making its long awaited DVD debut on May 25th. Directed by Dan Eckman and produced by Meggie McFadden, this hilarious caper stars Community's Donald Glover, and Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza, alongside Derrick team members D.C. Pierson and Dominic Dierkes. The story finds a gang of former child detectives still on the beat well into their adulthood. Equal parts charming and innocent, while also being hip, fresh, and a tad bit naughty, the Mystery Teamhas never seen anything quite like "the case of the murdered parents". And it will take a lot of growing up on their part to solve this thrilling whodunit.
To help celebrate the monumental release of Mystery Team on DVD, we caught up with Derrick Comedy members Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes to chat about their very first foray into feature filmmaking. Here is our conversation:
My first question is for Donald Glover. Last year, before I ever heard of Derrick Comedy, I would get retweets from a Dong Lover? And I always thought it was some porn dude. Was this a nickname you embraced? And why have you since gotten rid of it?
Donald Glover: Number one, it is a porn name. obviously. Number two, my name is Donald Glover. When you put the two names together, it does look like Dong Lover. The problem is, people would always ask, "Why did you get rid of it." And I say, "It was because of you guys! You're the reason I got rid of it." Everyone thought they came up with it. I saw it when I first started using it. But I didn't want to erase it. I thought it was funny. But then everybody was asking me, "Did you know your name was Dong Lover?" Yes! I know! How do you not see that your name is Dong Lover. Yeah, that's my name. I had to change it because every third tweet I would get made a joke or reference to being a Dong Lover.
There aren't any bloopers on this DVD. Are you guys' strict professionals? Do you not like airing your mistakes in public? Or are you against bloopers in general because you feel they take away from the material you are trying to bring to the good people at home?
Dominic Dierkes: There weren't too many outtakes that were interesting to watch. We were on such a tight schedule. We didn't have the time or resources to go off and adlib. The bloopers you usually enjoy watching come from that. We didn't have a lot of content that we felt should be on the DVD. We aren't against bloopers in general.
D.C. Pierson: Its not like we didn't have them. Jackie Chan would break in and try to bust down a door. Then Chris Tucker would say something and cut everybody up. We didn't want to put any of that stuff on the DVD, because none of those scenes made it into the actual movie. We thought it would be confusing to people. You know?
Dominic Dierkes: People would be asking, "Why is Jackie Chan in there?" It was so funny on set, though.
D.C. Pierson: They were real cut-ups on set.
Donald Glover: Them and Tom Hanks were like brothers on set. It was weird.
D.C. Pierson: They would be there every day. Sometimes you'd show up, and Daniel Day-Lewis would just show up in character from There Will Be Blood. He would show up as the embattled priest. You'd walk over to him and say, "Oh, Father! Oh, Flanigan!" But none of that stuff made the final cut. We have those memories from that time on set. But we did not include those bloopers on the DVD.
Why did you decide to cut such huge actors out of your film to begin with?
Dominic Dierkes: Honestly, they didn't pull their weight.
That's the only reason?
Donald Glover: I think Dominic nailed it.
On the commentary track, you talk about a reel you've compiled featuring kids using obscene language that you culled from the auditioning process. Why don't we get to see that reel on the DVD?
Dominic Dierkes: I'm not sure I have an answer to that question. Maybe because it feels slightly exploitative? I don't know if we had the rights to do that.
D.C. Pierson: Its one of those factors. It's more fun to talk about it. To have that tape forever. To show four of our friends, instead of trying to sell it, and make money off the backs of these kids. Their parents knew about it. They knew what the content was, and they were okay with it. But I think we'd feel weird exploiting that.
Were you ever surprised at the parents who would bring their kids in to audition? And to what lengths they would go to get their kids in front of a camera?
D.C. Pierson: That wasn't the case for us. The kids that came in to audition for us didn't have crazy stage parents who were trying to turn a quick buck.
Dominic Dierkes: Our mindset going in was that we'd see a parade of stage parents pushing their kids. Xavier Salazar, the kid that eventually made it into the movie, was a really sharp kid. He knew these were words he couldn't say under normal circumstances. He also understood that this was a character that could say those words. It was great to have a well-adjusted kid that understood what he was saying. He understood that this was something he couldn't say normally.
D.C. Pierson: A young Justin Bieber came in and auditioned for that role. Donald didn't want to hire him, because he said that kid wasn't ever going to be anything.
Donald Glover: Yeah. And you know what? I stand by that.
Dominic Dierkes: But he's so huge now.
Donald Glover: Too who, though? Too who?
Dominic Dierkes: You're right.
I guess he's big to people who will never see this. Justin Bieber fans aren't out there looking for Mystery Team on DVD. But they should be.
Donald Glover: Yeah, they should.
I love the Hobo book you guys created for the film. Are you guys immersed in the Yeg subculture, and were you aware of books like Jack Black's "You Can't Win" before writing and creating that particular set piece?
Dominic Dierkes: I don't know what you are referring to.
D.C. Pierson: I guess the answer is no. What is that?
Jack Black is an old hobo from the turn of the century who wrote a quite famous book about the lifestyle, and it seemed like that's what you were riffing on in the film.
D.C. Pierson: Oh! I thought you meant the comedian Jack Black. That he took all his Kung Fu Panda money and wrote a book about being homeless. I was really confused. But that's awesome. I think we were just aware of hobos from cartoons. We were going for that 1920s image of trying to make a hobo non-threatening. In their minds, that is what the characters think about when it comes to hobos. It works out. We decided that in the context of the film, this was a book they put out in the 1930s to get children used to creepy homeless people being around them all the time. Because there were going to be more of them. We might as well get comfy with it. That was the idea behind our Sully the Wondering Tramp book.
In the commentary you mentioned that you may release some material from this book. Was that just a joke, or do actually passages from Sully exist?
D.C. Pierson: The cover is something we have. I did all of the art direction for the film. We do have those book covers. I put a lot of work into that. It was a lot of fun. We might see that on the website eventually.
The film itself seems to embrace a more innocent time in comedy, while staying edgy and subversive. Were you guys influenced by The East Side Kids and The Bowery Boys?
Dominic Dierkes: I'm not familiar with that. Were those kid detective movies?
They were old serialized comedies from the 30s and 40s that had adults playing much younger teenagers, kind of like you guys are doing in this film. They'd visit haunted houses and get wrapped up in various different mysteries.
Dominic Dierkes: We weren't familiar with that in particular. We were drawing from The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Encyclopedia Brown. All that stuff. We were trying to map it onto these grown-ups. That's how we tried to create this particular world. I wasn't aware of those other movies you mentioned.
D.C. Pierson: We were probably influenced by stuff that was influenced by that. If there were Warner Bros. cartoons or Hanna Barbara cartoons playing off those tropes, we probably were influenced by those. So perhaps third-handedly, we were influenced by some of that older slapstick stuff.
The film looks gorgeous for such a small budget project. How did you guys create such a friendly, stylized look on what you had to work with?
D.C. Pierson: Most of that credit goes to our producer Meggie McFadden, who squeezed our entire budget onto the screen. That was our creed. We wanted to make sure all of the money we had wound up on screen. She found creative ways to make that happen. Dan Eckman helped out as well, especially in terms of his shots. It was their ingenuity as director and producer. Because the film was being made for a very low budget, we didn't want it to look like it was that. The nature of the story was epic. We didn't want it to be hand held. Dan had all of these ideas to really immerse you in that style. Luckily, they were able to squeeze that out of the budget.
And you used a lot of your own families houses for the shoot. Was that an easy thing to impose upon your family? Having this film crew come in and take over?
D.C. Pierson: It was all Meg and Dan Eckman's families. Because they are from New Hampshire. I don't think we burned any bridges. Everyone was really great and super helpful. I don't think there were any big problems. We didn't burn any houses down, which was our main concern. We just didn't want to burn a house down. And we succeeded. The families were generally supportive, and they were psyched to see their hardware store, or their lumberyard, or their houses on the big screen.
How does the Derrick Comedy team work? Do you all write for each character, or do you get your own character to write, and work from there?
Donald Glover: We ran this like everything I'd learned at 30 Rock. Where people would ask this question all the time, "Oh, you must write all of Tracey Morgan's lines." Something to that extent. I don't think anyone could write that way. It would be a disaster if everyone were writing just their one character. We knew who our characters were. And what they did. We were constantly looking at each other's rough drafts. And we would chop them into acts. We brought them all together, and we smoothed it out. We knew this guy wouldn't do that. And that this guy over here would be more like that. We smoothed out a lot of the characterization. It was a process. It's a process when we do the shorts. We need to come together and understand what it is we're really going for. Because it's a premise based film. I don't understand it when people call this a sketch film. Because a sketch film is a lot looser. We have one combining premise. These guys are G rated characters in an R rated world. It was easy to follow.
D.C. Pierson: I think people call it a sketch movie because we're a sketch comedy group. The tenancy is to reference this as a sketch comedy film, but as Donald said, its really not. I think its because we come from that background. I think if Guy Fieri had of made this movie, every review would say, "It's pretty good for a food movie." Even though there's no food in it. It's just the movie that it is. We just happen to come from a sketch comedy background. So people are quick to put us in that box.
Donald Glover: I like to think of it more as a food movie. That's how I've been recommending it.
D.C. Pierson: When is Food movie coming out, anyway? In the tradition of Scary Movie.
Dominic Dierkes: I think it comes out Christmas Day, 2015.
D.C. Pierson: Man, they have those things planned way in advanced.
What does the future of Derrick Comedy look like at this point?
D.C. Pierson: We just put out a new sketch last Friday. We'll be making another one in a couple of weeks. We just want to keep making sketch videos. Because they are really fun. That is where we first built our audience. And Mystery Team, in our mind, is only now starting to come out. We had the theatrical release, but now it will be on DVD and everyone will get a chance to see it. Its life is just beginning, even though we've been making it for three years essentially. We're looking at making other movies. There are some TV shows. We want to make everything in the spirit of this collaboration. We want to make sure everything is based on the best possible ideas that we can bring to the table. We want to work on stuff that appeals to us.
Do you have another Derrick movie in the works?
D.C. Pierson: We've been working on Food Movie for a while now.
Donald Glover: There's too much food. That's the thing. We have a problem with the food.
Dominic Dierkes: The food goes bad, and then we have to start all over.
D.C. Pierson: Food is the most perishable thing. When it comes to cultural references, you could play Low by Flo Rida, That might be fun for another year or two. Then it's out of date. But food goes bad pretty regularly. Unless it's canned.
Donald Glover: And we've kept so many canned food jokes. This isn't called Canned Food Movie. It's Food. The Movie.
D.C. Pierson: If this were the Depression, Canned Food: The Movie would be huge. Mostly because the people need a warm place to go.
When can we expect to see a Derrick Comedy compilation DVD? The Haunted House short you guys did is not included with this set, so I can only guess that you have other plans for it?
Dominic Dierkes: There are no immediate plans. We weren't withholding that skit for another DVD release. It's online. Whoever wants to see it can see it. In the back of our minds, we've thought about putting out a sketch compilation. But that's not really in the que right now.
D.C. Pierson: I've been running off a bunch of VHS copies.
[bold|That's no joke. Everyone is buying VHS right now,}
D.C. Pierson: Really? VHS is tough. Its one of those formats...Other, smarter people have made this point before me. But it's not like vinyl. Where it's better or cooler. Its just pure nostalgia. Its demonsteriously worse than DVD or Blu-ray. I would be surprised if that caught on. But hey, I'm running off these sketch comedy VHSes, and I plan on selling them out of the trunk of my car.
Mystery Team arrives on DVD this coming Tuesday, May 25th.