As part of Broken Lizard, Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan have spent the better part of two decades bringing laughs to a legion of dedicated fans around the globe. With hit films such as “Super Troopers,” “Beerfest,” and “The Slammin’ Salmon” under their belt, these two comedic dynamos are back with the greatest sperm bank heist film even to hit the big screen — “The Babymakers”. The film centers around Tommy Macklin (Paul Schneider), who after trying everything to get his wife Audrey (Olivia Munn) pregnant, realizes to his horror that he may be “shooting blanks.” Terrified that his marriage may fall apart, Tommy recruits his friends to rob a spermbank where he made a deposit years ago. As with any half-baked scheme, everything can and does go wrong, testing the limits of Tommy and Audrey’s relationship and showing how far one couple will go in hopes of getting pregnant. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan to discuss the evolution of the script, the challenges of bringing the film to the big screen, their upcoming projects and much more!
You guys have been at it for quite a while but what was the initial spark that pointed you into the direction of filmmaking?
Jay Chandrasekhar: In the beginning… [laughs] We were in New York City, in our third year of these live stage shows we had been doing around town. We had built up a local following there. MTV had basically put the word out to us and The State that they were going to be doing a sketch TV show. They came to our show on a Friday night and we killed! We just had the best show ever — packed, wild, great! Apparently, they went to The State’s show on Saturday and The State killed a little better because they got the show! [laughs] We kinda thought “Well, if those guys are doing a sketch show, there is no need or room for us with SNL, Mad TV and whatever else.” We said “Let’s go try to make movies! Let’s try to be Monty Python!” We were always such huge fans of Python in our shows. Our sketch shows were basically modeled on Python and a little bit on SNL, in that we would introduce a character in the first sketch of the show and they would come back in the middle and at the end. Sort of like “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” At the time in New York, there was a huge movement of people like Kevin Smith, Edward Burns, Richard Linklater, people who were scraping together money to make little movies and getting them in theaters. We said “Yeah! Let’s try that!” On balance, we were lucky that MTV chose The State.
How do you guys feel you have evolved since those early days? Is it any easy at this point?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, in the sense that we know how to make movies now. Before, it turned out that we knew how to make movies but we didn’t know that we knew! We would put the camera somewhere and say “Alrighhhhht. We are going to put the camera here!” I would look around to see if any of the crew was laughing because it was like “I don’t know where to put the fucking camera!” [laughs] We had an innate sense of how to do it and it turned out our instincts where tight. Now, we know all about the movie camera, where to put it, how to do special effects — it is now much less about the technical and more about the acting, the words and the jokes.
What are you first memories of meeting one another all those years ago?
Kevin Heffernan: Oh boy, that is a good question. We were freshman in college, right? We were rushing the same fraternity. I don’t know. You guys were thinking about going to a different fraternity right? That’s why I didn’t like you!
Jay Chandrasekhar: [laughs] I remember the first time I saw you. It was in the foyer of the fraternity house that we had adjoining.
Kevin Heffernan: I looked like a big fat doofus.
Jay Chandrasekhar: You did.[laughs] I was like “You’re kiddin’ me? They are gonna let that guy in?” [laughs] There were little rival groups of freshman guys and we were in separate ones but our first meeting was definitely in the fraternity house!
Kevin Heffernan: We formed a bond by drinking!
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, that’s what happened!
No doubt, I have more than a few friendships form that same way! [laughs]
For those who aren’t familiar with your latest film, “The Babymakers”, what can you tell us what it is about the plot of the film?
Kevin Heffernan: “The Babymakers” is about a regular guy who is trying to have a baby with his wife. The guy is played by Paul Schneider and the wife is Olivia Munn. He finds out he is shooting blanks and he remembers that he had donated to a sperm bank. He goes down to the sperm bank to get his sperm back but they won’t give it to him, so he ends up putting together, with his friends, an elaborate sperm bank heist! It is kinda like “Ocean’s Eleven” with sperm!
How did you first come across the script for ‘The Babymakers’ and what was it that made you turn it into a feature film?
Kevin Heffernan: I had done a movie called “Strange Wilderness”. The guy who wrote and directed was Pete Gawky. He had written the script based on some stuff that happened to him and his wife when they were trying to have a baby. He gave the script to me and said “I think this is something very similar to Broken Lizard’s sense of humor. See what you think about it.” Jay and I read the script and we really loved it! We liked the mixture of reality of the couple’s issues with the crazier heist stuff, so we set it up at Warner Brothers at the time because that is where our deal was. Over the years, it fell apart, came back together again and we had different people attached to it. Ultimately, Jay was able to find the funding to get the thing made.
You mentioned the more human elements mixed in with the comedy elements you are known for. Did you find it a challenge to balance them both in this film?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Ya know, I have been watching a lot of the great cable TV stuff that is on like “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men, “Downington Abbey” and “The Walking Dead”. I have been enjoyed that sort of “real” stuff. We wanted to make a movie that could sorta fit a real relationship, at least our spin on it, and also incorporate some of the wilder, bigger stuff that we do. The goal is to look at every joke and say “Could that happen even if it was pushed to where it is a little big? Could it happen?” You try to make sure that every single joke fits in tonally in the same movie. If some jokes are too big or something is too dramatic, you cut it. You choose a bandwidth and stuff all the jokes into it.
What can you tell us about the evolution of the script?
Jay Chandrasekhar: We really try to write scripts so that if we have to shoot what we wrote, we think it is going to be great. These guys wrote about ten to fifteen drafts and we kept developing and kept developing. Kevin and I added a bunch of jokes and even a few of the dramatic moments, we’ve sorta tweaked. When we got there, I said to the actors while we rehearsed, “If you don’t like it, tell me now and we will furnish you with a new joke or adjust the dramatic moment to make it work.” When we got on set, we were already in agreement and we already liked it. Occasionally, someone would say “I don’t think this jokes works.” and then we would quickly put together a little comedy team and try to write a new joke. I also told the actors that we were going to shoot what we wrote but they should be ready for a couple of backup, improv, whatever, jokes to have on the spot when we needed them. That is just sorta how we do it now, we shoot two or three takes of the script and then two or three takes of an improv thing and then we go from there. However, we aren’t even close to what a lot of people are doing now, like Judd Apatow and Adam McKay, in terms of getting funny people together and going for it.
That being said, you do have some great talent for this film. What it a difficult process to find the right mix?
Kevin Heffernan: No, ya know, it was great! Everyone loves comedies and when it comes down to it, everyone wants to do comedies, no matter what type of actor you are, dramatic or whatever. That is how we got Brian Cox to do “Super Troopers” or Bill Paxton to do “Club Dredd”. Paul Schneider was a guy who also has a great sense of humor and great comic timing but the majority of his films are dramatic. He was a guy who was looking to do a comedy and at was great for us! Obviously, some like Olivia Munn, who is so beautiful and funny at the same time was a perfect fit for this film too. I think people were attracted to the script and wanted to come do it. We also have our regular stable of actors that we like to use and we tapped into them for the movie also.
What was the most difficult part of bringing this film from script to screen?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I would say…
Kevin Heffernan: Budget probably.
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah!
Kevin Heffernan: We had a very tight shooting schedule.It was very aggressive, so you ran into some issues there, right?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, it was a tight budget but when you know it is a tight budget, it is not surprising or shocking. It is just know what you have to accomplish with what you have and you have to chose the shots that you are going to use or ones that you think you will actually use. I have shot a lot of television lately, so it was a similar situation in terms of how many pages you have to shoot in a day. I have been shooting “Community,” “Up All Night” and “Happy Endings” and a lot of these shows that require you to perform at a high level in a short amount of time.
Do you approach a film like “The Babymakers” in a different way than you would a Broken Lizard film or television project?
Jay Chandrasekhar: I would say that when I am shooting television, I am shooting someone else’s script and I may throw in a joke here or there but in our films every single line is combed over in a different way. It is definitely a different way. We think we have a certain standard that has to be met, so we make sure that every single bit of it feels right for us.
You guys have seen it with an audience a few times now. Do you still get butterflies when you do a premiere?
Kevin Heffernan: Yeah, you definitely do. You work on a movie for so long and it takes a while before you get audience feedback. It is also exciting to show it to a crowd because you know there are laughs that will work and then you find the ones that you are surprised do work, so it can also be a time to fix some things that don’t work. I always get really excited to show it to an audience for the first time!
One of the coolest thing you guys do in regard to your films is take them on tour and bring them to the people. What is that experience like for you?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Well, because of “Super Troopers” we attracted a lot of stoner fans and because of “Beerfest” we attracted a lot of alcohol loving fans! [laughs] You get that combo together and it can be quite deadly! We also made “The Slammin’ Salmon” which is restaurants, so we go into bars and every bouncer lets us in! They never close! They pull us into freezers and stuff joints in our mouths and there are endless shots! [laughs] It can get out of control! But it is a lot of fun and we know we can go on the road for a couple of weeks, run hard and when the movie comes out, we can rest a little! This movie will be a little different too because it is coming out in theaters but it is also coming out on iTunes and On Demand. A lot of our fans tend to, let’s put it this way — twenty million dollars from “Super Troopers” came theatrically and eighty million came from people at their houses! Our fans like to sit in their houses and watch our movies! This will be an interesting thing to release it all at once.
Speaking of “The Slammin’ Salmon,” Kevin, you were the director on that project. Any chance we will see you behind the camera again soon?
Kevin Heffernan: Yeah, I would love to if the opportunity arose. I’d be happy too and I had a really great time doing it. Luckily, we are all kinda jacks-of-all-trades. I enjoy the acting, the writing and the directing was fun too. I be happy to do it again.
Jay, you are actually working on a script with Olivia Munn. What can you tell us about that?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, there is a script that a friend and I wrote called “Shotgun Wedding”. Olivia and I are adapting it — reworking it really.
How does that process work for you?
Jay Chandrasekhar: It is good because she has the mind of a top level stand up comic in addition to being a good actress and having a good dramatic mind. The best thing about her that I don’t possess is that she has a female perspective on women and knows the deep inside jokes that I never get to be a party too. She furnishes all sorts of funny, weird views on things that I love.
Kevin Heffernan: She is hotter than you too.
Jay Chandrasekhar: She is hotter than me isn’t she?
Kevin Heffernan: Yeah.
Is there a project you are looking to tackle next either on your own or as Broken Lizard?
Kevin Heffernan: We would really love to shoot “Super Troopers 2”! We have actually written the script and at the end of last year, we handed it into the studio. We are kinda in negotiations now to shoot it with them. It has been a while and it was really fun to revisit the characters. We think we have a really great script and would love to get rolling with it.
The cool thing about your films as they get older is the fact that new generations get exposed to them. Is that something that has become more noticeable to you as you have taken them on the road?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Yeah, a lot of fathers and some mothers are seeing the films because they have college age kids who seem to watch them a lot. They are seeing it and saying “What is this thing?” For example, Dennis Miller was introduced to “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest” by his college age son and now we have done his show a couple of times. He loves us! It has been an interesting and exciting thing to watch grow and spread out. Obviously, it is also spreading down as well with people showing it to there little brothers and sisters…
Kevin Heffernan: And with a new wave of college kids. We have people coming to our live shows now and you see fathers and sons coming together! It’s really funny!
Jay Chandrasekhar: We always apologize in advance for how raunchy we are about to be! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring scriptwriters, filmmakers or creatives in general, looking to make a career in the entertainment industry?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Look, the best thing to do is do it yourself. I think you have to make stuff that appeals to you and not necessarily what you think the world wants which sounds insane but if you think it is funny, you should shoot it. That is another point — figure out how to shoo it yourself. A lot of great writers I have seen have written great script after great script and they get super hot and everyone thinks they are great but they never get a movie made. Then some other great writer comes by and they just go by the wayside never having really done anything. It is a much better situation to try and make it and fail or succeed on your own.
You guys always have something cool in the works. Where is the best place for people to catch up with you online and learn more?
Kevin Heffernan: We have a Facebook page for Broken Lizard and we also have our Twitter pages. Jay’s is twitter.com/jaychandrasekha and I am at twitter.com/lemmeheffernan which is a show I do with the other guys.
Thanks so much for you time today guys! We look forward to spreading the word and talking to you again very soon!
Kevin Heffernan: Thank You!
Jay Chandrasekhar: Thanks! Talk to you soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.