An Interview with Kevin Heffernan and Paul Soter of “Broken Lizard”
by Gary Schultz
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It’s November 9th, 2007, and I’m in my office in Chicago, waiting for a phone call from the Broken Lizard crew. I think to myself, How the hell am I going to know who’s talking? Whose voice belongs to whom? Sure, I’ve seen their films (Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest), but there’s, like, five of these guys, and it will be hard to tell them apart on tape. Luckily, I am only interviewing Kevin Heffernan (Landfill from Beerfest, Farva from Super Troopers) and Paul Soter (Jan Wolfhouse from Beerfest and Foster from Super Troopers). Jay Chandrasekhar, who writes, acts in and directs all their films released thus far, was supposed to join us, but he was caught in traffic giving mustache rides. Kevin, especially, was a lot of fun to talk to. He laughs a lot, or maybe I’m just that funny. This is my crazy interview for Film Monthly. Remember, I ask the hard questions. Thanks for reading.
GARY SCHULTZ: Hey, how are you guys doing?
KEVIN HEFFERNAN: Hey Gary, how’s it going?
GS: Awesome, so Broken Lizard crew…Broken Lizard, shouldn’t that be Lizard(s)? Plural? There’s more than one of you, correct?
PAUL SOTER: We think of ourselves as a five-headed single person, as opposed to five separate people.
GS: How does that work with your sex lives?
PS: Oh, the women love it.
GS: You guys have Puddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest—you guys are everywhere. Let’s talk about your next feature film, The Slammin’ Salmon…where the hell is Potfest?
PS: We’ve been trying to set it up. We get stopped on the street everyday with people asking us, “When’s Potfest gonna be made?” We would love to make it. I think it’s a no-brainer. I want to do it animated. Maybe that would be cool. We’ve been pursuing some animation companies about doing that. It could be a very psychedelic movie; that’s why we’ve been looking into it.
KH: Yeah, the Yellow Submarine version.
GS: So, what is your new movie, The Slammin’ Salmon, about?
KH: It’s basically about a restaurant owned by a former famous athlete. He pits his staff against each other in a Glengarry Glen Ross-type competition. In the course of one night, the waiter that earns the most money wins an additional ten thousand bucks. And the waiter who earns the least is fired at the end. Hilarity ensues.
GS: This is your feature directorial debut?
GS: Are you nervous?
GS: A guy I work with has a message for Erik, who is not joining us today. He said tell Erik, “Coop wants his suit back.” Can you explain that?
KH: (laughs) Yeah, we go way back with Kevin Cooper. Erik would have to explain that. Maybe “suit” is another word for “condom.”
GS: (laughs) So, I was thinking if you guys were the A-Team, who would be B.A. Baracus, Murdock, and who would be the Faceman? And who would be the fifth man out?
PS: You know, it’s funny you brought that up. There was a point they were developing a feature version of the A-Team and asked us if we might be interested. So I sat down and tried to figure out who would be who.
KH: Am I B.A. Baracus or what?
PS: Jay could also be BA Baracus because he’s dark. So do you go big guy or dark guy, let me see? (thinking it over)
PS: I felt like I was the odd man out. I would be the villain.
KH: Yeah, I think Steve Lemme would be more the Faceman and Erik Stolhanske would be Murdock.
GS: (laughs) This question is going to bug you guys for the rest of the day, you know.
KH: Yeah, probably.
GS: You guys have independent roots and are walking the very sweet line between making studio films and independently financed films like The Slammin’ Salmon and Super Troopers. How the hell are you guys pulling that off, and do you have any advice for up-and-coming filmmakers?
KH: We were talking about it the other day. It’s almost a mystery how you pull it off. Our first real studio movie was Club Dread, and we went to a studio and said, “Hey, we want to do a movie at a resort,” because we felt like going to a resort, and they bought it. Then, we went to Warner Brothers and got a deal because we said we wanted to make a movie about beer, and they bought it.
PS: Now we have to go independent again, so maybe they’ve figured us out. But you know, it’s still very difficult. Each movie has been set up uniquely. Doing something indie is great, because it’s nice to do something without interference.
GS: You guys all met in college at Colgate University. Who approached whom first and said, “Hey, let’s starting writing and performing comedy”?
KH: Chandrasekhar, like you, is from Chicago, actually, and he was doing things with the Improv Olympic guys and the Second City guys and stuff like that. He came up to Colgate and some student said they would give him some money to put together a comedy show. So he went and started rounding people up. So Chandrasekhar kind of started it.
GS: How did you guys come up with the Broken Lizard name?
KH: Good question. We always kind of go back and forth on whether or not to make up a really good story for this. Do you have one?
GS: (laughs) You gotta come up with one. Come on, you guys are writers.
KH: I remember a couple of times in our careers we all sat around, an all-nighter, trying to come up with great names and Chandrasekhar would get up the next day and make posters, and then we would come up with something completely new. We came up with some of the greatest names ever imagined.
GS: (laughs) And then?
KH: And then we used Broken Lizard. We could, right now, be named Chocolate Speedo.
GS: (laughs) Actually, that’s pretty good. I loved Beerfest. It’s my favorite of your films. Kevin, I was completely engulfed by your performance as Landfill, and especially Landfill 2.
KH: (laughs) Oh, thank you. Acting skills.
It’s around this time that our connection loses Paul, or he decides to go skydiving.
GS: For you guys, which of your films, your children, do you love the most?
KH: Oh man, I don’t know. They’re all such a capsule in time. I’m not sure. I tend to love the last one we’ve done.
GS: Since Jay isn’t here, maybe you can answer a question about him?
GS: When you guys were editing the Jessica Simpson/Daisy Duke infamous ass-shot scene in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, was Jay ever caught masturbating in the editing room?
KH: (laughs) I’m sure he was, and I’m sure he had ample opportunities to masturbate on set as well. He was sneaking away a lot to his trailer. They had to get a female editor.
GS: (laughs) And then she started masturbating, as well?
GS: Is it safe to say you guys have been making Jay look good for years?
KH: Oh, hell yeah! And you’ll see on The Slammin’ Salmon.
GS: You guys start shooting in January?
KH: Yeah January 7th, out here in L.A.
GS: So, Kevin, I make films here in Chicago, and I’m very photogenic. Do you have a part in The Slammin’ Salmon for me?
KH: We have a lot of patron parts. Do you like fish?
GS: No, I hate fish, but I would eat it for you guys.
KH: Maybe we’ll get some prop fish.
GS: Dynamite. Thanks for your time Kevin.
KH: Thank you.
Gary Schultz is a filmmaker and film critic living in Chicago.
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