WHAT IS THERE TO SAY about Kevin Heffernan that isn’t gleefully shouted in his face everyday? Luckily, the comedian/actor is totally cool with that. The hilarious stand out of the Broken Lizard crew – yes, Farva – has gained high praise for killer performances in films such as “Super Troopers,” “Beerfest” and “The Slammin’ Salmon” (having directed the latter).
And from talking to him, it’s clear that both his appreciation and gratitude for his success are immense. Perhaps it’s also unexpected considering he was going to law school before the Broken Lizard triumph began.
TSJ talks to Kevin about his stand up tour, the Broken Lizard crew, his law school days, and the upcoming (and much talked about) “Super Troopers 2.”
The Smoking Jacket: Before the interview you mentioned you’re doing a two-man show with Steve Lemme? Can you tell me about it?
Kevin Heffernan: It’s been great! We did a whole Broken Lizard tour back in 2009/2010 for the first time in a long time. It was interesting because Steve and I had never done stand up before, but we went into it and had such a great time doing it. When the tour ended we still had the buzz and wanted to try it out, almost like we had a new muscle to flex. So we thought, why not keep doing it? On and off, over the past couple of years we’ve kept at it, touring a little bit. It’s been a blast!
TSJ: Did you guys take to it quickly?
KH: Well, we kind of cheated, you know? [laughs] The audiences that came to our shows were fans of the films and of our group. Normally, a comic has to win a crowd over. For us, it was more like a wedding toast. It’s still terrifying though, and they still don’t laugh when you tell a bad joke. However, I think we had the luxury of getting over the really, really hard part.
With each show, Steve and I do about a half an hour each solo, and then about 25-30 minutes together. We try to mix it up. We’ll tell stories about making the movies or do a game with the audience, something that makes it a little different.
FAT MAN LITTLE BOY
TSJ: But you still have to make them laugh, which is the beauty of stand up.
KH: Exactly. You say something that is bad, there will still be dead silence. They don’t give a shit. [laughs]
TSJ: When you and Steve ventured off into stand up was it difficult getting used to that performance style?
KH: Oh, yeah. Stand up is very different. You’re alone onstage. In our sketch group we could always hide behind our characters. Also, it takes a long time to find your voice in stand up. Are you a joke-teller? Are you a storyteller? Into one-liners? You’re figuring it all out as you do it.
TSJ: It sounds like you’re really digging the tour.
KH: It’s been really fun. One of the best things for me is when you make these movies it can be a very insular world. You don’t get to meet the fans of the films. Touring around gives us a chance to go to places like Iowa and meet fans we never would have met otherwise. It’s really a cool part of it, probably the most fun.
TSJ: People always ask this when band members take time to release solo projects. Was it at all awkward when you told the other guys of Broken Lizard, “Hey, Lemme and I are going to do a tour”?
KH: Oh, no. Not at all. In fact, at the time, we were contemplating whether or not we’d do any more live shows as a whole group. We started as a live group and didn’t do it for ten or so years. In that time, we all sort of started doing a lot. Jay directs so much TV, so he was busy. One of the guys had a baby and the other guys were also busy so it was kind of like, “Who wants to go? We’ll go.” And from that, Lemme and I decided to keep doing it. There wasn’t any fallouts or anything. [laughs]
TSJ: Good to hear. [laughs] When you guys do the live tours – whether they be you and Steve or the group – and you get to meet the fans, is it almost more fun doing that rather than the films?
KH: They’re both really fun. I do love making the movies. They have a very wide reach and have given us so much opportunity. But with them, there is a lot of downtime. You’re always waiting for notes or someone to move it along to the next step. You spend 75 percent of your time trying to get the movie actually made. It’s frustrating trying to fill those gaps in between performing, you know?
With this live stuff, it’s kind of a cool way to do things. It’s so great to get in front of an audience and actually see the fans’ reactions.
TSJ: You and Steve have also started a podcast, “Chewin’ it with Kevin and Steve.” How are you enjoying it?
KH: Oh, I love it man! I love doing a podcast. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. We were promoting a special and were doing a lot of podcasts at the time. A lot of them were for Nerdist. One of the producers asked if we’d consider having one, and honestly we didn’t. But we talked with them and said we’d do four trial episodes to see how we liked it. It turns out we loved it. [laughs] It’s been interesting just pulling guests, shooting the shit. It’s a real blast.
TSJ: There’s something very attractive about recorded conversations. Obviously people love them. They’re everywhere.
KH: That was one of the thing we were afraid of, that they are everywhere. We were on Todd Glass’ podcast and said that and he responded, “So what? How many people do stand up comedy? How many people are actors? Just because they’re doing it you’re not going to do it? If you want to do it, do it! And have some fun.” It was a really good point. It made us start the show and we haven’t looked back. If people listen, that’s great! If they don’t, that’s the way it goes. [laughs] But either way, it’s just really fun to talk about whatever and hang out with people you haven’t seen in a while.
TSJ: Is it true that you’re a lawyer?
KH: I am, yeah. [laughs] I never practiced. We graduated from college and started performing in New York City. I was also going to law school during the day because I wasn’t sure how things would work out, you know? I went all the way through, graduated, and took the bar exam. Right after that is when we made our first movie. So with the exception of a little downtime and doing some temping I never had to be an actual lawyer.
TSJ: Did you enjoy it?
KH: I was a little nerdy about law, yeah. I’ll admit that. I always found little areas within law interesting. So yeah, I really did enjoy it. I don’t know what I would have done if this didn’t work out and I had to practice law, but I do know that I would have enjoyed law. It’s just that the movie took off at the right time.
TSJ: You poor guy. You never got to be a lawyer.
KH: [laughs] I know. Poor me.
TSJ: [laughs] So even before law school was comedy always the thing?
KH: I don’t know. I certainly always enjoyed performing. During college, we weren’t thinking of it as a career. We were a bunch of guys who enjoyed comedy who created a sketch group. We were just having a good time with it. I don’t think I ever aspired for it to be a career but I am certainly glad it has been mine.
TSJ: I think a lot of people in your boat are that way. They get into it for the love and passion and if it works out, that’s great. If not, you’ll find something else and continue to do it on the side.
KH: Exactly! Shit, I was going to law school, man. [laughs]
“It takes a long time to find your voice in stand up. Are you a joke-teller? Are you a storyteller? Into one-liners? You’re figuring it all out as you do it.”
TSJ: Can I ask if you’re doing “Super Troopers 2” now?
KH: It’s been an on and off project. It was going to happen a while back but all of these legal things ended up happening with investors. During that time we were writing the script; it was such a fun process.
All of those issues are now resolved and we’re ready to move forward. FOX is going to put it in the theaters and we’ll probably shoot it later this year.
TSJ: That’s great! So the script is done?
KH: Yeah, it’s done. We wrote the script about a year and a half ago, and when all of these issues began getting resolved over this past month it became more clear that we could move forward, so last month we sat down and did a couple of sessions on the script just to update it and fix minor things in it. I’m really excited for it.
TSJ: Is there any fear in regards to the hype of the sequel? The first one is obviously so loved.
KH: Oh, totally! Shit, yeah. We need it to be good. [laughs] One of my favorite scenes in the first one is the opener where the stoners get pulled over by the cops. Just from that scene people fell in love with the movie. The opening scene! So now we’re like, We can’t screw up this opening. So yes, there’s tons of that.
We don’t want to make a bad movie, obviously. I think we really did well on this one. But it’s funny, once we started writing this the characters just poured out of us. I had never written a sequel before. It was kind of cool knowing the characters already because you know what they might do in certain situations.
TSJ: [laughs] All of your characters seem to be the standouts. Is that your personality or do you all particularly write the roles with that thought in mind?
KH: No, I think “Super Troopers” was what kicked that off. I’ve just been lucky in getting the funny characters.
One of the things we try to do when writing the scripts is not to write for specific guys. We’ll wait to cast the movie rather late in the process so that everyone focuses on all of the characters. Naturally, you start focusing on yourself a little bit but we try to not do that too much.
TSJ: I like that, you don’t write for one another.
KH: We learned that when writing sketches. If you know you’re playing someone, you start thinking, How can I make this about my character? We learned that if you hold off on that part as long as you can then everyone focuses on the project as a whole.
TSJ: I can only imagine how many times a day people shout Farva or Landfill at you. Are you ever annoyed at that?
KH: Honestly, I don’t mind it at all. There are a couple of different characters I’ve done that people like so it’s not just one, thankfully. But also, we wrote the characters, you know? It’s not like I was cast as that when someone else wrote it. We wrote them. It’s kind of cool to write a character that lasts. At least, that’s the distinction in my mind. When somebody comes up to me and shouts a Farva line, I wrote that, so I’m flattered. I just think it’s so cool they remembered that line.
TSJ: Of all the films you guys have made do you have a favorite?
KH: I have a special place in my heart for “The Slammin’ Salmon.” I think that’s because I directed it. Being a director gives you a whole different perspective on a movie. It’s a little bit more like your baby.
TSJ: How did you like directing?
KH: It was great! It’s interesting, each movie we do is a collaborative effort. We’re all involved. But when you’re sitting in that chair it feels a little different. The downside is when you’re not the director you can screw around. And I couldn’t do that on that film. [laughs] It’s much easier when Jay directs. But regardless of that I hope to do it again. We have a couple of projects that are sitting around so I’d love to direct one of them.