Paul Scheer And Mr. Beaks Discuss Everything!
Alexandre Aja's PIRANHA 3D is a film of many delights: bare breasts, bare behinds, gratuitous gore, child endangerment, and, of course, Paul Scheer.
Though Scheer has only a minor role in Aja's ensemble buffet, his mere presence - as a leering cameraman shooting random T&A for soft-core impresario Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell) - signals to audiences that the maniacs who made this movie know from comedy. They're probably up on their HUMAN GIANT, FUNNY OR DIE, THE LEAGUE, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, PARTY DOWN and so on - and if they aren't, well, they lucked out by landing one of the funniest guys out there.
It's not like this is a recent development: when I was living in New York City a decade ago, Scheer was tearing it up at the UCB Theatre as part of the now legendary sketch comedy troupe Respecto Montalban. There was a ridiculous wealth of talent performing nightly at the West 22nd Street theater back then, but, these being the pre-YouTube days, you pretty much had to travel to Manhattan to experience it. It didn't take long for studios and networks to cherry-pick the most marketable personalities (destabilizing several brilliant troupes in the process), but, outside of rare exceptions like THE DAILY SHOW, formula movies and sitcoms couldn't come close to getting across what made these individuals special.
So HUMAN GIANT was something of a miracle when it hit MTV in 2007 for two reasons: 1) it was on MTV, and wasn't directly contributing to the downfall of Western Civilization, and 2) it frequently captured the absurdist tenor of a great ASSSSCAT performance. Teamed with Respecto cohort Rob Huebel and then newcomer Aziz Ansari, Scheer was doing high-quality sketch comedy for a nationwide audience without having to pander to the network's youthful demographic. Sure, there were restrictions on how far the trio could push (Ansari turned this into a bit on his stand-up LP), and they wisely took swipes at pop cultural targets recognizable to sixteen-year-olds, but the trio never once dumbed down their material. As a result, I truly believe HUMAN GIANT will, despite its brief run, resonate for years to come (much like THE STATE).
Scheer has been downright ubiquitous over the last few years, but, as he says in the below interview, he's sedulously avoided supporting appearances in four-quadrant dreck just to elevate his profile. Scheer's understandably proud of HUMAN GIANT and THE LEAGUE, and he's having a blast contributing to his friends' shows like PARKS AND RECREATION, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, PARTY DOWN and PLAYERS. It's also possible that his inexplicable ninety-second 24/CSI/MINORITY REPORT spoof, NTSF:SD:SUV, might get picked up as a series by Adult Swim.
One last note for Scheer completists: he'll be in attendance for this weekend's Everything Is Festival at the Cinefamily. Get your tickets now, 'cuz the whole event will be sold out any day now (if it isn't already).
And now, my fourteen minutes with Mr. Paul Scheer at the San Diego Comic Con last July.
Mr. Beaks: You're as much a geek as any of us, so it must be fun getting to do something like PIRANHA.
Paul Scheer: Yeah! I heard about this script, and I was like, "PIRANHA? Elisabeth Shue is in it? Christopher Lloyd?" So I went to my agent, and I was like, "Did you get this script?" When I got the part, I was legitimately psyched. I was already a fan of Alex Aja. And Elisabeth Shue? THE KARATE KID and ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING... (Laughs) it is a nerd dream come true.
Beaks: I assume you watched the Joe Dante movie when you were younger.
Scheer: Yeah. Alex had an interesting job. Those movies were sort of good for the time, and I think this one will be the same way. I'm not saying it won't be timeless, but it's funny to watch those [Corman] movies now. I'm glad there's no skip tracer in this one.
Beaks: No John Sayles cameo?
Scheer: No. And no flying piranha.
Beaks: How does it work for you as an actor? What kinds of scripts do you get, and what kinds of characters do people want you to play?
Scheer: I've been very lucky, and I kind of stay insular with that comedy community. Whether I'm doing PARTY DOWN, PARKS AND RECREATION, THE LEAGUE or HUMAN GIANT, I kind of stay within that comedy scene. A lot of the time, we all get offered, more often than not, shitty movies. It's like, "Hey, this kind of sucks, but you can come in and improvise, and do whatever you want!" You've got to be weary of that, too, because then you start to be in a lot of shitty movies. I want to actually be excited about the stuff I do. I did one movie, and I was like, "That's it. I'm never doing a movie where I don't respect the director or like the script." So from there on in, I've just tried to do things differently.
Beaks: You don't want to betray the loyalty of the people who discovered you on, say, HUMAN GIANT. You don't want to be like, "Thanks for digging my shit and making me rich!"
Scheer: Exactly. That's the other thing. If I tweet or blog something, I want to be behind it. I don't want to be nervous saying, "Um, go see PIRANHA." I'd definitely tell people to go see PIRANHA - at least, from what I've seen and know so far. I really breathed a sigh of relief last night. You just don't know sometimes until you see it.
Beaks: I've been showing friends your NTSF:SD:SUV commercial that aired during CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL.
Scheer: Oh, good! I'm psyched you liked it!
Beaks: It's so funny. That bit with the sunglasses kills me. And the MINORITY REPORT thing. Are you trying to develop that into an actual show? Are you working on anything else that might feature you as a lead?
Scheer: I had given Adult Swim an idea a while ago. And this season I wrote on CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, so they came to me and said, "Remember that idea you pitched a while back? We'd like to do that." So I started to work on a script for it, and they were like, "You know what? Just shoot a trailer for us." So I shot a trailer for them. That was the thirty-second spot; there will be a ninety-second one coming out in a little bit. But, yeah, we're going to do it as a series. Not because I want to be a lead. It's just when I'm doing something like THE LEAGUE... I love doing that because I'm surrounded by great people. Mark Duplass is a great director, and Nick Kroll has done a lot of stuff, and Jonathan Lajoie... I just want to work with my friends and do things I like.
Beaks: It's great to see how this circle of performers has expanded over the years. When I moved to New York City back in '96, the Upright Citizens Brigade had just hit town and they were really shaking things up. Wain, Showalter and Michael Ian Black were doing Stella at The Fez. It was such an exciting time. But I had no idea it would get this big, so it's incredibly gratifying to see you guys bringing this style of comedy to television and movies.
Scheer: I feel like there was a big thing with "alternative comedians" for a little bit. Like Janeane Garofalo or Louis C.K.: those guys ascended through the ranks. And then the next wave of comedy was, very much because of UCB, sketch and improv. I think the next group of guys who went up were Corddry, Helms... who all were on THE DAILY SHOW. Then I was doing BEST WEEK EVER. Then everyone started to do different little things. This eventually gave us the opportunity to do HUMAN GIANT. But we just continue to build and work with our friends. (As we're talking, Adam Scott walks by.) Adam got me into PARTY DOWN. And I got [Rob] Huebel into THE LEAGUE. And Aziz got me on PARKS AND RECREATION. It's all so incestuous. But we all want to work with each other. So when someone asks, "Hey, do you know somebody for this part?", I'm like, "I know twenty people who'd be right for this part." We try to keep it in the family.
Beaks: The outrage over the cancelation of PARTY DOWN has been pretty amazing. Starz really blew it with that one, I think. Have you heard anything within your circle about the possibility of the show catching on somewhere else?
Scheer: I feel like this guy Chris Albrecht came in and decided "I want to run Starz the way I want to run Starz." I guess the numbers weren't quite there for PARTY DOWN, even though it had a very strong fanbase, so he decided to wipe the slate clean. It's unfortunate. I saw Martin [Starr] and told him, "You guys should just do a movie. Once a year, do an hour-and-a-half movie for Starz! Or just finance it yourself. Change the catering company name, and do something else." That cast is amazing: [Ken] Marino, Scott, Lizzy [Caplan], Martin... they're all awesome.
Beaks: It's got to continue.
Scheer: And you get people like Megan Mullally, who doesn't need to work ever again, doing a basic cable show. And she's doing it just to be on a funny show.
Beaks: I'm also really loving CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL.
Scheer: Just wait. When they bring in the new episodes they just shot... they're really, really funny.
Beaks: What's the status of the Human Giant movie?
Scheer: It was really fun for us to do that sketch at the MTV Movie Awards, just to get together and do a new thing. I'm working on THE LEAGUE right now, but Aziz is off. Then I'll be off all through September, but Aziz will be back at work. And Huebel's bouncing around doing movies. I think it's one of those things where there's a want to do it; there's a really good idea that we all have that we are excited about. It will happen. It will probably happen further away than we want it to, but that'll be okay. We got a little taste of what it was like to work together again, but there's really no way to do short-form stuff; we'll release this one sketch, but then it's only one thing, and there's pressure to do more. We've all been busy, but we remain close friends and want to work together all the time.
Beaks: The movie would be one whole narrative, right?
Scheer: The way it would work is - and we did [a beat breakdown] of the whole thing - it's very Coen Brothers-esque. It's a very dark comedy. We all want to do it, but it would be a very bold first movie to make. It would not be mainstream. It would not be THE HANGOVER. But it made us all laugh, so that's good.
Beaks: Would you still be able to do this with a studio?
Scheer: We talked to Ben Stiller about it, and Stiller really got behind the idea. He had a lot of good ideas about how to do that style of movie without having much interference. If we commit and do it, Stiller is the guy we'd do it with.
Look, we love HUMAN GIANT as much as everyone else. But it was so much work for us. It would take a year to produce eight episodes. We'd shoot ninety sketches, and we gave up our lives. People got divorced and nearly broken up with. It was rough.
Beaks: And quality is such an issue. You want every sketch to be worth the time spent shooting it.
Scheer: When we were doing the show, we didn't feel that as much because you were doing a larger piece. We talked about doing sketches for FUNNY OR DIE, but that's so much emphasis on one thing. And if it doesn't hit, then it's "Oh, HUMAN GIANT sucks! They're not funny anymore!" You don't want to get into that mode, because then you don't want to work together anymore. So if we do something, we'll do something big; we'll do it the right way. That's why the MTV Movie Awards was so great: perfect opportunity to do a Shutterbugs sketch, tweak it, and there you go. Move forward.
Alexandre Aja's PIRANHA is currently in theaters, and well worth your time. THE LEAGUE's second season premieres September 16th on FX. The Everything Is Festival goest down this weekend at the Cinefamily. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL airs every Sunday at 10:30 PM on the Cartoon Network. And NTSF:SD:SVU will air there sometime soon with support from discriminating viewers like you.
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Aug. 24, 2010, 5:38 p.m. CST
by dead youngling
Aug. 24, 2010, 5:53 p.m. CST
...in making me remember "Salute Your Shorts."
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:11 p.m. CST
Isn't going to help its shitty box office...but its amusing to watch.
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:38 p.m. CST
$10 million is the new $100 million.
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:45 p.m. CST
<p>Anyone else notice his character completely disappeared from "Pirahna" once the boat crashed?</p> <p>Unless I missed his death, he was never seen again after that.</p>
Aug. 24, 2010, 6:46 p.m. CST
For being the most tedious fuck on the entire internet. THE JOKE IS PLAYED OUT, GOT IT?
Aug. 24, 2010, 7:36 p.m. CST
Aug. 24, 2010, 7:37 p.m. CST
R o l l e r t o w n .
Aug. 24, 2010, 7:37 p.m. CST
Aug. 24, 2010, 9:31 p.m. CST
That was a show that I caught completely at random, and just became completely absorbed in. I was going through a kind of sketchy time in my life, and I went out and bought that first season DVD and seriously watched every episode 35 times. it honestly got me through some rough times, as hilariously sad as that is. and I still quote so much of it to this day... sketches like Paul dating Rob's mom, Rob being paranoid about Aziz's zoomba robot vacuum cleaner, the Bruce Willis impersonator, the reluctantly-exorcised Devil... so, so much great stuff.
Aug. 25, 2010, 1:23 a.m. CST
by Tigger Tales
Aug. 25, 2010, 2:44 a.m. CST
stick to the art festivals.
Aug. 25, 2010, 9:40 a.m. CST
by UCB Agent1
I don't read this as Beaks and AICN pushing Piranha 3D so much as Beaks doing a great interview with a funny guy who's career is taking off and who is involved in a lot of stuff geeks care about. Good interview Beaks, and that 24 parody Scheer did was awesome.
Aug. 26, 2010, 9:09 p.m. CST
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