Hi Joe, most people know you from “The State” and “Wet Hot American Summer.” I picture you and all your pals meeting once a month in a secret Hall of Justice type location to discuss projects and bust balls. True?
It’s close. We actually meet in a bunker to discuss balls and bust projects. You know, just talk about how to really disrupt upcoming projects we read about in Variety, then jump right into how balls are great and fun and necessary. By doing this, we’re certain to infiltrate the secret circle of the Hollywood comedy world.
You seem to be making inroads. Do you have a cool group name, because branding yourselves like a “Brat Pack” or “Broken Lizard” could be beneficial?
I think we’re the “Oh, It’s Those Guys Again.”
It must be tough in your group of friends, where everybody’s funny. But who’s the real funny guy, the guy in the group that really makes you all laugh?
Well, when we were down in the Bahamas doing the State album years ago, Kevin Allison did this monologue/sketch called “Kooky Koach in ‘Halftime Hilarity!'” It floored everybody. Maybe someday someone other than The State will hear it. Luckily, we have such a wide group of friends who do this thing that it’s really hard to choose.
A buddy of mine, Peter Dinklage — who was actually in “The State Halloween Special” on CBS, that five people saw — has a brother named Jonathan Dinklage who is a musician and will be touring with Barbara Streisand again this summer. He is one of the funniest people I know. He’s one of those guys that just gets me laughing every time I’m around him. Last time we went karaoking, the two of us and Paul Rudd were riffing on strange Japanese snacks like shrimp gum, squid chews, kelp pops, and clam tarts.
Yum! And if I have $2,000, I can buy a Barbara Streisand ticket and watch Jonathan perform?
That’s right. And wait til she brings the house down with her theme song for “The Main Event” It’ll be worth every penny.
Speaking of Dinklages, you were in “The Station Agent,” correct?
I was in “The Station Agent,” and that was such a great movie to be a part of. I went to high school with Bobby Cannavale. We were on the swim team together. And then I met Tommy McCarthy through Bobby about five years before “Station Agent” got done. Tom said how important it was to get your friends in these movies because it creates an intangible that really makes the movie pop. And that’s exactly what happened with my involvement with “The Station Agent.”
So, it was great to see all my friends really riding this incredible wave for this movie. It was just one of those things, especially at Sundance, where the whole phenomenon of it was so exciting and strange.
We’re all looking forward to the new crime caper “Reno 911” opening soon. And, I’m just guessing here, Joe, but do you play a perp?
Well, I grew a real poser goatee for the role. The past few things I’ve done, I’ve had mustaches, like in “The Ten” and then in “Beer League,” and now “Reno.” Strasburg teaches this at The Studio: facial hair=better acting. So, I’m running the gamut. I’d like to become the Warren Oates of comedy, if that’s at all possible.
You would be one of the few, one of the proud, paying homage to Mr. Oates. I say go for it. Are all your pals in the film?
Yes, there’s a State reunion in “Reno”. The whole cast is in the movie for a cameo. It was a great shoot and we had a great time working together as well. Hopefully, in the future, we can get something else going.
You mentioned “The Ten,” which I am really excited about. I just found out about this doing my impeccable research using IMDB.com.
A research giant, IMDB. Do you have the Pro version?
I don’t mean to brag, Joe, but I do shell out the $12 a month and get “the Pro.” I get access to all your agent’s names. So, from what I’ve read about “The Ten,” it’s 10 stories about each one of the commandments, correct?
Yes, this is an absurd comedy, 10 sketches each very loosely based on the Commandments. I’m very excited about it. One, because it’s even more out there and strange than “Wet Hot,” and two, it’s got so many great people in it — comedians and just great dramatic actors as well. Everyone’s real excited about it. It’s great when you have Winona Ryder doing “Thou Shall Not Steal” commandment.
Can you tell us what commandment you’re breaking?
I’m breaking “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Liev Schreiber and I are two neighbors in Staten Island. And I buy a CAT scan and he buys two, and so I’ve got to buy three. So we go back and forth buying CAT scan machines. It gets pretty dark at the end, too.
Our readers will love that, picturing you and Liev Schreiber hanging out with giant medical machines…
… and big mustaches.
Nice… I heard it was a hit at Sundance. Who bought it? Any idea when we’ll see it in theaters?
ThinkFilm and City Lights Pictures bought “The Ten” for $4.5 mil, with ThinkFilm handling domestic theatrical, and City Lights doing home video & DVD. The latest release date I heard was August.
I take you were all at Sundance? What was the best piece of swag you got?
A bunch of us went to Sundance for the premiere. “The Ten” set the all-time festival record for the amount of people turned away at the premiere. Which — I don’t know — is it cool to have 250 people bummed out they didn’t get into a movie after waiting in freezing weather? Not really, but screw those suckers, right? Am I right??!!!! Jeff, c’mon, are you with me on this??
100% my brother…
… And besides the Ass Cream, the best piece of swag I got was this terrific little Silk Diaper from Heinenken that I’m wearing right now.
Please post pix of that on the web… for the ladies, of course. Best movie you saw there?
Unfortunately, I didn’t see a lot of movies. So many were sold out. But I did catch David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels”, which was really heavy, really fantastic. Stays with you for a bit. And a documentary called “Chasing Ghosts”, about the birth of the arcade scene in the 80s. Kinda like DogTown & Z Boys, except with Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Defender and the like. Loved it, lot of fun.
Any juicy celeberity encounters or other tales of debauchery you’d like to share?
Saw Tara Reid belt out of karaoke renditon of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. She hit her notes. Kind of. Which is more than I can say for myself. I’m a karaoke whore, and proud of it.
|Joe and pals Michael Showalter (left) and Michael Ian Black (center) discuss balls and bust projects.|
I’ve read that you are a bit of a horror buff. Is that correct?
Huge, huge horror movie fan. And I’ve written a couple of them. I wrote one with Ken Marino called “Burnt.” It’s a cross between “Last House on the Left” and an old-fashioned monster movie. It’s about some kids that go to the woods to grow some pot and there’s a hulking seven-foot burnt thing running around after them. So we’re trying to get that done.
I’ll give you a little bit of geek information. When I was 13 I was a huge Stephen King fan and I had all his books of course, and kept them in a box, which was the empty box of my Atari 5200. And I kept them all in a box under the bed in the event, if there was a fire, I would be able to just grab the box of Stephen King books and get out. Not even worry about like banging on the doors to save the family, just get “Cujo,” “Fire Starter,” and “The Stand,” get them out. Get them all out safely before they burn!
So the horror movie obsession started very young. My favorite is David Cronenberg’s “The Brood.” I had nightmares for several years after I saw that about those little things running around.
And their beaks! Good Lord. “The Brood” is right up there with “Bad Ronald” for me. Joe, I am going to hit you with some standard questions we like to ask everybody. Who do you get mistaken for?
Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall.
Not a bad one.
No, he is a funny guy; nice guy.
Best experience ever making a film?
I have been lucky enough to have a couple of them, but I have to say “Wet Hot American Summer.” There was just too much camping and boozing and smoking and late night debauchery not to put that up there in the top position.
When was the last time you cried while watching a movie?
I think it was when Sarah Jessica Parker dropped her Christmas tray in The Family Stone. She worked so hard on it, and damn it, they just did not accept her into the family and that… well, that just got me — got me good. But then they laughed about it afterwards and they all kind of bonded again, so that was nice.
Very nice indeed. What’s up next for Joe?
There’s a few movies coming out this year. Besides “Reno”, a movie called “Fan Boys”. It’s about these kids who try to break into Skywalker Ranch to get Phantom Menace for their dying friend. This takes place like in ’99. It’s kind of like a Muppet movie. It has a bunch of cameos like Mark Hamilll and Carrie Fisher. Shatner of course. I did a scene with Lando Calrissian, which oddly enough is Billy Dee Williams’ legal name now. Also, a new Seth Rogen-Judd Apatow movie called “Super Bad” where I play a creepy perv who tries to get Jonah Hill and Michael Cera some booze. And then “The Ten” of course, which should be out in August.
Outstanding! Looking forward to it!
Joe’s Blog: www.joelotruglio.com
Joe on IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm0516266/
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