On the Record: Jay Chandrasekhar

Story and interview by Joey Galvan, Entertainment Reporter

Comedian Jay Chandrasekhar performed June 26 to an eager crowd of fans at The Scottish Rite Theater in Austin.

The comedian and founding member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe treated his audience to raunchy stories, dirty jokes and even brought four people onstage to compete against him in a beer-slamming contest. His stories revolved around crazy life-experiences and elements of pure stand-up.

At one point Chandrasekhar mentioned a script for a movie called “Mustache Riders” featuring Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson. The crowd displayed its disappointment when Chandrasekhar revealed to them that the studios had passed on the project. During a brief question and answer session, fans offered their suggestions on how to save it.

Chandrasekhar was in top form during the 45-minute set. Though he is a feature-film director, it really showed that he still loves performing. He is an expert storyteller and his comedic timing is impeccable.

His films which include “Super Troopers,” “Club Dread” and “Beerfest” are just as hilarious.

Accent’s Entertainment Reporter Joey Galvan talked with the “Super Troopers” director on the phone a few days before his set at The Scottish Rite Theatre in Austin. Below is the full transcript of the interview.

Accent: You’ll be in Austin in a few days, have you been here before?

Jay: Yeah, you know, I’ve been to Austin quite a bit. Broken Lizard, we’ve shown every movie we’ve ever made there. We’ve also performed live at the… what’s that big theater on Congress?

Accent: The Paramount?

Jay: The Paramount yeah.. we did a live show there. So yeah, we love Austin. I wish the Texas Film Commission had a subsidy that could compete with the rest of the states cause I’d love to shoot a film down there, but it has been tough so far.

Accent: I read you were active in comedy troupes during college, at what age did you first become interested in comedy?

Jay: I had been in a couple plays in high school. I was a big fan of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. I went to downtown Chicago where I’m from and decided to try and make strangers laugh. So I went up on an open mike just to see if I could make people I didn’t know laugh. If I did maybe I could give it a shot. You know I did ten minutes of material, a lot happened that worked. I was like OK, I’m going to give it a shot. So once I went back to Colgate where I was going to school and decided to start a comedy group and tried to do what Monty Python did.

Accent: So you mention Monty Python and SNL as some of your influences, who were some other comedians that inspired you and maybe inspire your work today?

Jay: Certainly Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. You know more recently I love Louis CK quite a bit. I’m also a big Eddie Murphy fan, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. You know, I like stories. I like story kind of comics like Pryor and that’s my favorite stuff. I sort of think I am a story stand-up as well. I tend to tell stories.

Accent: I’m looking forward to seeing your stand-up on Wednesday, what can we expect?

Jay: Well you know you have to understand people know me from the movies so I make sure to tell a story from every one of those films I’ve made. Then I tell some other stories from my life,  there’s a lot of pure stand-up and a lot of smart dirty stories.

Accent: What’s the craziest thing that you have ever experienced doing stand-up?

Jay: You know, our fans they like to drink a lot sometimes, and I feel like they drink so much just to show us that they care and so we’ve had some fairly rowdy audiences. In San Francisco we had a guy fall off his chair, puke, stand up, slip on the puke and fall down.. then try to fight his way to stay in the crowd to stay and watch the show. You know that kinda thing, you just gotta go.

Accent: Have you ever bombed on-stage?

Jay: I used to bomb when I was younger. Part of it has to do with not knowing. I think some of the best stand-ups adopt a little bit of a persona and then you’re sort of watching almost like a character. As you’re finding what that is when you’re younger, you’re more prone to bombing. I haven’t bombed in a while. The trick if you’re starting out in stand-up, you’re going to bomb, it’s like driving a car. You’re going to hit a red light. It’s going to happen. When you bomb you have to sort of find a way to enjoy it. You’re like wow, I have a microphone in my hand. I have another 15 minutes of material to know and they hate my guts. What an interesting moment in life. You have to sort of get a little bit thin about it. If you’re facing events then you’ll figure out what makes you funny and once you figure that out you won’t bomb as much.

Accent: You mentioned Louis CK as a current comedian you’re a fan of, are there any other people in the industry right now you’re a fan of?

Jay: Yeah, I love this guy John Mulaney he’s one of the head writers on Saturday Night Live. There’s a guy named Kumail Nanjiani.. the dude was born in Pakistan and he has a Pakistani accent but came up in Chicago for a little while and he’s one of the hottest comics in town. It’s an amazing thing this country, if you’re funny they’re kind of like OK, sure you’re Pakistani but OK. He’s a great comic, he’s got this thing called Comic Meldown in LA where he hosts sort of the coolest underground comics and they’ve got a show they’re going to do on Comedy Central that’s sort of a new stand-up show. I’d watch out for that. Who else.. there are so many good comics here. I actually saw Aziz for the first time and thought he was terrific. It took a while to see him, I’m glad I saw him. He’s great. I like Kristen Schaal a lot too. Do you know who she is?

Accent: No I sure don’t, but I did see Louis CK last time he was in town and he blew me away.

Jay: Oh he’s phenomenal. You know who else is great is Ricky Gervais. His stand-up is just so bright and funny. I also love love love Dennis Miller. I don’t know how much he does now but, the guys got one of the quickest minds you’ll ever see. He’s so bright and fun to watch.

Accent: Probably my favorite comedian is Bill Hicks, are you a fan of his work at all?

Jay: You know, I don’t know Bill Hicks that well. He is somebody I save material on him because I want to watch him but haven’t yet watched it. I know there’s a documentary about him that’s supposed to be cool. I don’t know his stuff.. I know he was big in London and his stuff has become more popular. He’s dead right?

Accent: Yeah, he died of pancreatic cancer in the ‘90s. I believe he was from Houston and then came to Austin and made it kind of big here. Post-mortem he has become really famous but he was still pretty big for his time and a lot of inspirational stuff is in his work you find relevant today.

Jay: I will check it out.

Accent: I understand you’re promoting a film called “The Babymakers,” can you tell me about it?

Jay: It’s a little bit of misinformation because the film I WAS promoting, I think they just got the information wrong. I’m not promoting the film “The Babymakers,” I made the film and released it last year, so you can get it on Itunes now. It’s me and Olivia Munn, Paul Schneider and Kevin Heffernan. It’s a movie about a guy who can’t get his wife pregnant because he’s had some sort of testicular trauma. You find out that he used to be have good sperm because he used to be a sperm donor. When he goes back to that sperm bank to try and get a sample they only have one and they already sold it to another couple so he and his pals put together a team and stage a sperm bank heist. It’s like Oceans 11 with sperm. But yeah that movie’s been out there and it’s doing well and a lot of people are seeing it. The press releases got mixed up and they think I’m promoting it now.

Accent: Sorry about that man

Jay: I want people to see it though, believe me it’s a good one.

Accent: The level of depth to the characters in your films is really impressive, how do you go about creating such interesting characters?

Jay: Character stuff in movies is all about arcs. You really got to think about each character and what they’re doing in the movie. For example in the beginning they can be timid and by the end they should be strong or they should be strong in the beginning and timid by the end. There needs to be a movement of character. When you say oh the characters are great in the movie, it’s usually because there’s some transition they had. If you keep that in mind as your working you kind of find little ways to move the character along and I think that ends up working well. I think there is great work in that movie “The End” have you seen that?

Accent: No, what’s that?

Jay: Seth Rogan directed a film about the apocalypse. Jonah plays himself and they all play themselves. They did great character work, but each character starts in a place and ends in a place somewhere else. You gotta pay attention to it. You gotta pay attention to the story, you gotta pay attention to the jokes, you gotta pay attention to the characters. Then you gotta hope you picked an idea people are interested in.

Accent: I work in a coffee shop and know a large amount of police officers who all have an unhealthy obsession with “Super Troopers.” Did you write the script hoping cops would watch it and what overall message do you hope they take away from the film?

Jay: We assumed cops would arrest us and be really unhappy about it. It turns out, it’s been a bit of a get out of jail free card for us. Whenever we get stopped they usually apologize, want to take a picture and say have a good day. It has been pretty amazing. In New Mexico we were really loud and having a party while we were making “Beerfest.” Two cops show up and are like turn this down and then they looked at us and were like oh my god.. can we come in? Within half an hour there were eight cops in our living room. We were hiding the bong. It was like this crazy thing. I think ultimately cops are so serious in movies, they’re either taken really seriously or they’re really loopy and dumb. We tried to make real feeling cops who were just real people and that’s fun. I think they appreciate that.

Accent: Do you foresee a “Super Troopers 2” in the future any time soon?

Jay: Yeah, we’re working on a draft 12 right now and we’re talking to Fox. I think if everything goes well, we’ll be lucky to shoot next year.

Accent: Alright Jay, thanks again, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today and look forward to catching you live on Wednesday at the Scottish Rite Theater.

Jay: Thank you.

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