Long before 2001’s Super Troopers transformed it into a cult phenomenon, Broken Lizard made its name on stage as a sketch-comedy troupe. The quintet formed at Colgate University in the mid-’90s before moving to New York and slowly moving into film, beginning with 1996’s Puddle Cruiser. The self-financed Super Troopers followed a few years later, and its success ensured that Broken Lizard would spend its time on film, not on stage. Club Dread followed in 2004, then Beerfest in 2006, and coming in December, The Slammin’ Salmon. A Super Troopers sequel is in the works, as is a sequel of sorts to Beerfest, Potfest. Lizard member Jay Chandrasekhar has also become an in-demand director in both film (The Dukes Of Hazzard) and TV (Arrested Development, Undeclared). That’s a long way of saying Broken Lizard’s live tour is rare event, as all five members come together for sketches (including some featuring characters from their films), stand-up, and not coincidentally, a preview of The Slammin’ Salmon, which opens after the tour ends. Before Broken Lizard’s Saturday performance at the Pantages, The A.V. Club spoke with member Kevin Heffernan—a.k.a. Super Troopers jackass Rod Farva—about why he’s okay with being called a chicken-fucker.
The A.V. Club: What was the impetus behind doing a tour?
Kevin Heffernan: We started out as a stage sketch group in college, and then in New York City, and then we kind of stopped doing it when we started making movies. We always said we would rally to do it again. It becomes a pretty time-consuming thing, so we never were able to work it in between movies. We were down in Austin, at South By Southwest, with our new movie, and we did little comedy stuff for the movie. We were like, “You know what, let’s look into this more.” Then we found out that there was an appetite for it, and there were people who would be interested in seeing us coming around.
AVC: Doing movies can probably feel like performing in a vacuum—you don’t necessarily see your audience. How has that been on this tour?
KH: It’s been really kind of eye-opening. When you’re in L.A., and you’re making movies and that kind of stuff, you don’t really get a sense sometimes, I think, what the fans are like. But you go into a room with 4,000 people or 2,000 people who know your movie, know the lines, and know the characters, it’s really a lot of fun.
AVC: What’s the muscle memory like when you’re back on stage? Was there a big adjustment period?
KH: I think there was a little bit, you know, just the nitty-gritty stuff of acting onstage—like not having your ass to the crowd, where you can do that in a movie, or projecting better. You stop guys from whispering, things like that. But otherwise it was pretty good. We have a nice safety net in the sense that it’s been the same guys for whatever, 15 years. We’ve worked in all kinds of ways very closely together, so you kind of have a nice support group when you go out there. But it definitely was that immediate crowd reaction that you get—you forget about that. That’s been what’s been great about it, I think.
AVC: Some of the sketches come from the films, right? You’re doing some of those characters?
KH: Yeah, we are. That’s a luxury, that’s a difference. The audience is a little more in your camp when you walk out there. When we used to do it, you’d throw some sketches up and hopefully win them over. We’re doing original sketches in addition to doing sketches involving characters from movies. Then also what we do is each guy does 10 minutes of stand-up, and that splits up the sketches. So it’s kind of fun. Some of us have done stand-up before, and some haven’t. This is my first time doing stand-up, and Steve Lemme, another guy, had never done stand-up before, so this has been our first time.
AVC: Do people shout lines at you from the audience?
KH: Oh, yeah. It also depends on how drunk the audience is. When I come out to do my stand-up set, I pretty much get bombarded with lines from movies. You try to play off it a little bit, but that’s what people want to see. Some clubs the drunker the audience gets, the more they heckle. But it’s funny, it’s not like heckles like “You suck!” It’s more like, “You’re a chicken fucker! Ha ha!”
We were in a club in Nashville, and somebody was throwing out a line, and these guys got into fight over throwing out lines. I don’t know if it was over who is the bigger fan or what.
AVC: Does that throw you off, or can you go with the flow?
KH: Oh, yeah. Totally. It’s just a sort of fun, rowdy interaction with the audience show. Not that I encourage it—also I should stress that there are a lot of really nice sober people around. [Laughs.]