Two officers from the Reno Sheriff's Department discuss their new film, their life in Reno, and law-enforcement procedures. Their creators and alter egos, Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, discuss their show Reno 911! here.
The A.V. Club: At a recent post-screening Q&A, you repeatedly referenced "Hollywood shylocks" and Jews, and how you basically signed your lives over to them.
Lieutenant Jim Dangle: In fairness, I think one of the guys is actually a Greek, but he could pass either way—swarthy. What we meant was a blanket term for swarthy types, these swarthy studio heads who are perpetrating a web of lies about us.
Deputy Travis Junior: And they have an agenda—a cultural, political agenda, to make us red-staters look like, uh, asswipes.
AVC: So why are you doing press for the film?
JD: We're trying to get the record straight for the film. We're telling our side of the story. Because if you look at the movie with your eyes and your ears, at what's presented to you—
TJ: You'd think we're a bunch of horny, retarded idiots. But we ain't. There's another 40 percent of the day that we do our jobs. We file. We drive safely.
JD: We shut off fire hydrants that someone has opened without any permission. You never see that.
TJ: Never makes the picture. We leave a lot of very satisfied customers everywhere we go, just doing our job as civil servants. We don't get paid much. It would be nice if Hollywood didn't have to kick us in the teeth.
AVC: Lieutenant Dangle, in the film, you wear a pretty well-worn Morrissey shirt as part of your civvies. How long have you been a Morrissey fan?
JD: I've been a lifelong Morrissey enthusiast. I've written a lot of cards and letters to him. I haven't gotten any response back, and he's my number two of my top eight friends on MySpace. On the other side, I've looked at his MySpace, and I somehow have not made his top eight. So I don't know if this is kind of a one-way street we've got going here, but Mr. Morrissey, Steven—if I may call you that—if you are reading this interview, you could do me the solid of putting me in your top eight.
AVC: What laws do you have in Reno that you would like to see other cities adopt?
TJ: I'll tell ya one thing: If you really want to cut your crime rate, pick something that you're havin' a real major problem with, and legalize it.
JD: Make it legal. We call it "the Amsterdam effect."
TJ: Prostitution was a horrible scourge, until we just—
JD: Made it legal! Boom, boom. You can do it.
TJ: Now, five less stops we have to make a night—same with gambling. If they were to legalize crystal meth, we'd have a damn easy day.
JD: Oh my God, I don't know what we would do! But it's like Amsterdam, look: Their crime rates are incredibly low, because everyone's committing crimes that are not illegal. Once they take away the crimes, only criminals will commit never mind.
AVC: Deputy, in the film, you said Reno is a little like Mayberry. What kind of action do you wish Reno had?
TJ: I wish we had a more sophisticated criminal element in Reno, 'cause we get a lot of, you know, bank robbery, and then you go in, and the guy was just pretendin' so that he could jack off and throw jizz at a cop. Ya get a lot of that.
JD: We get a lot of vicious pranks of the really truly sinister, chaotic, evil-type stuff. What we don't get is sorta like "Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Speckled Band." We never have anything like that, where we're in among nice people in white ties, and someone's tiara has been—
TJ: Stolen from the Econo-Lodge.
JD: "Oh no, they've nipped my tiara, and Lord Fauntleroy will not rest. No one is allowed to leave the dinner party until we have located The Star Of Nodjipor." We would love to have one night where we're out lookin' for a lost jewel or dealing with a commodore. Or even anyone with pants on would be nice.
TJ: Mostly, we find some rubber where somebody jacked off on their own crime scene, and then you got to go out and make other guys jack off into a cup—and that's a long night.
JD: And you got to supply them with, some, ya know, visual aids. That's a drag, man.
AVC: Speaking of sinister pranks, Lieutenant, you've had a recurring problem with your bike getting stolen.
JD: Yeah, I think this might be the year when I just switch over to Rollerblades. Because if they want to steal my Rollerblades, they're gonna have to chainsaw my frickin' feet off this time. I've fuckin' had it. I'm done with it. From now on, the wheels are going to be attached. But the fact is, having met some of the local residents, there are a couple of motherfuckers that would chainsaw my feet off. They might do it just for shoes, or they might do it for sport—to play the "most dangerous game."
AVC: On the show, your sheriff died this year. You've never had the equivalent of the exasperated police captain, the guy who's always pissed off.
JD: "You guys can't take law into your own hands! Stop playin' by your own rules! I'm gonna bust you down to beat cop in two seconds!"
TJ: "I want this one by the book, Dangle. By the book!"
JD: The fact is, there is no book for law enforcement. There's no guidebook that tells you protocols or procedures, or even what to enforce all the time.
TJ: No, we get one every quarter.
JD: Oh, really?
TJ: There is a book of law enforcement
JD: Oh, did I just say that? I'm sorry. I must have, uh, maybe I misspoke.
AVC: But Carson still allows the film to show you breaking protocol?
JD: They need the money.
TJ: They made us sign a waiver. I don't know how much money's involved, but—
JD: Somebody out there's making a king's ransom.[pagebreak]
AVC: But it's not you guys.
JD: No! We get our regular salary. That's it. We don't even get copies of the digital videodisc when they come out. You think we would get that.
AVC: Have you thought about what you'd do if you weren't cops?
TJ: I've done the math, and I think that I might make slightly more on unemployment than I make as a law-enforcement officer. So I would just spend time at the library on the Google, and, ya know, learn things.
JD: I would like to get into something that I would be proud to tell people about—like softcore pornography on the Internet.
TJ: Oh, that's what I meant too.
JD: I think we would probably both be in softcore pornography, and I think there's a lot of openings. Well, I've got my standards.
TJ: Triple penetration ain't for me.
JD: And I don't want to do anything weird. But it depends on what you consider weird.
TJ: Everybody's got a niche. I don't care if your niche is jackin' off on goats. You could find a group of people who want to talk about it with you on the Internet.
JD: Yeah, jackinoffgoats.org. It's out there. Just look. I would like to do something that when I told people, it brought a smile to their faces. No one is happy to see us.
TJ: No, never. Everybody hates the five-o. There's no other career where there are hundreds of songs about how people hate us and want to shoot us. For a brief time in the '80s, there were some songs about teachers you've got that'll keep ya down, but is there any other career where people make money singing about how we suck? About how you should pop a cap in us? No.
JD: Let's see. Who's against us? There's "Fuck Tha Police"—"Fuck tha police comin' straight from the underground."
TJ: "Ridin' Dirty," "Cop Killer," the whole movie industry.
JD: There's "911 Is A Joke," Public Enemy—even Bob Marley with his "I Shot The Sheriff."
AVC: That's got to hit close to home.
JD: Oh my goodness gracious, yes.
TJ: I used to like his music, so when I heard that song, it broke my heart.
AVC: Well, we have some law-enforcement queries: Say you're in a high-speed chase on a city street, in hot pursuit, and on the immediate approaching road, there's a stack of dozens and dozens of boxes.
JD: Are they filled with babies?
AVC: Not babies. They might just be filled with Styrofoam peanuts. Now, you can maintain your course and keep an eye on things, or you can go through the boxes. What do you do?
TJ: Are the cameras on?
TJ: Then you go through the boxes.
JD: Go through the boxes always. You gotta give it a little pizzazz, something to root for. When we get a chase that ends up on the television, shot by helicopters or something like that, people are always cheering for the other guy. I think it goes back to the "Go, OJ go, run OJ, run." All the sudden, he was Robin Hood, ya know? Like, "Hey, man, this guy's great, 'cause he's running from the cops." Oh, hey, how about he just chopped his fucking wife's head off too, guys? And we're cheering him. So now, all of the sudden, we're Jackie Gleason to everybody's bandit.
TJ: Why not run out with a sign that says "Catch him, five-o, get him, arrest that perpetrator"?
AVC: Okay, another one: You're undercover with a gang, and in order to prove your loyalty, you have to bust a cap in a cop. Who on the staff would you choose?
JD: Obviously, there would never be a situation where we would have to take it that far. By that point, we could have made a bust, and if we hadn't, it'd be Trudy Wiegel—and I think it would be with extreme prejudice. Honestly, now that you mention it, that's not the worst idea. We could actually tell her something like that had happened. "We gotta rough you up just to show that we're legit." Then we tie her to a radiator and rough her up a little bit.
TJ: That sounds like you thought about that a little bit.
JD: The radiator part? Yeah, I have some waking dreams. Daymares, I call them. You know, like when you've been fantasizing, and you can't wake up, and then you realize you've been awake for hours? And it's the trucker speed.
AVC: Okay, what about this one: Your longtime partner is about to retire after a long, distinguished career. Days before he quits, he's gunned down by henchmen of the city's crime lord. What do you do?
JD: First off, we don't have so many crime lords. We don't have masterminds.
TJ: We got masturbators.
JD: We're not just in this to help the community, and to keep the street safe, and to keep drugs out of the hands of kids. Vengeance is—
TJ: Nine-tenths of the law.
JD: We'll get revenge on people. You don't have to just kill our partner. We'll get revenge on the Chinese place if they overcharge us, or if they don't give us the law-enforcement discount.
TJ: Revenge is a great motivation. If you only make 12.5 a year, you gotta have something else to get you going. That trucker's speed and revenge are good partners.
AVC: Another one: A woman discovers a large stash of child pornography on her husband's computer. What does she do?
JD: The worst crime there is in the world, other than kiddy-porn, which is a terrible one, is ignorance. There should be a death penalty for ignorance. If you live in America, and you don't know how to clean out your web history, then you are guilty as charged with being ignorant, and you might as well go to the gulag for all I care.
TJ: Like you get extra time for hate crimes, you should get "dumb time." There should be dumb time. An extra 10 years.
JD: All the Macs have private browsing—just go to private browsing.
TJ: It's so easy.
JD: Here's something: If you watch other law-enforcement programs, you would think we catch people all the time. But nothing could be further from the truth. Fifty percent of murders are unsolved, and in Nevada, that goes up to more like 70-75.
TJ: A lot of them don't even get reported.
JD: Once in a while, we'll find a head or a foot. We didn't even know we were looking for somebody.
TJ: All these shows where they scrape up the evidence all meticulously, and then send it to a lab, and there's 70 people workin' in a NASA operation—
JD: "Let's get the atom-smasher workin' so we can separate the bullshit."
TJ: We've got one guy, Steve, stoned to the gills.
AVC: One last thing: Have you ever commandeered a civilian's car?
TJ: Sometimes we do that just for fun.
JD: We saw this guy who had the brand-new—it was like a Ford GT thing. It was really exciting, but we got in and said, "Stop in the name of the law!" He didn't know what was going on. Nothing was going on—we actually had been dozing off. We had a bunch of waffles in the car, and we fell asleep for a while. We wake up, and we see this car, and we're like, "Hey, let's go commandeer the car." We jump out with the badges, we get in—turns out it's a stick.
TJ: We drifted right into an underpass.