Let’s cut the fat of this introduction right now: Broken Lizard is probably one of the biggest names in comedy-troupe-turned-movie-stars in history. It’s a very niche description but it’s also very true. Hits like Super Troopers, Slammin Salmon and Beerfest have solidified them as some kind of powerhouse.
When two of the members tested the waters with standup together, they struck comedy oil. Now, after three specials and some touring, the two – Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan – might, maybe, end their touring years. They might. Maybe. Before their unsure retirement, I had a chance to sit down with them to bid adieu as well as chat about their latest special, The Potential Farewell Tour.
I saw the special a couple of weeks ago and I was like “Of course I’ll talk to Steve and Kevin! They’ve been around a long time.” And this special felt like a swan song of sorts. I just finished watching the special…it felt like a very good time. I noticed, when ou guys came out, they treated you like Gods. Even though I think they knew that not all of Broken Lizard was going to be there – but that was the most amount of clapping for any one that wasn’t [performing] at the Tonight Show.
Kevin: It’s nice because…a lot of the movie fans come out to the live shows. We have this rabid fans of the movies who love to go out and see the live shows so they get very excited when they come.
It’s a lot of audience interaction too. I was watching some parts of Below The Belt where you guys were doing the trivia section. And, even in this special, you drew the audience in to help you guys cheer on chugging and “counting in Mexican.” It was insane to see all those people do that.
Steve: We found that whether or not we decide to encourage them to interact, they’re going to interact any way. Our fans are pretty wild. We figured this is the best way to harness the power of our fans.
What’s it like interacting with them especially if they put so much emphasis on liking you? What’s it like outside of the shows and outside of the movies? Are they at least nice fans?
Kevin: They are nice fans! It’s great because it takes a long time to make the movies. You got a lot of time between the movies. And when you make the movies, you don’t get out and see people. We decided a lot of this live show stuff was for us to get out there and interact. It’s really great. You go out and meet the fans; they have good stories. It lends itself well to us. We crowdfunded Super Troopers 2 and it was a testament to how rabid the fanbase is. They just like to laugh and they like to drink and they like to have fun.
When you two go out, it feels like you’re brothers – immediately attacking each other verbally. You feel like the Sklar Brothers, who I talked to earlier [in 2018]. Have you guys always had that type of rapport with each other?
Steve: I think so. Sadly, Kevin and I have now been friends for more than half of our lives. And I think it was sort of an inadvertent thing. We didn’t know it was going to be that way at first but our dynamic just appeared to us. He is sort of a blowhard and I get annoyed with him—
Kevin: What?! What?!
Steve: --It’s art imitating life, really.
Kevin, you sound like you have a response to that.
Kevin: It depends on the perspective of who you’re coming from. Even the movies had kind of an interaction with Lemme being the annoying pain in the ass and me being the voice of reason, Chad.
Steve: I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure about that.
Speaking on the differences between you two, and the similarities as well, Kevin, you love to appeal to the crowd. I was watching the Patrick Swayze video and you were always relating to the crowd saying the “fuckin’ open bar dude” and enjoying the open bar instead of meeting Patrick. Steve likes to keep things nice and tight and on track. That dichotomy definitely works – especially on stage. It really comes off as a play of sorts because the show feels so refined in its third version.
Kevin: A traditional standup act, you don’t have that person to play off of. The two man comedy act was always a well traveled thing and then it disappeared, I feel like. It’s fun to have another guy out there as a crutch and as a sounding board when you maybe mess up or whatever. This double thing…We compliment each other. One guy’s keeping it tight and one guy’s keeping it loose. I think it works out pretty well.
You’re right. The two man comedy act is gone whereas it was a staple 40 years ago. The most recent one besides the Sklars or anyone who isn’t related to each other like the [Lucas Brothers] is Steve Martin and Martin Short.
Steve: Absolutely. It’s great to play off each other. If both of you are on, it can be pretty fantastic. Sometimes Kevin and I are both on.
How long had you guys been doing this style of act? Was it all meant to be, the first time, an initial diversion between films?
Kevin: Yeah. I think it was 2009 when the Writer’s Strike happened here in L.A. We decided we’d go on the road. There was nothing going on down here so we’d decided we’d do a live show with Broken Lizard. Lemme and I stared doing standup then. We didn’t even do standup; some of the other guys did. We just really liked it. It was something we hadn’t done. We decided to keep it going. We’d been doing it a few years now. Lemme said we kinda found the angle of our dynamic, which I think helps us keep writing new material.
When you guys go out and you’re testing this stuff, do you go out to open mics? Do you do 15 minutes and test out your standup separately as opposed to the two man act? Or do you guys go out with each other and try to play off what each one is going to be doing when you’re doing the standup?
Steve: We’ll go out and we’ll throw ourselves to the lions. There’s really no better way to figure out what’s working and what’s not working. And to also inspire you to make things better than to just to stand in front of your audience and testing out your material. Thankfully, what we do is we test it out in small increments. The audience is never subjected to a totally brand new show.
That’s what I like about it. It felt fresh even though the lines were delivered. But it felt like you guys were up there shooting the shit and having fun.
Kevin: Yeah that was part of the dynamic. That was always the intention. Our movies we feel are very much like “Hey, there’s a bunch of guys that you want to go hang out with.” I think we tried to bring that to the live show too. It’s “Hey, we’re all having a good time telling stories.” [We want to be] the guys you want to hang out with.
A quarter of the way through, you guys talk about Super Troopers 2 – you’d just finished shooting it at that point. Do people expect you to talk about your past work while you’re doing this other stuff that’s not really related it at all?
Steve: We like to mix things up, do a little something for everybody. We definitely like to try material that – even if you’re not a fan of the movies or you’re not familiar with the movies – those people could like. But, also, we like to do stuff for the hardcore fans. We usually, in our two man, we try to tell something from [behind the scenes]. Whether it’s making Super Troopers 2 or meeting Patrick Swayze, which is something a lot of people could relate to – the idea of crashing and burning in front of one of your idols. We told a story about meeting Quentin Tarantino one time. We like to draw our fans in but also appeal to people who aren’t necessarily familiar with our stuff.
I know this is potentially the last tour you do but it really seemed like it was really fun. You guys did a lot of good work up there. We hope to see you out there again doing some more of this stuff.
Kevin: The operative word, Chad, is “potentially.” We’ll have to see whether our relationship progresses and whether it’s “potentially” or not.
Steve: We’re finished.
[Kevin and Chad laugh]