It was a cool, rainy February afternoon in Los Angeles. Hollywood was agog with buzziness over the Academy Awards, which were only a day away. With show business fully prepared to heap immeasurable praise onto itself after months of being denied that possibility due to the writers' strike, the city felt more alive than it ever has.
Feeling somewhat recovered from a cold that had made me want to forget the previous two days had even existed, I was to meet with The Lonely Island's Chester Tam -- who I had the opportunity to interview last August on the phone -- to talk in person about the writers' strike, what he was up to now that the strike was over, and find out more about Hot Rod now that it's gone through its theatrical and DVD releases. That morning, however, he informed me that he'd be bringing along a friend to join in the interview. Any friend of Chester's is a friend of mine, so I certainly had no problem with that!
This friend happened to be Saturday Night Live writer and Hot Rod co-star Jorma Taccone, who along with Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer is part of The Lonely Island comedy troupe (as per Wikipedia, Chester is the "honorary fourth member"). If you've ever seen any of SNL's Digital Shorts -- such as "Lazy Sunday", "Natalie Raps", "Iran So Far", and the Emmy-winning "Dick in a Box" -- then you know their work. Taccone often co-writes the shorts with Samberg and Schaffer, while also composing any music (Schaffer directs, while Samberg -- the lone castmember of the trio -- appears in them). Being a longtime fan of their online shorts, not to mention their work on SNL and the Paramount movie Hot Rod, the opportunity to interview Jorma was quite the added thrill to already getting to sit down for lunch with Chester.
Little did I know what the afternoon would actually bring! The guys were cordial upon meeting them at Hollywood restaurant Cafe 101 (featured in the movie Swingers), but as you'll read in the interview below and see in the accompanying video (graciously put together by Chez and Jorm!), things slowly but surely got a little crazy after sitting down for our meal. It was quite the unique experience, to say the least.
Paul Little: Thanks for meeting with me today, guys! When I spoke with Chester last August, we talked a lot about the history of The Lonely Island, so now we should get into some more up to date stuff. The first thing I want to talk about is the writer's strike. It's over...
Jorma Taccone: It is. This is the first week of SNL, actually.
Paul: And you're both WGA members?
Paul: So how did the strike affect you?
Jorm: Really relaxing. We had been working pretty steadily since we got the show, basically, either on the show doing all the digital shorts or on Hot Rod. So for us it was a little bit of a mini-vacation kind of thing. But that lasts about a month and then you start to really wanna get back to work and do anything creative 'cause you miss it a lot, I would say. I don't know, how was it for you?
Chester Tam: Oh well, thank you for asking, Jorm!
Jorm: No problem, Chester! I'm sure this will all be transcribed EXACTLY!
Chez: Well, being that I don't work on SNL, I haven't been working as steadily as you guys for three years. But after I was writing on that TV show for ABC (Help Me Help You), I decided to take a year off and work on my own stuff, and during that time the strike happened. So the only thing that really affected me was that I wasn't able to take meetings and I wasn't able to, like, try to pitch stuff, which was frustrating for three months, but overall it was kind of like, "Well, I'm still on my schedule... kind of." I was very depressed though, for about --
Jorm: You scabbed a bunch though too, didn't you?
Chez: Yeah, I worked a bunch on Ellen, actually. I'm good friends with Ellen now.
Jorm: Yeah, that's right!
Chez: Uhhh... and umm...
Jorm: You scabbed like the first day, too, right?
Chez: Yeah! Once I heard you guys were striking, I said, "Chez time! Chez time, let's go to work, make some money!" 'Cause I... someone's gotta pay rent, know what I mean?
Paul: No, I understand.
Chez: ...and it ain't these bastards!
Jorm: This guy's the best in the biz.
Chez: (pauses) Don't say that!
Paul: Now, are you guys happy with the results of the strike? The deal that the writers got?
Chez: I don't get to scab anymore!
Jorm: Yeah, you were pretty bummed out.
Chez: I voted that we still strike -- I wanted to strike for another year and a half at least!
Jorm: Right, 'cause you were makin' monnnney!
Chez: I was cashin' in! And while you guys were eatin' scraps, I was f***in' eatin' filet mignon and drinking Merlot at the finest dining places L.A. has to offer! 101? This place is f***in'... up there. I used to come here a lot!
Jorm: Yeah, the Café 101 is known for their filet mignon.
Chez: And Merlot -- and their '94 Merlot. It's fantastic.
Jorm: Ummm... I can't remember what the question was now.
Chez: All you have to know is that Chez isn't going to make as much money this year because the strike just ended so...
Jorm: To tell you the truth, I have no idea what the deal is like at all. I didn't read anything about it...
Chez: Oh, you don't? I read it. We pretty much got everything we were asking for except that animated/reality TV people are --
Jorm: Really? Is that true?
Jorm: We got the same -- we actually got the percentages we wanted?
Chez: No no no, we didn't get the exact -- but I'm saying, it's still, it's still...
Paul: You got online stuff though.
Chez: Yeah yeah.
Paul: Especially, you know, a lot of your stuff ends up online.
Jorm: Yeah I think that for the online stuff though, I think it needs to be like an hour long thing. Like I don't know, does it cover shorts?
Chez: But the thing is that, you guys, your digital shorts, you still don't necessarily, you wouldn't get paid for that, right? I mean now that they show it online? I mean, do you? Are you getting paid?
Jorm: Uhhh... no. I mean, but say for the DGA though, if you directed like an hour long segment for the DGA, you would get, I think it's like 600 bucks or something like that, for them to be able to replay it for 6 months online. And if they want to do it for another 6 months, you'd get another 600 dollars. Something like that. I am a part of the DGA, but I don't think that that would actually cover a short, like anything under an hour.
Chez: What does DGA stand for?
Jorm: Director's Guild of... Association? Director's Guild Association?
Jorm: Yeah, it might be "of Armenia". It's like a twist!
Chez: Oh, I thought DGA stands for... Dick... Gary... Asa?
Jorm: That's what you thought it was? "Dick, Gary, my brother's name Asa". Wow.
Chez: Yeah, ummm... I don't know why they started a guild, but Dick, Gary, and Asa started a guild.
Jorm: Maybe we should check online after this. There's, like, a wealth of information, I've been told, on the internet.
Chez: I would love to find out what the guild -- I would like to join the guild!
Jorm: Let's do it after this!
Chez: The Dick, Gary, and Asa Guild.
Jorm: All right. Or we could start our own guild.
Chez: We can! The JCP.
Jorm: The JCP. All right. We just did it.
Chez: We're all in.
Jorm: I like that we're millionaires!
(Chez and Jorma clink their glasses together in a cheers, and I try to join in.)
Chez: Paul, you're sick, so you shouldn't clink. Sorry.
Paul: Fine. So what are the pressures of working on SNL on that tight schedule every week... you know, to put together an entire show in such a short period? How is that?
Jorm: Well, it gets pretty grueling. Especially if you do multiple episodes in a row, we get progressively more and more exhausted as it goes, 'cause you end up staying up really, really late, especially to complete the digital shorts. And often times, the more weeks we do in a row, the later in the week we actually do a digital short. So when we did "Dick in a Box", we came up with the idea for it late Thursday, finished the song Friday morning, filmed a little bit of it Friday morning, ended filming -- 'cause you know, Justin (Timberlake) had to go off and do the rest of the show, he has to do the sound stuff as well, obviously he's the musical guest -- and so we finished filming at probably 2 or 3 in the morning on Saturday and then started editing at like, I don't even know, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning on Saturday morning. So it's like, if you do that kind of thing multiple weeks in a row, you start to really lose your mind. And I often times spend the night at Rockerfeller (Center, home to the SNL Studios), which is funny 'cause when people ask me how I like New York I'm like, "Yeah, I don't really get to see New York as much as I want to. I know what Rockerfeller Center is like, but..."
Chez: During the down time on SNL, do you guys bone a lot of girls in your office?
Jorm: That's a great question, Chez! (pointing at his wedding ring) I'm married?
Chez: Oh, you're married! I was really talking about Samberghini (Andy Samberg).
Jorm: Oh really? No, I was gonna say -- I'm married, so yes. I bone a lot of girls in my office.
Chez: What about Samberghini?
Jorm: That dude? That dude's celibate.
Chez: And Kiv (Akiva Schaffer) also? Kiv is neutered, right?
Jorm: Kiv? No, Kiv bones dudes.
Chez: Oh wow. So yes all around, except for Andy.
Paul: Good question!
Chez: Thank you!
Jorm: I feel like every time you do a podcast, that's all you want to hear about, too, is our sex lives.
Chez: I'm really interested!
Jorm: Why? Why are you so interested?
Chez: I feel like when I see Kenan (Thompson), Kenan looks like a dude that would like, bone girls on his down time, like in the office.
Jorm: So you want to compare us to Kenan Thompson? And you just want to know that we bone as many girls as Kenan?
Chez: I want to know if you're as cool as him.
Jorm: I don't think that's... possible. But we give it a shot every week!
Chez: Do you like when I ask you these questions or do you feel intimidated?
Jorm: That's the first time I've ever answered that question honestly. I bone tons of chicks, Kiv bones dudes, and Andy's celibate.
Chez: Okay, thank you for answering my question.
Paul: Now how do I follow that up?! Has Lorne ever --
(Jorma and Chester then hold the interview hostage by pulling out some alcohol and drinking straight from the bottle, claiming they can't eat without something to wash it down. They offer it to me but I decline.)
Jorm: (singing) Hanging out 'n doing an interview... chompin' on sandwiches.
(The drinking continues with lunch for quite some time.)
Jorm: All right, sorry, go ahead.
Paul: All right... hey, let's talk about food then. (to Chez) Do you still love crepes?
Chez: Um, not as much anymore, dude.
Chez: Things have changed since the last time I talked to you, yeah.
Chez: I just haven't -- you know, when I'm not surrounded by it, I don't really crave it that much.
Jorm: Dude, these are hard-hitting questions! America wants to know!
Chez: Thank you. Well, I'm trying to give America what they want.
Jorm: Chicks want it.
Chez: They just keep asking about crepes!
Paul: They do!
Chez: Mostly in uhh... mostly in Winnipeg, right?
Paul: No, remember? I told you I couldn't find any good ones there?
Chez: Yeah yeah, have you?
Paul: No, I still haven't been able to find any.
Chez: You know, turn the recorder off, we can't talk anymore until you have a crepe.
Paul: Well, when I was in Paris, I had some good breakfast-type crepes --
Chez: Well now I'm jealous.
Paul: -- but not any good savoury crepes, the turkey and mayo, like you seemed to love so much and talked about for probably like 15 minutes in our interview.
Jorm: Since we're bragging now, I've been to Italy!
Chez: Well we're not interested in Italy. We're talking about crepes, and they don't serve crepes in Italy. We don't want to talk about gelato --
Jorm: Have you ever been to Italy?
Jorm: Then you wouldn't know!
Chez: Oh really?
Jorm: Yeah, when you get off the plane they give you a crepe.
Paul: It's true!
Jorm: They're known for their crepes.
Chez: Now you're just messin' with me.
Paul: I can attest to that.
Chez: You've been to Italy?
Paul: Yeah, the same time that I was in Paris.
Jorm: This guy's the real deal!
Paul: And again, they love their crepes there.
Chez: They do?
Chez: Well, looks like I'm going to f***in' Italy next strike!
Paul: People think they're known for their pasta and their pizza --
Jorm: Not true! It's an exaggeration.
Paul: That's all Hollywood.
Chez: That's what Hollywood shows you.
Chez: All right, I'm starting to believe you guys. Did you eat any crepes when you were in Vancouver, Jorm?
Jorm: Did I have any crepes in Vancouver? I don't think so.
Chez: You were there for f***in' three months.
Jorm: Yeah, I don't think I had any.
Chez: Jorm, you disgust me! You flew all the way to Italy to have your crepe --
(At this point in the interview, Chester punches Jorm in the face)
Jorm: This place is the best!
Paul: Well, last summer I asked Chester about Vancouver, but since you were there for several months filming Hot Rod, what are your thoughts about Vancouver?
Jorm: Well, one thing I found out was that it's actually called Vancougar, so that was kind of a shocker, I guess. (laughs) It's a great place. I mean biking, fishing, snow boarding --
Jorm: It's got it all.
Chez: A lot of Eskimos there. Did you see the Eskimos?
Jorm: They didn't have any Eskimos!
Chez: You didn't see the Eskimos?? They had 'em right on Broadway! Broadway and Main.
Jorm: Did you actually see them?
Chez: Yeah! There was one that lived next to me, in the hotel they put me up in.
Jorm: Dude, maybe we were in different parts of the city.
Chez: Oh yeah, we were. Yeah, we were 15 minutes away. They don't have Eskimos in the countryside. Only in the city.
Jorm: They don't let them cross those bridges.
Chez: No, they aren't allowed to, they get shot.
Jorm: Not in Kitsilano (the Vancouver suburb where they filmed most of Hot Rod).
Chez: It's very racist up there!
Jorm: Especially in Kitsilano.
Chez: Don't even get me started, I dodged a couple of bullets up there myself.
Jorm: Did you stay in our house when you were there?
Chez: The first time I did and then -- no, the first two times I did and then the third time I stayed at the hotel.
Jorm: Right. Me, Andy, and Kiv had a house there. Yeah, we definitely all hung out, got drunk. Man, we got wasted.
(This reminds Jorma and Chester that they still have half-drunken bottles of liquor with them, and they go into their bags for more.)
Jorm: I don't know if they're going to be cool with this.
Chez: We're gonna get kicked out.
Jorm: Is there anything else you want an answer to?
Chez: They serve beer here.
(Jorm heads to the bathroom, likely related to the bottle of liquor he's almost downed.)
Paul: While he's gone, I can ask you about How to Become an Internet Celebrity. Are there plans for more installments?
Chez: Right now, there aren't any plans for more episodes, just basically 'cause I'm trying to sell it first. But if I don't sell it then possibly. I haven't really planned too much for it, to be honest. The main goal was really trying to sell it, and then the strike happened so I couldn't do that, and so I just posted it online, so we'll see. The feedback has been pretty -- I mean, I was hoping to get more views on it. I don't know if people want to see more, to be honest. We'll see what happens.
(Jorma comes back to the table.)
Jorm: Sorry, what were you guys talking about?
Chez: Uhh... scabbing again.
Jorm: Oh, you're a huge scab, so that would make sense that you'd immediately divert the attention onto your scabbiness.
Paul: Well I'm not in a journalists' union, so actually, just being a part of this interview, you guys are scabbing.
Jorm: Oh, then Chester feels right at home.
Jorm: I was wondering why you were smiling so much.
Chez: Now you know!
Jorm: There it is.
Chez: I didn't want to tell you this 'cause now you're officially a scab. Jokes on you, you'll be getting kicked out of the guild!
Jorm: Sweet. (sighs sarcastically) Umm... what other questions do we talk about?
Paul: Well the last question I had was with Hot Rod, in theaters I'm sure it didn't hit the box office totals you guys were hoping for...
Jorm: I haven't actually checked the numbers, so I don't know how well it did. I'm assuming it made, probably like, 80 to 100 million dollars.
Chez: Like 120 opening weekend!
Jorm: I just haven't checked the numbers yet. But assuming it probably made... maybe even over 100.
Chez: For the first week, probably 100. For the second week, probably 200.
Jorm: Yeah. We're not the best with numbers though, so...
Paul: Okay. (laughs) Well it seems that a lot of people that didn't find it in theaters are finding it on DVD and are giving it a great response.
Jorm: Like another 100 million dollars on DVD.
Chez: That's about 400 million. That was actually one of the highest grossing --
Jorm: Probably a record!
Chez: Yeah, DVD sales and ticket sales.
Jorm: Imagine when it gets to Pay-Per-View.
Chez: See ya later, Will Ferrell!
Jorm: Another hundred right there.
Paul: And do you get all of that 400 million then?
Jorm: You know what? I haven't received a phone call from Paramount yet about that, so I'm just going to assume that we get, like, a fairly large chunk of that.
Chez: I think after 10 years, they write you a cheque.
Jorm: That's just a Hollywood thing.
Chez: Yeah yeah yeah. So you're not going to hear from them for another... 8 years? 9 years?
Jorm: But we should spend money like we have it.
Chez: Absolutely you should! I just bought this sweatshirt! I'm not even get a cut of the profit but I know I'm getting some kind of money my way. I mean, 400 million!
Jorm: Is that gold-plated in there?
Chez: You bet your ass it is! These are platinum zippers.
Jorm: Spend like there's no tomorrow!
Chez: I have been! I'm trying to tell you, I'm standing in Hot Rod money, baby. I've been living well!
Jorm: Yeah... no. We're not rich.
Chez: I'm filthy rich. F***in' filthy rich...
Jorm: ...from other projects.
Chez: Yeah, not from Hot Rod. I don't get money from Hot Rod.
Jorm: Yeah, you just get money from the internet. That's where the real money is.
Chez: YouTube is paying me millions of dollars.
Jorm: I'm gonna have Cha-Ka money in a little bit.
At this point in the interview, the waitress came by and insisted that we all leave the restaurant. It seems that not only was Jorma and Chester's consumption of copious amounts of outside alcohol against the rules of this hipster diner, but their loud and obnoxious conduct was disturbing the fellow diners to the point where literally thousands of complaints were lodged.
As seen in the video recap below, they did not leave quiety. It also appears they can't keep their liquor down very well. Luckily, the waitress who kicked them (and by extension, me as well) out of Café 101 was nice enough to help Jorma outisde, and once they got things out of their system, we parted ways in great spirits.
Thanks for the adventure, Dudes!
NOTE: There have been reports that some individuals believe that the crazy drunkedness and restaurant-expulsion of the above interview transcript was real. This was not the case. Both Jorma Taccone and Chester Tam are upstanding gentlemen, and all of the above-mentioned tomfoolery was done for comedic effect. Except for Chez punching Jorm in the face. That totally happened!
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)