Jay Chandrasekhar on Broken Lizard, Sexpot Comedy and Super Troopers 2
Jay Chandrasekhar comes to Denver Sunday.
There's no better place to spend — or ignore — Father's Day than in the resin-stained hands of Sexpot Comedy. The team has assembled a real corker of a showcase for the Bug Theatre on Sunday, June 19, with comedian, actor, filmmaker and proud father Jay Chandrasekhar occupying the headlining spot. A founding member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, Chandrasekhar co-wrote, directed and starred in the films Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest. He's proved himself equally skilled as a director for hire on shows like Arrested Development and Community, as well as the big-screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard. A true polymath, Chandrasekhar has a joke-telling prowess that's documented in the Broken Lizard Stands Up special; local comics Mitch Jones, Preston Tompkins, Harris Alterman, Christie Buchele and Janae Burris will fill out the lineup. Westword caught up with Chandrasekhar before his Denver engagement to discuss the collegiate origins of Broken Lizard, linking up with Sexpot and the progress of Super Troopers 2.
Westword: Is this your first time performing in Denver?
Jay Chandrasekhar: Denver, yes. Broken Lizard performed in Boulder a few years back, though, which was a barrel of fun.
How did you get linked up with Sexpot Comedy?
I like sex and pot, so it felt like a natural partnership.
Can you give us a rundown of the Broken Lizard origin story?
I started the comedy group at Colgate University. I basically called all of my funniest friends, regardless of whether they were actors or not, and strong-armed them into performing. Though we had no idea how, we wrote sketches and made short videos. The first night, only forty people showed up. The second, 400 came — and we sold out shows three and four. After experiencing that rush of performing our own material, we all agreed that this was something we had to continue.
What continues to bring you all together as performers?
We’ve known each other since we were eighteen years old, so we met before any of us had ambition. We are very connected, primally. And writing and performing with talented friends is hard to beat.
When did you branch out into standup? Do you think your prior notoriety from movies was an asset or liability when you first got on stage?
I started standup at age nineteen. I decided that the only way I was going to try show business as a career was if I could make total strangers laugh. I did a lot of standup from ages 19 to 24, but then stopped to focus on sketch with Broken Lizard. I restarted after a few years and haven’t stopped since. In terms of prior notoriety from the films, it’s helpful when an audience knows you and your sense of humor in advance. However, it’s fun for us to go up in front of strangers — it’s a bit more of a true test of being funny.
Do you have any plans to follow up Broken Lizard Stands Up with a special of your own?
I’m planning on shooting a solo standup special this fall. It will be very similar to the show I’m going to do at the Bug Theatre this Sunday.
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In addition to the Broken Lizard movies, you've directed several episodes of cultishly adored sitcoms like Community and Arrested Development, among many others. How do you think your instincts as a comedic performer manifest in filmmaking?
Like hitting a baseball, comedy is very much about timing. To some degree, you either “got it or you don’t.” Whether I’m performing or directing, I’m aways thinking about rhythm; sometimes it's nailing the right rhythm, and sometimes it’s intentionally breaking the rhythm. Those two things are what make something funny or not. How long a shot is and where you put the camera are all part of that rhythm of directing.
How much input does a television director have over his episode's script on a long-running series?
I get a script from the writers, and I shoot that script. That said, some jokes don’t work, so I’m constantly writing options. I also have a writer on set to figure out solutions for stuff that doesn’t work well.
This is a Father's Day showcase. As a proud father yourself, do you think having kids has changed your sense of humor?
I write a lot of their jokes down. Someday, I imagine, I’ll do some of those jokes. But right now, my jokes are all pretty intellectually dirty, and not kid-based.
I've heard Internet rumblings that Super Troopers 2 is in post-production — though I always take IMDb news with a grain of salt. What can you tell us about it?
We’re shooting the rest of the film in mid-August. We’ll be cutting the film all fall and winter. The film will be released in 2017.
Do you have anything else coming up on the horizon that you want to mention?
I plan to make a hilarious racial comedy called Shotgun Wedding after this.
Spend Father's Day with Jay Chandrasekhar at the Bug Theatre.
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