In the rapidly changing world of pop culture, very few comedy troupes manage to survive with a strong base for more than a few years. But the five men behind the Broken Lizard filmmaking team have managed to succeed at creating an impressive array of outrageous comedy projects for more than two decades.
In fact, the Lizards are riding a wave of renewed interest in which they raised nearly $5 million from crowdfunding to finance “Super Troopers 2,” the sequel to their biggest hit, which will appropriately be released on the stoner holiday of April 20 (aka 4/20).
On Saturday, Jan. 13, members Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan will team up as a duo (the other Lizards are Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) to tape two shows at the Alex Theatre in Glendale for use in a special to be released in April.
“Steve and I have been doing standup together eight or nine years, and between Broken Lizard projects we go on the road,” says Heffernan. “We’re shooting a special at the Alex, and it’s the third we’ve shot. The big appeal is that the tickets are under $10 and we have seven cameras filming a really big show.”
Lemme and Heffernan each plan on doing a standup comedy set, with the two joining together in the middle of the show to tell an outrageous behind-the-scenes story from the making of “Super Troopers 2.” The “Super” films follow the misadventures of five Vermont state troopers who constantly play pranks on each other and citizens in order to stave off boredom.
“Kevin and I have a love scene together and we’ll talk about how awful it was to shoot that,” says Lemme. “The show’s pretty rowdy, about 75 minutes long, and of course we’ll do some beer drinking with the audience. It’s all-inclusive, so even if you haven’t seen the movies, you can still come to the show and have a good time.”
The special follows the crowdfunding campaign the Lizards ran for the sequel, which they created after Fox Searchlight studio offered to release the film if they raised the money to make it. While the budget was larger than the $4.6 million they raised, Lemme notes that that success laid the groundwork for bigger investors.
Among the perks offered to donors were a series of 50 upcoming special screenings across the country, complete with after-parties. Among the other perks were admission to the sequel’s premieres in Los Angeles and New York, including a $1,250 VIP-level red carpet experience that includes an after-party that they promise will enable donors “to come black out with us.”
Such amenities are not surprising coming from the Lizards, who met as students at Colgate University in 1990, and whose comedies focus on shenanigans driven by heavy doses of alcohol and pot. They developed a communal approach to their work, with Chandrasekhar and Heffernan serving as the primary directors of their films and live performances, and the entire team writing and acting, and no one possessing greater power than others in choosing material.
While the first “Troopers” in 2002 was their biggest box office success by far, their 2006 film “Beerfest” has also enjoyed a large cult following for its depiction of a secret, centuries-old competition described as a “Fight Club” with beer games held secretly during Germany’s Oktoberfest.
“We consumed a lot of beer making that one, but not all of it was real,” Lemme notes. “When you’re shooting a scene at 6 a.m. on Monday morning with 12 more hours of shooting to go, it’s not prudent to chug alcohol, so we waited for the end of the day to shoot the hard stuff.”
“It’s become a polarizing topic amongst ourselves and our fans whether we should make a ‘Beerfest’ sequel or move on to ‘Potfest,’” adds Heffernan. “We referred to ‘Potfest’ just as a joke at the end, but every Hollywood stoner contacted us saying ‘I’ll do that movie.’ Then fans started clamoring for it. We’re trying to figure it out now, but I think it’ll be ‘Potfest.’”
Explaining that Broken Lizard has endured for 21 years because its members allow each other tremendous outside creative freedom, Heffernan says they are aware that “Hollywood has its ebbs and flows,” and their simple goal is to do well enough to merit making another film. But he’s also proud of the fact that their brand of comedy has been unaffected by the controversial trend of political correctness censoring many comics.
“I don’t think we had to pull any punches for PC reasons, because ‘Super Troopers’ hit the sweet spot of being apolitical,” says Lemme. “It has a huge following in both blue state and red state people. We’re going to bring people together. If it makes the five guys in the group laugh, it’s going to go into the movie regardless of what’s PC. We don’t get too caught up in what the outside world lays on you.”
Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets are $9.50, and attendees must be 21 and over. Call (818) 243-2539 or visit alextheatre.org.