Nick Offerman & Zach Galifianakis hit comedy gold in ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ Q&A

03.18.13 4 years ago

Tribeca Films

Note: Tribeca Film has just added an additional week-long run of the film in Los Angeles beginning on March 22 at the Sundance Sunset Cinema (8000 Sunset Blvd).

Nick Offerman can add “theater usher” to his official resume.

The heavily-mustached “Parks and Recreation” star literally held the door for me as I stepped into a screening of his latest film – writer/director Bob Byington”s indie comedy “Somebody Up There Likes Me” – at the Silent Movie Theater on L.A.”s Fairfax Avenue yesterday evening. Dressed casually in a beanie, jeans and cowboy boots, Offerman was on hand for a post-screening Q&A with special guest moderator Zach Galifianakis (previous moderators included Offerman”s “P&R” co-star/future “Guardians of the Galaxy” leading man Chris Pratt and “Bored to Death” star Jason Schwartzman). The event was just one stop on the actor’s six-city screening tour of the film that’s scheduled to hit cities including Chicago, San Francisco and New York (Austin hosted the premiere of the film at last year’s SXSW).

“Somebody,” Byington”s fifth full-length feature, is a quirky, deadpan black comedy with a very specific (read: offbeat) point-of-view that I suspect will delight the Austin-based director”s preexisting fanbase (though this is admittedly the first film of his that I”ve seen). Centering on an emotionless slacker named Max Youngman (Keith Poulson) and his one and only friend/sometime-coworker Sal (Offerman) as they virtually float through life (neither of these men seems to care about much of anything at all, an intentional conceit on Byington”s part)m the film also stars indie darling Jess Weixler (“Teeth,” “Peter and Vandy”), Stephanie Hunt (“Californication,” “Friday Night Lights”), Marshall Bell (“Twins,” “Starship Troopers”) and Offerman”s real-life wife, former “Will & Grace” wisecracker Megan Mullally. Oh, there”s also a magical suitcase that emits a strange sparkly glow whenever it”s opened, though Byington – instead of explaining the receptacle’s mysterious origins – instead urges the audience to use their own imaginations in accounting for its seemingly supernatural qualities.

Following the screening, which was received very warmly by the sold out crowd, Offerman and Galifianakis took the stage to talk about the film, which ranks as Offerman”s third feature with Byington following 2008″s “RSO: Registered Sex Offender” and 2009″s “Harmony and Me.” Aside from their penchant for sporting abundant quantities of facial hair, Offerman and Galifianakis boast a simpatico comedic sensibility that made the Q&A a crowd-pleasing and wonderfully idiosyncratic affair, with the assembled audience eating up every last word of the pair”s pseudo-strained onstage conversation. Following are the night’s 15 biggest highlights.

1) On director Bob Byington”s quirky sense of humor

Nick Offerman: “I love this movie. It has very beautiful women in it, and also some guys. And I’m a big fan of the writer/director. I’ve worked with him a few times before. I’ve known him for 15 years. And I think he has a really smart sense of humor, with which he protects his heart from the world.”

Zack Galifianakis: “Woah.”

2) On awkwardly entering movie scenes at the tail end of a conversation

Galifianakis (riffing on a scene from the movie): “I love…walking into conversations where it’s just ending…like when a waiter comes up and I’m with somebody else, I’ll always end the conversation so it’s awkward around the waiter. ‘So yeah, my sister and I are platonic now [to imaginary waiter] I’ll have the uh…’”

Offerman: “I like to do the beginning of scenes, when you’re rolling into a scene eight times, and you’re leaving a table of two ladies: ‘Yeah, just rub some butter on it.’”

Galifianakis: “I once was in a bank with my friend and he was at a teller, and…you know, those teller drive-thru things. They have a microphone so they can hear you with the glass. And he had hooked up with a woman the night before who was not too…um…clean. And he just said to me in the car ‘yeah, I can still smell her pussy.’ And the teller in the bank heard it. [Laughter] Aaand that’s how I met my wife.”

3) On the casting process

Offerman: “Keith [Poulson], the lead, sort of the best story, he was a friend of the lead two movies ago. They worked in a video store together. And he tagged along and ended up holding the boom for this movie ‘R.S.O.: Registered Sex Offender.’ And he was very charming, and we all loved him. He’s obviously annoyingly winning and cute. And so then the second movie he came back to hold the boom and Bob said…he was having trouble with a scene, and he said, ‘Keith, sit in that chair.’ And he just put him in the movie, literally took the boom away from him.

“Bob likes to say that his character and his performance are the reason that movie works. It’s called ‘Harmony and Me.’ And there are actually many reasons it works, it’s very good. So then Bob wrote these two parts for me and Keith because we have a rapport that he likes in dealing with his language. And Jess Weixler we were very lucky to get. She’s sort of a darling of indie movies, and incredibly talented and adorable. The only person I think who had to audition was my wife Megan. We had a lot of trouble getting her to just hit the right notes.”

Galifianakis: “How did that play at home?”

Offerman: “It was tense. It was a tense six or seven months. Stephanie Hunt, Bob found her in Austin, and she’s something like 23 years old. She’s something like 23 years old, she’s just gonna explode into superstardom. She’s so beautiful and talented.”

Galifianakis: “Oh, it must be fucking nice to be pretty in Austin. Be a fucking boom operator and end up in a goddamn movie. I guess I shouldn’t have done those 41,000 open mics. Should’ve got into the boom operating world…fuck. I’m driving to Burbank to audition for some shit-com.”

Offerman: “Sound department’s the way to do it.”

4) On screwing up the meaning of words (a recurring gag in the movie)

Galifianakis: “I think I’m that person a lot too. It”s really funny not knowing words, it makes me laugh.”

Offerman:  “…It’s something…a sense of humor that [Bob and I] share. But he especially…they’re peppered throughout the film where he makes fun of people for…pokes fun at [them for] not knowing the etymology of a certain five-dollar word. “

Galifianakis: “My uncle used to…he would do those things, and he would say things, but completely serious. Never trying to be funny. ‘Don’t talk about your uncle behind my back, I have ears like a hawk.’ [And I would say] ‘Uncle Scooty’ – that was his name, Scooty – ‘Uncle Scooty, hawks…they don’t have ears.’ He was the manager of a restaurant in New York I worked in, Tequila Willie’s. And once we were sitting at the bar, I was counting my tips – in change – and he says to me, ‘Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t even look.’ So I didn’t look. And he said, ‘Do you know who that is?’”

5) On Offerman”s tour to promote the film at screenings around the country:

Offerman: “Tribeca Films is behind this release. We’re opening at six cities like this across the country, and I’m traveling and doing a weekend in each city. Next weekend is San Francisco, if you guys would like to join us at the Roxie Theater. Jerry Lewis is gonna be doing a Q&A with me, and then Mel Brooks…[pauses]…that’s not, that’s all false.”

6) On the production budget

Galifianakis: “What’s the cost of something like this? What does a movie like that cost to make?”

Offerman: “I think we shot it for the mid-to-low-six figures, and by the time we added in all the post costs and whatnot, and the production costs for online promotional videos, it landed somewhere like the mid-six figures.”

Galifianakis: “Is that including the comma, or…?”

Offerman: “No. “

Galifianakis: “I always get confused when people throw numbers around like that.”

Offerman: “It’s seven spaces, but six figures.”

Galifianakis: “So we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, not tens of thousands of dollars. “

Offerman:
“Correct.”

7) On the magical suitcase

Galifianakis: “Does anybody in the audience have a question that they would like to ask? Because I thought it would be fun to take some from the audience…a Q&A. I have a really big rapport with people on Fairfax. Fairfax is one of my stronger streets. If this was on De Longpre…”

Audience member: “The suitcase. Tell us about the suitcase.”

Galifianakis: “Yes, tell us about the suitcase. I was gonna get to that, but…”

Offerman: “That was actually more of a command. You can turn it into a question.”

Galifianakis: “Yeah, this is not a C&A.”

Offerman: “You can turn it into a question with one magic word, sir.”

Audience member: “Please.”

Offerman: “Oh, thank you. The suitcase…contained within the suitcase is the magic and poetry of the film. That’s what the filmmakers would like you to…that’s the very question we would like you to answer for yourself. But I will share a tidbit about the suitcase. At the last second in post-production…we used to have a little epilogue that came after the credits that said ‘Four Years Earlier.’ And it was my character Sal jerking off into the suitcase. Which is still open to your interpretation. I like to think it’s my homunculus in the suitcase. But certainly it’s some sort of sparkly jizz.”

Galifianakis: [to the man who asked the question] “Is that what you wanted?”

8) On the musical score

Offerman: “Bob works with music very intricately. Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend was our composer. And he was…”

Galifianakis: 
“That’s what I go to…[to] camp out for ‘Twilight’ tickets. Oh no, they”re wolves, nevermind. I was trying to say that had a vampire weekend, it doesn’t…go ahead. But I think they’re wolves, they’re not vampires. Anyway, the music.”

9) On Offerman”s relationship with fellow producer Hans Graffunder

Offerman: “Our producer came to us…I produced this film, and we had a second producer named Hans Graffunder, who is the…”

Galifianakis: “Who?”

Offerman: “Hans Graffunder.”

Galifianakis: “Come on.”

Offerman: “When we angered him we would say ‘The Graffunder rules.’ And he is a bad-ass. He was on ‘The Sopranos’ as a producer for five years. Now he’s Terrence Malick’s producer. And he happened to find the script and he wanted to make the film with us. And we never could’ve done this [without him]…he was the dad, and I was like the dad’s drunk cousin.”

10) On the casting process, Part 2

Offerman: “We cast people that obviously could handle that tone. If somebody had read the script and didn’t respond to it, then we weren’t interested. They had to say, ‘This is super funny.’ And we’d say ‘okay, now let me hear you talk. Now walk over there. Great, you’re hired.’”

Galifianakis: “Shit…did you look at people’s headshots?”

Offerman: “No, we would have them hold a sound boom.”

11) On Offerman”s future as a feature-film producer

Galifianakis:
“Are we gonna [be able to] look forward to more Nick Offerman-produced movies?”

Offerman: “I don’t know. I don’t aspire to produce or direct, but I’ve done both of those recently because my friends asked me to in a collaborative spirit. And it was really fun, and anytime I feel like I can safely not fuck up the project by having an influence on it, I love to work as hard as I can.”

12) On Austin”s lamentable scarcity of late-night dining establishments

Offerman: “We had a lot of like three or four a.m. meetings at the Denny’s. Which by the way, if anyone has any influence in Austin, open up a place that serves good food between midnight and 6 a.m., please. You’ll do killer business. Just some decent fucking bacon.”

Galifianakis: “This should be your next film…: ‘Decent Fucking Bacon.’”

13) On running the LA Marathon (but not really)

Galifianakis: “How was your…what was your time at the marathon today?”

Offerman: “There are two…I have a different time than my dad. He says that I was…that I basically turned in 26 thirteen-minute miles. I had more of like 12:57.”

Galifianakis: Because I passed you at the Koo Koo Roo.

Offerman: “You did.”

Galifianakis: “It was a good race, a hell of a race. I placed fourth this year. Surprised the shit out of me. I’m happy about it. It’ll be in the LA Times tomorrow.”

14) On preparing for his role in the film

Galifianakis: “I always hear of actor people that do diets and sleep well, and…do you get into a whole rigamarole, like Daniel Day Loo-ha?”

Offerman: “Not on an indie film in Austin. …I mean, it’s expensive to do that, where you have like a team of people preparing your nutrition and your schedule. I just ate a lot of BBQ and drank a lot of beer.”

15) On Offerman”s future projects

Offerman: “I’m doing a play here in town with my wife at the Odyssey theater called ‘Annapurna’ that opens April 25th I believe and runs into June. I hear it’s gonna be fucking wicked. I said that to my mirror this morning.”

Galifianakis: “You didn’t say it was gonna be like ‘Wicked.’”

Offerman: “No.”

“Somebody Up There Likes Me” is playing in select theaters now. The film is also available via VOD, iTunes and Amazon. You can check out a list of cities and screening locations (including showings at which Offerman himself is scheduled to appear) over at the film’s official website.

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