Interview Date: 04/09/2010
Run Date: 04/15/2010
David Koechner has been appearing in comedic roles since the mid-1990s, when he was part of the "Saturday Night Live" ensemble, but it's arguable that his real breakout role didn't occur 'til 2004, when he played Champ Kind in "Anchorman" and made the word "whammy" into a catchphrase. Since then, Koechner has appeared on several TV series, including "The Naked Truck and T-Bones Show," "The Office" (he plays Todd Packer), and ABC's short-lived sitcom "Hank," but his most notable roles have been in films like "Talledega Nights," "Get Smart," "Sex Drive," and, most recently, "Tenure," co-starring Luke Wilson. Bullz-Eye talked to Koechner in conjunction with the DVD release of "Tenure," and although we only had a fleeting ten minutes with him, we did the best we could to tackle several of his other performances...and, of course, to get an update on "Anchorman 2."
David Koechner: Hi, Will!
Bullz-Eye: Hey, Dave! How are you doing?
DK: I’m fantastic!
BE: You and I chatted last year immediately after the TCA panel for ABC’s “Hank.”
DK: (Laughs) Okay!
BE: So “Tenure” is by a first-time writer / director. How did you come on board?
DK: I got the script, I really enjoyed it, and then I met with Mike, and his enthusiasm was genuine. I was really charmed by his script, so that’s how I came aboard.
BE: Was there anything in particular about your character that stuck out when you first read it?
DK: Well, I really liked the character of Jay. His passion was what really struck me… (Laughs) …even though it’s misguided. And his friendship, really. I mean, this guy is willing to go to the mat for his friends, so that was really cool, too, I thought. That’s what drew me to it.
BE: So what’s your personal college experience?
DK: I went to college. (Laughs) I didn’t finish. I regret it. Looking back, it’s always easier to think about the things you wish you’d done. I was a Poly-Sci major, and I probably shouldn’t have been, but I thought at the time that that was what I wanted to do in life. I really enjoyed learning, and I really enjoyed just getting knowledge about a variety of subjects. I really loved history. I wish I…I probably should’ve just been a history major and just absorbed all of those things that could’ve led me down a bunch of different paths. But my college experience was that I quit after three years. I quit going to my classes because I realized I was never going to make Senator. It was probably the best decision for me, because I went to visit a friend in Chicago, went to Second City, and I thought, “Oh, my God, this is what I want to do! It’s always been sitting there in the back of my mind, but now I realize…!” It was one of those points where you go, “Oh, there it is! There’s my answer!” So for me, college was a warm-up and a diversion until I found my real calling.
BE: You had quite an ensemble to work with. Obviously, you worked predominantly with Luke Wilson, but who else in the cast were you particularly excited to be working with?
DK: Well, Gretchen Mol is amazing. She really is. I mean, there’s something about her that is beyond charming. There’s an intelligence at work there, and she’s just a real palpable talent that you’re instantly aware of once you start working with her. Luke and I were both kind of blown away by her.
BE: Was there anyone on the cast that you’d worked with prior to this? Luke, obviously, but anyone else?
DK: Yeah, I’d worked with Luke a couple of times before that. But Andy Daly…he and I didn’t have scenes together, but we had worked together before. Was there anyone else? No, a lot of people were locals or were from the east coast. But…no, wait, actually, Michael Cudlitz and I had just been in the same movie, even though we didn’t have any scenes together. He and I were both in “Sex Drive,” and he played the officer in this picture. Now he stars in “Southland.” (Laughs)
BE: Since you’ve brought up “Sex Drive,” I should mention that it’s one of our music editor’s all-time favorite films.
DK: (Laughs) How old is he?
BE: Old enough that you wouldn’t think it would be.
DK: That’s men for you! What are you gonna do? It’s a movie for boys of all ages.
BE: What was it like working on that film?
DK: On “Sex Drive”? Oh, it was fun. (John) Morris and (Sean) Anders, they’re a lot of fun, and there’s a great energy to the way they approached doing the film. Obviously there was a lot of passion, because they’d written it, and it was their first directing vehicle. A lot of the young kids on that picture I had not worked with before, but they were just so much fun and so enthusiastic. It was a real kick.
BE: Do you think that film’s lack of box office success was, like everyone else seems to think, due to the marketing?
DK: You know, there’s too many things to point to, and anyone can try to take apart one thing or another why one film has success and one doesn’t. Certainly that could’ve contributed to it. I haven’t sat down and thought about it, honestly. Who knows? I don’t know what else it was going up against at that time of the year. Those decisions aren’t made cavalierly, right? Nobody wants anything but the best success or the best chance for a movie. It’s like anybody else going out and playing any sport: you have your game plan, you put it out, and either it works or it doesn’t. It doesn’t take but a couple of different things to conspire against a picture’s success.
BE: I brought up “Hank” a few minutes ago. Were you surprised that series got shot down as quickly as it did?
DK: I thought they might’ve given it a little bit more time, but I think the ratings just weren’t there, so…the writing was kind of on the wall. Once they picked up the rest of the shows on Wednesday night…after two weeks, they’d picked up “The Middle,” “Modern Family,” and “Cougar Town” for a full season, and they didn’t pick us up, so I thought, “Ohhhhhhh, boy.” And then we kept getting pre-empted, so I thought, “Oh, those are not good signs.” It was certainly a contrast to everything else that we were paired with for the evening: we were a four-camera family show, and everything else was single-camera and a little bit edgier. Obviously, they were successful, and God bless, but I can understand. Maybe it just wasn’t the right fit.
BE: Was it coming together behind the scenes? Because I know it had taken a little while to come out of the gate.
BE: Did it feel to you like it was finding its feet?
DK: (Long pause) No.
BE: (Laughs) Really?
DK: Do you want the honest truth?
DK: No. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t working. And no one could argue that, really. It wasn’t coming together. I don’t know…again, I’m not in on all of those decisions, as far as why one thing happens. You get an incredible amount of notes, and you’ve got a lot of people who have their feet in this stew, so those are tough.
BE: I suspect it was the angry Virginians, upset about how they were being portrayed in the show.
DK: (Laughs) Oh, I’m not talking about the viewers. I’m talking about the people involved. Yeah, plenty of people give you notes, and that’s always…that’s a difficult water to wade through. I can’t even imagine it. I’m not very good at that kind of thing, suffering the opinions of people who’ve never done it. That’s tough. It’s like somebody telling you how you should write your articles or conduct your interviews, having never done either one. It’s hard to take, isn’t it?
DK: Someone starts telling you how to do your job, and you’re, like, “Have you ever put pen to paper? Have you ever sat in front of a typewriter or computer keyboard and actually had to pull all of this stuff together? Have you done it? Then I’m not sure you’re the best person to tell me how. Did you ever take a journalism class? Did you ever take a creative writing class?” And they’re, like, “Uh…”
BE: (Laughs) Well, I was glad to see you pop back up as Todd Packer on “The Office.” I was stunned. It’d been forever.
DK: Oh, God, that’s fun. That’s always fun. It’s one of those things where I’ve not been able to enjoy something like ten different opportunities to appear on that show because of other work, “Tenure” being one of them. I was out of town, and they said they had a two-episode arc for Packer, but I had to be somewhere else. It’s hard when I can’t do those, because I love that show and it’s so much fun. But, thankfully, they’ve been able to keep me in mind, and every once in awhile I get invited back, which is always a lot of fun.
BE: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
DK: (Considers the question) It’s hard to think off the top of my head, but…”Run Ronnie Run.” That was way back, but I thought that was more fun than…well, it certainly didn’t get much of an opportunity. “Extract,” I really enjoyed that one. I thought “The Goods” was better than what it got, in terms of love from the audience, but it’s a tough time, and you never know about late summer. Either things catch fire or they don’t, depending on how busy people’s weekends are. It’s so hard to know why one project works and another doesn’t, like we were talking about earlier. “My One and Only” was a delightful picture that no one saw, but I really enjoyed it. Those pictures are harder to market, though, too.
BE: You were also in one of my favorite obscurities: “Dill Scallion.”
DK: (Bursts into loud, raucous laughter) “DILL”! That thing was shot on a budget of nearly nothing, but, I mean, that was fun! We took off in what I think was a real tour bus, and apparently they only had $43,000 to make the film, and they just went. None of us knew that, though, right? We’re just happy to be in a movie! (Laughs) But, my God, that was a fun experience. Man, that was some kind of fun picture. And that’s another one where the budget constraints meant that Jordan (Brady) couldn’t quite make the movie I think he wanted to make, but goddamned if that script wasn’t hilarious. I remember laughing out loud…hard…when I read that script. But just because of the finances, he couldn’t make the movie I think he really, really wanted to. But son of a bitch, that thing made me laugh. And it’s so nearly there, that movie. It’s so close.
BE: Last question: I read online that Steve Carell claimed that “Anchorman 2” is finished, that everyone was drunk the whole time, but it’s done. This is probably a lie…
DK: (Bursts into laughter) If Steve said it, it’s true!
BE: Well, if we were to presume that perhaps it isn’t, what do you hear on that front? Probably about as much as everyone else, I’m guessing, which isn’t much.
DK: Everybody involved wants it to happen. Everybody who was originally involved wants it to happen, and they’re trying to make it happen. There’s just a lot that has to happen for that to go down.
BE: Is there a script floating around at all?
DK: A script…? I don’t know. But I know they’ve got ideas. They’ve thought about it. In fact, I’m sure they thought about it immediately. Will (Ferrell) usually doesn’t want to do sequels, just on principle, but this is the only one where he’s thought, “Well, I think we could enjoy it.” I think everybody wants to do it, but now everyone has more children and less time, so all those things contribute to it. Will’s schedule’s busy, Steve’s very busy, Paul (Rudd’s) very busy, I try to stay busy… (Laughs) I’ve got the most going on, so I’ll probably be the hardest to nail down. (Long pause) Do you believe that?
BE: (Laughs) Well, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that everyone has an opening eventually.
DK: Well, I just want to say that it’s going to happen. Because it should happen.
BE: Excellent. Good talking to you again, Dave. Hope we get to do so again.DK: Oh, we will. Don’t you worry!