Joel McHale and Emmy Rossum on ‘A Futile and Stupid Gesture’ and Early Memories of National Lampoon

     March 28, 2018

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Now streaming on Netflix is director David Wain’s great new movie, A Futile and Stupid Gesture. The film chronicles the life and career of National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney (played by Will Forte) and doesn’t gloss over his troubled life. If you don’t know Doug’s name, he co-founded National Lampoon with fellow Harvard students Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman and helped grow it from a local college paper to a hugely successful nationwide brand. He also worked as a writer in Hollywood on films like National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The film also stars Domhnall GleesonJoel McHaleEmmy Rossum, Martin Mull, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo TruglioSeth GreenMatt Lucas, and many other faces you’ll recognize. For more on the very funny film, you can read Matt Goldberg’s review.

Recently, I got to sit down with Joel McHale and Emmy Rossum for an exclusive interview. While I expected the interview to be like the hundreds I’ve done before, what you need to know about Joel McHale is that he’s extremely adept at throwing out non-sequiturs and random throwaway jokes that can cause everyone to laugh and forget what they were talking about. Trust me, as you read the transcript below you’ll see what I’m talking about. When we did manage to stay on topic, they talked about the great cast, their memories of National Lampoon, how Emmy Rossum got cast at the last minute, Mr. Robot, memorable moments from filming, what it was like for McHale to play Chevy Chase after working with him on Community, the way they like to work on set, and so much more. Plus, they each talked about future projects like Brian Henson’s The Happytime Murders and Hans Petter Moland’s Hard Powder.

Check out what Joel McHale and Emmy Rossum had to say below.

We’re going to get into why you guys are talking to me, but I have to ask…what is it like being part of a Sundance film (Assassination Nation) that sells for $10 million?

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Image via Netflix

EMMY ROSSUM: It feels great! [laughs]

MCHALE: Emmy you are not in it.

ROSSUM: Shit. [laughs]

MCHALE: Here’s the thing, this is my first Sundance and that was the first movie I was ever in at Sundance, so I know no difference and if this one doesn’t sell for $10 million, then I’ll be disappointed. Right because I don’t… that was the first one.

ROSSUM: Except for… it’s already on Netflix.

MCHALE: Oh shit. So, that’s right. We don’t need to sell it.

It’s only going to 170 countries.

MCHALE & ROSSUM: Yeah… [laughs]

MCHALE: I’m thrilled, and I’m thrilled for Sam Levinson who poured his life and wrote that movie and directed the hell out of it for very low budget and made it look like it was $35 Million dollars and he put together an amazing cast. It’s a wonderfully uncomfortable and very entertaining movie that I have a tiny little part in.

Speaking of wonderful casts, this is a murderers row of talent in this movie.

ROSSUM: What a lovely segway- interns take note.

MCHALE: That was the best segway. [claps] [To interns] Don’t ever do anything… you got that.

ROSSUM: That’s what you do.

MCHALE: That’s the bar.

ROSSUM: Speaking of how wonderful you are- let’s talk some more about you.

[laughs]

MCHALE: [To Interns] Where are you guys from?

INTERN 1: New York.

INTERN 2: North Carolina.

MCHALE: Alright.

ROSSUM: But more about us.

[laughs]

MCHALE: Back to the people in the movies.

[laughs]

First of all-

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Image via Netflix

MCHALE: You like Shameless?

It’s a garbage show. It’s on Showtime right?

ROSSUM: Garbage show. Thank you.

MCHALE: She’s directed two episodes.

I have that note. I did my reconnaissance.

MCHALE: Damn.

ROSSUM: We’re going to spend this whole time fucking up this interview.

MCHALE: Get this man a thumb ring. Can we get this man a thumb ring?

I got news for you, this is only affecting your interview. I’m teasing, but there is Freudian bit of that. I do need to-

ROSSUM: Do the interview.

MCHALE: Oh and Freud hasn’t been debunked at all.

No, he’s accurate to the nth degree.

ROSSUM: I love the cast of this film.

[laughs]

I’m trying.

MCHALE: She brought it back. He did not. Point for her.

ROSSUM: I think it’s incredible. I actually found it a little bit intimidating to be with all these people that have been doing comedy with a big C for 30 years- who’ve been doing sketch comedy, UCB, and improv. That’s not my particular skill set. You want me to use sense memories to cry about dead babies, I can do it all day long.

MCHALE: It was weird when she started doing that in this movie though.

[laughs]

ROSSUM: So yeah, it was incredibly fun.

MCHALE: And now I’ll talk about Emmy and Domhnall [Gleeson]. These jerks who are incredibly good dramatic actors came in and were incredibly funny.

ROSSUM: Phony?

MCHALE: Funny!

No- I heard phony as well.

ROSSUM: I heard phony! [laughs]

MCHALE: They were phony. You know the way she looks and he looks and they’re funny! Bunch of assholes.

I actually agree with that. That’s the most honest thing you’ve said all day.

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Image via Netflix

MCHALE: How do you know? You haven’t been here all day.

I’ve been- there’s a listening device under the couch.

MCHALE: Oh, okay.

ROSSUM: Oh, that’s terrifying.

MCHALE: Okay, that makes sense.

You should always be checking for bugs.

MCHALE: Just like Trump’s offices.

You got that right. I really enjoyed this movie. I grew up watching Animal House and Caddyshack. For both of you- what’s your first memory of National Lampoon? Did you see one of the movies first or read the magazine?

ROSSUM: I definitely had seen Caddyshack, I had not seen Animal House. I didn’t know a lot about National Lampoon except that it was kind of this button pushing, slightly inappropriate magazine that I probably shouldn’t read. When I was a kid, that’s what I knew. Then I learned all about Doug Kenney, when David Wayne emailed my then fiance Sam to ask me to be in the movie about two weeks before we started shooting. They only needed me for 6 days. I said of course, I want to play with David Wain because he has that kind of absurdist humor and I like things that terrify me. Being amidst people that are funny is intimidating, exciting, and fun.

I want to hear your answer, but I want to point out that the way she got in this movie is her fiance. That’s how she was contacted.

MCHALE: Oh, really? He was like-

ROSSUM: “Hey Sam, I want Emmy to do this part in this movie. Can I send it to her? Can I send it to you to send to her?” So many things come through friends, specially if you want to get to someone really quick and you’re shooting in two weeks you can’t wait for their agent’s assistant assistant to read it and then a week later send it to the agent, who doesn’t read it for a week and then you had to cast someone else because you didn’t even read the thing.

MCHALE: I’m going to use this for every time I don’t get a role.

[laughs]

MCHALE: When I met David Wain, we had never met, and he goes, “Why don’t we know each other?” Because we all have the same friends. I was like, “I avoided you.” I knew everybody in the cast practically except for Jon Daly and David Wain. [To ROSSUM] Your story is better. Don’t you think?

ROSSUM: No.

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Image via Netflix

MCHALE: When did you get married?

ROSSUM: 7 months ago.

MCHALE: 7 months ago.

[laughs]

[To MCHALE] And your favorite show is Mr. Robot. That’s amazing.

MCHALE: I like Mr. Robot.

ROSSUM: Do you?

MCHALE: [Stuttering] I really, uh..

ROSSUM: You’ve seen the pilot and you like the pilot.

[laughs]

MCHALE: No, I have not seen a single frame.

ROSSUM: Got it.

MCHALE: I don’t watch anything.

ROSSUM: So you haven’t seen it?

MCHALE: No.

ROSSUM: Wow, that’s incredible.

MCHALE: I’m sorry. Ask me about any other TV show.

I’m going to tell you a secret, her husband is talented. Straight up.

MCHALE: I know.

ROSSUM: He’s like the most talented person not in this room.

MCHALE: I love the story about how Mr. Robot, how NBC is like..nah. Right?

ROSSUM: What?

MCHALE: Didn’t NBC pass and then it went to USA?

I actually don’t  know how it all came about.

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Image via Netflix

MCHALE: I don’t know.

By the way this is so on a fucking tangent.

MCHALE: I thought, I really thought- Maybe I’m completely wrong. Much like when NBC passed on House. Then Fox said, we’d love

ROSSUM: I don’t even think they went to NBC.

I actually think that a lot of networks pass on stuff and then it goes to other places. That’s definitely true. I don’t know the trajectory of all the shows, though.

ROSSUM: It’s a much, much longer conversation. Sam’s the one to tell that story.

MCHALE: Alright. Can you call him up? [laughs] We need to get to the bottom of this.

I gotta tell you the real problem with interviewing him- and he did it with Assassination Nation– is that no matter what you say, he has a witty reply to everything. It is crazy.

MCHALE: She probably can say some witty replies, and she’s using her ring instead of her middle finger to scratch her eye.

[laughs]

ROSSUM: Do you have a question?

I do have a question. He did not answer what his first memory of National Lampoon was.

MCHALE: Oh, I think it’s John Belushi screaming “food fight.” Of all the canon of National Lampoon, that, as a child, I was like, “That man, is part of our lives somehow, and he screams that thing.” Then the yearbook. I never really got the magazine other than, I knew about the dog with the gun to the dog’s head that says, “buy this magazine or we’ll shoot this dog.” I just remember the yearbook would get passed around in 4th, 3rd grade. That was in 1956. So that was my earliest memory. Then of course, when Caddyshack came out- it is now the most popular sports film or sporting film of all time.

It had negative reviews when it came out. People did not like it, it’s crazy. I have to ask you about working with Will Forte. I love him. He’s so talented, so funny. What is it like doing bits with him? There’s a great scene with the check- everyone has heard that story. What’s it like?

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Image via Netflix

ROSSUM: Well, I do some funny stuff in the movie but I am also there to kind of add some depth and grounding to the more darker areas in his personal life. He would do this thing before we would do romantic scenes where he would whisper like, “I just farted.” [laughs] He just loved to make very immature jokes, that would just catch me off guard. I think he just does that. It would really open me up in this weird way, and would make me not overthink what I was about to do. I found being around him- I love everything that he’s done, from Nebraska to all the funny stuff that he does. It was great working with him and he made me feel like I belonged there.

For each of you… memorable moments from filming?

ROSSUM: Food fight. Easy.

MCHALE: I remember the last shot where we’re all singing- the singing part didn’t make it in- but we’re all supposed to be, obviously mourning. Then, I don’t know how you did that but, the amount of water that came out of Emmy’s eyes was alarming. [laughs]

ROSSUM: Martin Mull sings a song at the end of the movie, and they actually filmed us sitting in a big circle around him, while he was singing it. It was supposed to be over the credits but they just ended up using the song. I was so incredibly moved by his singing that I just- I had this big smile on my face and I just was sobbing. Ugly crying.

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