Still rockin’ his workout attire which is hilarious in itself, Seth Rogen took a few minutes to chat with us about his character in Funny People:
Q: How is the hiking scene?
Seth Rogen: It is pretty brutal. Not bad, not bad.
Q: No offense, but you don’t really look like you would be at Runyon Canyon.
Rogen: No we don’t really. You see the actual people who are here. I’ve been forced to walk Runyon Canyon maybe twice in real life and I haven’t been back for almost six years. There are a lot of very pretty people up here.
Q: Tell us about your character and his relationship with George.
Rogen: I play a struggling up and coming stand up comic who really does not have a strong comedic identity or opinion really even. He’s very naïve and not a very competitive guy, a very nice guy. I live with Jonah and Jason and Jonah is a much more aggressively funny stand up and then Jason is on a TV show, so they are much more successful then me. Then I meet Adam who is dying and he makes me his assistant/writer/emotional outlet. He kind of makes me the person he invites into the world of sickness with him.
Q: Could you relate to this story of having friends in the industry?
Rogen: Yeah, definitely. The competitive aspect is a really interesting aspect of the movie. The world of working in the same field as your friends and being very aware that probably not all of you are going to do that well at it and literally some of the opportunities are only made for one of you and not the other ones and if one of you does it, by nature the other one won’t get to do it. This is stuff we all experience first-hand with our careers. Me and Martin and Jason and all these guys, Jay and Jonah… we’ve all been friends for years and we’ve been in direct competition with each other for roles in movies so I heavily relate to that aspect of it and the desperation of a comic and a person who is trying to find their comedic voice is something that I think is interesting also, but you never really see it in a movie much.
Q: Ira is more naïve and not as ambitious as the other characters? Do you think that is part of the reason that George helps him?
Rogen: I think that he likes that I’m not like him. That I’m not this cutthroat guy who will do what ever it takes to succeed. I’m actually a nice guy, a normal guy and that’s kind of what he needs in his life. He doesn’t need a comedy writer in his life necessarily, he just kind of needs a person to relate to.
Q: You don’t want something from him like some people…
Rogen: I would not necessarily say that. Anyone in my character’s position when confronted with anyone in Sandler’s character’s position is going to see that there is potential benefit there and that is going to play into the movie.
Q: Are the other characters jealous of Ira’s relationship with George?
Rogen: Definitely. All of a sudden I’m the guy he’s kind of picked. Whenever something like that happens there is envy and jealousy, but there is also a real sense that sometimes people don’t deserve the opportunities that they get and that maybe one of the other guys would have been better suited to fill this role in Adam’s character’s life. Again, all of that plays a big part in it. It is stuff that we’ve all literally dealt with, with one another for the most part.
Q: How strained do those friendships get?
Rogen: Pretty strained. Again just like in real life. There are literally people that I don’t talk to anymore over work related issues. Not my choice by any means, it happens. When you all have jobs that are really personal that really… it is your personality. There is no separation of professional life and your personal life that those things can really affect friendships. The movie gets into all that stuff heavily with me and Jonah’s character in particular.
Q: You are a struggling comedian, not that funny right?
Q: But you did stand up when you were young and you went back to it. How hard was it to play unfunny?
Rogen: Not that hard. It has been interesting. There are several phases I guess of my character’s stand up. At the beginning I’m not supposed to be great at it, but you are supposed to see potential, you are supposed to understand why someone in Sandler’s character would hire him to write jokes for him. That was kind of tricky writing jokes that actually were good premises, but delivering them in such a way that you don’t feel like I would be the right guy to deliver that material. Then as a the movie goes along the character is supposed to start finding some comedic voice and start writing material that is more personal to him and a little more poignant and funnier, it is not my life for one thing so to write personal material for someone who is not you creates its own challenges and then to be very realistic about how funny every joke is and where they would fall into the movie humor-wise knowing I am supposed to be a little funnier at the end then I am at the beginning. Really trying to categorize everything like that joke’s funny but it is not personal, that joke’s personal but it is not funny, that joke is funny and personal. Finding out has really been pretty complicated.
Q: Judd said he wanted to write a movie about mentors. Who have been your mentors in this industry?
Rogen: In this industry Judd has really been my biggest mentor I would say. Really him, my friends and all these people you see me work with I definitely learn a lot from, but if I had not had as clear [an impact] as a guy in a power position helping someone who is not in a power position. That is really what Judd did with me. He wasn’t in the same position he is now, by any stretch of the imagination but in the television world at the time it was comparable and he gave me a job and took the time to teach me how to do that job properly, which is a whole other thing.
Funny People opens in theaters on July 31st.