Jason Schwartzman was in between scenes when we talked to him on the set of Funny People and after chatting with him for a few minutes, we understood why he works so well with the Judd Apatow crew. He’s funny even when he’s not trying to be and we laughed throughout most of his interview as he told us more about his role in the film.
Q: Tell us about the scene we were just watching you shoot?
Jason Schwartzman: You were watching?
Q: We were.
Schwartzman: Oh boy! Thank God I know now. If I had known before I would have been very nervous. The scene we were watching is basically we’re finding out for the first time that something might be wrong with one of our main characters – Adam Sandler’s character. [Seth Rogen’s character] said he wouldn’t tell anybody, then it cuts to him telling us.
Q: What can you tell us about this scene? It’s where you’re smoking pot right?
Schwartzman: That’s the next scene. Seth’s character, who is working with Adam’s character, is telling us that Adam is sick after just telling Adam that he wouldn’t tell anybody. We’re just kind of shocked to hear that he is sick because we’re big fans of Adam’s character’s work in the movie. The main part of the scene is about to be shot where we’re smoking some pot and talking about life and death. It kinda puts the whammy on us. [It] makes us feel paranoid and like maybe we shouldn’t be talking about life and death stuff while on drugs.
Q: Tell us about “Yo Teach.”
Schwartzman: That fits in somewhere between “Dangerous Minds” and “The Cable Guy.” I’m a teacher. I teach some kids that have been written off by society, but my heart is too big to let that happen. I want to make sure they’re loved and treated like humans and get an education along the way.
Q: Will we actually get to see you on the show “Yo Teach” in the film?
Schwartzman: Yes. As of now I get a little nervous because it could end up on the cutting room floor or in the trash can on the desktop so to speak. As of now, you do see some “Yo Teach.” You see my teaching skills.
Q: Are you basing your character off anyone you know?
Schwartzman: There’s a couple of people who I’ve seen rise to fame too quickly before my own eyes. It’s based on them.
Q: How is it working with Judd?
Schwartzman: It’s great. I’ve been a really big fan of Judd’s for a long time since “Heavy Weights.” I’m not to kind of guy who is watching all of these guys make all these movies and go, “Hmmm how come I didn’t get invited to that party?” But now that I’m here, it’s nice to be around. It’s nice to be included. I’m surrounded by really funny people.
Q: Did you meet Judd back in the “Freaks and Geeks” days when you worked on that show?
Schwartzman: Yeah, he was there. I think he directed that episode. I’ve known him through the years through mutual friends. It is kind of a small world. You’re interested in some of the same things. So I’ve seen him, but working with him is incredible. I worked on the Dewey Cox movie. I had a cameo in that so I have worked with him a little bit, but this is really cool. This is a whole different thing.
Q: Do you have any plans to work with Wes Anderson again?
Schwartzman: Yeah I did the voice for his new movie called “Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s a stop-motion animated movie based on the Roald Dahl novel. So it’s me, George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Wait let me reword that – it’s George Clooney, Meryl Streep and me.
Q: Does your character do stand up like the other guys?
Schwartzman: I don’t do stand-up. I’m on “Yo Teach.” They do stand-up to try to get on a sitcom. I’m passed that. My character is rubbing it in their faces.
Q: So Judd didn’t force you to go out and do stand-up like the other guys?
Schwartzman: No and he was just joking with them to go do it. They just fell for it. I don’t fall for that. He’s like, “Go do stand-up,” and I’m like, “Yeah, okay Judd.”
Q: Did you go to the shows and see the other guys do stand-up?
Schwartzman: Yeah I did and they’re really funny. Seth is so funny, Jonah and Adam of course, but he’s done a lot of stand-up. I’ve actually seen Seth do stand-up about 9 years ago in LA. We were in “Freak and Geeks” and he invited me. He was really funny.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about stand-up comedians and what they’re really like? There’s almost a dark side to some of them at times.
Schwartzman: Yeah, this movie touches on that a little bit. You’re always learning about the creative process. The creative process is the most interesting because of how everyone thinks of things differently. Did you see the movie “Comedian?” The Jerry Seinfeld film. That was a really interesting film about stand-up comedy just because the sheer work that goes into it. Just the basic idea of making something look like you’re just kind of talking about it. It’s years of thinking about things and [making] it into 10 great minutes. It’s kind of beautiful. It’s like mining for gold or panning for gold. You pan for gold – you don’t mine.
Q: What are some of the aspects of the Hollywood industry you reflect back on in the movie?
Schwartzman: The most important thing and the least important thing simultaneously.
Q: How would you describe the balance of drama and comedy in the film?
Schwartzman: I have complete faith that Judd is going to balance it perfectly. From what I’ve already seen, just when it gets serious enough it’s packed down by some kind of a joke. When it becomes too jokey, it becomes very serious and real again. I’d be interested only because it seems like something that is very personal to Judd and to Adam. I appreciate watching movies for someone inventing a character just as much as I really appreciate when they’re trying to have no character and do something completely personal and revealing.
Q: What’s it been like working with Adam Sandler?
Schwartzman: I’ve barely worked with him, but I’ve been on set a lot. Our scenes will overlap or our work schedules will overlap. He’s the nicest human being in the world and the funniest person I’ve ever met. He’s so sweet it’s ridiculous. He’s the coolest.
Funny People opens in theaters on July 31st.