However hard we may try, trying to write a funny intro for our interview with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel about their new comedy I Love You, Man could never possibly be as funny as the interview itself, so we won’t waste too much trying.
Hopefully you’ve already read our interview with the film’s writer/director John Hamburg (right here), and know that the general premise involves Rudd’s character Peter Klaven trying to find a best man for his upcoming wedding, which leads to him meeting Segel’s Sydney Fife. If you’ve seen the commercials and trailer, you already know some of the less racy things the two of them get up to in trying to establish a bond, and if you saw Segel’s last movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, well you already know how funny they are together.
See? We told you that writing an intro for this interview would be pointless!
Regardless, ComingSoon.net sat down with the duo and a group of other journalists to lob questions at Rudd and Segel about everything from their chemistry to progressive metal band Rush, allowing us to learn a lot more about the duo’s high school days than we could have ever expected.
ComingSoon.net: Did you guys know this relationship would work while you were still working on “Forgetting Sarah Marshall?”?
Segel: It started a little bit during “Knocked Up,” and we didn’t have very much screen time but we were on the set together a lot, and then “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” it was cool, it was an insulated environment and we were shooting at the same hotel we stayed at so after shooting every day we’d go hang out at the pool bar and we’d really start to get to know each other better then. I think that’s where we got a real chance to improv together a lot and I think we both felt like we were good foils for each other. I think that we’re complementary as actors and then once you know someone’s rhythms like that it’s sort of like a basketball team that’s played together for five years. I know where Paul’s gonna be when I need to do a no-look pass and he knows I’ll catch the lob and dunk it home.
Rudd: For what it’s worth I’m horrible at basketball.
Segel: He doesn’t even understand my analogy.
CS: Were you both Rush fans?
Rudd: I was.
Segel: I was as well. I got to know Rush during “Freaks and Geeks;” I’m a little too young to have known Rush in their prime so I learned about them in “Freaks and Geeks.”
Rudd: Growing up I was actually kind of into new wave music. Rush was the kind of band that guys in my school that scared me and could easily kick my ass would listen to. I remember being a little kid and seeing Geddy Lee on the “Tom Sawyer” video and I found him to be particularly terrifying. But as I got older I started to appreciate the musicianship. I started to kind of get into them. I remember listening to them and being like, “Dude, ‘Red Barchetta’!” So when I heard that they were going to be in this film I was super excited and really nervous to meet them, not because I was scared of them because I’m not scared of them anymore, but I was really psyched. They were great, great guys and it was so cool that they said “yes.”
Segel: They are the perfect band for two guys to bond over and alienate a woman. How many of you girls like Rush? (No woman raises their hand.) What’s funny is they’re aware of this issue. Paul tell that story.
Rudd: When I met (the band) and I was explaining the scene to them, I was so hypersensitive that they would enjoy themselves and not feel as if we were making fun of them because we were not at all. So I was explaining it to them, like, “Jason and I are dancing around and we’re really, really excited, and Rashida [Jones], her character is weirded out by us but she’s kind of bored because we’re totally ignoring her. So that’s what’s going on in the scene. We’re way into it and she’s kind of bored.” And Geddy Lee said, “So it’s just like any one of our concerts.” (laughter)
CS: Has this film changed the way that you feel about man love?
Segel: Paul and I have never had an issue like that. I don’t know. We’re not alpha male type guys.
Rudd: I think that most of my friends for my entire life, we’ve been able to wear our hearts on our sleeves a little bit and might not be considered macho bullsh*t alpha male stuff.
Segel: When Jon Favreau was doing the movie we had an interviewer come to set and Paul and I were there and Jon Favreau is being interviewed and she asked him, “So do you consider yourself a guy’s guy?” and he looked at Paul and I and said, “In this group I do!” (laughter)
CS: Who cracked who up the most on set?
Segel: We certainly cracked each other up a lot. I actually also would crack up at how much Paul would crack up at these references he would think of.
Rudd: I think that Paul cracked up at Paul the most. (laughter) There are many, many things. I cracked up at everybody. Hugo killed me with the whole pissing on my face with the urinal cake. Jason kept doing the toast and would introduce it differently every time. He’d say, “Lets give the food a round of applause” and I’d lose it. I found on this movie more than anything that if I started to laugh I just couldn’t stop.
Segel: The one I remember the most is the breakup scene between Paul and I, which I just thought was a brilliant scene by the way separately from that – to have a proper breakup scene between two male friends I thought was just really funny and when it got to the part about give the DVDs back Paul said, “It’s so funny I just realized I have a set of ‘Arrested Development’ DVDs from a girl that I was dating that she’s gonna want back.” Paul says, “Sorry to ask for these back but my wife hasn’t seen the DVDs yet, she just wants to know what’s going on in the hatch.” It’s funny certainly, but it took 45 minutes for Paul to be able to do it without laughing. (laughter)
Rudd: But this is why. It’s the seriousness and earnestness and saying “That hatch.” It’s a simple thing. It wouldn’t be as funny if it was “The hatch.” It’s so ludicrous that we’re breaking up and she’s just curious about what’s going on in that hatch.
Segel: What made me laugh is I haven’t even seen “Lost.”
Rudd: I have and I know what that means.
Segel: I don’t even think the joke is particularly funny because I haven’t seen “Lost,” it just means nothing to me and Paul is laughing hysterically.
Rudd: For what it’s worth, plenty other people in the crew had seen “Lost” and knew what I was talking about and still didn’t find it funny.
CS: At what point in your life did you know comedy was for you?
Segel: I’ve been 6’4 since I was 12. Does that answer your question? You have two choices.
Rudd: (picks up the cover of a press kit nearby and shows the picture of the two of them) Tell me that hasn’t been digitally-enhanced. The problem is if they put our regular height on it, it’d look too much like the DVD cover to “Twins.”
Segel: You know what else they did besides our height? They also put our faces on in-shape actors’ bodies. But you know if you’re 6’4 when you’re 12 years old kids would stand around me in a circle and one would jump on my back and chant “Ride the oaf! Ride the oaf!” Those are the moments in life where you either go two ways. You become a real jerk or you become funny. My choice was funny.
Rudd: I moved around a lot as a kid and I wanted to make friends and anything kind of traumatic, I’d always deal with those traumas through humor. I was always drawn to comics and funny stuff. I liked watching comedies and comedians and things like that. I was not tough in any way or edgy. I wanted to play football but my mother told me that my bones were growing. You better be funny if that’s case… and I’m Jewish. (laughter)
Segel: I also wore a superman cape under my clothes until I was 12-years-old.
CS: In this movie, Paul, you have to improvise badly, throwing out some of these lines that are so awkward that they’re funny just by being not funny. Can you talk about how you developed that skill?
Rudd: If you can’t tell that I can do that already from this interview. (laughter)
Segel: Can I answer this question for you? That’s the thing that impresses me the most about Paul’s performance. Paul doesn’t like it when I compliment him. He doesn’t. In fact in a minute he’s going to say “This is making me uncomfortable. Can we change the subject?” But honestly when I saw the movie I was really blown away at my performance. (laughter) No I was blown away at what Paul did because in the hands of a different actor that performance could have been incredibly annoying, you know what I mean? Or it could have seemed really, the lines could have seemed like he knew what he was going to say before he said it. Those lines needed to be improvised because that’s what brings the necessary awkwardness and, as opposed to being annoyed with him you empathized with him.
Rudd: Thank you. Thank you for saying so. Trying to overcompensate to feel accepted or being insecure is certainly something that everybody can relate to.
CS: Are there things that either of you went through as a child that made it easier for you to identify with this character?
Rudd: Oh, yeah. I think that a lot of that moving around to different cities for me, both of my parents are British and I’m Jewish and I grew up in the Midwest. So it’s like you have to adapt. My dad is hilarious and my mom, too. I had a sister who was born two and a half years after me and I knew that I had to do something to take all of the attention and that was probably when I started doing that, like, “Maybe if I do this silly dance my parents will laugh.”
Segel: I got lucky because I joined the basketball team when I was 15 years old because I was so wildly tall. There is sort of a built-in group of friends, which is sort of–relating it back to the movie–if you don’t have that thing where are you going to make the friends? It was a built-in group of friends; we were together for four hours a day after school. You become friends. Paul’s character in this movie is a fencer. That’s sort of an individual sport, isn’t it?
Rudd: As opposed to a “flenser,” which is somebody who strips the blubber off of whales. That is true. I read Judy Blume as a young kid.
CS: The two of you just did the cover of “Vanity Fair” where you were billed as the “new legends of comedy.” How does that feel?
Segel: I feel like it’s a gross overstatement. I’ve done one and a half successful movies. (laughter) That doesn’t a legend make. It’s a great headline and very flattering but…
Rudd: I think we were all honored they would ask us to be in the magazine, let alone on the cover.
Segel: The thing that’s most exciting for us is that we’ve known each other for a long, long time and a lot of us have struggled together. I met Seth the day he got off the plane from Canada. Jonah and I basically went to high school together; we went to different high schools but we were only a year apart in the same city. The fact that we made it through what were some tough times for all of us, that was the thing that got me most when I saw the cover, [the feeling of] “Wow. Wow. We did it a little bit.” There’s never a feeling, I don’t think as an actor or as a human being, I don’t think you ever have the feeling of “I’ve arrived.” People ask that “now that you’re on the cover of Vanity Fair…” I don’t buy into that. I think no matter how well you’re doing there’s always the people you still admire. Like I very much admire Paul Rudd, and want to get the parts that he gets. And I’m coming for you! (laughter)
I Love You, Man opens everywhere on Friday, March 20, and it’s at LEAST as funny as this interview if not more.