Jamie Kennedy is one of those comedians who has constantly found a way to tap into new ideas that kids can relate to, from his WB hidden camera show “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” to his latest comedy Kickin’ It Old Skool. In the movie, he plays a guy who was in a coma for twenty years after a freak breakdancing accident and has to adjust to life in the 21st Century, as he is challenged into a breakdance competition to win the heart of his high school sweetheart (played by Maria Menounos).
Imagine ComingSoon.net’s surprise when we walked into the room to interview Kennedy, and he was decked out in his full breakdancing regalia from the movie, making us think that he might do the entire interview in character ala Sacha Baron Cohen and his alter-ego Borat. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, and we got a good mix of Jamie Kennedy in character and out, as he talked about “Kickin’,” his documentary Heckler which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as his thoughts on his four-year box office competition with Shia LaBeouf and that aforementioned British comedian who’s known for his own mock rapper persona.
ComingSoon.net: Was the script for this movie something you found or was it something you developed yourself? Jamie Kennedy: It was a movie that I really wanted to do. I wanted to do something in the world of breakdancing ’cause I’d already done a rap movie, and I thought ’80s, breakdancing, who doesn’t like to kick it old school? Who doesn’t like to wear parachute pants, mesh shirts? They’re timeless.
CS: And as we can see, you already had the wardrobe for the part. Kennedy: I had it. I had to get the gloves though. I lost my gloves.
CS: So this was a script you developed? Kennedy: I found the script, then I got a couple of my friends to rewrite it. I went out and found the people, and what was key to making this movie was finding people that were hungry, since this was a lower budget movie. We found people like Michael Rosenbaum to do it, because he wanted to show how funny he is. Maria Menounos wanted to do it because she could be an actress. Bobby Lee, I wanted him really bad and he wanted to do it because no one’s ever given him a bigger part. That was great, and we got our director, a first-time director from Canada, and it was like making a movie with a lot of your friends.
CS: Have you known Bobby Lee for a long time? Kennedy: For years. Just a funny guy, he’s a comedian. I know him from doing stand-up together. He’s great, just like Nick Swardson, who’s blowin’ up, and there’s like another guy who’s just really funny and he’s coming into his own, and Bobby Lee is doing the same thing. He’s just a really talented guy.
CS: Were you able to bring some of the improv stuff that you and Bobby have done together before? Kennedy: We wrote a script that I liked and the actors improv’d all their lines. I was like “What about the script?” “What script?” They just make up stuff, but it’s good though, they’re really good. When you hire funny people, you gotta let them do what they do. We had a lot of stuff that was in the script in the movie, but we also had a lot of improv. The dancing was kind of structured.
CS: Did you have to learn any moves for the movie or did you already have those ready to go? Kennedy: We had to learn some moves. I had to go to a class. I basically could do a couple freezes [At this point, he gets off the couch and does something that looks like half a handstand. Sorry, we’re not cool enough here at ComingSoon.net to know the technical term for it.] You know, stuff like dat . Ugh, now my back hurts.
CS: I guess breakdancing really is a young man’s game, though I’ve heard of guys still doing it from the ’80s. Kennedy: Yeah, there are some hardcore B-boys out there. Still rockin’ it old school.
CS: So is it very common to have those kinds of coma-inducing accidents in breakdancing? Kennedy: A lot of guys actually go bald from spinning on their head, that’s a known fact. People hurt themselves. I hurt my ribs when I broke dance, ’cause I was doing this thing where you do the crab across the floor. I wanted to do a kissing scene with Maria Menounos, and at first she didn’t want to do it, and my ego got hurt. That was the only part that got hurt.
CS: Did you breakdance back in high school? Was that something you were into? Kennedy: You know, I did the worm. That was my move. I say to myself in life, “If people did the worm more, they’d have less problems.” Guy cuts you off in traffic, do the worm outside the car. Taxman’s coming, do the worm. Catch your girlfriend in bed with a guy, find out why she did that and then do the worm.
CS: What was Bobby Lee’s signature move? Kennedy: Bobby’s move was actually he was more of a krumper. He went into this crazy thing and he throws his body and flips it and lands on his back. That’s what he brought to the table and cigarettes. He smokes a lot of cigarettes. He also streaks a lot. He can’t keep his pants on.
CS: I wanted to ask you if you watched “Breakin'” or its sequel before making this movie, but I guess the proper question would be, “how many times did you watch them before making this movie?” Or did you already know them by heart? Kennedy: Well, our choreographer in the movie is O-Zone from “Breakin’.” I grew up on those movies, and this movie is about a guy who hits his head and goes into a coma and comes out in 2006 and he’s still stuck in the ’80s. It’s like “Big” meets “Electric Boogaloo” it’s “Bigaloo.” I watched “Breakin'” at least ten times. I watched “Electric Boogaloo” 20 times.
CS: You watched the sequel more times than the original? Wow! Kennedy: Nah, probably not I watched it twice. They got too soft, but “Breakin'” was great.
CS: Do you think kids today will understand the ’80s references and breakdancing and is all of that still out there in the ether? Kennedy: Actually, I think they will. I think people in their 20s won’t, and then I think people in their 30s will again. It’s like people from like 25 to 30 that got lost in that generation, while like kids that watch “Nick at Night” and all different reruns like on G4, they’ll get that. Then my generation will get it, but there’s a lot group in there. We tried to just make things funny and then if they get the references then they just do.
CS: Do you hope that this movie will introduce a new generation to breakdancing or is it still going on? Kennedy: It’s going on underground a lot, and I hope that kids see it and breakdance. Like “Stomp the Yard” was a good movie and it was dramatic, but this movie was funny. I wanted people to see something that was funny.
CS: It’s funny that there’s such an insane movie dance craze these days. We could make fun of movies like “Breakin'” but there are a lot of huge movies like “Stomp the Yard” in the last few years. Was it easier to get this movie financed because of that? Kennedy: No, it was harder. If something works in Hollywood, they don’t understand why, and this was a totally different thing, ’cause it was dancing, but comedy. We wanted to show that this movie could be just as cool as “You Got Served,” but funny like “Austin Powers.”
CS: It’s been four years ago this week that “Malibu’s Most Wanted” came out Kennedy: I KNOW! What’s the date?
CS: April 18. Kennedy: HA!!! How do you know that!?
CS: I write this weekly movie column and I kind of have things like that stuck in my head for no particular reason. Kennedy: I love you for that! And you know what’s interesting? I’m hoping to get that Shia LaBeouf love, ’cause when Shia’s movie “Holes” came out against us, I called up Jon Voight and said “I’m worried you guys are going to kill us,” and he said “Well, nobody’s going to beat Sandler and we’re going to be #2 and you’ll be #3 and that’s a good spot.” When I had “Son of the Mask,” that tanked, and then Shia came out and did “Constantine,” released at the same time, and now, he did “Disturbia” and that KILLED, so maybe I’ll be following him again.
CS: In case he’s reading this, would you consider formally challenging Shia to a breakdance competition? Kennedy: He’s too hot right now. “Transformers” is going to be ridiculous!
CS: But going back to my question, besides “Son of the Mask,” you’ve been focusing more on TV stuff. Kennedy: Well, I did my show up until June of ’04, “Son of the Mask” came out in ’05, and then that wasn’t really what I wanted it to be, so from there, I wanted to make my own movie again, so it took some time to get this movie going, ’cause I wanted to show what I was like wearing another outfit.
CS: It’s funny that everyone involved with “Malibu’s Most Wanted” is kind of exploding these days Nick Swardson, Kal Penn, Anthony Anderson… Kennedy: I’m good at seeing people who’ve got something in them, and they go and blow up.
CS: Do you consider yourself some sort of comedy shepherd? Kennedy: (laughs) It’s crazy who has lived with me at times. Nick has lived with me at times, Craig Mazen who wrote “Scary Movie 3” and “4,” James Gunn who wrote “Dawn of the Dead” and “Scooby Doo.” I’ve had a lot of different people live with me. Nikki Katt who was an actor in “Grindhouse”
CS: So just living with you is enough for that success to rub off on you. When you have people on set like Bobby who you’re friends with, is it hard to get things done ’cause you’re clowing around a lot? Kennedy: Well, you gotta be serious to get things done, but you’ve gotta have fun, so pretty much everybody was having a lot of fun, but we had someone to structure us and keep going. But you know, if Bobby’s got an idea, you gotta shoot it, he’s really funny. You gotta go with it. Somebody else has something, you gotta try it out. We didn’t have a lot of time, but there was a lot of room to try stuff.
CS: Can you talk about some of the other cameos in the movie? I know there’s the ubiquitous appearance by David Hasselhoff. Kennedy: Don’t Hassel the Hoff, he’s our man. It’s Hoff, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Emmanuel Lewis, Erik Estrada, all the legends. They wanted to know who I wanted in it and those are the guys that affected me a lot in the ’80s.
CS: They appear in flashback or in the modern day? Kennedy: They appear now, and some play themselves and others play very different people and you might double take it.
CS: Can you talk about this documentary “Heckler” that’s premiering next week at Tribeca? Kennedy: Yeah, we’re starting our screenings on April 26 and they go through the third of May. Basically, that talks about heckling in sports and criticism and heckling comedians and entertainers, all the different things that are happening.
CS: There are a lot of people giving interviews for that (including Devin Faraci from CHUD) so how did you get that going? Kennedy: When I was first doing stand-up, I was always on the road with the director of the movie and my specials with me. He said, “We’re getting some good heckles,” and I said, “That’s fascinating, we should start filming them more,” so we bought a couple cameras and he started filming them more. As we started doing that, I started looking around and I saw Joe Rogan and people doing live stuff getting heckles, so I started interviewing comedians. As that was happening, I started reading reviews of my movies, past stuff, and there was a lot of bad reviews, and I’m like “Who are these people and what are they doing?” Then I was finding out about other people and how other entertainers deal with it. I wanted to meet the people who were writing the reviews. I wanted to find out what they we really about, and then I wanted to go to other entertainers and find out how they felt. The first person I really went to was Joni Mitchell, ’cause she actually stopped performing for 12 years because of reviews, and then she wouldn’t talk about it, that’s how much it affected her.
CS: But she talked to you Kennedy: No, she’s not in the movie. I started going after everybody else, like George Lucas.
CS: How much time did you spend getting this together? Kennedy: A year and two months.
CS: That’s not bad, and what are you doing next? You have something you’re doing for FOX? Kennedy: Shot the pilot. It’s basically Lee Majors discovers someone that he can make his guinea pig, but he plays himself and he wants to make that person bionic, and I’m the guinea pig.
CS: If that happens, you’ll have revived another career. Kennedy: Crazy, I’ll be reviving someone from the ’70s.
CS: That would make your official title “Comedy Shepherd and Career Reanimator.” Last question: are you at all resentful of Sacha Cohen for having so much success doing the hidden camera character thing and having success with Ali G? Kennedy: I’ve been asked this question, so why do you think I should be resentful?
CS: It just seemed like you were doing a similar thing on “The Experiment” but it never exploded in the same way as “Borat.” Kennedy: Actually, I met him and he’s a very nice guy. I’m not resentful. I’m honestly excited because he opened up the doors to a new genre
CS: One which you were already doing. Kennedy: But he did it in a movie, and I’d never done it in a movie, so maybe I can do my own version of what I do in a movie. The guy is an insanely creative force of nature, so I give him mad props, plus he was doing it in England, and it was a great movie.