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Nick Swardson on ‘Zohan,’ Gay Robots, and ‘Cavemen’

Swardson and Sandler in Zohan.Courtesy of Sony


He may not be a household name just yet, but fans of goofball comedy (and of Adam Sandler) should be well aware of Nick Swardson’s work. In addition to a slew of roles memorable for their general oddity (Hector the Stalker! Terry the Rollerskating Gay Guy!), he also graced the screen in Click and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry — and now he’s teamed up with Sandler again for the Vulture-befuddling but Edelstein-recommended flick You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, which hits theaters tonight. Swardson talked to Vulture about his weird career trajectory, his self-professed tendency to be a “fucking dork,” and his guest appearance on the Best. Show. Ever. (No, not that one.)

Tell us about your character in the film.
Well, Adam Sandler is playing an Israeli counterterrorist who's decided that he doesn't want to kill anybody anymore. So he fakes his own death and moves to New York to cut hair, and in New York he meets my character on the street. Then he moves in with me and my mother. I'm basically his first friend in the city.

Can you let us in on anything about the film that hasn't been reported yet?
It's all in black-and-white, and there's no sound. Kidding.

It’s about an Israeli counterterrorist-cum-hairdresser getting chased by Hezbollah wannabes, right? Does it ever get controversial?
Not at all! Like, Rob Schneider’s character finds out that Zohan is still alive in New York and only faked his death in Israel, and since he's a Palestinian cabdriver, he figures he can get a lot of fame and attention by capturing Zohan.

So this isn't Munich.
No way. It's just a warm-hearted comedy saying, "Look, let's just get along."

You have an unorthodox IMDb history: You were the stalker in Blades of Glory, an insane Bowie fan in Almost Famous, a bewigged weirdo in Benchwarmers. Why are you drawn to those roles?
I was thinking about that other day! I swear I wasn't consciously deciding that I wanted to be a huge weirdo.

You also have a history of playing people with crappy jobs, like a furniture salesman on Cavemen, and you played a Bed, Bath and Beyond employee in Click. Did you ever have a job like those before you started acting?
I used to be a busboy at Planet Hollywood. I was, like, 18. And I remember — this is so corny, I don't really want to tell you this — but I remember looking up at the wall and thinking, One day I'll be up there. I'm such a fucking dork.

We read that you began work on a TV pilot called The Gay Robot. Any plans on developing that?
We're finishing up the pilot for Comedy Central. It's a show about a professor who creates a robot who turns out to be gay. David Faustino plays one of the leads, from Married … with Children. It's basically like a day in the life of a gay robot.

You guest-starred on Cavemen, which means we're honor-bound to bring up our editors' unabashed adoration for that show.
Really? I don't know if I believe you.

Sample Vulture headlines: "In Cautious Defense of Cavemen"; "Cavemen Actually Pretty Good!"; "Cavemen Continues to Be Funny, Despite Everything"; "Please, ABC, Don't Cancel Cavemen!"
Oh my God. Are you kidding me? Really? That's hilarious. I don't even know what to say. Usually people are like, "You were on Cavemen? Why?"
—Annsley Chapman