It’s a premise you wouldn’t normally expect for a mostly improvised comedy: Joshy (Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch) comes home from the gym, on his birthday, no less, to find that his fiancée (Alison Brie) has hanged herself. Cut to four months later: The deposit for the house in Ojai, California, Josh and his friends had rented for his bachelor party turns out to be non-refundable. So … it’s party time! The crew is made up of Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll), Greg (Brett Gelman), and, as the weekend goes on, Jodi (Jenny Slate) and Isadora (Lauren Weedman). By the end of the film, all of L.A.’s comedy scene will have shown up, including director Jeff Baena’s girlfriend, Aubrey Plaza (who he was last at Sundance with her for his first feature, the zombie rom-com Life After Beth), New Girl’s Jake Johnson, and even Paul Reiser. We sat down with much of the ensemble to discuss the dark side of bachelor parties, how much coke they actually snorted, and their love of Panera bagels.
How’d you come up with the idea to make a suicide comedy?
Jeff Baena: Well, [Adam] Pally and I play basketball together, and three or four years ago, he was like, “Dude, I have literally the worst weekend lined up.” And he was describing this awful situation, and even before he went, I was like, “Man, that is such an interesting setup. We should do something with that.” And it turned out to be really great fodder for what we were going to make.
Adam Pally: I did go on a similar trip, and the most interesting thing about it to me was that no one wanted to talk about anything. It was so visceral — everybody wanted to talk about something, but you couldn’t talk about anything.
Do you find something inherently dark about bachelor parties?
Baena: There’s an energy to it that is so foreign and alienating to me. I’m fascinated by the way guys communicate and articulate their feelings. Lauren [Weedman] was saying that she had a lady-friend who had just gotten dumped, and all of her friends descended upon Seattle to help her through her problem. Versus, if something like that were happening with a guy, all the guys would leave the city and try to avoid having any kind of interaction, because it’s messy and weird.
Pally: I’ve been to every kind of bachelor party. I’ve been to the Vegas bachelor party. I’ve gone camping and done mushrooms in the woods. There’s all sorts of ways that dudes bond. And it is dark. It’s a final sendoff — final anything has a dark undertone to it, because you’re saying something will never happen again. Bachelor parties have a huge loss of masculinity because, really, what you’re saying is, “This is your last time to be without someone else that you have to make decisions with.” So people go in there, and their head’s all fucked up. And they’re just like, “It’s my last chance!”
Did you go a little insane working on this?
Brett Gelman: Yeah, I think we did. We all know each other really well, and we don’t really have a lot of boundaries with each other. Especially me. So we’re in a house together, we’re in each other’s faces, we’re doing pretty emotionally charged scenes a lot of the time. That’s not something you immediately shake off. In a normal situation, you go back to your trailer. But nope! You just go in the other room and be around each other. [Laughs.]
Kroll: We were shooting in the houses that the crew and cast were all living in.
Lauren Weedman: I remember there was a bedroom upstairs where everyone was laying on the floor, taking naps on big piles of dirty clothes. It looked like a flophouse.
Thomas Middleditch: It’s a feat that we got out without punching each other, based on how many creative people with egos lived together.
Gelman: Everybody at one point had a bit of a meltdown. “Everybody, you gotta NOT TALK TO ME TODAY!” [Laughs.] We’re used to being very in control of what we’re doing, and being the bosses a lot of the time.
Weedman: Do you mean like, on set, you’re the boss?
Gelman: Yeah, no matter what, I am a boss. Even if I have two lines, I am a boss.
Kroll: Well, also, one of Brett’s famous things is he’ll wear a Tony Danza mask on set, and ask, very emphatically, “Who’s the boss?”
Weedman: I don’t want to laugh at that, but I just fucking did. That’s so mean!
There’s a lot in the movie, but was there real-life substance abuse?
Kroll: Everybody has their own process.
Pally: I mean, yes and no.
Middleditch: Nothing heavy. A few potheads.
Pally: It’s just a few weed Jew guys that had a bottle of red wine every other night. It’s so funny, the stigma of marijuana: “You guys must’ve been fucking partying.” When they called wrap, we’d go into a kitchen, I’d have a bowl of cereal with almond milk, and we’d talk about the day.
Middleditch [in an old-Jewish-man-type voice]: And I tell you, there’s this place called Knead. K-N-E-A-D. They do the best bagels. It’ll knock your socks off.
Pally: I’m from New York, so I can tell you about that.
Alex Ross Perry: I feel like you were really into the cinnamon-raisin bagels with strawberry cream-cheese. Total New York experience.
Pally: Well, if you want to talk about the best New York bagel you can get, you go to this new place, Panera. You get the French-toast-cinnamon bagel. It’s like, boom! Back at the Statue of Liberty!
Middleditch [still in an old-man voice]: Do yourself a favor. That night, go to this little place called Times Square. Go to this little Italian joint — the Olive Garden. They will fill you to the brim with bread and salad.
Pally: You’ll burst! [Laughs.]
Middleditch [still in the voice]: You won’t have room for your entrées. Try to leave room because they’re delicious. So much cream. Trust me, you’ll never have to say to a waiter, “Extra cream.” Never again.
Ross: That’ll be a parenthetical: “Tom is doing an indescribable voice that you had to be there to get.”
Pally: You can’t see me picking this booger on Vulture, right? We’re so gross.
Speaking of noses, what was the fake cocaine you were snorting made out of?
Pally: The answer is powdered sugar, and it really burns.
Baena: Actually, I might be wrong, but I think it’s baby laxative.
Pally: Is that why I was shitting like that?! I will tell you, my bowels were not moving — they were racing.
Middleditch [in the voice]: Unlike after a good night at the Olive Garden.
Any recreational hot-tubbing?
Baena: I honestly don’t like hot tubs. [Alex Ross Perry’s character never gets in a hot tub and goes on rants about the terribleness of hot tubs] — that’s coming from somewhere. It was also cold. You don’t really want to go outside.
Middleditch: We brought board games, but we never played them. At the end of the day, we had a glass of wine, the people who smoked weed smoked a fucking joint, we talked about SNL, and then we went to bed.
Pally: Yeah, it’s really lame to have a bunch of comedy nerds and independent filmmakers —
Middleditch: Yeah, we all just talk shit about comedy.
Pally: The day would end and everybody would be like, “Do you see this video? What the fuck is this guy doing? This guy sucks!”
Ross: I learned so much being around those people who work in the world of comedy, about who the real villains and enemies and hated people are.
Who? Name names!
Pally: No, Alex, please don’t.
Ross: Some of these names I’ve never heard of before. I’d be like, “That’s just a guy on TV,” and it turns out everyone hates him so much, and I had no idea. To me, it’s just someone who turns up sometimes on the TV, but it would turn out that he’s really controversial and everybody has been betrayed by him.
Ross: The shoot was during SNL 40, so in my memory, it was close to a three-hour-long conversation about what Saturday Night Live and comedy has meant to everybody in this cast. Everyone — except for me — has these emotionally devastating audition stories.
Pally: It took me two years to recover from that. Like, a full two years.
Ross: I just sat there learning how sad the world of comedy is.
Adam, I was so fascinated with your story line of a married guy who meets this woman he connects with [Jenny Slate], but nothing can happen and nothing really does. Is he having an affair?
Pally: When you’re married or in a relationship, it’s so interesting to have to be like, Well, now I just have tunnel vision. Now I’ll never make a connection, or I’ll never meet someone new. Because I’m married. But life doesn’t work that way. You’re meeting people all day long in different facets, and you’ve got to be a real closed-off dickhead to not make a connection with somebody.
Middleditch: There’s guaranteed going to be a spark with someone. It’s all about what you do with it.
Ross [who is engaged]: This is very motivational.
Middleditch [old-Jewish-man voice]: The key to marriage is …
Pally: You just gotta cut out those prostitutes, Alex. I hope that’s the last quote.