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Chris O’Dowd on Friends With Kids, Joining the Judd Apatow Crowd, and Sexless Marriages

Chris O’Dowd. Photo: Patrick McMullan

He was super loveable as Kristen Wiig’s cop suitor in Bridesmaids, but sit down with Chris O’Dowd at the end of a long day of junketing, and, well, he’s still super loveable — but he’s also likely to curse at you a lot and answer your questions with a hint of sarcasm. This is called Irish charm, and Vulture was treated to a dose of it at the Waldorf Astoria earlier this week. O’Dowd was there to promote his latest movie, Friends With Kids, which follows a group of thirty-somethings as they start to pop ‘em out: Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote and directed the film, and Adam Scott are at the center of the story as besties who decide to procreate while dating other people; then there’s Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm as a couple that went from being in heat to in hate; and O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph as marrieds who have hardly any sex but still, deep down, love each other. We spoke with O’Dowd about promoting a hard-up character while being newly engaged, getting in with the Judd Apatow crowd, and going to children’s birthday parties.

You play a guy in a nearly sexless marriage. But at least you’re a sweet couple?
Thanks! I love it because I buy it, and it feels very familiar to people I know. Also, it’s okay: You don’t have to fuck all the time to have a great relationship. [Laughs.]

I love that you’re promoting this movie right around the time you got engaged.
Oh, yeah. I’m really looking forward to having less and less sex. That’s really what I’m looking forward to. I don’t like to be too happy.

Because you’re a comedian.
Because I’m a Catholic.

Well, Irish-Catholics have a lot of sex, don’t they? They have all those kids.
No, it’s just that on the few occasions that they have it, they’re completely out there on their own, sperm-wise.

For the table scene with the whole cast in it, you and Maya are sort of off at the end of the table. What were you really saying over there?
We were probably trying to make Kristen or Jon laugh. It was a lot of Charlie Chaplin-playing-with-bread-rolls stuff. Me being stupid and unprofessional. Probably had a half-glass of whiskey under the table.

I imagine there wasn’t as much improvising as you’re used to since you only had 24 days to shoot the movie?
There was a little. If we had time, maybe we’d have messed around with it a bit, but it was written really well. What I think improv is great for is making dialogue more natural. Maybe adding a joke or two along the way. With this one, the dialogue was very naturalistic already, so it didn’t need a lot, and I don’t believe in doing it just for the sake of doing it. I think it can be really helpful, but sometimes it can be an ego thing.

I’m glad the word cougar didn’t make it into the script in the scene where you and Maya talk about her being the older woman. I hate the word cougar.
I have a friend who is embroiled in this cougar thing at the moment. It’s bizarre. She’s going out with a guy in a boy band. But cougar wouldn’t be in my wheelhouse of words.

How do you feel being called an up-and-comer even though you did The IT Crowd and you’ve actually been working for a long time?
I don’t mind it. I guess it’s better than being a down-and-goner. Fuck it.

Has Hollywood surprised you at all?
It’s been a piece of piss. It’s been surprisingly inclusive.

Yes, you are in with the Judd Apatow crowd.
It’s funny, I was talking about this with my fiancée the other day: Two-and-a-half years ago we’d went to a party or a keg or something — actually, it was at a Louis CK show, we went and saw Louis CK. And afterwards, we went for drinks in the green room or something, and there were just a bunch of people there, and Judd Apatow walked in. I’d never met him. And I just had gone over to L.A. maybe five or six months previously for the first time, properly, and tried to make a go of it there. And I pointed him out and was like, “Oh my god, that’s Judd Apatow.” And Dawn [Porter, his fiancée] was like, “Who’s that?” And I realized in that moment, I said, “He’s kind of the reason I’m in L.A.” And then, you know, six months later I was doing a film with him. Now I’m doing another one [This Is 40]. It’s been stupidly fortunate.

We don’t know too much about This Is 40 other than that it follows the characters played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in Knocked Up. And it’s going to be a mix of comedy and drama?
I think so, yeah. My stuff is very comedic, hopefully. If it seems like parts of it aren’t dramatic, that’s just bad acting.

And you’ll be opposite Paul Rudd a lot, because your character works with Pete at his record label?
All my stuff will be opposite Paul, I think. I work for Paul’s record company. I’m the kind of naysayer who’s just going to say, “Yeah, all of your ideas are terrible.” I’m just a shithead. I’m an asshole.

Are you the sharp-dressing, shark-type music exec, or the type who wanted to be a musician himself but couldn’t cut it?
I think he’s a mixture of both. He’s not sharp. I’m like a guy who lives in Williamsburg. He’s a hipster. But really not cool. He has the skinny jeans and an ironic mustache but also a beer belly and a hatred for himself.

Do you get to keep your Irish accent?
I do.

I feel like since you broke out in America with the accent, you’ll get to keep it in all your movies. Although, you do have an American accent in Friends With Kids.
I bet, though, if they had seen the Bridesmaids before they shot this, they probably wouldn’t have asked me to do an American accent. I should ask them. It has become, suddenly, absolutely acceptable. Whereas I used to go for auditions all the time and people would be like, “Well, I don’t know. An audience wouldn’t like that. They’d be like,Why’s he talking funny?”

You’re 32, which puts you right in the sweet spot for what the movie is about. Are your friends starting to have kids?
All of ‘em. All of ‘em are fucking doing it behind my back, almost selfishly; not taking our friendship into consideration and just going off and ruining their lives by having children. In the last year, three of my friends have done it. I just don’t know them anymore. No — it’s good; obviously, it’s great. But I don’t see them as much, and whenever I do I have to hang out with this little, flabby-skinned shit who’s terrible at drinking games.

Wait, kids have flabby skin? Or are you talking about the mothers?
The kids! Fuck them.

So I guess you don’t show up at many 1-year-old birthday parties?
Not at all. That’s not a party. Just because it’s a birthday doesn’t mean you can call it a party. It’s not a party if there are 11-month-olds at it.

Chris O’Dowd on Friends With Kids, Joining the Judd Apatow Crowd, and Sexless Marriages