Annie Mumolo Tells the Stories Behind Seven of Barb & Star’s Silliest Gags

From Edgar’s song to Trish and Tommy Bahama. Photo: Cate Cameron/Lionsgate

Watching Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar feels a little like sitting in on a series of inside jokes, both between the two main characters — a chatty, oft-culotted pair of middle-aged midwestern women — and the actors and writers who play them, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. The two of them came up with the characters while riffing on ideas for the script of Bridesmaids, which got them both Oscar nominations. “The first thing we had were their names,” Mumolo told Vulture. “We were writing scenes for Maya’s character, and when Kristen and I write we inhabit all the roles and speak in their voices, and we ended up writing all this stuff for her mom. We could never put it in the movie, but it was about all her friends at the engagement party. Kristen was like, ‘One day we’re gonna write a movie for these women.’”

Ten years later, Barb and Star finally got to embark upon their adventure to the fictional Florida vacation spot of Vista Del Mar, where they get to sing in musical numbers, have a threesome with Jamie Dornan, and sort of accidentally stop a supervillain’s plot to destroy the town with killer mosquitos. Their strategy for coming up with a name for the film matches the ethos of the whole project: “We were thinking about what rhymes with ‘-ar,’ and just went from there,” Mumolo said. “We wanted to have fun writing and not censor ourselves and see where we ended up.” The result is a purely delightful Lisa Frank–meets–Airplane joyride, and with the film out on VOD, Mumolo talked us through seven of its silliest moments. Spoilers for the plot of the movie follow — and while this isn’t exactly a movie you can spoil, you honestly should just watch it first and circle back here for the sake of shock value.

The Tragic Tale of Sharon Gordon Fisherman

Minutes into Barb & Star, we discover that Kristen Wiig is also playing the movie’s villain, Sharon Gordon Fisherman. She operates an evil lair with her kid sidekick Yoyo (Reyn Doi) and the man (Dornan) she is stringing along with the promise of going official with their relationship, even though she does not actually intend to. Mumolo said that the character arose “organically” out of the needs of the script, in that many comedies tend to involve the characters accidentally falling into a criminal conspiracy, and “we wanted to have fun with that.” Sharon has a skin condition that leaves her entirely white and has sworn revenge on the town of Vista Del Mar for a traumatic incident in her youth in which she was crowned shrimp queen and shot out of a human cannon into the ocean.

But in their original drafts of the character, her history was even more tragic. “Originally, the joke was how long the backstory was,” Mumolo said, and they had a three-page-long speech that covered all the traumas that poor Sharon had endured that was cut down to film. “There was a part where she was at a Miami Dolphins football game and her schoolmates put a thing up on the Jumbotron that said ‘Great White Shark Alert’ with her face. We were looking up everything about Florida being like, ‘What else could happen to someone from Florida?’”

Seagulls on the Sand, Can You Hear Edgar’s Prayer?

While Sharon goes about her evil planning, she strings along Dornan’s bumbling secret agent Edgar Pagét, who eventually snaps and breaks into song about how he’s tormented by his love for her, and his growing attraction to Barb and Star. “Kristen and I always try to work in a musical number,” Mumolo said, “and sometimes it gets approved.” In writing the script, they hedged their bets by putting in a few lines about how Edgar performs a musical number, doing gymnastics and flying around the beach. “We really wanted to have this emotional, sad spy ballad with dancing,” Mumolo said. “Then, when they said they were going to start thinking about how to shoot this and record it, we were like, Ohhh, it’s getting in!

So they launched into writing the lyrics for the song, and recording a demo over the course of two days. As for filming the sequence, Dornan went all in, throwing himself across the beach and running back and forth in the hot sand. “We were like, how much can we do? We don’t want to hurt him!” Mumolo said. Plus, he came up with Edgar’s climactic gesture on the beach. “It was Jamie’s idea to take his shirt off, not because he was like, ‘I want to take my shirt off!’ But that was the most emotionally dramatic thing to do, standing in the ocean with his feelings.”

My Heart Will Club Remix On

When Barb and Star meet Edgar, the three of them end up downing some sort of pirate’s treasure drug in a novelty drink and go crazy on the dance floor to a club remix of Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” before all hooking up. “We were looking for what would be a good middle-aged lady ridiculous dance remix,” Mumolo said. “We were typing in things on YouTube, and Kristen stumbled on that.” They couldn’t get the rights to the version they’d originally discovered on YouTube, and so they made their own specific remix with the help of their music supervisor Justine von Winterfeldt, which you can hear on the soundtrack.

Everyone Needs a Trish

On their flight to Vista Del Mar, Barb and Star chatter on about their love of the name “Trish” and come up with a whole story about a Trish who eventually becomes a water spirit. “That came up as we were just writing and having fun. The run was also very long in the script and got cut way down, thank God,” Mumolo said. “But who doesn’t have that person in their life that they just think would have it all together?”

At the very end of the movie, when Barb and Star are stranded out in the middle of the ocean, the whole Trish riff pays off when Trish herself, in the form of national treasure Reba McEntire, emerges from the water and escorts them safely to shore. “We were shocked when she said she would do it,” Mumolo said. “She came out to Mexico, and she was so magical and just a burst of sparkles as a person. It was like meeting the real-life Trish! She’s all of our patron saint.”

Sage Advice From Tommy Bahama

When Barb goes off on her own as Star is falling deep into a romance with Edgar, she ends up running into the human embodiment of Tommy Bahama in the rainforest. He’s played by Andy Garcia, though the actor is listed in the credits as simply Tommy Bahama. The idea of having the actual embodiment of Tommy Bahama show up came out of Wiig and Mumolo brainstorming all the possible things and people that could occupy the world of Vista Del Mar, and Garcia was their top choice to play him. “I mean, can you think of anyone else?” Mumolo said. “When Josh Greenbaum [the film’s director] was like, ‘We’re talking to Andy tomorrow,’ we were like, What? And then he came and we were like, oh my God!

A Talking Crab Named Morgan Freemand

Completing a trinity of kindly Floridian spirits who help out Barb and Star, there’s a talking crab holding a cigarette who offers advice before inching off into the sea. “One of the things that Kristen and I always had to have a talking-to about is that we put a lot of talking animals in the movie,” Mumolo said. Other drafts of the movie included a squirrel that waved at everybody in the beginning, and a bear family. “The crab, we knew it was going to be a big swing,” Mumolo said. “We had fun with it, and we were just hoping that other people would have fun with it. It was a risk that everyone took. That was the one talking animal that survived, thank God.”

An Ode to Boobies by Richard Cheese

The swanky Palm Vista Hotel that Barb and Star visit, and eventually get to stay in after accidentally booking the Palm Vista Motel, features a lounge singer who opines on his love of boobies and various other topics in the background of different scenes. For him, Wiig and Mumolo recruited actual lounge singer Richard Cheese. “We stumbled upon him on iTunes and got obsessed with him,” Mumolo said, “Kristen went to a dinner party and was talking about him, and someone said, ‘He’s right over there!’” From there, Wiig and Mumolo asked Cheese to come up with some songs early in their process. “We had a lot of different kinds of songs that he sang. He sang about sleep apnea, and how he’s not allowed to eat bacon, and ‘I Love Boobies’ was the one that stuck,” Mumolo said. “It won out!”

The Stories Behind Seven of Barb & Star’s Silliest Gags