Rob Riggle talks “21 Jump Street” improv, the scene that will make you cringe, and “Call of Duty”


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Over the last few years, there’s been no shortage of classic television shows that have been rebooted, reimagined, or outright parodied on the big screen with various degrees of success. This month, “21 Jump Street” joins that list, and early reports indicate that it could be one of the best of the bunch.

Like the original series, the “21 Jump Street” movie follows a group of young-looking police officers who go back to high school as part of an undercover investigation. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play Officers Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, and are joined by a long list of actors that also includes “The Daily Show” and “The Hangover” alum Rob Riggle, who plays the school’s gym teacher, Mr. Walters.

IFC spoke with Riggle about his experience making the film and his role in some of the movie’s most memorable (and cringe-inducing) scenes, and got a few details about exactly what was — and wasn’t – in the original script. We also managed to ask the actor — who’s also a U.S. Marine — a few questions about all of those “Call of Duty: Elite” ads he keeps showing up in.

IFC: How familiar were you with “21 Jump Street” before you got involved with the film?

ROB RIGGLE: I had an appreciation for the show. I definitely remember it, but I didn’t watch it every week. I remember thinking that it was a pretty cool cast — even then, I recognized that it was a cool cast. I liked the concepts, too. The idea of young-looking cops going back to high school, I had an appreciation for that.

IFC: There’s great chemistry between everyone in the film — especially when you, Jonah, and Channing are in scenes together. It seems like it was as much fun to perform as it is to watch. Was there as much improv as it seems?

RIGGLE: There was a lot of improv, yeah. The script was really tight, and that was great, because we would do lots of takes from the script with notes and without notes and get the scene just right. But then Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord] and Jonah were really good about saying, “Okay, let’s play a little bit. Let’s see what you’ve got.” So we’d improvise and play, and we all trusted each other enough that we felt comfortable bringing ideas and throwing stuff out there to try. I think in the movie you end up seeing a lot of scenes that were improvised, and you can see how it has that loose, natural feel about it. That’s why we ended up cracking each other up a lot, because we kept catching each other off guard.

IFC: There’s one particular scene near the end of the film, involving a certain part of your character’s body, that had everyone in the theater cringing. Without revealing too much, what can you tell me about the scene? I have a feeling there was a lot of improv involved in it…

RIGGLE: Yeah, there was — it wasn’t in the script. That whole thing wasn’t in the script. When we were shooting that night, we discovered it. Basically, I get shot in a specific place, and I start talking about it, and then something happened that wasn’t in the script, and it just heightened from there. That’s the natural process of improv — one thing happens, then another, then this, then that… So we ended up getting a banana from craft services and soaking it in blood to make it look right, and during one of the takes, Jonah started whispering to me to do that with it. I was like, “For real?” But I did it, and it worked.

IFC: It always seems like you’re playing these sort of tough-guy, meathead characters, whether it’s on “The Daily Show” or in “The Hangover” and “21 Jump Street.” Is there a part of you that just wants to play a florist someday? Or maybe a librarian?

RIGGLE: [Laughs] Yeah, if I really wanted to shock the world, I would play an intelligent, romantic lead. Because for the most part, I keep playing big knuckleheads who are like bulls in a china shop.

IFC: Well, with this film in particular, your character has some unexpected quirks — and there are a lot of other twists and surprises in the movie, too. Is it difficult to work on a project that tries to keep so many elements a secret?

RIGGLE: Well, I try to be honest about it and just tell people I can’t talk about it. I don’t want to say I’m superstitious, but I try not to tempt fate too much. And yeah, with this particular character, he has a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of ebb and flow, and things aren’t always as they seem.

IFC: Veering off-topic a little here, I’ve been seeing a lot of you in these “Call of Duty: Elite” ads. I know you’re a Marine and you’ve been in combat, so I get that connection with “Call of Duty,” but are you a gamer, too?

RIGGLE: When I was on “The Daily Show,” I was living long-distance, away from my family. I had a small apartment here in New York, so I went out and got a Playstation 3, because I figured that if I stayed in my apartment, I wasn’t getting in trouble and I wasn’t spending money. Any time you go outside your apartment in New York, you spend money — so I stayed in my apartment and I played video games after I got home from work. I’d walk home from work, stop at Chipotle, get my burrito bowl, go home, eat my burrito bowl, play video games, go to bed, get up the next day, and then do it all again. On the weekends, I’d fly home.

IFC: As someone who’s still active in the military and has seen combat, you must have an interesting perspective on games like “Call of Duty” that the typical player might not grasp. Along with all of the people — both civilians and military — who love the games, there’s also been some criticism of franchises like “Call of Duty” by people who say the games glorify war. What’s your take on all of this?

RIGGLE: I don’t get wrapped around the axle too much on stuff like that. It’s a game. Yes, you can make an argument that it glorifies war — but you can make an argument that chess does that, too. You can make an argument about any of these of things, and that’s okay. You can make that argument. I respect the people who make those arguments, and if that’s how they feel, I’m not going to debate it or fight about it. I have a family, and I have to provide for them. [With the “Call of Duty” ads], I was offered an opportunity to work, and I took it.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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