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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.