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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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