If “funcomfortable” is a form of entertainment that Larry David popularized in the U.S. with “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” then Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam have made it a worldwide phenomenon with “Klown.” A comedy about two men – appropriately named Casper and Frank — who kidnap a teenager in order to convince Frank’s girlfriend that he has suitable “father potential,” the duo test the limits of bad behavior and, eventually, good taste with a series of set pieces that are as raunchy as they are hilarious. But Christensen and Hvam have been collaborating for years on a “Klown” sitcom in their native Denmark which not only introduced their transgressive style, but gave them a landscape to perfect it for this film.
IFC recently joined Christensen and Hvam in Austin, where “Klown” distributor Drafthouse Films hosted a cone trip to commemorate the film’s naughty journey. A few dozen beers later, we sat down with the duo to talk about their film, which opens today in limited release. In addition to explaining how the film fits in with the series (which will hopefully soon be debuting stateside itself), Christensen and Hvam examine the deeper themes that lurk beneath their anarchic comedy.
IFC: How much did you look at this movie as a coda to the television version of Klown, or a finale?
Frank Hvam: I think it was thought of as a kind of finale actually and a new challenge of course because the episode is only 25 minutes and a movie is a complete other deal.
Casper Christensen: It seems like really a project in itself. We knew and took it very seriously that this is not the television show.
Hvam: We put ourselves in school again.
Christensen: This is a movie and we have to forget everything we know about how to write for television, but just hold on to the characters.
Hvam: I have a lot of series trying to make a movie without success. It’s hard. So we were extremely concentrated.
Christensen: It is hard. Everything that works in a television show might not necessarily work in a movie.
IFC: The film talks a lot about what is means to be a man, and a father. How consciously did you guys think about that in constructing even the basic narrative?
Christensen: It was the most important. We came up with that theme, the theme stayed, the logline, it was so important to us. ‘Every man has the right to become the father he’s capable of.’ That’s what this movie’s about. And we had to have that in front the whole time, even with the fun stuff, the sex scene stuff, the stupidity, everything, this is what it’s all about.
Hvam: I got children at an old age and when I got those children, my life was simply perfect. I had my life as it should be, and then I guess I met these two boys, and they ruined my life completely. But I think its important for us to say that if you become a dad, there’s a 100 ways of being a good dad – you don’t have to leave the city, you don’t have to quit your job to spend more time with your kids, you have to keep on going with your great life, and then the children have to accept you as you are, because you can’t ruin your own life to create a life for them.
Christensen: We spent a lot of time talking about that, with Frank just becoming a father – and I have 2 kids, a daughter who’s 14 and a boy that’s 12 and we’re living the life we do. I mean we don’t go to work at 8 in the morning and come back at 5. We’ve got comedy shows, shoots, we write late hours, we’re famous, we’re provocative, we’re stupid. I mean, we might not be the perfect father figure, but when you love your kids and you do the quality time with them and keep yourself as the person you are, it works out and it’s an important signal to send. Or when you wake up with a hangover, that’s what you tell yourself.
IFC: What’s interesting about the movie is you see these guys who can be exasperating and make so many bad decisions, but at a certain point they start making bad decisions for actually the right reasons.
IFC: How tough was it to create an appropriately catastrophic finale for these guys, and yet win the audience’s sympathy and maybe even show that they had grown and improved a little bit?
Christensen: Casper’s character doesn’t really grow. He just gets punished in the end.
Hvam: Frank’s character grows, he actually becomes a man, a father in the end. He shows to himself and the environment that he has father potential — and that’s his journey.
Christensen: And this is the most important thing for us. First we write the story, we write the character’s journey, and we spend most time on that, less on comedy. So it’s really important for us to have this character coming from A to B.
Hvam: And we knew for a long time in which area we were working with the story and it was first in the end that we really got that logline on paper — a man trying to prove his fatherhood by kidnapping a boy to prove it. And immediately when that line was paper it was easy to manage from there.
Christensen: And I think that Frank is really trying to do good. Most of the time, he’s trying to do good. It’s just that he’s not that good at doing good, but he really tries.
IFC: When you first created your on-screen relationship, how readily did you guys fall into the personas that you guys have in the film? Was that an easy dynamic to create? How did you guys decide who would be playing what role?
Hvam: It was actually easy. The characters are not us, but they’re close to us. I am the slow, conservative guy with some old-fashioned values and you’re a – fast spinner, a womanizer.
Christensen: Thank you for those lovely words.
Hvam: And he’s the dominating one and I’m the stubborn one.
Christensen: I think I always try to see the opportunities, and yet figure out what could go wrong in real life. And you have to understand that we just ended six seasons of another sitcom, writing it and starring in it, where I played Casper, again my own name but more fictional but being the good guy—
Hvam: And nobody believed it.
Christensen: Shut up. And Frank being really nerdy.
Hvam: And in the first sketch show you play the straight guy and …
Christensen: And for me it was interesting to play the bad guy, you know, everyone’s got a dark side. And it seems to work better than playing the good guy, so maybe that’s what I should do.
Hvam: And I on a personal level have to applaud that braveness he shows because many people think that he is like that.
Christensen: Yeah, that’s one of the problems.
Hvam: So he pays a high price in the name of entertainment.
IFC: Do you guys specifically target subject matter that would be transgressive, or is it just a matter of coming up with a story and going oh people would think that’s inappropriate but it would be fun for us? I guess, are the taboos deliberate?
Christensen: Yes, definitely. We like writing, we like comedy, and just to push yourself you try to come up with topics that could be hard to work on and then figure out how do we make this funny without people feeling bad about laughing at it. So that’s just because we love to work. We love to write, that’s the root of the source.
Hvam: There is some interesting stuff when you go into a taboo area. Sometimes you find out that it shouldn’t be taboo anymore — maybe time has passed, and it’s just an old thing and it doesn’t have to be that dangerous anymore…sometimes. Sometimes you find out it’s still taboo. But it’s a fun journey for us.
Christensen: Yeah, it’s fun to then have the look of a documentary and we use our own name and at the same time make that combo with a controversial topic. When the tension builds up, that’s why we laugh. It’s way too much. It’s getting too much, too close, ‘this is almost real.’
IFC: Is there anything you’ve tried that you feel wouldn’t be funny for you to do?
Christensen: Sometimes, not on screen, but just between the two of us, like sitting on an airplane home, we sometimes make jokes about each other’s kids in real life. And that hurts, but we don’t tell anybody.
Hvam: I tell him how stupid his children are.
Christensen: But we don’t tell anybody.
Hvam: That’s our own little game.
Christensen: That’s our own little game. That came never come out, so we know that they’re boundaries and there’s things we cannot do. But this is our work, this is what we love, so we’ve got to be focused on what works or not, so we’ve spent a lot of time finding that out.
IFC: What are your ambitions in reaching out to a more international audience? You guys are already a huge phenomenon in Denmark.
Christensen: My ambition for myself is not to be a star.
Hvam: It’s not my ambition either.
Christensen: You can answer your own thing afterwards! You know, you just hear half of a sentence and go, ‘that’s not me.’ I’m just saying, that’s not our ambition. My ambition is to work with the best people writing comedy, that’s what I think is funny. We are stars back home being followed by paparazzi and writing autographs, and that’s part of the job but that’s not the thing we’re going for. And being in Denmark and writing with Frank, that’s the best I can do. But of course we’re interested in meeting people, that’s why we’re here, who have spent just as much time and who have been just as successful, and see how we can work together to make an even more interesting project.
Hvam: Yeah, the most important thing for me is to make good stories which give myself a personal relief — good stories and an even better movie next time. That’s my ambition. If we succeed in making a good movie then people might pick it up and use it for something and that’s just great.