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A Brief Interview with the Whitest Kids U’Know’s Zach Creger

A Brief Interview with the Whitest Kids U'Know's Zach Creger (photo)

Everyone say hi to Zach

The fifth and final season of everyone’s favorite sketch comedy show The Whitest Kids U’Know is underway at IFC. We are showing new episodes of one of the wackiest, crassest, and funniest show around every Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. As an added bonus each episode has another chapter of The Civil War on Drugs, the historical drama that the Kids made to document the journey to legalize marijuana during the war between the states.

As we bid farewell to the Whitest Kids, we are taking some time to chat with each member of the troupe and to get their thoughts on comedy, their favorite moments from the five seasons the series ran on IFC, and the Civil War on Drugs. Today, we talk to Zach Creger. He chatted with IFC’s Will Weinand about gross outs, some of his favorite sketchs, and, of course, his rap skills.

How did you get started in comedy?

My first comedic anything was when I was in high school and I was in an improv troop, which was called The Nation of Improv. It was pretty terrible, we would go around and do shows at malls and other high school auditoriums. It was pretty embarrassing when I look back at it, but at the time I thought it was the most fun I could ever imagine. That’s kind of why I kept my radar open in college to do something else like that.

What drew you to sketch?

I always loved sketch. Monty Python, Kids In the Hall and, even things like the early Adam Sandler albums. I remember laughing so hard at those and I always had a soft spot in my heart for sketch. So when I met people who wanted to form a sketch group, that was like “cool friends.” You know how when you first move to college and everyone’s so “I’ll be friends with you!” and everyone is so desperate to connect. So these guys who were cool were forming a sketch group, I liked to do sketch, so it was really a no-brainer.

After you guys got together, I’ve heard that you got the group name from someone who criticized your rap?

There’s a lot of different stories about that, I wasn’t there, but yeah. I mean, my rap is flawless, so they wouldn’t have said that to me.

What was it like going in to the first season of the show? I don’t think at the time there was another sketch show like it on the air.

Maybe not on TV, but (pauses) a lot of people say we’re like the Kids In the Hall only dirtier and I don’t really agree with that. For us, we’d been doing the live show for five years, so we had a really big body of work already written. So, when we got the TV show, it was so exciting because we were able to comb through our material and take the funniest sketches and then shoot the ones that would work best on TV. Season one was a rollercoaster of fun because the hardest part about sketch is the writing, and once you have something you know is funny, the rest of it is easy.

Do you have a favorite WKUK sketch? Out of all five seasons?

I really don’t. I wish I did because I get asked that question all the time. I think that there are some that are really successful, that I got to play a prominent part in that are my own personal gems. Like the Abe Lincoln sketch from the first season, or, I think the Grapist is really popular and I think it worked very well. I’m proud of those because they seem to have gotten a lot of attention and people come up to you on the street and that kind of feedback is always fun. They’re all kind of your babies. Some are certainly terrible, I’m not going to deny that, so there are some that I definitely don’t like, but other than that, I can’t pick a favorite.

Your take on Abe Lincoln is phenomenal. The first time I saw the assassination sketch I laughed until I almost blacked out. Not to spoil anything, but Abe Lincoln is also the last character you play in season five when he appears in “The Civil War on Drugs.”

Right, right, but it’s a VERY different take on Lincoln. I don’t even know if we had that discussion out loud, but I think someone did bring it up that “What if it was THAT Abe Lincoln?” And that would be funny for the show, if we brought it right back around to the beginning, but it wouldn’t have served the movie at all. The Lincoln from Season one would have been completely inappropriate for the movie, so, I think we made the right choice.

I thought it was nice that over the five seasons, Abe Lincoln had mellowed out and evolved.

Oh, y’know, maybe. Although, I don’t think that’s possible because the season one sketch is the night he died, so, unless he’s been reincarnated……

Other than Abe Lincoln, did you have a favorite character you got to play?

There’s a character in Season Three called “Instant Karma Bigot” that nobody seems to have latched on to. Maybe it’s just because it was such a difficult shoot. The whole sketch is one shot, with all these different stunts happening, like, getting hit with a bike and a bird, an air conditioner falls on me. It was really hard to coordinate everything happening in the same take, and I think that the take that we got was pretty good. I think it’s a funny sketch, but I also think I’m the only person who’s happy with that one. But I like it.

What was your favorite sketch from Season Five of WKUK?

I was really in to “Baked Beans,” but I think that was only because we got to shoot Timmy in the face with a cannon, and hurt him, so any time Timmy gets hurt I couldn’t be happier.

What’s the worst Timmy’s ever been hurt? One sketch in season five has him sitting on a light bulb.

Nah, that was a fake light bulb. I wish he’d been hurt so much worse. He seems to come away relatively unscathed, all the time. Sam’s broken his arm, Darren broke his arm, I got really badly clotheslined to the point of choking. Timmy got shot in the face with beans and he was cool. I wish we could have put something like gravel in with the beans. That would have been awesome.

What’s the toughest sketch you’ve ever done? From a wardrobe, or stunts or location perspective?

Honestly, Abe Lincoln in the first season was really terrible to shoot. We shot it in the dead of summer, there was no air conditioning, it had to be 100 degrees in there. I had a beard glued to my face that kept falling off because I was sweating so much. That was really, really bad, everyone was miserable. But then again, in The Civil War on Drugs, I play General Grant and I’m vomiting, but it’s soup, so I had soup all over me. And then I’m drinking this fake whiskey that was really just apple juice and honey and that was really sticky, I was covered in poison ivy, it was a billion degrees. I was sweating, again I had a beard glued to my face. That was just like, horrible. But, I knew it was the end of the series and it was one of the last things we shot, so I knew it was therapeutic. There have been some awful ones. Most of them involve high temperature.

Do you ever psyche yourself out where you know something is a prop, but you can’t help thinking about what the prop represents? For example, dog poo or human sick.

The dog poop was horrible, and so is the vomit. The only time I ever had to say “I can’t do this, I’ll barf” was the sketch where Trevor has his mouth wired shut and I was going to play this choking girl and he was going to give me CPR with his nose and, when we were writing it I was like “I can’t have you blow your nose into my mouth.” There’s something about that that struck me as the most disgusting thing in the world. So Darren and I swapped parts for that and he’s the girl. Darren didn’t seem to have a problem with it at all, he was like “I’ll do it!” But I think that’s more disgusting than having to drink your own vomit. Having someone blow their nose in to your mouth, that was the limit. I can’t do that.

I completely understand. What are the best and worst reactions you’ve ever had from a sketch?

The show is very polarizing. Some people hate the show and I totally get it. I don’t blame them. It’s a really niche show. We never thought everyone was going to like it, it’s not supposed to be that kind of a show. It’s supposed to be a show that a sliver of people love. And I think in that regard we’ve been successful, if you really want a small sliver of people to love a show, we nailed it!

In regards to worst reactions, in live shows we’ve had people stand up in the middle of sketches and stop the show and start screaming at us on stage.

Really?!

Oh yeah, that happened just a year ago at a show in San Francisco. There was this guy and I guess we offended him. I’m not surprised, I don’t feel bad that we offended him, I was more annoyed that we had to stop the show to have him removed because he wouldn’t stop yelling. On the TV show, we’ll get angry mail. But after the episode has been on the air, there’s not much they can do to beyond getting angry.

But, there’s the positive side too, right? What are the sketches that when you perform live, or when fans see you on the street they’re like “I love that one!”?

Oh, yeah, there are definitely the ones that people love. Slow Jerk, Lincoln, Grape-ist, the ones that were the break-outs. But then there are those sketches where a fan comes up to you and says, “The best sketch you guys ever did was …..!” and they’ll say some sketch that was unanimously terrible and everyone looks at each other blankly and says “Thanks, man.” You never know what people are going to like. When we shot Slow Jerk, we thought it was not a good sketch. We just blasted right through it, in about half an hour and were like, “That’s in the bucket, maybe it will make the airwaves.” And it winds up being one of our most successful sketches. So you never know what people are going to connect with.

I’ve seen some of the sketches that were “too hot” to air, and back in Season three there’s the one where you and Trevor apologize to the audience because there’s going to be a dick in the episode, and you bring Timmy out as this German psychologist who’s going to help the audience when the dick shows up, and the sketch as a whole, right down to when the dick shows up, is hilarious.

Thanks. I thought that was really funny sketch too. I wish we could have seen that go to air.

If you had to be a character from a WKUK sketch for the rest of your life, who would it be? And you can pick a character you didn’t play.

Oooh. Stuck for the rest of my life as this character?

Yes.

OK, I can answer this. There was a character I played, I think it was in Season 4, called JJ Marvin who was basically a take on GG Allin, the famous punk singer, but JJ was a hippie. So he’s singing these happy Mamas and the Papas songs, but at the same time he’s shitting on the stage, cutting himself and pissing on the audience, all the while wearing a smile. I think he’s heavily disturbing and that sketch is really upsetting, but I love it. So I’ be him, I love the idea of a beaming joy of a man who delights in shitting and cutting himself.

Out of all the fact products that have been advertised on the show, which one would you want for yourself?

How about the vacuum cleaner that sucks dicks really good from “Rip Your Dick Off”?

OK. Moving on to The Civil War on Drugs, I haven’t seen a sketch comedy troop make a movie within a season before, and I don’t think I’ve seen a long form, multiple character sketch film since “Brain Candy.” What was it like making that?

It was pretty incredible. We made that on a really tight budget, and to make a period piece film on a small budget while also making the regular season is really hard. A movie like that would typically be made for our entire season budget, but we had to make that and another two-thirds of a season. We made most of it by scraping by, most that film was shot in two separate fields and I’m really proud because I don’t think it looks like that. It was really about using your brain to get that look. I’m proud of it. I had to leave for another project while we were still editing, so I didn’t get to see the final product. Trevor and I made a film that didn’t succeed a couple years ago and I was afraid it was going to be another one of those. So, I reluctantly went to a screening of the whole movie put together in LA a couple weeks ago and I was so happy to see that it worked, and that it made the audience laugh and that the thing worked together as a whole. I was really relieved and I am immensely proud of that.

I got to watch all the chapters in a row in one sitting, and I thought you guys did a great job building the hooks at the climax of each chapter, but it also really works well when you watch the movie as a whole.

Originally it was going to be four chapters, four entire episodes dedicated to the Civil War on Drugs with the cliffhangers at commercial breaks and episode endings, but it was decided that having installments run throughout the season worked better for the show.

Well, it’s working. People are talking on Twitter about tuning in every week to see what happens next.

Are they? That’s awesome. I’m not on Twitter so I’ll have to check that out.

Twitter is kind of like Soylent Green.

By that you mean it’s people?

Feeding other people.

Ha! So, did that cover all your questions?

Yes. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Yeah, thanks, this was fun.

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