Back on the Beat: ‘Super Troopers 2’ director Jay Chandrasekhar talks crowdsourcing, cult status, and chugging

Rob Lowe (left) and director Jay Chandrasekhar (right) on the set of “Super Troopers 2” // Photo by Jon Pack. Courtesy 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Mac, Thorny, Foster, Rabbit, and Farva are back in action and find themselves smack dab in the middle of an international border dispute between the U.S. and Canada. When the town of St. Georges Du Laurent, Quebec, becomes a part of America due to a surveying error, the Super Troopers are called in to set up a new highway patrol station in the disputed area.

“Super Troopers 2” hits theaters nationwide on Friday, April 20 (4/20, get it?), but this sequel to the 2001 cult classic, “Super Troopers,” was never a sure thing. After pitching the movie to film studios, the Broken Lizard troupe found themselves in a predicament—the only way the movie would be greenlit was if they funded production themselves. Luckily, “Super Troopers” fans came to the rescue, donating the money necessary for film production through a crowdsourcing campaign.

Ahead of the movie’s nationwide release, we spoke with Broken Lizard member and “Super Troopers 2” director Jay Chandrasekhar about crowdsourcing the movie, the pros and cons of cult status, and the one thing he’ll never chug again.

(L to R): Kevin Heffernan as “Farva,” Jay Chandrasekhar as “Thorny,” Erik Stolhanske as “Rabbit,” Paul Soter as “Foster,” and Steve Lemme as “Mac” in the film “Super Troopers 2” // Photo by Jon Pack. Courtesy 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Growler: It’s premiere week for “Super Troopers 2,” how are you feeling?  

Jay Chandrasekhar: I feel good. It’s a great time when only you’ve seen the movie and fans you’ve shown it to have seen the movie, so there’s no economic weight on it either way, which is a rare air until Friday. Then we’ll really know what the financial judgment was. Right now, it’s great.

G: Talking about financials, you guys needed $2 million to get the project off the ground. You raised it in 24 hours with crowdfunding on Indiegogo, and it sounds like in all you raised $4.6 million from fans. Were you surprised by that response?

JC: Look, we walk around all day and all our fans stop us everywhere we go, so it was just that sort of anecdotal evidence that there was a fanbase out there still ready for it. It was a risk, because if we pressed “go” on that crowdfunding campaign and it didn’t go, the studio would be like, “Well, nobody wants to see your movie,” and the investor people who we needed after that crowdfunding thing would’ve said, “No one wants to see your movie.” But, you know, 54,000 people put in money so it was like a bolt of energy to the whole film. I mean, we literally could never have made it without that.

G: My favorite reward you guys offered was letting seven fans name characters and towns in the movie. What was it like giving your fans a chance to be involved in that sort of way?

JC: We go over every single line in our film—we do 37 drafts of each movie, so they’re a very very specific document that we shoot. But suddenly we have to name this guy Shotty Fitznuggly and we’re like, “Okay, how are we gonna get that in?” We did, we did. Initially you’re like, “What is that…?” But then you quickly fall into it and it worked out great, it really did.

G: So you said you guys went through 37 drafts of this movie. In your book, “Mustache Shenanigans,” it sounded like you guys went through 22 drafts of the first movie. What was different this time around? Was there more pressure on the writing process?

JC: No, the reality is that with every film we’ve done has ranged in the number of drafts. The first film we did was probably 24 drafts. I think the original “Super Troopers” was somewhere between 28 and 32. You know, it’s just our process. Part of it is that our budgets are not massive so we have to arrive on set with the joke that we love—we’re not just gonna figure it out on set and count on being great there. So that’s a lot of it. But another part is the money takes a lot of time [to raise]. You end up waiting for money, and you end up rewriting, and then you rewrite again, and then you rewrite again. It ends up being a good thing, having the money be so difficult to find.

G: In your book, you laid out a couple rules that Broken Lizard follows when you’re writing a script. One: Everyone gets credit for the jokes. And two: No one gets cast into their roles until late in the writing process. But with everybody already having their roles determined for “Super Troopers 2,” did you guys find that it was tough not to just write for your character, or was that not an issue?

JC: It is tough, because you’re sort of your character’s advocate in some weird way. The movie only succeeds if it’s all good, and if everybody has a fair share of jokes. So inevitably there are these conversations of balancing that happens, starting with Draft 5 and ending with Draft 37, just conversations that there’s too much of this character and not enough of this. We’ll remove jokes from one mouth, and put them in another.

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G: When did you guys come up with the plot for “Super Troopers 2?”

JC: We read in the New York Times that the U.S. and Canada were reassessing their border, and that in fact some of the markers were in the wrong place. So we kind of imagined what that would be like if that encapsulated a whole town. I think we might’ve even had it in the outline. That’s kind of how we work, we write an outline that has a plot. Then, once the outline is really well-organized, that’s when we start writing. So this plot came three years ago.

G: “Super Troopers” and other films of yours, like “Beerfest,” achieved cult status. How do you feel about that label? Is it a double-edged sword in some ways?

JC: The great thing about being cult status is that you’re like that dirty joke that people keep passing around to their friends and fathers and uncles and whatever, and it’s like a private joke in a weird way. Like you’re a fan of this band that nobody else knows about. That’s the great part about it. The bad part about it is the cult needs to be big enough to support a major studio putting money behind it and taking that financial gamble. Cult status is fun, but it makes making movies a bit harder. This cult of “Super Troopers,” what the gamble is is that the cult has grown big enough to merit this 2,500-screen release. So that’s what we’ll find out on Friday. It’s high stakes gambling, and it’s exciting.

G: You guys all met at college, and have been performing together essentially ever since. What is it about the Broken Lizard troupe that has kept you guys together for this long? How do you guys keep things fresh?

JC: We travel a fair bit, and we go out in bars, and when you go out in bars, fun stuff happens. We end up meeting people who are interesting characters, and writing jokes that have happened in the bars, or on the road trip, or in the airport, or wherever. In order for friendships to generate jokes, you need downtime. That’s really where your mind relaxes and the funny stuff happens. Taking those jokes from our real life and putting them into the film is what we do when we’re in official meetings. Once you make five movies with a group of people, it’s kind of how people know you. In some way, that’s what they want. They want the band. Sure, we can do solo things, but at some point you want the band.

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G: You guys have a reputation for partying pretty hard. You say you travel a lot, and are in bars. Is it a hard reputation to carry around, being the party guys?

JC: Yeah, it is. People used to constantly bring me shots of whiskey because of “Beerfest,” and it would be everywhere, in bars, everywhere. And it was ruining my life [laughs], so I started my new stand-up routine by telling them to stop sending me these damn shots of whiskey, and amazingly it stopped. It used to be for every stand-up show, two or three groups would be holding whiskey shots and now it’s completely stopped. But still, people want to chug against you, they want to see if they can beat you. They don’t want to hear the story of how you were afraid to chug against them. So we do it. The one thing I truly try to avoid is chugging maple syrup.

G: I was just about to ask, there are so many iconic scenes from the first movie, but I’ve got to say the syrup chugging scene is probably the one that people refer to most. But it left you and Erik Stolhanske with a pretty hefty sugar overdose. Did any of you guys end up sacrificing your bodies for the sake of comedy for the second movie?

JC: We learned a hard lesson from that maple syrup chug—that when you write it, someone’s gonna have to do it. It isn’t that we avoided that, it’s just that we luckily didn’t have anything like that in the second movie.

G: Any other thoughts as you race toward 4/20? I heard you guys were hanging out with Willie Nelson—did he have any advice for you?

JC: I mean, Willie’s a good friend of mine and we’ve hung out quite a bit. He recorded a very funny ransom video that we’ll release soon about “Super Troopers 2.” His advice is always, and he does this, is to shake every single hand and take every picture, because those people will come back.

“Super Troopers 2” hits theaters across the U.S. on April 20. Check your local theaters for showtimes. 

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Brian Kaufenberg is the editor-in-chief of The Growler Magazine.

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