Predominantly known for their roles as “Mac” and “Farva” in the cult-classic comedy hit Super Troopers and as part of the hilarious quintet comedy group known as Broken Lizard, Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan are stepping out and strutting their stuff on the small screen by writing in, acting in, and producing a critically acclaimed TV show, Tacoma FD.
Set in rainy Tacoma, Washington, the show focuses on a group of firefighters who don’t exactly have a lot of fires to put out, and you know what they say about idle hands. Devil’s something something, right?
The firefighters spend their time trying to beat out rival fire stations in competitions, responding to bizarre emergencies, and goofing around. And, if you thought the lowbrow dick and fart jokes that permeate the Broken Lizard status quo would be left out, well, Lemme’s character is named “Captain Eddie Penisi.” That should give you an idea.
We sat down to chat on the phone with these fine gentlemen as they take a step away from the show to unwind on a 10-city comedy tour, telling tales from their antics and experiences, and maybe being lifted up into the air like giant babies by grown firefighters.
Are you guys both in the same room right now?
Heffernan: “No, we just got off a plane, we were in New York and we just landed, just separated from each other.”
Lemme: “It’s a trial separation.”
The Heffernan and Lemme Live Tour, is that primarily to promote the show, or give you guys the opportunity to unwind and do something fun?
Heffernan: “It’s probably the latter. [TruTV] definitely would like us to go out and support the show, but we would do that anyway. We spent a bunch of years doing stand-up, and then this past year we just haven’t been able to do it because of the show. And so it’s kinda nice, you do get kind of insular, you end up in the editing room, and now it’s actually nice to go out and meet people who like the show, and we’re hanging out with a lot of firefighters and shit like that. So it’s kinda fun to get out there.
Is Tacoma FD your first full-on series that you’re writing, acting, and producing?
Lemme: “It started with Broken Lizard, and then Kevin and I have branched off and [to do some things] on our own. I think Kevin and I have sold something like 15 shows that we’ve developed. We shot a few pilots before, but every one of these things would just get nixed or passed on in the craziest ways. So, we had Super Troopers 2 coming out, and we kinda got strategic about it and tried to work backwards with the release date.
We sold the pilot in October 2017, then we wrote it that fall, then we shot it in February 2018, and it was finished right before Super Troopers 2 came out in April, and we got the green light to [go to] series just a few weeks after the movie came out. It’s the first thing we’ve done that’s gone to series.
You realize that that is kinda the way it works in the entertainment industry, you really should strike while the iron is hot. If you’ve got something going, you should always plan to have your next project ready to go and ideally start overlapping, I think that is the only way to succeed.If we didn’t have [Tacoma FD] ready to go, we’d have the movie come out, and then there’s like a week-or-two window to capitalize on that and then you’re kinda done.”
What’s that experience been like getting this TV show off the ground and running?
Heffernan: “It’s great. It’s been awesome. I mean it’s a little different. The TV stuff is different from movies because there’s so much more material. We essentially shot three movies [for Tacoma FD] in the time we usually shoot one movie. So it allows you to do a lot of fun stuff. You can experiment. Any jokes you might get pressure about in a movie, you don’t have to worry about that, you just put it all into the TV show. So, creatively, it’s been fun to switch mediums and work the TV stuff.”
There’s a scene in the first season of the show, where Steve smacks a handful of spanakopita out of another character’s hand. That looked pretty satisfying.
Lemme: “It is a great smack. Everything about it. I mean, the flakes that fly off that thing. When you’re editing something, and looking at the raw footage, there are certain takes that you just know are the one.”
Heffernan: “You had a couple of really good smacks.”
Lemme: “Well, yeah, you know, it’s not often that you get to smack a piece of spanakopita out of somebody’s hands. I will do that over and over until I nail it!”
Well, you could have as many smacks you want if you write it into your show, right?
Lemme: “Kevin, I think if we get a season two, that should be my move. I’m just gonna smack things outta people’s hands.”
Has there been any news on whether the show will be renewed for a second season?
Heffernan: “We’re talking now. The first season has been such a success that we’re moving ahead, we’re getting ready to write, we’re budgeting, we’re hiring crew, so I think we’re in good shape.”
Going back to some of the Broken Lizard troupe, do you all reside in LA, or are you spread out a bit.
Lemme: “Four of us live in LA, and Erik Stolhanske lives in Minnesota. But in LA, we live all over the place, and in LA, that means we might as well be across the country.”
Have you recently had an opportunity to get together and work through any potential new scripts?
Heffernan: “We’ve been doing the TV show, so it’s been hard. Paul Soter [one of the Broken Lizard guys] has been working on our TV show with us, so we definitely always talk about it [when the three of us are together]. Lately, there’s been a flurry of emails, about let’s get together and sit down. We have a deal on the table to get Super Troopers 3 made, which is what we’re working on. So we’re gonna sit down now and try to figure out what other scripts are floating around out there that we wanna do.”
I saw on IMDB that Super Troopers 3 is going to be subtitled “Winter Soldiers.” Is that really happening?
Lemme: “Super Troopers 3 is definitely happening. Winter Soldiers is something that Jay [Chandrasekhar] really wants. He wants to shoot Super Troopers 3 in winter, and look, it is a great title, it’s undeniable. In fact, we could still call it that. But the first scene [we shot] on Super Troopers 2 was on a construction site, and it was really windy that day. I’m gonna say it was like 45 degrees, and all of us, Jay the most, was complaining about how cold it was, and how hard it is to move your mouth when your lips are numb.
He is the softest of us. Even though he will say he’s from Chicago and he’s impervious to cold, he will complain the most about it. And Kevin and I keep trying to impress upon him that for acting, the colder it is, the worse it is. We’re putting on the good fight of keeping it a nice green, spring-time, movie.”
Doing Heffernan and Lemme Live, how does it feel to be back out there, and what’s been the vibe?
Heffernan: “Yeah, we were itching to get back out there.”
Lemme: “I think the unique thing is that we’re [out] talking about Tacoma FD, and it’s really the first thing we’ve done away from Broken Lizard that’s been made. [And] the audience has changed. It was usually cops and stoners, and now it’s cops, stoners, and firefighters.
It turns out that firefighters are the craziest of all those people. They have a thing about proving their strength. Firefighters like to lift us up in the air during the meet and greet. Which is fine, like they see me, and I’m like a little appetizer, and they see Heffernan and he’s the entrée, but he’s not the 8 oz steak, he’s the 32 oz steak that they wanna try and put down.
Kevin, I’m the Jane cut; you’re the Tarzan cut.”
At this stage in your careers, do you even have any nerves about going up and performing live, or is it just fun to do what you do in front of an audience?
Heffernan: “I’m not necessarily a nervous guy. The nice thing is, for the stand-up show, it’s not like we have to go win the crowd over. Folks are usually coming because they’re fans of yours. So it’s a little bit more like a wedding toast.”
Lemme: “I’m terrified just thinking about it. But, no, Kevin’s right, we didn’t have the traditional path most stand-ups take, where they have to spend the first 20 years just trying to get people to like them. We cheated a little bit. Live performances are a blast. It’s a completely different muscle. And I love it, and we’ll never stop doing it.”
You guys have just had a week off from the tour, and you’re in the second half of it, so I have to ask, how are your livers holding up?
Lemme: “It’s crazy. We’re old farts now. We bitch and moan and grouse about everything there is to bitch and moan and grouse about.”
Heffernan: “We’re so fat. We’re so fat right now.”
Lemme: “Well, we’ve been in the editing room since December. So it’s like six months of being in the editing room and eating shitty food and sitting on our asses. Then I had a hernia surgery a month ago. Kevin and I can see better than other people. Other people are like, “You like fine to us,” but I can see it on both of our frames.”
Heffernan: “Yeah, last week we were driving around the Midwest eating Slim Jims and drinking Yoo-hoo. It wasn’t healthy at all.”
What are you thinking about this weekend’s show in Portland?
Heffernan: “We did the Helium Club back in 2016. I hope people come out on Sunday. I mean, we’re up against the Game of Thrones finale, for Christ’s sake.”
Lemme: “This would be a great way to close out this run because the first place we ever played in Portland was the Aladdin Theater. [But with everything going on] this will be out last time in Portland for a long time. You know what? Just say ever. It might be our last show ever.”
Sunday, May 19
Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm
All ages, $25