Published on July 29th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


JFL Comedy Conference, Day 3: Todd Phillips & another type of Hangover


Panelists: Josh Faure-Brac (Creator & Executive Producer, SuperNews), Steven K.L. Olson (Director of Animation, SuperNews)

There’s no way around it: I completely bailed on this one. I even bailed on the thing I was intending to bail on it for (the Artists vs. Industry ball hockey game).

Funny thing about Just For Laughs: your perception of time kinda fades throughout the week. The day goes fast, the evening is full of so many shows that you lose track of what time it is, and before you know it you’re back at the Hyatt bar sitting and chatting with an array of really awesome people who totally trump sleep. When people start to trickle in for round 2 after the big Russell Peters dance party around the corner has shut down, and you realize it’s almost 4 a.m…. Oops.

I asked a lot of people if they made it to hear the SuperNews guys speak on Saturday morning, and they hadn’t. Shows went late. The midnight party went late. Kibitzing around the hotel bar went late.

On behalf of all of us who overdid it the night before, please accept the following linkage with my apologies.

SuperNews: http://current.com/supernews/

SuperNews blog: http://blogs.current.com/supernews/

Steven K.L. Olson: http://www.sklomotion.com/

Josh Faure-Brac on Twitter: http://twitter.com/super_Josh



Speaking of heavy drinking and the morning after… JFL’s Comedy Director of the Year Todd Phillips was interviewed by Bill Carter of the New York Times, spending a very entertaining hour talking almost exclusively about directing The Hangover.

He was recently out for lunch in Los Angeles, when a firefighter recognized him from his part in Old School, and yelled “I’m here for the gang bang!” The kicker: he was at lunch with his mom.

Phillips takes public feedback to test screenings very personally, recalling an instance of him “lying behind the back row of a theatre in Burbank” listening to an audience react to a screening. The studio told him that the only person to be more angst-ridden over test screenings is Oliver Stone.

For test screenings, they rarely bother to look at “the cards” (the written surveys the participants fill out), because the general consensus from the type of people who see his screenings is that he needs more scenes about pot. He says they use nightvision to film the audiences’ faces, which doesn’t just measure when they’re laughing and how hard, but also shows them when they’re getting bored and fidgity.

Fun fact: The original draft of The Hangover had no stolen tiger, and no missing baby.

Reluctant to answer questions about Mike Tyson’s acting skills, Phillips would only say “he’s a boxer”, and “he really likes fucking with people’s perceptions of him.”

The epic story of how Ed Helms removed his dental implant for the role is well known, but Phillips provided a few extra details. At first, they tried various methods of covering his tooth, including blacking it out and greenscreening it. Nothing was working, and Phillips was stressing over it, when Helms finally revealed it was an implant. Being the good friend he is, Phillips made him feel bad about it, telling him “it’s so much smaller than your other teeth”. (You be the judge.)

He convinced Helms to have it replaced (courtesy of the film’s budget) and even debriefed the dentist (who happened to also be his own dentist) to not make a big deal of it to Helms. It would be easy! While he was without an implant, Helms wore a retainer-type device with a single tooth on it, and even had to wear it well into production of The Office in case there had to be additional shooting for The Hangover.

On judging whether something is funny or not while shooting it, and not always relying on crew laughter as a barometer: “sometimes they laugh because they want you to stop and go for lunch.”

On Zach Galifinakis: His comedy is so subtle, “unless you play to that, he can really get lost in a movie.”

On Bill Carter reciting a list of his in-development projects: “You can’t treat IMDB like it’s the Wall Street Yournal. You realize it’s some 14 year old in Tampa writing those.”

The famous promo shot of the guys in the elevator was not re-staged for still photography. Phillips loved that shot so much while filming, he had them stay put and called the still photographer over to shoot it.

When he’s shooting, he can sense when a scene is not working, and just stopping and taking a walk with the guys to figure it out can help significantly.

There are always a few days scheduled after wrapping for reshoots. For the Hangover they didn’t have to reshoot any scenes to make them better, just shoot new ones for continuity (ie. to bridge scenes A and D, when B and C had been cut).

On doing movies that have real characters in plausible situations: “I like Austin Powers as much as anyone, but it’s not the kind of movie I want to make.”

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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