Broken Lizard Talks Beerfest

This summer, the Broken Lizard gang goes back to the type of comedy that made them cult icons. No more TV show remakes, no more cross-genre blends with horror movies, just beer drinking, partying hilarity. Beerfest tells the classic tale of two American brothers who discover their Mecca at Oktoberfest in Germany. But they’re far less experienced than the natives. Humiliated by their comparative lack of drinking abilities, they rally the troops together to beat the Germans at their own Beerfest.

Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske play the two brothers. “It kinda starts out I’m sort of the more straight-laced business-type,” said Stolhanske. “We come here to spread my grandpa’s ashes and over the period of time that we spend together, we get closer. He loosens me up quite a bit.”

Soter added, “He’s all buttoned down at the beginning of the movie, fanny pack, sweater, [formal] pants. I get him looking a lot cooler by the end of the movie.”

With the front of his hairline shaved, Steve Lemme plays Charlie Finklestein. “Every character plays a role in this movie,” said Lemme. “I’m sort of the geek who’s figured everything out scientific about beer: the anatomy of beer, the physics of beer, the geometry of beer. I’ve even figured out a way to align the body in such a way that the spine and the organs and throat perfectly align to create the perfect chugging instrument. So that’s really what I’m here for, and of course, as a scientist, I needed to get a perm.”

Big bad Kevin Heffernan plays the expert at sheer mass drinking. "My character’s name is Phil Krundle, aka Landfill,” Heffernan said. “Basically Landfill because I’m the guy who drinks and eats anything and everything. Like I have license plates and shoes in here. So they get me on the team to be that guy, that anchorman guy who can drink fast and a lot.”

All Broken Lizard movies are ensemble, but some characters have to be the leads. In Beerfect, Soter and Stolhanske won by default. “We realized if two guys are gonna be brothers, it couldn’t be Jay and somebody,” said Soter. “Kevin and Steve you could have done as brothers but in Greek Road, which is what we’re doing next, they play Plato and Socrates, they’re sort of the onscreen buddies the way that Erik and I are in this movie so we couldn’t sort of repeat that same dynamic.”

If anyone says that college doesn’t matter in Hollywood, Broken Lizard is here to prove them wrong. “Well, they said write what you know, so we decided we would make a beer movie because that’s what we learned in college, beer drinking,” said Heffernan.

Director Jay Chandrasekhar is happy to bring the beer drinking comedies back, but it’s not just for the sake of making a beer movie. “I do see there’s a danger to making these kind of movies in that when you’re drunk or stoned you kind of think everything’s funny,” said Chandrasekhar. “So I think you have to have more than just, ‘Hey, we’re drunk and stoned and isn’t that hilarious?’ We tried to build in a plot, like it’s not The Godfather but at least there’s some story to it and some structure to it. If you don’t drink a ton of beer every weekend or every night then you’ll still enjoy the movie.”

Many of the Oktoberfest challenges are based more on Broken Lizard’s dorm room games than actual German traditions. “You’ll see quite a bit of the things we did in college,” said Lemme. “Yeah, we did a bit of beer drinking in college. I think we drank so much that we got so bored of it, well like everybody, that we came up with new ways to do it. Like we have the monkey chugs in this movie, which is upside down and you raise it by drinking beer on the roof of your mouth, which is easier said than done. You realize every time you do it that you instinctively put it up to your chin and then you spill the beer all over your face.”

They do have Quarters in Germany, but it’s translated. “Yeah, it’s Kruger Bounce,” said Soter. “Part of the trick to it is that we have to learn how to play with a big heavy coin. Things that we made up like a guy standing on top of a ladder having to pour a picture of beer into the mouth of a guy laying down below without spilling a drop. We wanted to exaggerate it and make up stuff and have it be sort of a funhouse mirror kind of [competition].”

Beerfest will be loaded with action too. “I think this is a lot more physical comedy then the other movies,” said Hefferman. “Like, for example, I get into a huge fist fight with Mo’Nique. It’s me and Mo’Nique going at it. It’s actually, I was talking to the stunt guys the other day. She’s gonna do karate in her fight. She’s gonna break out some karate on me.”

Of course, the guys make big sacrifices to bring this beer movie to the screen. Drinking movie beer in multiple takes is no fun. “It’s O’Doul’s,” said Soter. “But a lot of the times when we’re supposed to be drinking German beer, O’Doul’s isn’t dark enough, so they’ve been mixing in diet coke and stuff like that.”

Those early morning calls are a killer. “It’s a really awful thing to wake up at 6:30 in the morning, show up on set and realize that the first shot of the day is you chugging an entire beer,” said Lemme. “So you’ll do a few takes. In the long shots you’ll mime it a little bit or do some other things, but then it comes time for the closeup and it’s like, ‘All right, you gotta do it on this one.’ And Jay is a coverage freak so you’re doing it at least four times.”

Bathroom breaks have to be built into the production schedule. “It’s weird though because you drink an O’Douls, you drink like six O’douls and you’re not drunk at all but you’re going to the bathroom like you’re drunk,” said Heffernan. “You’re really going to the bathroom every 15 minutes and you’re not drunk. It’s bizarre. Yeah, that’s what it’s going to be like when I’m 65 I guess. Every 15 minutes.”

It turns out the best beer drinker on the set is not even one of the Broken Lizard guys. “Will Forte from "Saturday Night Live", who I hate to say is the fastest chugger in the cast,” revealed Chandrasekhar. “I still have a few days to beat him and you gotta beat him on film in order to really be the top chugger, but he chugged a massive glass of beer so unbelievably fast. It was shocking because I was like it should take him about 9 seconds. It took him 5 seconds. So then of course I said, ‘Well, let’s see what you can do on take two’ and he poured it down again. I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t mind one more take.’ He left, threw up, came back, downed it again. He’s a real badass. Apparently, his freshman year in school, he was 40 pounds heavier than he is, so he’s a professional.”

At its heart, Beerfest is a slobs vs. snobs comedy. Beer snobs are still snobs that need to be taken down. “You have to remember that the template for this is also the sports movie and so we wanted a Hoosiers-like or Rocky-like dynamic of the losers or the underdogs,” said Soter. “It’s like the miracle on ice [with] an invincible force in the form of the German team. So yeah, it just inevitably became the snobs vs. slobs dynamic but you need that for your Rudy underdog any kind of sports movie dynamic to work.”

Beerfest opens in August.