So many of you caught Neighbors over the weekend. Director Nicholas Stoller’s parents-versus-frat-kids comedy steamrolled over The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with a whopping $51 million, good for the top slot at the box office.
One of the downfalls of seeing a movie like Neighbors on opening weekend is that you’re seeing it with a packed house, and the laughter of the crowd can drown out certain lines – follow up jokes to the already big laughs. That almost happened to me in Austin when I attended the film’s world premiere at the South By Southwest film festival. One scene received SUCH a huge laugh that you couldn’t hear the next five lines of dialogue because the theater was just too noisy, rowdy and fired up by the hilarious joke.
When I mentioned this to Nicholas Stoller the next day, he told me a great story about how that joke almost didn’t even make it into the movie, and how they had to fight to get it included at all. I’ll go into detail, but stop reading if you haven’t yet seen Neighbors and don’t want this joke spoiled.
So, you know that Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s baby eats a condom left on the lawn by the frat. That joke has been in the trailers (seen above)… but the follow up has not. Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator, Baby Mama) plays a doctor who meets with Rogen and Byrne. He enters the scene and says, "Your baby has HIV." And after a brutally long pause, continues, "Is how bad this could have gone." Our theater erupted. But the joke almost didn’t make the cut.
Nicholas Stoller told me that during the editing process, they left too much of a pause between the two lines. And in that delicate moment, the test audiences felt that the movie had gone too far. He said:
We timed it wrong. He says, ‘Your baby has HIV,’ and the pause was too long. And the audience was like, ‘Fuck this movie!’ They turned on us. We sat that and they told us that we had to cut that joke. And I said, "Let’s just try it. Let’s just try. I swear, if we just trim frames, we can make this work!’"
And they did. To me, it’s the funniest joke in a very funny movie. And it’s always interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes information to learn about humor that almost doesn’t even make it into the final cut. Not that Neighbors would have been better or worse with or without that joke. The plot doesn’t hinge on it. But years from now, after the frat-boy party humor of the movie has faded, I’ll be able to walk up to a close friend and tell them, "Your baby has HIV," and miraculously, they will laugh. Thanks for that, Nicholas Stoller.