David Koechner has become a ubiquitous presence in comedy films over the last ten years, from "Anchorman" and "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" to "Waiting ..." and "Get Smart." He recently played a detective in the offbeat ensemble comedy "Small Apartments," with Matt Lucas and Billy Crystal.
Koechner recently spoke with us about tighty-whities, Malcolm Gladwell and becoming Champ Kind again.
"Small Apartments" is probably the darkest movie I've ever laughed out loud at in my life. What were your emotions while reading the script for the first time?
[laughs] Yeah, there's some oddity to it, which I like. Did you ever see a movie called "Man Bites Dog"?
I've heard of "Man Bites Dog," but have never seen it.
That's the darkest, funniest film I've ever seen. But probably after that, it's this one. And I think you hit it on the head: It is dark, but it's extremely funny. It's just absurd. But I believe at the heart of the film, and not to be too corny, it's just about a man's struggle. That's what we get into, right? I mean, you really root for the guy, don't you?
You do, certainly over the second half of the film. Most of your screen time was spent with Billy Crystal. Do you think you got to soak up a different Billy than most people get a chance to, considering his character is pretty dark as well?
I certainly felt that way. I was delighted to do that. It was very different, and he's very easygoing on set, and a lot of fun to work with. And yeah, I think audiences will enjoy seeing a different side of him.
Would you have considered Matt Lucas' role, if offered, considering he spends most of the film in his tighty-whities?
That's it? You would have done it?
Yeah! They're just clothes. It's better than naked! Naked would have given me pause. Tighty-whities, we're set.
Would you consider the movie overall to be dark or uplifting, considering the last ten or fifteen minutes?
Well, that's the thing. Everyone has dark moments in their head, right? So, in a film like this, if you want to break it down, maybe that taps into everyone's feelings that they've had dark moments, or that something bad has happened to them, or they feel trapped, and they don't think there's any way out. But at the end of this movie, we're rooting for the guy to get out, we hope he gets away with it, right? So I think, intrinsically, that's what would happen to most people's feelings ... I like dark films, because they're very challenging, but you're better off when you challenge yourself to see something that isn't mainstream. It's a film that helps you grow. I'm going to turn this film into a self-help film. That's my thing. [laughs]
Along those lines, do you prefer movies that are a little less straightforward, like this, as opposed to more cookie-cutter roles in others?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
You're about to go film "Anchorman 2," correct?
That is correct. We start in March, March through May.
Awesome. It's been almost ten years since you've played Champ — is it going to be easy to pick up where you left off, almost like riding a bike?
You don't know how often people ask me to do Champ [laughs]. I've never left Champ. We did a table read back in November, and I'll tell you, that script is funny. Everyone is back for it, and the excitement just keeps building, and so I'm really looking forward to it.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever had to do on a movie set?
The weirdest thing I've ever had to do is when they make a face cast out of a mold of your face, and that can be very harrowing because you're literally buried alive under all this rubber and paper mache. And so you're slowly buried, and then you have to wait ten minutes for it to harden. And then they take it off. So they've got a mold of your face, so they get to put other applications on later.
What movie did you do that for?
I've had to do it about six different times. It can be harrowing. I just try to convince myself it's a spa treatment. The other weirdest thing I've had to do was in a movie called "Tenure" with Luke Wilson. We had to climb a tree about 40 feet in the air and sit on a branch, and it was nightfall. And the branch was angled, which was a bit harrowing. All I could do was look at other trees and say, "Why didn't they pick that one? Or that one? Or that one?"
I'd imagine that's the most in-danger you've ever felt on a movie set.
Yeah. Actually yes.
What do you think the most underrated movie of yours is?
Probably the one that's least viewed that I thought was really fantastic was "Extract" with Mike Judge. That was a fun picture that didn't get a broad audience. It wasn't released wide, so no one got to see it.
What is the most outrageous lie that you've ever read about yourself?
That I did "Snakes on a Plane" for free.
Why would anyone write that?
That was something on Wikipedia.
Bizarre. What's your second favorite website after NextMovie?
DavidKoechner.com, or YouTube.com/davidkoechner [laughs]. I like show business, so the one I check often is Deadline, the industry trade website.
What's your porn star name?
Michael Morgan. Because I grew up on Morgan Street. [Also] the woman I married, her last name is Morgan.
If you were a bird and could poop on anyone in the world's head, who would it be?
Oh, this should be easy. Well, does it have to be someone specific? Because I would say anyone who deals in human trafficking would be number one.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
There's two things. I went to college, and [then] I quit going to college, and I thought my dad was going to be mad at me, because I was a poly-sci major and I realized I didn't want to do that. And then my dad said, "Dave, I don't know what you want to do, but I don't think you want to go to school." Because I thought he was going to give me an ass chewing, but he didn't, which kind of gave me the freedom to say, "Oh, well I think I know what I want to do."
And my friend once wrote on a napkin to me after a class that I was taking, "Begin by knowing." And what he meant by that was, know that you're good enough to do this. Don't pressure yourself, don't second-guess yourself, don't try to figure out something else. Just begin by knowing. Which was great.
And the other thing is the book "Outliers," have you ever read that one?
You should, it's a fantastic book. It basically talks about the 10,000 Hours [of Practice] Theory. And if anyone has ever asked me advice, I say, "Read that book." And the thing is, no one can tell you what to do or how to make it in show business. Because if you start asking people's advice actively, like, "How do I do this? Where do I go for this?," I've always figured you've just got to figure it out and do it yourself.
Follow David on Twitter at @DavidKoechner.
"Small Apartments" comes with two bonus featurettes: "How to Build A Gravity Bong" and "Small Apartments: Behind The Scenes." The film is available Tuesday, Feb. 19 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on DVD, VOD and EST.