Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paul F Tompkins & James Urbaniak FTW! [Interview]

When I attended the Thrilling Adventure Hour last month, I had the pleasure of getting to sit down with Paul F Tompkins & James Urbaniak, two longtime Workjuice Players who also happen to be in a film called Drones, written by Acker & Blacker, the same boys who write Thrilling Adventure Hour. Tompkins & Urbaniak were both incredibly delightful and easy to talk to - we got into both projects as well as what their favorite things from 2010 were...a quick chat, but super fun. I can't encourage you enough to buy your tickets to the February Thrilling Adventure Hour if you live in the LA area! See these two in action!

(I'm introduced as being from All Things Fangirl & Cineboobs)
They're lady websites in case you couldn't tell

J: I had a feeling!

P: I bet there's some confused dudes that go there though!

J: Co-opting the terminology for your own purposes

So how did you guys get involved in all this? In it from the beginning?

J: He was in it way before me

P: I was in the very first one, way back when, I was one of the founding Workjuice Players, which I guess is coming on 5 years now? Something like that? And I've known, first Ben Acker, for a long time, and then met Ben Blacker, It's funny, I THINK, through this show. I may have met him before then, but it's hard to remember sometimes, because there's so many people that you've known for so long, you kind of can't remember where they came in in your own personal timeline.

J: And I moved to LA from NY 3 and a half years ago, and then probably sometime within the first year, I had met Acker, I'm on a show called The Venture Brothers on Adult Swim, and he knew that show, I guess he knew who I was and he invited me to come see this and I loved it and then he said well we'd love you to do one, then I did one, then he asked me back the next month, and then in short order, I just became a regular and I've done them all since then, except a couple times when I was out of town and I think I was sick once.

The rest after the jump!

When you first found out about this, did it seem more scary or fun? What was appealing about it?

J: Sounded fun to me, I always loved listening to old radio and I enjoy that sort of slightly old fashioned performing style, which there is an element of in the show, so that was appealing to me.

P: For me, as a lazy actor, any time I get a chance to read during a performance, I'm all for it.

J: That's right, it's all - we hold scripts

P: But I love this kind of thing, what I really like about this show in particular is that the sensibility, it's not just slavishly recreating an old timey thing for the sake of doing that and it's not a sort of mean spirited parody, those guys have a very modern comedic sensibility and it's them applying their sensibility to an older thing as opposed to trying to recreate a thing that doesn't exist anymore. They've not necessarily updated it it's weird, it exists it in its own universe -

J: - it does it's ostensibly like a 30s 40s area that it takes place in, but -

P: - it's never really said -

J: - Yes, it's never really said and there are modern jokes and things, but the writing is so specific and really embraces the style in this really great way, like if they went back in time, they could easily write for those actual shows, and they wouldn't actually have to change what they're doing that much, they would just sort of adapt it to the culture of the time that these shows took place in, the same way they're adapting it to our time, so it's kind of great, yeah

Does Drones have a similar sensibility?

P: I think the dialogue inDrones is VERY much Acker & Blacker, it's got their signature on it For. Sure.

J: There's an element of the fantastical in this show, one of the storylines is about an Earth sheriff on Mars and Drones has this intergalactic element to it, so there are different thematic parallels. And there's a certain rhythmic quality to the dialogue that's similar that's very playable and fun to perform.

P: There are a lot of arguments about feelings, there's a lot of people in their universe who take things personally -

J: Yeah! Ostensibly, like, these fantastical environments like Mars or being in the midst of an intergalactic war, people just get into these sort of petty little pockets -

P: Yes

(over laughter)

J: Of personal issues -

P: - which become very important - and you can't move on until that is resolved.

J: Yes, they've got a corner on that comedy dynamic

P:  It's like, before we deal with this threat -

J: the worlds gonna blow up!

P: - I need to know what you said to me was insensitive

J: Yeah, I don't like the language you were using!

**Mild tiny spoiler alert***
Are your characters in the movie, humans or aliens, how much can you say?

J: I am a human being, although it's an open question in the beginning, that's sort of the fun of the movie, it's established fairly quickly, so it's not that spoilerish to give away who is what in that movie -

P: Yes, yes that's true -

J: but sort of the joke is that everyone's kind of an alien freak

P: I play an alien you do not see, but you do hear

J: Oh, it's just the voice of an actual alien that communicates with one of the office aliens through the copy machine

***end tiny maybe spoiler***

Why should everyone see Drones?

J: Well, that's always the question they ask at this interviews

P: WHY should we see this?!

So you gotta have an answer prepared, right?

P: She really got you there. See, this is an exchange worthy of an Acker & Blacker script.

J: Because it's very funny and it was created by all of these people who know each other and it feels very lived in and is all the funnier for that. There's kind of a very convincing sense of history and reality to the characters set against this fantastical, ridiculous story. That I think makes it very unique and very funny, sort of understated in a way and yet the subject matter is about intergalactic warfare. So it's this very funny take on (laughs) a sort of science fiction movie where all of the intergalactic issues are just referred to by these people in their cubicles having arguments about interpersonal relationships and office productivity. So I think it has a very specific voice and point of view that's surprising and hasn't really been seen in that way. That would be my answer

P: And I think the way it came about too, the way it was created, there's a sort of urgency to it, with the threat that's happening in the movie and the fact that it all takes place over just a handful of days, it's got a really fun pace to it.

J: And it was put together in a funny way because the producer, Jordan Kessler, wanted to work with Adam & Amber who directed it, and they hadn't quite found the right thing, and then there was an inciting incident. (Paul laughs). Where Jordan called them and said Guys, I've got an office in Baton Rouge that's available, it was like between companies, and they said, do you have anything that takes place in an office and they say let me get back to you, they call Acker & Blacker and it so happens Acker & Blacker had an idea for Drones, this office comedy, but it was only an idea, they hadn't written it yet, and they said literally, give us a week, and then within a week they had a draft and then I think within like a month they were setting up the set. It was like the old days of Roger Korman or like with Little Shop of Horrors was made, cause that was a leftover set from another movie that they still had a couple days on and Korman says hey we have two more days in this location, can we write another movie?

P: Right, (laughter)

J: And they did. This wasn't QUITE that, but we shot it in two weeks, which in terms of filmmaking is kind of like shooting in two days?

P: Yeah, in this modern age

J: (laughs) in this modern age! So, yeah, it was all just done & put together very quickly, but by a bunch of really talented people, and it just has this wonderful energy to it. 

Last question, off the top of your head, top five anything of 2010 - no category, just favorite things.

J: Wow! Oh. Well. I don't follow "things". (Paul cracks up)…I don't follow anything

P: He really is not a thing-follower it's true...for a movie, I gotta say True Grit.

J: Sarah Palin's Twitter account has been an unceasing source of hilarity.

P: The SuperEgo Podcast, which I got into this past year

J: I don't really watch any shows with any regularity, I'm trying to get better at that, and I hardly see any movies - I have little children, so I stay at home a lot and we don't rent that much really

P: For my show, I would say The Walking Dead - this is good, you keep coming up with things you didn't see, and it inspires me to think of things I *have* experienced

J: I said Sarah Palin's Twitter account!

P: You did, which led me to Superego Podcast. You don't see any shows, which led me to The Walking Dead.

Wait, Sarah Palin's Twitter account or Sarah Silverman's Twitter account?

(Paul laughs)

J: Palin!!

P: Oh, you heard right!

J: I follow her! That's been a remarkable thing to experience. Uhhh, that's a really good question, I'm trying to think. Oh! Avi Buffalo's album! They are a really good band and I bought their record (looks to Paul) - I got a thing! He's a really young guy, like 20 years old, writes all of their songs, he's really talented…so that's definitely up there, I can't remember what the album is called - Oh, it's called Avi Buffalo! It's eponymous. I enjoyed True Grit very much as well. Oh! When did the prior Coen Brothers movie come out?

Me & Paul: A Serious Man, was 2009

J: It was?

P: Yeah, cause it was nominated for awards & such…didn't it win something? I thought they won something. No one will ever know. It's impossible to find out. A time machine has not been invented yet. Someday maybe. Future generations.

Samm [Levine] said True Grit too!

P: Have you seen it?

Oh yeah, loved it.

J: It's the most recent great thing people have seen. I'll think of more things later! I'll tell you after the show.

And silly me never found him after the show...but a fun fact from the evening - I asked Samm Levine and John Dimaggio what their top fives were as well, and here's how they answered:

Samm Levine:
(Chose to answer in movies)
The Town
True Grit
The Fighter
Jackass 3D
- "why? Flying dildos in 3D makes me laugh every time."

John DiMaggio:
True Grit
Futurama back on the air
Recording Gears of War 3
First year in the first house he bought
His dad getting better

So all four of my interviewees named True Grit as a favorite of the year! This makes me happy :). I loves me some cowboys. And also, I really love John DiMaggio, just side note. He is effing cool.

But most importantly, I loves me some Thrilling Adventure Hour. I'll be back this month, seeing guest stars Jason Ritter & Simon Helberg! Huzzah! Hope to see you there too, readers :)