Jay Chandrasekhar Of 'Super Troopers' On His Memoir 'Mustache Shenanigans'
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Listeners familiar with the 2001 cult classic "Super Troopers" might not be surprised that the following interview contains multiple references to the male anatomy. Jay Chandrasekhar both directed the film and starred in it with his comedy group Broken Lizard, playing Trooper Arcot Ramathorn, better known as Thorny. Today he's still a busy director and now the author of a new book, "Mustache Shenanigans." So fans of "Super Troopers" will get the reference there and will be excited about the upcoming sequel, "Super Troopers 2." I asked him about these new projects and his full name, which he references in the book. And it has an interesting meaning.
JAY CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, you know, my full name is Jayanth Jambulingam Chandrasekhar, which translates literally to victorious large penis rising moon.
CHANDRASEKHAR: And I only found this out when I was 25, and I'd made my first film. A friend of mine, who was in the movie with me, was watching the short film with his friend who was Indian and his mother. And when my name came up on screen, Jambulingam, which is the name I used as my editing credit, his mother started laughing. And she said, do you know what that means? And they said no. And she said, well, it means large penis. And so he immediately called me up. And he said, do you know your middle name...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you would.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Yeah. Do you know your middle name means large penis. And I said, what? And so I call my mother. And I say, Mom...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And again, as you would (laughter).
CHANDRASEKHAR: As you would. I said, Mom, does my middle name mean large penis? And she goes, well, yeah, literally, sure. But it's meant to be a euphemism for power. And I said, you know, Mom, I mean, all these years growing up an Indian kid, it would have been helpful to have known that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) You got into comedy at university, at Colgate where you studied. And what I really liked, again, is this interaction with your mom where she tells you the sort of secret to comedy, which I think guided you, which is you have to be fearless.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Well, you know, I wrote 10 minutes of stand-up. And I went to a stand-up open mic, and I just performed the 10 minutes. And I said it's so fast, I did 10 minutes in basically five minutes of time. I was just rushing through. But what happened was, when I knew I was going up third and the guy called me up third, I would go up and I'd sort of do just OK because I'd be overly memorized. But if I thought I was going up fourth, for example, and the guy called me up second, I would be so unclear and unsure and then I would just nail it, and I would kill.
And I talked to my mom about it. And she goes, you know, you've really just got to stop overmemorizing your act and just, you know, trust that you're funny; you know the stories. And just go up and tell them real naturally. And once I sort of adopted that mindset, I started to really succeed a lot more.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have a lot of these moments in the book where you're sort of explaining what you think the secret to certain things are, be it comedy or other things. It's almost like a how-to of Hollywood. Many of the chapters are called - How to Sell a Film at Sundance; you know, What Does It Take to Make It in One of the Most Competitive Businesses in the World?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Ultimately, it requires a lot of luck and certainly talent. But really what it requires mostly is how you react to being told no, you know? Because most of show business is being told no. Right? I mean, every one of our movies was really made out of rejection rage. I mean, you know - you're like, oh, you don't think I can make it? Watch me. I'm making it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously, "Super Troopers" is what everybody first knew you for. I want to play a scene here from "Super Troopers."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SUPER TROOPERS")
PAUL SOTER: (As Foster) All right, meow, hand over your license and registration. Hurry up, meow.
JIM GAFFIGAN: (As Larry Johnson, laughing) Sorry.
SOTER: (As Foster) Is there something funny here, boy? funny here.
GAFFIGAN: (As Larry Johnson) No, no, no.
SOTER: (As Foster) Well, then why are you laughing, Mr. Larry Johnson? All right, meow, where were we?
GAFFIGAN: (As Larry Johnson) I'm sorry, are you saying meow?
SOTER: (As Foster) Am I saying meow?
GAFFIGAN: (As Larry Johnson) I thought...
SOTER: (As Foster) Don't think, boy. Meow, do you know how fast you were going?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) So tell us the backstory. You had to shut down the highway for this scene.
CHANDRASEKHAR: There was just traffic blowing by. And it was just too loud. And so I happened - I mean, I'm not in the scene. But I happened to be wearing my highway patrol uniform. You know, we were...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course.
CHANDRASEKHAR: ...We were in New York, but I was wearing a Vermont highway patrol uniform. And so I walked across to the other side of the highway. I put my hand up, and I stopped traffic.
CHANDRASEKHAR: And I yelled, action. And we just shot the scene as I watched it on the monitor. And these people who were stopped are looking at this Vermont cop holding a video monitor.
CHANDRASEKHAR: And then I'm like, cut. And then I let the traffic go. I mean, the funny thing about any cop uniform is that people will do what you say when you're wearing a cop uniform. That's just - it doesn't matter. I mean, we drove around in Vermont cars. People pulled over. I mean, we just put the lights on and drove around. It was certainly impersonating a police officer. But, you know, we really had to do it to get the proper sound so by any means necessary.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was all in the service of art (laughter).
CHANDRASEKHAR: That's right. That's right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Super Troopers 2"?
CHANDRASEKHAR: Yeah, "Super Troopers 2" is done. It's cut. We're recording the sound. The Eagles of Death Metal are doing the score and recording that right now. And the film turned out really great. We're really, really happy with it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I read in the fundraising campaign to make "Super Troopers 2," some people bought the rights to name a character. Can you fill us in on some of the names?
CHANDRASEKHAR: There's a guy named Shaadi Fitz-Nuggly (ph) who paid for the right for us just to name him in the movie, which is amazing.
CHANDRASEKHAR: I mean, there's even a guy who paid to have a line in the film. So we really got deep involved with our fans. And we're really, really grateful for them for really coming through for us. I mean, we raised $4.5 million, so it was a big help in making this movie.
CHANDRASEKHAR: All right, Jay Chandrasekhar - his new book is "Mustache Shenanigans." And his new film to come out soon is "Super Troopers 2." Thank you so much for being with us.
CHANDRASEKHAR: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.