Ike Barinholtz is not only one of the funniest guys on TV, starring in Fox’s The Mindy Project, he’s now in the funniest movie of the year: Neighbors.
He stars alongside an incredible cast, adding his own quirky humor to Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco’s on-point comedic chemistry. The film centers on new parents, played by Rogen and Byrne, that deal with the consequences of a fraternity moving in next door. Their new neighbors love beer pong, shots, raging and are led by their valiant, douchebag president Teddy (Efron). When the frat boys refuse to stop their partying, the young couple decides to fight back. Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) directs the surprisingly heartfelt and most hilarious film I’ve seen in years.
Ike plays Rogen’s best friend Jimmy in the film and serves up a heaping helping of offensive and funny punch lines. Given Ike is at the forefront of modern day comedy, I had to chat with him about what America finds funny.
He also divulges the non-stop laughs on the Neighbors set, working with offensive humor and finding the funny, both as a writer and actor.
Oh, and his comedy idols. One of which he’s finally meeting this Monday.
A: You’re super plugged into comedy right now on TV and on the big screen. What do you think America finds funny?
B: I feel like this is a golden age for stupid characters. I feel like in Neighbors all the characters are relatively nice characters but dummies in their respective lives. On The Mindy Project, Mindy’s character and Danny, we all do really dumb things and we all are very unashamed to make ourselves look stupid. That’s something people like to see.
A: Watching Neighbors in the theater was amazing. I haven’t seen a crowd laugh that hard since Pineapple Express. How did you get on board with that same comedy family?
B: I had known Seth because we had hung out when we both did Eastbound & Down. He came and did The Mindy Project and we both hit it off. I had been a fan of his since Freaks and Geeks. When they were making this movie, I knew about it and my people said, ‘Hey there’s this part you should go in and meet with Seth and those guys.’ I went in and met with [director] Nick and read with Seth. It was the right mix of making fun of each other but still showing we’re still friends.
A: What was the relationship on set like with Rose and Seth? I feel like there must have been improvisation.
B: Absolutely. We had an amazing script and the way Seth, Evan and Nick work – it’s always evolving. You’ll go out and you have a great scene, well written. After you nail that scene, we open it up a little but, whether its improvising or being given lines on the fly. You add layers and new little weird things to the scene. Sometimes the scene ends up very different than originally written, usually it's similar in tone and shape. Rose was so funny and game for whatever that it was just non-stop laughs.
A: I bet! I’m looking forward to watching the outtakes! Were there moments when Nick finally had to yell cut?
B: All the time. There’s a scene where I recruit [Rose and Seth] to fight this fraternity and we went on and on about the size of Christopher Mintze-Plasse’s penis. We would not stop and finally Nick came out laughing like seriously guys we have to move on. Every scene we ended it at gunpoint!
A: I love your character Jimmy. He’s always pushing the limit. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a particular joke that many people could find offensive. Was that in the script or a comedic choice you added?
B: I think a lot of it was already in there in terms of the character. There are a lot of horrible things my character said, I was encouraged to go as far as I could. That line, a lot of people are like I love the rape joke! It’s not really a rape joke, because I don’t laugh, but the situation and the context lends itself to that word. The joke is my character getting his answer right.
A: Have you ever written or performed a joke that went too far?
B: I think with Neighbors, there are people that will take umbrage with stuff I did in the movie! Just do it and if you think it works and the director thinks it works, then stand by it. There are too many comedians today apologizing for what they say. You’re a comedian and you’re making a joke and satirizing something. If it does offend anyone, that sucks but you want to keep going otherwise you’ll just be afraid.
A: You’ve been on The League, Eastbound & Down and Kroll Show. What are some comedy tips you’ve picked up along the way?
B: The common denominator is allowing yourself to look really stupid. Danny McBride having Kenny Powers being a completely unhinged megalomaniac. Allow yourself to go there and look stupid, it allows you to be free.
A: Is there an actor that you find hilarious. I know for me it’s always been Chris Farley.
B: Chris was a huge person for me! I love Bill Murray; I love Will Ferrell, Howard Stern. I’m a very big fan of Steve Coogan. Four different guys do very different things.
A: Have you worked with any of them yet?
B: No, I did Eastbound & Down with Will but we were in different story lines. I do Howard on Monday so I get to meet him! I love Melissa McCarthy; there’s a lot of people on my list, the Tina-s, the Amy-s!
A: As an actor and a writer, tell me about building the joke, finding the funny. What’s your process?
B: Well, I mean it depends. If it’s a joke or a line, those usually kind of stand alone and live or die based on their strength. Luckily for me I get to spend a lot of time on set as a writer and I get to pitch jokes right there. As far as storylines or bigger aspects, if I have an idea, I go to Mindy and my partner Dave Stasson. We talk it out and maybe bring it up in the room. What if Mindy started dating Morgan’s parole officer? The only thing is make sure its funny before you pitch it!
A: What’s up next for you? You’ve got your script Central Intelligence with Ed Helms?
B: It hasn’t been made yet. It’s still in the process of hopefully getting made. We’re going to start writing season three of Mindy and then shooting and then after that looking for another great movie to do and always writing. Always writing different films.
A: What’s your writing nest?
B: I have a little guesthouse that’s very small. It has empty 7-Up bottles and tons of salt snacks and I have to take all the DVD's out or ill watch them! It’s pretty bare, a great place to knock out pages and really get lost in the work. And I’ve got nude photos of myself on the walls
A: What photos?
B: Nude photos.
A: Oh, of course.