Actor and stand-up funnyman David Koechner was in town last weekend and took a moment to chat with me about his upcoming film work and some other stuff. Always a pleasure.
Matthew Lickona: Last time we spoke, you were in town with a bit of a variety show, right around the release of Anchorman 2.
David Koechner: That would have been December of 2013. Boy, you and I have grown up since then. That show was mostly characters, plus a couple of friends who played music. But now I’m preparing for a special; this is more about my life, where I am right now. I’ve got a wife and five kids and two dogs, and I’m dealing with it.
ML: Are you mad at Jim Gaffigan for getting a TV show about a comedian with five kids?
DK: No, God bless him. That’s just a harbinger of great things to come. I’m very happy for him.
ML: You bounce back and forth between TV and movies a great deal, perhaps more than most actors. Can you comment on how it seems that these days the cultural conversation is all about television?
DK: If the argument is that there’s more passion right now about television than movies right now, I think that’s a solid argument. But Netflix is making their own movies, and they’re going to put one of them, Beasts of No Nation, in theaters. It’s still a big deal. We all go to a theater and agree, as a community of that size, for that night, to witness a story together. I think there’s something very special about that.
ML: Which do you watch more?
DK: What I love more than anything are documentaries. More nonfiction than fiction. The same goes for my reading habits. But I love to discover movies again with my kids. I just watched The Outlaw Josey Wales with my oldest boy, and it was such a kick to see him be entertained by it the same way I was. If I’m at the store, I’ll rifle through the bargain bin to find a DVD that I know I liked.
ML: Do you find that sometimes it’s harder to get your kids to like a thing if Dad likes it?
DK: Yes! Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies of all time. A couple of weekends ago, my wife took the three girls to her sister’s, and I had the boys. All weekend, we were just doing guy stuff: laser tag, go-carts, movies in the theater. Then at the end, I said, “We’re going to watch Apocalypse Now and it’s going to be amazing.” And they were both not into it. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe they were tired, maybe they were just in the mood for something else at the time. So I’m going to have to try it at seven in the morning every day for the next couple of months.
ML: They’ll love the smell of napalm in the morning. You’ve got three films coming out before the end of the year: Hell & Back, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and Krampus. I’m especially curious about Krampus. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the notion that if there’s this supernatural good guy, Santa Claus, who will reward you for being good, then of course there has to be this supernatural bad guy, Krampus, who will punish you for being bad.
DK: Apparently, that’s a very ingrained notion in Europe, especially in Germany. Come Christmas, you’re either going to see Santa Klaus or Krampus. But it’s actually a family film. It’s going to be PG-13, but it can be something that everybody enjoys. It’s horror with humor and heart, and I think it’s done really well because the filmmaker, Michael Dougherty, had such passion for the idea. He loves horror, and he loves family movies; one of his favorite things to do growing up was watching Christmas movies with his family. He still does it.
ML: You don’t see as many horror comedies these days as you did, say, in the ’80s. Do you have any favorites from back then?
DK: I was never a huge fan of horror films. They scare me, they stay with me, and they invade my dreams.
ML: Moving on to Hell & Back, in which a guy has to save his friend who’s been dragged down into hell, and which looks to be pretty comedic. Do you think a comedy about hell requires at least a lingering belief that there is such a place in order to be funny? Or is it just pure farce?
DK: Both. And I would also say that we could be reminded that it’s a concept that for some people is a reality. And as Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” I think that’s what’s envisioned in the film. It’s other people. It always is. It’s that co-worker, that neighbor.
ML: You play the demon Asmodeus. Tell me about him.
DK: He’s incompetent. That’s his own hell, and it’s the hell of anyone who has to interact with him.