Besides the 60 plus films screened by the The Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, they also offered fascinating and informative daytime panels for the people who attended the festival. One of the best I attended was the one with Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, (who I know as Ben Garant), one of the most successful writing teams in Hollywood.
Back before Ben was one of the team that formed MTV’s The State, he and I and Michael Ian Black wrote an inter-active film for Sony called “I’m Your Man”. As I recall, Sony spent about half a million bucks to outfit the Sony Theatre on 19th Street and Broadway with a series of buttons at every seat, where the actors would ask the audience to make choices during the film. “Should we escape out the window or should we go to the roof?” And the audience would vote, the votes would be tallied immediately, and the course of the film would be changed to accommodate the audience’s wishes. It was the first of it’s kind at the time.
He went on to become one of the founding members of MTV’s “The State”, (as did Tom Lennon), and then went on to be a co-creator of Comedy Central’s Viva Variety, a short-lived but very funny pseudo-European-type variety show of sorts. From 2003 to 2009, Ben and Thomas created and starred in Comedy Central’s hit Reno 911, a take off on the FOX show COPS that ran for 88 episodes over the 6 years it was on.
As writing partners, Garant and Lennon’s films have earned over $1.4 billion in box office revenue alone. Some of their films were Night at The Museum, Let’s Go To Prison, Balls of Fury, and Herbie Fully Loaded, to name just a few.
In 2010, Garant and Lennon created a pilot for FX called USS Alabama, a sci-fi/comedy set a thousand years in the future, aboard a United Nations Peacekeeping spaceship, the U.S.S. Alabama, and they screened the pilot at The Friars Club!
In 2011, Garant and Lennon released a book about their careers called “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!
Ben and Tom met in 1988 while students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and have been together ever since! They are so in synch when they speak! Like an old married couple,( in the best sense!) who know what the other is going to say before they say it. They did such a fun informative panel, and these were some of the their thoughts on L.A. and writing in general:
a. LA is gross! It’s an oil rig. As you land you’re like, ” Is that a poison gas?” It’s a lonely town. It’s a cess pit!”
b. No one reads anything in L.A, … they watch it! No matter what script you’re working on it’s too long! A script length of 105 pages is best!
When they were in The State, there were 11 people and they had to “pitch” ideas every day. “It was like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool!”
When they pitch they do a 12 minute rehearsed pitch, that they practice out loud. The two of them together do a very funny pitch. They kind of did one as an example.
They told a funny story about trying to sell a pitch about a Mall Cop to the studio that was already doing Paul Blart with Kevin James,( about a mall cop, … for any foreign men who might be reading this post!) and then had to show up at 11 other pitch meetings that were already set up to pitch the same project knowing that the answer would be “NO”!
They shot “Alabama” in 3 days on a Russian submarine. They describe it as Reno 911 on a rocket ship. It was very funny. Eddie Izzard who I recently ran into in Montreal plays the villain, the ruler of Tango.
There was a character named Mr. Magenta who looked like a really hot girl, but was actually a male on the planet she came from. They didn’t really rehearse except for practicing how they would envision themselves teleporting, and then landing at their destination in a way that looked believable.
The host of this fun, and well attended event was Matt Kiernan!
On a personal note is was really special for me to re-unite with Ben after all these years and to be able to congratulate him on all of his success. What was even more special was to see how humble he was and how happy he is with his new wife Kathy, who was kind enough to shoot the little video you will be seeing very shortly.
I seem to be starting a trend. When I interviewed Jimmy Fallon recently,my D.P. wasn’t able to show up so Jimmy’s wife Nancy who is a TV producer, shot the interview for me!
PART 1 – http://wp.me/p1pHIm-mc
PART 2 – http://wp.me/p1pHIm-mo
This time, Ben’s new wife Kathy shot the interview for me! I should probably just limit my interviewing to celebs who are married and who bring their wives with them! Maybe my life would be a lot easier. I wonder if Kathy can edit??
Watch for the Ben Garant video coming soon! And don’t forget to buy the book!