Michael Addis [Interview]

For those of you who dropped by for this week’s Sunday Matinee (better be all of you!), you may remember that I went on a bit of a tangent about hecklers and critics when I talked about the film Heckler. Somewhere in that bitter rant, I mentioned that we “may” have some words with a key figure from the film. Well, I would not want to disappoint my dear reader(s), so today we have some great words with Heckler creator Michael Addis! Michael is the man who give this project life, as well as so many other fine projects that we shall discuss. Including one of the most underrated comedies ever entitled Poor White Trash. I seriously can not recommend this film enough, and if you don’t get it….I just don’t get you!

Michael Addis is a man who knows funny. He has worked behind the camera on projects for some of the finest comedians in the game and is just an overall delightful human being. He was there in the beginning of what would become one of today’s hottest comedy groups, Impractical Jokers. He has worked on some reality television that is actually watchable and brilliant, which as we have discussed in the past, is few and far between! He has an eye for brilliance that can not be matched, and we look forward to calling him a TWS alum and telling you about what he is up to in the future. A future that appears to be just as bright as his past. So ladies and gentlemen, the great Michael Addis!

How did you find yourself in the world of film and television? Was it always a dream of yours as a youth? Or did you just sort of fall into it?

I was one of those fortunate people who always knew what I wanted to do.  I explored a lot of interests when I was a kid, and all of them seemed to point directly to what I’m doing today.  Journalism, photography, writing, acting, etc.  I use all.   And I think young people today should try a lot of different things that excite them… I really feel that their passions and skills will eventually lead them to the right spot.

Your 2007 documentary Heckler, which you directed and co-produced with comedian and actor Jamie Kennedy, is a brilliant and insightful film. One of the reasons it was so great was the amazing interviews with the folks gave you. Are there any stories or conversations that had to be removed from the final product for one reason or another that you could tell us about?

Yes, a very famous actor, who is a conservative, asked to be taken out of the film because Jamie and I chose to have a lot of F-bombs in the movie (which was really essential to the message – the whole world of heckling/criticism had to feel abrasive for it the cathartic dance at the end to have it’s impact).  I didn’t have to release the famous actor, because he signed a contract, but we agreed it would be rude to force him to stay in a film he didn’t believe in.  I lost a lot of respect for him that day, I have to admit.  Because I don’t think the word “fuck” is something we should fear.  My children know it, and I tell them they are free to use it in my home (they don’t though – I can’t drive the inherent politeness out of those two little shits ;)).  I think the idea that God frowns upon the word “fuck” is just nonsense.  Why would he care?   Also… I had real problems editing the Carrot Top interview down because it was so good in it’s longer state.  The conundrum is ridiculous if you think about it, but I cut the interview down to 25 mins and literally had to bring in another editor to cut it further – I couldn’t cut anything out.  I fell in love with the 25 minute version.  It’s insane… you can’t stop a 75 min movie to have a 25 minute interview with… Carrot Top, but it was so amazing, and Jamie was just perfect in asking him questions and reading terrible reviews to Scott (Carrot Top’s real name is, of course, not Carrot Top).   We cut it way down, but for a moment, I thought it was this perfect chunk of content that would have taught you so much about the human condition vis a vis criticism.  I’m dead serious.

And as far as the final product of the film is concerned, what story hit you the hardest, either through pain or laughter, or both? 

Good question… I really am very proud of the movie as a whole.  Hard to pick one “story.”  Maybe the interview with David Cross because he was so honest.  Before every interview, I asked the subject to be very honest – and not try to be funny, or do shtick.  I felt it would help us make the movie actually funnier – in a good way.  And that’s what happened.  Almost all complied with my request, but David particularly took that to heart and just laid out exactly how he felt during a particularly low time in his life.  He said he wanted to quit comedy.  And, very easily, we could have lost David Cross as an artist. He could have stopped and done some other job, selling energy drinks or something.  Thankfully, he continued.  But the world can be hard on a person who chooses to be an artist.  Anyone reading these words right now, if they are working in the arts, probably has considered quitting, has quit or is about to quit.  But the whole endeavor is built for attrition.  You have to make your own choice… but I’m glad I got to show David Cross discussing his struggle.  It’s enlightening.

I enjoyed the 2000 film Poor White Trash that you wrote and directed quite immensely. It’s still a go to comedy for me. Looking back almost two decades later, what are your thoughts on the film? Was it as fun to make the film as it is to watch it?

I think it sucks.  Actually, I’m very proud of it, especially the work of the whole team broiling our rumps down in Southern Illinois one summer many years ago.  But I really can’t watch a frame of it. There are so many ways I could have directed it better – entirely my fault. It’s painful.  But at the same time, I think that it’s a lot of fun – as a low budget comedy.  Making a successful “white trash” comedy is just not easy to do.  There are a lot of land mines inherent in the endeavor.  People feel like you are “making fun of” the characters – or lower income people.  That wasn’t my intent at all.  I really just wanted to show how some really doomed criminal endeavors get momentum behind them.  There was a recent Zach Galifinakis comedy called Masterminds that was also dealing with rednecks and a true crime story.  It didn’t do well financially and now has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes (much lower than our 56%).  Despite all the amazing talent behind it, it also suffered from this mysterious curse of making a “white trash” comedy.  They generally become “wacky” and can’t climb out of that hole, no matter how earnest you are about the subject matter.


In your extremely impressive career, you have done so many different jobs, from writing to producing to editing and more. With all of your experience, what would you consider to be your favorite gig of all? 

Thanks Ron.  Can I answer this way… the top 5 should be 1) directing/producing Heckler 2) writing/directing Poor White Trash 3) directing on the Lewis Black show for Comedy Central 4) writing/directing on David Spade’s Showbiz Show on Comedy Central, and 5) show running Impractical Jokers and 6) a number of reality TV projects I’ve worked on with my friend Peter Cohen, who is a very undervalued comedic producer.  When we collaborate, it’s subversive and hilarious. I always enjoy that.  Also, I’ve written 19 feature screenplays and some that sit on the shelf are just really, really solid.  But they sit there for no reason other than I haven’t pushed them out into the world with the necessary power. I’m hoping to put my new project at the top of that list… but we shall see.

So what do you have coming up that you would like our readers to know about?

I’m shooting a pilot at Comic-Con in San Diego mid July for Rotten Tomatoes.  If any of your readers happen to be going to Comic-Con, I’d like to invite them to be in the audience and take part!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’ve been studying some YouTube movie review sites that are really good.  So many people doing good work out there – criticism can absolutely be an art!  And there are some funny mother fuckers on YouTube doing stuff that makes me smile.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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