Exit Interview: Adam McKay
When Malvern’s Adam McKay left Temple University and moved to Chicago, he ran through the American Comedy All-Star Circuit — from Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade to writing for Saturday Night Live, where he met future collaborator Will Ferrell. McKay penned and directed Ferrell in Anchorman, and teamed with his pal again for this month’s Bewitched, with Nicole Kidman. Considering McKay’s soft spot for lowbrow humor, Exit Interview tried working blue, but efforts to discuss whether the 37-year-old will ever, professionally speaking, dislodge his head from Ferrell’s [buttocks], among other topics, have been censored.
Exit Interview: Where are you right now? In a pool flanked by Playmates, sipping a margarita and BlackBerrying your agent?
Adam McKay: [laughs] Those are all things I should be doing. I’m actually over at Will Ferrell’s office. He’s out of town, and I’m moving into a new office and using his in the transition.
EI: So when did you first think of comedy as a career?
AM: I started doing stand-up about six months after graduating from Great Valley High School. It was atrocious. I was doing airplane humor, breaking up with your girlfriend — I hadn’t even had a steady girlfriend.
EI: Did you and Tina Fey bond over your Philly roots at SNL?
AM: I actually hired Tina. Beyond that, I have nothing to do with her success. Tina used to sing “You Light Up My Life” in a Philly accent: “Yoo loyt up moy loyf … ” We always enjoy the Philly accent.
EI: Cheri Oteri’s also from here. What’s happened to her? I think I saw her selling roses on the Boulevard last week.
AM: Don’t downplay that. They’ve got a strong union, those people. I haven’t seen Cheri in years. I have no idea.
EI: What were your favorite SNL sketches with Will?
AM: We loved this crazy ob-gyn who would say awful stuff like “I’m pretty sure your baby’s a witch,” or say he has horrible news and then take a call from a guy who wants him to switch phone services. Those were our favorites — absurd, screw-around sketches.
EI: I’d like to label this Exit Interview “unrated,” so were there any particular obscene gags you cut from Anchorman?
AM: Oh, oh, here’s one. In the part where they mess with the teleprompter and he says “Go ‘F’ yourself, San Diego,” Will did a version where he said “Go put a huge, purplish, veiny [rooster] up your [buttocks].” He read it completely straight, and it’s the funniest damn thing.
EI: When you signed on for Bewitched, were you afraid it would end up being another bad TV-show adaptation?
AM: Nora Ephron and her sister Delia had already written a draft, and I was brought in to rewrite it with them. It was a blast. All my friends were giving me a hard time, thinking of Nora’s movies as light romantic comedies, but she is as hard-funny as anyone you’re going to meet.
EI: But I assume that as “hard-funny” as she was, no “purplish, veiny [rooster]” jokes made it into the movie.
AM: [laughs] That’s true. Although Nora would laugh at that. But no. No no no. No purplish veiny [roosters] in Bewitched.
EI: Is it possible to assess Kidman’s comedic talents, or do you just stare at her and say, “Can you read that again, slowly, with the accent?”
AM: She is stunningly gorgeous, there’s no doubt about it. But you’re going to be shocked at how good she is in this movie.
EI: Have you seen her eat? I’m not convinced that she does.
AM: [laughs] You’d be surprised. She swims with sharks and likes boxing. She’s tough.
EI: I read that your pitch for Talladega Nights was six words: Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver.
AM: Well, it was more than that, but yeah, the initial idea was “Ricky Bobby — no brakes, no fear.”
EI: Similar to that, I’ve got a few pitches to run by you. Feel free to move on these.
AM: I’ve got two lines on the phone, so if one’s really cooking, I’m going to make it happen.
EI: Absolutely. I just want some points on the back end. And merchandising. And my name above the title.
AM: We’ll wire some money directly into your account.
EI: Will Ferrell as an easy-listening DJ whose station flips to urban format.
AM: [laughs] There’s a restaurant called Earth, Wind and Flower. We used to joke that that’s a movie pitch, and that’s what this movie would be called. You could actually sell that idea.
EI: That’s kinda sad.
AM: It is. You could sell that. In fact, someone’s going to read this and go, “I will buy that idea.”
EI: Well, on the record, they need to talk to both of us first.
AM: God bless you.
EI: Will Ferrell as the Mr. Roarke figure in a new reality show called MILF Lagoon.
AM: Where did this word “MILF” come from?
EI: Um, since this interview is unrated, I guess I can just say it means a “Mom I’d like to [have relations with].”
AM: I think it does. “Mom I’d like to [have relations with].” I like the first idea. The first one’s actually working.
EI: I’ll have my people, which is me, talk to your people.
AM: Which is me. Our people are talking now, I guess.
EI: Looking forward, what’s on your schedule?
AM: Some friends are writing an idea I had about Will as a spoiled-brat CEO, and they’re talking about Land of the Lost as a comedy for Will and Jack Black. I would maybe direct.
EI: Anything you’re doing in the next 20 years that does not involve Will Ferrell?
AM: That’s a good question. As it stands now … no. I will haunt Will Ferrell. I am the Frank to his Sylvester Stallone.