Broken Lizard co-founder Jay Chandrasekhar admits that when writing jokes, it's much easier to get raunchy than to avoid the dirt.
"We try mightily to come up with bits that are clean, because it's the only way you can get on Kimmel or Letterman," he said by phone. "You can't get on with most of the bits that we write. [But] it's a struggle to come up with clean stuff."
We caught up with Chandrasekhar, a Chicago-area native who shot to fame with Broken Lizard in such cult classic movies as "Super Troopers," "Beerfest" and most recently, "The Babymakers," who returns to Chicago on a five-city stand-up tour with a show at Laugh Factory—where he won't have to censor his humor.
Jay Chandrasekhar Live!
Go: 8 p.m. Friday at Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway
Tickets: $20-$30; 773-327-3175; laughfactory.com
Where do you like to go when you're in Chicago?
Lately, I've been coming through for such short periods of time. But last summer, we were promoting 'The Babymakers,' and we went to the Cubs-Cardinals game—and a lot of screenings and a lot of bars. I'm just very at home in that town. I love how sports-crazy it is.
You often tweet about Chicago sports teams.
I'm fully obsessed. I'm one of those people who, without it, I don't know who I would be. I used to have to go to bars to watch the Bears games—and WGN was pretty good, you could get a number of them. But once these [cable] packages [became available]—I mean, there have been years where I've watched 100 Cubs games—and it's, you know, starting at midnight! [Laughs.] And of course I've watched every Bears game for 25 to 30 years, and the Bulls as well. And frankly, I've got the hockey package; I've been watching the Hawks. But you can't do all of it. [Laughs] I skip the commercials, of course, but it takes a lot of your life away. But I couldn't care less about college [sports], so I'm at least comforted with that.
You grew up in the Chicago suburbs with parents who are doctors. How did they react to your career choice?
They reacted well, actually. Initially, I told them I wanted to be a doctor. I think they had a hunch that I probably wasn't terribly committed to that and that it was more of like a kid trying to be what his parents were. I took organic chemistry in college and I got a C-minus and that was it. I'd been in a lot of plays and I had gotten a fair number of laughs with my friends. And I'm like, 'I'm gonna go downtown and do some stand-up and see if I can make strangers laugh.' Chicago's a town—when you grow up in it or near it—people from there end up making it in show business. Through 'SNL' and the various other things that people have done, you get the feeling like it's possible. And so I went down to—it might have been called The Matchstick; I don't think it's there anymore—they had an open mic. I wrote 10 minutes of material and I said it so fast, I did it in about five minutes. But I got some laughs. I went back to Colgate [University] and I started a comedy group, which became Broken Lizard. The goal was always to try to do what Monty Python did, which was to make movies and perform live.
Broken Lizard was originally called Charred Goosebeak—interesting animal names there. What names didn't make the cut?
We [were at] an apartment in New York. We filled up the bong and we just sat there for about three days and told jokes and tried to come up with names for the group—'cause Charred Goosebeak is still going at Colgate [University], so we couldn't be that. At one point we decided, "OK, it's going to be Four Whiteys and an Injun." We were also going to be the Chocolate Speedo Team—that was the name we all agreed to when I went to the printer. I got to the printer and I'm like, "I don't know…the Chocolate Speedo Team?" [Laughs.] And after three days where we were working on the name, I unilaterally changed it to Broken Lizard, printed the posters and came back. I'm like, 'Here's our new name, fellas!' And they're like, 'Oh, OK?' And I'm like, 'It's kind of like Monty Python—Broken Lizard, you know?'
What material works better on screen versus on stage?