Brian Posehn Interview: The ‘Five-Year Engagement’ Star Talks Nerd Rage and Pickles
Lovable comedian Brian Posehn (televisions ‘The Sarah Silverman Program’ and ‘Just Shoot Me’) takes a turn as Tarquin a well-intentioned but wholly inappropriate pickle expert in ‘The Five-Year Engagement,’ the latest comedy from Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller.
We had the opportunity to speak with the Posehn, one of our favorite comedians, in Los Angeles recently and discussed pickle and puppet training, what it takes to create a successful rom-com and the invention of nerd rage.
There are a lot of romantic comedies made each year, but very few of them are either legitimately funny, or legitimately romantic. Why do you think that is?
Well, there’s a reason that guys look down on a lot of those movies and they’re called chick flicks. It’s because they may only play to the female fantasy, you know what I mean? Not that all girls have that fantasy. But a lot of these movies are kind of cookie cutter where it’s the girl wants Guy A, and then she chooses Guy B because he’s ultimately better than the Guy A. Who cares?
What’s so great about Judd Apatow movies and also Nick’s movies is that they create relatable characters and they create relatable situations, and I think they never wanted to make anything false, and so that’s where this comes from. I don’t know if they’ve gone through this, but it felt real.
Sure and there are quite a few people who have gone through similar situations, in fact.
Absolutely. My engagement process was only about a year, but I know people where this has happened, where life kind of gets in the way. Maybe you can’t afford it, other things will come up, jobs or whatever, and next thing you know, your friends have been engaged for three or four years.
I think that one of the other things that’s really working for ‘The five-Year Engagement’ is that the issue in the relationship is the push/pull between each of their careers, which is something I see happening for a lot of people.
Yes, I feel like this movie it’s really organic. As a guy I definitely identify with Jason. You know, I have a wife who, luckily we both are career driven, but if there would have been a point where she said, ‘I’ve got to do this,’ I would have let her. I would be selfless, I would do what he does. But then there’s another part of you that wants to follow your dream. So it kind of makes sense in this movie where that becomes a wedge in the relationship. It doesn’t come from nowhere.
Well my understanding is that Nicholas Stoller likes to keep things very organic on-set and he had you do some pickle training so that you would have the expertise that your character does. Is that right?
I had to do puppet training, too!
Puppets? Why puppets? Pickle puppets?
There was a scene that didn’t make it to the final cut (but I think it’ll make it to the DVD because it’s hilarious) in which Jason takes mushrooms with the young girlfriend he has, and they have Thanksgiving together and he hallucinates and I did the voice of the turkey. So, early on Nick said “Hey, I want to send you to puppet training, and the other thing, for Tarquin, is I want you to do some research on pickles.” And so I was a little intimidated, I was like, “Oh god, I’ve got to go on the Internet and read about pickles?”
Turns out, there’s not a lot of information about pickles on the Internet. But oddly enough I had an old friend in New York who works at a pickle store. So I went in with all this great pickle knowledge, and then wound up not really using it. There’s the one scene where I talk about pickling different things, and that was all just improvised, you know, I pickle my weed, I pickle this, I pickle the batteries…
Pickle the cat.
Yep. But none of the actual research Nick had me do played into it. I think he had a couple people do things. I know Chris (Parnell) had to look at how to gut a deer. And then didn’t’ have to use any of that in the actual movie.
You give a wildly inappropriate toast at a wedding in the film; did that come from any real world experience in your life?
Yes. I was at a wedding a couple years back and this guy, he’s like a cousin of the groom, comes up to me and says, “you’re a comedian.” I said, “yeah.” And he says “I want to give this toast, what do you think?” And he goes, “marriage is about honor, you’ve gotta get on her and stay on her.” And he goes, “should I do it?” I was thinking no but I went, “yes, of course, whatever you think!” And he did it and it was (laughing)…it just killed the moment. It was so awkward.
Oh that is so wrong. Let me ask you, did you coin the phrase nerd rage with your debut comedy album or had you heard it?
I feel like I did.
I feel like you did, too.
Yeah, there’s a roller derby girl that goes by that name, nerd rage, and she named herself after my album. I mean when I said it the first time, I had never heard it before. And I feel like a lot of nerds have that. But nerd rage to me is kind of just empty rage. I mean ultimately you’re not going to do it, you’re not going to fight somebody, you know. It’s just kind of this anger that’s built up from all these years of taking sh-t from people. But ultimately it’s harmless, you know. The story I tell on the record is totally true and the fact is that I screamed in my car at these guys but my windows were rolled up. So these jocks, there was no danger of them hearing what I was yelling at them. They just looked and saw this red-faced weirdo screaming in his car.
‘The Five-Year Engagement’ opens in theaters this Friday, April 27th.