Ike Barinholtz on ‘Neighbors 2,’ Bill Cosby Jokes, and His ‘Suicide Squad’ Character
Neighbors can suck. I’ve had terrible neighbors who vacuumed at 1AM in the morning, ones who fought with wooden bats in the hallway, and ones who decided it was a brilliant idea for their band to practice a hardcore metal cover of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” The scenarios for crappy neighbors are endless, which is good news for the sequel to the Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne 2014 comedy.
In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Rogen’s Mac and Byrne’s Kelly are once again subjected to the horrors of living next door to a Greek house, only this time the frat is a sorority. As it turns out, Neighbors 2 is one of the best comedy sequels in years, not to mention a super feminist and progressive one. In this second round of parents versus college kids, Ike Barinholtz's Jimmy returns as Mac’s best friend and co-worker. This time he's remarried to Carla Gallo’s Paula and on his way to fatherhood.
When I caught up with Barinholtz over the phone he told me what his ideal Neighbors 3 would be about, shared a message for Bill Cosby, and responded to a fan theory about his mysterious Suicide Squad character.
I can’t stop thinking about how much I liked this movie. It’s one of the most progressive comedies in years.
Well that’s funny because me, Nick Stoller, Seth [Rogen], and Rose Byrne are all die hard Trump supporters. I don’t know how the progressiveness happened, but I’ll take it.
Trump actually wrote the script, didn’t he?
He did. Yeah, all the offensive stupid parts are Trump’s.
Now we know! Like the first Neighbors, this one is such a refreshing surprise. What do you think is the secret behind both movies that makes them work so well?
I think that really is Nick Stoller. Besides being a wickedly funny guy and great comedy writer, I think Nick has a lot of hopes. I think Nick really sees what’s beyond people. He goes a little bit deeper. Like [Forgetting] Sarah Marshall, you really feel for Jason Segel because he’s had his heart torn out. And in Get Him to the Greek you feel for Jonah Hill because his career depends on this maniac getting to the Greek Theater.
I think in the Neighbors movies Nick has just found that sweet spot where it’s just relatability, it’s just a couple trying to get their life going. They’ve scrimped and they’ve saved and they’ve got this house and now they’re having another kid. It’s things that – friendship in college where we can spend every day together for the next four years, and now you’re moving to California and I’m going to the Peace Corps, so we’re probably not going to see each other anymore. You know what I mean? I think him just playing upon real human emotions. Even though both movies are crazy off-the-wall comedies, really finding those human moments, those real moments between the characters in those two-person scenes that really resonate with people and put them in a good mood.
In the sequel Jimmy continues to straddle that line between parenthood and immature college kid.
Yeah, he’s a moron. And everyone in the movie, Nick and I were saying, is really dumb. Except I think Dave Franco’s character has a pretty solid moral compass. But Jimmy really is just kind of Id. He’s the kind of guy that’s just like, “I’m just saying the things you’re thinking.” And Seth is like, “I’m not thinking that, you’re disturbed.” But he does also serve as a wake up call to them sometimes. Like in the first one when he’s like, “Why are you guys fighting still? It’s over!” And in this one he’s like, “You’re a bad parent dude.” So you’re right, Jimmy does kind of walk that line between complete utter, gutter trash, and kind of like a father.
Is it difficult to play such a dumb character? Did you ever want to make him smarter?
No, it really is fun to let go. We established in the first movie that Jimmy can be the one character who can really go crazy and say crazy things. That’s really a gift from the filmmakers to the actors because it allows you to not have to worry about that. A lot of times as actors the characters we’re playing are a little more in the center, there’s a little more moral in their mind and they have those conundrums. […] On The Mindy Project I play Morgan who really is kinda of almost this moron. Morgan does kind of have more of a moral compass. He went to nursing school, he’s a registered nurse, so he knows that dogs can’t talk, you know what I mean? But on Neighbors, just because it’s an R-rated comedy and Nick really gave me the permission to just fall off and be a complete scumbag, it really is very freeing.
Like the first movie, you have some jokes in this that could come off as pretty offensive, but coming from Jimmy they makes sense. There’s a men’s rights joke and a Cosby joke.
Yeah, those were definitely – the Cosby joke was definitely a written joke. In the first movie there were some things that were improvised in the moment that just kind of worked. But the Cosby thing, to me I understood the magnitude of it. But I think by playing Jimmy just as not as bad person – he’s not bad, he’s not evil, he’s just like dumb and stupid. When I was in college, and Jimmy and I are the same age, when we were in college, roofies and Rohypnols were not as prevalent as they are now. They were still a problem, they were still out there, but they’ve really become, like we know now. I have two daughters and when they go to college, or anywhere, any party, the rule is you don’t drink the punch. You just don’t drink anything anyone hands you unless it’s your best friend. And that’s something Jimmy never thought of when he was in college so it kind of makes sense for him to dig into the punch. That’s why Teddy is like, “What are you doing? Don’t drink punch you idiot!”
As far as the Cosby joke was concerned, it’s definitely a little hardcore. But you know what, I hope fucking Bill Cosby sees this movie on HBO and hears that and fucking tells Camille, “Turn it off, turn it off!” You know what I mean? Fuck Bill Cosby.
If there’s a third Neighbors, what should it be about?
If there was a third Neighbors movie, it’s like 13 years in the future. We do a little age make-up for the adults. Mac and Kelly[’s] kids are at camp, and Mac and Kelly have invited Jimmy and Paula to a villa in Tuscany for a week for relaxation. And next door Teddy and Chloe Moretz’s character are getting married. It’s all about them ruining their vacation. I’m just saying this because I want to go to Tuscany on Universal’s dime.
But honestly, after kind of seeing [this] movie […] there’s not much difference in story from the first one, it’s just more about character stakes. I think Nick and the writers and the actors have done a really good job of laying the ground stone for these characters and I think at this point you could easily make a third one because people want to see what happens to Teddy, they want to see what happens to Kelly, to Stella. So I think a third one is well within the realm of possibilities, unless the second one doesn’t do well, in which case this conversation never happened.
I’d watch your Tuscany pitch. Or maybe we see the kids grown up.
Or maybe we’re living in a retirement home and our kids are joining a fraternity.
You’re also in Suicide Squad and you’ve said your character is not a good dinner guest. Is that maybe because he’s a cannibal?
[Laughs] Ah, not to my knowledge has he ever eaten someone. But I don’t think he would be someone you would want to bring into your home. I don’t think he’s a particularly nice gentleman.
Are you playing him as a dark character or will you get comedic with the role?
I think David Ayer kind of walks the line of both. He has that dark, but he also likes real funny human emotions. Hopefully there’s a little bit of both. I haven’t seen the movie yet. There’s also a chance that I’m not in it. [Laughs]
You think so?
No, I think I am. But I haven’t seen it yet so I’m reticent to discuss it. Also Warner Bros. will cut off my legs if I give you deets.
Neighbors 2 opens on May 20.