With only two feature films and one TV show to his name, writer/director Jody Hill, is now synonymous with ignoring the boundaries and “genre rules” of modern comedy and creating anti-heroes that laughably burble with nihilistic rage, scary faux pas and hot-air egos. But there is also an internal depth to these macho doofuses played by Hill’s longtime pal and writing partner, Danny McBride, and comedy star Seth Rogen, to surpass the high art of a perfectly-timed and pronounced “fuck.”
Hill’s work on Observe & Report, The Foot Fist Way, and his cultural breakthrough, HBO‘s Eastbound & Down, contains more glass-darkly social commentary and life-lived expression than the work of any hotshot young novelist in recent memory. Rather than document the cold realities and indulgent pleasantries of another big city with bright lights, Hill is set on exploring the very place that so many creative-types vacate upon the arrival of their first Visa card or college acceptance letter: the American South. Moreover, as many middle-class and broke white American males face sobering, if inevitable, realizations and disillusions about the future, laughing at Hill’s moronic, unhinged versions as they champion outdated movie/sports star heroics atop small-town kingdoms is like homemade medicine. When it comes to countering the monotony of the average day-to-day? Eastbound is harder to beat still. The sight of Kenny Powers “dancing” in a middle school gym under the influence of eggrolls and ecstasy or ejecting a topless broad from his Jet Ski is priceless. Like cheetah-spotted gold or “a bulletproof tiger, dude.”
A native of North Carolina, Hill is the latest progeny of the North Carolina School of the Arts, alongside McBride and creative partner Ben Best, fellow EB&D director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), and EB&D cinematographer Tim Orr. In the first part of my interview, we discuss the show in-depth, including some of the surprising and vile admissions and special features on the Season One DVD. We also talk about what it’s like to be a young director coming from, and staying in, the South, why so many comedians today are from there, and why the region was overdue for a proper comedic depiction.
Hunter Stephenson: Hey Jody, how are you?
Jody Hill: Hey Hunter. Good, good, good. Hey man, I wanted to say that I was sorry I wasn’t there when you visited down in Wilmington [Eastbound & Down set, 2008]. I remember the piece you wrote, and it sounded like a really good time. [laughs] Sucks I couldn’t there, man; I was editing my film (Observe & Report), and Warner Bros. wouldn’t let me go. When you have to do a director’s cut, they want to lock you up for 10 weeks. [laughs] Everybody said they had a blast…and I was editing.
Yeah. I expected to interview you there. And I didn’t know about the change, that David Green was now directing the majority of the episodes while you were in L.A. But it all worked out, he killed it. My first question: Legend has it that when you, Danny [McBride], and Ben [Best] first conceived of Kenny Powers you were sitting in a kiddie pool in North Carolina drinking beers. [laughs] Is that accurate?
Jody Hill: [laughs] Yeah, this was before we made Foot Fist Way or anything. We were trying to come up with ideas for shows. I was between jobs; I had been working this really shit reality show job, doing motion-control for Behind the Music and shit like that. [laughs] It was pretty lame. And so, yeah, we were in Charlotte, in the backyard of Ben Best’s house. And yeah, we were literally sitting in a kiddie pool with a case of beer. And Kenny was one of the ideas that, uh, we came up with. [laughs]