Quasi Creators Broken Lizard On Their New Period Comedy And Unmade Projects [Exclusive Interview]

Twenty-five years ago, before they made their seminal cop comedy "Super Troopers," comedy troupe Broken Lizard were tossing around ideas based on a character who was a lovable loser who managed to become a hero. Fast-forward to today, and those ideas have solidified in the form of "Quasi," a satirical take on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" that traps hunchback Quasimodo (Steve Lemme) in a battle between the King of France (Jay Chandrasekhar) and the Pope (Paul Soter). If you ever wanted to see the guys behind "Beerfest" and "Club Dread" tackle medieval history with their unique brand of sweet stoner humor, then "Quasi" is the flick for you, and it's hitting Hulu on April 20, 2023, just in time for the holiest of pot-smoking holidays. 

I had the chance to chat with Broken Lizard (Chandrasekhar, Lemme, Soter, Erik Stolhanske, and Kevin Heffernan) and ask them all about this cinematic adventure 25 years in the making. They shared the highs and lows of playing multiple roles, talked about the troubles of making a period piece, and revealed the plot of a planned movie they never made about a space-faring cat named Mickleberry. 

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. 

'I'm acting against myself and directing'

You all play multiple characters in this, but Kevin, you also direct. What was it like having all of those roles — not only multiple roles in the movie, but directing and writing, too? What made you decide to do all of that?

Heffernan: Well, it did get a little bit, made your head spin a little bit at certain times. There were certain days where, I think there's two or three scenes where I'm acting against myself and directing. So it gets to be a little bit like, "Wait, who am I? And what's going on here?" But I think that's what made the challenge so great. It was fun. It's not something we'd ever done before to that extent. And so it became this kind of fun exercise of trying to put that puzzle together.

Soter: [To Heffernan] But was there never a day, not one day, [where you were] like, "What the hell am I doing? Why did I do this?"

Heffernan: Oh yeah, like I was saying [earlier in the day], it's like you're trying to direct, and someone's putting your pants on you from your other character while you're trying to direct a scene, and you're like, "F***ing dammit. What am I doing?" And you wish you had maybe scheduled it differently. But in the end, I mean, you don't get other opportunities like that. It was a joy to do that.

Stolhanske: Plow through.

'It took a while to get to the place where we were able to get a studio to approve it'

This is sort of an interesting movie to play two characters at once. What inspired you guys to do that?

Stolhanske: Well, we came from a sketch comedy background. We used to do live shows in Greenwich Village, and we just wanted to get back to those roots of playing different characters. We always loved Monty Python growing up, so this is sort of our nod. They're sort of the gold standard, but we always wanted to make that style of film. We always loved Monty, the Holy Grail and "Life of Brian."

It took a while to get to the place where we were able to get a studio to approve it. We finally got there after "Super Troopers 2" had some success. We wrote this script back in the days when we were writing sketch comedy, around the time of "Super Troopers," and we finally had enough leverage to get it off the ground. And we made it with Searchlight, which does period pieces, and it was a perfect fit.

'My cheeks would get fatigued'

I saw this is based on a character you used to do, Steve, over 20 years ago. This is an old character. Was the hunchback always a part of it, and was that something you regretted once you got to filming?

Lemme: The only part of it from the original person who this was based on was the mouth. I worked with a guy at a record store who spoke out of the side of his mouth like this [imitates speaking out of the side of his mouth], and he would talk about how the saxophone was the loneliest of all the instruments, and you'd play the hot sweaty blues. This guy always complained about not having love in his life.

I would come back to these guys, we were hanging out, we would riff on this character and slowly conjured up this character who was just lonely and lovelorn. We made him a hunchback in ancient France. Then we had him caught in this situation between the pope and the king. Then ultimately, we made him a virgin and he had never experienced love. He had a friend who was constantly backstabbing him or condescending to him. Then we realized we could play these multiple parts. This thing just grew out of that. I guess that was the seed that started this.

Soter: But I'm remembering now why I liked that character in the first place, as I sit here now, because I'm on the right side of you. So from my point of view, your mouth disappears –

Stolhanske: You have no mouth.

Soter: There's no mouth there, and it's just the weirdest, funniest thing. Stuff that cracks us up.

Stolhanske: But he had to take a lot of Advil from being hunched over. And your hips and back got sore, right?

Lemme: Yeah, my hips and back would get sore. My cheeks would get fatigued. And then my cheek muscles actually, it feels like they're on a swivel now. Now when I talk, sometimes my mouth just goes over there when I want to side-mouth somebody.

The King of France and ... Senator Palpatine?

Jay, you play the king of France in this. Lots of people have played the king of France over the years, but your take's a little different. I was wondering what you brought to that? Who inspired that version? Because you're not really doing the Mel Brooks version.

Chandrasekhar: I tried to do more of a Senator Palpatine from the Star Wars series. [laughs] Well, because he's an evil guy, and it's fun to do that kind of British accent when you're being that evil.

'Mickleberry the space cat'

You guys have done all kinds of things. You've done the buddy cop comedy, and with "Club Dread," you did a horror movie. With this, you're doing a period piece. What's next? Are you guys going to do sci-fi? Are you going to do high fantasy? What can we expect?

Soter: We went down the road on one sci-fi space movie about a cat, "Mickleberry the Space Cat," about the first cat that went into space. I would love to dust that off, because that was always a completely absurdist, stoned concept. I would love for us to go into space.

Stolhanske: Cats are hard to train, right? And they'd have to go through the NASA training program, and we thought that poses a lot of challenges.

Lemme: This one was multi-layered because in this thing, the cat could also speak — or so people thought. So you would go in, and of course, the cat could not speak. And then you'd feel bad for yourself, and you'd come out of there, and then when people would say, "Did the cat speak to you?", these characters would lie. They'd be like, "Oh yeah. That cat had a lot to say to me." Needless to say, the studio did not make this film.

Stolhanske: They didn't go for that.

A film indebted to the Tacoma FD crew

Can you tell me about some of the challenges of shooting a period piece?

Heffernan: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of them in terms of creating this world and how true to reality should we be, or true to the time period we should be. We debated over what kind of accents we should have. And then there's this whole level, also, of creating that world. It's a relatively low-budget film, and so we kind of built our medieval village. The hope is try to create a world that had a scope that felt like it was that world, but within our budget.

We had some great folks that came over from our show, "Tacoma FD," who just — we kind of unleashed them, and it was wardrobe and set design and hair and makeup and props and those guys. It was like they were kids in the candy store. They just had so much fun playing in the sandbox that they created this world for us on our budget. But those were the challenges to doing a period piece for a low budget. I think, thankfully, we accomplished it, but it was a little bit of a daunting task at one point.

An animated Broken Lizard movie?

With the advent of streaming, it's gotten a little bit easier to maybe sell these big ideas, and I was wondering if there are any out-of-the-box, completely crazy ideas — even crazier than a talking cat that doesn't talk — that you guys have thought about pitching that you might end up getting to?

Chandrasekhar: Well, there's a [script we wrote] that's set in the world of the holiday, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and sort of fighting for supremacy over the holiday world. In my mind, I'm like, it's such a huge movie. Part of me thinks it might be fun to do animated. The streaming element of it has made it that we could actually imagine, "Okay, we don't need $75 million to make it." We could make it an animated version of it and do it for much more cheaply. That's one of the things I think we should consider.

A star-studded season 4 of Tacoma FD

Is there more "Tacoma FD" coming our way, and should we expect to see any more fun guests?

Lemme: Yeah, we completed season 4. We just finished editing it a few weeks ago. It's going to be released this summer. We don't have an exact date yet, but we have a lot of good guests. We got Tony Danza to appear in an episode, which was a blast. And a lot of other — Joey Pants, Joe Pantoliano.

Heffernan: David Arquette.

Lemme: David Arquette. So, a lot of actors we really admire. And it's actually, I think, the best season so far.

"Quasi" premieres on Hulu on April 20, 2023.