Reno 911! The Hunt For QAnon Cast And Creators Share The Vital Truths Of Their Crass Cop Comedy [Interview]

"Reno 911!" has always been a subversive treat, a series about a group of cops so incompetent that they've never actually solved a crime. The show heavily spoofs reality TV shows like "Cops" and "Live P.D.", both of which were cancelled in the wake of the George Floyd protests. (Unsurprisingly, Fox News' streaming service is bringing back the former.) "Reno 911!" bounced around a bit itself, running on Comedy Central for six seasons before moving to the short-lived, short-form streaming service Quibi for season 7. Soon, they'll return for full-length episodes streaming on Roku, for a fierce and funky-fresh season 8.

Now, the fictional Reno Sheriff's Department are going where they've never gone before: on a conspiracy-theory cruise! In the new Paramount+ exclusive movie, "Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon," our favorite awful officers are back in action, attempting to take down the mysterious conspiracy theory kingpin known only as "Q." In order to extract information and get some kind of justice, they go deep undercover and behave very, very badly. 

The whole gang's back in "Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon," starting with co-creators and stars Thomas Lennon as Lieutenant Jim Dangle, Kerri Kenney-Silver as Deputy Trudy Wiegel, and Robert Ben Garant as Deputy Travis Junior. They are once again joined by the rest of Reno's best, including Cedric Yarbrough as Deputy Sven Jones, Carlos Alazraqui as Deputy James Oswaldo Garcia, Niecy Nash as Deputy Raineesha Williams, Mary Birdsong as Deputy Cherisha Kimball, and Ian Roberts as Sergeant Jack Declan. 

I had the opportunity to sit down via Zoom with Lennon, Garant, Birdsong, and Yarbrough to talk about how "Reno 911!" has managed to maintain its vulgar but tender sensibilities for so long, and why they're the only cop show beloved by both law enforcement and people who don't like the police. 

This article has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

'Have we ever solved a crime ever?'

First question... you joke in one of the teasers for "Hunt for QAnon" that you're the "last cop show on TV." What does it feel like to have outlived the very shows that you're spoofing?

Thomas Lennon: I think there's a weird logic to it. I mean, we were never a show that glamorized the law enforcement lifestyle. I mean a weird detail is that we happened to be beloved by, I think people that are annoyed with cops and also by a fair amount of cops, which is kind of a weird place to be, but we are. I think it's because we feel very authentic and I think it's because we are sort of an authentic thing. A lot of what we do and say on the show is just us, the versions of ourselves talking to each other with a slight nudge in the weirder directions of our personalities. But it doesn't surprise me. I don't recall, have we ever solved a case on "Reno 911"? Eight seasons coming up, maybe eight and two movies. Have we ever solved a crime ever?

Mary Birdsong: That might be a question for the fans. They probably would know better than we would.

Lennon: I can think of no example.

Robert Ben Garant: I can think of no example.

Cedric Yarbrough: When Ian was not a cop, he was the profiler, right?

Garant: The FBI guy.

Lennon: No, that doesn't count. No.

Garant: Didn't we stumble into him.

Lennon: We stumble into a lot of s**t yeah.

Birdsong: Didn't we solve it in [the movie] "Reno 911! Miami"?

Lennon: No. They just tell us at the end of the movie.

Garant: Yeah, they just tells us who's bad.

Lennon: Paul Rudd just says "I'm originally from Colorado. I'm the bad guy. I'm sure you figured this out." And we say "No. Could you tell us again? Because we did not figure it out."

Garant: We weren't listening.

Lennon: Yeah.

Yarbrough: So backing into solving but not solving, solving. I don't think we've ever really solved —

Lennon: We find drugs, and then people tell us that they're evil, usually is what happens, and that's about it.

"NYPD Blue never did a scene that was called f*** your own food."

Garant: Yeah, I think that cops and people who hate cops like us because we don't talk like heroes in any way. We never in any moment talk like every single other cop on television. We just-

Lennon: I do a couple times in the movie, but it's definitely a joke.

Garant: And we don't understand whenever you talk like a movie cop. We are like, wait, what?

Birdsong: It's all the police working, the policing gets in the way of what we want to do. So we kind of have to go do cop stuff, but we really want to finish that conversation about peanuts, or overalls, or whatever.

Lennon: That's a good point. I think on every other cop show that's ever existed. Like people seem like they want to be cops and do good. And "Reno 911!" is a show about cops who, none of them want to be a cop in any way. It's not even in like their top 10 list of things they want do.

Yarbrough: We've quit several times. We've been fired.

Lennon: Over and over again.

Birdsong: And I applied to Chuck E. Cheese over and over and over again. No other options.

Lennon: Crime is no one's passion on "Reno 911!"

Garant: No we're just trying to get to the end of the day.

Birdsong: And it's definitely not a community service.

Lennon: Right. I would argue, it doesn't need to be a show about cops. It just adds stakes. That is a lot of fun because they are. 

Garant: And we have conversations because we're cops. We have to have all these conversations about things that some of them are hot topics, but we don't have Aaron Sorkin conversations.

Lennon: No.

Garant: We have very realistic conversations that are had by people who are fairly dumb and yet very passionate about our opinion. And I think that rings true to a lot of people. I think when we talk about Q or we talk about like any kind of racial issue, I feel like our conversation feels a lot more like the conversations people have in real life than the conversations you see on television. And I think that people like that.

Lennon: "NYPD Blue" never did a scene that was called "F*** your own food."

"We're not trying to make a political statement."

That leads into my next question, which is, there's a lot of complaining from certain comedians and certain parts of comedy that you can't be edgy anymore because of cancel culture. But "Reno 911!" has pushed the boundaries of good taste since day one and continues to do so. How do you think you've been able to be as crass and shocking as you all are for as long as you have?

Birdsong: We don't know.

Garant: I have a genuine thought about —

Birdsong: I don't know.

Lennon: Oh, I have a thought about that, which is a couple things. While we do very gross stuff all the time, we've done things that should objectively be shocking to people in every way. I don't think it's ever been... I don't think you could ever look at an episode of "Reno 911!" and say that was mean spirited ever, no matter what we're talking about or what we're doing. I think you could say, "Oh my God, that was completely f***ed up and really weird." But we've had episodes where we're just doing whippets with each other and we've had... everyone's done stuff. We had an episode called, "Let's Shoot an Unarmed White Guy" and then —

Garant: Just to help our stats.

Lennon: All that happened was we got nominated for an Emmy. But the thing is, I think your tone matters. 

Birdsong: Yeah. We're not trying to make a political statement. We're just playing these characters that people have come to love. And I think, especially because these are incredibly flawed characters, we cut them [slack]... It's almost like, "Oh, that's crazy Uncle Joe. It's all right."

Lennon: They're also played with love, I think.

"Our goal is not to offend people."

Garant: I also think a lot of... There are a lot of comedians, and I think some of them are really smart about it and some of them less so, who say things that they know are offensive, and they're saying it to be offensive because they know that makes people laugh. I think some of the people who laugh at that offensive stuff are laughing just because they know, "Oh, I know in this person's heart they're not really racist." But I think a lot of racists also laugh at that racist stuff. I don't think we've ever, ever come close to coming from that place. We never say anything because we think it's going to tick somebody off. I think a lot of the people who are complaining about cancel culture do say things that they know are going to tick people off, and they say them because of that. Then afterwards, they complain that people are ticked off. When, I mean, that's why they said that word. That's why they used that word. And I think we never... That's not what we think is funny. I think that we are really trying to be honest and have these conversations. We always make sure every point of view is expressed on anything that we talk about. That's dicey. Anytime we say something weird, we make sure that there's a counter argument on screen and somebody says, "Dude that's f***ed up, you can't say that." And so I think we are really... I think it just comes to the heart of our goal, and our goal is not to offend people. It never was.

Lennon: But we also don't operate from a place of fear.

Garant: No.

Lennon: Which I think is pretty important. I think we're somewhere in between like our hearts are in the right place and just enough of we've been around long enough to not give a f*** about certain things that like... I think it's kind of a nice balance.

Birdsong: I mean, maybe you guys won't agree or you will, but I think there's a little of like Archie Bunker "All in the Family"-ness going on. Like, he's just some guy, you know what I mean? It wasn't like, let's make a show that shocks the culture and blah, blah. He was a real representation of a lot of people in the country who are kind of messed up, but has a well-intentioned heart and madness ensues. So I'm just so glad to still get to do what we do.

Garant: And what's also weird is we are cops, and we're bad, and we're f***ed up, and we do our jobs horribly. We're the least oddly bad people on the show. Like, we're The Riddler and everybody else is The Joker. We're just lightly... We're so incompetent that we're not quite as bad as the people around us, so I think helps maybe. And our mayor is so much worse than we are, which is just great.

"Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon" will debut streaming exclusively on Paramount+ on December 23, 2021.