Ten years ago, Jamie Kennedy won a Blockbuster Award for Best Supporting Actor in a horror movie for his role as Randy Meeks in Wes Craven's Scream 2. But one can't ride that wave forever.
The comedian went on to write a book (Wannabe), host a Punk'd-like TV reality program entitled The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, and he appears regularly on popular primetime shows such as Criminal Minds, Reaper, and Ghost Whisperer.
On September 9, 2008 a documentary Kennedy produced and appears in, Heckler, will hit the streets. The reviews are in already, as the film did its festival run and had a presence at the San Diego Comic-Con in July. Needless to say, they're mixed.
While Heckler is not about the horror genre specifically, it touches on our world in the form of those interviewed (from scream queen Christa Campbell to musician and director Rob Zombie) and in some of the subject matter (movie reviews, and flame wars on message boards).
The movie begins by showing video footage of comedians and hecklers live (from Kennedy himself being told to "make like a Kennedy and die young" to Michael Richards' racist outburst in response to an audience member's comments), then it flows into other many forms of assessment, culminating in movie reviews.
Heckler covers the spectrum, showing Kennedy confronting his Internet-based detractors in person, as well as commentary on the psychological impact of harsh or baseless criticism from people who are generally acknowledged as extremely intelligent, such as Dr. Drew Pinsky, Bill Maher, and Penn Jillette.
There are also some genuinely pained expressions from people who are often the butt of cruel jokes and mean statements — Paris Hilton, and Carrot Top to name a couple — making the mostly funny and informative documentary manage to also be touching and thought-provoking.
There are some sound- and picture-issues with the disc — it's definitely done in the quick and dirty video verité style (ala The Artiscrats), but quantity trumps quality here: Kennedy and the film's director, Michael Addis, present an amazing amount of footage (including the Uwe Boll vs. The Critics boxing matches) and an impressive spectrum of sources (everyone from Jewel to George Lucas).
As a straddler of both sides on the criticism fence, Heckler covers a subject that interests me very much; so I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss it further with Kennedy in this exclusive interview for Horror.com.
Staci Layne Wilson / Horror.com: How did you come up with this idea? It seems so obvious, but I can't think of any other documentaries about hecklers.
Jamie Kennedy: I don't know! I was doing stand-up, and I was getting heckled at times, and then other people I knew started getting heckled at around the same time. It just kind of snowballed. Then other people I liked got bad reviews, and that's how it happened.
Q: Even reviewers get bad reviews. For instance, I'm a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer, and I'll get comments on my reviews, and it's just a never-ending vicious circle like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. It's so bizarre.
Kennedy: Yeah, well, with the internet and the anonymity now and all that stuff, it's just a completely vicious circle. We're all chasing our own tails, right? [laughter]
Q: Absolutely. Do you find, though, that it's easier or better, generally, to face your attacker in the form of a heckler on stage when you're doing your stand-up as opposed to some anonymous poster… or does it make a difference?
Kennedy: Yeah, it's so much easier at the club. That's why people are getting so brave on the internet because it's all anonymous. If they had to give their name and their address, they wouldn't do it. The thing about a heckler, love 'em or hate 'em, is that they are the ones who stand up and do it in a club and are brave. They're like, "I have something to say, and I'm going to say it, and you're going to listen."
Q: I really like what Andy Kindler had to say about the use of fake names, you know? Like, "I really care what "Satan's scrotum 1298" has to say about me!"
Kennedy: Yeah, exactly.
Q: How did you gather up all these people? Are they friends of yours? How did it all come together for these interviews about hecklers?
Kennedy: It's kind of crazy, right? We have a really good group.
Kennedy: Basically, some of them are my friends. Others, I just went and asked. That's what I did. I just went and said, "Oh, do you want to do this?" And they were like, "Yeah." It was amazing how much you can get just by asking.
Q: I really like that you included Eli Roth and Robert England and Rob Zombie and Joel Schumacher. You have a lot of great horror genre people in there. Was that a specific choice?
Kennedy: Yeah, I mean Eli is my friend and he was shooting at the time He still took time out of his schedule on the set of Hostel II to do this. That was so cool of him. Rob Zombie I was a fan of, and once I got him, I started getting other people. I kind of went after the horror genre, and then I started going after them more because they're really good examples – them, and comedians, because they're material is made for specific audiences. So if the reviewer doesn't like you, that's okay because the audience likes you. Same with a horror movie. Funny thing is, is that with a horror movie, they can say bad things about it, but they're making it specifically for people that review it who aren't qualified to review this stuff.
Q: Yeah, it's true, but also as a reviewer, you don't really have a choice. You kind of have to see everything whether you like it or not personally. But I think it's important that you bring up the balance of [whether] it's a good movie first or [whether] it's a funny standup act first.
I think that Rob Zombie definitely had some interesting things to say on that in your documentary. I don't go on message boards anymore because I just don't like them at all; the things that people say about him [Rob] are just terrible, awful things. Like death wishes. What's up with that? Did you find when you were talking to these people who post on message boards that they were pretty clueless? What's their angle?
Kennedy: No, I really found a lot of them to be just scared people. I don't know. They're kind of what you see in the movie. They're just like, when push comes to shove, they're much angrier with their keyboard than they are in real life. I think people are clueless and they're allowed their opinions, but it's like, if you're going to talk about someone, know their work before [you talk about them.] They just see something online real quick and they live and die by that, you know? They paint you and your whole life and career with [one broad brush].
Q: Yeah, I see what you mean. Also, they get such leeway. For instance, on Rotten Tomatoes again, the critics have to adhere to a certain standard. You can't use profanity or personal insults, and then the comments from the people who read the reviews have absolutely no restrictions whatsoever.
Kennedy: Exactly. That's 100% true.
Q: Yeah, that's kind of an annoying double-standard. I did like how you had the psychological balance with Dr. Drew in there, giving his profile on hecklers and also the entertainers. How did you come up with him, in particular, for this?
Kennedy: Because he's really smart, and I've known him for a while. He talks about what goes on in the mind, psychologically, of an entertainer or celebrity or whatever. He talks about people. I just kind of wanted to show everyone that he's an incredible doctor, to show them both sides. He's kind of non-biased, don't you think?
Q: Absolutely. I really liked that whole chapter. I thought it was really fascinating. Also, Bill Maher's opinions are incredibly informed.
Kennedy: Yeah, Bill says whatever he wants, but not only does he say what he wants, but he really has the knowledge to back it up, which is great. I just sat him down and got twenty minutes with him. [Back to] Dr. Drew, I wanted to include him because he's an intelligent guy and he was saying stuff about entertainers being thin-skinned, like anyone. And he was also talking about society. He was talking about both sides, and I thought that was cool.
Q: Yeah, I agree with that. Also, the proof is in the pudding: If you're working and you're being hired as an actor, then obviously somebody likes you. As for comedians, those hecklers are paying to see your show — you're not paying to see them!
Kennedy: I know. Some of those guys would say, "Yeah, America is dumb" or "People are retarded." See, that's the thing. If someone dislikes someone else, that's fine, or if you don't like them, that's fine. If you don't want them, you can say stuff, and that's fine, but when they start wishing ill-will [like cancer and death], then I don't know… I guess one of the reasons I made this movie is to show that everybody has detractors, good or bad.
Q: Oh, yeah. It starts on the play ground, really, with teasing.
Kennedy: Some of my detractors, the people that they like also like me, and I don't know if they know that. So I kind of had to put it all together to show them that wow – George Lucas thinks I'm incredible along with David Cross, and George Lucas also has his critics along with David Cross, two people who are highly smart and intelligent, so if those two guys can't win, then nobody can.
Q: When you go on-line now, do you look at message boards or reviews anymore?
Kennedy: Sometimes. I did it a lot for a while [to look] at movies. Sometimes you just want to see, if you're doing something at that moment, what people are saying. I try not to live on it. I'm at a point now where I think I'm doing stuff for different reasons. I'm really doing what I want to do. I've achieved a lot of things. Lots of things come in different ways. Nothing's ever come the way I thought it would, but it's come. I'm definitely de-virginized.
Q: Fucked by the internet! So do you think that just looking at good comments or good reviews is mentally healthy or are you just living in a fool's paradise if you choose to ignore the bad comments?
Kennedy: I kind of think in a way that user comments are the most honest for those people. I'm going to go on a tangent for a second. It's hard for me when people say they're just being honest because it's really not exactly honest because a murderer could be like, "Hey, I stabbed that girl. I'm just being honest." That's not a form of honesty. It's not right. Let me say this: I believe that peer to peer is the carrier of what is good. I really believe that. Reviews help. Obviously, with Batman: The Dark Knight…everyone seems to just love it… I basically believe that the peer to peer is really honest. It's hard for me to say that about myself because I am one of these polarizing types of people for some reason. You can read that about me, and people really love me, and they'll go off about how much they love me, or people will hate me and talk about why they hate me.
Q: That's funny because I get the same thing so I can totally relate. For the record: I love you, and I'm one of your fans. [laughter] Now, I want to know what your other fans can look forward to. You're on Ghost Whisperer. Is that correct?
Kennedy: Yeah, I'm going to tell you about that, but let me finish that last comment because you just said something. The thing is, is that people come from all walks of entertainment in this business.
Q: Yeah, they do.
Kennedy: Top to bottom. A to Z. A-list to D-list.
Q: And the Z-list… Uwe Boll, who I actually like. I think it's hysterical that you added his infamous "boxing match" in Heckler. When you're just talking to him, he's a really nice guy.
Kennedy: He is! And he's only one hit movie away, you know what I mean? We all are. That's the thing. It's like when people want to kill you as opposed to going, "Yeah, that sucks, and this is why." There are people out there who do that, though. Everything that I complain about is out there. It's just that human nature tends to focus on the negative, but there have been some people who have said, "Jamie Kennedy is good. He's talented, but he needs the right material." A couple people were bashing me on some website. This guy said, "Jamie Kennedy has a great comedy movie in him. He hasn't totally made it yet, but he has an amazing one in him." Now, I think I made a really funny movie for what it was in Malibu's Most Wanted, for the genre that it was. He may not have thought that yet, but that fact that what he said was positive is good. He wasn't saying I should die or that I'm a douche bag or that I'm a hack.
In terms of horror, I'm going on my fourth episode of Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love, and it's pretty cool because it's a supernatural show. My character has some powers, but not as much as Jennifer. I'm kind of under her tutorage.
Q: Nice. And under her cleavage, right?
Q: Good shade under there.
Kennedy: I've been saved from many storms under there.
Q: Are you just focusing on that right now or do you have any other films coming up?
Kennedy: That's it. I'm just focusing on her cleavage.
Q: Aren't we all? [laughter]
Kennedy: While I'm doing that, I have Heckler coming out on DVD of course. I also have another horror script that I may want to do. I may want to do another horror movie before I do a comedy because I started there. I have another movie idea with Denise Richards that is not a horror. It's a comedy.
Q: More cleavage, obviously. You're attracted.
Kennedy: Cleavage all around!
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