I recently sat down with Charlie Day and Richie Keen, a star and the director of the new comedy “Fist Fight”. The two had previously collaborated on the long-running TV comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and have re-teamed for the new film, which features Charlie Day and Ice Cube as two teachers who plan to fight each other on their high school’s senior prank day. The interview has been edited for length, as others were interviewing them simultaneously:
Charlie Day: Ryan, kick it off!
Ryan Bordow: Yeah! First question for both of you: I write for AZBigMedia, so the obligatory question is what do you think of Arizona?
CD: That is an obligatory question indeed.
Richie Keen: I love Arizona. I’ve been to Arizona many times, I’ve been to Phoenix many times, I have friends who live here — there’s something very, very peaceful about the desert life. I grew up in Chicago; it’s a much different, uh…
RB: Not a lot of cacti.
RK: Yeah. So I always love coming here, I just find it really peaceful.
CD: Yeah same here! I grew up in Rhode Island, and there’s something about when I come to these desert places — there’s something about the desert that I like so much. It’s like a well-kept secret too, right? You think that?
CD: You’re like “I don’t know what’s out there in Phoenix”, then you get here and you’re like “of course no one ever leaves”. You’re living in paradise!
RK: It’s a nicer L.A.
CD: That’s right! It’s L.A. without the cars.
RK: And everyone looking over their shoulders.
RB: So, I’ve seen many episodes of “It’s Always Sunny”-
CD: Why not all of them?
RB: You know, I’m in college; I’ve got other things to do.
CD: Yeah yeah yeah, you’re good, that’s fine.
RB: It is an absurd show. And you both — as someone who’s directed a lot of episodes and someone who’s acted in all of them, most likely?
CD: Of course all of them.
RB: You both deal with a lot of absurdist humor. And if you’ve noticed, the world has gotten a little bit more absurd lately. How do you catch up to a world that’s getting crazier and crazier? Should you use your free speech to ridicule things that are going on, or do you go in a different direction?
CD: It’s really interesting. Certainly “Sunny” has thrived in that era, and we’ve been around a long time: when we first started the show I think it was 2005. That was an interesting time if you remember. And of course now it’s very volatile, and out of volatility usually comes great comedy. I think it’s our job to just point out our flaws, no matter what side of the political line you’re on. I think both sides deserve a good comedic lashing. I don’t think anything’s ever going to change in terms of that with comedy. If the world gets to such a tame place that we can’t have any sort of satire anymore, then maybe that won’t be a good thing! Who knows?
RB: Keep it crazy.
RK: I’m watching the show as a fan again now because I was working on “Fist Fight”. I was their first fan who became a director — their show inspired me to try directing. They don’t shy away from anything, and I would say ninety percent of the people who see the show completely get it. Whatever they think politically, they love that they’re taking it on.
CD: You always run a risk with anything that’s sort of politically touchy, but I think humor is necessary in times like this! The greatest thing that could happen right now is for a movie like “Fist Fight” to come out, so people can just go laugh and relax a little bit. And they can watch people punch each other if they feel rage and want to punch somebody. I think shows like our show — I’m biased obviously — and movies like “Fist Fight” will survive because they have something intelligent behind the humor. It should be tougher to make senseless jokes.
Facilitator: This is going to be the final question.
CD: Time for the final elimination round!
RB: Given the nature of the movie’s narrative, were there any pranks on set?
CD: I tell you what: if anybody pranked me during the shooting of that fight — I would’ve killed them.
CD: I mean, parts of this movie were so physically difficult to shoot. There wasn’t a lot of room for uh, extra-curricular activities.
RK: I’m not a prankster ever as a director because I want everyone to feel so safe; I want them to feel so taken care of. People can mess with me all they want and I have a sense of humor about it, although on this movie no one did. But my job with that kind of group of personalities is to be like the big hug around everyone saying, “we’re going to do it! It’s going to be great!”
CD: But I would imagine with all those kids on set every day, they were-
RK: Oh they were probably doing — god knows what was going on.
CD: The prank on them was there was no running water in that school, and the prank on us was that they used the bathrooms anyway.