PFFR's John Lee and Vernon Chatman get puke on your windshield with The Heart, She Holler

The Delocated and Wonder Showzen duo talks about season two of The Heart, She Holler, Patton Oswalt's perfect idiocy and scarring Heather Lawless.

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Amy Sedaris, Patton Oswalt and Heather Lawless in The Heart, She Holler

Amy Sedaris, Patton Oswalt and Heather Lawless in The Heart, She Holler Ali Goldstein


Time Out New York: When you’re working with a miniseries, do you feel you have to slow down the pacing and the rate of jokes-per-minute, as opposed to earlier projects like Xavier?
John Lee: I think we still have the highest JPM in the current televisual market, but it’s much lower than Xavier, which I think had the highest in history.
Vernon Chatman: Also, we do have jokes that are long-suffering jokes: Jokes that we think of as unsettling conditions of the world rather than jokes. A big joke that takes us through the entire show—like the idea that Hoss is dead but has made a videotape for every possible scenario and anticipated every nuance of everybody’s reaction. Once we establish that joke, [we] forget about it and let it simmer, boil and infuriate. And then we have our fair share of poo jokes and knocking-boots euphemism jokes.

Time Out New York: Speaking of knocking-boots euphemisms, there are a lot of colorful ones. Is one of you the Wordsworth of potty similes?
Vernon Chatman: I’ll tell you this: One of us is the Longfellow.
John Lee: [Laughs] Terrible, terrible. You just proved it was you! Wow. That’s the kind of high and low bullshit…
Vernon Chatman: We like to think of our humor and our show as the highest of highbrow and the lowest of low, except for the highbrow part.

Time Out New York:
Had you seen Patton Oswalt’s doltish character onstage before you started thinking of him as the manchild Hurlan Heartshe?
Vernon Chatman: He’s at his funniest when he’s being hyperverbose and very articulate, tumbling out this crazy series of words. But he’s also the funniest when he’s playing—I’m going to say a developmentally disabled, retarded person, just to cover all the bases. For a hyperintelligent comic, he’s very good at being dumb.
John Lee: That’s the great thing about him: He takes this very simple, childlike perspective and by the end of it, it’s this odd, well-written rant and the whole bit has turned into a perfect, intellectual idea. We’ve known him for a long time, and he’s the only guy who could pull this off.

Time Out New York:
This series features a lot of strange and specific scenes—Heather Lawless arguing with a roomful of chicken dinners, for instance. How do you give notes in a circumstance like that?
Vernon Chatman: I think we only gave one note: We told people who their characters were and they locked on. More than anybody else on the show, we need to believe in this level of insanity [in Lawless’s character Hambrosia] that the other characters don’t have, and Heather locked on like nobody else. She’s obviously a super funny and adept comic who never takes the cheap way to a joke. She takes the painful route.
John Lee: I think we’ve done damage to her, sadly. It’s true.
Vernon Chatman: All you need to do [for the camera] is stare at something in front of you. We’ll give her the note, “Make that chair blow up with your mind. Make your husband’s crotch blow up with your mind.” She’ll hurt her eyes, her neck and her face just staring. She won’t even complain; we just know she’s in pain.
John Lee: When we call cut, we can see the tears. Also, we don’t have many odd directions. We’re not trying to go with something abstract most of the time; we’re just trying to make sure these weird, illogical surrealisms make sense. Often we’re just having to explain to people why we’re doing what the hell we’re doing. Which we can never truly answer.
Vernon Chatman: Our plans and blueprints reach for something we think is maybe just impossible to communicate. And then we spend the entire time on the set trying to make things clear, which is weird.

Time Out New York:
Are you feeling more drawn to longer, storycentric work after producing Delocated and The Heart, She Holler?
Vernon Chatman: Everything interests us, but one thing we’ve learned: If you do a quarter-hour show on Adult Swim, they’ll just let you do whatever you want. And so far, that has won: total freedom.
John Lee: In the example of Delocated, it needed more story; the more story it had, the better the show got. So I think it just depends on the idea.
Vernon Chatman: A variety is really fun. It was really fun to do Delocated at that time and know it had to operate on the pace of humanity. At the pace that real human beings…
John Lee: [Laughs] What pace are we on?
Vernon Chatman: No, The Heart She Holler does not operate on the pace of humanity. There’s your pull quote.

John Lee and Patton Oswalt appear at Nitehawk Cinema Thu 5.


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