Chris Elliott and Jason Woliner on the set of Eagleheart.
In comedy jargon, if a performer "kills" it means the comediansucceeds in getting laughs. Eagleheart,the action-comedy series whose second season premieres tonight on Adult Swim atmidnight, is a show that literally kills -- the laughs are huge, and so is thebody count. PAPERMAG met up with the Eagleheart'smasterminds, comedy-nerd hero Chris Elliott, who stars as Chris Monsanto, atrigger-happy U.S. Marshal, and Jason Woliner, the show's 31-year-old directorand co-writer, to discuss the upcoming season over coffee on the Upper WestSide. "There's definitely more blood this season," Woliner promises. "We haddoubles of every costume, because they'd just get splattered with blood."
Despite the 20-year age gap between Elliott and Woliner, theduo shares a similar absurdist comic sensibility. Woliner directed MTV's Human Giant, helping establish thesketch troupe as the most beloved comedians in dorm rooms of the '00s. And Elliottachieved comedy-icon status through his years doing bits on Late Night with David Letterman, hisgroundbreaking early-'90s Fox sitcom Geta Life and his endearingly smarmy performances in the Farrelly brothers'movies, Kingpin and There's Something About Mary. And let'snot forget Elliott's cult classic, 1994's Cabin Boy, a much maligned,misunderstood goofball comedy that has been embraced by the current generationof burgeoning comedians.
"When we started writing the first season of Eagleheart, I went back and rewatched Cabin Boy," Woliner says, "and Irealized that I know every line in that movie."
"Oh, Jesus," Elliott says, rolling his eyes. "Occasionally, [Cabin Boy] will come on cable, and I'llwatch it. It still looks weird to me, and it's definitely a flawed movie. Butit's still fun and funny, and it's a completely different kind of movie. I'llgive it that much. I mean, that movie was completely vilified when it came out,and it ruined my career for a couple of years, so it's interesting to hearabout it from a new perspective."
As Eagleheart fanscan attest, the show is the perfect vehicle for Elliott -- the jokes come fastand furious, and dripping with sarcasm. But the original pilot script wasn'twritten specifically for Elliott. "When we were casting, we met withChristopher McDonald, Tom Sizemore. That was really awkward," Woliner says. "He'sa great actor -- he was in Saving PrivateRyan! But that was really uncomfortable. Rowdy Roddy Piper. WilliamForsythe, they came in. A real rogue's gallery. Honestly, if it was one ofthose guys, I don't know if I'd have stuck with it. But as soon as theopportunity came up to work on a show with Chris Elliott, I was excited."
As soon as Elliott was onboard, the show's tone switchedgears from a Walker, Texas Rangersatire, to a 11-minute tour de force that feels like a classic Chris Elliottbit, but one that's experiencing severe 'roid rage. Eagleheart's ensemble cast is rounded out by Maria Thayer (Strangers with Candy) and Brett Gelman (The Other Guys). "We're all sort oflike our characters in real life, to a certain degree," Elliott says. "Maria'sthe pretty, sensible one. Brett is the complete moron. And I'm just this oldguy who needs a drink -- he's bitter, surly. Other than the same name, that's whatI have in common with him -- surliness, bitterness and alcoholism."
From left to right: Chris Elliott, Brett Gelman and Maria Thayer.
Similar to Elliott's previous work, and to Human Giant, Eagleheart doesn't have any boundaries when it comes to getting alaugh. In both the first and second seasons, Elliott can only remember oneinstance when he raised a red flag at a gag pitched by Woliner and the show'swriters. "In the first season, I set up a politician by putting a dead boyin his bed," Elliott says. "I said, 'Could we at least get an adult instead ofa little boy?' That was the only time I objected to a joke. But [Woliner]ended up getting a teenager anyway, and they put a fake mustache on him, tomake him look like he was an adult, just to appease me."
Eagleheart'ssuccess has been cheered on by a rabid fan following on the Internet, and it'sa mysterious fanbase that both Elliott and Woliner have tried to pinpoint. "There'sthat website OkCupid, the dating site. And I was wondering if there's anyone onthere who listed Eagleheart as theirfavorite show," Woliner says. "It was all fat dudes, and one Asian lady, who Ibelieve was a lesbian. I was just curious if attractive people watch Eagleheart, and the answer is no."
"It's really hard to say who this show is for!" Elliottadds "I mean, I'm the star, and I'm 51 years old. It's on the Cartoon Network.It's incredibly violent. We're all kind of complete idiots in it. We're nastyto each other. There's nothing heartwarming about it. But it makes peoplelaugh, and right out of the gate, people got it."
In addition to more blood and jokes, Eagleheart's second season will also feature cameos from BenStiller, Conan O'Brien (who executive produces the show), Dean Norris from Breaking Bad and Bud Cort from Harold and Maude. "It reminds me alittle bit of when I was shooting CabinBoy," Elliott says of Eagleheart."Some days, I'll have no idea what's going on. I'll just say, 'OK boys, tell mewhere to stand and what to say.' It's in situations like that where I think Ido my best work."
Eagleheart premierestonight at midnight on Adult Swim.