I saw Mystery Team at Sundance in 2009; before
watching the movie I wasn’t sure what to think – here was a sketch
comedy troupe best known for their internet videos, making their feature
debut with a movie that made fun of teen detective books, like Encyclopedia
Investigators. But it turned out that the movie
was great, and more than funny it was a real movie, not just an
assemblage of comedic bits.
Now, after touring the country, Mystery
on DVD. I had a chance to talk with the performing members of DERRICK
Comedy – DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, and Donald Glover (Dan Eckman, the
director of the movie, and Meggie McFadden, the producer, are also
members), and this is what happened.
DVD now from CHUD. If you
live in LA, Mystery Team is playing the New Beverly this
weekend in a double feature with Ghostbusters. I can’t even imagine why you
wouldn’t be there.
I first met you at Sundance in 2009
and here it is a year and a half later; you’ve taken the film around
the country on a tour and now you have the DVD hitting. Can you talk
about the grassroots way that you promoted this film?
just predicated on the idea of a college tour. We went to towns where
there was a large college audience, and we did smaller towns in the fall
of last year. Then through the beginning of this year we were in larger
markets like Chicago and Seattle and LA and New York and places like
that. It just kept going. It was really cool because it was pretty much
just us and the movie and the people who wanted to see it. We didn’t
have a whole ton of money or traditional advertising behind us, and we
wanted to prove that people would come out and see something interesting
and cool if you make it cool for them to do so. We were overwhelmingly
happy with how that went. When we were in Chicago at the Music Box we
were like, “Holy shit, there are 700 kids here in one room.” It was
crazy and awesome, and we tried to make it special for everyone who came
out. Now it’s hitting phase two, which is DVD and hopefully whoever
wants to see it can get a hold of it.
think the coolest thing is that people came back again and again and
again. They didn’t just come out once, they came a number of times to
see this movie.
remember when it opened in Seattle there was a handful of people who
came to Seattle and who wanted a sword for Sword Club – which is what we
gave to people who saw the movie twice in a theater – they were like
“We saw it in Portland and now we’re seeing it in Seattle!” Any time
people travel several hours to see the movie was just so flattering.
We’re so grateful for people doing that.
I had actually told them that the movie was the band The Flaming Lips.
They thought they were following The Flaming Lips around.
comedy group, and you had made a number of well received internet
sketches. But writing a feature is a totally different thing. How did
you guys sit down to write this movie?
broke it up into acts – first act, second act, third act – we had a
storyline that we went through together. The five of us [Don, DC,
Dominic, Dan Eckman and Meggie McFadden] wrote the story together and
then somebody would write the first act, we would give notes on it, then
we would be writing the second act while they were revising. We wrote
it together in that fashion.
it hard going from writing shorter sketches to doing a full 90 minute
feature? Was that a different skillset or was it comfortable?
the sketches the way we looked at it was the best way to explore a
quick comedic idea, tighten it to three minutes and then get out. With
the movie when the five of us writing the story it was many, many hours
that making sure the mystery made sense and that it was a gratifying
mystery. We were making sure that the characters changed and that it
wasn’t just… we didn’t want to make the sketch movie. We didn’t want
to make the movie where it was three stylized characters, and watch them
parade around the film and interact with other funny characters until
it was done. We wanted to make sure the character arcs work, and the
story worked. That was unusual for us because in a sketch you don’t care
if the characters change – you just want to watch them endure whatever
unusual pain the world is dealing them.
about the stylized characters – how did you decide who would play
which? These are archetypal characters taken from kids’ books, but how
did you decide who would be who?
and we know each other pretty well, so we knew which archetype would
work best for each person. I was personally the kind of kid who decided
‘I have a fifth grade reading level in third grade, so I must be the
smartest person alive!’ I was sort of a know it all, and so I clued in
to that personally.
that the film is hitting DVD, what is the future of DERRICK Comedy as a
group? You’ve all been blowing up on your own and going places, but
what about the group itself?
we’re really excited for this movie to get out there in the world
finally, after we’ve been working on it for three years. We’re going to
keep making the sketch videos because we love that, and we’re looking
for the next big idea that we want to do as a movie or a project for the
group. But everything we do is idea-driven, so as soon as we have the
kind of idea where we say ‘Sweet, we’re going to take time off from our
lives for the next three years to make this thing happen,’ we’re going
to do that, but we’re also content to keep working together for the rest
of our lives in various collaborations and in our own things, and let
DERRICK be this place where we can create all the weird ideas that no
one else let us do.
you’ve turned into a legitimate novelist with a terrific debut novel.
You’re working on a new book?
That’s correct, I’m working on the next one. I don’t have a deal for it
yet, but we’ll see what happens.
Boy Who Could Sleep And Always Wanted To.
People said about the first book that it was too outlandish, and I
needed to make the next one more relatable. So it’ll be The Boy Who
Could Sleep, and it’ll be about four or five pages.
Dominic, what do you have these
been writing stuff. We’ve been doing a weekly improv show at the
Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater. There’s a two man sketch show I’ve
been putting up, and bouncing around from writing gig to writing gig
here in LA.
seems like an amazing place for any comedian in LA. It seems like every
comedian in town goes there to appreciate other comedians.
I love it in New York and LA. Like DC said we’re very idea-based in how
we tackle projects, and UCB is so that. You have people in all stages
of their career collaborating with other people in all stages of their
career on these weird little show that everyone gets on board for
because it’s a weird, funny idea. It’s a great incubator, which is how
I’ve heard Ian Roberts, one of the founders, describe it in interviews.
It’s an incubator. No one gets paid to perform at UCB but you don’t pay
to perform at UCB. It’s outside the commercial aspect of it. It’s a
great place for performers to find their voice and to learn from people
who are doing what they want to be doing.
you’re on what I think is the best new show of the year, Community. Do
you have something planned for the hiatus?
I’ve been doing stand up around. I was on tour with the Funny or Die
tour for a month. I’m planning on doing a small tour with the music I’m
making, because I have an album coming out in a couple of months. I’m
writing a movie, and I’m going to see where that goes. That’s what I’m
really focused on. As of right now I want this movie to be great.
music because you’re a comedian?
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s fine, I would think the same thing. I just
hope they give it a chance when they listen to it. That’s something I
deal with on the album, actually. People don’t want to say they like it
because if it’s a joke they’re going to look like the idiot.
Do you have any idea what might
happen to Troy next year? He’s really turned into television’s most
delightfully dumb character.
Don: I was talking to Dan [Harmon]
about it, and he was excited about bringing me back because this guy is
so weird now. We can do whatever we want with him. He’s one of the
weirdest people ever, and he has weird ideas of what life is supposed to
be. I’m excited to see what Dan has in store for him. Whatever they
throw at Troy I want to play with.