The gang behind the hit bad-movie podcast talk about their upcoming live shows, how their tastes have evolved, and crafting a comedy show in a changing cultural environment.
We Hate Movies launched in 2010 and quickly rose to become one of the very best and most consistently funny movie podcasts around. Every week Andrew Jupin, Stephen Sajdak, Chris Cabin, and Eric Szyszka delve into (mostly) terrible movies from any and all eras and genres. Recently, they’ve expanded their brand to include a Patreon account that also includes full-length commentaries, as well as shows devoted to Star Trek, Star Wars, and television animation.
This week, they’re doing an East Coast tour of live shows that include performances in Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York (tickets in the links). I sat down with them to talk about the unique energy of WHM’s live shows, the challenges of crafting a comedy podcast in a changing cultural climate, and their evolving attitudes about movies both good and bad.
The show is a performance – how much of what we hear is you guys, and how much is heightened versions of yourself created for the show?
Andrew: It’s almost always heightened. When people watch my Office Hours show on YouTube or hear me on other podcasts, they’re surprised I’m not screaming in disbelief while using a cartoonish “New Yawk” accent the entire time.
Chris: It’s a pretty hearty mix. I’m a bit louder and more animated on the show, but my opinions are 95% the same on or off the air. There have been plenty of jokes I’ve made on the show that, when I hear them on the released episode, I know I would never make in any other room but I’m not sure if that is a matter of heightened performance or just knowing your audience.
Eric: Everything in life is a performance. You’d talk to your boss or grandma different than you would to your best friend. So on the show when I’m just shooting the shit with my best friends, I am heightened in the way that I take off the filter. I often just say whatever crazy thing pops into my head.
Steve: It’s kind of hard to delineate, the show combines my best strengths as a comedy writer, which is to say, not writing comedy, but creating an idea with multiple people and trying to make them laugh in the room at that time. That’s when I was great, pitching absurd ideas that don’t need to really be fleshed out because what I’m really trying to do is catch the other three guys off guard and get a belly laugh. But it is something that can be turned off or else I definitely wouldn’t be married.
Is it ever work to make sure everyone has a voice in each episode? Do you guys use signals when someone wants to say something or to indicate that someone should stretch out the conversation or wind it up or anything?
A: There isn’t any kind of official system or anything like that. We know each other well and usually, a look will do the trick. But that doesn’t eliminate over-talking at all. I just cut those parts out when they get too bad.
C: It’s definitely work, and each one of us has definitely done disservice to the other hosts on an episode or 10 by interrupting someone when we feel like we have something funnier or dragging out a story to keep the ball for a while but it’s the only way that you get that impromptu, conversational rhythm that helped define the show.
E: The way to get a joke in is to try and squeeze in real fast in between sentences from the other guys, it’s tough – but. I think this is also where the chemistry comes in. Kinda like when Luke is able to turn off his targeting computer – that’s us navigating the Death Star trenches of our own conversations. We just know when to take that shot.
S: It’s just a conversation. The most important thing is that we’re all in the room together, checking in and looking at each other as we’re going along. So that really cuts out any fear of someone getting steamrolled. Sometimes you’ll float something out there because you know it’s going to get a rise out of the guys, just to give them something to play with and step back and watch the fireworks.
The show is really profane, but at the same time, there’s clearly a moral line of what’s okay to joke about. Are there discussions of the limits of your comedy?
A: It’s so, so easy to punch down in comedy and that’s not something we’re interested in doing. I think the biggest surprise for people when they find the show is that it’s somehow four white guys in their mid-30s telling jokes, but it’s still accessible to all. And that is the one part of the show that’s always been planned. We’ve always wanted WHM to be for everyone and as four privileged white dudes, it’s on us to check that shit at all times. We’ve had a few fuck-ups over the years, but we’ve always done our best to admit it, learn from it, and work hard to be better.
C: It’s not something that we talk about too often. What usually happens is a joke will be made while recording and either right there or at the end of the episode, the person will say, “you can cut that line.”
E: There is a morality to comedy and I believe good comedians know that. I also think a lot of people don’t realize you can be profane, disgusting, and sexual in your material without being mean-spirited. Some complain we’re “PC” or “SJW” when it comes to stuff like that but I think the proper label is “decency.”
S: I trust Andrew as an editor, he’s got a great ear for content, pace, as well as what may or may not be too blue. I’m sure there are some jokes that I wouldn’t repeat from the earlier episodes. Society changes and those changes are good.
I didn’t listen to the Matrix Reloaded episode because I’ve become irrationally defensive about the Wachowksis. Are there movies you’ve lost your sense of humor about?
A: Not really. If I’m going to be on the air every week dishing it out, I have to be able to take it. It’s the lesson I learned with Ghostbusters II. Just because someone says something I like is stupid, doesn’t mean it actually is and doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy it. I’m a fucking ska fan for God’s sake!
C: Soderbergh gave a speech years where he pointed out that all the money we spend on movies would be better used to provide shelter and food for the homeless or ensure all children will have a college-level education. That stuck with me. No matter how closely I relate to a movie or a director, it is ultimately just a movie, and there are plenty of good jokes to be made at the expense of movies I consider high art.
One might think this means I have no stakes in movies but the opposite is actually true. When you see movies that just aren’t trying or just trying to entertain as many people as possible at the expense of personal vision, the absurdity of the whole industry is glaring; when they’re not, there are genuine feelings of inspiration, insight, and discovery coursing through your body. And listening to people who you disagree with on works that matter deeply to you allows you to interrogate your own taste, but also to notice when arguments have no backbone and are made simply to declare being with the mob or against it.
E: I almost don’t know how anyone can be worked up about movies in this day and age. You can find a show for any opinion you want to be reinforced. As I used to say on the show a lot “It’s OK to like a movie.” I am totally fine with someone else having a different opinion than me on The Matrix sequels.
S: The perception I wish I could change about the show is that we actually don’t hate movies and that the show isn’t exactly 90 minutes of four guys “ripping a movie to shreds!” There are some episodes where the premise or execution is a bit galling and more bile seeps in (I’m thinking about Life Itself or Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice here), I consider those “Fuck you, Movie!” episodes, but they’re less frequent than you might expect.
We do take the position that the movie is “bad” from the jump, which I guess if you’re a super fan you might be miffed by. But that always bums me out a bit, because I can name at least ten episodes based on movies that I really, really enjoy. More often than not we’re trying to use the movie as a backdrop for crazy discussions about the world of the movie and/or what it might’ve been like to make that movie.