The Avengers has Nick Fury. Wu-Tang Clan has the RZA. And Broken Lizard, the comedy collective behind the pantheon-status Super Troopers, has Jay Chandrasekhar. Like Nick Fury and the RZA, he’s the guy who put the crew together, oversees their missions, and holds his own in any other capacity he’s needed (in his case, acting—rather than superheroism or rapping, respectively.) Of course, he’s also taken on a multitude of projects beyond Broken Lizard. After all, the only way to maintain a 20-year career in making funny movies and TV is to constantly create, like a comedy shark.
If Broken Lizard sounds like an odd name—it is literally meaningless, just two words put together in an order that tickled the guys—it could’ve been worse. The group started out under the moniker Charred Goose Beak back at Colgate University. A generation before YouTube became a medium of instant wide distribution, Broken Lizard put out videos the old fashioned way: on stage, in front of boisterous crowds of drunken students. After returning to Colgate from a summer of performing improv and stand-up at Second City in Chicago, and bragging about his comedy exploits, Chandrasekhar was coerced into putting on a weekly live show on campus. The part of this show he enjoyed the most, however, became the pre-taped commercial parodies and interstitials played onstage while he and the other performers changed costumes. He’d recruited the funniest kids at the university to be involved, and the videos they made together changed the course of their lives.
The first film Jay Chandrasekhar directed, a college comedy called Puddle Cruiser, was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. Even though his second and most famous movie, Super Troopers, truly put Broken Lizard on the map, Puddle Cruiser earned the group a pilot deal at NBC. The pilot didn’t get picked up, but it was seen by Judd Apatow, who jumpstarted Chandrasekhar’s TV career, by having him helm episodes of the short-lived college sitcom, Undeclared. Since then, the Broken Lizard mastermind has kept busy as the group’s in-house director, as well as a TV journeyman—in front of and behind the camera.
Although the current crop of aspiring filmmakers cutting their teeth on YouTube may not face the same kind of challenges Broken Lizard did getting off the ground, they can still learn a lot from what those challenges forced the group to figure out on their own. As he finishes shooting Super Troopers 2, Co.Create had a chat with Chandrasekhar about not only how to make a funny movie, but how to make a funny movie into a long career…
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