Ian Roberts on MARTIN & ORLOFF
Inteview by: Daniel Robert Epstein [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Martin & Orloff is a hysterically funny film that should have been making people laugh over a year ago. The movie stars Upright Citizens Brigade veterans Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, and is written by them as well as Katie Roberts. Martin & Orloff was a huge hit on the festival circuit last year but could not find distribution. Now the producers have gotten fed up and are releasing it themselves on November 7.
This is the story of a marketing man and his shrink, a suicide attempt and a softball game; a PHD-toting stripper and a deranged Desert Storm vet; a giant sparerib costume and the world's largest penis; John Woo-style violence and Steel Magnolia-esque pathos.
While the name Upright Citizens Brigade may not be as well known as other comedy troupes like Kids in the Hall and Monty Python their influence is nearly as widespread. UCB members Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz are Saturday Night Live cast members, UCB had their own show on Comedy Central for three years and all the members have slowly been leaking into commercials and sitcoms for the past few years.
Check out the website for Martin & Orloff:
Daniel Robert Epstein: How much of the script came about from improvisation rather than writing?
On the set was very little of it. The guy who improvised the most was probably David Cross. It was mostly written using improvisation. Matt, Katie and I were in our apartment on our feet a lot time making like we were in the situations making up the lines while one of us would transcribe stuff. I guess in a way that's the way all writers do it. But for us it was more like acting it. Onset there was very little improvisation especially on mine and Matt's parts because we worked the script out so much while we were writing it.
Was Martin & Orloff your first feature length screenplay?
Yes it was.
How much different was it than writing sketches?
The big thing is story and structure which Walsh, Katie and I had no idea about. When we started writing it we had nothing plotted out ahead of time. I've written two screenplays since and the way we did Martin & Orloff just seems absurd to me now. But we didn't know any better. It started out much more like a sketch movie with no story. Then we started working with [director and producer] Larry Blume and he thought it was hysterical but he wanted to know where it was going.
I've seen you and Matt together on stage many times at UCB during your improv shows [known as ASSSCAT]. You seem to be the one that booms over the scene because you're taller and have a louder voice. But things seem very different in the movie.
Its interesting that is how I come off during ASSSCAT but I really love being a straight man and being the one normal guy in the eye of a storm. I love the In-Laws where Alan Arkin is being buffeted by this maniac [played by Peter Falk]. That's something that really appeals to me. Ben Stiller does a lot of roles like that in Flirting with Disaster and Meet the Parents. He's just going around have shocked reactions and being flummoxed.
Besides doing improv have you written much with Katie before this movie?
That's actually how we met. The first time I met her she asked me to do this play we wrote using improvisation and I worked on her one woman show.
How did the idea for Martin & Orloff come about?
It didn't start off with some burning idea we had to do. We just thought we should do a screenplay. Then we thought what if we took a dramatic movie and made every scene a comic scene. So the first thing we looked at is this movie Marvin's Room which is very dramatic. I think it's got an old man who's got Alzheimer's and a woman dying of cancer with this rebellious kid. But the movie was too hard too dramatic so we had to compromise. We thought what if we take this horrible subject that seems impossible to funny and just start from that point. We started with the image of this guy cleaning up the blood from his attempted suicide. He's so lonely that no one cleaned it up. We also had a joke page with funny scenarios and funny thing we wanted to happen in the movie. That's kind of why we have this thing where the psychiatrist just sucks him along. It's kind of like a road trip movie which is a great excuse to do any jokes.
I spoke to Walsh last year when the movie screened at the DGA theatre and he said you guys used to joke about shitting in the sink when you were traveling on the road.
Yeah. There were all kinds of things like that we would bang around. Bits and ideas we would have. Things we always thought were funny so we put it in. It kind of doubles up on the comedy because there are these funny situations then the fact that the guy is fragile and emotionally unstable makes it all the funnier.
Was there any screenplay you looked at specifically for structure?
The one we always keep coming back to is The In-Laws. It is kind of unstructured. There are movies where the guy gets sucked along with people he would never be with otherwise. Another example might be Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The dynamic was that we wanted a guy who was unable to escape being with another guy.
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