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Funny People - Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill interview

Leslie Mann in Funny People

Interview by Rob Carnevale

LESLIE Mann and Jonah Hill talk to us about some of their experiences of working on Funny People, gaining the support of their parents to be entertainers and just how close Leslie’s own family life is to the one depicted on-screen with her real-life daughters…

Q. Why was the LA comedy scene so ripe for Hollywood treatment?
Jonah Hill: I just think it’s an interesting subject… starting out in comedy and the competitiveness and eagerness to succeed, and what that takes for something that seems so fun and joyous. It’s sometimes not as fun and joyous as you think it would be. Misery is funny.

Leslie Mann: Well, I think people are interested to see behind the scenes into that world. I think it’s a very honest portrayal of that life.

Q. In the film, George’s reasons for being a comic are trying to get his father’s approval. Does the same apply to a lot of comics, including yourself?
Leslie Mann: Sure, it’s nice to have my mother’s approval even though she doesn’t really give it to me [laughs]. I hope to have it one day. I’m sure it’s part of it for everyone.

Jonah Hill: My parents were pretty supportive. My dad made it very clear that I would not receive a dollar from him ever. He was like: “I just want you to be happy but know that you have to support yourself.” So, it was a risk but now they’re really psyched because there were a few years when it looked like I wasn’t going to amount to very much and I think they were relieved that I came out of that with a really hard work ethic and succeeded in what I was trying to do and what made me happy.

Q. Do you have any advice to aspiring stand-up comics?
Jonah Hill: Be yourself.

Leslie Mann: And do it as much as possible. If you do it as much as you can then eventually you’ll get somewhere.

Q. Were there any British comedians that influenced your career?
Leslie Mann: Benny Hill.

Jonah Hill: My father, Benjamin Hill [laughs]. I learned everything from him.

Leslie Mann: And Charlie Chaplin…

Jonah Hill in Funny People

Jonah Hill: I’ve worked with quite a few British comedians actually. I worked for Sacha Baron Cohen for six months on Bruno as one of the producers, and then I did a movie with Ricky Gervais and I just finished a movie with Russell Brand. The British version of The Office is one of my favourites, and I love Alan Partridge, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace… a lot of British humour is pretty killer.

Q. How much of your own family dynamic is reflected in the scenes between you and your kids?
Leslie Mann: We do the peanut butter game. That’s something we do. But the actor dogs were so boring and tired. Our dogs get so excited to eat the peanut butter. We should have brought out own on set. But that’s kind of it. Oh, and then Maude of course. That’s our home video… her singing Memories.

Q. Is she fine with it?
Leslie Mann: She doesn’t care at all. She doesn’t like me showing one or two people but she’s fine with it being out there in movie theatres.

Q. Were the stand-up scenes more difficult on film, having to get it right?
Jonah Hill: I was really impressed by Adam doing stand-up while playing a character. I thought that was really cool. The scenes where he was breaking down and still doing the stand-up, half telling jokes and half freaking out… that was the most impressed I was.

Read our review of Funny People