Beerfest: Broken Lizard Comedy

The Broken Lizard comedy group returns to the big screen in a new comedy that proves revenge, like beer, is best served cold.

When American brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter) are sent to Germany on a mission to spread their grandfathers ashes at Oktoberfest, they stumble upon a super-secret, centuries-old, underground beer games competitionBeerfestthe Olympics of beer drinking. At Beerfest, the brothers receive a less than warm welcome from their German cousins, the Von Wolfhausens, who shun Todd and Jan, slander their heritage, and worst of all, drink them under the table.

Vowing to return in a year to defend their family honor, the Wolfhouse boys assemble a ragtag dream team of beer drinkers and gamers: Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar), a consummate skills player with a dark past; Phil Krundle (Kevin Heffernan) AKA Landfill, the one-man chugging machine; and Charlie Fink Finklestein (Steve Lemme), the lab tech with a Masters degree in All Things Beer. With the inspiration of their Great Gam Gam (Cloris Leachman) and the support of her caretaker, Cherry (MoNique), this Magnificent Five train relentlessly, using their hearts, minds and livers to drink faster, smarter and harder than they ever have before.

From the team behind the cult-hit Super Troopers, Beerfest stars the Broken Lizard comedy group comprised of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. Joining the cast are Will Forte (Saturday Night Live), Ralf Moeller (Gladiator), MoNique (Soul Plane), and Eric Christian Olsen (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd), with Juergen Prochnow (Das Boot, The Da Vinci Code) and Academy Award winner Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, Bad Santa). Beerfest is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, and written by Broken Lizard.

The writing-producing-performing comedy group Broken Lizard has been honing their unique brand of irreverent comedy for over a decade. The idea for Beerfest was tapped in 2002 during the international promotional tour for their outrageous state trooper satire, the cult hit Super Troopers.

While in Australia, director Jay Chandrasekhar recalls, At first we were booked at local shopping malls, and there were just a bunch of middle-aged women with their children, and theyd be saying, Who the hell are those scrubbers So we were taken to this beer festival in Queensland, figuring that would be more our crowd. But this was a mob of drunken guys, who really couldnt give a dingos dollop who we were. So we went up on stage and said, Hey, were with the movie Super Troopers, and we want to challenge the top five guys in this room to a chug-off.

Still confident from their drinking days at Colgate University, the Broken Lizard five boldly challenged the drinking prowess of a nation known for its rough-and-tumble lifestyle. Chandrasekhar reflects proudly, We went to a fairly hardcore drinking school in upstate New York, and so wed learned a thing or two about fast chugging.

Not to be outdone by five relatively skinny actors from Tinsel Town, five roughneck Aussies stepped up to the challenge and rallied the mob of proud Australian beer connoisseurs behind them.

Chandrasekhar continues, So we start the chug, and by the first two guys, were winning by a whole mug. The crowd was totally shocked at the prospect that a bunch of Hollywood actors might actually beat Australias best. But when the chug line got to one of our guys whos not a fast chugger, we lost the lead. The Aussies got to their next guy, who finished easily. Meanwhile, our teammate, who shall remain nameless, was STILL working on his beer. By this time, we were too far behind to catch up.

A pessimist might say that total humiliation in front of a drunken mob can leave scorching emotional scars. But for Broken Lizard, humiliation was a great motivator. Despite having had their confidence shaken and egos bruised, the group did what any red-blooded American comedy group would do. They wrote a screenplay about it.

The Writing Process

For Broken Lizard, the writing process was very painful. With five creative minds in one room, a cynic might complain about there being too many Lizards in the kitchen. Kevin Heffernan offers the Tao of Broken Lizard: When we write, theres a lot of fist-fighting and wrestling. Whoever wins gets to own the joke.
Erik Stolhanske affirms, We knew that just the name aloneBeerfestconjured up an image that we could create a lot of comedy around, so it was totally worth giving Heffernan a black eye.

Amidst the face-jabbing, upper-cutting and pile-driving, Steve Lemme also managed to crack open a textbook and learn a thing or two about the origins of competitive drinking. Lemme reveals, We discovered that in olden days, some kings resolved disputes peacefully, without waging war. They would engage in drinking contests, and whoever won would win the land. Thats a beautiful thing, so we wanted this movie to be about world peacemore beer, less war!

While writing a screenplay about competitive drinking is one challenge, shooting a film about it is another. Stolhanske recalls, We spent so much time in the writing room that we hardly had time to practice any of these games we were writing about.

Paul Soter admits, We started playing quarters again, which I hadnt played since college. We were in terrible chugging shape, so we had to do a lot of work on that. Those drinking games are a lot harder than they look.

On the contrary, Lemme boasts, Ive been training for this for 24 years. You know Tsunami Kobayashi, the hot dog eating champion at Coney Island He puts cabbage in his stomach to expand his stomach the night before the competition. So I ate cabbage every night before I went to bed.

Competitive Beer-Drinking

As cinematic as filming competitive beer drinking can be, Broken Lizard dug deeper and crafted their screenplay with a unique backstory. Chandrasekhar offers, The reality is that if youve ever done any chugging, its pretty exciting. Theres a lot of natural drama in a line chuggranted, momentary dramaso to add depth, we built the story around this idea of two brothers who didnt know much about their family heritage. But along the way, they discover that they are the rightful heirs to a famous German brewery, and unknowingly are in possession of a stolen secret beer recipe, which brings its share of both grief and good fortune.

The film begins with an offbeat funeral service for Todd and Jans recently deceased grandfather, who bids farewell to them in a videotaped speech from his hospital bed. Their great-grandmother, Great Gam Gam, played by Cloris Leachman, wastes no time in sending the boys on a mission to carry on a long-observed Wolfhouse traditionto spread their grandfathers ashes at Oktoberfest.

Jumping at the chance to attend Oktoberfest, Todd and Jan arrive in Germany and find themselves enjoying the spectacle, blissfully engaging in a drunken sing-along, which unfortunately turns sour and sets off a series of events that bring Oktoberfest to a crashing halt.

While attempting to escape a thirsty Oktoberfest mob, Todd and Jan are spirited away to an event beyond their wildest imaginations, an event best described by producer Bill Gerber as waking up in a beer commercial, surrounded by beautiful women, and having unlimited access to alcohol. This event is BEERFEST, Germanys best kept secret, and the ultimate underground drinking tournament that makes Oktoberfest look like an afternoon tea party.

It is here that Todd and Jan meet their distant German cousins, the Von Wolfhausens, who shock the brothers by renouncing their family connection with lurid details about Great Gam Gams sordid past, and accusing their late grandfather of stealing the secret family recipe. This incites Todd and Jan to challenge the cousins to a drink-off, the outcome of which only humiliates the American brothers further.

Adding insult to injury, the Great Beer Baron of Munich turns out to be Baron Wolfgang Von Wolfhausen, played by Juergen Prochnow, who indeed helps Todd and Jan spread their grandfathers ashes…over their heads.

Todd and Jan face tremendous humiliation in Germany, but they are the last hope for redemption of their aging great-grandmothers good name. So they put together the best beer-drinking team they can, and then they train, Rocky-style, and try to beat the best team in the worldthe Germans, says Chandrasekhar.

The Shoot

Production on Beerfest began during the onset of the 2006 Winter Olympics, so feelings of national pride further inspired the group. Its good to see America compete in an event that is beer-related because, more often than not, American beer gets the shaft at the international level, states Heffernan. The Germans, the Dutch, the Jamaicansthey all think their beer is so great. But America is overlooked. So it was up to us to carry the mantle of America in the beer-drinking world.

The Wolfhouse brothers struggle to assemble a team that can carry the mantle of America. This pool of cracker-jack talent consists of Barry Badrinath, a once-skilled beer games hustler who has hit rock bottom in a variety of ways, played by Chandrasekhar; Phil Krundle AKA Landfill, the broadly gifted one-man chugging machine who redefines the meaning of super-sized consumption, played by Heffernan; and Charlie Fink Finklestein, a research laboratory genius with more than a few tricks under his yarmulke, played by Lemme.

The German team is coached by Prochnows Baron Wolfgang Von Wolfhausen and includes his lederhosen-wearing, trash-talking grandsons: Otto, an eager-beaver Yankee-hater, played by Will Forte; Gunter, the wisecracking loudmouth, played by Eric Christian Olsen; Rolf, the tightly wound instigator, played by Nat Faxon; and Hammacher and Schlemmer, the muscle-bound, vein-popping, keg-lifting duo, played by former Mr. Universe bodybuilders Ralf Moeller and Gunter Schlierkamp, respectively.

Having natives of Germany on-set proved useful in creating ad-lib banter between the cousins. Interestingly, the most demanding part of acting German was speaking English with caricaturized German accents. Ralf Moeller points out the irony of a native German parodying a stereotypical German accent. The problem is that Jay didnt think I sounded German enough. When you hear me speak English, do you hear any accent at all Ive lived in LA since 1993!

Rounding out the multifaceted ensemble cast is MoNique, who plays Cherry, Great Gam Gams caretaker who does a fair share of both caring and taking. The only thing that I did not get to do in this movie was have a love scene with Landfill, declares MoNique, I think that it would have been sexy. They need to write that in the sequel. If you can hear me, Landfill, Im rooting for it, baby. Rooting for it.