Now out in limited release, Unexpected stars Workaholics creator Anders Holm in a role unlike any other in his filmography: husband, soon-to-be-father. The film, directed by Kris Swanberg (wife to indie giant Joe Swanberg) and costarring Cobie Smulders, is a tender drama about the pangs of pregnancy, and all the anxieties that come along with it. It’s an uncharacteristic movie for Holm, who has spent the majority of his on-screen career day drinking, blazing up, and cracking wise with his man-child friends. Away from his hit Comedy Central program, you may have seen Anders as Beer Pong Guy #3 (Neighbors), LAPD Officer #2 (Inherent Vice) or “White Guy” (Key & Peele). With Swanberg’s auspicious directorial debut, Holm appears to be grasping for something less funny and more substantive. In conversation the writer/actor/comedian spoke about his personal connection with the project and how comfortable he was with Rosario Dawson shoving things up his ass in Top Five.
This is a movie I did not expect to see you in…
So, you could say it was…unexpected?
You could say that.
So, the script came to me and I read it, and the authenticity of the story just kind of struck me. I was like, “This writer lived this life, these people are pulled from her real life experience.” And then I got to sit down with Kris Swanberg, who I had never met before, and we just kind of clicked. So I was like, “So is this your life?” And she was like, “Yeah, mostly.” She was a teacher in Chicago and had a student who got pregnant, and I grew up outside of Chicago. The whole thing reminded me of people I grew up with. And my wife and I just had a baby about six months before the movie started filming. It just all clicked.
Were you and your wife going through these same sort of prenatal conversations?
Yeah, it was crazy. It was like somebody was eavesdropping on some of our conversations and arguments or whatever and then they wrote them into a movie.
Did you find this type of project to be more rewarding than Top Five, Workaholics, or any other comedies you’ve been in?
It’s different. Like, with Workaholics, I write it, I direct some of the episodes, I act in all of them, so there’s a more thorough reward. Whereas with something like Unexpected, it seems like a good project, these are good people, but I’m only doing this one thing for six days, and then I leave. And then it’s kind of hands-off; it’s out of your control. And then when you see it and it turns out to be as good as this movie is, there’s a different kind of reward, where you’re like, “Wow, they did it and I got to be a part of it.”
Was comedy always the plan?
I had pretty bad teeth. I had three front teeth as a kid and they had to pull them all out, so I had to climb my way out of the hood. But, yeah, I don’t know, I always liked comedy. I was a couch kid. I watched a lot of TV growing up, and I think I saw Animal House when I was six, which you might think is a bad thing, but it kind of set me on a path.
Or a great thing…
I know what I loved, which was TV, like Cheers, or movies like Animal House or Ghostbusters or Jaws. Everybody likes TV or movies, but not to sound corny, but I had a very strong association with time and place when it comes to movies. So to now to grow up and be part of making movies and television, it seems right.
What do you mean by “time and place”?
I know where I was when I saw Jurassic Park. I know where I was when I saw Scream, and, you know, like, seminal moments. I watched the Cheers finale on the second floor of my parents’ house standing up because I wasn’t supposed to be. I was supposed to be doing homework or whatever. And I remember the last moments with Sam Malone, just sort of pacing around the bar, but I was, like, nine. I hold these memories of movies and shows that I connect to.
Do you measure time by the projects you’ve done?
No, it’s never about my time or stuff I do, but I’m pretty good with what year movies came out and stuff for whatever reason. I don’t know the months at all, I just know I’m working, but yeah I’ve kind of lost that. I’ve gotten so busy that my brain has sort of just turned into mush.
Did you expect to be busy and to do as much as you have done? I was hoping that I would be doing as much as I’m doing, but I didn’t know it would take so much time. It’s funny, like, we do interviews and stuff about Workaholics, and they’re like, “So, are you guys, like, drunk all the time?” And I’m like, “Dude, I’m up at 6 in the morning driving to set.” You know what I mean? So, you don’t think it’s going to be as much work as it is. You see all these interviews on Letterman and people talk about exhaustion and how they just fainted or whatever, and you try to call bullshit on it. But, I tell you, these people, this industry, they run you ragged, man. They milk you.
So how do you make this work then?
Sometimes you have to dare to say no. How about that? Is that a sound bite?
I’ve probably heard that before.
Yeah. Certainly, you have to know your limitations.
How about “dare to think no one said ‘dare to say no’ before”?
That’s never been said before probably because, syntactically, it doesn’t really work.
Yeah, I was not a good student.
Is there somewhere you want to go in your career that you haven’t yet?
I mean, I grew up watching movies and not really idolizing stars. So I just want to be a part of seminal films, like, if I was a part of something like Ghostbusters, that’d be awesome. If it was something like Jaws, Rushmore or Bottle Rocket, that’d be cool. I think so far, I’m pretty hyped about everything I’ve been allowed to participate in.
Top Five was a good one.
Yeah, I was super lucky to get in there. Chris Rock is taller than you’d think, he’s maybe about six feet, I thought he’d be a smaller guy. But, you know, just the man, he was directing me, so I thought, I don’t know what I thought, but he was like, “Let’s try it this way” or like “You got anything you wanna do?” And we would just try it a bunch of different ways and see what was funny, ‘cause, you know, he’s a comedian. He knows you got to work out the material. He does stand up, you gotta try it a few times live, see what happens. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So, I think he had that kind of mentality with in my experience. But then also, I’m butt naked on a bed. I didn’t feel like it. He made me feel like I was acting in a movie.
So you were butt naked on the bed?
I mean, I had this little — I mean, big — doo-rag thing that encompassed my genitals. So, nobody had to look at my humungous dick, and then couldn’t concentrate.
You didn’t actually have to put Sriracha in your asshole, did you?
No, I think Rosario was consistently shoving the tampon into my taint. So, close but no cigar.
Not that I want a cigar there either.
That may be worse, actually.
Don’t knock it till you try it.