ROGEN: I realized if I was going to make Green Hornet, I needed to lose weight. Aside from how the character is supposed to look, I couldn't physically make the movie in the shape I was in. It would have literally killed me.
PLAYBOY: For somebody who isn't classically attractive, you've been naked in movies an awful lot.
ROGEN: I suppose that's true.
PLAYBOY: Porn star Ron Jeremy shaves his back before a sex scene. Do you have any special preparations for on-screen nudity?
ROGEN: Nope. Nothing. They did have me shave my back for Knocked Up, but I fought it. I didn't think it was a good idea. Judd Apatow said, "People are not ready for a hairy back in a sex scene. We're just not there yet as a society." In Observe and Report I am shirtless and I have back hair, and it's glorious.
PLAYBOY: The only thing you haven't done yet is full frontal.
ROGEN: I know, I know. When Jason Segel showed his dick in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it changed everything. I was like, Fuck! Does that mean I'm going to have to show my dick too? Is that what we're doing now? I don't know if I'm ready for that. I'll show my balls, maybe. To me, balls are funnier than dicks.
PLAYBOY: What would it take for you to drop trou for a movie? Would it depend on the material?
ROGEN: It would, yeah. It would have to be funny. I'm a very serious actor when it comes to nudity. I'm like Meryl Streep.
PLAYBOY: Why have male genitals become a comedy staple in recent years?
ROGEN: I think it comes in waves. For comedy to be truly effective it must be shocking in some way, and it's getting harder and harder to shock people. So yeah, we gotta pull out our fucking dicks now.
PLAYBOY: There aren't many naked female boobs in sex comedies anymore. Are boobs just not as funny as penises?
ROGEN: I don't think boobs are funny at all. Period.
ROGEN: Because it's impossible to whack off and laugh at the same time. You know what I mean? Boobs and comedy stimulate two conflicting parts of the brain. Do I get to be horny over these boobs or think this is funny because of the comedy? It's too much for the male brain to process.
PLAYBOY: It's different for women?
ROGEN: It's completely different. Women are not nearly as attracted to the image of a flaccid penis as we are to the image of boobs. It doesn't even matter if the boobs are unattractive.
PLAYBOY: Porn is a recurring motif in your work. Knocked Up, Superbad and Zack and Miri are littered with graphic conversations about porn. Now you and Evan Goldberg are working on a pornshop sitcom for Showtime. Is that a coincidence or a conscious choice?
ROGEN: You write what you know. It's the first thing they teach you. You don't see me writing movies about rocket scientists.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember the first porn movie you ever saw?
ROGEN: It was called Fisherman's Wife, and it really freaked me out. In one of the scenes this guy jacks off into an ashtray, throws it at a girl and makes her lick it off.
PLAYBOY: Wow. How did that not turn you off to sex?
ROGEN: It did! It made me afraid of sex. I saw it when I was a teenager, long before I had ever had sex. I thought that's what sex was. I was like, How do I get there? I don't even know how to kiss a girl yet. Do I bring the ashtray?
PLAYBOY: It seems like modern porn is increasingly edgy.
ROGEN: Especially with the Internet, you can find the sickest shit you can possibly imagine. It's all out there. I don't like this new trend of seeing how big they can stretch out a girl's asshole. What are we going for here, guys? We all need to sit down and talk about this like civilized people. To what end, gentlemen, to what end?
PLAYBOY: Has watching porn taught you anything surprising about sexuality?
ROGEN: I think transgender pornography is the elephant in America's bedroom. If you join any heterosexual porno website, there is an inordinate amount of transsexual and transgender pornography available. Clearly people are watching it, or the sites wouldn't keep selling it. More dudes are into chicks with dicks than you would generally assume.
PLAYBOY: It's starting to make sense why there's so much male nudity in comedy: Hollywood is just giving the people what they want.
ROGEN: Exactly. They want more penises in their movies. Porno, comedy—it doesn't matter.
PLAYBOY: At least in your movies porn is a source of male bonding. Do you and your collaborator Goldberg watch a lot of porn together?
ROGEN: Never. Never would we watch porn together. I realized very early that there are two types of men in this world: Those who are comfortable sitting in a large group of men watching porn and those who are uncomfortable sitting in a large group of men watching porn. I am definitely in the latter category.
PLAYBOY: You're not the sort to enjoy frathouse hazing?
ROGEN: We don't have frats like that per se in Canada, thank God. For that reason alone I'm happy to be Canadian.
PLAYBOY: But you have admitted that you and Goldberg share passwords to porno websites. Isn't that a sort of bonding?
ROGEN: Yeah, but we don't watch porn together. I guess that's the difference. On a lot of these porno web pages, people write reviews for the scenes—like in a talk-back section—and those reviews can be the funniest things in the entire universe.
PLAYBOY: Could you give us an example?
ROGEN: There might be a scene with a 400-pound woman with a butterfly tattoo having sex, and the comment will be "I hate it when women destroy their bodies with tattoos." PLAYBOY: You started doing stand-up in your early teens, at an age when most people are pretty self-conscious.
ROGEN: I didn't have that. That didn't come for me until later. When I was doing stand-up, I was just 13. It wasn't until I was 16 or 17 that I got self-conscious and insecure. As soon as I found out all my friends had gotten blow jobs, that's when I got insecure.
PLAYBOY: Wasn't your first gig at a lesbian club?
ROGEN: It was, yes. The club was called the Lotus, so that should've been a giveaway right there.
PLAYBOY: Did it occur to you midway through your set, Wait a minute, there's nothing but ladies here?
ROGEN: No, I knew they were lesbians before I went on, thank God. They were very nice to me. That's the thing about lesbians: They have no problem with young, cherubic boys who have not yet become men. I was very nonthreatening, and I hadn't wronged any of them in any way. So yeah, it was good. I highly recommend doing stand-up comedy for lesbians. They can hold their liquor.
PLAYBOY: Are you proud of the jokes you wrote back then?
ROGEN: They were not fantastic. I had something about how my grandparents were deaf and had whole conversations in which they couldn't hear each other. It was mostly just stupid, hackneyed stuff. A lot of misunderstood-argument jokes and Jewish-camp jokes.
PLAYBOY: Did you attend a Jewish summer camp as a kid?
ROGEN: I did, and I loved it. There were no rules and no adults. At least at the camp I went to, the oldest person was 21. Our counselors were 17 or 18 years old, and we were 15 or 16. There were no parents around at all.
PLAYBOY: So it was basically Lord of the Flies.
ROGEN: Yep, pretty much. It was just a bunch of young guys set loose on an island. You could run free for the first time, stay up all night and do whatever you wanted. We listened to some of the filthiest shit you can imagine.
PLAYBOY: Filthy how? Sexually?
ROGEN: Mostly comedy and music. We listened to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan and Adam Sandler records.
PLAYBOY: You've claimed that Sandler and specifically his song "At a Medium Pace" from the 1993 album They're All Gonna Laugh at You! inspired much of your comic persona.
ROGEN: That's true.
PLAYBOY: Which part exactly? When Sandler sings about sticking shampoo bottles up his ass, the pube shaving, the strap-on dildos or the constant whacking off?
ROGEN: All of it, man, all of it. I loved everything about it. It's sweet and dirty. That's something I've tried to do with every movie I've ever done. It's about mixing the tones of sweet and filthy.