Interview: Joe Lo Truglio
KP Issue XXXII: Chubby Kyles
I met Joe when we made Puberty: The Movie last fall. The night before filming started, I almost killed Joe, his co-star Caitlin Miller and myself when my car's accelerator got stuck and we couldn't stop. Basically my first order of business as a producer was to not cry in front of the talent. I did alright.
kp: What was the first record you ever bought?
jlt: The first record I remember buying with my own cash was Def Leppard's "Pyromania". It was a cassette which, at the time, was badass. A buddy and I did a music video to "Photograph" involving a werewolf that gets beheaded. Obviously...obviously the song is about a doomed lycanthrope.
kp: Did you make a lot of videos/films as a kid?
jlt: I did. The first was a Lego animation sci-fi epic I did with a buddy of mine in Florida. It was about an hour; took forever, a real lesson in OCD. We shot some frames of fluorescent-colored pencils held just off-camera for laser guns. [Made] some super 8 films, too; something about breakdancing. Bobby Cannavale and I did a ridiculous horror movie called THE MEXICAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE when we were 14. We ran around my house with a Fisher Price chainsaw screaming in bad accents.
kp: What about at NYU?
jlt: The NYU stuff was your standard I’m-18-and-I-mean-it-so-listen fare. Couple of comedy shorts, sure, but the ode to the high school girlfriend, too. And, you know, what does it mean to be an “artist”? Apparently, it means filming homeless people to a James Joyce voice-over. So if anyone out there’s serious about their frigging art, remember that.
kp: You just went to Los Angeles for pilot season.
jlt: Ah yes, L.A.
kp: What was the worst thing you auditioned for?
jlt: The worst audition I had was for the "Jeff Foxworthy sketch show". You know, come up with three characters, 'bout a minute each. I didn't want to go in, but it was slim pickings out there, wanted to work, blah blah blah. So I work on some stuff, go in, start doing it. Nothing. I get a courtesy snicker. Not a laugh, a nose-in-the-air-I-see-what-you're-getting-at-but-it's-not-that-funny snicker. Then they stop me in the middle-- "do you have any other characters?" I’m pretty pissed at myself for coming in at this point. "Yeah," I say in my head, "how about four fucking seasons of characters, you twat. How about a character who takes a big shit on the floor of your casting office? That'd be funny, right?" But I did an ego check and rushed thru another so-so bit and left. When I came out, the receptionist literally said. "You're done already?" Not kidding. It was awful and not their fault. I didn't want to be there.
kp: Do you think there were parts that could have been yours if only you'd slept with the right casting director?
jlt: Well I thought for sure after all the positions we hit the night before... I thought the Foxworthy lady'd at least laugh. Not to horn toot, but I rocked her world. It's true, sex really does complicate things.
kp: Kris B. wants to know if you remember playing pinball with her at Emo's in Austin about 10 years ago.
jlt: I definitely remember Emo's. I love Austin. Showalter, Black, Marino and I drove cross country in '94, after the second season of The State just started to air. Emo's was where I first had Shiner Bock. I vaguely remember the pinball game. We met really cool people, I’m sure Kris was one of them. There was a girl named Shauna or Shaney who kept doing buttery nipple shots (I don't know, what's that? Kahlua, Baileys, Butterscotch goo?) with Show and I. When we finally left Austin, it was from Emo's at three in the morning.
kp: Let's talk about our adventures on Puberty: The Movie—how scared were you in the car?
jlt: It's funny you asked this question after your one about Austin, because hours after we left Emo's, Black fell asleep behind the wheel. I neglected my proper "shotgun" duty of keeping the driver awake, and we all drove off the road at 70mph in a 15 passenger van and almost died.
kp: So, what you're saying is, these car mishaps are your fault.
jlt: I’m saying, you want to cruise with me, you bring your insurance card.
So on our trip to shoot P:TM, when the brakes left us, I felt the same way I did then: strangely calm. I mean, it was a perfect metaphor for what was to come on the shoot--pedal to the metal, out-of-control, on a collision course. All very exciting, but sooner or later, something or someone's getting run over.
Honestly, I wasn't scared about dying, I was scared about dying in Mystic, CT. That's not how I want my story to end. Plane crash? Shark attack? Back alley brawl? Sure. Squashed at the Friendly's in Mystic? Nah. No thank you, sir.
kp: You were very gracious about it then.
jlt: Really I wasn't put out by that whole mishap. I know Caitlin wasn't either. It was too early in the adventure to get upset. I might've been concerned about getting behind in the schedule or not having time to work out the scene, but, you know, that comes with the territory. I like stuff on-the-fly. You usually get very honest, albeit sloppy, results.
kp: Did you consider it a sign of things to come?
jlt: I did see it as a sign. I thought, like Friendly's, every great meal on the shoot would end with a hot fudge sundae. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
kp: What was the most surprising thing that happened while filming?
jlt: Elizabeth the P.A. turned me onto the Shins which I think are a very, very good band.
kp: And you met Corn Mo...
jlt: And I met Corn Mo. Great guy. Haircut, maybe. The other surprising thing was Jerry Grayson not killing anyone. I love Jerry. He and I became very good friends doing the movie. Old school, that guy. I like old school.
kp: What was the most fun thing?
jlt: Hanging with Kuba and the crew in NY was great. Riffing with Todd Barry and Caitlin about how employees might answer the phone at Joblot...
jlt: It involved them affirming that, yes, you can buy 2,000 Styrofoam cups for ten cents, but it’s not gonna translate here. One of those you-had-to-be-there deals. We were sleep-deprived. We just played keno at a bar. We got an FYI from the bartender that she hates making margaritas with salt. Didn’t order any with salt. Don’t think we even ordered margaritas. But, you know, she wanted to share. Sharing’s nice. So anyway we were giddy. Pinch your nose and telemarket something in a bad Boston accent. That might give you an idea. Or maybe not.
kp: Have you been on a set where more things went wrong?
jlt: Things go wrong on every shoot. The other day, I was shooting a Stella video for David Wain in Englewood, NJ. You know, soft core dry-humping and face-licking on a picnic blanket, standard Stella fare. Anyway, cops were called. They asked for IDs. Turns out, we were shooting right behind Englewood Elementary School. Yay! I tell them we're shooting a student film. The cop says, "What school?" At the same time, David says "Columbia" and I say, "NYU."
kp: Wow, it's good to know that kind of thing happens outside of the sit-com world.
jlt: Well, the cops were Richard Kline and Conrad Bain so let’s not jump the gun.
kp: So tell me more about this State road trip - who went, and where did you go, and why?
jlt: It was just Marino, Showalter, Black, And I. We did a five week tour. Just vacation, road tripping with friends (that’s Ben Folds Five’s next album, by the way. Might just be “Roadtripping”, not sure). Anyway, the second season just started and we were trying to exploit our minor cable celebrity. New Orleans, Austin, Santa Fe, Boulder, Breckinridge, CO (where we learned blackjack) Grand Canyon, Vegas, San Franscisco, Portland, Seattle, Bozeman, The Badlands, Madison, Pittsburgh. Met some great people who bought us drinks and let us crash at their pads. I think in five weeks, we stayed at hotels maybe six or seven nights. MTV was very gracious when we crashed the van, too. It was on their dime. The four of us went back to the crash site the next day with a camera, just to survey the impromptu off-roading. Still got the video; it’s pretty unnerving.
kp: Was The State your first professional job?
jlt: The first professional thing we did for MTV was a “reenactment” show called “You Wrote It, You Watch It,” hosted by Jon Stewart. MTV hired several directors for the segments. Our ten-headed beast was “one” director. We worked in a closet and were very happy.
kp: I remember that show. Jon Stewart said people had trouble remembering the “You Watch It” part. Tell us more about working for MTV.
jlt: Our “work area” (it’s where MTV shoots TRL now) was right near the Beavis and Butthead area. They were the shit at the time and kinda acted like it. I remember one time while doing our pilot, I’m editing that sketch “Ride!” and the music’s loud, and some Beavis producer storms over like a middle school principal—really tears into me. We’re rude and boisterous and we’re always playing four square and other people are trying to work here! And, yes, all those things were true, but she could’ve asked nicely. Instead, she scolds me cuz they’re having a meeting about who-knows-what. Should Beavis light his fart here or here? So she walks away and I flip her the bird. An hour later, one of The State’s producers comes over sheepishly and says they got a complaint and I gotta apologize to Mike Judge, who, by the way, wasn’t even there.
So me and Showalter, I think, run out to the drugstore. We get a Hallmark card, some flowers, and a horrendous, Motel 6-type framed painting of clowns playing tennis. I also write Mr. Judge a personal check for five bucks and put it in the card. I go over and apologize and deliver the goods to MJ who’s getting a kick out of the whole thing. He’s laughing, he doesn’t care about any of it. He was basically very cool to a wiseass. And he never cashed the check which was, in a strange way, kind of disappointing.
kp: Let's talk about your love for Edward Gorey. I've seen the tattoo—it's hot. What's your favorite Gorey tale?
jlt: He’s got so many I love. I got his “Utter Zoo” calendar up over my computer now. My tattoo is from “the Gashleycrumb Tinies”, but “the Doubtful Guest” still gets me when I read it. Nonsense words alongside odd behavior is right up my alley.
He can capture these weird moments, and the moment just before, so well. He drew such unbelievable stillness amid the most absurd interactions. And he had stuff going on underneath all of it, too--in a look from a weird, anorexic maid in a corset. Fantastic. I think that stuff happens in this world, too; frozen moments of intense, unspoken feeling. Not just in his eerie turn of the century world.
Plus he used to wear a big fur coat and converse sneakers. That’s something you toast to right there.
kp: Which is the one about the girl who gets separated from her dad and when he searches for her, he accidently hits her with his car? That's my favorite.
jlt: “The Hapless Child.” That’s a great one.
kp: What's the most wrong joke you ever heard or told? Just the most offensive thing you've ever said, as a joke. I’ll tell you if you tell me.
jlt: I don’t know why this is coming to mind, but I remember watching John Cleese in an interview. He was talking about how anything was able to be made fun of. Nothing is sacred. Then he said, “except for cancer.” And he wasn’t kidding. Something about the disease being so tragic and painful to victims and family that he thought it was in bad taste to do so. That surprised me. I guess everybody has limits.
kp: All's fair. I mean, it’s kind of their fault for getting cancer.
jlt: Um…but seriously….if you were a cancer, like…. What kind of cancer would you be? I would be ice cream cancer!!!!!!
kp: To be fair, I’m gonna joke about it when I get it, too. Which is better: winning at poker, or mediocre sex?
jlt: Gosh. I guess the sex. Although, if I make a big bluff and fold someone out, that’s a pretty good boner, too.
kp: THE BROOD, or ROSEMARY'S BABY?
jlt: BROOD. Hands down. ROSEMARY’S BABY is overrated. IT’S ALIVE is better than ROSEMARY’S BABY.
kp: Did you go to any of the WET HOT midnight screenings at Cinema Village?
jlt: I caught a couple of them and it was fun. I brought some packs of gum and tossed them out—you know, in case you wanted to make out during the movie. And I thought those guys—Anya, MJ, I’m forgetting others—did a great job with the contests before the screening. It’s great to see such a devoted following.
kp: How fun was it to film the scene where you and Janeane trash the nurse's office?
jlt: If I ever get some serious money, I’m building a “breakaway room.” Bottles, tables, chairs. Hell, a windowpane. Smashing things in a controlled environment may very well be the secret to longevity or good skin or something.
It was fun calmly walking through before we shot it, too. “Okay that jar of q-tips is going, great... that cabinet’s fucking history, cool... knock that, smash this, right... I’ll fuck up that stapler bad... remember to bang the shit out of that…” We did two takes, but I’d have been more than happy—Janeane, too, I think—to do a couple more.
kp: What's next for you, Joe?
jlt: Seminary, maybe? Hopefully P:TM will get all of us some bold print on Page Six. Keep writing, keep drawing, keep acting like an ass. Try to get a script I wrote made. Maybe make a horror movie. I... I should get some groceries, too.
kp: Do you have any questions for kittenpants?
jlt: One night only: Macchio or Chachi-o?
kp: Wah wah wah…