Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) Interview

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Photo credit: Sarah Adamson

Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) Interview Promoting, “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas”

The duo spoke about Portillos, their co-stars; Tom Lennon, Neal Patrick Harris and Danny Trejo

Harold and Kumar are names that are synonymous with laughter. Together they’ve starred in three films as a comedy duo that started in 2004. We recently chatted at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Chicago in a lavish suite. Upon entering the room, they both came over to me and immediately introduced themselves. I asked them if they’ve been able to try any of our wonderful Chicago food and instantly they began talking about Portillos.

“Hey, the hotdogs over there are outstanding, I should be a spokesperson for them,” said, Kal Penn. “Oh yea, I love them,” said John Cho. Their contagious high energy, alongside their spontaneous humor made for an entertaining interview. Bottom-line-They are quick witted, easy going and hysterical in person.

Sarah Adamson: I’m chatting today with the comedy duo of Harold and Kumar.  Harold (John Cho) and Kumar( Kal Penn). Welcome to Sarah’s Backstage Pass!

KP: Thank you!

JC: Thanks for having us.

Q: It’s so great to have you here. Your new film, “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” will open November 4th. Do you have the same sense of excitement for this one as you did for the other two?

JC: I think we have more, right? (Glancing over at Kal.)  We had a sense of trepidation before the first one and now we can actually be excited.

Q: How do you feel about continuing the series in the same manner as I’m assuming, Chris Rock and Jackie Chan or the Cheech and Chong comedy duo? Do you like that concept?

JC:  Sure, I love coming back to do these movies. We lead transient lives, as actors, for some reason we have found ourselves in what is a rather stable job, as it turns out.  We’ve been reunited twice now and it’s always great to come back and ignite the love affair again.

Q: Sure, and I would imagine you have a really large fan base that asks, “Where is the next movie?”

KP: It’s been fun when you run into folks or when they look us up on Twitter and ask us questions like that, “When is it coming out?” It’s always nice to actually have an answer like that because there were a couple years between the movies when we didn’t know if we would be doing another one.  Now, it’s nice to be able to say, “November 4th.”

JC: They always were riding the border between enthused and disgruntled. They didn’t go, (calm voice) “Hey, when’s the next movie?” They’d go, (yelling) “WHEN’S THE NEXT MOVIE?”

Q: Cool! Can we expect another film after this one or am I getting ahead of myself?

KP: You’re getting ahead of yourself only because, usually, the way it works is that if it does well enough then they consider it.  So, we’re hoping that it does well enough. Playing a character like Kumar is inherently cooler than I will ever be so it’s a blast to come back every couple of years and get the chance to play him.

Q: I’m predicating you have a very big hit on your hands! For all you listeners out there, the film is very funny. I love comedies and your film is absolutely hysterical! So much laughter! Can you each tell me one of your favorite comical scenes from the film?

JC:  My favorite scene to film was the music number with Neil (Patrick Harris).  It was so silly. If you think about the first one in how modest in scale it was…two guys looking for burgers in the middle of the night to the third one – to be on a stage. I think it also connects to a Hollywood film history – that music number, in a way, that is very fun for me.

KP: For me, I loved the Santa Claus scene. I loved it when Kumar and Santa are riding in the sleigh with Harold over New York City.  Then, after Santa drops off Kumar at Vanessa’s house. I’d have to say that it is probably a tie between that and Wafflebot because Wafflebot is a robot with a personality. I think that it’s awesome.

Q: Wafflebot was awesome!

JC: Wafflebot IS awesome! He is an inversion of, “Short Circuit” (1986) for sure.

KP: Yes, it is! I thought about that one day when we were filming it. Growing up in the 80s and early 90s, the concept of brown face or yellow face was so commonplace. I didn’t realize that short circuit was a dude and brown face. Maybe this is the next brown dude with a robot. It’s a very obscure character comparison here.

Q: Sure, and I actually didn’t notice that. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I want to talk about a Chicago actor, Thomas Lennon.  Can you tell us what he brought to the film?

JC: Yes, Tom was Harold’s kind of ghost of Christmas future. He was like, “If you don’t change your ways Harold you will become this guy.” Tom Lennon is Harold’s cautionary tale.  Tom is the best guy on earth…better than you (to KP)! You pale in comparison!  You are a faint shade of lavender compared to him (jokes).

Q: Please boys, don’t fight. Don’t start that (All laughing)!

JC: No, Tom is terrific. He is super funny. One of the best improvisers I’ve ever seen and also weird in just a genuine way that is just hilarious and a good man. Except for, well, he’s got a lot of diseases (jokes) but otherwise a good man. I should stop saying things like that.

Q: I’d like to talk about another character, Denny Trejo. Machete! Can you believe I’ve seen that movie too? What did he bring to the film?

KP: He was also very funny. I only had one scene with him at the very end. It was a Christmas party scene.  The days that he was there we sat there eating lunch on occasion. He has such an interesting life and such great stories.

JC: He’s so scary looking (laughs) but he’s the biggest sweetheart. [Although], it doesn’t make you less scared when he walks around all day shirtless and you get to see his personal skin museum, which are his tattoos all over his body. And he refers to it sometimes too!

Q: Neil Patrick Harris, who you mentioned earlier, he was in your other two films.  I thought it was really neat that you were in New York City and Broadway was tied into the script. Do either of you have any dance or stage background?

KP:  I went to a performing arts high school. It was one of the reasons I was able to become an actor out in New Jersey. Instead of gym class we had dance because it fulfilled the athletic requirement. I am a horrible basketball player and I am an even worse dancer. I learned that very quickly.

JC: No dance background but it is curious how amazingly good I was. It’s like weird… you’re like, “Wow, this guy must be professionally trained. Did he go to Julliard? Was he part of Joffrey?

KP: I feel strongly that that wasn’t the case.

JC: We were told by the dancers that we were picking up those moves!

KP: Yeah right!

Q: (Laughing) Switching gears just a little bit here, I just saw in the news today that the support of legalizing marijuana now is at an all time high. What do you guys think about that?

JC: I would guess that has to do with the recession that we’re in, the depression that we’re in. Maybe people think we should be getting revenue from this.

KP: I think it has to do with the movie coming out. I think people get confused, especially if they’re stoners. But that’s good! This is one of those issues…because when we did the first comedy I always kind of viewed it as a buddy comedy.  People said it’s a stoner movie or it’s a movie that the Asian American community can really embrace.  I thought those things were really cool.  I purposely decided that I was going to be ill informed and ill read on this particular issue just so that I wouldn’t have to associate the two together.  But it is increasingly coming up. It is one of those things I’ve been meaning to read more about.

Q: Believe it or not, beyond all the silliness in the film, I thought there was an awesome message in it. Particularly, when Harold explains his reasoning behind his behaviors with his wife. Could you expand on that a little bit?

JC: I’ve always felt that our approach to making these movies was to treat them, as actors, like dramas strangely enough – to make the friendship convincing, you know, when he falls in love with Maria. It makes everything funnier when you believe that they are really friends or when you believe he’s really in love or when you know the stakes are real.  That makes the comedy better. This is really a Christmas love story amidst all the craziness.

Q: What else would you like to say about the film?

KP: We’re really excited that you liked it. We hope the audience enjoys it. I think there is a lot of heart in it. The 3D gags are funny, they’re a lot different than, I think, some of the big budget action gags that you will see.  Hopefully, just grab a bunch of friends and go have fun!

Thank you both so much for chatting with me, and good luck with the movie.

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Sarah Adamson© October 18, 2011