Whether you realize it or not, Anders Holm is one of the funniest, most driven people working in comedy right now. Not only is the 33 year-old Workaholics star on the verge of the fifth season of his Comedy Central slacker sitcom, but he just had a scene-stealing turn in Chris Rock’s excellent Top Five. To call it one of the hottest sex scenes of the year is an understatement, and one that you will fully grasp once you see the film. Couple that with his comic book Echo Island, a continued foray into the world of directing, and a starring role in the Sundance-bound dramedy Unexpected, and it seems that Holm is well on his way to breaking out in 2015.
Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Holm over the phone to talk about his jam-packed 2014/2015 dance card, working with Chris Rock, and how truly excruciatingly terrible it is to have to direct oneself in a scene.
Nerdist: I’ve got to say, you were one of my favorite parts of Top Five. So tell me a little bit – how did you first get involved with the project?
Anders Holm: Well, first of all, thank you. I appreciate that. I got involved through Scott Rudin, who I’m working on another project with. He called and said, “Hey, here’s a script for a Chris Rock movie. It’s not huge, but it’s – ” I can’t remember what he said, but it was like an impact role, basically. And then I read the script, and I was like, what? Why is he calling me to do this? I would love to do it, but it is one of those funny things where you’re like “All right, I’ll get naked and assaulted by my girlfriend. Let’s do it.”
N: Well, now at least you can put ‘butt stuff’ on your resume.
AH: Yeah, man. I’m fully into butt stuff now in real life. I’ve got a pair of scissors up there right now I can’t fish out.
N: Oh, wow! Well, I hear rock beats scissors, so you might want to look into that. But I agree with that description – impactful. It’s definitely one of the more memorable, stand-out moments in the movie. What was it like being on set that day? How many takes did he make you do?
AH: We did a lot more than I thought we were going to do. But it’s funny – it’s like, whenever you film something where you’re naked, or you’re wearing nothing – like I wear a Speedo a lot on Workaholics, and I’ve been essentially naked on The Mindy Project. At first, you are a little like “Oh, I’ll wear my robe a lot,” you put shorts on, or whatever. After a while, much to the dismay of the rest of the crew, you’re like “Fuck it!” You’re out and wearing the little ‘do-rag around your nuts or whatever the cover-up is.
So I feel bad for the crew that has to look at it, but at the same time, it’s like, I gotta get comfortable, or else I’m not going to be able to be the guy in the movie. Because if you look like you’re uncomfortable in bed naked, then it’s like you’re not being real or whatever.
N: Yeah, I imagine you have to check your inhibitions at the door, especially in a sort of over-the-top moment as this.
AH: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
N: So tell me a little bit about working with Chris Rock as a director. Did you find it was better having someone who has also worked as a comedian direct you?
AH: Yes, absolutely! It’s always a plus when – and I’m not saying I’m Mr. Funny Guy, but when you have a director tell you something that you didn’t think of that’s very funny, I, personally, will be like, “Oh!” I have an appreciation of this person now. They are helpful. Whereas if you have a director who is like, “Do something funny,” and then you do what you think is funny, and they’re like, “Let’s try another funny thing.” And you’re like, “Are you looking for something specifically?” That can be a little exhausting.
But when you have a comic god behind the monitors saying “Let’s try this on the next one,” “Bigger on the next one,” or “A little less big,” there’s trust there, because you know this guy has taste, and you know he knows -and he wrote it – you know that he knows what he’s looking for.
N: Exactly. I definitely imagine that, having written the script, I imagine that would make things a lot easier, as well. Do you have a favorite moment on set, or a stand-out experience from being on set?
AH: Umm – I mean, a stand-out moment was just stripping down naked to – I had a, I don’t know what you would call it, but it was like a little wave cap that I tied up around my cock and balls, and I got on the bed and bent over, and we’re running through. Rosario Dawson, who I’ve watched in movies since I was 14, and she was 18 – whatever the age difference is – is behind me now, in real life, looking at my butt hole, in real life. I’m like, “OK, this has got to be weird for her.” And then about 2 seconds later, before I could bat an eye, I feel her hand slap my butt, and spread it open, and I’m like, “All right, so SHE’S comfortable. I guess I’ll be a little more comfortable.”
N: [laughs] Nice!
AH: I feel bad for her. She had the worst end of the job that day.
N: Yeah, well, it comes with the job sometimes. You’ve got to take those challenges on head first.
AH: Exactly. Or tampon first.
N: Switching gears slightly, Workaholics season 5 is coming up in the new year. Is there anything you can tell us about that? Anything we can expect or look forward to?
AH: The best season yet of the best show on television. I think we can all agree. We do have some really cool episodes. I’m excited. And we’ve got great guest stars. We’ve got Ben Stiller, we’ve got Dolph Lundgren, we’ve got Jack Black, we’ve got Curtis Armstrong, aka Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. We’ve got Jerry O’Connell, we’ve got Amy Yasbeck of Wings and Problem Child 1 & 2 fame.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Problem Child 1 & 2, but she plays two different characters, so that’s the kind of range she brought. It’s pretty awesome. She’s a genuine – when people say, “Oh, she’s a firecracker” about somebody, or “She’s a real pistol,” Amy Yasbeck is who they were all referring to.
N: Going into a fifth season, how has the show evolved since you guys first conceived of it?
AH: It really hasn’t, and that’s why we still like it. It hasn’t turned into anything we didn’t intend it to. Episodes are still one-and-done. There’s no season arc for us to worry about. All we do is sit in the room and go, “Will this be, A) funny, and B) will it be fun for us to do?” I think that’s more of a trap. As you get a little bit more comfortable, and as you film more seasons, and you try to figure what you do and don’t want to do, or don’t like to do, the key is to keep it fresh and fun for you to film.
So if we wanted to ride go-karts on a golf course, we write an episode that involves that. And then it’s fun for us to do, as opposed to us just sitting in a cubicle and telling jokes back and forth, which season 1 was like, “Yeah, dude, we’re filming a show!” But now, in a weird way, it’s a lot more fun to go, “Umm – let’s say the guys get a Gravitron on their front lawn, and we just ride the ride all day.”
N: That’s awesome. Have there been any sort of situations or things like that where you’re like, “No, no way. This is too crazy, even for us”?
AH: Not really. It’s all budgetary, and we’re pretty good about pitching within the parameters. We know we can’t be like, “The guys go NASCAR racing!” That’s not going to happen. But the guys go street racing? That we can work out.
N: Nice. I know several Comedy Central series have eventually gone this route, like Reno 911! – is there any plans in the works, or would you guys be interested at some point in doing a Workaholics movie?
AH: Umm – I don’t know. Maybe. We’re working on a movie that is us, and it is action-adventure, and it’s not too far from what Workaholics feels like, because it’s our sensibilities and our tone. But I don’t think we do. I mean, it’ll be fun to do something different.
N: Yeah, no, I definitely understand that impulse. Shake it up a little, keep it interesting for yourself – keep them separate.
AH: Yeah. I’m just sick of shaving.
N: Shaving is the worst. I also wanted to talk as well about your comic book work. A couple of years ago I checked out Echo Island, and I really enjoyed that. I was wondering if you had any plans to do more comic books in your future?
AH: Yeah. I’ve run out of this thing called ‘time.’ It’s funny – we’re half-way through the second one, but it’s just taking forever, because I had a baby, and my buddy – who I grew up with, who illustrates it – he had a second kid, so we still have fun. The second issue has been more or less written, but we just need to churn out the art, and I think it’s going to be a ten-parter. [chuckling] It’s going to be, like, one issue a year!
But yeah – I would love to do more comics. It’s such a cool medium, and as I start directing a little bit more – I’ve done a couple of episodes of Workaholics now – I kind of think about it that way. Like, when I’m writing, I’m imagining panels and layouts and action and characters. It is a little bit like directing, and I dig it.
N: You’re essentially storyboarding it out. With directing, do you find it a challenge to direct yourself, or do you find it easier because you know what you want it to look like and to sound like?
AH: No. It’s the f–king worst! I already hate watching myself acting. I mean, not 100% of the time, but the 10% that I like, for whatever reason, everyone else seems to think that that’s the bad stuff, but I like that. But yeah – if I’m directing a scene that I’m in, it’s just not as good, because you can’t really watch it. You can’t go, “Oh, this is not exactly the frame or the move that I want for the camera, because we don’t have the time to go back. We don’t have that luxury. So I would love to just write an episode where “Ders goes to wine country for the week, Adam and Blake have the house to themselves,” then I just direct it. And I’m sure everyone at home might like that a little better, too.
N: I think you’re selling yourself short. But with a situation like that, would you have to defer to an assistant director or something?
AH: Yeah, exactly. And the crews are really helpful and accountable. Our resident directing producer is usually around to help me out, and his brother, who works on the show, is also real helpful. Yeah, you have to lean on somebody else.
N: Cool. And was there anything that you picked up, directing-wise, from watching and working with Chris Rock?
AH: It’s funny – you can see something, and be like, “I’ll have to do that!” But you’re not – I mean, sometimes you just can’t pull it off. He has a confidence when he talks to actors about how to do things that I don’t know if I will ever be able to project, because I’m not the best stand-up of all time. [laughs] You know what I mean? He comes up to you and he goes, “Hey, on the next one, how you’re doing that – why not do this?” You go, “OK, yeah.” That must be, like, the gospel, because it’s coming from him. But I feel like if I went up to somebody like Martin Short and was like, “Hey, Martin Short, funniest dude ever – try this, that, and that.” He’d be like, “No, but I’m going to try it this way.” I’d be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah! Totally! Can I call you ‘Marty’?”
N: “Good impulse!”
N: Are there any other projects you have coming down the pipeline that you’re excited about that you wanted to talk a little bit about?
AH: Yeah. I did a small movie with Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother, called Unexpected, directed by Kris Swanberg, that’s going to be at Sundance. And I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really excited, because it was a really good script, and Kris is very talented, and Cobie is – I don’t know, I think someday someone is going to find something seriously wrong with her, but until then she’s kind of perfect. She’s very attractive, funny – you’re like, “What is wrong? Something’s got to be wrong with her.”
N: There’s got to be some terrible secret.
AH: We had a blast filming for a couple of weeks in Chicago, and eating way too much Chicago food. But that’ll be at Sundance, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a very, very good film.
N: Awesome. Can you give me a quick little description of it?
AH: Basically, Cobie plays an inner city Chicago school teacher who gets pregnant at the same time as one of her very promising students, and their socio-economic ideologies kind of collide. Nobody’s right, but nobody’s wrong, and they help each other over the nine months. I play Cobie’s boyfriend/fiance/husband.
N: Nice. Would you say it skews more towards the dramatic end of the spectrum?
AH: Yeah. I got to play just, like, a guy, which was fun, as opposed to someone who’s like, in their head, “OK, how do I improv this and make it funny” and whatever. It was cool, and it was always fun. It’s always great where I can show up somewhere and just act. Like, instead of all the other responsibilities, because you go home and go, “All right, cool, did my job for today. Let me think about my job tomorrow.” You don’t have to go, like, “And what song is going to play during that scene?” And, like, “Who did we cast for the janitor?”
That’s what I got. Oh, and then also I did a little thing in The Interview, the Seth Rogen/James Franco/shut-down-Sony movie.
N: Oh, yeah! The movie that brought the world to its knees. Awesome! So you had a part in that.
AH: Yeah, I just played an old college friend or colleague of Seth’s character. He plays a producer for a corny news magazine that does, like, Britney Spears stories, and then I play somebody who works for 60 Minutes and kind of rubs it in his face and makes him feel shitty, so that he has a purpose in the movie. I’m, like, exposition guy.
But it was really fun getting out there and improving a whole bunch with those guys and trying new things, winging it.
N: Yeah, that definitely sounds like it would be – especially if you’re a comedic actor – it sounds like that would be a total blast.
AH: Yeah, it was good. It was like wham, bam – one night in Vancouver type of thing, but the movie’s insane.
N: Am I crazy, or were you also in Inherent Vice?
AH: I heard I’m in it. I filmed a really short scene, and I was like, “Well, that’s going to get cut – it was fun to meet everybody!” But I’m in it, and if you blink, you’ll miss me. But that’s one of those life checklist things, where you go “Work with Paul Thomas Anderson – check!” Even if it was just another one-nighter – show up, say a line, and get the hell out of there, because that day is – I moved to LA to be a writer, and I was like, “If I don’t make it by 26,” which is when Paul Thomas Anderson did Hard Eight – I was like, “I’m fucking out of here!” Didn’t happen, but 28 is when I got Workaholics, so I was close.
Top Five is in theaters now. You can find more about Anders Holm on Twitter.