Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen are the Danish comedians behind what may possibly be this year’s funniest film: Klown. Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard and co-written by Hvam and Christensen, Klown tells the story of two men who go on a debauchery-filled canoeing trip with an eleven-year-old boy. When Frank (played by Frank Hvam) finds out that his wife is pregnant but having reservations about going through with the pregnancy because she’s not sure Frank is ready to be a father yet, he turns to drastic measures to save his unborn child. In a desperate attempt to salvage his relationship, Frank kidnaps his eleven-year-old nephew and drags him along on a canoe trip that he and his friend Casper (played by Casper Christensen) had been planning. If this canoeing trip was an ordinary canoeing trip it wouldn’t be a problem but the perpetually horny Casper has nicknamed their journey “Tour de Pussy” and is determined to cheat on his wife with as many underage females as he can. What ensues is possibly the funniest and most perverse comedy of the year
Check out Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen’s interview we did recently. The comedy duo discuss their beginnings, why insults are a national sport in Denmark, the American remake of their film, and the great lengths they went to in order to make this film as funny as it is.
Latino Review: How did you two first meet?
Casper Christensen: We’ve been working together for like thirteen or fourteen years now. We had two different comedy shows before this one. I was starting a new sketch show and I heard about Frank. He was like the new, funny, upcoming guy. He was doing like Denmark’s Funniest Home Videos at the time.
Frank Hvam: Like a Candid Camera host. I would introduce people to candid clips from the US, from the eighties. It was a hard job to do.
Casper: So I kind of saved him. But I was bringing people together for the sketch show. We had our differences before when we had just met a few times but he’s funny so bring him on. Then we just immediately clicked. We had a fun time. We did about sixty episodes of that sketch show and then we started a sitcom and did six seasons of that before Klown and that’s how we got to know each other, we just started working together. We clicked and had the same sense of humor but we re so different at the same time.
Frank: You’re the city slicker and I’m the farm boy.
Casper: We just like writing together. The writing is the fun part for me. We never see each other when it’s not work though. Never! Hardly ever! Because we have nothing in common!
Frank: It doesn’t make sense. Why would we want to?
Casper: Because we know so much about each other. We spend so much time sitting and talking back and forth. ‘What would you do in this situation and that? Have you ever dreamed about this or tried this?’ We know so much about each other.
Frank: We know all of each other’s secrets. I’ve given this guy so many alibis.
Casper: So if we were around other people together it would be too much for them to cope with. This is a rare occasion just before you got in we had like two minutes which wasn’t work and we just stared at each other like this.
Frank: Someone come in and help us!
Casper: Someone come and interview us! Please!
Frank: Make us work!
How did you become involved with Lars Von Trier’s production company? I’ve heard he’s a big fan of yours.
Frank: We did our first sitcom on a traditional production company and we felt that with Klown we wanted to bring it up on a higher level. We wanted to involve ourselves with filmmaking people because they are sometimes more skilled than TV people.
Casper: So why not aim for the best filmmaker in Denmark.
Frank: We want good camera guys, and good sound engineers, and good everything. Lars Von Trier actually wrote an episode in season two called ‘It’s a Jungle Down There’ about a woman’s vagina and pubic hair. He’s an old dirty man you know.
Casper: But he’s Lars Von Trier, he can do whatever he wants! Then he acted in season three or four as himself.
This movie is a follow up to your series, sort of, but how did you two come up with this idea for a buddy comedy during a canoeing trip?
Frank: The canoeing thing was an idea we worked out because we are in Denmark and it’s a very small country. We wanted to make a road trip but you can drive from one end of Denmark to the other in about four hours. We had to slow ourselves down so we chose the canoe and that way we could be out there for a week.
Capser: So that’s why we landed on the canoeing thing. There’s a character in the movie named Lars and we are wearing tuxedos and sailing the canoe towards the whore house and there is something about three guys in tuxedos in a canoe that makes you just know something is wrong here. There’s something going on that’s not right! Then again if there really was this big brothel you don’t want to go by car if you’re a famous person, you don’t want to drive in, you want to go in the secret way from the seaside, because no one is going to recognize your canoe. You could just sail right in. So that is a beautiful idea for someone who wants to make a whore house for celebrities, you need to put it next to a lake so people can arrive in canoes.
Frank: When it comes to the buddy thing we are both stand-up comedians so we are used to talking about ourselves and we have this old friendship so it’s very easy for us to write things which take place in our real lives in our relationship. It feels so easy to start with ourselves and our relationship and all the things that we have done.
Casper: Especially the television series: it’s gone more and more from Frank’s life to being more about a buddy thing. We knew the Danish audience wanted to see two guys going on an adventure where everything gets fucked up but it works over here as well, evidently.
It’s a pretty controversial thing to have an actor this young be exposed to the types of things he’s exposed to in this film? Your characters don’t necessarily censor themselves around Bo at all. What was it like working with Marcuz Jess Peterson?
Casper: Oh man! Marcuz had just watched the television show so many times that he wanted to try out for the movie and he got it and suddenly he’s in the canoe and he’s sitting between Frank and I and we just improvise lines the whole time so we keep on going trying to make each other laugh and Marcuz just starts laughing and having a great time. He didn’t realize he’s in a movie, he thinks he’s in his fantasy. We didn’t at all try to control ourselves around him. We can’t. We fucked that kid up. He’s fucked for life now.
Frank: It’s all fantasy. It’s just funny thoughts. It’s not a real documentary.
Casper: But he had a great time though. He grew like ten years.
Frank: He has this innocent, vulnerable face, which makes your heart melt and to start with he didn’t know us that well. He was very nervous but after a couple of weeks he felt completely like one of the team and he’d start laughing in all the takes and we had to threaten him not to laugh.
Bo’s character was not part of the show; he’s new to this film. Where did the idea come from to have a character as young as Bo accompanying you two on a “Tour de Pussy”?
Frank: It creates some great tension in the scenes.
Casper: Everything you do when there’s a kid around just gets worse. It gets more serious. There’s something at stake.
Frank: We wanted to raise the stakes. I think that’s why. The story in its core is very sensitive, nearly romantic: a man who wants to show his wife that he can be a good husband and a good father. Because of this he gets a terrible idea to kidnap a boy. He’s on a mission to save his marriage and his unborn child by doing something so wrong.
There are a lot of jokes that push boundaries in this film. Do you think that nothing is off topic when it comes to humor or are there some things that shouldn’t be joked about?
Casper: You can joke about everything as long as people laugh. In this film we are the biggest idiots the whole time. The kid is innocent. People are laughing but at the same time are thinking we are the idiots. That’s important because when we did the television show we did a list of taboos that we wanted to address. We addressed everything from Cancer to cannibalism to AIDS to pedophilia to racism. We did a list of twenty taboos that was hard to do comedy on but when you move the focus in the right way you can make fun of everything so far. We are not making fun of people who are sick we are making fun of people’s reaction around people that are sick.
Frank: Of course we have to think a lot sometimes. We had a scene in one of the episodes in the series where Frank was crawling into the bathtub with a ten-year-old girl and that was a hard scene to make…
Casper: …And to motivate. Because there is nothing wrong with the motives in Frank’s head. The story is that he wants to prove to his wife that it is wrong to go into the bathtub with a kid. That’s his point and they get into a huge fight over it because her nephew just came by and she took a shower with him. Frank is saying that is too much and that’s wrong and this girl comes to visit and Frank jumps in the bathtub with her just to show his wife that it is wrong. Of course the mom of the kid explodes and you can just see Frank in the bathtub with the little girl and the mom is there and his wife comes in and the whole thing just backfires right in his face.
Frank: It took us a month to figure out that bathtub scene the right way so we just don’t do things randomly. We are thinking about it.
You guys seem to really go all out for the sake of comedy. I don’t want to give too much away but you guys do a lot for humor in this film. Frank, did you really have to touch a young boy’s penis and Casper did you really have to put a man’s penis in your mouth for the making of this film?
Casper: We can’t tell you. [laughs] No, we didn’t.
Frank: When we were writing we didn’t think that much about it because we know that our intentions are not sexual at all…
Casper: …We are just trying to get some laughs.
Frank: But when were at the location and the good people on the set had made a latex penis for the boy. It’s made out of plastic and today I am very glad it wasn’t a real penis.
Casper: And it was pretty expensive. I think like five thousand dollars to get that penis done. It was no bigger than this but we had to get it to look real.
Frank: There’s a bug difference between fantasy and reality because when we were writing it we didn’t think about it. We didn’t care. But that night when I was pulling his little penis I was so glad that it was a special effect, that it was a plastic penis.
Casper: We had to put an extra camera up. A special camera just showing how we put the latex penis on to make sure that, well, it’s illegal to take pictures of a boy’s penis of course, so we had to have an extra camera showing how we did it to make sure we didn’t get in trouble.
Frank: Some footage for the court.
Casper: The thing about me blowing a guy, [laughs] it came about very late. The movie was shot and the whole thing was over then we just had a feeling that we needed a little extra, just a little bit more.
Frank: We felt that we needed one big laugh.
Casper: But the last shot was Lars with the naked girl couldn’t top the little penis so we called up the actor who played the school teacher and we said we need one more shot and he came over and we just did it right there. We just had a realistic looking dildo. He was just standing there with it between his legs and I put my mouth around it and it’s just for a picture, for a still, but the actor, man, he kept moaning at the same time and there’s no reason for it. He was like ‘Oh yeah, that’s great!’
Frank: He’s a Royal Shakespeare actor from the Royal Danish Shakespeare Company.
Casper: So he kept saying, ‘Oh yeah, suck it!’ And I said, ‘you don’t have to say anything, stop it!’ But he kept going. It was terrible man.
Frank: We’ve seen each other in a lot of silly situations, also privately, but the moment where I pass Casper out in the forest where he got banged by this guy I nearly fainted when I saw him it was a very, very tough scene. I just wanted to help him but I couldn’t.
Casper: That scene where I have sex with a man in the forest that was the first shot in the whole movie for me. That was the first day of shooting.
Frank: It was like going in a drag car. It was like going from zero to one thousand kilometers in a second.
Casper: When we first conceived it we weren’t sure if Casper was fucking him or if he was fucking Casper. We did not know what was funniest. So we had to do both. I mean it was the first day of work and this guy has got this little thong on and I’ve got a thong on but you’ve still got the smell of it. [laughs] It was just a hard day of work.
Frank: Also the threesome. I could smell sweat in that scene.
Casper: That was one of the funniest things to do in the movie: the threesome with the witch. I laugh too much on a shoot. You never laugh, but this scene we both couldn’t hold back.
Frank: But when you remove all the sex things we still think there is a sweet story left. It’s got a heart and that’s what we wanted. It was the most important thing to us. All the sex stuff, that’s just for the fun of it, but the most important thing for us was to tell a good story about a man who fights for his relationship.
Casper: He fights for the right to be whatever father he can be and that is the important part. You have to be one way if you’re a father, no, you’re just the father you can be, that’s your right. That’s really what started the whole thing. We talked a lot about that. I have two kids and Frank has two kids and we bring them up the best we can. I think they’re going to turn out to be wonderful human beings. It seems like it, but we chose to do it our way and it’s just important to have that right.
In the United States, it’s rare for mainstream comedies to push the envelope. What are your thoughts on comedies coming out of America right now? Do you think there’s a bit too much of a concern to not be too offensive? Do you feel there is a need to push the envelope?
Frank: We don’t think in terms of offending people. We’re thinking in ways of amusing ourselves and telling a good story and making it entertainment.
Casper: I think at times when I watch American comedies sometimes they have things that are offensive to me. Gross scenes like shitting and throwing up and stuff like that. We don’t do too much of that. We’re never thinking in terms of being offensive.
Frank: Of course we know that sometimes this will push some buttons but it’s not our plan to begin with.
Casper: We just want to tell a good, true story. Some of the things that happen in the movie are far out but in reality it’s not that far out. That could happen. We’ve all experienced strange sexual things in our lives or behaved in a bad way at some point. It’s not that far fetched. Of course when it’s crystallized over two or three days with these two guys it seems like a lot but it could happen.
Frank: The important thing for us is that we can defend our actions, that we have a thought behind them. We come from Denmark. It’s a monoculture. It’s very difficult to offend people in Denmark. It’s a national sport to accept insults in Denmark. We saw it under the cartoon crisis when we drew Mohammed. No Danes knew that it could be a problem. It was simply a total surprise to us. Still today it’s a mystery how people could get that angry.
Casper: It’s fun for us when we did this movie that we were pushing the envelope a little bit. We knew we were offensive in some ways but we didn’t feel it was that bad really. It was just good comedy but then it seems like on a global scale it’s pretty wild.
Frank: I have my own theory of why the Danes can take so much shit. We are paying huge amounts of taxes in Denmark.
Casper: Sixty Percent!
Frank: We are probably the most communistic country in the world. When you are paying so much to the community you get the right to kick other people’s ass. If they’ve got your money you have the right to kick them in the ass. I think that is why we are so rude in Denmark. So people around the world that don’t get our money are welcome to be offended.
This has been likened to The Hangover. What are some American comedies or comedians that have influenced you two?
Casper: On this movie no doubt it was The Hangover and Sideways. The picture scene in the end is pretty close to The Hangover. And Sideways, we have a little nod to that film with Casper breaking his nose. It’s like the same in The Hangover; it’s a nod to those films. We saw Role Models too with Paul Rudd. It was an inspiration too. It’s not the funniest movie but we got some good laughs from it.
Frank: And for the series, of course, we looked at Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office.
This kind of immediately got picked up by Hollywood; Todd Philips and Danny McBride are producing an American version of the film, and Danny McBride who’s writing the script is also going to star in the film. Is he playing Casper’s character?
Casper: I talked to Danny the last time I was here, in May, and nobody really knew what part he should play. He’s shooting a movie right now and he’s trying to write Clown at the same time. It’s not decided yet what character he is going to play. It depends on who the other guy is I think. Danny could play both parts so it depends on who the other guy is.
Personally, I would like to see Danny McBride play your character Casper. If he does play Casper who would you like to see play your character, Frank?
Frank: Will Ferrell.
Casper: They have the same body language?
Frank: We have the same physical abnormalities. We both have a strange, sickly body.
Have you seen Eastbound & Down and any of Danny’s other work? Do you feel that your story is in good hands with this Hollywood remake?
Frank: Yes, we’ve seen the show and we’re familiar with his work. We feel that we are in good hands. We are just so honored.
Casper: We’re just happy that people like the comedy that we do and they can basically do whatever they want with it. We did our version of it and it’s lived its own life. If they can get whatever out of it they want, then great. Danny McBride is so funny. He is a good writer and he is a funny, funny actor. Todd Philips and the guys from Green Hat have just made some of the funniest comedies in the last few years so why not be so happy with that?
Frank: If you can’t handle any changes in your story you shouldn’t sell it.
Casper: They can do whatever they want with it. Go! Run with it! They might even make it better. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Frank: We actually like the American version of The Office better than the English version
When you finished making this film, did you guys think to yourselves that this is so good it’s going to get picked up by Hollywood and remade or did that come as a surprise to you?
Casper: Not to me.
Frank: To start with I didn’t give it one thought.
Casper: You didn’t want to make the movie!
Frank: No, not at all. I thought we should do something else. But when I saw that it was a big hit in Denmark I started thinking about it. Then Casper took a trip over here trying to sell it and you succeeded and thank you by the way.
Casper: You’re welcome. We’re a little different this way. I always think that when we do something that’s good then it’s world class and Frank is a little more realistic. I think that’s a good combo for us. But it’s true when we wrote the script and made the movie we had no idea that it could travel. We just wanted to do the best movie possible.
When you completed the sixth season of the series was that already something you were thinking about, wanting to make a movie based on the show?
Casper: Well the contract ended for the television show and we didn’t feel like renewing it. So we took a break from each other and did some different things and then we met up and talked about working together again and I really wanted to do a movie, so did Frank but I was pushing a little more for the Klown movie.
Frank: I wanted to make a completely other movie. Something fresh.
Casper: But then I talked him into it. We always try to choose projects that would be fun to make. We choose every time each other to do the work with. That’s how we work.
Is Danny McBride consulting with you guys at all or is this something he’s doing on his own?
Casper: He’s very busy right now but he’s consulting with us a little bit because we know the characters so well, we know the story so well. We have different ways to go about things in the movie that got cut out or that we changed in one of the first drafts of writing that might fit into his version of it. So we’ve been talking back and forth on how we were trying to solve problems when we were writing it.
Frank: But I think he’s got some great new ideas.
Casper: He has some great new ideas! But he’s come back with a few ideas and we’re like that’s a good idea but watch out because we had just the same thought. Or we just go, ‘oh man, why didn’t we do that?’
Would you guys like to make a sequel to this film? Would you like to continue to work together and what are you guys doing next? Would you like to do a new series together?
Frank: Yeah! And of course it is funnier to sit at home in Denmark to write knowing that someone is waiting for you in the US. We’ve been talking about doing a sequel and we have ideas for it so there will probably be a sequel.