The moment I heard about the movie Bad Milo! – which is available on VOD as of today – it was clear it was as perfect a fit for my readership as buttplugs in a Manicorn. A comedic riff on ’80s horror movies like Basket Case, it’s the tale of a corporate drone whose stress finally unleashes a vaguely cute demon from his rectum. But li’l Milo’s only good to the dumb ass that contains him – everyone else is a threat to be violently dispatched like Taco Bell through the colon.
Star Ken Marino is a guy you may know from The State, Reno 911 and Veronica Mars, but for all his comedic chops, he knows you can’t upstage an ass-demon and plays it relatively straight. In our conversation, I got him to open up about puppet-cramming, stunt butts, and even a tiny tidbit on the Veronica Mars movie.
Luke Y. Thompson: So at what point when they were pitching this role did the phrase “ass demon” come up? Was it the first sentence, or did they sweeten the deal?
Ken Marino: I think it was in the first paragraph. I think when I – the way I recall it going down was Mark Duplass gave me a call, and he said “A buddy of mine wrote this script, I’m producing it, we think you would be great, would you read it? It’s a strange story.” I didn’t need to see it; I was like, “Absolutely, I’ll do it.” He said, “Why don’t you read it first and let me know, because it’s a strange story, it involves some sort of ass demon.” That’s probably around when ass demon came up.
LYT: Were you sold immediately when you heard that?
KM: Absolutely! I mean, you had me at ass demon, basically. No, the script in this type of movie and Jacob [Vaughan], the tone of what he created is exactly the type of movie that I pined for when I was younger, going to rent ridiculous, outrageous, kind of weird horror movies or comedies. I’ve wanted to find something that was a little not the norm. So the opportunity to play the main guy in a movie like this was real special for me. It was real exciting.
LYT: Was it difficult coming from a comedy background like you do to be the straight guy while everyone around is getting to be kind of wacky and over the top, or is it more fun?
KM: It’s fun. I mean, it’s the – I think the character that I get to play, the fact that I get to play him so straight, is funny to me. In my head, there is no other way to play it. If you’re doing a movie about a demon that comes out of your ass, kills people, and then crawls back up your ass, to me the only way to play it is to play it like it’s a drama, and let the absurdity of the premise be the funny part. Because if you shtick it up or wink at it, then I feel like you’ve lost what the charm of the movie could be.
LYT: And with that said, the scene where Toby Huss’ face goes into your ass – stunt butt, or yours?
KM: Stunt butt! Stunt butt. I was there for the wide, but then they brought in a double, and they put a stunt butt on him, but I think that Toby, the first time – because there still had to be a butt under the stunt butt – I don’t think they were going to make him stick his nose and face into somebody’s real ass. Oh my god, Toby is so funny in the movie! But I think the first time, the real ass, the stunt ass, was a little too close to the fake ass, so he did get a little too close to the real ass, so they had to adjust some things.
LYT: It said in the press notes, I don’t know how serious it was, that you took various things, medicines, in the morning to get yourself in the mood of having to get something out of your butt. Is that just a joke for the press?
KM: That is just a joke for the press thing. I didn’t know anything about that. What I did do, though, was on every take during the birthing of Milo in that first scene, I would shove a small, like a stuffed animal up my ass, just to get a feeling of what that would be like. Mostly Muppets, because I have a large collection of them, and I didn’t want to shove anybody else’s stuffed animal up my ass, so I would shove my Kermit and my Animal up there, and my Fozzie Bear. The best feeling one was the Gonzo, and I think it has something to do with the hooked nose.
LYT: Hits the g-spot.
KM: I hit the g-spot.
LYT: Like the prostate exam.
LYT: And there’s an irony in that, because puppets are used to having people up their ass.
KM: That’s right, that’s right! So it was payback time.
LYT: How do you prepare…
KM: For the puppets?
LYT: (laughs)…mentally and emotionally for a role that has such an outlandish element to it? How do you get yourself in that headspace?
KM: There’s no – I wish I could say there’s some crazy process of getting in that headspace, but ultimately, it’s like we were talking about it before, you just have to make a choice about how you are going to play the character. In something this ridiculous, my approach is always to play that very straight and real, and I think what was nice about coming onto this project, Jacob and Mark, the Duplass guys, Jay, they all felt the same way, and so I think it worked nicely. When you’ve got a puppet that looks like kind of an ET ran into a pile of shit, again, you don’t have to do much other than play it straight.
LYT: It’s obviously an advantage to have the real puppet there, but is it ever a distraction to have all of the puppeteers moving around it and having to focus?
KM: Not so much. I mean, they were very involved. They were acting, you know what I mean? They weren’t just there moving the puppet – the puppet was an extension of them, and so they were acting in the scene. So when I was doing a scene with the puppet, I was doing a scene with them, and they were very much involved. I would hear them at times, “MMMmmmm” [indistinct mumbling]– they would make noises and stuff at times, to emote whatever emotion we were going for, so it was great. It was actually great to have those guys there. The only practical issue was that sometimes they would cross over – like their black arm with the stick would cross through the puppet between the frame, the lens and the puppet, so then you can’t use that, because if you remove that, you have this weird space. So they would always have to be clear of the frame, or the lens, rather.
LYT: I would think that would be a particular challenge in the scenes where you have to fight him.
KM: Well, in the scene in the outhouse, it was just me manipulating it. We found that if it was up close, it was better – we were doing really primitive effects by basically making the thing look like it’s attacking me.
LYT: Like Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood with the octopus, that kind of thing?
KM: [laughs]Exactly! I mean, that’s the charm of practical stuff and throwbacks to movies in the ’80s and things like that. Part of the charm of it is, he’s not really moving his leg, he’s kind of hopping – it’s not as smooth, but that’s kind of the fun part of it.
LYT: It’s very much a call back to Basket Case. I loved those movies.
KM: Exactly, me too.
LYT: So your first big break was on You Wrote It, You Watch It with Jon Stewart. Is that right?
KM: I would say that was our, that was The State’s first TV gig together, yeah. We all got paid about $70 a week. We had one office for 11 people, with no windows. We got to write, direct, star in and edit – we were wardrobe and craft service – 11 of us did the whole thing, and we would hand in these final products to Jon Stewart’s show You Wrote It, You Watch It, and out of that we got The State.
LYT: Would you ever have conceived at the time that so many big things would come out of you guys and Jon, not necessarily from working on that show, but that that show would be the launchpad?
KM: No! Not at all. You know, I think that what we were doing with The State – The State has always had sort of an ego, I think in a good way. We were very confident in our stuff to the point of not giving a shit what people thought, and I think that helped us in the early stages of our career as a comedy group, because we didn’t let negative criticism stop the momentum of what we thought was funny. Whether or not it was funny – I ultimately thought what we were doing was funny, and I think the group did too. But because we had such a large ego back then, I think it helped us survive the early stages of our careers.
LYT: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if you’re going to be in the Veronica Mars movie, and if you know how that’s going.
KM: I am, I am, I am! I just shot on the Veronica Mars movie about 3, 4 weeks ago, maybe a little bit more. Vinnie Van Lowe is in the movie; they were nice enough to ask me to be a part of it, and I’m excited to see it.
LYT: Can you give us any hints as to your arc in the movie?
KM: I don’t know if I’m allowed to, but I will say that he hasn’t changed a bit.
Bad Milo! is now available on VOD and opens theatrically October 4th. Next week, look for our interview with director Jacob Vaughan.