2007 has been a break through year for The State, and Joe Lo Truglio is no exception. The past year has seen him land roles in surefire comedic hits like Superbad and Fan Boys. 2008 is quickly shaping up to be another banner year for the L.A. based actor, who has a slew of projects in the works, including a horror movie script co-written with Ken Marino about monsters and marijuana titled Burnt. After talking with Joe at great length about zombies, old school horror, and his various side projects, I have no doubt that his stock in the celebrity game will continue to rise for years to come. I’m pleased to introduce Joe Lo Truglio as the fifth installment of my interview series with The State.
DJ Sorce-1: So I’ve been reading about this horror movie you and Ken Marino are shopping around called Burnt.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, it’s kind of a mix of different horror genres. You’ve got your classic monster movie like Frankenstein or Dracula where there’s a scary monster but you have some sympathy for them. Then you have your teen slasher pick. And then you have the brutal, very Cinema Verite Last House on the Left escaped convict tale. It’s like a mix of those three…and marijuana. If you combine all of those elements you’ve got a surefire hit, or at the very least a midnight movie.
DJ Sorce-1: (Laughs) Would you or Ken direct it?
Joe Lo Truglio: We’re very close to it, so ideally that’s what we’d like to do. When money and budgets come into play, and you have people you have to answer to, it’s never that easy. But it’s something that Ken and I would love to direct.
DJ Sorce-1: Would you be going for the gritty old school feel?
Joe Lo Truglio: It’d be kind of an old school, 80’s, non CGI flick…something more along the lines of Savini.
DJ Sorce-1: You guys strike me as being fans of the old school stuff. That’s the kind of horror I like best. Some new horror is cool, but to me, a lot of it is just crap that looks nice.
Joe Lo Truglio: I agree. Ken and I like the old school monster idea where here’s a thing out there chasing people, and they gotta get away. We like horror movies that develop their characters into more than just bait to be sliced, diced, and quartered.
DJ Sorce-1: I think that makes the film scarier. You feel an attachment to the characters if you succeed in developing them.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah. You see where the victim characters are coming from. Usually there’s a repressed issue going on in their life that they have to deal with as they deal with the monster in the movie. Have you ever seen David Cronenberg’s The Brood?
DJ Sorce-1: Not yet, but it’s top priority on the Netflix queue.
Joe Lo Truglio: That movie gave me nightmares for years. I saw it when I was like nine and it just freaked me the fucked out. Oliver Reed plays this psychotherapist with a revolutionary new therapy that gets repression out of peoples system. The therapy manifests whatever someone is feeling into flesh…which is classic Cronenberg. Reed’s prize student is a woman who gives “birth” to these non human children, who are manifestations of her anger and rage at certain people. The children take out vengeance on whoever she happens to be upset at. It’s completely crazy and awesome. You’ll have a good time watching that one.
Horror is a great genre man. There are a lot of different levels it allows you to play with to explore whatever fucked up issues are happening in today’s world. It allows you to comment on something without sounding too preachy or didactic.
The Brood - #78 in Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments
DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, I’m a horror junkie. I just started a zombie movie blog. Are you a zombie movie fan?
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say zombies come in at around a 7. I’m a fan of zombie movies. I’m a big fan of George Romero. I loved 28 Days Later. I would have loved 28 Weeks Later if I could have seen what the hell was going on. You saw it right?
DJ Sorce-1: No, I’ve actually been holding off because I heard some negative things about it.
Joe Lo Truglio: 28 Weeks Later suffered from shaky camera syndrome. Things were cut really close, and the camera was going everywhere. So it was hard for them to execute some really scary ideas for scenes. There were parts where cerebrally I was aware of what was going on, but what I was seeing was complete chaos so I couldn’t viscerally be afraid because it was so muddled.
It’s funny; I had an idea for a zombie movie that turned out to be 28 Days Later. I worked on this treatment for a film about a rage virus. Three months later I went to Sundance, and 28 Days Later premiered. I was like, “Wow, they beat me to the punch.” And they did a great job, so I wasn’t that upset about it.
DJ Sorce-1: That must suck when something like that happens.
Joe Lo Truglio: I like to look at it like I’m in synch with other really creative people as opposed to throwing things at the wall and saying, “God damn, I was so close!”
DJ Sorce-1: That’s a great outlook.
Joe Lo Truglio: If you write enough and think of enough good ideas, you don’t get too worried when someone else completes a similar project first. That’s something The State always tried to be aware of. Luckily we were really prolific. If a skit didn’t make it because we realized someone else had already done something similar, it would go in the garbage. We had complete faith that another 10 ideas would come flying out. One of which would be good…maybe.
The State commercial from 1994
DJ Sorce-1: You guys have had an abundance of good ideas lately. You’ve all got so many things going with film and TV, plus The State DVD box set is coming out soon.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, this has been a State resurgence year. August is a pretty big month for all of us. The Ten just came out last Friday. Balls of Fury, which Tom and Ben did, is coming out this month. I’m in a movie called Superbad. And Michael Black’s movie is supposed to come out this August. It’s pretty exciting to have The State alums have these projects that are all coming out simultaneously yet worked on separately, as well as the DVD set. It’s been quite a State tsunami.
DJ Sorce-1: You guys really seem be coming back big. Starting with Wet Hot American Summer, there has been a big revival and all the fans are coming out of the woodwork.
Joe Lo Truglio: I think the group is excited about that as well. I’m excited that The State is coming back in the sense of letting people know we never really left, and we’ve always been here. We’ve just been doing different things individually or in pockets. We’re letting our fans know we never really broke up; we just took a hiatus because of differences in schedules. It’s nice to be back and work together in one unit again. We’re planning a movie now, and it’s slowly but surely coming together. We’ll see how that plays out. The group wants to do it. Now it’s a matter of scheduling and figuring out how we put this machine together.
According to Joe "For one day, The State was called Medium Head Root-this is the picture."
DJ Sorce-1: It’s great that everyone is doing well individually, but I’m sure it makes it harder for everyone to come together for one specific State project. You have 11 different people with busy schedules trying to come together, and it seems like that would be overwhelming.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, it can be overwhelming. We want to do what we’re good at, and that’s sketch comedy. And that’s ultimately in some form what the movie is going to be. Whether it will be tied together by an overarching theme or not remains to be seen.
DJ Sorce-1: As a group that has such a distinctive comedic style, I’ve always been curious who your big inspirations are. What is your favorite sketch show of all time and what sketch show do you think The State drew the most influence from collectively?
Joe Lo Truglio: That’s a tough one. I never saw Monty Python until I was in college. I knew who they were, but I hadn’t watched the show in full until college. And once I did, I loved them. I didn’t watch a lot of sketch comedy as a young kid or teenager. I was reading a lot of Mad magazines and watching a lot of horror movies. I also watched a lot of comedies like Caddyshack. But in terms of top picks for sketch shows, Mr. Show is an incredible sketch show and Little Britain is great. Those are favorites of mine.
I would say Monty Python probably is the biggest group influence. All of the Python members were incredibly talented and they tried to create fluidity as well as an absurdity to their show. I think The State is more absurd then any type of political comedy.
More so, we were influenced by the white, middle America suburban experience. We read a lot of Mad magazines, and that kind of comedic pop culture influenced a lot of the humor that was in The State. What comes to mind is Don Martin cartoons and the crazy sound effects that he would spell out like kerplat, kerplooey and kerplunk. I’ll think of words like that, and I understand why so much absurdity and nonsense popped up in The State. There isn’t a direct reference to a State sketch that has something like that, but that kind of silliness reared its head in The State often.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s interesting to hear you give that answer, because my mom always told me The State reminded her of Monty Python. She always wondered if you guys were big on them.
Joe Lo Truglio: We definitely were. Ben Garant and Tom Lennon were encyclopedias of knowledge when it came to Python. They knew every sketch. When some of us who weren’t as familiar with the show came up with a joke or idea, Ben could tell us when Python has already done it. Ben and Tom were heavily influenced by Python and I was the virgin Python member of The State.
DJ Sorce-1: (Laughs) A lot of you went to NYU, correct?
Joe Lo Truglio: We all went to NYU. After the first semester at NYU, Michael Showatler transferred to Brown. He had already started working with us as The New Group, which we called ourselves at the time.
New Group flier from back in the day, Drawn by Joe Lo Truglio
DJ Sorce-1: College must have been a pretty important time in terms of exposing each other to ideas that would later influence the show.
Joe Lo Truglio: Definitely. We were obsessive compulsive people when it came to sketch comedy. We would rehearse things into the ground. We would try to put together the best props in the world and think of the best cue music between sketches for our live shows. We were pretty crazy. It was dare I say, unhealthy. We would spend hours and hours rehearing one sketch.
What that did, besides give us aneurisms, was give us a good work ethic early on in our careers. That transferred well when we were actually getting paid for The State at MTV. We proved that we were capable of doing a TV show, we took it seriously, and we weren’t going to screw around. We screwed around, but we still took it seriously. We played four-square in the hallways, but ultimately, we’d have some sketches written by the end of the day.
Joe, as one of Doug's (played by Michael Showalter) sidekicks.
DJ Sorce-1: Ken told me some stories from when you guys worked at the MTV offices and it sounds like it was a fun time.
Joe Lo Truglio: It was a great time. We had a lot of attitude. (Laughs) We also had a lot of feelings of entitlement, which let to some head butting with some other people at MTV. I also think that helped carry the show a little bit. When your that young, attitude and confidence go a long way, even if it’s to the detriment and headache of many other people around you.
DJ Sorce-1: It seems like you almost have to be like that in entertainment to get respect.
Joe Lo Truglio: Well…I’ve learned you don’t have to. It’s understandable to feel that way at a young age, but I think ultimately people want to work with people that are cool. When you work with people you like, it creates a good working environment. That’s why The State did what we did so well. We were all friends, and we respected each others talents. In projects I work on now, I want to work with people that have that same attitude. Judd Apatow’s crew is a perfect example. They are talented, collaborative people that trust the people they’re working with, and they get great movies as a result.
DJ Sorce-1: That’s refreshing to hear, because I’ve had a lot of experiences to the contrary. It’s good to know there are good people that achieve a high success level.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, they’re out there man. It makes sense that good work comes out of a situation like that. Everyone just wants to make something funny and not put up any red lights. God, it’s so hard to break down your working process without sounding like a complete pretentious asshole. (Laughs) Anyway, next question.
DJ Sorce-1: I wanted to ask you about the famous hormone skit from The State. That’s one of the skits I always associated you with, and I was wondering if you could give some of the inside details about what went into making that skit.
Joe Lo Truglio: The hormone sketch was written by Ken Marino. Ken is a very visual writer. He often wrote the sketches that incorporated lots of visual gags, so Hormones is a quintessential Marino sketch. It was performed in the first show The State ever did when we were The New Group in college. We loved the idea of becoming hormones. Personifying body parts was cool and fun, and the feminist punch at the end was nice. The music had a goofy, nice build to it and it worked really well with what was going on visually. I also think the idea of a teenager’s first time doing it was an idea that was ripe to make fun of. People were able to relate to that sketch.
DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, it so accurately captures the awkward; don’t know what to say moment before the hookup.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, and after. It ends real quickly and it’s kind of like, “Ok, that’s it, it’s over, you’re done, go home.” When I talked about how we would rehearse sketches over and over, that was one of them.
DJ Sorce-1: I also read that you did some animation for The State.
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, I drew a lot as a kid. I animated part of the Krispy Pops commercial sketch in one of the earlier episodes. I animated something for the Little Brown Dog Food sketch. I also did a short animated duck for James Dixon Jedi Talent Agent. I was very excited to do some drawings and animation for the show. It’s always been something I’ve loved.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you ever think about trying to do a serious animation project?
Joe Lo Truglio: It’s something I’d like to do. I have a script for an animated film I’m trying to get off the ground. I’d love to write and be a part of an animated movie, but I don’t think my illustration skills are ready to carry an entire project on my own. Ken and David actually want to animate the comedy album that we recorded with Warner Brothers. We would outsource the cuts to different animators and put out a DVD of it once they were all animated. The cuts on the album are kind of hit or miss, and I think the animation would give it another element to help it translate better.
DJ Sorce-1: In an interview with Used Wigs you said that the film set for Wet Hot American Summer was the most fun film set that you ever worked on. Are there any particularly funny stories you want to share?
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah…here’s one. This is probably funnier in person than it will come out in print. Me, Marino, Paul Rudd, and A.D. Miles went to this steakhouse and we were having a cigarette outside after we had eaten. Marino started staring at a piece of the sidewalk we were standing on and said, “What’s that?” We didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. He went over to a loose stone in the sidewalk, stepped on it with his foot, and farted. He timed his fart on the loose stone tablet, so that when his foot hit the stone, he farted. We kind of looked at it and said, “Oh yeah, that is interesting.” One by one we went around and hit the stone, and we were each able to fart on cue as we hit the stone. That’s a fun memory I have from the Wet Hot experience. It was the farting stone. Outside this steak restaurant in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, we had discovered the farting stone.
DJ Sorce-1: (Laughs) I wouldn’t worry. I think that’s going to translate pretty well to print. Do you have any last projects that you want to plug before we wrap this up?
Joe Lo Truglio: Besides Burnt, I’m writing a screenplay based on my own childhood called Scaredy Cat and trying to develop an animated webisode called Frankie Buckles Goes to the Moon. I’m also in some new movies like Superbad, Fan Boys, The Pineapple Express, and College Road Trip. Ken and I also have another horror comedy that we’re working on. And fantasy football. Those are the things I’m working on.
Fan Boys Trailer