Bata Plavsic : Makeup/Hair/Grooming for Halley Resources
New York City - Nothing breaks interview better than a five-week-old taking a massive dump.
Actually, things are already pretty casual between Jason Jones, Samantha Bee and me when their infant son, Fletcher - whom Bee had been discreetly breastfeeding during our interview at the midtown Manhattan studios of The Daily Show - decides to remind us of his presence. Loudly.
"I think you've got two more of those in you," Jones tells his son, who is making a very red face.
"Crank them out," Bee says with a been-there-twice-today-already casualness.
Fletcher obliges. The sound is impressive.
Bee gives him the point. "Nice!"
Jones plays the proud papa. "I know my son's crappin' schedule."
The transplanted Canadian couple, who've established themselves recently as two of Jon Stewart's more fearless correspondents, will be coming home next week for the world premiere of their new movie, Coopers' Camera, at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Written by Jones and his friend and fellow Bobroom alumnus Mike Beaver, Coopers' Camera casts Jones and Bee as Gord and Nancy Cooper, a suburban couple facing the possible collapse of their marriage on Christmas Day 1985. (It's all captured for posterity on the VHS camcorder Gord has just given his family.)
Over the course of one day, the Coopers face personal betrayals, thwarted infidelities, sexual dysfunction, random violence, a small fire and an inept attempt at suicide.
Also, it's a comedy. A painful, painful comedy.
Photo By Bryan Helm
Bata Plavsic : Makeup/Hair/Grooming for Halley Resources
"The suburbs have this veneer of happiness, you know? This veneer of the ideal life," says Jones. "From afar, it's all together - white picket fence, nice house - but you peel away one little layer and it all comes crumbling down."
Given time to kick ideas around during the WGA strike that shut down The Daily Show last winter, Jones and Beaver developed the script in a frenzy of back-and-forth writing - Jones from New York, Beaver in Los Angeles - so it could be ready to shoot at any second.
Reuniting with director Warren P. Sonoda, who made Jones and Beaver's little-seen 2004 comedy Ham & Cheese, they shot the movie over 11 days in February - right in the middle of Toronto's biggest snowfall in years.
"We actually wrote it like it was gonna be a snowless Christmas," Jones says. "The whole tobogganing sequence was going to take place on grass. But it actually turned out better, because it really felt like Christmas. There was so much snow it just added to the set decoration. And it disguised all the 2008 cars."
Fortunately, most of the film takes place indoors, where the only challenges were the period clothes, makeup and hairstyles. Bee, who was five months pregnant during the shoot, bore the worst of it.
"When I was super-pregnant and trying on all those 80s dresses, I don't think I cried harder in the entire pregnancy," she says. "You already feel kind of bad about yourself when you're expanding at that rate, and then when you put 80s garb on top of that? It's pretty grim."
Grimmer still when you're playing someone who's seriously considering cheating on her husband with his own brother. Jones and Bee must have a terrific marriage in real life, since they're willing to be so venomous to one another on camera.
"Well, you write what you know, obviously," says Jones. "Even on the [Daily Show], we'll play husband and wife, and it's always such a miserable portrayal - it's never happy."
"We always suggest jokes that are so much worse than what actually makes it onto television," Bee says. "And everyone's like, ‘Oh, you can't. You can't do that.'"
Most of the incidents that make up Coopers' Camera are drawn from real life, the couple explain - well, maybe not the affair with the brother thing, but everything else. Including that incredibly lame suicide attempt.
"Yeah, that was me," Bee confesses. "I swallowed a bunch of Pine-Sol when I was a teenager. I was, like" - she adopts a fluttery voice - "‘I'm gonna kill myself! This is it!' It's so ridiculous now, I don't even care if I talk about it.
"I think I drank a quarter-cup of Pine-Sol and took some Correctol laxatives. Three. Three laxatives and a quarter-cup of Pine-Sol. And I watched The Killing Fields. It was so dramatic."
She pauses and reconsiders.
"It was probably more like a 16th of a cup of Pine-Sol. And I woke up the next morning and was just fine, except that I was kind of throwing up. I went to the doctor to make sure I was okay, and he was like, ‘Your breath smells like pine resin.'"
If they look a little frazzled at the film's premiere, it'll be because they'll be coming in straight from covering the Republican National Convention.
"I'm gonna have to fly back from Minneapolis on Saturday for the screening on Sunday," Jones says. "It's crazy. But it's exciting, too - it's so exciting to be part of the festival."
And then it'll be back to New York and The Daily Show, where their schedules are flexible enough to allow them to pass Fletcher (and, when necessary, his older sister, Piper) back and forth whenever one of them has to run out and shoot a piece.
"It's great," Bee says. "It just worked out so perfectly. Our little family is an island unto itself. We don't have any family here, so we don't have any people to run in and take our children from us when we need a break. We need each other constantly, so the fact that we're always together - right?"
"What?" Jones, who's been eating a sandwich and fiddling with the baby, has just realized his wife is talking about him.
Bee laughs - genuinely. "He was tuning me out," she says, "which is what makes it possible for us to always be together."
"Noise-cancelling headphones," Jones says. "That's what makes it possible."
Bee gives him the point.
"Sad but true."
Jason Jones and Samantha Bee on the high-speed shoot:
Jason Jones and Samantha Bee on disappearing into their characters:
Samantha Bee on the Pine-Sol incident:
Samantha Bee on "The Daily Show" making an actor more valuable:
Jason Jones and Samantha Bee on Dave Foley's penis: