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INTERVIEW: Paul Scheer Talks Archenemy, Comedy, and the Superhero Genre

Paul Scheer in Archenemy

Indie film Archenemy tackles the unlikely hero origin story of Max Fist (Joe Manganiell0) who comes from Chromium, is a man that in most situations would be brushed to the side. Homeless and lost, he’s trying to prove his origin to Hamster (Skylan Brooks) who tells his story through social media. A mix between animation and live-action storytelling, it’s an interesting look at the superhero genre and how it doesn’t have to be a big budget Marvel or DC movie to be good at telling a superhero story.

While Paul Scheer is only briefly in the film, his character makes an impact and helps drive the narrative in a way that makes Max Fist take a look back at his past and his superhero origin and is exciting to see unfold on screen, and discussing that with Scheer was fascinating. I’m a comedy nerd who came up doing improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and so, to talk to someone who successfully navigated the comedy world is always a treat!

THE MARY SUE: I’m a big comedy nerd and so I’m used to seeing you in that field so seeing you tackle this role in Archenemy was fun and new. What drew you into joining this in the first place?

PAUL SCHEER: You know, I’m a fan of the director, Adam [Egypt Mortimer.] I went to SXSW, I guess like last year or maybe the year before, and Daniel Isn’t Real was premiering and I saw the midnight screening of it and thought, “Whoa, this is so fun and weird and cool” and it reminded me of … if you’re a listener of How Did This Get Made? it reminded me of like Drop Dead Fred meets like Fight Club. I just like it. It scratches an itch I didn’t really know I had.

And when this movie came around, he reached out to me because I was incredibly effusive to him after the film, and he said, “Do you want to do this part in the movie?” and I said absolutely. And that’s kind of how everything in my career ultimately goes. It sort of like I’m a fan and I want to be involved with people who are excited to be there and who do cool stuff, and that’s kind of the way I came up through UCB, which is just like, “Hey, I like what you do and you like what I do let’s try and make something,” and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

But what was really cool about Adam was that Adam doesn’t come from a comedy background. So I don’t really even know how much Adam knows of me from that realm or I don’t even know what he knows of me. He kind of gave me something that was … I don’t think something that I would have gotten if I auditioned for it. Right? And that’s kind of how the best stuff I’ve ever gotten comes about. I want to try and do different things and try different things, and I think sometimes you get very pigeon-holed in our worlds and when I did The League, for seven years, I was like, “Ohhh, I want to do anything that’s not Andre,” and that’s why I started NTSF. I can make this show or I can actually write something for myself where I’m just not that.

And then when Black Monday came around, I read that part and my friend David Caspe, who’d written it, and he was like, “I think you could play this part,” and it was written as like a 50-year-old closeted man, and I was like, “I want to do this part,” and like that was really exciting for me to do.

THE MARY SUE: I also did UCB so when you said that I was like, “Yeah, that’s how everyone kind of finds their group to work with and kind of bounce ideas off of because it’s all very collaborative,” and what I think is really interesting about your career is that that carries on through all these different projects. Because one of my favorite things in this entire world is Wet Hot American Summer the movie, but also the TV series, and this kind of, this doesn’t remind me of it in that way, but this film reminds me of it because it’s like, “I would never think of Paul Scheer in a movie with Joe Manganiello,” but it works really, really well.

PAUL SCHEER: Right! Thanks, I think to me, I feel like … it’s hard because like I know there are people out there who probably have a different point of view on stuff, but I’m only in this to have fun and play and do things that feel like “We’re here. Why shouldn’t we make something? Why shouldn’t we try it?” and you can still be smart about it and stuff like that, but like Rob Huebel and I, we’ve been performing together for years before Human Giant.

And we just started doing this Twitch show in the middle of this quarantine and it’s been so fun and we call up people and we’re like, “Hey, Judy Greer, do you want to come on and do something on the Twitch show?” and she comes on and does this whole bit about her knitting, and we got like Jerry O’Connell to pop in and he’s like calling from a Taco Bell parking lot, and like I love people who are like … that don’t ask questions and just jump in, and so I try to be that person, too.

It’s like, “Okay, I trust you. It’ll be something and the worst case is that you won’t treat me terribly,” and as long as I have that going for me, I think it’ll be a fun time. Whether or not it comes out great, who knows. But more than not, I’m happy with the end result.

THE MARY SUE: Yeah and you said Rob Huebel and I was like, “Oh my god, I saw them both do Crash Test in L.A. years ago”—

PAUL SCHEER: YEARS AGO! I mean Rob, Aziz, and I started doing that show in New York at like 11 o’clock on Monday—like, the least coveted slot in the world—and it started being like this place to be. We had like sold out crowds. And then like Rob and I started doing it in L.A. in an even WORSE slot, and like if you think 11 o’clock on a Monday in New York is bad, it’s like ten times worse in L.A., and that energy and that fun I just … I loved doing that.

You just get a fun group of people that come back, and I don’t know, it’s the stuff that I like, so I want to do stuff and, I guess, and not make it charged up the ass or make everybody pay all this money. I just want to do fun stuff and keep it affordable or free or whatever.

THE MARY SUE: Yeah and it’s … I guess I have to use the past tense now, but it’s what was so great about going to shows at UCB in New York. Like, my brother and I were watching this Bruce Springsteen thing the other day and I saw his drummer Max and remembered that I saw him at like the George Lucas Talk Show at UCB.

PAUL SCHEER: YEAH! I used to do this talk show show … it was called Talk Show with Jake Fogelnest and we had like Tenacious D come and do a concert at UCB and this is at like the HEIGHT of, like this is when they released their album. And like, you like Wet Hot American Summer, so we had the CAST of Wet Hot American Summer. We would do shit like that and people would show up.

Like Jimmy Kimmel … I remember we would do a whole bit where we would bump somebody at the end of the show and we bumped Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Kimmel was on The Man Show at that point and came out to yell at us for being bumped and that was it and that was—we had done all these fun, weird bits with people. We just want to play, and like, Will Ferrell is that. Will Ferrell came to the theater and ran his George Bush Broadway show one night. He’s like, “I wrote this, can I go up?” and we didn’t announce it and he just basically came on stage and kind of was reading it off book/on book and I was like, “Whoa, this is so crazy.” I love that.

THE MARY SUE: See, now I’m nerding out because I love this conversation. I was an intern there for 2 and a half years and I have all these stories and people are like “that’s not real” and it very much is. Like Jon Hamm showed up at the George Lucas Talk Show and everyone was like, “Why is Jon Hamm here? I thought this was a bit?” and then I was interning one night and John Mulaney was there because they were doing Oh, Hello! and I opened the door and like stepped on his jacket and shit and he apologized to me and I was just like this is the most John Mulaney reaction. I did something wrong, and you apologized to me.

PAUL SCHEER: Yeah and I just did this documentary for Marvel and you know I called up Jon Hamm and I was like, “Will you come do this bit with me in this documentary?” and he’s like, “Well, what is it,” and I’m like, “It’s like the guys who did Chess Pub. They’re producing these movies for Disney+ about Marvel but I can’t tell you about it because I have to get your reaction on camera,” and he’s like, “Okay, what time? Like 8AM?” and it’s funny because I had Jack McBrayer there and I was talking to him on the phone the other day and I was like, “You’re really funny on the doc,” and he’s like, “I thought that was a bit,” and I was like, “What do you mean you thought it was a bit?” and he was like, “I don’t know, I thought you were pranking me or something.” And I was like, “But you did it?” and he was like, “Yeah, I thought it’d be fun.” And that idea that even to this day, he came, there’s a full crew, we did it up like it was a Disney+ Marvel show, and it’s not like super small potatoes, and he still in the back of his head thought, “That might have been a bit.”

THE MARY SUE: With Archenemy, it’s fun. It makes you kind of forget everything going on in the world and lets you get involved in this superhero story and Max and where he came from so I want to know, what do you hope audiences take away from it?

PAUL SCHEER: I hope filmmakers are inspired by this because I think, as somebody who is a writer and a director and a producer, you’re often told that you can’t make a big idea, right? Everything is like, “You have to tell a personal story. It’s got to be a bunch of people in a house talking about how they hate being married,” or whatever it is—you know, these mumblecore movies, and we see so many of the same types of films that I hope that this inspires people to be like, “Oh wow, I can do something and be clever about how I do it.”

And you know, the way the animation mixes in with this film, you can kind of see a bigger scope of it, and I just think that there are more stories out there to be told in an independent or a low-budget space, and they can be done effectively. And that, to me, is really exciting. And it’s fun! If you like superhero movies, it’s fun! It’s a different way of looking at a superhero movie.

Archenemy is in theaters, and currently available on VOD and Digital.

(image: RLJE Films)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.