I didn’t laugh harder during all of the last TV season than when, on “Parks and Recreation,” Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) developed his Haverfoods slang that, for example, dubs cakes “big-old cookies,” tortillas “bean blankies” and noodles “long-ass rice.” (Others at tomhaverfoods.com: soup is “liquid lunch,” pork chops are “oink steaks” and raisins are “Old-ass grapes.”)
On paper, it’s somewhat funny, but the hilarious Ansari makes the terms pure awesomeness. Now the 28-year-old actor (who hosted last year’s MTV Movie Awards and has a script in development for Judd Apatow) finally gets a chance to put those skills to work in a starring role on the big screen: In “30 Minutes or Less,” opening Aug. 12, Ansari plays Chet, who begrudgingly agrees to help his ex-best friend Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) rob a bank because, well, Nick has a bomb strapped to his chest and the only way the crooks (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson) will disarm it is if he robs a bank.
From New York, the South Carolina native, who splits time between New York and L.A. but considers himself a New Yorker, talks about celebrating the Best Comedy Emmy nomination for “Parks and Rec,” why he’s not much of an action hero and what he’d do as Tom Haverford for a day.
How many people do you think see you as an action star, both before seeing “30 Minutes or Less” and after?
Zero and zero. [Laughs.]
Well, you know, if I was in “The Transporter” or “Crank” or something, I wouldn’t be the main guy. I’d be the guy that comes in and goes, “Look out!” or says something witty to Jason Statham. But what’s cool about this movie is … the idea of it being two regular guys that have to rob a bank ... The characters love action movies like “Point Break” and “Die Hard” and “Terminator” and action movies that I grew up on and love. So when they’re in the bank robbery they’re channeling “Point Break” and “Heat.” But again it’s not Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg.
What do you think the Glovers and Gibsons or De Niros and Pacinos of the world would think of the Eisenberg/Ansari combo?
I feel like they wouldn’t feel threatened that their roles were going to be taken any time soon.
In the movie’s press notes you talk about doing a lot of screaming while Jesse drove during car chases. What do you do to make sure your scream sounds manly?
[Laughs.] [Car chases are] such a [strange] scene for a [comedic] actor because … in a car chase you’re just sitting there like, “Whoa! Look out! Watch out for that car!” It’s very limiting and I don’t know how to measure success with it. With a comedic scene, it’s like, “Oh, that’s funny. I know that will be getting a laugh.”
Was there a scene that you filmed and after you thought, “Uh oh, I think my voice just cracked.”?
No, I don’t do too much like (screams in a high-pitched voice). You don’t watch the movie and I’m screaming like that. It’s more like, “Look out!” “Watch out!” “No!” Those quick things like, “Watch out for that car!” [Laughs.]
In the film Chet laments his own Netflix inefficiency. What are your Netflix habits, and will that change with their new policies?
Oh, I’m terrible. I’m like what I say in the joke. I’ve had the same three movies for years.
I don’t even remember now. I think it’s like “Who Killed Virginia Woolf?” I’m gonna get around to watching that any day now.
Congratulations on the “Best Comedy” Emmy nod for “Parks and Recreation.” What’s the first thing you did when you found out?
Thanks. We were doing “30 Minutes” press … I didn’t like pop a bottle of champagne and pour it all over myself.
In what situation would you do that?
If we win, I would do that.
We asked readers for questions, and @Shlee18 said, “What would Tom Haverford call Chicago deep-dish pizza?”
[Laughs.] Oh, man. It’s funny. You never know what things are going to pick up. And [Haverfoods, Tom’s slang terms for food] seem to be the thing now. Chicago deep-dish? “Big Ol’ Cheesies.”
Have you had people constantly asking you stuff like that since the Haverfoods came out?
Yes. It’s always funny, sometimes when people recognize you they try to say something like, [“I just used a food rake.”]
If you could live for one day as Tom Haverford, what would you want to do?
[Laughs.] If I was Tom for a day? I’d probably want to do one of those spa days that he does. Because it seems like a relaxing day. Probably not with all those old guys. [Laughs.]
You don’t go to the spa much now?
Every now and then I’ll try to take myself to something like that but I’m not a very vacation[-oriented], relaxing person. I’m more like a workaholic. I get nervous when I’m not working.
What would you do if you had a night out with Ron Swanson [played by Nick Offerman on “Parks and Rec”]?
Oh my God! That would be the most amazing—I mean, is there any other fictional character you want to hang out with more than Ron Swanson? He’s the best. I think I would get along very well with Ron and we’d probably eat a bunch of barbecue together. [Ed. Note: Ansari also said that he wouldn’t have much to talk to Ron about other than food. And whiskey.]
His favorite buddy action comedy: “I mean ‘Point Break’’s kind of a buddy movie. I like ‘Point Break’ because I like the idea of the bad guy becoming friends with the good guy.”
On Chicago: “I love Chicago, man. I go back there all the time to do stand-up. Whenever I go back I always [go to my favorite spots]. Hot Doug’s. That sandwich place beside Frontera Grill, Xoco. I love Schwa. [Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwiches].”
On his iPod: Unknown Mortal Orchestra. “I Love You So” by Cassius. “Countdown” by Beyonce. Wacka Flocka Flame.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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