Emery Emery: So what did you think of the movie?
RFT: I actually didn't think it was all that disgusting.
There are people who see the film and have the reaction you're having, where the hype has built it up. But I'm glad they're doing this, because I'd rather err on the side of hyped-up language than on the side of someone coming in who would be deeply hurt by this film. That's not why we made the film; that's not what this film's about. We don't want to blindside anybody.
What was your mindset going into this huge two-year project?
I came in as someone who had comedic sensibility and timing, and [I] was also a technician who could take all of this footage and show it to my director. I've got to hand it to [director Paul] Provenza: He taught me how to make this film with reckless abandon.
Any personal favorite retellings?
In no particular order: Taylor Negron, because I think he does what the joke needs to be [today]. To me the joke needs to evolve with the times, and it needs to find a new way to shock people. He shocked in an emotional sense. He was moving, in a creepy way.
Obviously Gilbert Gottfried. I love how Wendy Liebman switched it all around. Absolutely glorious. Steven Wright is in my Top 10, and then Billy the Mime and Eric Mead (the card guy) took it into another realm of the arts.
What was the toughest cut you had to make? I imagine the future DVD will be stuffed silly with extras.
Prior to getting the footage of Gilbert from Comedy Central where he's up on the dais doing that joke at the Friars Roast, we had shot him in a board room behind a big wooden desk. He gave a performance in that room that was astonishing. But then the film was in danger of turning into the Gilbert Show, so it had to be removed. But on the DVD extras, you're going to want to rush straight to that clip.
This whole thing started out as a video project for [executive producer] Penn [Jillette] and Provenza to masturbate to, honestly. They thought they might make some DVDs for friends or sell them on the Internet, but they had no idea that it would ever become a feature film. But every time we had to remove somebody, we always repeated this mantra: "DVD. DVD. DVD." People will eventually get their due instead of us chopping their material up, which would be disrespectful to their art. We always knew we were telling an important story, and a socially relevant story, and a love story. It's a love story about artists loving their craft.