Interview: JASON JONES

On November 11, 2010 (Armistice Day) I made a phone call to “Daily Show” correspondent and star of Coopers’ Christmas, Jason Jones. The topic de jour was “Coopers’ Christmas” and I was happy to help promote it… it really is a funny film — “Blair Witch Project” meets “The Wedding Singer”, perhaps?

Topics of discussion included Dave Foley’s penis, high school politics, the Google, Canada, and perhaps a new method on how to dig up the dirt on my favorite subject, Mr. David Michael Hasselhoff.

GS: In 1989-1990, you were the Drama Representative for Student Council…

JJ: That is true.

GS: What the hell does a drama rep do?

JJ: (laughs) Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t think I did a thing. There was certainly no money in the student council to dole out, no lobbying or legislation. Honestly, the only reason I even know that — and maybe it’s where you heard about it — is because someone forwarded me a photo of me taken as the drama representative, looking like the most awkward teenager ever. And I remember that, but I don’t remember what I did. I don’t really know what any student council does. Specifically, I really don’t know what the drama rep does.

GS: In the year 2000, you and Mike Beaver were part of the creative force behind a short-lived, thirteen episode TV series called “The Itch”. What is it and is it possible to get copies?

JJ: It’s a damn good thing you haven’t seen it, let’s just leave it at that. If you even find it remotely funny now… it’s terrible. Just a terrible, terrible show. And, for the record, we were not the creative forces behind it. We were both on it, we were two of the stars, but not the creative forces. That being said, we were still terrible.

GS: On “The Daily Show”, how much of the creative force is Jon Stewart, and how much is from writers behind the scenes?

JJ: Jon is 99.9% responsible for the content. He is the first one there, the last one gone. Editor-in-chief, executive in charge. Very instrumental.

GS: Is it unusual analyzing American politics when you are actually Canadian?

JJ: I am Canadian, yes.

GS: Is that odd?

JJ: No. Actually, if you look at it, I believe there is only one American-born correspondent on the show. I was born in Canada, Samantha (Bee) was born in Canada. John Oliver, obviously, is from Britain. Aasif Mandvi was born in India, and Wyatt is the only American.

GS: But still, isn’t it odd to have non-Americans talking about America?

JJ: Is it odd? We’re a multi-cultural, multi-countried show. We certainly all had to take a crash course in American history and American politics when we got here. I remember joke meetings early on, someone would tell a joke and I’d have to Google it to find out what it meant. And then I’d laugh.

GS: The film is set in 1985. Other films, like “The Wedding Singer” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” revisit this era. Is there something about the 1980s that has a special nostalgia value?

JJ: I think it only holds nostalgia for people who were at a young, impressionable age in the 80s. If you were in your twenties, you hate that era. But if you were in your teens or your pre-teens, like born in ’79, you appreciate it. That was your childhood, and you love your childhood. And I think what we did was different from those films, maybe not so much with the comedy, but with the style and set decorations. We tried to be more subtle — it wasn’t all just neon and Michael Jackson zipper jackets. It was leftovers from the 70s, mixed in with a little bit of New Wave. Nobody knew… it was a mess of a decade where in terms of style nobody knew what the hell they were doing. So I think we got a little piece of that.

GS: I think it was wonderful. Some of the jokes, like throwing in New Coke, that was really funny.

JJ: (laughs) Right, right. We didn’t actually realize how many jokes were in there until we started screening it. At a film festival, about halfway through the film, Mike (Beaver) and I turned to each other and we were like, “Oh shit, there are just so many 80s references in here”. We just didn’t realize it. There weren’t that many in the script, but crew members would suggest things and we would throw them in on the day of the shoot. And now there are a ridiculous amount of 80s references.

GS: Who is funnier, you or Dave Foley?

JJ: Listen, Dave Foley is a Canadian and American legend. But I don’t think people were laughing as hard as they should have been when he pulled out his penis. It’s got some size to it, and he’s got what they would say in Canada is a “hammer”. My penis is smaller and would have elicited more laughs. So based on that anatomical feature, I would go with me.

GS: You were not the director, but the way the film is written, it seems the camera angles and technical aspects could only be done in a certain way.

JJ: It was director-proof. You could have given it to the worst director and they couldn’t mess up “Coopers’ Christmas”. That’s how well-written it was.

GS: How did the directing and cinematography turn out different than you envisioned?

JJ: I don’t know. There were some performances that saw a little differently, but that’s not the director so much as the actors we chose. I was really happy with it. Even on “The Daily Show” there are times where you come up with jokes, but then when you see them executed you think they didn’t quite work. But like 95% of it is how I imagined it coming out, which is a pretty high percentage if you talk to most writers out there in Hollywood.

GS: The film was made sometime around 2008 and was called “Coopers’ Camera”…

JJ: February 2008 and a much worse title.

GS: I agree!

JJ: (laughs hysterically)

GS: Two years have passed and the title was changed. What happened?

JJ: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how Canada works, but Canada works very slowly. They really take their time with things. We premiered in Toronto in 2008, a very quick turnaround in September. We were the second biggest film at the festival behind “Slumdog Millionaire” and we were the only two films vying for distribution. We added screenings because it was so in demand. People were talking, everyone was excited and reviews were really great. And then the Canada machine started working and slowed things down quite a bit. We wanted to do a few more festivals. We wanted Sundance, but that didn’t pan out, but we did a few more. And because we waited for Sundance we missed that Christmas, so we had to wait for the following Christmas. We released it theatrical in Canada during Christmas 2009. It did okay, and people who saw it loved it. We kept it going for three weeks, which is pretty great, it’s more than Canadian films usually get.

And then Anchor Bay came on board to handle the DVD. And we couldn’t launch it in June, so again we had to wait for the following year. That’s pretty much the cycle.

GS: Was there any inspiration behind the mannequin story?

JJ: I don’t know where that one came from, I don’t remember the gist of it. Either Mike’s dad or my dad were talking one time… it might have been my dad. Not that my dad fucks mannequins, but he was talking about their shape one time. And then I thought how funny it would be if a guy was in love with a mannequin. He was saying, “They’ve got a nice shape to them. A nice figure on those mannequins.” So we took it one step further.

GS: Do you have any dirt you can spill on David Hasselhoff?

JJ: I’ve never met him, and you can’t really talk about someone until you’ve met them. I admire him, I think he has embraced who he is better than anyone out there. His hair — and not just the hair on top of his head, his chest hair, too. He certainly exists, let’s say that.

GS: Not quite the juice I was looking for, but that’s alright.

JJ: That’s just such an odd question. Are you looking to write a tell-all on David Hasselhoff? I have to tell you, it’s not going to sell very well, we’ve already learned all we want to know.

GS: I would just love to talk to him, and I know that is never going to happen, so I’m doing it in a round-about way.

JJ: Well, didn’t that dude make a movie about wanting to meet or date Drew Barrymore? There was a film a couple years ago where a guy worked his way around Hollywood and eventually got a date with Drew Barrymore. And then struck out. You could do a film of yourself trying to collect all the dirt on David Hasselhoff, ending with a face-to-face sit down with The Hoff himself.

GS: That’s not a bad idea.

JJ: There you go. If you want to switch careers, there’s your next film. But if there’s a special thanks, my name goes there.

GS: Wow, thank you, Jason, and thank you so much for your time.

JJ: Thank you.

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