Out in theaters today is Neighbors, director Nicholas Stoller's (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) latest laugh-out-old comedy about a couple, Mac and Kelly Radner, played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, who are at that sad turning point in life where they realize they're adults. That's just what happens when you decide to get married, have a baby, and move to the 'burbs. The trailers would have you believe the fraternity that moves in next door to disrupt their life is the only semblance of the bygone era of early 20-something life fueled by parties, sex, and bad drunken decisions. However, the 30-somethings have Ike Barinholtz, who plays Jimmy, a tornado of a friend that's more interested in Burning Man and smoking weed at work than playing by the rules. He's loud, stupid, and hilarious. It's also more evidence that Barinholtz, who writes and stars in The Mindy Project, and has recurring roles on Eastbound & Down and The League, is one of the funniest guys working today.
I recently spoke to Ike Barinholtz about what will most likely be the most controversial joke in the movie. Spoiler alert: It's about rape, understandably one of the biggest taboos for comedians working today. At their worst, they perpetuate rape culture and stereotypes, reducing or invalidating survivors' experiences. At their best, which I'm personally not even sure is a thing, they can highlight this culture as well and actually make a statement about it. Quite frankly, I think that's what the joke in Neighbors mostly does. I'm not going to give away the joke or the punchline. You'll have to see Neighbors in theaters for that, but I found Ike Barinholtz's comments about it to be quite interesting. Take a look:
You have a rape joke in this movie. Do you think you managed to get away with it?
Ike Barinholtz: (Laughs) The more I think about it, the more I don't really think it's a rape joke. I think it's more of a stupid person joke, you know what I mean? Like, I personally abhor what we would conventionally call a rape joke. Like, if some idiot frat boy was like, "I'm going to rape you!" That's pretty bad, but in this movie, playing this character Jimmy who really is a moron, for lack of a better word, in that moment he's so excited that he has the right answer to what Rose and Seth are talking about that he says something horrible, but he says it so excitingly, almost like, "I got it! You're going to be so proud of me!" And then it's revealed it's the dumbest thing and it's horrible. So, I think that by playing a really dumb character, it kind of gives you a little leeway to say something that's really stupid because it's coming from a stupid place, as opposed to, like, if it's a cool character. Like, if Zac Efron's character said it, it would be like, "Oof." You know what I mean? That's a really good looking, cool guy, but my character is a moron.
Did you have any reservations about doing it? Was it in the script?
Ike Barinholtz: If I'm not mistaken, that beat was improvised. And, you know, I think again if you saw it on the page it would look a little weird, just like a rape joke, but playing it in the moment super excited like my character got an answer right for the first time in his life probably, it got a really big reaction. You know, it makes me a little nervous when friends of mine are like, "I loved it! The rape joke was great!" because I'm like, "Yeah... That's not me!" It just seemed very organic to the character.