When you see a Broken Lizard comedy ("Super Troopers," "Club Dread," last month's live show at the Trocadero and the "The Slammin' Salmon," opening today) it might be hard to imagine the crazed quintet ever finished nursery school, but they got together as a sketch comedy group at Colgate University. They formed it themselves and the group still exists.
Take that, Mask & Wig and Harvard Lampoon.
All five Lizards (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) were in Philadelphia last month for their sold-out Troc show and were in a talkative mood when the Daily News caught up with them at the Palomar Hotel.
Unfortunately, they all talked at once. Good thing they don't care if they're misquoted.
"We like getting misquoted," one of them said. "So if somebody tells a good joke and it gets attributed to another fellow, they can take credit for that."
"Slammin' Salmon" director/star Heffernan - at least we think it was him - said Broken Lizard had fairly modest ambitions when it started in Hamilton, N.Y. "Basically it was to make fun of people on campus," he said.
After a few years of skewering their classmates and professors, reality called and they moved to New York and tried to get established.
"We were doing it professionally," Chandrasekhar said. "You know, when you get out of school your parents ask you, 'What are you going to do with your life?' "
"I was doing it for s--- and giggles," Lemme said, admitting there were nine Lizards at the time, they had a ton of costumes, they all lived in a walk-up apartment and were making maybe $400 a week - total.
Their first film was the college comedy "Puddle Cruiser" in 1996, followed by "Super Troopers" five years later.
So how do five guys agree on a project?
"First we come up with an idea where there can be five male leads," Chandrasekhar said. "Policemen. Firemen. Spacemen. Waiters. I keep pitching a Wall Street movie and everyone thinks it's a terrible idea.
"But eventually we come across an idea that we like and we take three or four weeks and throw around all the funny stories and bang it into an outline which will be around 80 scenes. Then we split that into five parts and we each write 20 pages."
"But Jay will write 35," Heffernan said.
"I'm always over the limit, but that's all right. They're good pages," Chandrasekhar replied. "Then we'll meet for two weeks and we'll rewrite our own pages and then we'll hand it off to someone - that person's the b---- - and he'll have to do the next 15 drafts and make it all one voice."
Is there a lot of disagreement? Fighting? Tantrum throwing?
"We can do that s---," Heffernan said. "We've been together since college so we can have husband-and-wife spats and the next day we're still married."
Except with five partners it's more like the marriage on "Big Love."
Heffernan said "The Slammin' Salmon" came about because three of the Lizards waited tables in Manhattan.
"We'd always thought about writing a waiter movie," Heffernan said, "and we were writing 'Beerfest' at the time and thought about having a lower-budget alternative.
"This movie required one location and we shot it in 25 days and we raised independent money for it."
The reason Heffernan took over the directing reins from Chandrasekhar is that the financing came together so fast Chandrasekhar was committed to another project.
"Jay was obligated to something else at the time and couldn't get to it," Heffernan said, "and I said I would do it and the other guys said 'No.' "
Eventually he wore them down.
"We work together pretty collaboratively," he said, "and we're all involved in all aspects of preproduction and postproduction."
As for bringing outside actors into the Lizard troupe, the fivesome minimizes hazing and tries to be very welcoming.
"We're always incredibly grateful to anyone who works with us," Stolhanske said.
"There's a lot of grab-assing on the set," Heffernan added.
Stolhanske: "Actually, I think Michael Clarke Duncan hazed us a little bit."
Heffernan: "He likes to pretend he's angry from time to time, but he's not really angry."
Stolhanske: "But he's a terrifying human being and he works that."