After a 17-year hiatus, the cast from the goofball comedy film Super Troopers is back. The sequel hits theaters this weekend.
Like Super Troopers, Super Troopers II follows the antics of a fictional team of state troopers who have a tense rivalry with a different law enforcement agency. In the original, they bumped heads with the police, but now they are heading up against Canadian Mounties in a border dispute.
Both films were written and performed the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, which includes Minnesota comedian Erik Stohlhanske. Stolhanske originally hails from Hopkins, and attended Breck high school, where he starred as Danny Zucco in the school’s production of Grease. “My best friends said, ‘You’re a good actor, but you should never sing in public again,'” Stolhanske recalls.
Growing up, Stolhanske never thought about being a comedian or doing comedy, but tried his hand at theater and sports, and was open to trying a lot of different things. When he went to Colgate University for college, he met Jay Chandrasekhar, who had done improv comedy at Second City in Chicago, and he was putting together a sketch comedy group at school. “I thought it was fun to try things and got cast, and we just had a really fun time writing and performing together,” Stohlhanske says.
All five of the Broken Lizard members became very close friends. They were roommates in college and in New York afterward, where they did live sketch comedy for five years before they started making movies. “It was a journey for sure,” Stohlhanske says. “We’ve known each other for a long time and we’re obviously close friends. We weren’t a boy band that was put together. We actually organically came together by enjoying each other’s company, and making each other laugh and spending a bunch of time together.”
Super Troopers was released in 2001 to modest success at the box office. It wasn't until the film came to DVD that it became a sleeper hit.
Fans asked for a sequel, but Stholhanske says the group was hesitant. “We really wanted to write new characters and play new characters,” he says. “Our thing is every movie we play a character that is a 180 from the previous one.”
So instead of a sequel, the Broken Lizard gang made Club Dread, followed by Beer Fest. After that, they made The Slammin' Salmon and went on a national tour.
Around 2008, the group decided it would be fun to get around to making a sequel. However, with the financial crash that year, funding was tricky. “It was very difficult to get a smaller comedy made,” Stohlhanske says. “Also, since time had passed, financiers didn’t know if that audience was there.”
That’s when the group turned to crowd funding. Seeing the success of other crowd-funded projects like Veronica Mars and Reading Rainbow, they thought they’d give it a shot. They raised $2 million the first day, raising $4.6 million over the course of 30 days. “It was just an incredible experience, but it was very time consuming,” Stohlhanske says. Over the next three years, they’d shoot a little bit, raise some more money, and repeat.
When he’s not with making movies, Stohlhanske does standup and also gives speeches about his life without a fibula. “I was brought up with a wooden leg which to me is sort of a funny story,” he says, “Everybody has a wooden leg. Everybody has something that they feel is something that is a handicap to them of some sort… I let people know they can overcome perceived challenges they have even if they have a wooden leg.”
Stohlhanske also recently launched a pilot that was shot in Minneapolis. It’s a spec for a sitcom, and features local comedy performers and former Twins player Justin Morneau. It's called Dick Apple’s Supper Club, and was shot at Jax Cafe. “It’s a romanticized version of what supper clubs were,” he says. “I like to think of it as Cheers meets a Minnesota supper club.”
Hopefully the new pilot will be streaming or airing sometime in the near future, but in the meantime, Super Troopers II opens Thursday in theaters around the Twin Cities.