Jason Nash on Why He Loves Making No-Budget Movies
The new film Jason Nash is Married marks two big firsts: it’s comedian Jason Nash’s first movie and also the first feature released by CC:Studios, Comedy Central’s digital branch.
The movie follows Nash, playing a fictionalized version of himself, as he struggles to get out of debt and prove to his wife (played by Busy Phillips) that he can contribute to their family. Nash, a standup comedian and creator of multiple web series, developed Jason Nash is Married from his web series of the same name. He wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the film — no easy task for any movie, let alone one that was made on a microscopic budget over two years.
Jason Nash is Married is now available on Amazon and iTunes, featuring appearances from a boatload of great comedians, including T.J. Miller, Matt Walsh, Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, Dave Koechner, Patton Oswalt, Andy Richter, Paul F. Tompkins, and Casey Wilson, just to name a few.
I got to talk to Nash about the movie, its unorthodox production process, and wanting to make movies that are true to life.
Congratulations on the movie’s release. How are you feeling about it all?
I feel great about it. I feel really excited. It’s Comedy Central’s first movie, and Comedy Central’s doing such great stuff with Kroll Show, Nathan Fielder, Review, Key and Peele, so I just feel really honored to be in that group. It’s so great.
How did you come up with the original concept for the series and when did you first think about making it into a film?
I had a one-man show talking about being married and having kids. I really wanted to make a TV show, and then I started making these shorts. Busy Phillips was really the key because she played my wife and I needed someone to play my wife. She was like, “Yeah, I’ll make more shorts” or “Yeah, I’ll make a movie.” So this was all done really cheap and with friends. I was just really lucky that I had all these friends that were willing to do an experimental film.
Did you write parts with friends in mind?
I was just like, “Who do I know that’s hilarious that will come to my house?” I’d be like, “Okay, Rob Corddry’s hilarious, he’ll come to my house for an hour, what can I do with Rob Corddry? What can I do with Paul Scheer?” And they just showed up. They’re the ones that are so funny. They just show up and they’re so funny. You turn the camera on and they make everything look so great, and I get all the credit.
You actually shot it at your house?
Yeah, we shot almost all of it at my house and then my friend had a big house that we made look like three or four houses. My wife was furious for all of it. She’s really nice. She was like, “What are you doing?” Destroying my wife’s house. My wife’s really into her house, she picks out every curtain and every chair. She’ll paint a room and then two weeks later be like, “It’s not right.”
So the tile storyline comes from real life.
That’s the tile storyline. My wife’s so concerned with those things. And I think that’s great, the house, something you’re passionate about, but I just don’t care about tile. I just [want to] have a career and money. I think it’s good to have that balance in my life.
How much was the movie scripted versus improvised?
It’s all really scripted but then all the funny parts, I think, were improvised. When we would improvise it seemed like we wouldn’t really use any of it but we would use the one funny thing in the scene. I would say 90% was scripted.
How did you approach adapting the web series into a feature film?
I thought, oh, let’s do a story about — in most movies it’s about “let’s find love,” and I always see those movies, it’s not how life is at all — Let’s find people that are in love, what happens when you find love but you haven’t found yourself? That seemed to be what I was going through. Everyone around me was living life, they had jobs and they were successful, and that’s what I wanted to portray.
Right. It’s Comedy Central, it’s a comedy, it’s funny, but it’s also very serious. It’s real, very true to life. Was that something you intended or how did that come about as the tone?
I always wanted to make something that was real and had heart and was funny. I don’t like seeing comedies like [in a hokey voice] “He’s like this, she’s like that.” The trailer kind of paints it that way because it’s Comedy Central, and I understand you have to get people in the door. I really want to make something that makes people think. I love that movie Tiny Furniture that Lena Dunham made. I just love that movie, and I laugh at that movie a lot, but I also felt a lot too. I’m just inspired by people like that.
The multiple cameras and flashbacks, playing with time, makes for an interesting format.
Yeah, because we didn’t have any money, we had to shoot it over two years. I would have a mustache, I would be 20 pounds heavier. We thought, let’s just spread this out, let’s try to use it to our advantage. It does look like it’s over two years because it was over two years. Nobody had any wardrobe and people would just come in clothes they wore and jump into the scene, no makeup, get in and get out. I think that’s why we did that.
When you’re coming up with ideas, how do you decide what format something would work best in? Do you have a preference between web video, movie, standup, or your podcast?
I think anything can be put into anything. I do standup, I do Vine, and I do movies. It’s really hard actually, I’m sure other comedians would say that. You can make it a joke, you can make it anything, it’s just all where your focus is. I think standup is the hardest. I try to funnel everything into the movie. Anything I thought was funny I tried to put in there, just do whatever I could to make it neat. It doesn’t come easily to me at all. I’m not somebody who sits back and goes, “Yes, it’s done. There’s my masterpiece.” It really is a struggle. I’m just glad that people are responding to the movie. I can’t believe it. It’s so funny, people are like, “Oh, what did you do? It can’t possibly be good.” And I’m like “Okay, yeah yeah yeah,” and other people are like,”No no no, it really is good.” Busy and I were on Adam Carolla the other day and he was like, “All right I haven’t seen it, but it looks like it could be funny,” and then Busy was like, “You know what? I know you don’t think it is, but it’s actually really good.” I think people just have low expectations for no money.
Can you talk a little about that? It really is unique, from the format to the no-money aspect to being Comedy Central’s first film.
The format is, I just wanted to make something funny that was real, and I wanted the tone to be real. I didn’t want to hammer jokes home. I just wanted it to be how it is when you’re hanging out with people. And then I wanted it to have heart. Comedy Central was great. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t give me any notes. We handed the film in and they brought it and that’s was it. It was so great not to have anybody tell you no. That’s what I wanted to make. I’m like in love with Judd Apatow’s movies, even the ones he doesn’t direct, the ones he produces, but especially the ones he directs. When you’re watching those movies, they’re the only movies I watch where I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s what people are like. That’s really what happens.” When I watch Knocked Up, he just does the best jokes. When there’s the earthquake and he saves his bong, I love that joke. And I love Louie, I watch every Louie. I’ll watch them like four times. I’ll just keep watching and watching them. I hope I can do another one. I actually just hope people like this one. If I just made this one, I’d be happy.
Well what’s next for you? Directing, writing, and starring in your own feature film already seems like the ultimate goal.
I have another one in the works right now. It’s more about my dad, and I can’t say much about it, but it’s going to start pretty soon. And then I started another one about social media. We shot some footage already that’s really good. We’re going to keep putting it together. I think I’m going to keep going that way of low budget things that I can control that don’t cost a lot of money.
I’m just really grateful. The comedy scene is so good right now. There’s so many people in the movie that are just amazing people. It would be very easy for all the people in my movie to be jerks and be like, “No, I’m not going to go do something.” T.J. Miller and Rob Corddry and Casey Wilson, they’re just great people. LA gets a bad rap, but that’s not the case. Everybody’s like a real family out here. I think a lot of that comes from UCB Theatre, Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts. They’re really funny, but they’re also upstanding people. They really set the tone for everyone else [on] how to behave and how to be nice.
Emma Soren is a writer from Chicago living in Philadelphia.