April 5, 2012
‘American Reunion’ scribes on A Very Harold & Kumar Passover
Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were riffing off each other in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel recently, finishing each others’ sentences as they spoke about growing up Jewish in Randolph, N.J., their new film “American Reunion” and their hit “Harold & Kumar” franchise, which skewers cultural stereotyping while following the stoner antics of a responsible Asian-American named Harold (John Cho) and his slacker Indian-American best friend, Kumar (Kal Penn). “American Reunion” is their first foray into the “American Pie” franchise, which launched in 1999 and became an R-rated teen comedy classic with that iconic image of its Jewish protagonist, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) attempting nooky with a pastry.
We last saw Harold and Kumar in “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,” which follows the duo’s hilarious filthy and politically incorrect Yuletide misadventures in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Here are some excerpts from my interview about the two franchises and what would happen if Harold and Kumar were to search for the Afikomen:
NPM: Harold and Kumar’s Jewish friends, Manny and Shevitz (a.k.a. Rosenberg and Goldstein) make an appearance in the “Christmas” movie. How do they contribute to the holiday cheer?
JH: The thing is that Goldstein, played by David Krumholtz, has married a Christian woman and now has a very Christian-looking boy, like the most Christian-looking child you’ve ever seen is the product of Goldstein. David Krumholtz’s character has converted to Christianity and he’s talking about how amazing it is to be Christian in the most Jewish way you’ve ever heard. It’s just really funny when he’s going on the most Jewish rant. He’s like, “I know how to tie a knot on a sailboat now.”
NPM: So what would happen if you wrote “A Very Harold & Kumar Passover?”
HS: There would be some kind of dirty hide the Afikomen joke.
JH: Yes, exactly, where you end up finding something else. I don’t know what would be dipped into the salt water; it may be a body part. [Note: When Box Office magazine asked what would happen to Harold and Kumar on Easter, Schlossberg said, “They would have to hide eggs in a weird place, I think. In an uncomfortable place.]
NPM: You’ve said your high school friends called you “Manny” (the more uptight Jewish character) and “Shevitz” (who loves his shofar-shaped bong) when you were teenagers. Which one of you was Manny (Rosenberg), and who was Shevitz (Goldstein)?
JH: I think at times either of us could be either one of those guys. The thing about odd couple comedy is, you make it for the audience so that there are two different kinds of characters. I’d say I’m probably the one who is more Harold-ish or more Rosenberg-ish but there are plenty of times where I’m there, making Hayden uncomfortable like Kumar or Goldstein.
NPM: What do you see as the difference in the comedy within the two franchises?
HS: In the “Harold & Kumar” movies we’re able to basically use any type of comedy, not just outrageous, shocking comedy but also racial and absurdist comedy, and at times political satire. In the “American Pie” movies usually it’s based on character, and more grounded sorts of comedy, so you won’t find the [outrageous “Pie” character of] Stifler riding a cheetah in “American Reunion” and you won’t see a lot of joking about people’s religion or ethnic background in the “Pie” franchise.
JH: Although Stifler does steal Jim’s tallis in his bar mitzvah video.
NPM: What would “American Reunion’s” Jim Levenstein and his friends think of Harold and Kumar?
HS: We think they would fit in well and they’d be friends with them. I think why Jon and I connected with the “American Pie” movies is because it felt like us and our high school friends on the big screen when we first saw it. And when we write “Harold and Kumar,” it also feels like us and our friends on the big screen; they would all be part of the same crowd.
“American Reunion” opens April 6.