Nick Swardson on sheep CPR, naked splitz and laughs

By Tatiana Craine

I recently had the chance to talk to Minnesota-native Nick Swardson about his latest film, “Just Go With It” also starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews. The comedian, writer and actor had a million things to say about his show “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time,” his film work, stand up comedy and doing the splitz in the buff for Adam Sandler.

Swardson, charming and hilarious, showed his Minnesota pride when he learned yours truly is also from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and talked about his early performing days as an actor in high school. He started doing stand-up at favorite local venues like Acme Comedy Co. and Comedy Sportz TC and still keeps in touch with colleagues at both clubs. Swardson divulged that Acme is one of his favorite comedy venues in the United States.

About his methods with improvisation onstage and in film, Swardson said, “I improvise a lot and do my own jokes and stuff. You know, I think the main thing is that once you say something during standup, it’s out there. In a movie, you can do it over and over again-you can get a joke just right. There’re so many things you can do to get it just right; the best you think it can be. But with a stand-up act, it’s like once you say it, it’s pretty much done.”

The transition between stand-up and acting wasn’t too difficult for Swardson. He admitted, “I started theater in high school. And even before Sandler, I had done pilots for networks and some movie parts. So I had already been working and stuff. The transition wasn’t hard. As I said, I had started acting first before stand up or anything else, so it really wasn’t too hard of a transition. When I started working with Sandler, I started getting more comfortable with working with bigger actors like Sandler and his costars. I got more and more relaxed and was able to find my voice. Adam gave me freedom, which was really great.”

Though transitioning between live shows and theater or home audiences didn’t seem to phase Swardson; however keeping track of all his different projects appears to be a formidable challenge for him. Swardson confessed, “It’s a little overwhelming. Not in terms of being intimidated, but just in terms of trying to just physically do everything. Does that make sense? Physically trying to allot this amount of time for stand up, this amount of time for working on the show, writing, shooting the show. Trying to find time to shoot another movie this year, hopefully, which I don’t know if I can yet. Trying to find time to do press for movies that have already been shot. It’s just hard to try and find the time. That’s the only thing that’s stressful for me.”

He also admitted that keeping his ideas for all the different mediums in which he performs is tough, too, “It’s hard. Writing in every capacity. now I write for my own show, a sketch show. Your brain can only take so many ideas, so I took a long time off from stand up after my last special because I was just so tapped out in terms of just trying to think of jokes, and thinking of sketches for my show just became so time consuming and my mind was just geared towards so it, I couldn’t write stand up for a really long time. It’s hard to keep everything, ideas for movies, scenes for movies, sketches for my show, jokes, you know, it’s all just kind of schizophrenic in my head. You know, an idea will come up and I’ll be okay, that can work as a sketch or a joke. Right now, there’s just so many outlets for me to create that it does get a little convoluted and a little stressful.”

Swardson had a little trouble explaining what exact comedic style he excels at, saying, “I think that’s kind of hard for me to describe. I think that’s more for how anybody else would describe it. It’s kind of all over the place. I try not to be able to pigeonhole into one explanation because I can do a lot of characters, I can do a lot of stuff. I think it’s relatable absurd.”

For every comedian on Comedy Central, there are hundreds of kids that want to grow up and get laughs on the big stage. Swardson had some hard-hitting, but extremely honest advice to young comedians trying to make it in the funny business. Swardson said, “The only advice I can really give is it’s extremely hard, and you really have to commit your life 110 percent to it. And you have to know there are no guarantees and just to commit to finding your own voice. Be as original as you can be. Just try to find a different take on everything. You have to commit your life to it. A lot of people try to half-ass it and be like, ‘I don’t want to leave Alabama, but I still want to be a huge comedian.’ But it’s like, well, eventually you’re going to have to move to LA or New York. You have to be willing to sleep in your car. You have to be willing to drive all over the country. There’re just so many things you have to be willing to do.

On a lighter note, Swardson shared his favorite character and film from his acting career, citing, “I’d probably say my favorite character was doing Terry from “Reno 911.” And I think the reason is because it was 100 percent improvised, you know. I’d show up to work everyday and I’d have no idea what was going to happen. It was so liberating and fun to just be like-you didn’t have to memorize anything. Clearly we just made it up. And it was just such a crazy character, it was really fun to do. I think my favorite movie to do was “Gramma’s Boy.” I had such a huge part of writing that movie and creating a lot of it and creating a lot of the characters. It was just really close to me and the people involved. It didn’t do really huge in the theaters and people kind of found it on DVD and it became this kind of cult hit. So it’s become this sort of personal project for all of us.”

Swardson also commented on his upcoming projects, and even mentioned an imminent college campus stand-up tour, “I’m trying to do everything, which is really hard. I have three movies coming out this year, including “Just Go With It.” My show got picked up for a second season, so we start production on that. And I’m also trying to get back into standup. I’ve got some colleges to visit this spring. So I’m trying to do everything. It’s really hard, but I’m going to try to pull it off.”

He talked about working with Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Productions a lot in the past and their working relationship, “It’s very loose. He’s really a great guy, down to earth. He’s a really good friend. He’s very creative. He has a million ideas. He’s always developing stuff. He’s always open to stuff. Any idea I have, whether it be TV or film or a joke for him, myself, anybody, he’s always there. It’s a really great relationship because he’s very nurturing and it’s very creative so it’s an awesome environment to be in. I’m very happy and fortunate to be a part of this.”

We did do one take where I had to jump off a rock and land in the water. And we did it in one take because Adam wanted me to be completely naked. And I’m not joking, I had to do the splitz in the air and land on my balls. Sandler was like, “You gotta try one just like that.” And I was like, “Really?” so I really did it, and we shot one take. Obviously it didn’t feel very good.

Swardson’s favorite part of the movie had to do with a sheep and some lip-action, “Honestly, I would say my favorite line, which was a line that Sandler gave me-and I think it’s my favorite moment of the movie. It’s when I come home drunk and I just gave CPR to a sheep and saved its life. I’m hammered, and I’m trying to tell Sandler’s character about it. I’m so drunk I just start crying. I go from happy to sad in two seconds. Because I say, “I’m so drunk,” and Adam gave me the line-it was so beautiful, ‘He was the black sheep of the family, but he was also white,’ if that makes any sense. And that was the line. It made me laugh because that sounds like something a drunk person would say, and I just started crying because the character was saying ‘He was the black sheep, but he was also white,’ and I just thought that was funny.”

He gave “Just Go With It” a solid recommendation for audiences trying to decide what movie to see this weekend-especially pertinent with this weekend’s serious snowfall, “It’s shot in Hawaii, so it looks very warm. And I know everyone’s very cold around the country. I think it’s one of the funniest movies that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s one of those movies that I think really covers every base in terms of, it’s really funny, there’s great chemistry between the actors, Sandler and Jennifer Aniston have great chemistry. It’s just a fun movie. It’s really sweet. There are really sweet moments, but they’re not over-sweet where it’s annoying. You know, there’re always jokes. It’s a really solid, great movie. And I’m really happy to be a part of it.”

Finally, Swardson plugged the second season of his hit Comedy Central show, “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time,” and gave some spoilers about the new formatting he’ll be experimenting with for the show, “I have a conference call with the network today. It’s going to be a little different in the sense that there might be a live element. I kind of wanted to, I was against it at first, but I want to have some interaction. The first season, it was me in a bar, like ten seconds saying hello. I want more than that, and be able to set the sketches up some more. So we’re going to have more of a live element where I can pretend to have my own kids show but instead of having kids, we’ll have our fans-like guys in college and stuff-that can come to the taping. And sit on mats like kids at daycare, but they can have beers and stuff so they can get drunk. And I’ll do sketches, and it’ll be more fun and interactive. But the content will be the same; we’ll have main characters coming back. We have a lot of ideas that I think are fucking awesome.”

I think so, too.