Move over, Barney Fife-there's a new tight tan pants-clad, mentally deficient sex symbol to reckon with, and it's Reno 911! 's Deputy Clementine Johnson. The inspired improv performer behind the sadly erotic "Clemmie" talked to us about interacting with the real fuzz, filming the big bucks movie Reno 911!: Miami and drawing men with lobsters for genitalia.
Before Reno 911! , you created Clementine while performing with the Groundlings improv troupe. Was the character different then?
Early Clementine was in recovery, so she wasn't a cop. She didn't have a job actually, her and her husband, Steed"Â¦. In the sketch we used them in, they were on vacation with Club Med and they were trying to brag to everyone about how popular they were, about what an amazing lifestyle they led.
What were some of the things they bragged about?
"We fly in all our beef from Brazil. We party sometimes until 4:00 am. I like to sort of live in a place of truth," and all the sort of new-agey bullshit, slogan-based lifestyle things that people do.
Reno 911! is filmed at a real police station in California. Is it weird when your fictional police show crosses paths with real police work?
Oh it's so weird. We've got it down to a science where we know when to just get out of the way. Sometimes that's just the most bizarre thing: they're leading people out in handcuffs and we're in the middle of the scene and we've got to stop. We're all standing around and we watch these pour souls get loaded onto the bus. It's so sad.
How do the prisoners react to you when they see you there?
They usually don't react, but one guy said, "Why are you guys always here? You were here the last time I was here." I thought, "Shouldn't we being saying that to you? You're always in jail."
What are some of the more bizarre things you've been exposed to besides the prison transfers?
There was big drug sting at a nearby hotel, and the maids were brought in for pushing drugs. There were all these Asian cracked out looking women. I mean, it was just like, "Am I hallucinating this?" It was just very bizarre to watch.
What about the cops?
It's weird-when we're filming a scene in the conference room, there's a big window to another office. We're doing the scenes and trying to concentrate, and there's like 20 cops watching us from the window.
Do they think you're funny?
For the most part everybody is very, very cool to us. People get territorial, obviously. I remember there was a complaint; one of the female jailers walked up to our assistant director about Thomas Lennon [Lt. Jim Dangle] and said, "Can you ask him to stop bending over in those shorts?"
When you're filming, do you ever crack up during a scene?
Oh my gosh, that happens all the time. Mostly, it happens in morning meeting scenes, when we're all together, because they'll just let the camera roll on those. So we'll sit there for 45 minutes to an hour, just saying different things to get the 30 seconds that you see on the show. You never know what gold is going to come out. Carlos is probably the worst with the laughing, but I come in a pretty close second, especially because I sit next to Kerri Kenney [Dep. Trudy Wiegel].
It's got to be tough to keep it together next to her.
It is. And not only is the conversation around the table crazy, we've all got those yellow legal pads and some of those legal pads have the most bizarre, ridiculous drawings from all of us. So that's another thing that gets us giggly.
Do you think we'll ever see any of those drawings?
I think a coffee table book should be made of those drawings.
What are some memorable ones?
Let's see"Â¦. Kerri's pig baby. Cedric Yarbrough [Dep. S. Jones] portrayed as a pile of shit. Lobster-penis man.
Compared to shooting the show, was shooting a big-budget Hollywood movie different?
It was very different because there were definitely things that we had to hit. It wasn't as loose because Fox was very much involved in the process and they wanted us to just stick to the story. We couldn't just meander off into crazyland like we do on the show.
Why are improvisational comedies like Reno 911! Becoming more popular than traditional sitcoms?
This is my humble opinion here: I think it's because the dialogue sounds so much fresher. You don't have to stick to the three jokes a page rule. But there's a huge difference between good improv and bad improv, and right now there are couple improvised shows that are just, "Oh my gosh! What did you do? What are you doing?"
What are they doing wrong?
You don't have to go for the laugh every time. The laugh will come because of the truth, not because you're trying to imitate Dane Cook"Â¦. Just let it develop. Just trust that the funny is going to come. Once again, there's nothing funnier than the truth. You sit around at Thanksgiving and you look around at the table at all of your weird relatives, and you can't write that. That's truth right there.
Is there a city other than Miami you think the Reno 911! would want to visit?
Oh gosh, I think overseas. I think we need to go to Europe or Hawaii. You know, I'm just trying to think of places I would like to go. I think Reno 911!: Miami was just such a funny title, but I think wherever Fox has satellite studios is probably where we'll end up. And they have a satellite studio in Morocco, so what does that tell you?
You guys would fit right in there.
That would cause a lot of problems for me and Dangle-we can't walk around looking like that in Morocco.
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