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Director Paul Feig Plays Not My Job

Paul Feig arrives at the March 14, 2011, premiere of Universal Pictures' "Paul," at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Calif.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

We've invited Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids, to play a game called: "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." It's 2012 — the year the Maya predicted that the calendar and the whole world would end, with John Cusack and his estranged wife being the only survivors. Now, if the past is any guide, that probably won't happen, because people have long made predictions about the end of the world, and we're still here. We'll ask Feig three questions about end-of-the-world projections.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now, the game where people who have done great things get reminded what it's like to do something else. Paul Feig had a rough time growing up. He was awkward and shy and often humiliated. We know this because he's made a career out of making books, TV shows and films about people like him. The cult classic TV show, "Freaks and Geeks," for example, or more recently, the movie, "Bridesmaids."

Paul Feig, we hope being on this show helps heal your wounds. Welcome to WAIT WAIT.

PAUL FEIG: Thank you, Peter, it's great to be here.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Great to have you. So I'm not exaggerating about your youth, and I know this because you've, among other things, written books about it. You wrote two books, two memoirs. One called "Kick Me." One called "Superstud," about the hard time you had growing up.

FEIG: Yeah, you know, I like to throw myself on the sword so that others may feel better about themselves. I tell the stories that you all want to forget, but when you remember it, it hopefully makes you laugh.

SAGAL: Yes.

FEIG: So that is my public duty.

SAGAL: Well, you and your friend Judd Apatow took that material and you made the great TV show "Freaks and Geeks," which only lasted for like 14 or 15 episodes but is beloved.

FEIG: Yeah, 18 episodes, that was all.

ROY BLOUNT: Revived lately in Iowa.

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

AMY DICKINSON: But you know it's...

FEIG: They got the geeks part right.

SAGAL: Yeah.

DICKINSON: It's amazing how many young stars you two discovered on that show. It's really...

SAGAL: There's James Franco, Seth Rogen, a lot of the guys...

FEIG: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...who become your, at least Judd Apatow's acting company started on that show.

FEIG: Yes, Jason Segel.

DICKINSON: Yeah.

FEIG: It's kind of crazy how many people came out of there. No, it was great. I mean, I feel like they're all my kids. I'm a proud father right now.

SAGAL: Exactly. Now, when you were going through this stuff, when you yourself were in junior high school and high school, and a geek and a freak, depending on the day, did you say to yourself "someday I'm going to become rich and famous making art about this?"

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: Well, I thought the show was going to be really successful because I thought who wouldn't want to relive the worst years of their life?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: And it turns out...

ADAM FELBER: Sounds...

FEIG: Nobody really wanted to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really, nobody at all.

FEIG: No, no, no.

SAGAL: Did you guys, when you did that show, were you like - I mean because we've seen so many shows and movies about kids in high school, but did you decide there was like a need that hadn't been filled, a story that hadn't been told?

FEIG: Well, I thought so, because I always would see these shows about high school and movies about high schools and they were always about the popular kids and the good looking kids and their problems with dating and romance. And it was like that had nothing to do with anything I went through in high school. We were literally just trying to survive the day, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: The head of the network was very upset with our show because he said "There's no victories." And I always kind of say, "well look, they're alive at the end of the day."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really.

FELBER: I'm making this show, that's a victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: Yeah, exactly. And look at me now.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FELBER: Did you ever go back to your old neighborhood...

FEIG: No.

FELBER: ...and see what happened to the other kids?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: No. I've never been to a class reunion or anything because I'm always afraid of that one - there's going to be some Carrie-like incident.

SAGAL: Oh really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: There'll be the one guy that none of us paid attention to suddenly takes his revenge. So, no, I've steered clear.

SAGAL: You know, if you go back, all the kids who were mean to you in high school will start showing you the screenplays they wrote. I guarantee it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Hey, let's talk about...

FEIG: That or they'll just - or they'll just beat me up.

SAGAL: Yeah, well no.

FELBER: Or both.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT: The screenplays are going to be worse than the punches though.

DICKINSON: Yeah, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: They'll take longer to endure, exactly.

SAGAL: That's true. Here, I'm going to give you my screenplay and stuff you in the locker again so you have time to read it.

FEIG: I can continue and read your Act 3, but I'll take the swirly, thank you.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let's talk about "Bridesmaids."

FEIG: Yes.

DICKINSON: Yeah.

SAGAL: The hottest grossing R-rated female comedy ever, is that correct?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

FEIG: Thank you, my god.

SAGAL: It is a hilarious movie. I will point out, though, that it is a movie that was written by two women, including its star Kristen Wiig. It stars a whole bunch of women. It is almost entirely about the experience of women. And you, sir, are a man.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: Yes.

SAGAL: Did they not notice that when they hired you to direct it?

FEIG: I was the fox in the henhouse, exactly.

SAGAL: Did you learn anything about women that you didn't know? I mean, in your books you describe yourself as a young man as not being, shall we say, adept with the opposite sex.

FEIG: I mean, honestly, it just reinforced everything that I thought to be true, which is just that guys are really about kind of putting each other down and being very aggressive in their humor to each other.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FEIG: And women's humor seems to be a little more supportive. It's just kind of trying to make the other one laugh through funny voices and kind of talking about other people. I respond to that. I feel less like I'm going to get beat up in a room full of women than I do in a room full of guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Seemingly, often a concern with you, I can't help but notice.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: There is...

FEIG: There's always a beating around the corner when you're like me.

SAGAL: There are a lot of great comic set pieces in the movie. The one that everybody talked about was one where the women in the movie have a suspect lunch and the go to try on these expensive bridesmaids' dresses.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And then all of the sudden, the suspect lunch has its effects.

FELBER: We're very proud.

SAGAL: Oh yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And it is perhaps the grossest thing I have ever seen in a female-oriented - I mean it's straight out of, like, the most gross out boy's movie, but it's girls. Was there any resistance to that scene from anyone at any point?

FEIG: You know what it was, it was really when you're doing a big comedy, the first thing you do is you try to make sure that you're telling a very emotional real story. And that's, literally with all the other crazy stuff going on, that's what people really respond to. And the fact that Kristen does this amazing performance, it's very grounded and it's about this female friendship.

But then on top of that, you want these, you know, what we call set pieces in Hollywood, but they're kind of those water cooler moments where you just want something that's outrageous. But you want it to come out of the story.

And we needed to illustrate that she's making a mistake that's going to get her in trouble with her best friend and she's pretending that she has more money than she does, and so she passes off a cheap restaurant and it just seemed like the funniest way to do it.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FELBER: Oh, it was.

DICKINSON: It was.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So, you're saying, well we just need...

FELBER: And classy.

SAGAL: Oh yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Nothing but class from the first vomit...

FELBER: Yes.

SAGAL: ...to the last explosive bout of diarrhea. It was...

FELBER: My top hat and my ascot.

SAGAL: Well, Paul Feig, we are delighted to have you with us, and we have invited you here today to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, HOST:

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

SAGAL: So it's 2012, and as we all know, that's when the Mayans predicted that the calendar would end, along with the rest of the world. And the only survivors would be John Cusack and his estranged wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Now, the Mayans predicted that. They knew about John Cusack. It's impressive. Now, if the past is any guide, the prediction of the end of the world probably will not happen because all the other predictions of the end of the world have not happened so far.

We're going to ask you about three predictions about the end of the world. If you get two of these questions right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. You ready to play?

FEIG: Yes. Oh I can't wait.

SAGAL: All right, Carl, who is Paul Feig playing for?

KASELL: Paul is playing for Zachary Evans of New York City.

SAGAL: All right.

FEIG: And Zachary, I'm already sorry that I've lost you this contest.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Spoken like a true geek. All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here is your first question. A Texas cult leader - this is somewhat recently - named Hon Ming Chen, he predicted that God would appear to announce the end of the world on March 31st, 1998. Where, according to Mr. Chen, would God appear?

Would it be A: at mid-court in the NCAA finals?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: on cable TV? Or C: in the person of Texas Governor George W. Bush, would reveal his divinity?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: Oh boy. I got to say C is the most tempting, and I wish it would have happened. How interesting. But let's see, you know what, let's go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A, at mid-court.

Yeah.

That they'd be playing the game, maybe the finals and all of the sudden there'd be a puff of smoke and God would appear?

FEIG: Yeah, you'd hope. You'd hope.

SAGAL: Yeah, you'd hope. No, actually, it was B, on cable TV.

FEIG: Oh nuts.

SAGAL: He said that God would appear on cable TV, according to the prediction. And God is so powerful that you would be able to see him, even if you didn't have cable.

FELBER: Wow.

BLOUNT: I was going to say, yeah.

FEIG: Oh, there you go. Sorry, Zach.

FELBER: How glorious is that?

SAGAL: Did not happen. All right, on to your next prediction.

FEIG: Was God going to be selling the Sham Wow?

SAGAL: Something like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Anybody who was using antennas at that moment, you know the message that they would take away from the announcement of the end of the world would be we've got cable.

DICKINSON: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The world can't end now, we've got cable.

FELBER: There is a heaven.

SAGAL: All right, you still have two more changes. So it's not the end of the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: Nicely done, nicely played, sir.

SAGAL: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Here is your next foiled apocalypse. In 2008, an actual lawsuit was filed against whom for fear if not stopped they would destroy the earth? Was it A: the makers of Red Bull energy drink?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: the scientists behind the Large Hadron Collider? Or C: the producers of the TV show "Jon and Kate Plus 8"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: As much as I wish it was C, I'm pretty sure it's B.

SAGAL: The Large Hadron Collider?

FEIG: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right, yeah, that's what it was.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: The lawsuit was filed in federal court, claiming that if the machine was turned on, it would create a black hole and destroy everything. That is, of course, exactly what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, last up.

FEIG: All right.

SAGAL: Radio preacher Harold Camping, we remember that he predicted the world would end on two different dates in 2011. Neither rapture happened, as we know. He explained this strange lapse how? A: it did happen but we just were all left behind?

DICKINSON: Aw.

SAGAL: Nobody was raptured. It turns out nobody was good enough to go. B: God was just messing with him. The world will end on Sweetest Day 2013.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: he's just not a very good prophet.

FEIG: I was obsessed with Harold Camping.

SAGAL: Yes.

FEIG: I believe it was C.

SAGAL: You're right. He said, finally, that he wasn't a very good prophet.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: He said - which was fairly honest of him. He said I...

FELBER: And appears in no books of the bible.

SAGAL: Yeah. He said I obviously haven't understood it properly because we're still here.

BLOUNT: Yeah.

DICKINSON: But you know what's weird, the fact that he said that makes me want to believe him now about everything.

BLOUNT: Right.

SAGAL: I know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT: Yeah, he nailed that.

DICKINSON: Yeah.

FELBER: He'll eventually get something right.

SAGAL: Carl, how did Paul Feig do on our show?

KASELL: Paul, you had two correct answers, so you win for Zachary Evans.

FEIG: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well done.

FEIG: Carl, warm up those vocal cords, you got a message to do.

SAGAL: Absolutely. So you did so well, how does this make you feel about your life of success? Is this...

FEIG: I'm walking on air right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I know.

FEIG: Dangerous.

SAGAL: Yes.

DICKINSON: You can finally go back to that high school, Paul.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FEIG: I'm going to my next reunion.

SAGAL: Now you're ready to go. Paul Feig, among many...

FEIG: Right before being punched, "I went on WAIT WAIT."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Exactly.

FEIG: You think you could beat me up? I won a contest on NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Paul Feig is the director of "Bridesmaids" as well as many other wonderful things. "Bridesmaids" is out now on DVD. Paul Feig, thank you so much for joining us, great to talk to you.

FEIG: Peter, thank you. I had the greatest time.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

FEIG: Thanks everybody.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

FEIG: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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