SXSW: Comedian Doug Benson and friends take on 'Big Trouble In Little China'
Depending on your perspective, comedian Doug Benson is either best known as a movie aficionado (he hosts the hit podcast Doug Loves Movies) or as a comedic hero to weed smokers everywhere (he directed the hilarious documentary Super High Me and recently launched a video podcast called Getting Doug With High that features him getting stoned with comic friends).
The former was on display on the last day of the annual South By Southwest festival when Benson hosted Doug Benson’s Movie Interruption at the Alamo Draft House Ritz in Austin. The Movie Interruption is a simple premise: Benson screens a movie, and he and a few cohorts sit with live microphones and riff on the film — not unlike a live, improvised version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Benson had access to the Alamo Drafthouse’s large library of film prints, and he chose John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China as his subject on Saturday. He and fellow comedians Matt Bearden, Hannibal Buress and Howard Kremer riffed on the movie (Bearden had seen it, Kremer had only seen parts of it, and Buress had not seen it at all).
As Benson admitted at the beginning of the show, Big Trouble in Little China was an unusual choice, since the subjects tend to be more blatantly low-rent. (Benson’s next Movie Interruption on St. Patrick’s Day will feature a riff on Leprechaun 2). Though it’s beloved by John Carpenter devotees and features a classic Kurt Russell performance, Big Trouble in Little China is pretty ridiculous, and it provided ample opportunities for biting comedy.
Before the screening started, Benson talked to his guests. Kremer described going to see Big Freedia at the giant Doritos vending machine on Friday night, and Benson suggested everybody gently rib the chip sponsor by mispronouncing its name (“Hey, did you guys see the big DOOR-itos machine?”). Buress was in town premiering his new stand-up special Live in Chicago, and admitted to Benson that he thought that title was sort of boring. To make up for it, he already announced that his next special would be called Superfluous Pu Pu Platter, which got a big laugh. Bearden told a harrowing story about attempting to take a train, being told he could no longer take the train, and then essentially jogging to the venue from the airport. Benson made him sit further away from him because he was so sweaty.
Once the movie got started, the comedians found plenty to mock. When a character asks Russell’s Jack Burton whether or not the person he shot was his first and he replies, “Of course not,” Benson added, “I murder people all the time!” The best bits came at the expense of villain Lo Pan, who has a long conversation with our heroes wherein everybody is sitting in a wheelchair (“Our leader is in a wheelchair, so you have to sit in wheelchairs too,” added Buress), and is later dressed in a hat that looks like it has an arrow going through it (which inspired the line, “I’m a wild and crazy guy!”). They occasionally found themselves just getting caught up in the cult classic’s insane plot, but it was made up for with some solid riffing all the way through the credits.
The only disappointment was the panel was not harder on star Kim Cattrall. Benson seemed ready to rip into her during the introduction (he noted he always seemed to be dating women who love Sex and the City, a show he abhors), but she got off relatively scot-free. (Co-star Kate Burton, currently seen as Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal, was not handled with kid gloves, mostly because her character is barely introduced and constant spouts inane exposition — the guys seemed deeply confused as to who had even invited her to the party.)
But most importantly, The Benson Movie Interruption was an ideal salve for the cavalcade of music programming going on just outside the Alamo Drafthouse’s walls. During a week full of high-pressure situations, it was nice to kick back and listen to some dudes talk back at an awesome movie.