Interviewing Harold & Kumar
What the fuck, guys?
(Originally published in buzz magazine on 4/24/2008. Co-authored with buzz writer Colin Bird.)
Colin Bird and I had the opportunity on April 9 to participate in a teleconference interview with John
Cho and Kal Penn, a.k.a. Harold and Kumar, organized and moderated by Alloy Media and Marketing
to discuss their up-and-coming film.
If you’re an 18 to 38-year-old male, the advertisements for Harold & Kumar Escape from
Guantanamo Bay are inescapable, as marketers are trying feverishly to find you either on the Web,
television and even your cell phone! Set to release April 25, Escape from Guantanamo Bay picks up
where H & K Go to White Castle left off. Literally! As in, the very same morning they finally find a
White Castle. The sequel — which cheeseburger-craving pot fiends everywhere must be hoping will
not be the last — continues in the familiar vein of reefer humor while highlighting the racial and
political humor that took a backseat in the 2004 cult hit.
I ended that press call pleased to speak with up-and-coming young actors, but somewhat disappointed
with the discussion. I expected the conversation to veer off in wild and entertaining directions. I
hopped on the barstool hoping for a double scoop of triple-mint butter pecan with pinstriped walnut
M&Ms ice cream served on a blueberry waffle cone, but I left with a sad lump of soft-serve plain
vanilla in a paper cup.
Reality check for people unfamiliar with the whole public relations push on the media thing (which is
‘God- willing’ all of you); it ends up being quite “puffy.” A puff piece, as they’re called in the
industry, entails the use of a heavily crafted press kit, which Jeff and I got and a heavily controlled
Jeff and I had to deliver our ‘zany’ questions to the promotional company a week before the
‘conference’ ... if our questions were selected, we would get a heads-up on which one that was.
FYI: none of my questions were selected and rightfully so. If I were trying to promote a “National
Lampoon” facsimile, what good does it do for Kal Penn to answer a question on whether he is a better
golfer then Muhammad Ali? So my questions were superfluous you tell me? Well ... so is Harold and
Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay!
Answering questions like: “Has John Cho ever been raped by a Klingon?” will get more people interested
in the film then, “Gee ... Cho what was your inspiration for the film?” We all already know the answer to
that other question: MONEY!
We are a cynical generation; the only thing that gets our juices flowing is sheer insanity, which I guess is
sincerity? Have these folks ever watched Adult Swim? Even Jeff’s rather benign question about Penn’s political views was shot down, because it had nothing to do with selling the movie.
Well I won’t speak for Jeff but I (starting and ending today) am no shill.
After taking a quick glance at a dictionary, I’ve decided that I, too, am no shill. I started my question to Kal Penn about his support for Barack Obama, and he quickly cut me off. “Let me actually interrupt you right here,” he said, “because I’m just here to talk about the film.” This coming from a guy who proceeded to ramble on about his movie The Namesake (2007) and his experience as a Stanford grad student. Why would he shy away from politics in this phone call? Search for “Kal Penn” on YouTube. The first result shows him raving about Obama as the kind of “uniting figure” the USA could benefit from “after eight years of what we’ve just endured.” I agree with you, Kal. So why can’t we talk about it? It’s not like Escape from Guantanamo Bay avoids Bush-bashing.