Say Whammy: David Koechner on Piranha 3DD and Anchorman 2

The comedian explains how to play a jerkwad, whether that's really his leg in the Anchorman 2 poster and when the sequel starts production.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


You may say you’re going to see Piranha 3DD for all the nudity and debauchery, but we know the truth. You’re really going to see David Koechner. There wouldn’t be a Piranha 3DD without Chet (Koechner), the sleazy water park manager who pumps in water from the piranha infested lake, leaving his busy stripper lifeguards in peril. In person, Koechner was an intense, professional man, maintaining direct eye contact as we spoke about the Piranha 3D sequel and the long awaited upcoming Anchorman 2.


CraveOnline: When they come to you with a role that’s a total sleazeball, are you like, “I got this?”

David Koechner: [Laughs] You know, it seems like it, right? I’ve done ‘em. Apparently I have a shorthand with that type of character so yeah, if it’s something people find me believable in, then great. I hope to bring a different shade to each one. I hope they’re not all the same. So yeah, it happens.


You seem like a nice guy, so how’d this happen?

I don't know. Slowly, like anything that can take you over happens slowly. I guess part of it is I enjoy making people feel something, so one thing that’s easy to make people do through comedy and through acting is you make them feel uncomfortable. So I don’t mind getting people out of their comfort zone while portraying a character, especially if that’s my job. Or to unearth something inside of them that goes, “I don’t like that guy.” Now the interesting thing is sometimes it translates from the character to the actor. They go, “Ooh, that guy, I don’t like him” which actually means I’m doing a good job. So it’s ironic because my job overall in show business is to get people to like me. I hope that they love to not like me. That might be one thing. How does it happen? You can say it’s typecasting. I’ve also done a lot of redneck roles but I’m from Missouri so I guess I’ve earned that one. It’s ironic because I’m not at all like the guys I play.


As they say, “ACTING!”

There you go, yup.


As far as making the characters different, the tone of the film can determine that also, right?

Exactly, exactly. You’ve got to go within the parameters of what’s written. I can’t just change it. You can have a different take, a more specific take, a more interesting take. The more you bring to it the better chance you have to have a fully realized interesting character. You can always add more. You can always do better.


Do you end up in some movies where you can do the character they’re asking you, but maybe you think it won’t really serve the film or turn out the way they think it will?

Well, you’re going to have that discussion with the director. You’ll know on that day. He’s like, “Wait, what are you doing? What’s going on?” So normally you’re going to either A) audition for the role, or B) you’re going to meet with the director. So you’ll have a good idea of what works for them.


Does your experience on Piranha 3DD compare with Snakes on a Plane?

Compare in that it’s a genre film. The characters are different.


Wild creatures ending up somewhere they don’t belong…

Oh, I see what you mean. Fish out of water! Exactly, snakes on a plane, piranha in a swimming park. Not where they’re supposed to be. Surprise.


What did you imagine with this guy who’s cutting so many corners, does he really not believe anything can go wrong?

Apparently. My job is not to judge the character. My job is to empathize with my character and give him the best life he can possibly have. The fact that he’s completely flawed is something I have to deal with and make it realized. Inside all of us resides any tendency that you’d see in any character, unless it’s a deep seated evil and it’d be a hard thing to really find like what’s that comparable to in my own life. Look, we all have greed inside of us. We all have some lascivious nature, a selfish nature so you focus on that and think about any time you’ve been like that or faced with that in your life and then you present that to the reading of the character you’re doing I think.


Is there some point where you think not only is a comeuppance inevitable, but he sort of deserves one?

Oh, sure. As a reader of the script, as an audience member that’s what you want but not as a character. The character himself doesn’t think he deserves a comeuppance. He thinks he deserves a reward.


Did you enjoy the celebration of excess with the big boobied lifeguards?

Well, you have to. If you’re in, you’re in. You say yes to a project, go all the way in, right? There’s my chips. Tell the dealer I’m all the way in.


Did you get to work much with The Hoff?

David [Hasselhoff] and I worked before together on another project years ago so yeah, we had a couple scenes together. He’s a sweet guy. I like him a lot.


Was it fun to play his boss in a way?

Yes, but in a way no one’s his boss. He’s a hired gun in the picture so he’s doing me a favor, his character. The character is him so that’s an interesting thing to be playing yourself in a movie. So you’re yourself not being yourself being yourself.


Was all the gore and violence fun, or sort of a pain?

I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Most applications were quick. This guy named Gary who did the special effects on set was amazing and so he made quick work of everything. Really pretty laudable.


Are those your actual legs in the Anchorman 2 teaser poster?

Yes. Those are my feet. It’s weird how they do only have one foot of Paul Rudd and myself. I don't know how they did that. I heard that’s created a controversy online. There’s Brick, there’s Ron, there’s Brian Fantana and then there’s Champ Kind. That’s so funny how everyone’s focusing on the single legs. I don't know if that’s meant to be as a joke or what.


And you guys posed for that?



What’s been going on since we last saw Champ?

Don’t know yet. We’re going to move up a decade. That much I know but they’re writing the script now. We don’t start shooting until February 2013. It’s weird to say 2013. That’s when we’ll shoot. I imagine we’ll have some meetings before then but I can’t wait to find out.


If it’s about Ron’s custody battle, what do you think Champ’s position on custody will be?

Oh, is it supposed to be? Is that what Adam [McKay] said? Who knows? Champ’s position might be why would you fight over a kid? But it’s justifiable either way. You own that child or who wants a kid anyway? I can see Champ going both ways, no pun intended.


Did you ever think a sequel would happen?

I thought it would happen a long time ago but then when I heard there was resistance to it over the past couple years, I kind of let it go. We’d check in every couple years and it’d get close and it’d go away, get close and go away. You just hope for the best and then it finally happened.


Did you shoot new stuff for the teaser trailer?

Yes, somebody tweeted “Saw the thing,” I said, “What was the reaction?” He said, “A lot of awesomes.” So that’s cool.


What was that shoot like?

Oh, it was fun. We just got together one day, one Sunday and shot a bunch of stuff and it’ll be interesting to see what they came up with in the end. It was a great feeling to get everybody back together again wearing the same clothes. It was really cool.


Are you and the gang rock stars in San Diego?

I don't know. We’ve never gone together. I’ve never gone as Champ. I’ve been there several times with my family so it’s a different experience for people to see you out of context. But I always get asked to say “Whammy.” I don’t mind.


Was Anchorman what really started things for you, taking you to the next level?

I suppose so. I was on “Saturday Night Live” for a season so that’s what really started the ball rolling for me. After that I’ve had consistent work. Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. I’m blessed and grateful just to work so it’s good.


How excited are you to explore anchormen in the ‘80s?

Very excited because it’s going to be centered around the advent of the 24-hour news channel. So it’s the next big change in news. First it was women being introduced to the anchor desk and now it’s going to be cable news and this 24 hour thing. Now you’ve got all kinds of different people delivering the news and how are these guys going to deal with that?


Is that about when free agency started in sports?

Boy, I don't know, that’s a good question.


Could that affect Champ in the ‘80s?

Sure, why not? I think you’ve got so many ways to deliver this thing. We could speculate for hours on what could be the storylines. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.


Are you pretty good at going “What would Champ think of this” or “What would Champ think of that?”

I think so, I think so. Off the cuff you and I could both argue both ways. Really at the end of the day, whatever the authors come up with, it’s my job to justify it and I think I can. Champ is kind of basic. He’s lonely, he’s an alcoholic, he’s a misogynist. He’s also latent so he’s a really complex character, but at the same time this is a comedy. So bring the texture you can but have some fun.