You’ve been in this business almost 20 years now. Did you ever think you’d be described as an icon?
I didn’t know that I’d achieved icon status. The trumpets are sounding from on high. I feel like royalty. It’s kind of like being on Mount Rushmore. Of clowns. Clown Rushmore. I’ll take it. Thanks, Maxim!
In Year One you get to live through the entire Book of Genesis. Did you read the Bible to prepare for your role?
I did go to Hebrew school and got my bar mitzvah, so I wasn’t a stranger to the Good Book. For the movie I just stuck to the Old Testament. I got all the way through to where it got super boring. And then I bailed. There were a lot of names in a row, and then I said, “I’m out of here. Who do I think I am, Sean Penn?” And I flung it out the door.
What historical character would you most like to play?
I was in a little Internet short called “Drunk History” where I portrayed Ben Franklin. I’ve been obsessed with him for a while, but I don’t think I’d be the one cast to play that role in a real movie. It would have to be a pretty punk-rock version. The guy was the best—he invented electricity, he loved to fuck, he was a nudist and a pothead. I just like the way he rolled. The dude was all about the weed.
Speaking of weed, do you have a medical marijuana prescription?
No, I haven’t really been smoking since I had my babies. It’s basically limited to celebratory Js on special occasions. I did smoke the other day before a meeting, and it was a big mistake. I’m a lightweight, and if I smoke really powerful weed, I get paranoid and nonverbal.
Has your son seen Kung Fu Panda?
He has, but he never asks for it. He might be a little bit weirded out that it’s his daddy’s voice. That takes him out of the illusion—every time he tries to concentrate on the character, he’s like, Is that daddy?
You showed off some killer moves for a panda. Do you know kung fu yourself?
I got a couple of lessons from a Chinese guy I think is the real deal. He studied in the Wudang Mountains for like 20 years. I had a really good experience, but he went back to China, and I’m getting ready to go to London to film Gulliver’s Travels. I need to fuckin’ find a good master.
With all these upcoming projects—Gulliver, plus sequels to School of Rock and Kung Fu Panda—is Tenacious D ever going to appear again?
We just played a benefit concert in L.A. a few weeks ago. It was great. I’d like to play more shows, but we need to put out an album first so we can tour properly. You want to Johnny Appleseed your shit around. There’s no reason to play shows otherwise, though it is fun.
What is the weirdest gift you ever received from a D-ciple?
Somebody gave me a painting of me nude. Obviously, they just imagined what I’d look like.
Were they anatomically accurate?
They were very generous. I’m gonna say yes.
Was it tough for you when the Tenacious D movie flopped?
It was a body blow, mainly because we had so much fun making it. I got a lot out of the writing. I was psyched to write more screenplays, but that kind of killed my writing career.
You recently played the Grand Ole Opry in support of your father-in-law, the legendary bassist Charlie Haden. You also sang on his new album. Is country music, like you’ve said, really in your DNA?
It felt like it. When I went in to lay down the track, it was my first time in that genre, and I cranked it out in one take. But I still don’t own any country music. Just because it’s in my DNA doesn’t mean it’s in my iPod. Yet.
Are you a nerd?
I have some nerdy tendencies. I really like science fiction. That’s one of the hallmarks of nerditude. But I’m kind of a jaywalker. I’ll be into the nerdy stuff, but I’ll also be into frat-house jock stuff. I really love the NBA. I follow the sport pretty closely.
Are you like Jack Nicholson with your courtside Lakers seats?
No. I rely on the kindness of studio executives. When I get the call, they say, “Do you want to sit courtside?” But those calls are very few and far between now that the Lakers are the hottest ticket in town.
In Tropic Thunder you starred as a junkie who offers to, um, service his cast mates for a fix. How long before you let your kids see that one?
Not till they’re men. That’s not really a number, is it? I think we all know when we become men. I’ll look into his eyes and say, “You’re a man now. It’s time for you to enjoy Tropic Thunder. See what Dad did when you were just a baby.”
Did you actually suck any balls while filming it?
No. I can safely say I’ve never sucked a ball. Not that I have anything against ball suckers.
Year One hits theaters June 19.