Kings of Cringe

NEW FILM. As we await the premiere of Mikkel Nørgaard's Klown Forever, FILM asked Todd Brown, programmer of one of America's foremost genre film festivals, about the Klown brand's particular sense of humour.

Klovn-forever-Frank-og-Casp

"Klown Forever" Photo: Per Arnesen

Danish comedians Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen have long been household names on Scandinavian TV. In their hit show Clown, which ran for six seasons from 2005 to 2009, Hvam and Christensen play larger-than-life versions of themselves as they stumble from one socially awkward situation to the next, exposing any and all negative male impulses.

"I think the key is that it’s not based on punch lines or gags but in the generally horrible scenario of being male." - Todd Brown

The first feature-film version, Klown, came out in 2010. Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard, who was also behind the series, Klown became the biggest Danish box-office draw in a decade and screened to enthusiastic audiences at North America's biggest genre film festivals, Fantasia in Montreal and Fantastic Fest in Austin. Also, Warner Bros has acquired the English-language remake rights to the film and series, which have sold for remakes in several European countries. Right now, a hugely popular Dutch remake is airing its second season.

Out next is Nørgaard's Klown Forever, set to premiere this fall. In this second film featuring the comedic duo, Frank is starting to feel the heavy burden of relationship and children. Meanwhile, his best friend Casper is off to Los Angeles to live the American dream, since Denmark isn't big enough for him anymore.

klovn_forever_Casper-&-FranCasper Christensen and Frank Hvam at work Photo: Joachim Ladefoged

As we brace ourselves for a new helping of male misbehaviour, Todd Brown, who knows his way around the genre film industry, shares his thoughts about Klown’s special comedy flavour.

How would you describe the humour?
What makes the humour work is that it's gleefully anarchic while also remaining really anchored in the characters. It's extreme without being mean and somehow manages to stay relatable.

Most comedies don't travel well. How did Klown manage to do it?
The key is that it's not based in punch lines or gags but in the generally horrible scenario of being male. It's all the bits about being male that women suspect that men are actually up to – and that men probably would be, if they'd not been properly socialised.

What's the appeal in this?
I think the appeal lies in recognition of the urges that Casper and Frank actually live out. It's like the two of them experience all of the impulses common to men around the world but without any of the filters or moments of self-reflection that suggest to most men that perhaps doing these things might be a bad idea. They're pure stimulus/response without any self-reflection or critical thought whatsoever.

Who is your favourite character?
I'm partial to Frank, myself. There's just something so blissfully naïve about him.

How would you compare Klown to American comedies?
Both Todd Phillips (The Hangover films) and Judd Apatow (This Is 40, Knocked Up) are pretty good comparisons for Klown’s sense of humour, though in general, I think American comedy is often a little more cynical and cruel with this sort of thing than it is here with Klown.

Todd Brown is producer and head of international acquisitions at Los Angeles-based XYZ Films, director of international programming for Austin’s Fantastic Fest, and founder and editor of TwitchFilm.com.

The article was previously published in our Cannes festival magazine, see more at dfi.dk/filmmagazine

Christensen & Hvam on Klown

"The Klown universe is originally based on our mutual relationship. We are polar opposites. That clash was the starting point for the series and later the films. Klown is a portrait of the modern man in the Western world, of the man who has everything and yet is constantly creating problems for himself.

 

"There's a lot of the real world in Klown. But it's not all our world. It's the world of our friends, stories we've heard and our own fantasies about the world. We're like Hans Christian Andersen schooled by Lars von Trier. We produce universal stories that people can relate to, with a transgressive streak, a kind of modern Dogme fairytales."

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