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Sep

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A couple of Klowns

 
Our interview with Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen was foul-mouthed and with graphic scenes of a sexual nature. Like their films and TV show, it's not for the faint of heart, squeemish or easily offended. It's their tool for celebrating the awkwardness of the human condition and, as they launch their latest cinematic escapade 'Klovn - Forever', it's clear they've perfected a very special comedy recipe

It is violently coarse, occasionally gross and insufferably embarrassing. But most of all, the comedic universe of Klovn is painfully funny. Creators Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam are an odd duo, and as they chat in the backyard of a stately house in Frederiksberg, they act like an old couple, finishing each other’s sentences and bouncing jokes off each other.

Klovn began as a TV series that originally aired in 2005 and continued for six seasons. In 2010 they released their first film, Klovn The Movie, which garnered international attention and set them up for this year’s sequel, Klovn – Forever.

Hvam: “After season four, Casper didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Christensen: “Didn’t I? I don’t remember that, why was that?”

Hvam: “I don’t know, I think it was that we made the first four seasons in such a short time span, and we were just exhausted.”

In Klovn, they play the odd-couple best friends Frank and Casper, just like in real life. Christensen is Casper, the flamboyant, high-status playboy. He shows up to our interview in sunglasses and a tight shirt with sleeves rolled up, showcasing his many tattoos. It is the sort of getup that would fit right in at a wild yacht party.

Frank, in his plain polo shirt and jeans, seems more at home enjoying a hot dog and a beer somewhere quiet.

“In the beginning, we decided to make Casper a more evil character than in real life, and he just became more and more evil. And we made Frank a little bit more stupid,” explains Christensen.

“But there is actually very little of us in the characters, though there is a lot of reality in the situations and the stories we want to tell.”

They certainly write about what they know, using their experiences as a reference point from which to uncover awkward and painful aspects of the human condition. It’s comedy in the same vein as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office. The characters don’t really seem to learn, their lives an endless series of poor decisions and unfortunate coincidences. But throughout it all, their friendship remains. Or does it?

Still from 'Klovn Forever'

Still from ‘Klovn Forever’

Blurred identities
Despite their depraved antics, their terrible alter-egos have somehow survived for ten years without suffering long-term incarceration or death. But when Hvam and Christensen return to their everyday lives, it can be impossible to leave Frank and Casper behind –as after so much time playing the characters some members of the public  find it hard to discern where fiction ends and reality begins.

Hvam: “It’s not a problem for me, because people just feel sorry for Frank, the poor guy. But Casper, the evil bastard, has all sorts of problems, real problems.”
Christensen: “Before we did Klovn, I was very well-liked in this country – I was in fact voted the most wonderful man in Denmark at one point. Then we did Klovn and everything started going downhill. I might be more famous and more popular, but people fucking hate me.”

Casper’s endless cheating and womanising is the source of most of the hostility he experiences. Elderly women, in particular, revel in expressing their hatred upon meeting him on the street.

“This myth just builds around all the young girls [that I’m with on the show], but over the last twenty years, I’ve only had three different girlfriends and, aside from my current wife, they have all been my age. I don’t think that is extreme, right?” Christensen implores.

“But it’s what you have done to those three girls that matters,” Hvam jokingly interjects, before adding that people expect him to make a fool of himself.

“The other day, when I was sailing my boat into harbour, the gears got stuck, so everybody took out their phones. I could hear them saying ‘typical Frank!’ and singing the Klovn theme song.”

Christensen: “Then again, we did it to ourselves. Mostly people like the series and the movie, and to be honest, I am a fucking asshole and Frank is just so weird.”

Their friendship is as tight in real life as it is on screen, and in both cases their bond seems unlikely. But as Christensen explains, being similar is far from the decisive factor in a successful friendship – it’s more complicated than that.

Christensen: “Frank and I live very different lives, and we have really different values and ways of approaching life. But there are some areas where we really hit it off and have so much fun together. And that aspect is so strong that it makes all the other things interesting. I think that is what makes a good friend.”

Hvam: “There is also a time dimension to it. Maybe we were more similar when we met. Maybe – not really, we were also very different back then.”

Christensen: “I mean, I look at my other friends, and none of them are anything like Frank. And I look at his friends, and he doesn’t have friends that behave like I do, most of his friends are just very sick.”

Hvam: “When you have known someone for ten years, you can go in very different directions, but you will always have many things in common, because you have memories and a history together. For instance, I knew his two ex-wives, we can talk about them.”

Photo: Christoffer Rosenfeldt

Photo: Christoffer Rosenfeldt

A darker direction
Klovn The Movie was a light summer comedy about fatherhood, but Klovn  – Forever has a distinctively darker and more serious feel to it, featuring themes of betrayal and a breakdown in their hitherto unwavering friendship.

“We wanted to tell a story about friends betraying each other, about forgetting their friendship. We do terrible things to each other and each other’s women, so it’s okay that it’s darker,” explains Hvam and laughs.

“The first movie was just about these two guys. It had a road movie feel about finding some girls and getting laid,” says Christensen. “This one takes place five years later. I’m turning 47, we are getting old, and life is no longer so happy-go-lucky all the time. We might go back and do a Tour de Pussy 2, but this felt right this time.”

Hvam adopts an impression of a Televangelist: “It is also based on the Bible, on the Old and the New Testament’s views on forgiveness.”

Christensen: “We are both extremely religious.”

Hvam: “We have to have God approve everything we do, and he has, he has blessed us.”

Putting aside the mock peity, Christensen underlines that although the two plot revenge on each other in the new film, the message really is about forgiveness

Christensen: “Forgiveness is the right path.”

Hvam: “Yeah, because if you are going to have a long relationship with another person, you have to be able to forgive, because of course the other person has an idiotic side.  Everybody does, and you have to live with that. If you can’t, then you can’t have a long relationship at all. I think that is one of the points of the movie – we have to forgive.”

Still from 'Klovn Forever'

Still from ‘Klovn Forever’

Gross and awkward
We are all familiar with the invisible line that cannot be crossed in proper and polite society – things that should be left unsaid and behaviour that goes beyond what is acceptable. Hvam and Christensen understand this line better than most, and by toying with it, they challenge our taboos and social inhibitions.

“We are just two little boys playing with matches,” explains Hvam. “Some of these taboos are very funny to explore, to see what happens when you cross the line.

Sometimes they are just culturally ancient things, and we have forgotten why they are taboos at all. They have just been that way for so long that everybody agrees. But then you break them and you think, ‘Hey what happened, nobody died?'”

Christensen: “The important thing, however, is that there is nothing cool about just making fun of people. The people you are targeting have to find it funny, interesting and understandable, too.”

As offensive as their jokes might be, the duo claim to have received few strong reactions from the public. And when they do, it’s often offence by proxy.

“The criticism has never come from people who were themselves affected by something in the show, but from people who are offended on behalf of others,” explains Christensen.

“I remember one scene where Frank was lying about a miscarriage in therapy. It is a very delicate topic, losing an unborn child. But the scene was never about making fun of people who have lost a child. It was to make fun of this idiot who lied about it just to get out of an awkward situation – that’s what’s funny about it, seeing socially handicapped people who don’t know how to behave, be faced with these issues. So we got a letter from somebody who knew somebody who lost an unborn child.”

Hvam: “Yeah, and we believe 100 percent that you have to address everything in this world – to make it easier for people with that kind of problem to live their lives. If you don’t talk about it, they become isolated and feel outside of the community.”

Christensen: “The person we are making fun of is never the handicapped person, or the person with cancer, or the person who lost a child. It is the awkwardness of the people around that person. That’s what we want to show. Real emotions, high stakes, and vulnerability. People losing control and status always make me laugh. When people think too highly of themselves, and their bubble gets punctured and collapses – that is always funny.”

Forever erect
It is not enough to think and write about taboos and line-crossing, the scenes have to be acted out, too. While they both claim to be fine with playing situations of bare awkwardness, sometimes the interaction with other actors can be too much.

“Casper and I are so in sync, we know this universe and we have agreed to pay the price,” says Hvam, adding with a heavy dose of humour: “In the last movie, we had a scene with a girl who wanted a finger in her ass. That was a hard scene to shoot, because she was sweet and really wanted it. But she was also very nervous and sweating.”

Christensen joins in the banter: “That was not the problem, the problem was that she was just really horny,” he says, and laughs.
“She was so extremely horny that I had to say stop, because she was totally naked I was just wearing a small thong, so it was very intense. No we are just kidding.

She was so cool and incredibly professional on set.”

During the horrifying and cringe-worthy climax of the new movie is a sight that would be more at home in a porno or a Lars von Trier movie –a profile shot of Christensen’s erect penis.

Hvam: “We decided to do it because we had this situation that we didn’t want to soften, and we felt it would be unnatural if you couldn’t see anything.”
Christensen: “The thing is also that Casper is a threat to Frank, and it is pretty threatening to have a hard-on pointing at him, but it was also one of the harder scenes.”

Hvam: “I was very proud of him.”

Christensen: “I think it took us seven takes, that was too much.”

Hvam: “Seven takes? That’s two hours!”

Christensen: “We did do seven takes! What happens is that you go to the bathroom, start masturbating, and when it is hard, you go in where the whole crew is waiting. You only have about 40 seconds with an erect penis and then you have to do the scene again. I mean porn is easy, you go in with a hard-on and have sex.

That’s easy. But try having a conversation with your best friend in front of a whole crew when nobody is even touching your penis.”

Hvam: “You did well. The funny thing is that to have an erection you have to have this huge amount of self-confidence. You have to feel like an old gorilla, owning the room, and every time Casper came out of that door he was just like, ‘Now we go!'”

Christensen: “No, no, no, that is not how it was! I knew I only had 40 seconds, that’s why. So I came in saying ‘please shoot!'”

An unexpected success
In its ten years, the series has evolved from a small cult TV show into a highly popular and profitable brand. Klovn The Movie was Denmark’s most popular movie in 2010, selling upwards of a million tickets. This phenomenal success has brought with it international fame, with remakes of the TV show being planned in countries such as Germany and Belgium, and Warner Bros obtaining the rights for an American version of the first movie.

Hvam: “We were surprised when this became a hit, and we are so grateful. When we started, we were convinced that it was a very narrow project, on a small channel, only appealing to creative people in Copenhagen.”

Christensen: “They told us that they were going to finance us, but only because they liked us.”

Their success is even more fascinating in light of their beginnings. Hvam dropped out of veterinary school, and Christensen made a name for himself entertaining in restaurants and clubs as well as hosting kid shows. Those lowly beginnings provided them with a unique perspective and taught them a valuable lesson.

Christensen: “Frank didn’t make it, I didn’t make it. So there is a lesson for young people in Denmark. Don’t think about it, just lean back and let it come to you. Don’t get an education, it’s a waste of time.”

Hvam: “That’s not true, I would say that most of our colleagues should go back to school.”

Christensen: “I think most of our colleagues should just go back to working in a kindergarten.”

Klovn forever, forever Klovn
Despite Christensen’s post-fourth season jitters, the duo is looking to the future, and a third movie is already in the cards.

Christensen: “We might go back to making television, but we definitely want to do another movie.  What is interesting to us is higher stakes, stronger emotions, bigger problems – that’s what’s good in movies. We will definitely do one more movie, many more, we’ll do 60 movies!”

He adds: “I mean sometimes I hate Frank, and I know he feels the same way, but we have so much fun that we know that we have to keep this together, and that is a good feeling.”

Hvam: “And because of the money.”

Christensen: “It’s pretty much about the money. All that money, the Benjamins – it’s all about the Benjamins. We never talk about money between us. We split everything we do in half, we have always done that. I don’t know how much money Frank has, and Frank of course is always trying to find out how much money I have.”

Hvam: “I can tell you.”

Christensen: “Please do, because I have no fucking idea!” M

Culture

By Elias Thorsson

Managing editor. @Eliasthorsson elias@murmur.dk

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