Scot Armstrong is an American screenwriter, director, and producer. He is credited with writing or co-writing numerous comedy films, including Old School, The Hangover: Part II, Semi-Pro, Road Trip, and many others.
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Hey everyone! This is Scot Armstrong. Season 2 of my show Dice starring Andrew Dice Clay premiers this Sunday, but feel free to ask me about anything whether it's Dice, Old School, UCB, or Chicago Bears football!
Dice Season 2 Premier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wyXY9dL78A
Is Mitch Trubisky going to be the best bears QB of all time?
I think he is. Part of that is just pure hope. And part of that is watching his raw talent. And part of that is knowing there is a low bar for being the best bears quarterback. Right now Cutler owns all the records.
Hi Scot, you started out working at an advertising agency. What prompted you to start taking improv classes? And how was it making that transition in your life?
Edit: Bonus question: How big of influence was Del Close in your life?
Thanks, I love your work.
Looking back, I've noticed that in each stage of my life I've looked for ways to do new things. I think it was just part of that process for me, I tried so hard to get a job where they paid me for inventing ideas (in advertising) once I achieved that goal I was like, what else. And growing up, my Father always looked up to the second city and take me to shows. We watched SNL together all the time. The Steve Martin Specials. But I never considered myself a performer, always more of a writer. But then a friend of mine was taking a class and I was really into trying it. More, I think, to round out my skills at the time. But now it's how many years later and I'm still performing.
bonus question answer: I was lucky enough to train with him in Chicago at the Improv Olympic years ago. And he was a big influence -- not really of my life -- but I was inspired by how much he saw improvising as and art form. A true craft. And I had never really saw it like that before. His emphasis on listening and of kindness and being cool on stage really made me see how the group mind of a great improv team is unlike anything else. When it's good it's so good. And I also learned to respect the process, how long it takes to get good. And how important it was to start slow and build. He wouldn't let you hurry past things, because he knew you'd end up just going for quick laughs, that sold out your fellow performers, which he hated. He was pretty grumpy too, sometimes, and it was my first exposure to a teacher or a director who wasn't afraid to kick your ass
Right but when will we be seeing Hangover 4 and Roadtrip 2?
I'm not sure. It's always tempting to go back and bring those characters to life again. But right now I'm personally trying to focus on new and different stuff
MITCHAPALOOZA! Did you think the Hangover 2 would do so well globally?
Well, we really were riding on the coat tails of what the first one was of course. But at the same time, that only gets you so far. Audiences usually will not support something the don't think is funny, even if it's a good title etc. So the answer is: I was hopeful we could do really well and I was pleasantly surprised it made what it did, which is a lot. I don't have a big stake in in the back end I'm mostly really psyched people were responding so well to the movie and it took off like it did. Gotta give big credit to Todd Phillips for pulling it off.
What is the very best cheese?
gouda bc it's has less lactose
Roughly how long did Old School and/or Hangover 2 take to write? What's the process like?
ooh boy it depends. Those were both different animals. Old School evolved over time. I remember I was pitched the basic one liner idea and asked if I thought it could work as a big hook. Todd and I met up and played around with it for a few days to see if it really was a 'movie' (as opposed to just a funny premise). So the process was that- once we feel like we really got something we went to Ivan Rietman etc and kind of pitched the mechanics of who the characters were, and how the story would play out. Hangover 2 was different. We there was more pressure and there was def a deadline. So that was probably faster. But you benefit from knowing who the characters are and who the actors are and being able to push the material forward. From the beginning on both, I think we felt like we wanted to be aggressive with the voices, who these guys were, pushing it, making it a cool tone etc. Once we get the go ahead on the story beats it takes three months or something for a first draft, takes a while to get feedback and then the re-write takes another big chunk of time. Then there is re-fining and trying to get a green light while going out to cast. You're really re-writing on and off all the way until you wrap on the last day of shooting.
Who is you dream guest star for season three of Dice?
hard to beat this year bc we got Michael Imperioli, David Arquette, Billy Gardell, Teller, Yakov Smirnof, Tony Orlando, James Woods and Mickey Rourke! I guess my dream would be to do an episode about Dice doing the stern show - and making up a story where things go all wrong behind the scenes at sirius, and have Howard play himself in a couple of scenes 'off air'
Hey! What ever happened to old school dos? And what did the script consist of? Love dice btw!
There is a great story there. Not sure it's gonna happen or not. I think Paramount would be inclined to do it, but I really can't answer for everyone else.
How much was ad-libbed during the filming of Old school? And who did it the most and did you as a writer welcome the ad Libs or did you want them to stick to the script?
There was improvising for sure. And I totally welcome it, as long as it's coming from the character and we believe it, and it's funny in a way that fits the tone and the story of what the movie is, it's always welcome. It's great to have options in the edit. I've noticed that sometimes it feels like they are improvising but they are doing lines that are written, and that is a tribute to good comic acting and writing well in the character's voice, and putting things in the actor's wheel house so they can really make it their own. Todd Phillips and I will add new lines on the day, too, which a lot of times feel spontaneous.
How do you learn the ins and outs of comedy as a craft? The jokes, gags, twists, etc. All the things that go into making something funny without being over-the-top or super cheesy. Where and how do you learn the perfect this stuff?
It's really trial and error. Takes a while! It's all subjective, there is no right way or wrong way to make art. I've found the best way is to keep studying all different schools of thought, study what you respond to, and put yourself in vulnerable positions getting notes and thoughts from your peers without being defensive. I got a lot out of studying creative writing, doing (a lot of) improv training and second city and IO and UCB. Working in Advertising helped a little at the very beginning, bc I was pitching to clients in my early 20's in pressure situations etc, and then being able to write shoot and edit and learning rudementary things while working on things like Kinkos. I watched a lot of director reels to learn dif styles and tone etc. But there's a ceiling on that stuff. I wanted to do more and I started putting different comedy stuff in different 'camps' and studying things that really connected with me. Like Harold Ramis was a big influence. I loved his scripts and his directing too. And I loved Gary Shandling's Larry Sanders show. Something about was like a-ha! That's the way I like my comedy. And then: There's no getting around sitting your ass in the chair and writing writing writing
Whatever happened to old school dos?
Is there a place I can listen to old episodes of "Bear Down"?
the best of bear down is free on itunes, but I really recommend you listen to UCB Sports & Liesure, it's kind of the same thing - Matt Walsh and I's comedy podcast, new and improved! https://soundcloud.com/ucb-sports-and-leisure
Hey! Love Dice! How is this season going to be different from season 1?
This year there is more of a story that spans the seven episodes that all fit together. And that was really fun to do - dif than the stand alone episodes we did last time. I also feel like all the actors and everyone on the crew really clicked into what the show is. Dice is a little more vulnerable in funny ways this year. And his relationship with Carmen gets played up. But he he's still Dice. He can't not be
How did you meet the DICEMAN?
Also, was it hard getting a show about Andrew Dice Clay made?
After I saw blue jasmine with Dice in it, I the kind of acting chops he had. And when I heard he was trying to get a show going and wanted to meet up, I was like 'yeah, I'll meet with Andrew Dice Clay!' In person, he was hilarious in a way that was different on stage. I realized there were different sides to this guy. And that's when I could really see what the show could be. I knew I could write in his 'off stage' voice.
And as far as getting it made, the answer is no. I think if it was a show about Dice, the stand up guy, then it might have been different. But when people heard our take and that the show was about the human who is 'stuck in the skin' of the Diceman, who's career was in bad shape, living in the suburbs of Vegas, we had interest. We targeted 3 networks we wanted to work with and we got and offer from all three. Showtime was out top choice and they've been awesome.
what does a typical writing schedule for a first draft of a script look like -- do you binge-write at deadlines or is it more gradual?
By the time a deadline comes, I usually have a script very much completed and on it's feet and I usually need to keep changing things to match up with other changes, discovering new ideas and building on those and also going back and filling in where I have placeholders ( like sometimes I'll know what a scene basically is but I haven't actually written it.) Basically, it's gradual, I try and do five pages a day (of five good pages- like of tight, ready to shoot pages) sometimes it takes writing fifteen or whatever pages to get five good ones, sometimes you realize through unusable writing what it really needs to be. But toward the end of a script I will usually (hopefully) get on a roll where I'm adding in a lot of new ideas and new writing so it's kind of a binge-write but it's usually within a script that is already on it's feet so to speak.
to clarify there are different stages to it for me. There's a lot of mapping that goes into it, and breaking ideas and putting them up on the wall or in an outline, before I'm every actually writing dialogue. And then I usually write one act at a time. Really drill down on getting a good first act locked and then getting to a good midpoint and locking that etc. Then and the end start changing it a lot over and over and discovering new things and building. There's a great article written by George Saunders on the process of writing that I really relate to.... I'll try and find it.
here it is