By Blake Garris
Whether you know him as Lieutenant Jim Dangle from "Reno 911!," one of the 11 members of the famed sketch comedy group "The State" (on DVD for the first time this week!) or from one of his many head-turning roles in moveis such as "I Love You, Man" or "Balls of Fury," you've no doubt been side-swiped by Thomas Lennon's hilarious brand of comedy. Oh, but Thomas Lennon is more than an actor, he's a comedian, director, screenwriter, comic writer, comic fan and all around nice guy. We chatted with Lennon about his career in movies and TV, writing comics and a great idea for a character he calls "Waffle Iron Man."
Marvel.com: To begin, you've contributed to a few comic books in the past. What were they and what did you do on them?
Thomas Lennon: I've written twice for The Goon, one short story called "Jimmy Turtle and the Legendary Box Car of Well-Made Ladies Shoes" and one story for the Goon Noir series, in which The Goon becomes a model for a cigarette company. I also wrote a story entitled "The Pigmy Elixir" for Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #13.
Marvel.com: How did you get involved in writing comics?
Thomas Lennon: My friend Brian T. Finney from the Actor's Gang in Los Angeles introduced me to The Goon, and I went nuts for it. I wrote Eric Powell a fan letter, and we've been friends pretty much ever since. Eric asked me if I'd like to write a story for him and I misunderstood, and did just that: wrote a 12-page short story for him, single-spaced. He really loved it, and did some drawings for it. After that came out, Bill Morrison from Bongo Comics called me and asked about doing the Treehouse of Horror issue.
Marvel.com: What Marvel characters would you want to write for, and where would you take their stories?
Thomas Lennon: I like Iron Man a lot. I'm not sure what I'd do. I tend to lean towards comedy, as it's my only real experience. Has anybody had him battle a bizzaro-type character called Waffle Iron Man? A guy who's made a suit that's like a giant waffle iron?
Marvel.com: Hmm. Not yet, but we'll see if there's any interest. Are you reading any Marvel comics these days?
Thomas Lennon: I'm only reading parenting books right now. Parenting books are WORDY and BORING, and there's almost never a chick in a latex catsuit with an uzi in them.
Marvel.com: Do you have any all time favorite Marvel characters or stories?
Thomas Lennon: I'm a sucker for Mr. Fantastic. That's my kind of old-timey super hero, the kind you call "Mister." We pitched a take on the "Fantastic Four" movie to Marvel, but got rejected. This was many years back.
Marvel: Can you tell us about that?
Thomas Lennon: I wish I could remember it! It was a few years before the first one came out. I remember we were trying to do some parallels to the story of the Beatles' life as a band.
Marvel.com: What are some of your favorite illustrators or writers?
Thomas Lennon: Obviously, I'm a big Eric Powell fan, his art blows my mind. And I really love Tone Rodriguez who drew my Treehouse of Horror story. And Billy Tucci is amazing, his stuff is always incredible.
Marvel.com: Your character in the movie "17 Again" was a bit of a comic book and "Star Wars" geek. I always hate this question, but can you describe him for me?
Thomas Lennon: Ned is basically me, with slightly weirder hair. And I was obsessed with "Star Wars" most of my life, but I've actually never seen Episodes 2 or 3. After "the Phantom Menace," I walked away and never looked back.
Marvel.com: How did you prepare for the role?
Thomas Lennon: Didn't prepare for even one second. Just poofed my hair up in the worst way I possibly could. Although we did work on the lightsaber fight for several weeks, and I had to learn to drive a five-speed Lamborghini, which was kind of tricky… especially parking it.
Marvel.com: I'm sure you've been asked every question under the sun about "Reno 911!" Is there any news or a story you can give that would be exclusive to Marvel readers?
Thomas Lennon: YES. This year you find out that Trudy Wiegel and Dangle's ex-wife Debbie are sisters, it's part of a super-complicated two-part episode called "Dangle's Murder Mystery Dinner." Scott Thompson from "Kids in the Hall" is brilliant in that episode too.
Marvel.com: Do you think comics and comedy have anything in common?
Thomas Lennon, photo by Seth Olenick
Thomas Lennon: Good lord, yes. Comics are a great way to learn about timing and pacing.
Marvel.com: I hear you go to Golden Apple Comics in LA a lot.
Thomas Lennon: I'm there pretty frequently, yeah. It's a great store, and everybody who works there is very nice, and very knowledgeable. We just shot a little video there for The Goon 10 Year anniversary party, which will be on The Goon site soon, I hear.
Marvel.com: You're also at Comic-Con every year.
Thomas Lennon: Comic-Con is just about my favorite place to go. You cannot find a more positive vibe anywhere in the world. Everybody who's there is my kind of people. I love wandering the rows of artists. Last year I met Rick Geary who does the Victorian Crime graphic novels, WHICH I LOVE, and he was awesome, so nice. His books might be my favorite stuff right now. Check out his "Beast of Chicago" and "Jack the Ripper"—they're awesome.
Marvel.com: Any memorable stories you can tell us while there?
Thomas Lennon: Last year we shot two great videos for Funny Or Die, in which Ben Garant and I played Homeland Security officers, checking permits for swords, blasters, etc. It was a ton of fun to shoot. We met the littlest Speeder Bike trooper I've ever seen. I think she was six-years-old, in the full Speeder Bike outfit. It was awesome.
Marvel.com: I hear you wrote the screenplay for the remake of "The Incredible Shrinking Man." Anything you can tell us about that?
Thomas Lennon: For our re-write we set it in Las Vegas, with Scott Carey as a magician, who another magician curses with a real, ancient spell. We were trying to think of a way in which he could start shrinking, but the whole world would think it was a trick.
Marvel.com: Are there any other acting and writing projects of yours that we will need to look out for?
The State on DVD
Thomas Lennon: "Reno 911!" Season Six has just started. We're on every Wednesday night after "South Park!" And "Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian" came out May 22.
Catch Thomas Lennon on the sixth season of Comedy Central's "Reno 911" and "The State" Complete Series DVD, on sale now.
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