A Little Like Therapy: Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam on Klown

The makers and stars of the indie comedy on Danny McBride's American remake and when you should take your clothes off.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Drafthouse releasing picked up the Danish comedy Klown, which they screened at Fantastic Fest last year. The movie version of the Danish TV series features the same cast, focusing on Frank (Frank Hvam) and Casper (Casper Christensen). Frank brings his girlfriend’s son on his canoe trip with Casper, which proves to be a disastrous, debaucherous affair. Hvam and Christensen came to L.A. where we got to speak with them about their film and the comedy show that fans will discover if they go back after they see the movie. They also had a little bit of information on the American remake that Danny McBride is planning.

Klown opens theatrically in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, and on VOD everywhere on July 27, 2012.


CraveOnline: How would you describe your sense of humor?

Frank Hvam: Good.

Casper Christensen: We try to be really honest about what’s going on inside of our head and try to just show what we find is really funny. We’re not trying to aim it at anybody. This is what we find is funny. These are the things we laugh at. That’s how we write. That’s how we act.

Frank Hvam: We take our emotions very seriously because if we feel anger or happiness, it’s interesting. So we start at our emotions.


What is your philosophy on setting up comic situations in film?

Casper Christensen: It’s very important for us to have a good storyline because the dialogue is improvised. So the storyline becomes very, very important. We worked a lot on that. When we did the movie, we did like 20 drafts on just the storyline, just to make sure that every scene had a situation that would be fun to act, and the dialogue should just flow naturally in that scene. That helps you a lot in telling a good story I think. It’s not a lot of punch lines, not a lot of funny one-liners. It’s the situation and the people in it that’s our comedy. That’s really the philosophy we’ve been writing on.

Frank Hvam: Motivating, motivating, motivating.

Casper Christensen: Keep on motivating the characters to go.

Frank Hvam: We aim for the natural story.


Are there every any situations you feel too embarrassed to act, and how do you get over it?

Frank Hvam: Not really. If you believe in the situation, if you think the situation is funny, I’m willing to pull my pants down. If it’s not funny, I won’t take my clothes off.

Casper Christensen: You’ve got to really feel secure that it’s the right comedy thing to do. We push ourselves pretty far out in this movie and do stuff that we normally wouldn’t do, but for the sake of  good comedy, we’re willing to go that way.


Is it a cathartic release to get to do things you wouldn’t do in real life?

Frank Hvam: Of course, yes.

Casper Christensen: Do you feel that way? I don’t.

Frank Hvam: There’s some fun in running half naked around a festival at night. You couldn’t do that if you didn’t have a camera with you.

Casper Christensen: I didn’t feel that. We’ve both done stupid things in real life too. I don’t think this movie made it easier.

Frank Hvam: Again, I’m sure we let some frustration out in our work. If we didn’t work, we would probably explode.

Casper Christensen: That’s true. In the writing process and just the thought, when we think of the funny stuff, a lot of energy and curiosity about life comes out just thinking about it, writing and talking about it. Secrets within you and the dark side, we had to talk to each other about that. When we write, it’s a little bit like therapy because you get all the bad thoughts out of your system, right? We show it to somebody else and the other guy says, “I got that same feeling.”

Frank Hvam: We tell each other stuff that we want that we would never tell our girlfriends for example, because the other one would never say, “Oh, that’s too far” or “too gross.” The other one would say, “Oh, that might be a scene. That might be interesting.”


What are some inside jokes that are only for the fans of your work?

Casper Christensen: I think when we’re in the book club, and all the characters in the book club are highly respected people of the Danish society, it’s the minister of foreign affairs, it’s poets, it’s authors. It’s like the top of society in Denmark and that’s in the book club. We have those people talk about pearl necklace and stuff like that. Then that’s a kick for the Danish audience. For the fans of the television show, they know all the characters in the movie. They know that Andreas is a doctor, is a family doctor and there’s been a lot about him, so when he’s in the end of the movie smoking reefer and throws up and passes out, it’s a cheer for the Danish audience or fans of the television because he’s just a terrible guy in the television series. But if you only watch the movie, you just laugh because he throws up and falls down.


I like the elite hifalutin group talking about pearl necklaces too. I didn’t need to know their actual roles in Denmark. That’s universal.

Casper Christensen: Yeah, I think so, yeah, but we were curious how that would work. It was very good in Denmark but everybody knows who they are. It seems like just the way they act and look, you know they are highly acclaimed people talking about pearl necklace.

Frank Hvam: But actually we are following one of our own rules. Every story should be interesting for itself. It should not depend on a famous guy or a famous woman. You should be able to take each other famous characters out of the movie and replace it with an anonymous character and it should still work. That’s a rule for us.


Why is Klown spelled with a K?

Casper Christensen: Because it’s spelled with a K in Denmark, but not with a W. K-L-O-V-N, that’s the Danish spelling and I think it’s just to get some attention.

Frank Hvam: Yeah, that was one of our first questions. How can it be that you still have the K? Why is it not a C over here? But Tim [League] told us that you have another movie around called Killer Clowns from Outer Space and he didn’t want people to confuse those two movies.


It’s been like 25 years. I don’t think they would have been confused.

Frank Hvam: Then he lied to us!

Casper Christensen: Bring in Tim.


What are the plans for the next Klown movie?

Frank Hvam: If there is one.

Casper Christensen: We have just started talking about it. We have some ideas but we haven’t had the time yet to sit there and start writing on it. Planning on writing it in the start of the new year. We have some thoughts. We want to take the movie to another country. We want Casper and Frank to go to another country I think, get them out of that safe environment of Denmark and have them in trouble somewhere else.


Who are your comedy heroes?

Frank Hvam: They’re all American. When it comes to standup, Chris Rock of course. Louis C.K. of course. Of course Larry David.

Casper Christensen: The good ones. Like Seinfeld, Will Ferrell, there are so many good ones. Danny McBride who is going to do the remake is a fantastic comedian too. There are some English guys too like the Monty Pythons were excellent too.

Frank Hvam: Woody Allen of course. He’s so old you sometimes forget him but he’s one of the biggest. Of course the main character of “The Office,” both the American, Steve Carell, and also Ricky Gervais.

Casper Christensen: “The Simpsons.” Love “The Simpsons.”


Is the U.S. remake still on?

Casper Christensen: I think so, yeah. Yeah, it’s still on.


Are they going all the way back to the series?

Casper Christensen: No, it’s just the movie.


Just a direct remake of this movie?

Casper Christensen: Yeah. Hopefully. Let’s see what happens. They’re rewriting it right now.


Are you involved?

Casper Christensen: Just on a friendly basis. We just bounce ideas back and forth with Danny McBride, but he’s the one writing it.

Frank Hvam: He’s so good. He’s such a clever comedian so of course he will be able to make something good out of it.

Casper Christensen: We’re just trying to help from the sidelines as much as we can.


And he’s not afraid to look bad or be embarrassed.

Casper Christensen: No.

Frank Hvam: No, that’s good.

Casper Christensen: That’s important. That’s important.


Do you know when he saw the film?

Casper Christensen: No. We don’t know how people got to see the film before we screened it right here. It has this life of its own over here.

Frank Hvam: It’s been in some festivals, one in Canada and the Fantastic Festival of course.

Casper Christensen: I think people are just handing over illegal DVDs back and forth. I think that’s what’s going on. You should report it if you ever see that.


What do you expect will have to be changed in the American remake?

Frank Hvam: Maybe make the boy a little bit older.

Casper Christensen: Maybe. We don’t know. I’m just guessing. What we tried to do in the beginning, we wanted to do a road movie but the country’s so small, it takes like four hours to drive from anywhere in Denmark to the end. So we had to slow the process down and that’s why we picked canoes. But I think if you wanted to do a remake, you would just have these two guys in a car on a road trip and then just have a small scene in the canoe. That might be one of the things they want to change. We don’t know.


Did you have to actually learn to row?

Casper Christensen: Yeah. It was pretty hard. It was hard.

Frank Hvam: Yeah, it was hard, very hard because we paddled downstream while we were shooting, and between the takes we had to paddle upstream again to get ready for the next take.

Casper Christensen: So we did that for a month and then we knew how to canoe.


Do you have any non-Klown projects in the works?

Frank Hvam: We have just finished a live show together.

Casper Christensen: We did a tour around the country. We did about 100 shows so that’s the last thing we did. We just ended the tour.


This country, the United States?

Casper Christensen: No, just Denmark. Just Denmark. We don’t think anyone would show up here yet. We have to wait just a few years before we do it.


You have to be specific when you say touring “the country,” it’s your country, not ours.

Casper Christensen: Yeah.

Frank Hvam: We would have to pay to get into Comedy Cellar.

Casper Christensen: We’d have to pay to get on stage anywhere.


Danny McBride and Larry David are interesting influences. How do you feel to see American comedy embrace this style of uncomfortable humor?

Casper Christensen: I think it’s something that happened after a long period of time with traditional sitcom. A lot of punch lines, a lot of laugh tracks. I think the whole world was just looking for where’s the next comedy thing coming from. So “The Office” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” that flavored comedy suddenly just at the same time as ours popped up around the world. People needed something unusual, a new way to look at it. We just were lucky enough to get on that boat right away.

Frank Hvam: This new thing that the main character can be an idiot and it’s okay. Because it’s human to be an idiot.


When you started Klown, was it hard to decide who would play each character?

Frank Hvam: No, no, no no, no. Klown is based on our personal relationship and our own private lives and our own characters. Of course Casper isn’t the jerk in real life that he is in the movie. I’m the nerd. Casper is the extrovert.

Casper Christensen: Before we did the show, we just ended another sitcom for six seasons. We’ve been writing that and acting together in that one too. I was the lead character and they asked me to come up with a new comedy series. We knew that we had to do something where I would not be the lead character again. We tried to figure out how to do it. Do we have Frank as the lead character? Do we want to pull ourselves out, just to write and not act? It just seemed, once we started working on it, it was just perfect to have Frank do this kind of type of comedy. He was perfect for it, so that’s how it came about.

Frank Hvam: Yeah, and you’re the womanizer in real life.

Casper Christensen: It’s true. It’s true.

Frank Hvam: And dogs like me.


Was it hard to decide on the director?

Casper Christensen: No. We’ve been working with him two years on the other sitcom before so it was natural to take him with us to the next sitcom. Of course he had to do the movie too.