Jeremy Konner loves history. And comedy. His passions come together as one of the creative forces behind Comedy Central’s “Another Period,” a sort of “Real Housewives of the Gilded Age” sendup, and the Emmy-nominated “Drunk History.” Konner directed Funny or Die’s “lost TV movie adaptation” of Donald Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal,” starring Johnny Depp as the presumptive Republican nominee that was released earlier this year.
What was the motivation for “Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie”?
It was a huge surprise. From what I understand Johnny Depp was meeting with Adam McKay and Owen Burke, who runs Funny or Die and is also a “Drunk History” producer. Owen had wanted to do an “Art of the Deal” spoof. He pitched it to Johnny: “You ever want to play Donald Trump? We’re shooting this feature film in four days.” And Johnny, having never done a Trump impression in his life, says yes.
Where did you come in?
Then I got a call right after that: “Johnny Depp as Trump. Are you in? We’ll send you the script.” And I said, “Sure send it over. I’ll read it, but I’m in, no matter what.” It’s a good thing I liked it.
The script uses a lot of Trump’s actual words from the campaign trail.
Joe Randazzo wrote the script. He took apart and deconstructed “Art of the Deal.” When we made it, it felt pretty extreme. By the time it was out, Trump had said things even more outlandish and vulgar and offensive than things we had put in.
Johnny Depp is unrecognizable.
When we talked about this originally, I thought it was going to be a wig, nose, maybe fake teeth. He came in with his prosthetics team. We were shooting 20 pages, 25 pages a day. He loved it. He’s never had the freedom to have fun and improvise on the set like he had here. We surrounded him with the best improvisers on the planet. We shot it in four days. I don’t recommend it.
Alfred Molina was a surprise.
Alfred Molina eating an invisible dick was one of my favorite jokes in the script. He’s a really funny guy and he’s one of my favorite actors.
Is it tempting to go back and shoot more now that Trump has locked up the Republican nomination?
We are talking about re-releasing it in a bigger way. Fingers crossed that it all goes forward. It does seem bizarrely like Trump is the Incredible Hulk and that any negative attention thrown at him makes him stronger. I would love to shoot a sequel one day, but one that has nothing to do with him being president.
There’s so much history information available on podcasts.
“Stuff You Missed in History Class” is a big inspiration. I love the History Chicks — the History Chicks helped a lot when we were developing “Another Period.” They did a whole series on the Dollar Princesses and the Gilded age era.
What’s ahead for “Drunk History”?
We’re shooting season four now, we’re going farther in the themes, and expanding into international stories. Shakespeare makes an appearance. I won’t give away more than that but new history was unveiled this year and we pounced.
What’s next for you?
I did just sell a new show to Comedy Central about the history and legacy of comedy in America. Sort of a documentary series, we teamed up with the people who created “American Masters.” This season we’re doing eight films, modeled from “30 for 30” — but applying that to comedians. We’re talking to these incredible comedians about it.
I remember the day when Comedy Central first came on television. I remember the previews. I was obsessed with Comedy Central, I taped every epsidoe of Ben Stiller’s show or “Kids in the Hall.” I feel they have a legacy I’m really happy to be a part of it.