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Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, stars of Family Camp

Roadside Attractions releases Family Camp nationwide on May 13th, 2022.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that make a comedic duo so effective?

Tommy Woodard: There's this thing about chemistry. I don't think that you could create chemistry. When you have it, you have it. When you don't, you don't. We watched a screening of the movie last night and an acquaintance of ours came up to us and said, "You guys have chemistry." When you look back at all of the great comedic duos, there is a chemistry. I don't think that it's a formula. I don't think that you can figure out, "There's the smart one and the dumb one, and the funny one and the straight one." It doesn't work that way. It's all chemistry. I don't know how you can create that. I think that it either happens or it doesn't.

Eddie James: You can look at Steve Martin and Martin Short. There's a reason why they keep touring together. They've been buddies and friends for three decades. They know each other so well. Even The Rock and Kevin Hart. There's a reason why they keep doing the same things. People see it and it resonates. It's not just two actors getting together. There seems to be a good gel and buddy system there. I think that that's what we have--that buddy system there.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Family Camp is a comedy, but beneath the comedy, there's a hint of tragedy regarding dysfunctional relationships and marital issues. Do you think that all comedy is rooted in tragedy?

TW: I think that they make good bedfellows. I don't know if you have to have one or the other. I think that humankind has dealt with tragedy by using comedy for a long time. It's how we maintain our sanity in the midst of the struggles and difficulties. So, while they make good bedfellows, I don't know if all comedy is rooted in that, but I think that a lot of it is because it's how we stay sane.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Family Camp deals with the topics of friendship and marriage. How would you define a good friend and a good lover?

EJ: This is a 30-year friendship. Along the way we have, and I don't think we did it intentionally, when you come across difficulties and situations, we create little things. One of our things is that we always have each other's back. You will never see us playing a joke on one another. You will never see us leaving a man behind. You will never see us like one person walks off and the other person goes, "Where is he?" I would say that those things would work in a marriage or any relationship as well. So you never leave a person behind and always have a person's back. We also have a thing, as far as friendship, that we call "Going through the Tunnel of Chaos." It's not fun. The Tunnel of Love is the pretty, small one that you sit in. The Tunnel of Chaos is like getting into an ugly goose.

TW:  It's got splinters in the seats. It's not going to be a fun ride at all, but you have to go through the Tunnel of Chaos to get to the Tunnel of Love. One of the greatest struggles in relationships and the reason that they don't last is that people will not go through the Tunnel of Chaos. Like Eddie said, whether it's best friends, lovers or whatever it is, if you can't deal with that chaos and go through that, what happens is that it will destroy your intimacy because you're not being genuine.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Eddie Sanders and Tommy Ackerman are both goofy in Family Camp. What's wrong with being goofy? Can someone be both mature and goofy at the same time?

TW: I think that it takes security to be goofy. Goofiness comes when you go, "I'm good with me. Now let's have fun." When I was 19, I was working at a church and they asked me to teach at this camp. I got the rules for the camp, and one of the rules was that you can't use humor while you're teaching. I literally had to pick up the phone and call them and go, "I can't teach at your camp." because it's ingrained in who we are.

EJ: Growing up, I'm an 80's kid. My comedy heroes were Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Martin Short and John Candy. They were goofy men. You watch them in their movies and they could bring you to tears and be just outrageously goofy. Those are people that make me go, "Oh my goodness! They are so goofy and so alive!" and then they could just bring it to just make you go, "I'm not crying, you're crying!"

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define a "grown-up"? Eddie Sanders and Tommy Ackerman in Family Camp are "grown-ups", but do they ever really stop growing up?

TW: You've just said something that is so true. At the end of the day, there's no such thing as a "grown-up" because we're all continuing to grow. I guess that there might be people that stopped growing. They've hit a place of maturity and they're done or they can't figure out how to love others. That would be someone who's not growing. But I think that we're constantly growing.

EJ: I heard a great phrase: "Leaders are learners, and if you're not learning, you're not leading." I would say that we're not just talking about leaders who are people of industry. We're all leaders. If you could look behind you and there's someone listening to you, you're a leader. When you're in charge of 3 people, 2 people or 1 person,  you're a leader--whatever that looks like in your world. I would even say that everybody on this planet is a leader to somebody. So the onus is on us to keep learning, to keep unpacking our baggage, to keep looking at the hurts and the hang-ups and the habits that we have gathered. And then to find those friends, relationships, and people that love us and go, "Can I bear my soul a little bit here? I'm kind of wonky with all of this and I'm a little goofy as well, but I want to share my life with you." If we continually go, "Well, okay. I'm going to have to keep learning because I'm a leader.", there's some beauty in that.

NYC MOVIE GURU: As comedians,  how challenging is it to avoid using profanity and resorting to gross-out, toilet humor to make people laughs?

TW: I remember an interview, one time, with Chris Rock. He was being interviewed by Al Sharpton. Al Sharpton looked at him and said, "You cuss too much!" Chris Rock's response was, "I'm not funny enough not to cuss. If you're funny enough to cuss,"--he started quoting other comedians who didn't cuss---"you'll be rich. But I'm not that funny." That low-hanging fruit is always so tempting because it's so easy. It's right there. Yeah, we'll take scatalogical humor all day long because it's funny. Being believers, I think that God made that stuff stink for a reason and it sounds funny. One of the many things that we've done for the past twenty plus years is make short films for the church. So, we have to think about the 8-year-old, the 6-year-old, and about the 80-year-old. So, what that has done is that it has forced us to work these muscles that go, "Dig out the humor and find the smart humor because the low-hanging fruit isn't going to work for the larger audience."

EJ: Family Camp is the first faith-based, family-friendly comedy. So, with that, I know that there's going to be critics and some crusty Christians who might go, "This humor is sacrilege. You shouldn't be saying this or doing this." We never make fun of God or make fun of any of those types of things, but we are making fun of ourselves and that's where we find humor. But it's twice as hard because the low-hanging fruit that we could be using we can't and we won't. My daughters are both teenagers. I've spent, probably, all of their junior high and teenage years watching a sitcom and I would say afterward, "What words did you hear on that show?" and she'd tell me what words she heard. I would say to her, "I'm so sorry. That's not great comedy." I know that they're on tv and have their own platform, but there's better humor. I really believe that.  we're leaders, so we have to learn to figure out how to mine that comedy. Chevy Chase said after the 20th anniversary of Christmas Vacation, "Every great comedy has at least twelve parts that you laughed at really hard." Not a chuckle, but you've laughed hard twelve times. We really believe this. The onus is on us in this genre of faith-based, family friendly comedy. Twelve don't cut it. It has to be twenty-four. It has to be thirty-two. We have to go so high up to make this work that twelve is just not good enough, so we take that stuff very seriously.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Eddie Sanders forgive himself for what he did to Tommy in Family Camp?

EJ: I think so, yeah. When you saw him at the tree and he says, "God doesn't make junk.", I think that, for his character, that was a self-declaration of something that he was trying to get through. He can say it. He can preach it. But it's one thing to really internally believe that he's enough, that he's not junk, and to get all of those critics out of his head that we all tend to live with. So, I do believe that at the end, because Tommy had Eddie's back, I think that that allowed Eddie Sanders to go, "Okay, I've been forgiven, so I can forgive and live out this friendship." If we ever got to do Family Camp 2, I think that we would see these characters evolve even more and maybe even flip-flop in some different ways and have some fun that way, too.

TW: I think that when you realize that you're accepted for who you are, it's easier to forgive yourself, so I'd like to think that Eddie's character would realize that he was accepted for who he was at the end.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that it's generally harder to find wisdom through comedy or comedy through wisdom?

TW: I think that it's harder to find humor in wisdom. So much of humor is rooted in truth that you see things in the humor. Whether it's a stand-up comedian, writer or actor, they're holding up a mirror to a degree. They're just audacious enough to point out what we all probably see, but we're not talking about. So, I think that it's easier to find wisdom in humor than it is to find humor in wisdom.

EJ: Yeah. You look at Will Rogers, back in the day. He was a humorist, but wisdom would come through that humor. Garrison Keller's witty, wisdom and humor is almost like a Shakespeare play. You start learning the vernacular and, before you know it, you're into it. I would say, as well as Tommy, that if you could make me laugh, I'll listen. We all will.

TW: Yeah.

EJ: That's science. It really is. If you could get someone to laugh, they'll listen to you. We believe that humor breaks down walls for truth to enter, and there's no audience more receptive to hearing something than when they've laughed really, really hard. If you watch Netflix now and watch comedians, have you noticed that they all have a message? They've all started adding a little message, a little sermonette, a little something that they want you to know. It's fascinating what they're doing with their media now and how they're inserting these little messages throughout the humor.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which movies do you think would pair well with Family Camp in a double feature?

EJ: I would harken to pair it with The Great Outdoors or Plains, Trains and Automobiles. Tommy is very Chevy Chase-like in his mannerisms and sarcasm. If you were to see our movie and they say, "You may like _____", those are some movies that you'd see.

TW: Yeah, I'm going to go with that. I think that that's a great answer.

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