You are watching: I wanna dip my balls in it
As a lifelong fan of MTV’s mid-90s sketch comedy show The State, I decided I would try to interview all 11 cast members. While my project wasn’t a total success, I was able to interview nine members of The State over the course of the next year. When I spoke to Ken Marino, whose recent successes include appearances in HBO’s Eastbound & Down, Netflix’s reboot of Wet Hot American Summer, the Goosebumps movie, and several other exciting upcoming films, he was easy to talk to and hilarious. Diggers, which he wrote and acted in, had just been released, and he was working on Role Models and The Ten with David Wain. It was an interesting time in his career and I am grateful I had the chance to capture some of his memories of The State. Thank you Ken, for giving me a morale boost when I was desperate for one and for sharing some gems from your early years in comedy.
“Louie was our rebellious attempt at saying, ‘Screw you, we don’t want to do recurring characters, so we’re going to give you one that can’t go anywhere.’”
Gino: Once it was recorded, The State’s album Comedy for Gracious Living sat on a shelf for 14 years before being released. What was it like making that record?
Ken Marino: It’s not our most brilliant work. It’s got some funny things on it though. Warner Brothers paid for us to go to the Bahamas and record it. They didn’t actually pay us to go there. They just paid us, and we took the little bit of money we had and were like, “Instead of just spending this money on beer at the Barrow Street Ale House in Manhattan or our rent, let’s go down to the Bahamas and record it.” So we did. We were in the Bahamas for two weeks but we didn’t make any money on the album. (Laughs)
“We took the little bit of money we had and were like, ‘Instead of just spending this money on beer at the Barrow Street Ale House in Manhattan or our rent, let’s go down to the Bahamas and record it.’”
Gino: Well, at least you got to go to the Bahamas for two weeks.
Ken Marino: It was awesome, we had a good time. I don’t know if it helped the album. We were half drunk most of the time. I think it’s the skit with Joe and Showalter where you can actually hear the ice in the glass while they’re trying to go through the skit. Very professional.
Gino: I have to ask you where the Louie character came from. That’s one of the most famous skits from The State.
Ken Marino: Louie came from MTV wanting us to have recurring characters. We didn’t want to do that at first, so Louie was our rebellious attempt at saying, “Screw you, we don’t want to do recurring characters, so we’re going to give you one that can’t go anywhere.” The story behind Louie’s catch phrase is pretty funny. It involves two seemingly unrelated things. David Wain used to stick his hands down his pants a lot, and there was a big jar of peanut butter that John Stewart left at my desk that I would eat. One day, David came over and opened the peanut butter, took his hands out of his pants, and stuck his fingers in my peanut butter and started eating it. I was like, “Dave, why don’t you just dip your balls in it.” I was a little upset. I think I screamed that at him.
We started saying, “I want to dip my balls in it.” So we thought, “Ah, how about that for a catch phrase for our unusable recurring character.” We were going to do a recurring character that never recurred. But it kind of backfired, because MTV said, “Yeah, we love that guy, bring him back.” So we had to write more sketches for Louie, who was kind of a dead end character. But we actually wound up coming up with some creative stuff for him. I think “Louie and The Last Supper” is the best one. If MTV didn’t ask us to bring it back, that wouldn’t have been a repeat character.
“I was like, ‘Dave, why don’t you just dip your balls in it.’ I was a little upset. I think I screamed that at him.”
Gino: That’s a great back story.
Ken Marino: Yeah, we really didn’t want to do recurring characters. For some reason we thought, “That’s too much like SNL. We don’t want to just do recurring characters. We want to do situational stuff. Blah blah blah.” But then of course we ended up doing recurring characters, and we liked them.
Gino: That’s funny, when I interviewed Kevin Allison, he said the same thing about the kind of humor you were going for.
Ken Marino: Yeah, and we stuck to that. But we found that we could do a recurring character here and there. Once we started writing stuff, we realized if you used a good recurring character, you had a better chance of getting your stuff on the show. If you brought back a character that was well liked, chances are you’d have more screen time. That added to the friendly competitiveness within the group. We would always bargain with each other like, “Alright, I’ll give you this part if you give me that part in your script.”
“What’s wonderful about The State is we didn’t break up because we hated each other. We just broke up because we weren’t making any money and everyone had to go find a paycheck somewhere.”
Gino: For such a big entity that broke up so long ago, it’s amazing that everyone from The State is still friends and continues to work on projects together. Did you ever worry that the relationships with the other members would fizzle out?
Ken Marino: No. I didn’t worry about my personal relationship fizzling out because we made an effort to keep in touch and they were all friends of mine. And professionally…because they were my friends, we stayed in touch, and they were all talented. I knew we would continue to collaborate on things. Half of the group lives in L.A. and half of the group lives in NYC, so it’s not the easiest thing to get the whole group together. But I don’t doubt that we will continue to work together in smaller groups if not as a whole for the rest of our careers.
We have a bond and a respect for each other as performers. There is a trust within the group. I know I can call up anyone in the group and know what I’m going to get. For me, I would invite them into anything that I’m working on and I think the feeling is mutual. What’s wonderful about The State is we didn’t break up because we hated each other. We just broke up because we weren’t making any money and everyone had to go find a paycheck somewhere. But we’re all very good friends, and that hasn’t changed.
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I am a director of academic support/special education teacher who loves to write about books, movies, music, records, and samplers. I also love interviewing people about these things. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and recommending it on allisonbrookephotography.com.