|Jordan Rousseau, aka Aculag, first appeared on the FXhome scene two years ago and has gradually built up a reputation as a purveyor of off-beat comedy sketches that have accumulated something of a cult following.|
Under the banner of Dennis & Ronnie Films, Jordan's shorts show him honing his specific mix of dialogue, acting and storytelling, becoming more confident with each movie. From hold-ups to alien invasions and werewolves, it would seem that the Dennis & Ronnie team is willing to try anything, filling each story with their trademark deadpan delivery and heightened realism.
Of course, all humour is subjective and can never cater for all audiences. Working within a niche guarantees a loyal fanbase but also means that many people simple won't 'get it', due to differing tastes. Then again, not everyone likes Adam Sandler, some don't find Dr Strangelove funny and there are even a couple of people who enjoyed Scary Movie 2.
But enough of the analysis. Let's get down to the questions you've all been waiting for...
Dennis & Ronnie Films. Unless I'm missing something, your name is not Dennis, nor is it Ronnie.
When I was in high school, I took a trip to California, and went to a thrift store, not intending to buy anything. I found these orange workshirts, probably five of them. They were from some waste disposal company in Washington or something. They all had different names on them but me and my best friend at the time wore the ones that said Dennis and Ronnie. His was Dennis, mine was Ronnie. We wore them every Friday at school, and eventually started handing out "business cards" for Dennis & Ronnie's Plumbing Service. Eventually, everything was Dennis & Ronnie something, so it kinda stuck...
There seems to be a core team of Jordan, Josiah and Janson. How did you meet and start making movies together?
We met in high school. I'm two years older than them, but they've stuck with me more than the friends my age have. We started making movies together when I was a senior. Me and another friend believed that no-one took us seriously as actors in high school, so we wanted to make a film that would re-inforce their beliefs that we had no talent.
So, after the winter play one night, we were sitting in a Village Inn (some cheap, all night diner type thing) and came up with the most geniusly horrid movie idea ever. We would take The Ten Commandments, and completely mock it, with corny dialogue, bad acting, and bad camera work. Our original idea was epic (aren't they all?) but it turned out to not have half the stuff we had planned originally. It was called "The Chariot Race!" and was based around Moses losing a chariot race with the Pharoah's son, Rameses. After which, Moses is confronted by a burning bush, that tells him to set the Jews free. So he goes to the Pharoah's temple and, after being denied, puts a spell on the Pharaoh so that a constant stream of water will fall on him. This annoys the Pharaoh, so Moses runs from the Romans, parts the Red Sea and the Israelites escape unscathed. But moments later, a meteorite hits, killing them all.
I still say it's one of the funniest things we've made, due to it's sheer stupidity.
Is there a larger relevance to you all having names that begin with J?
No. It's a coincidence.
There's an evident noirish twang to your dialogue and filming style. What are your influences?
As for my dialogue, I think mostly it's from my dislike for movies with campy dialogue (although that can sometimes be funny) or dialogue that's far too smart for it's own good - ie. Kevin Smith.
Charlie Kaufman has made the biggest impact on me. The man's a true genius in his field, and his dialogue is so sharp, and so intelligent, and so witty. All without losing realism. I think I draw a lot of inspiration from him.
Filming-wise? Definitely inspired by Wes Anderson, Orson Welles, and P.T. Anderson. These men really know how to take something ordinary, and make it beautiful.
You tend to use a very specific kind of humour. It's almost as if the punchline is kept deliberately vague - where did that style come from?
The humour is definitely inspired by classic comedy like Flying Circus and Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em. I really like high brow, dry comedy. One of my favourite comedy films is Gosford Park, and no-one likes that movie it seems. And if they do, they don't think of it as being funny.
Definitely more British comedy than American. British stuff has such an air of elegance to it, while most american comedy is "fart", "omg lol".
The Low, Down Of It is a different style to the rest. How did it come about?
I wanted to write a detective movie after watching Double Indemnity, but I wanted it to be much sillier. So I sat down one night and wrote about Sam Spade.
He gets a case and after he asks Mary if she'll go out drinking with him, things get uncomfortable. So (using an idea I thought of long before this), at the end, they're standing there, sipping their drinks, and a countdown timer appears at the bottom of the screen. When it gets to zero, Mary pulls a brick from nowhere and bashes Sam's face with it. Cut to credits.
I thought it was fantastic, but after some thinking I decided I wanted it to seem more serious. It really worked on paper much better than the final version does, because it was not rehearsed at all, and Janson (Sam) hadn't studied his part at all, so he kinda put on a Peter Falk persona and went with it.
It is not considered a comedy by most people who watch it. There's some hilarious stuff in there though! It is very different from our other stuff, because we tried to make it different. But we also failed in our original intent, which was to make a devilishly sly comedy. Perhaps it worked, but I tend to think not.
Is the carefully balanced acting style due to your directing, the dialogue or choices on the part of the actors?
I think it's a mix of those, really. I'm not going to take all the credit, obviously, and I think a lot of the credit belongs to our high school drama teacher, because we went to one of the best drama high schools in Colorado, and we learned well. I think it's important for a director to have a firm grasp on acting, so he knows how to get into his actors' heads and get them going.
What are you all up to now, and what plans do you have for the future?
Janson attends Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He is a Drama major, and wants to act for a living. He's got a good shot at it, I'd say.
Josiah rooms with me, here in Burbank, California. He works at a sandwich shop. He eventually wants to move to England and help with his dad's overseas business, but eventually, he'd also like to end up in movies somehow.
As for me, I'm a slacker in Burbank. But at the end of the month, I'm moving (with Josiah) back to Monument, Colorado, where I will end up going to school for a bit in Boulder.
What have we got to look forward to from Dennis & Ronnie?
Over this summer, I'm sure we'll be pumping out at least a couple of shorts, since we'll be re-united with some old friends, who are also creative folks. And, if all goes according to plan, in December we're going to shoot our first feature film, called 'Aculag!', which is a tenative title, but I've had the script for a while, and it's where my username comes from. It'll be quite an undertaking, but I already have the whole thing cast and have chosen locations and such. Wish us luck!
To wrap up, we thought we'd get Aculag to spill the beans on the obscure secrets of Dennis & Ronnie's back catalogue.
Click here to read his earth-shattering answers!