Brow Beat

The Two Jasons

Bim and Nichole discuss the charms of Jasons Mantzoukas and Sudeikis.

Jason Mantzoukas and Jason Sudeikis
Jason Mantzoukas and Jason Sudeikis.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images and Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images.

Jasons Mantzoukas and Sudeikis are two of the funniest men in comedy today. They are also, according to the hosts of Thirst Aid Kit, the ones most worth your time. On a recent episode, Bim and Nichole talk about one Jason’s “rough-and-ready charms” and the other’s raspy-voiced swarthiness. This excerpt has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Bim Adewunmi: I want to start with Sudeikis.

Nichole Perkins: Yes, yes. All right. I’m sure I saw him before Saturday Night Live, but I think it is the red tracksuit from the “What’s Up With That?” sketch set that really—I’m looking at him dancing, and again, the bar is pretty low for white men to be on beat.

But he was on beat.

Adewunmi: He was on beat. But there’s something about his energy on SNL. There’s something about him that you think, Me and you would have a really fun time. I think he’s the kind of person to take you on an adventure date. He’d be: “Why don’t you just make sure you have your passport and grab a coat, put on a hat?” You’d be: “I guess.” And then it would be the best date of your life. He would take you on some ridiculous whatever. “What are you doing?” “Well, we’re going apple-picking, then we’re going to go to blah blah blah, then we’re going to fly a rocket to the moon.” And you’re: “All right, Jason, I guess.” He has that energy of someone who is—I use this word very, very sparingly, but I believe it in his case—impish.

Perkins: Yes, yes. And it gets right to the edge of frat boy.

Adewunmi: Yes. Which is the region we do not travel to because there be monsters.

Perkins: Right, but right there. And then he turns into the grown man.

Adewunmi: Yes.

Perkins: It’s something there. And I always knew from that damn red tracksuit that he was working with something and not just on a physical—his attributes—but his ability to read your body.

Adewunmi: Yes. I think he’s the kind of person who is taking mental notes the whole time.

Perkins: And that’s what works with his comedy and his ability to improv and move the scene because he will let other people be super ridiculous—the one that’s all the Kramer energy, whatever. And he is not necessarily the straight person, but he is the one that’s like, “I’m going to keep it calm.”

Adewunmi: Even-keeled.

Perkins: Yes. Yes. But that calm even-keelness is funny as hell and will have you on the floor.

Adewunmi: Right.

Perkins: I just love him. I love that he brings these levels to his comedy and he knows how to respond and react to other people in whatever he’s doing.

Adewunmi: Let’s talk about his face. My favorite bit is what he does with his eyes and what he does with his mouth.

Perkins: I’m thinking of all the examples because I don’t want to say he’s subtle because obviously he’s doing things that you can notice, but it’s just such strong finishing work.

Adewunmi: It’s interior work. That’s what the subtlety is. He’s thinking through his character. He’s thinking through the comedy he wants to deliver, and then you see it. He expresses the thoughts so clearly you’re: “I have no doubt what your intention is for this bit of comedy.” He does so much of the work inside, but his face is incredibly mobile. He does a thing where he kind of twists his mouth. He does wry very, very well. He has quite a wry face to begin with. Almost like: “Listen, I know what I look like. I know that I’m average, whatever.” And then he gives you more.

Perkins: And he’s not given those teenage boy roles.

Adewunmi: No, because that’s not his face. He’s a man. I feel like he was a man when he was 7. He has the face of a man who has had that face for literally decades. So, again, that keen understanding of “what I can do and what I can do well.” He plays befuddled really well, which is why he plays an excellent Joe Biden on SNL. This man who’s kind of got too many limbs and he’s kind of flailing a little bit and it’s just a little bit useless. But he’s charming. He’s got rough-and-ready charms.

Perkins: Right, and then he started doing movies, and it took a while for him to get to the point where he was the leading man in a movie.

Adewunmi: For sure. He played lots of best friends. Lots of friends.

Perkins: I think those best friend roles were a way for him to build up his filmography, build up his career, so that once he did get to leading man status, he had earned it. But I think Jason Sudeikis took his time, learned what he needed to learn, and just went from there.

Adewunmi: And so it gave him time. Whether it was by his design or by casting directors or whatever, I’m glad of it because I do think, like you said, it allowed him to feel his way, figure out what he wanted to do. And of course he’s done a lot of comedy, but I also like that because of that, he’s also kind of edged out a little bit. He’s kind of expanded his palette as well. He’s painting with all the colors of the wind.

Perkins: Jason Mantzoukas. This wild-haired, wild-eyed, wild-bearded—

Adewunmi: I feel like he’s wild everywhere all the time.

Perkins: Same, same. You know what, actually I think that he is probably quite calm in his real life.

Adewunmi: You do?

Perkins: Like at home, I feel like he’s quite calm and just knows when to turn it on.

Adewunmi: I see. I see what you mean. He reserves the wild for performance. But in reality he’s a sweetheart.

Perkins: Yeah.

Adewunmi: He has like a little voice.

Perkins: Yeah. I think he knows that that shit would get on somebody’s nerves. You know? If he was doing the Rafi character all the time from The League. If he was doing Adrian Pimento from Brooklyn Nine-Nine all the time. Those characters are wild, and we appreciate them on the shows, but I’m sure in real life they’re just like, “Dude, calm down.”

Adewunmi: Right, right, right, right.

Perkins: “Do we need to put you in like an NA situation? Like, what’s going on?”

Adewunmi: Listen, I love Jason Mantzoukas so much. If you go search my name on Twitter and you search with Jason, it’s me just admitting very quietly to myself how much I fancy Jason Mantzoukas. I can’t stress enough how deep my affection/thirst for him goes. I just know that if I were to spend some time with him, I would end up doing that creepy thing of staring into his eyes and hoping he’d say, “Hey, let’s run away together.” Because that’s what I want so deeply. There’s a tweet from 2017, which is not the first time I tweeted about him, but you know, it is what it is. I was clearly in the middle of something. I’d been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it was an episode with his character, Adrian Pimento, who is a returning cop who has been undercover, deep undercover, and it’s kind of addled his mind a little bit.

Perkins: [laughs] I’m sorry. It just tickles me just to think of him.

Adewunmi: It’s great. He’s so great. There’s a bit where they talk about him flashing back, and he often breaks into uncontrolled screaming, which they guess is a side effect of whatever the fuck he’s seen out in the field being deep undercover. There’s a great scene of him playing hopscotch with some neighborhood kids in Brooklyn. He’s hopping in the little squares, and he’s screaming the whole time. His eyes are wide, his hair is big, and he’s jumping and hopping, and he’s like [screams] the whole time. So I tweeted about this in October 2017, and I just said, “I just remembered jason mantzoukas screaming and started laughing again before whispering to myself mid-laugh, ‘god, i fancy him so much.’ ” And that is the encapsulation of my feelings about Jason Mantzoukas. I just love him, man.

Perkins: What’s interesting about Mantzoukas is he has said that he is “100 percent Greek, but I look like I could be Indian or Middle Eastern or Hispanic. If it’s ethnic, they’ll try and put me in it.” And when I first saw him, he was playing a Latino character named Rafi on the show called The League on FX, which was about this men’s fantasy football league. And he was the brother of Nick Kroll’s character’s wife. He was so strange.

Adewunmi: Super strange. Super strange.

Perkins: Just weird and wild. So I want to play this quick clip from The League where he is confronting Paul Scheer’s character about a team, and he passes him a knife so that they can fight about how to rule this team.

Adewunmi: He’s so odd.

Perkins: To deescalate that situation with just a “Merry Christmas.” And he just went with it. He was just like, “Thank you, oh, my God.”

Adewunmi: It’s so, so funny! I never really watched The League. I’ve only ever seen clips here and there. But I remember there was one clip I saw where somebody described him as a homeless, ethnic Santa Claus.

Perkins: Yes.

Adewunmi: And you saying that he plays multiple nationalities, different ethnicities, whatever race. On the one hand, I’m like, ehhh. On the other, though, I’m like, such is the malleability of your complexion, sir, and your hair and your whole situation. He fits any number of nationalities. He’s played Italian. He’s played Greek. He’s played Cuban, I think. He’s played any vaguely swarthy gentleman. It’s like: “Hey, is Mantzoukas free? All right, get him in there.” He’s so, so funny.

So I want to talk about the things that make him so ethnically ambiguous.

Perkins: OK.

Adewunmi: So I’ve said this before: I enjoy a beard. And his, when it grows big, it’s just—I’m sorry to be so basic, but it grows big. Like it’s wiry, and it looks like it has really good tensile strength. You know, it looks like a blanket. It feels like it’s something that you want to just mmmm … nuzzle. And I am sorry to have made that sound on the air.

Perkins: Yes.

Adewunmi: It’s just nice. It’s easy. It’s got a nice texture. And then he often has longish hair, so he lets his curls go.

Perkins: Right, right. Which I like a lot.

Adewunmi: He has a strong head of, what I would say, 2C curls. He’s not using Miss Jessie’s but close.

Perkins: You know, maybe a little Mixed Chicks.

Adewunmi: Little Mixed Chicks, some KeraCare. You know? Keep that shit moisturized.

Perkins: Carol’s Daughter.

Adewunmi: Carol’s fucking Daughter. That’s Jason’s drug of choice for his hair. Right? But he kind of has this look about him that yes, he often plays wild and whatever, but every so often he gets given a pair of glasses and a suit and it tones him down from, like you said, Muppets’ Animal, all the way to just like regular, swarthy, handsome guy.

Perkins: Right, yeah. You’re a human being.

Adewunmi: You’re a human being! You’re not this dynamo. You’re not someone who’s got a windup toy, like, “All right, now wear yourself out.” When he’s playing straight, it’s actually really, really good. And part of the reason why it’s so good is that he has this voice on him.

Perkins: It is so distinctive. You will never not know it’s him.

Adewunmi: Right. No one else has a voice like him. You hear that, and if you’re in another room, you’re like, that’s Jason Mantzoukas.

Perkins: Yeah. It’s a little raspy.

Adewunmi: Very.

Perkins: And he knows how to pitch it high and then pitch it low.

Adewunmi: Yes. I wonder about the state of his vocal cords because he’s often putting them in a big old workout when he’s doing the kind of high energy, low energy, high energy. I’m like, go and check that there aren’t any nodes on your vocal cords. He’s doing a lot of work there. But I think there’s something very attractive about somebody who, again, is kind of wild and unfettered. And then they take it down several notches and you’re like “Oh, still just as attractive.” I’m on board with that.

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