“Tacoma FD” is ablaze. The TruTV sitcom, set in a Washington state fire station, is cable’s most watched new comedy series among ages 18 to 34.
That should spark plenty of interest in an appearance Sunday at Cedar Cultural Center featuring behind-the-scenes clips and stand-up by two of the show’s creators and stars, Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. The two are founding members of Broken Lizard, the comedy troupe best known for the “Super Troopers” movies. They spoke by phone last week.
Q: What inspired you do a comedy about firefighters?
Heffernan: After we had finished “Super Troopers 2” we had these mustaches, so we were wondering what we could do with them and stay in uniform.
Lemme: In terms of preparation, all we really need is a mustache. That’s how we get into character. Robert De Niro would be proud.
Heffernan: My cousin, who has been a firefighter for 25 years, said after watching “Super Troopers” that cops are funny but that firefighters are really funny. And we realized nobody else was doing it. TV is just a bunch of hourlong dramas with good-looking guys crying.
Q: What exactly makes firefighters ripe for satire?
Lemme: They’re adrenaline junkies. You get those kind of people under one roof and crazy things are going to happen. They’re on call for 24 hours and they’re trying to fill a lot of downtime by pranking each other. And when they do go out on calls, it’s not all fires. These days, they have to go on inane rescue missions to get people unstuck from something or get something unstuck from a person. When we pitched the show, we promised they’d battle one fire a season. That happens in the season finale (May 30) at a weed dispensary.
Q: What kind of money did you have for that scene?
Heffernan: We’re pretty low-budget. When we were shooting it, the wildfires were going on around Los Angeles and here we were with our little gas bar with three flames.
Lemme: We had a real L.A. firefighter on set for safety reasons while a thousand of his colleagues were off fighting a real fire and we’re complaining about a little heat and how badly we needed water. He must have thought we were the biggest sissies in the world, which we are.
Q: What do you learn from your live performances that you can use for your TV and film projects?
Heffernan: Until you connect with the audience, you don’t really know what works and what doesn’t work. In the opening scene of “Super Troopers,” these stoners get pulled over by cops and messed with. We weren’t sure it was going to be funny until we tested it. It played bigger than we thought it would.
Lemme: But then are times you think you’ve got huge jokes that don’t land at all. When we’re doing these two-man shows, we’ll have disagreements about a bit on the plane, in the hotel room and backstage, where one guy thinks it’s going to be huge and the other guy doesn’t. Then you go out there and it’s just crickets. The winner will get a little spark in his eye and the other will give a little acknowledgment that he’s the loser.