So what’s it like kissing James Franco?
“Pretty awesome,” according to Kyle Mooney, who did so on a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit.
“The fun thing about that was he wanted to save the kiss for the live moment,” Mooney says. “Every rehearsal we would get as close as possible and he would say, ‘Nope, we have to wait.’ So I hope that you get to see the passion on screen; we were both living the experience in the moment.”
Dave McCary, who directed both the movie and the sketch, confirms.
Mooney and McCary have worked together for years. Their latest project, the endearing “Brigsby Bear,” opens Friday, Aug. 4 at the Angelika Mosaic in Virginia and the Landmark Theatre E Street Cinema in Washington. The movie is about a sheltered young man named James whose world is suddenly turned upside down. His only connection to his old life are the VHS tapes of a low-budget children’s show that was made just for him. With his new friends, James decides to make a movie about Brigsby’s new adventures.
The two men have been best friends since fourth grade. There was initially some tension in the relationship, but as Mooney says, that quickly resolved itself.
“We were rival clowns in the fifth grade,” Mooney says. “Then at some point in middle school, he sacrificed the spotlight to me and decided he wanted to be behind the camera.”
Co-screenwriter Kevin Costello briefly joined their little band when he transferred to their school in seventh grade. The military brat was soon sent to yet another school, but when Mooney pitched him the script in 2013, Costello leapt at the chance to work with his childhood friends again.
In the meantime, McCary and Mooney formed the Internet comedy sketch troupe Good Neighbors with Beck Bennett and Nick Rutherford, both of whom appear in “Brigsby Bear.” Their viral success brought them to the attention of the producers of “Saturday Night Live” and all four men now work on the show in various capacities.
One of the hallmarks of their comedy has been their comfort dealing with gay characters. As their delightful sketch “Is My Roommate Gay?” illustrates, the humor rises from an understanding of human foibles rather than relying on stereotypes.
While both McCary and Mooney identify as straight, Mooney says their ease in dealing with gay characters comes with an acceptance of their own identities.
“We’re comfortable with who we are,” he says.
“We are both very accepting people,” McCary says. “We don’t think that sexual orientation is something to be made fun of, but embraced. With comedy, you never want to call anything off limits. It’s a territory that some comedians are less comfortable going after because of the risk of making people think that they’re not as accepting. We’ll always be interested in telling stories that embrace people’s differences.”
While “Brigsby Bear” does not include any explicitly gay characters, McCary says accepting others is an important theme of the movie. “James, the main character, is very different,” he says. “The movie is about embracing an outsider.”
“Brigsby Bear” premiered with significant acclaim in January at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The first-time feature filmmakers approached the Festival with some trepidation.
“The process was intimidating,” Mooney says. “There wasn’t much time between the shooting of the film and the submission to Sundance. We wrapped in late August and it was due in November. … Watching the movies on the massive Eccles Theatre, which seats 1,500 people, was surreal. We sat next to each other and were scared and nervous and experiencing the same things that James goes through in the movie when his film premieres.”
Before they return to SNL in the fall, Mooney and McCary are crisscrossing the country promoting their new film. Mooney is both exhausted and energized.
“Right now, it’s like, ‘Let’s make sure some people see the movie. because if people go see the movie then we would likely get the opportunity to do this again.’ This is something I would like to do forever. I would love to have the opportunity to tell more stories.”