For the past two decades, comedian Thomas Lennon has spent more time on screen in short shorts than he could have ever imagined.
In this bonus episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Lennon returns to talk about his latest performance as Lieutenant Jim Dangle in the new holiday film Reno 911!: It’s a Wonderful Heist. He explains why he thinks the show’s characters keep getting funnier as they age, shares the story of how he found out Steven Spielberg was a fan, and looks back at the earliest days of his influential sketch group The State and the original creator of Reno 911!
Lennon previously appeared as a guest on The Last Laugh alongside his Reno 911! co-creators Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver in May 2020, when they were just about to reboot the series on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s short-lived mobile video platform Quibi.
When I ask him how that all worked out, he smiles and replies, “I think you saw how Quibi worked out.” He suspected something might be wrong when the service sent him a “signing gift” that was just a jar of loose candy. “I’m talking about just like loose Red Hots and Jujubes, Chuckles, the off-brand stuff.”
But there was one positive outcome of the whole experience. “Apparently Steven Spielberg was watching,” Lennon says, explaining that the director sent a very nice note to his longtime producing partner Katzenberg that got forwarded to the creators about how much he loved an episode titled “TT’s Auntie’s Funeral” that was shot in one long take as an homage to Sam Mendes’ 1917.
“Obviously when you saw the movie 1917, you were like, Reno 911! is going to spoof this,” Lennon jokes. They subsequently reached out to Spielberg about making an appearance on the show and “immediately” heard back that he “never does stuff like that ever, ever, don’t even think about it.”
Since the Quibi debacle, there was a Reno 911! season on Roku and a QAnon-inspired movie on Paramount+. Now they’ve come full circle with the show’s latest iteration, Reno 911!: It’s a Wonderful Heist, airing on Comedy Central, where it all began in 2003.
“The great thing about Reno 911! is there was no real big idea in the first one, so it can really run forever,” Lennon says, saying he never imagined he’d still be playing the flamboyant leader of the Reno Sheriff’s Department two decades later.
And while the cast have all grown into middle age, their characters have stayed exactly the same. “They’re still just a bunch of horny weirdos doing whippets in the cop car,” Lennon says. “And I would absolutely do it forever.”
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