Listening Station

Classic PAIN: What RZA Learned From Funny People 10 Years Ago

Austin L. Ray

Judd Apatow’s Funny People did indeed include a bunch of funny people. Adam Sandler. Seth Rogen. Jonah Hill. Jason Schwartzman. Andy Dick. Sarah Silverman. Aziz Ansari. Dave Attell. The list was pretty thick. Oh, and it also included RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.

While perhaps not usually known for his comedic chops, the man born Robert F. Diggs is no stranger to film. He’s appeared in American Gangster, Coffee and Cigarettes and Ghost Dog, amongst others, but never has he worked so extensively in humor. “It was challenging in one essence, because I’m not from the comedy world,” Diggs says. “These guys are seriously funny.” Here are six things RZA learned on set:

Seth Rogen is not a rapper:
It was like a freestyle battle and he won, because we were doing comedy. If Judd said try it again, we’d try it again and Seth would change the joke. I felt compelled to change my line to keep up with his freshness, but I wasn’t able to. There were a couple times I got stuck and said the same joke two or three jokes. If he was rapping, I would have had him all day.

The importance of being courteous:
It was a unique experience. I’ll be taking what they showed me, [like showing] courtesy to every person on the set. I learn this each time, but this movie consolidated it. Everybody, down to the guy who picks you up in the morning to drive you to the set, plays an important part in the production. My respect for what they do helps make a better film. The fans never see that; all they see is the results. The guy that picks me up at 6 a.m. had to get up at 4 a.m. He doesn’t leave until I leave. If I have a 10-hour day, he has a 14-hour day.

Adam Sandler is cool:
Touring around the world, I have a fan base, but in Hollywood, I’m new. A lot of these people, I’m fans of theirs. I’ve seen Waterboy and movies like that. Getting a chance to share a moment with a guy like that is kinda cool. Adam was a charismatic kid.

Stay on point:
One lady came up to me [in the movie] and I had to give her some turkey. But I didn’t know [the actress] was a comedian. I thought she was an extra, but they hire comedians for all these spots. This lady tore me up! I actually felt like a guy behind the counter being chastised by a customer. She definitely threw me off beat.

Judd Apatow owns:
He had total control over the set, and it was like spontaneous combustion. We were doing [scenes] and Judd was yelling out jokes, which shows his comedic power. He’d be like, “Say this! Say that!” I knew he was doing it to me, but he was doing it to the other actors too. In comedy, you can do that. It’s something I’ll utilize if I ever become a director.

Stand-up comedy is awesome:
My funniest moment was in a night-club scene. Adam and Seth and Aziz had to do actual comedy sets. Those are some of the funniest moments because the jokes were actually stand-up jokes. The cast and the crew had a chance to see an actual performance. I wasn’t prepare for that. That was a treat for me.