MONTCLAIR, NJ - Heavy rain didn’t deter the audience from filling the Montclair Kimberley Academy Auditorium to capacity when actor, comedian, director, producer, and screenwriter Ben Stiller came to town this past Sunday for the Montclair Film Festival Storyteller Series.
In conversation with Stephen Colbert, Stiller talked about everything from pranks his sister played on him (something about cutting his hair and gluing it to a rock!) to how he only went to UCLA for 8 months (yet they claim him as a notable alumnus).
Of all he does, Stiller says he enjoys being a director most. Yes, even more than being in a band that started when he was a teenager. The long-defunct band whose album Roadkill was pressed back in the ’80s was rediscovered and recently reissued by Captured Tracks.
While it’s funny that its teen drummer Stiller went on to be famous in the entertainment world, that doesn’t even come close to how funny it is that Peter Swann, also in the band called Capital Punishment, went on to be a justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona.
“When he has to talk about his band Capital Punishment, people think he’s talking about his views” said Stiller who began describing the music as “post-punk sort of quasi-experimental sort of…” and then was interrupted by Colbert.
He started the band while at an Upper West Side private school which Colbert described as “the cradle of punk,” Stiller corrected, “we were sort of cradle adjacent.”
Roaring laughter came in waves throughout the interview. Stiller spoke quite a bit about his parents, the comedy couple Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. He described the show business scene in the 70’s in New York saying it was exciting to join his parents in some of their venues. Stiller retold how his parents did Neil Simon plays in Cape Cod and sometimes they would invite him and his sister “We would memorize the plays, my sister and I would do be doing scenes from “The Prisoner of Second Avenue”… it didn’t affect our psyches at all” he joked.
Colbert and Stiller discussed the process of writing, and editing and making comedy in a climate of political correctness. Stiller seemed to trust his instincts about when a joke will be funny, and from what he described, sometimes even past the point of having been proven wrong.
As kids, he and his sister made Super 8 films which he is still fascinated to watch. He said he is currently gathering footage and may try to make a documentary about his parents’ careers.
The interview went on for about an hour and a half leaving the audience well versed on Ben Stiller’s journey and with a wide smile on their faces from so much laughter.