No one said that my recent interview with David Koechner, former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and Champ Kind in the "Anchorman" movies, was going to involve alcohol. Not that I should have been too surprised: The designated meet-up spot for discussion that follows was McGee's, a bar in Midtown Manhattan that, of all things, inspired McLaren's on “How I Met Your Mother.”
Upon arrival at McGee's, I asked the hostess if it would be possible to get a private table in the upstairs portion of the establishment -– more so that I could record the conversation without background noise than anything else. When she asked who the interview would be with, I asked if she had seen "Anchorman."
“Yes!” she answered. “Who is coming?” she asked with an excitement in her eyes that screamed Is it Will Ferrell?!
“He plays Champ Kind,” I said. “You know, the sportscaster?” She did not.
“Whammy!” I yelled, trying to mimic Champ Kind’s familiar catchphrase. This made the situation a little worse, but fortunately Koechner was just about to walk into the bar.
“Oh my god!” she screamed at the sight of the 51-year-old Missouri native. “You are so much taller in person," she said to Koechner, obviously familiar with him despite the earlier confusion. Also, she's right, he is tall.
“I get that a lot," Koechner said. "People also tell me I don't look as fat in real life."
We were given the private table upstairs. When our server arrived, Koechner ordered a Goose Island beer. I stopped myself from doing a Ron Burgundy "When in Rome!" impression when I considered how lame that would appear, and instead just quietly said, "Me, too." Over the course of the next hour, we each had three. For the sake of clarity, this interview will be divided into three categories, each one representing a pint of beer.
Does that happen a lot, people don’t know you by name but they instantly recognize you?
It’s interesting that even after saying Champ Kind they weren’t quite sure. You certainly can say “Koechner,” and you’ll get a dull-eyed look. With “Anchorman,” I guess, if it’s not Will Ferrell or one of the other two ... who cares? Do you know what I mean? Do I get it? Maybe? Recognized? Yeah, it's happening more and more. Obviously with all of the promotion for this picture ...
You have a famous face.
I have. They've been saying it for about eight years, "It's that guy!" But, I work. I'm fine.
Since the original "Anchorman," Steve Carell and Paul Rudd have become...
I was worried Champ might not get his due screen time in "Anchorman 2," but that's not the case.
I love that you were worried for me.
Well, I did want to see Champ.
Not that you're not doing well professionally.
It's a great balance and you serve the movie.
Were you worried before you read the script?
Well, you're hopeful, but I also know we improvise a lot and that director Adam McKay is very fair. He's one of the brightest guys I know, and they know that you can't short anybody. People are in love with the old movie and you have to give them some of that here.
The years have not been kind to Champ.
No, Champ is a mess. Champ's been nearly homeless. Yeah, he was sleeping in a tent for awhile. I say this about Champ: He cannot evolve. He doesn't know how. He won't have children, I don't think. So that will be the end of that line. It's the end of the Kinds.
Champ has been known to say some things that are racist. How do you make sure that what he's saying comes across as satire?
But if the point is satire, it's fine. You have to make it bolder. As long as it's in the channel of satire and we're not comfortable with racism -- we're uncomfortable with racism in that scene -- I hope that's what comes across and shows less evolved white people think this way or other racists think this way about African-Americans. That's the point of that scene and I hope we played it to that point.
The first time I saw the original "Anchorman" I thought it was OK. I saw it a second time and loved it.
That's a typical reaction.
It's so complex.
I think the second one might be the same way.
Yes. Well, it's going to be different because everybody is already tuned. Everyone wasn't tuned before. The first film is actually a satire of chauvinism and the arrogance of white American males. You don't market that. You don't say that's what it is. It's parading as a big, dumb, broad, goofy comedy.
Especially with the scene that takes place during the last 20 minutes, was there a feeling that you had to up the ante?
Yep. Without a doubt. The first time, the fight scene was one day of shooting. The second time it was five days.
Were all the celebrities who show up for that scene there at the same time?
Yes. We have a really good picture of all of the people that were there on that one particular day. A pretty amazing picture.
Koechner: [Singing to the theme of "Duke of Earl"] Goose goose goose, Goose Is-land land land ... I want to make note, I'm usually the one banging on the table; when you're listening to this again, you are the one banging on the table.
I do that sometimes when I've had a beer and I think I have an interesting point.
Maybe it's a Missouri thing. I do that, too, for emphasis. [Ed. note: Mike Ryan is originally from Missouri.]
On your one year on "SNL," during the '95-'96 season, you got in trouble for making it known that you thought too many game-show sketches were being done....
"SNL" for a lot of people is the echelon ...
I had my ticket punched.
Was it hard to not come back?
It hurt like fuck. Oh my God. It took a long time. Imagine, I got my ticket punched. I was in the big leagues. Now he's going to send me down to Single-A ball?
Baseball might not be a good reference because in baseball you can still make it back to the Major Leagues. Once Lorne decides ...
Lorne didn't kick me off. It was Don Ohlmeyer. And I was told that ["SNL" producer] Gary Considine didn't like me. That's what I was told. I've since seen Gary Considine in public and he's been very friendly to me. This is gossip; this is what I've been told. This is what I know: everyone gets fired. Don Ohlmeyer lost his job. Everyone loses a job in show business at some point. I lost a big one. It hurt like fuck. Guess what, I met my wife six months later and that's the way it was supposed to be. Lorne wanted to keep me.
It wasn't like you weren't getting airtime that season.
I have enough to make a "Best of" -- and I might bootleg one. I was told Don Ohlmeyer didn't like The Fops. He's the same guy who fired Norm Macdonald. So, it's a character issue for him as far as I'm concerned. I never met the man. I don't even know if he's still alive.
He's still alive.
Is he? OK. I have not heard great things attributed to him and he and I can sit down for a beer anytime he wants to and he can explain to me what his decisions are. But, maybe, here's a man who thought he was doing the best thing for the show. Is that what he thought? Or did he have a personal grudge of, "I don't like that guy"?
That was a weird time period because it feels like the only year Lorne hasn't had full power over "SNL."
That was the first time he had had competition in late night. It was the first year of "Mad TV" and "Howard Stern." So, NBC West Coast had power. So, they let me go, they let Nancy Walls go and they wanted to get rid of Mark McKinney. Lorne could cover one pawn, and he and Mark McKinney had a long-standing relationship.
From "Kids on the Hall."
From "Kids in the Hall" and his wife had just had a baby. Look, it hurt like hell and probably could have had a different career trajectory -- but, maybe not. There are many people who had a longer tenure on that show who would probably be happy to have what I have.
Did Will or Adam call you to be in the first "Anchorman"?
Oh, no, I auditioned. Everyone auditioned. Steve auditioned, Paul auditioned, Will auditioned.
Wait, Will Ferrell auditioned?
Put it out there as gossip. "Koechner says Will auditioned for 'Anchorman 1.'" Please print it.
In this gossip story, who did Will beat out?
Jason Robards. I don't think Will would have had the career he has had if Robards had prevailed. He beat out Jason Robards and Jack Lemmon.
Was Dabney Coleman in the running?
Coleman should have had it. In my opinion, Dabney Coleman would have made a better Ron Burgundy.
I think that's my headline.
If you run that, it will make Ferrell and McKay very happy. People will keep bringing it up. I love Dabney Coleman.
Me, too. "Cloak & Dagger."
I've always loved him.
And he had the mustache already.
He's one of my comic influences. Honestly. He's not only doing comedy, he's also playing the scene. I'd say he was precursor to Kenny Powers: he didn't have to be "good" or "nice."
You like doing horror movies.
I like working.
I feel especially after "Anchorman 2" comes out you can be a little choosey.
Are you suggesting I could be more choosey?
I didn't love "Piranha 3DD"
Why would you?
Because the first "Piranha 3D" was at least self aware. The tone was wrong in the second.
Dude, I'm with you ... I can only control what I do. My child self would go, "Why are you doing those things?" My adult self says, "Because I have to." I have a wife and five kids ... I'll be doing this until I'm dead. I'll work forever.
I don't want you to die.
No, I'm not going to die. I'm going to live forever. I'm not going to die. This won't be the last beer we share.
And I hope it's not the last time you pick up the check.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.