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Starpulse Q&A With Kenny Vs. Spenny: Bigger Egos and Bigger Herpes

November 8th, 2007 3:33pm EST
Kenny Vs. Spenny Kenny Vs. Spenny just might be Canada's biggest exports since Rush and BTO, but this duo is taking care of business in moving pictures as opposed to in sound, competing not just for your entertainment but to document what executive-producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, have called, "The most accurate examination of male friendships that we've ever seen." Starpulse sat down with Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice to discuss their forthcoming Comedy Central debut, how their friendship has survived for so long, and the philosophical underpinnings of humiliation and cheating.

Did the move to Comedy Central mean a bigger budget and bigger competitions?
Kenny: Bigger egos and bigger herpes maybe.

Spenny: Bigger cars hopefully.

Kenny: A car would be nice. I don't even have a car yet. We actually produced those shows, so we got a little more money out.

Did you have to do research about American culture so you could make references to things that Americans would know about?
Kenny: Actually we don't really do references. Well, first of all we're Canadians, we're partially Americans with better educations. But yeah, we're into American culture. Our show is internal. We don't care much about anything else except for crushing each other. So that doesn't really affect us. Our show isn't around to make pop culture references. Our show is around to humiliate each other basically.

How do you think this will mesh with America's comedic sensibility?
Kenny: The show has been airing internationally for years. I think that what Spenny and I have maybe touched on is that our show is maybe a mico-cosim of the world and masculinity.

How do you think the two of you would fare in a competition against the other Kenny's and Spennys out there?
Kenny:I would totally crush them. You know, it's basically hard to find people with down syndrome in other countries, for Spenny's role.

Do you each oversee the audition process for your replacements?
Kenny:We were doing that more in the past, when working of foreign ads and such. How am I supposed to know what my Turkish Kenny is like? It's really a strange beast. It's like American Idol or Canadian Idol, they have a blueprint of the show and we'd just like it to be as real as possible. It's really up to the producers and broadcasters and if they f--k it up or not, we can't really control it.

I found it interesting that, Spenny, even though you're supposed to be taking the moral high ground, you still make Kenny do the humiliation at the end.
Spenny: Of course! That's the game that we play.

Kenny:That's just how much of a scum bag he is.

Spenny: No, that's just what we do. That's ridiculous. Of course that's what we do. The problem and the conundrum lies the way that he cheats. I don't know about it when it's happening, but when we put the show together in the end, I see it. When he cheats he loses. I don't care about the cheating humiliations.

Kenny:I don't cheat!

Spenny: Shut up.

Kenny:I'm just diabolical.

Spenny: If I seem good, it's only in comparison to him. I try and be good. I always try to be a decent human being. I'm certainly not going to try and act like him or be like him. I don't think that the show would work first off, second off I am who I am.

Kenny:Only one guy needs to be funny in the show.

Kenny Vs. Spenny

If you look close, it's a very philosophical show. Kenny seems to be an ethical egoist, but you Spenny, seem to be taking the Kantian approach, doing what's right because it's right.
Spenny: Well, I'm straight forward. I know what he's like, so I know when he cheats it's an honest representation of who he is. I've grown up with him, so I accept that, but I am not going to change. And the few times I have changed, it seemed to bite me on the ass and didn't work out for me. So I'm straight ahead. I'm going to go to my experts and do the competition to the best of my ability.

Kenny:That's not very well…

Spenny: No, I do it okay. And I have to deal with him, and that's what the show is. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a haunted house. The production guys, they all know the stuff he's going to do to me, and they can't tell me because they don't want me to know. I do it because I think it's an honest representation of our dysfunctional and odd relationship.

Which one of you do you think is more representative of the human condition in general?
Spenny: Probably me I would hope. There can't be that many candidates in the world. Aggressors, conmen, cheaters, whatever you want to call them. He likes to call himself an evil genius, which he is, I suppose. I see the human condition as an existentialist, essentially. I think that we're not in a whole lot of control of the things that happen within our lives, within reason, and I think that I'm in hell a little bit.

Kenny:I pray to God that Spenny is not a representation of mankind, and that I am. If you really look at the show, Spenny's character traits are pensive, paranoia, anger, antisocial, he doesn't basically like himself or enjoy himself too much. I'm a fun loving guy. I'm very likable, I'm very social, I let things roll off of my back. I love what I do. I'm happy. I'd rather like myself than not like myself. You can call it what you want, but I see myself as being way more likable than him. And when I cheat, I cheat because I really like destroying Spencer. I like that. My family likes watching it, my friends like watching it. There's a lot of shows that I don't cheat him and that I outsmart him in. I pray to God that the world is more like me than it is like him.

Spenny: I get a little uncomfortable when he tells me what I am. I like to know what I think of myself.

Kenny:You're neurotic.

Spenny: I have paranoia issues because of who I'm living with. I think that most people are neurotic and I don't know how you can function in this world without a bit of neurosis.

Kenny:You're prone to violence.

Spenny: You make me violent. I'm like the dog that you poke too many times. Yes, I'll fight back. He would love me to lay down and not defend myself so that he could just walk all over me. Well that's not the reality.

Kenny: I think that people originally vote for Spenny when they watch a couple of shows, but after that, I find that most people just want him to be crushed.

Spenny: These numbers are just things off the top of his head and what he reads in blogs. Real people have I've met and come into contact to on a daily basis are very supportive of me. They don't want to see me cheat. They want to see me beat Kenny fair and square. A lot of them don't like Kenny at all and think that he's a scumbag. So each of our fans are different and they each have a different perspective of the show.

Kenny: His fans are like the religious fundamentalists or like Al Qaeda or something like that.

Spenny: That's absurd!

Kenny: No, it's true! It may not be what you think but it's out there. You're a radical moralist. It's annoying.

Spenny: I'm not a moralist.

What's interesting, Kenny, is that the people who subscribe to your philosophy are also the some of the most successful people in the world, such as the heads of corporations.
Kenny: Yeah, Spenny thinks I'm Enron.

Spenny: I think that with cheating, and Enron is a classic example, a lot of people get really, really hurt. I think that bad behavior, cheating, whatever, eventually bubbles up into something that's wrong. You can call me whatever you want, a moralist or whatever. I don't think I'm that different from the average Joe out there who doesn't believe in cutting corners and doing their work, and doing what they say they're going to do and doing the best that they can. He's a scammer. And I understand what a scammer is and I deal with it. I think that would be an absolutely horrible thing for the world if everyone were like that. And maybe that is the world we're living in right now, and I don't think that's something to be proud of.

Do you know if your show is studied in philosophy classes or sociology classes?
Kenny: I think that Spencer's brain will be studied by numerous doctors after he's died.

Spenny: I don't know if it's studied, but people have looked into the philosophical underpinnings of what we do. We're not Jackass. Not to put them down. There are Jackass-ian aspects of what we do, but the shows are very eclectic. There are different themes, and there's always something interesting about them. One of our shows from season one is who can stand the longest. And of course Kenny rigged up some harness and it became literally a philosophical debate on what it means to stand. I love that kind of stuff. We did whose the most insane? We visited different kinds of psychologists and saw which one is more insane. Three's much more to our show than meets the eye. I'm afraid that they'll just go to the toilet side of things and promote us that way, but I think it's a lot more than that.

One problem that Jackass had was that there were a lot of imitators. Do you feel that you have a lot of imitators?
Spenny: Not yet.

Kenny: Well, there are on YouTube.

Spenny: Well, I think that fans are doing that. Like I said, we're a microcosm of the world and masculinity and the way things are on the planet. It's just the way things are. Like Trey [Parker] said, our show is the closest representation of a male relationship that they've ever seen. But I'll acknowledge that the show is pretty silly at its core. The competitions are pretty ridiculous. But that is our reality. We're competing on a TV show where it matters, where we're trying to make the other guy look bad, or at least make ourselves look good. So from our perspective, no matter how ridiculous the premise is, it's a very serious business. Now the audiences seem to love the show, so we have to take it seriously no matter how ridiculous the competition is.

Kenny: Spenny actually thinks that I make myself look bad, but I make myself look good. We both think that the other person is an idiot and we're documenting that.

Spenny: The truth is that some people will think that Kenny is an idiot and some will think that I'm an idiot, and that's part of the appeal of the show. They get behind one of us. They care about us. They've known us long enough, in Canada anyways. Our personalities are distinctive enough that people will gravitate towards one of us. And I think that some of them want to see Kenny crush me every week, but a lot of them, many females get mad at Kenny and want to see me and my victory. It's a good thing because I think that people just end up caring.

Kenny: It's a funny thing because we have a really large female audience, and we never really thought we ever would. But I guess it works with me being the good-looking bad boy and him being the wounded puppy they want to save. It's like divorced fathers with their sons, and the dad will get mad because the kid likes Spenny or the dad will get mad because the kid likes me. It's good; it's like the gladiator ring. We're Ernie and Bert 2000. Unintentionally, we're just a classic, Hollywood duo. Abbot and Costello, Dean and Jerry, a very updated version, obviously, and it's unintentional.

Really?
Kenny: Yeah, we're just playing ourselves and I hate it when people say it's fake. We shoot 30 hours, cut for twenty minutes, throw some cool music in there, like Bach or Mozart, put it together and find it extremely simple to do what we do. It sucks. The show is torture because every week we have to stay awake for a week, or find out how much weight we can gain in a week, or not use our arms. It sucks. We've written a show where we torture ourselves. I think the reason we do it is because at the end of the day, after all the shit we go through, we see the inherent value of the show, the piece of art, dare I say. It's something we're both very proud of. We've never seen something like this on television, and we're hoping that the US can promote it properly. We're certainly on the right broadcaster, and have behind us, so either this thing is going to take off or it's going to crash and burn, but we believe in the show.

What is it that has kept your friendship going all these years?
Kenny: I think that it's people, who Spenny thinks are sick. You're watching two best friends destroy their friendship for your entertainment. This has happened historically with bands, political leaders. It's the same thing. Here in Canada people are just shitting themselves about the show going to Comedy Central. They're like "Shouldn't you have gone there from day one?" No, I'm glad we're at a point where it's so much meaner and darker and more abrasive that we've been doing this for years. I keep trying to top myself, saying Spenny's tired of it, he's fed up, and I think that travels through the screen because it's real. So I'm very happy that we're going there right now when things are so f--king crazy. The show is way more f--ked up than it ever has been before.

Spenny: The other thing is that our fathers were very close friends, so we've known each other since we were both little kids, so it feels almost more like family than friends. So he's like the brother I never wanted. I'm probably like ideal for him because I grew up as an only child, so I have no defense mechanisms, I have no brother torturing me or pranking me growing up, so I'm a perfect target for him, a perfect foil for him. It's a weird kind of circumstances that have evolved and we learn to take advantages of it. We just really try to do the best, most honest show we can.

Who's winning over all?
Kenny:Well, I'll let Spenny say something and then I'll defend myself.

First of all, there are different ways of looking at the show. If you look at the show and whoever does the humiliation is the loser, Kenny is pretty far ahead. But, if you take the shows he's cheated in, now he's outsmarted me a few times and I have no problem with that, but he sometimes cheats, like in the octopus competition. We saw who could wear an octopus on his head the longest, and he took it off! He lost that competition, and I didn't know that until later. He rigged something up to make it look like he was wearing it, but I didn't know that until later, but to me he lost. And if that's the way we're playing it, then we're very close or I may be winning.

Kenny:No, no, even with that, I'm still winning.

Spenny: No, because we'll then argue about what ones you were cheating on.

Kenny:'m still ahead, check it out. To me whoever does the humiliation is the loser. And I revel in the episodes where I make Spenny think that he's lost when actually, he's won. That's a very hard tactic for me to pull off.

Spenny: And my conundrum is that if that's what he's going to do, I don't want to trick him into thinking that he's lost. That's not who I am or what I'm going to do. So I take my loss, his cheating is done on camera, it's documented so some people will find it wrong, some won't care, and some people will find it hilarious. But I'm not going to fundamentally change who I am to make myself look better or win more competitions. I'm very proud of my participation in the show. Frustrated, yes; psychologically damaged, possibly. But at the end of the day, I look at the end of the show and the honesty and truthfulness and I'm okay with it.

Kenny:And we're not changing the show for Comedy Central. We've been canceled so many times it would have been ridiculous. So we do what we do and we would never ever change it. Management knows that from the beginning. They don't f--k with us. In fact they help us because they're fans.

If you weren't able to do the show on television, would you take it to the internet?
Kenny: We've been doing the show our entire lives off camera. I see it as a cinema verite documentary style. Spenny and I, we're film guys. We've done film festivals all over the world; we've done documentaries. We're pretty accomplished independent filmmakers in Canada. We treat each show as a sort of mini film. That's why the music is important and the opening titles are like The Seventh Samurai, High Noon, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Dr. Strangelove, Triumph of the Will. These are our favorite movies that we've put into the title of our show.

Spenny: I think your question is would we be doing this on the Internet, and to tell you, I don't know. But I do think that it's better that pieces of it do end up on the Internet. But the money that comes into the show lets us do more ornate competitions whereas if it were just an Internet show, we couldn't. I think I'd do the show only for the Internet. I think that's where my fans are and that's where it all ends up anyway. Except for the first season, which was a kids show on CBC. I've always catered this show for online viewers. I think that we are a new generation of content that links television with online digital media. I think that we probably have more links online than we do on television.

Since you've been competing since the very first day that you've met as children, over the course of your entire lives, who would you say is winning more?
Kenny:I am.

Spenny: He's going to say he is, but who keeps track? We must have played a million games of nine ball, we've played hockey a thousand billion times, but who know?

Kenny:One of our first competitions was with our dads in the health club sauna. We wanted to see who could stay in the sauna the longest, so I stood up and pissed on the rocks. He ran out a second later.

Spenny: You don't know what it smelt like. The burning urine on the rocks.

Kenny:Well, is that was it is? Is that cheating? He lost.

Spenny: I think that's clever. But I think that's cheating because it really robs us of knowing who can handle the heat most. And that there in lies the conundrum. I mean people would actually like to see him piss on the rocks but it doesn't tell you anything about who can sit there the longest and who can take the heat.

Since you've know each other since you were children, if you were in a situation where one of you was being bullied, would you come to the other's defense?
Spenny: Yeah, I will kick the shit out of Kenny, and vice a versa, but if anyone tries to hurt him and I was there I would defend him.

Kenny:If Spenny was getting the shit kicked out of him, I would just tell the guy that that's enough, because I was the one who hired him.

As a team, what sort of things have you done in terms of taking on the world?
Spenny: Honestly, we're like one of the one per centers. We have a TV show. Most of our comradery is us fighting to keep our shit ours and to stay on the air and fighting the red taped bureaucracy to stay on television. It's us pulling together and fighting the powers that be to let us show what we want to show. So there's so much comradery in us fighting to have a show and to keep it, and to let us do our shit.

Kenny:We don't just phone it in. We actually give a shit and we care. If you look at the other formats of our show, you can see the difference. You can see where they really care, or if they just come in and do their shit. And they just totally suck.

Spenny: Not our show, but other format shows. We really care. We see the inherent comedic value, the potential economic value, and we own the show as well. We we're into it.

Kenny:I think it's like with South Park, we have a carte blanche, we're allowed to do in Canada what no one else can do. Like here I'm slipping Spenny LSD on TV. We're doing who can drink the most beer, and you can't even drink beer on TV in Canada and we're doing these shows. We did a show where I sent him a letter from the Ministry of Health saying he was in contact with someone who was in contact with someone who has contracted the HIV virus. I think that like South Park, we're breaking barriers, and trend setting, content wise. Our show is very moralistic. When we did, who do the gay guys like more, it's very self-defeating for us. It's the gay guy who has been given power. We're the idiots. We don't make fun of people. When we did the show of who do old ladies like more, and I hired a kid with downs syndrome to pretend that he was my little brother for the sympathy vote, I would never ever call the kid a retard. We actually became friends and brothers on the show, and no matter what I do or what we do, we maintain diplomacy and likeability. There is no censorship or anything. I think the reason that they let us do the beer episode is that it's like an intervention. You watch that show and you want to stop drinking beer. You watch who the gay guys like more, and we bash our stoner Dorito munching fans for being homophobic. We're not homophobic. I mean Spenny made out with a gay guy and I pretended I was gay.

Spenny: I kissed him, we didn't really make out.

Kenny:I think that's a spoiler. Well, actually that's not a spoiler, but I think they're showing that show in the US. We're not Jackass. Those guys like doing that shit. We f--king hate it. People say our show is there to humiliate each other. That's not it. Our show is here to not be humiliated. It's not to humiliate the other guy; it's to not be humiliated on national television.

Are you sometimes surprised with the groups aligning themselves with either of you?
Spenny: No, I think it makes perfect sense. I think the kinds of people who support me are the-

Kenny:NAMBLA, Neo-nazis!

Spenny: Sensitive people, people who read books. People who are intelligent and don't like unethical behavior.

Kenny: People who have been in car accidents.

Spenny: People who like Kenny are bong smoking-

Kenny:Not true!

Spenny: I have a much broader audience.

Kenny:It's surprising, really. You may be surprised on who you vote for. But we are Ying and Yang. We are totally different in every single way. I think our friendship is maintained because we're family; we're not ever friends.

So what are some things you would not be willing to do on the show?
Spenny: I personally, this season, had to do a competition that was against my ethical framework or background. It was who could commit the most crimes. I really should have just said no to that. I thought of saying no to it, and thought maybe this can be a good show, and it did turn out to be a good show. I am not comfortable with that. I like what he said. I don't mind when we victimize each other, but I don't like taking it out into the world. It's not what I'm about.

Kenny:We're not Tom Green. We mess with each other; we don't mess with anyone else.

I thought it was interesting in the beer episode, that you thought it would be interesting to eat your own puke instead of the puke of the other.
Kenny:Yeah.

Spenny: I would rather eat my own puke, but that's another example of where he loses. He made the rule, first one to puke loses, now I was passed out cold, and he threw up. He lost that competition, but I did the humiliation. Some people don't care, and they think like him. They think that as long as I'm humiliated that's all that matters. That's not how I think. In the win column, that's a check under Spenny.

Kenny:I'm such a good guy that I intentionally vomited, otherwise Spenny would have died because of alcohol poisoning.

Spenny: That is a sin.

Kenny:Because of my puke, I thought it was a good organic way or reasoning. Those Jackass, Tom Green moments, I'll only do that if it's organic to the competition. I don't intentionally pull out my schnitzel just to be funny.

Spenny: By the way, when you said the leaders of the corporations and the communities are more like Kenny, do you think that's a good thing?


Not necessarily, but not all leaders are like that.
Spenny: I agree, but the ones who are, it's not a good thing.

Kenny: In a sense we protect you.

Spenny: Gordon Gecko? Not a good thing.

Kenny: Who would you want as the general of your army, me or Spencer?

Spenny: I would rather have Kenny fighting Al Qaeda than me. But it's apples and oranges here. Our competitions and the military are slightly different.

Kenny: It's like Hitler, peace in our time. Right Spencer?

Spenny: No, I feel like I'm Chamberlain.

Kenny: He'd come back with a peace treaty from Hitler.

When did you make the transition from close friends to family?
Spenny: Anybody you've know that long starts to feel like family. You know anybody for that long and it's more like family. I'd say we were closer friends in high school, because we had a lot of time to hang out.

Kenny: Our dads are buried next to each other in the same cemetery, and that's the f--king truth. And every single time my dad would see Spencer he would hug him. And I was very close friends with Spencer's dad and you have to understand we grew up in a small town Toronto. And before the CN Tower came here this place was a small town. We've really f--king known each other forever. Which I think is incredibly unique. We're not playing characters, we don't have a script, we're not acting. I think it's one of the first times in history that a real relationship is actually being documented. I'm trying to figure out who else…

Spenny: Tom Green and Glenn Humplik. I don't know who else.

Kenny: They met in high school, they're not childhood friends. I think our show is pretty different and I pray to God American audiences find it. Because we're just filmmakers and we want people to just see our show and laugh. It's very hard not to do the show and not to out do ourselves and not destroy each other when so may people are running up to us in Canada wanting us to win. It's pretty cool.

Spenny: They all say the same thing. We're the funniest show, they've never laughed so hard in their life. They piss their pants, and that's what makes us feel good. That's the name of the game.

Kenny: It might be a really good time for us in the States. There's no comedy duos, your entire country was built on comedy duos. And I haven't really been watching American television, but there isn't really anything that's super new out there. Aside from South Park, which keeps f--king rocking, people are watching old episodes of Family Guy. I think we're just at the right place at the right time.

Do you guys plan to collaborate on projects outside of Kenny vs. Spenny, like another documentary?
Kenny: We both do our own shit. Spenny makes movies and I make movies. It's a biz, and we could crash and burn at any time. We've got to kind of keep coals on the fire. Right now we're just finishing the season and we just want to see what happens.

Since you've known each other for so long, how many times do you think you've saved each others' life?
Kenny: I saved his life in Amsterdam once, when he tried to walk in front of a train…

Spenny: I don't think I've ever saved his life. I've tried to kill him a few times.

Kenny: I think if it wasn't for me, he would be off giving blowjobs one the corner of Hollywood and Vine, and those pimps are pretty violent.

Spenny: I don't hold that view. I think we learn different things from each other at different times. He lost his Blackberry, as a joke, and I went to help him get it back but he was there.

And how did you try to kill Kenny?
Spenny: I'm being sarcastic. If you watch this season, I attacked him physically. I'm not going to kill him, but I want to hurt him sometimes. Especially when I've been drinking.

How much time apart do you spend?
Kenny: At the end of every season, we hate each other. It's hard for us to spend time together. We're both very competitive and when Spenny sees some of the shows he gets so mad. It's the first time ever where he has a separate apartment that he goes to after the show because when we sit down and edit, and then he realizes…

Spenny: Yeah but then he'd pee on my bed at different times throughout the show. It's not fun living in that house when we're working. Like I said it's like a haunted house to me. It's like some shit is going to happen to me at any time, so I needed my own space at weekends.

Kenny: Well, it's like when we did the show who could be tied to a goat the longest. The whole house was infested with fleas and feces and urine was everywhere. It stunk! And I had to leave the house too while we had industrial cleaning services come and clean the house out. But the we had to go back to work the next week.

Spenny: We did the octopus show, and a year or two later, the house still smells like fish!

Kenny: It's not a fish.

Are you going to have burial plots right next to each other just like your fathers did?
Kenny: Well, I've sold my soul to Satan, so I should be around for about 300 years.

Spenny: I don't know. We haven't thought about it. I can afford that plot right now, but I don't think Kenny could afford it. I may buy him one out of kindness.

Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer


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