Whether you’re a person who likes to procrastinate by falling into some serious YouTube holes, or someone who’s never missed an episode of Saturday Night Live, or a human who consumes media of any kind, chances are you’ve stumbled across the work of Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary.
Friends since they were ten years old, Mooney and McCary have basically been creating content together ever since they first met. From music collaboration, to roller-coaster design (nothing professional, mind you), and eventually to their sketch group Good Neighbor, they built a code of communication that made them ideal creative partners. Their distinct oddball style slowly gained momentum over the years as they continued to pour out videos online, leading them to eventually join the big leagues of SNL, Mooney as a member and McCary as a segment director. And now, with their first feature Brigsby Bear set to hit theaters July 28th, there is absolutely little wonder why these guys were able to make such a heartfelt comedy on the first go.
“I think we’ve been fortunate to be embraced so much by our friends and family throughout the course of our aspiring filmmaker journey,” McCary explains. “Our voice has always been a little off and not totally accessible to wide audiences, but we’ve felt so much love from people in support of us going after our more bizarre characters or ideas… I think that kind of feeling we’ve felt throughout our lives really comes across in the movie.”
And Brigsby Bear is certainly brimming with those themes of acceptance of otherness. To hear the premise of the movie is a clue into how hard selling the movie to investors was, precisely because of the slightly off-kilter nature to it. It goes a little like this:
Mooney plays James, a 30-something guy who’s living what he thinks is a normal life. Isolated to a bunker-like home in the middle of the desert with his parents Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), James spends his time watching his favorite TV show called Brigsby Bear, an extremely lo-fi children’s show full of life lessons in wild VHS quality. This was all he needed in life, he thought, until the FBI rolls up and arrests his “parents” for kidnapping James from his real home when he was a baby, in addition to a number of other fraudulent crimes. Now James must face reality, his biological family, and a world where Brigsby Bear doesn’t exist because it was a just show his fake dad created just for him.
What you get from this awkward, Hollywood-unfriendly premise is a story that is surprisingly gentle, good-hearted, and unsurprisingly hilarious. James goes on to connect with his new environment, not despite his obsession with this show only he has watched, but because of it. Determined to give the Brigsby Bear an end that it deserves, he plots to finish it himself. All he has to do is convince his friends and family that that’s not a complete waste of time. Luckily for him, he has some pretty great friends and family (comprised of a great cast, including Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Claire Danes, and Michaela Watkins)
Mooney and co-writer Kevin Costello, who is also a long-time childhood friend of his and McCary’s, were very precise in their efforts to create a comedy that achieves this kind of sincerity in their silly, fictional world rather than simply looking to milk laughs-per-minute, which is often what SNL aims for. That can be a tough balance to strike for a lot of people, but for these friends the process was simple.
“I really loved meticulously trying new things out to make the bear face look even more lovable but more odd, like with Chuck-E-Cheese mechanics. That was a really special part of the process, because it didn’t’ feel stressful. Putting our brains in the headspace of Ted, Mark Hamill’s character, we don’t want it to feel too tongue-and-cheek, because Ted’s not trying to make James laugh, he just wants to take him on these adventures and to learn from it. So the more comedic you get, or the funnier looking things are, that could do the story a disservice and be dishonest, so we were constantly aware of that.” McCary says.
Mooney adds, “The experience that James goes on is already kind of naturally funny. It’s an experience we all share, like going to a party where you don’t know any body. It is weird and awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t need to add anything else on top of that. This script had a lot of that. With this character, with him experiencing the world around him, there’s going to be inherent comedy so we don’t need to poke fun.”
That inherent comedy Mooney is talking about manifests into something unsurprisingly improvisational and offhand. And then add on the fact that it is dripping in nostalgia, Brigsby Bear takes the foundational sense of camp and uses it to push the story forward, without the help of live-audience applause. For Mooney, tapping into the nostalgic side of things was actually an easy task because it was and still is a fixation for him.
“I’m kind of an obsessive person generally and I will deeply invest myself into something that interests me,” Mooney admits. “As a child I was into He-Man and Star Wars and ThunderCats and stuff like that. And Saved By the Bell. These are things I still go back to… I’ll be at my apartment in New York City and have a couple glasses of wine and all of the sudden put on a Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers video tape or something like that. It’s all important to me because it does something to my brain. It brings some level of comfort.”
McCary on the other hand is glad Mooney spent countless hours sifting through bins of old VHS tapes, looking for the chance bits of creative gold in the folds, and has a theory as to how his best friend came up with the general premise of Brigsby Bear.
“I think the root of it even happening was that when he was watching all these videos to find those funny unintentional moments, the solitude of watching what no one else in the world was watching, I think that was what seeped into his subconscious, that these are videos made just for him and no one else. But that’s just my romantic take on how that all happened,” McCary shrugs.
So, yes, Mooney may have been alone when he thought up the odd world of Brigsby Bear, but rest assured, he certainly made the movie for all of us to enjoy together.
BRIGSBY BEAR hits theaters in LA and NY on Friday! To purchase tickets and for additional theater locations visit, here!