On The Road: FOUR LIONS Tour Part 2 – San Francisco

The first two days of the tour were easy. Hanging out in LA is no big deal, even when it’s tiring, and at the end of the night I went home to my own bed and my own girlfriend and my own cats. But even now, just a handful of days into the tour (I write this on my second night in Washington DC), it feels like a long, long time ago. I have to comb through my own Tweets in order to reconstruct the events of the first trip on the tour, the day we flew to San Francisco.

The first two days of the tour were easy. Hanging out in LA is no big deal, even when it’s tiring, and at the end of the night I went home to my own bed and my own girlfriend and my own cats. But even now, just a handful of days into the tour (I write this on my second night in Washington DC), it feels like a long, long time ago. I have to comb through my own Tweets in order to reconstruct the events of the first trip on the tour, the day we flew to San Francisco.

It’s a quick flight, and we arrived in damp San Francisco not long after leaving lovely LA. But we weren’t just lugging our own belongings; Tim had brought along two impossibly huge (you could have fit a full sized human, laying straight, inside them) duffel bags, jammed to the gills with Four Lions t-shirts. You would be surprised just how heavy t-shirts can be, and dragging the bags from the car to the check in, and then from baggage claim to the cab, and from the cab to the hotel was a pain not quite in the ass but in the balls, where you might get a pretty nice hernia.

We had arrived in San Francisco on a day unlike any other - it was the second Giants World Series home game. Our cab driver helpfully drove us past AT&T Field, where we could see the throngs of people gathering to see the Giants spank the Rangers in just a few hours. It was actually much less crowded and hectic than I would have thought, especially as game time was just two hours away.

Sports wasn’t really our thing, though. Conversation in the cab turned to comedy, and Chris ended up going off on a long and hilarious rant about a certain popular British comic. It started as an innocent mention from Tim and turned into a tirade that went on for quite some time; our cabbie sat up front silently absorbing it all. When we got to the hotel he leaned over and said to me, ‘You guys are into comedy? I just saw a great comedy movie last night - you should check it out.’ I suddenly thought this was going to be serendipity and he was going to tell me he had seen Four Lions (perhaps from a torrent). ‘What’s the movie?’ I asked, excited.

He smiled at me, like he was about to blow my mind completely with this bit of information, like he was about to impart transcendent knowledge. ‘Deuce Bigalow,’ he told me.

San Francisco is a city bristling with boutique hotels, and ours was yet another one of them. Called Hotel Vertigo, it was fairly new place, and it took its name quite seriously. The lobby was plastered with posters for Hitchcock’s classic, and the movie itself played in an endless loop behind the front desk. They were showing the new DVD, and it was weird to come into the lobby at one point and just see the Restoration credits rolling, and then the disc go to the main menu. You would think they would have set up an A-B loop, or maybe even just clipped the best and most iconic moments. Can you imagine doing a shift at the front desk of the Hotel Vertigo and having that classic film play out four times in a row, every single day you worked there? Jesus.

There wasn’t much time to muck about at Hotel Vertigo. The impossibly unwieldy bags were lugged upstairs, and we retired to our rooms to refresh ourselves. Chris, the talent, had his own room, but Tim and I were sharing one. It actually turned out that only one of the rooms was available, but we couldn’t wait - Chris was due at a press day. So we quickly piled into another cab and went to the offices of Allied Publicity.

Here I found myself faced with a fact that left me baffled and confused - they had no wifi in the office. Am I the only person who has come to take plentiful wifi as pretty much a fact of life? The office building itself offered a cornucopia of connections, but each was hidden behind a cursed password. To make matters worse the cell reception in the building was spotty, so even my Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go stick (a life saver in other situations, and a delight because there’s no monthly fee) was of little help.

Chris sat in the conference room doing interviews while Tim and I hung out in the main bullpen of the office. Allied Pub’s space was small and very warm, but the staff was nice. I shared a desk with an intern who ended up wearing gold Mickey Mouse ears while she Facebook stalked some guy. When Chris emerged from the conference room he found the ears to be especially baffling.

The next stop was a quick return to the hotel, but we would soon move on to our San Francisco screening. We jogged over to the Lumiere Theater, where a very good crowd had turned out. As Chris gave his intro, which talks about some of the more absurd moments in terrorist history, something very interesting happened. Chris brought up Mohammed Atta, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, and a man in the middle of the theater coughed ‘Bullshit!’ I got very excited - we had been waiting for a crazy person to emerge at one of the screenings, and it looked like we might have found our man.

While the film played Tim and Chris and I made our way to the karaoke bar next door. Anyone who knows Tim knows what a cliche move this is; Tim loves karaoke so much that he installed karaoke rooms in the bar/bowling alley he owns, The Highball. No film festival is complete until Tim has organized a big, sloppy, drunken karaoke night. But singing was not (yet) in our future; this was the World Series, after all, and the few people in the bar were staring at the game on TV, totally rapt.

One of the highlights of going on a tour like this seems to be the time spent just hanging out, especially when you’re just hanging out with someone as blazingly funny as Chris Morris. At the beginning of the tour I was quite terrified; Morris isn’t just very funny, he’s incredibly smart, and I had heard tales that he did not suffer fools. I had images of myself being roundly humiliated and browbeaten with precise comic genius, but it turns out that Tim, Chris and I made a very well-tuned trio. Just a day into the trip things were going swimmingly, and we bellied up to the bar (Maker’s Mark for Tim, Sierra Nevada and a Jager shot for me, juice for Chris - since he was trying to keep his mind agile for the ‘Bullshit!’ cougher in the Q&A), talking comedy.

‘Who’s the greatest stand up?’ Chris asked. Tim offered Bill Hicks, and Chris thought the answer was Richard Pryor. The darkness inherent in Pryor’s comedy - the pain from which the comedian came, the hellish world in which he grew up (see JoJo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling) - is what impressed Chris. The idea that Pryor was using comedy to talk about something very, very unpleasant (an idea inherent in Chris’ work over the years) was what really appealed to him. For me the answer was Eddie Murphy, the man who had followed Pryor’s trail and really upped the ante when it comes to performance. I love young Eddie Murphy in a punk rock way - he’s a kid, with a kid’s energy and the natural talent of a born performer. It turns out that Chris wasn’t particularly familiar with the stand up work of Eddie Murphy; Chris also left the bar with my recommendation that he check out Louis CK.

At the Q&A there was some disappointment - the ‘Bullshit!’ cougher didn’t speak up. But the rest of the Q&A was actually quite great, and Chris was surprised to see people come up to him with DVD copies of Brass Eye and The Day Today. He also ended up cornered by a guy who at first we thought might be the ‘Bullshit!‘er - a slightly squirrelly fellow who began asking about intelligence services ‘planting weeds in their own garden.’ It turned out that his theories would later be repeated to us, very modified, by a former CIA case officer over dinner in Washington.

After the movie we hit Darbar, a local place for Pakistani food, which was pretty delicious. Tim had over ordered for the table at Animal, so this time we took it much more easy, and it ended up being just enough. If you end up at Darbar, check out the vegetarian samosas (the waiter assured us they were ‘the best you will have ever had today,’ which in fact they were, if only because we had no other samosas that day) and the chicken tikka. I’ve found too many Indian restaurants dial down the spice, so that you have to ask for something to be spiciest just to get a kick; Darbar’s medium spicy is pretty amazing.

It was only Thursday night, but Halloween had already begun. After dinner we wandered down the street looking for a beer, and we saw that most people on the street had already enjoyed quite a few beers. There was a jam up on the street because some guy was drunkenly arguing with a cab driver, and the car of Jersey Shore-esque douchebags trapped behind him was shouting ‘Faggot!’ The cabbie ended up speeding off, leaving the drunk guy furious; before running after the car of ‘Faggot’ callers, he threw a bottle of water in anger. I just happened to be at the end of the water bottle’s arc.

By this point we were all fairly exhausted. A beer down the gullet, Tim, Chris and I said goodbye to the folks who had been keeping us company and stumbled home. Collapsing into bed, Tim was out like a light in moments, all the better to ignore my strenuous and prolific snoring. I had warned him that I also sometimes have night terrors (they’re pretty funny, to be honest), but that night everyone slept soundly, if not long enough. Early in the morning we were off to Seattle.

The score so far: four screenings, a small number of beers, no karaoke

Next: Wearing flannel in Seattle, cooking a wolf, meeting one of the stars of Four Lions, and great coffee.