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Thomas Lennon is not in the business of glamorising cops

Anyone with a basic knowledge of entertainment would recognise Thomas Lennon’s face. Be it as Joey’s hand twin in Friends or as the star of cop comedy Reno 911!, it’s a safe assumption that if Lennon’s involved, you can expect a certain level of quality. With the Emmy-nominated legend himself taking a chance on short-form platform Quibi for the newest season of Reno 911!, we caught up him to talk what gave him faith in the format, the controversy of glamorising the police and what else we can expect.

What was it about Quibi that gave you faith that it was the platform for Reno 911!?

So, we did 88 episodes on regular TV before Quibi. And personally, for my taste, the new eight minute ones are just better, because there’s no filler in them. There’s just no boring stuff. We just cut out all the boring parts of nothing happening. And then we’re left with a show that’s just short and intense and hilarious.

Your comedy is considered controversial. Does anyone, business-wise, ever tell you that you might be going too far?

We definitely push it all the time. There was a two-part episode this year called, ‘Let’s Shoot an Unarmed White Guy.’ Just because we as deputies, we had never done it before. Of course this happened before all these events. Lieutenant Dangle sits in the front seat of his car and is like, “Who wants to do whippits?” Whippits is when you do nitrous. It’s what we call it here. We’ve always been super irresponsible people that probably should not be cops, which weirdly is fairly timely for what’s going on today. But, curiously, at least from Quibi we’ve never been given a note of like, “Don’t do that.” And even if they did give me a note of like, “Don’t do that,” I don’t think I would listen to it and I would probably do it anyway. And while we do a lot of super inappropriate stuff on the show, and there’s weird sexual stuff, and there’s weird drug stuff, and there’s tons of violence and brutality, weirdly the show is… Maybe I’m completely delusional, but I feel like Reno 911! is like a very sort of joyous, upbeat show. It happens to deal with brutal things, but I think that we approach it as a pretty upbeat, diverse group of people.

Police shows have copped a lot of flack this year, especially from the Black Lives Matter movement. Was that something that came out in discussing the show?

Yeah. I mean, there’s a couple things, which is one, because our show is really written mostly by the cast as it’s going, we’ve somehow just escaped that for the most part. And the other thing is, during this year everybody’s been like, “Oh, these shows that glamorise cops. You glamorise cops and everybody’s glamorising cops.” And if we’ve ever done anything, it’s the exact opposite of that, I think. And here’s what’s super weird about it, is that police officers talk to me and they’re like, “Oh, Reno 911! is the only accurate show about police officers.” And I don’t think it’s because we’re inept and messing up everything we do. But I think that’s a part of it. That they realised… I don’t think on Reno 911!, we’re a hundred and twenty episodes in, we’ve never cracked any case ever, to my knowledge. I mean, we’ve done terrible things. And there was a whole season where our deputies went to jail. But no, we’ve never really cracked a case. We never made it look cool. I think we just kind of humanised it, where people realise like, “Oh, these people, if they worked at the coffee shop, they’d be bad at that. But since they happened to be heavily armed and work at the police station, they’re also bad at that.”

People always say, “Thomas Lennon has been in everything.” Aside from Reno 911!, what are the other projects that you’re really proud of?

There’s a lot of stuff I’m proud of, but the weird ones are the ones that I get recognised for the most. One is being Joey’s hand twin on Friends. They just sing “This hand is your hand, this hand is my hand.” Which still comes up weirdly more than I would expect. A lot of people love to say to me, “You’re a whore, Peter,” which is my famous line from I Love You, Man. It’s funny because until the Emmy, the only awards I’ve been nominated for are what they have in the States called a “Razzie”, where it means you were in a movie that was so bad that it gets a Razzie nomination. So, I’ve got a couple Razzie nominations. But then in I Love You, Man, me and Paul Rudd got nominated for a Best Kiss award for MTV.

That’s beautiful.

Thank you. We lost to Twilight.

It is what it is.

And then those are the biggest ones. Every once in a while somebody realizes that I was Batman’s doctor in The Dark Knight Rises. Most people don’t even notice that, but yeah.

“But, to me, music’s everything and the comedy is like a fun thing to do in between listening to music.”

You were also in How I Met Your Mother. Were you a fan of it before you went on the show?

I’m Klaus. Ich bin Klaus on How I Met Your Mother. Oh my God, yeah. I mean, what an amazing show. And then I got such a cool job where I got to play Ashley Williams’ fiance. It’s so funny, because Ashley Williams has played my fiance, and my wife, and then I also played Kim Williams’ husband. So I played the husband of both Williams sisters on different occasions. But that show was amazing. Do you remember those episodes as Klaus?

I do remember.

Because I speak some German. It’s not great, but I can get by. But they wrote these insane words for me to say in German that were like, “Lebenslangerschicksalsschatzand”. And on the page, I was like, “Oh my God.” And they were all fake. And I was like, “I don’t know how I’m going to remember these.”

Oh they were fake words?

They were all fake. Well, they were inspired by really long German words, but they were all kind of made up by the writers. So they were just like… Some of them had like 30 letters in them.

In terms of what’s next for you, what’s on the bucket list? I know the pandemic obviously is creating some restrictions.

Of late, other than writing some movie stuff and doing the show, I also write novels. So I’ve written a bunch of children’s novels called Ronan Boyle, the Ronan Boyle series. It’s about a detective in like the leprechaun police in Ireland. And that’s been fun. So let’s see, I got the Emmy nomination, MTV the Best Kiss award, which I lost. A few Razzies. I guess I should try to get a Grammy.

Just on music, has it had a place in your career? Have you ever wanted to do anything in that scene?

Weird detail in my resume. One of the things that, speaking of bucket list, that I am proudest of is I’m the rhythm guitar player in a Smiths cover band in Los Angeles. Called The Sweet and Tender Hooligans. I really love being in it because playing Johnny Marr’s music on a guitar will really elevate you, because he’s really one of the best guitar players who’s ever lived. And to study his songs and learn them is a lot. So I’ve been very lucky. But, to me, music’s everything and the comedy is like a fun thing to do in between listening to music. But I’m a fairly obsessive fan of couple of things. The Smiths. I mean, Morrissey. Other than that I am a vegetarian, we don’t always agree on things these days. But I mean, to me, Billy Bragg. There’s a lot of people I just love. I’ll be honest. I like Fugazi. I like some really hard music. I like The Clash. I think the new Taylor Swift record is awesome.

Oh my god, it’s incredible.

I absolutely love it. And I always know there’s going to be a slightly cheesy factor to it, but then I just put it on and I was like, “This is fucking great. I have no notes.” And I got a little choked up on the opening track on her record. It’s really good.

New episodes of Reno 911! are streaming now for free on Quibi.