An Exclusive Interview With Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman! Part 1

I had the honour of interviewing the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, here’s that interview.

As we exchange hellos and get things set up for our interview Lloyd exclusively tells me he’s got a walk-on role in “Sharknado 4” and that he’ll also appear in the upcoming movie from the Soska Sisters AKA The Twisted Twins plus a few other upcoming movies, so be sure to look out for him!

Q1: What was your goal in starting Troma?

“I became a movie freak when I was at Yale University and my goal was for Michael (Herz) and me to have the opportunity to make a movie every once in awhile without any interference, totally independently and to create our own Andy Warhol factory and the Troma building in Manhattan, we’ve moved now to Queens, Long Island City, is kinda based on the Warhol model, except he was profitable. He created his own superstars and we’ve created The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D and we had Joe Fleishaker, the late Joe Fleishaker who was our 500lb superstar action hero.”

“So it’s kind of a Warhol kind of a thing, that was what we were looking at and we also wanted to give the opportunity to other filmmakers to make one of a kind movies and to try to encourage and continue the profile of independent cinema which very much now, as the media has evolved, is unfortunately in the hands of a small number of devil-worshipping international media conglomerates including in your company (the UK). The excellent 88 Films and Arrow Films distribute some of our movies on Blu-Ray and DVD there but they’re being crushed by the combination of labour bureaucratic and corporate elites and the Rupert Murdochs. The major conglomerates are crushing everybody.” 

Q2: Talking of independent cinema, the scene does seem to be thriving at the moment despite the big companies trying to take over. Especially with the technology today where you can upload your film to a site like YouTube.

“Well certainly Midnight Macabre can operate… and certainly Troma wouldn’t be here without the net neutrality on the internet but the Rupert Murdochs of the world, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and Washington D.C., to get rid of net neutrality, the open internet.”

“They wanna put in a super highway where you and I will not be able to afford to put our content there and then we’ll be suck on the dirt road with the heavy, long buffering and nobody will go there so we have to fight to make sure that net neutrality remains or there will be no Troma Entertainment that’s for sure. It’s a very serious matter.”

Q3: Do you feel a company like Troma could start up in today’s Market?

“That’s a great question Raz, I don’t think so. I don’t think our model is… We’re the last Dodo bird on the beach. There are no independent movie studios with any longevity who an afford to have a payroll, there’s none of that left. The one or two that remain are working with vassals of the devil worshipping conglomerates.”

“I majored in Chinese studies in Yale and my big takeaway was Taoism, yin and yang and stuff like that. The Yin, the good stuff, is that you can make your own damn movie and not have to pay a lot of money to do so. You can be a nurse or a teacher and do something useful, you don’t have to go out and suck Disney’s penis to get a job, striving at a parking lot and getting eaten by alligators. You can stay in Manchester or New York and make your own damn movies for very little money. But the Yang part, the bad part, is unlike when Troma began, no matter how good your movie is if you don’t have an affiliation with one of the vassals of these conglomerates then you can’t make a living and that’s the bad side. We have opted to stay independent, even though Troma’s more famous than ever, even though Tarantino and Peter Jackson and Kevin Smith and all these people have been inspired by Troma and put me in their movies, you know James Gunn put me in Guardians Of The Galaxy, he wrote Tromeo And Juliet…”

It’s at this point in the interview Lloyd is passed a cup of coffee and asks: “You put in the cat tranquilizer like I asked?” and I burst into laughter.

“It’s a real tough thing, we’ve never been more famous, people think that Troma is a big deal but really it’s all thanks to our fans, fans all over the world. Not only do they support us financially now on KickStarter, they helped us out with Return 2 Return To Nuke ’em High, the second half of my big event film which was inspired by… Tarantino told me to do something like this. Volume 2, we’re finishing up the editing and our fans gave us £50,000 to help with post production, it wasn’t enough but it was about what we needed to get over the hump.”
“So our fans are very pro active, they also talk to movie theatres, at least in the United States, and say they want Return 2 Return To Nuke ’em High or Poultrygeist or whatever and they are also very good at getting the word out. I just came back from a big event in Texas and the fans there were helping us to promote, we had a big booth there and instead of paying people the fans worked the booth, dressing up as the Toxic Avenger and Kabukiman and Dolphin Man. Basically there was only two of us who went there but we had six to eight people full time during the four days. Were fan fueled, it’s the fans that make us look like we’re a big deal but we are not making any money I’ll tell you that.”

“Our movies are better than ever too, our movies are great. There are retrospective film festivals, museum of modern art played Return To Nuke ’em High Volume 1, the first half of the event film, they put it in with their series of best films from around the world which included films by the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese and that boring French Film that won the Cannes Film Festival, Blue Is The Boring Colour or whatever it was, they managed to make lesbionic behaviour boring. They put us in their series of best movies and it played around 200 theatres here in the US and maybe two or three theatres in the UK and a few in Australia, a few in New Zealand. But it’s all thanks to our fans really who get the word out and request the movies and the movie theatres respond, but we don’t make any money though.”

Q4: Troma’s been going for over 40 years now, did you think it would last this long when you started out?
“Well we honestly didn’t think it would last very long when we started it, hence the name Troma. We just wanted to get incorporated, my partner Michael Herz wanted to get… We had made a movie called Squeeze Play! about women’s rights, it was a raunchy movie before Porky’s. Squeeze Play! concerned a non-male softball team, basically the political theme was women’s rights, equal rights amendment which was an issue in this country and is still and Michael Herz wanted to get incorporated quickly so we tried to think of the most horrible name you could think of, we figured we’d be out of business anyway. But meanwhile, some 40 0dd years later Troma has become a brand of it’s own. We’ve got a pretty big footprint on the countryside of independent art. And finally after 42 years, FINALLY, we get to be on Midnight Macabre, after all these years.”
Q5: Who’s been your influences over the years?

“Well again, when I caught the movie bug in Yale and my roommate was was running the Yale Film Society and he and the guy next door were the only cinephiles in my class of a thousand at Yale. They were heavily into Auteur Filmmaking and they had a stack of French Kaija Cinema which was the magazine of the Cinematheque Francaise. Claude Chabrol and Jean Luc Goddard were journalists transitioning into making movies and they founded this theory that movie making is all about the Director and the Director should be the author of the movie and have total control… Blah blah blah. So I bought into all that”

“I had the choice of working in Hollywood when I got out of Yale, I had a choice of working on The Owl And The Pussycat starring Barbra Streisand and I’d be a shitboy of course, or shiteboy as you’d say, or working as a shiteboy for a crappy little independent company in New York and I took acid one night when I was about to graduate and I decided I would stay in New York and work for the shitty little company in New York and that’s where I met John G. Anderson who has been a major influence on my filmmaking technique.”

“I was basically taken by the great Auteur Filmmakers, (Jean) Renoir, Fritz Lang and (Charlie) Chaplin and (Buster) Keaton and Stan Brakhage and Leni Riefenstahl and (Kenji) Mizoguchi and of course The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and that kind of stuff and D.W. Griffith.”

Q6: As a kid I was a huge fan of the Toxic Crusaders cartoon, that was my introduction into the world of Troma, I’ve always wondered what made you venture into kids entertainment?

“We did not venture into children’s entertainment, as you know the Toxic Avenger was a historic movie anyways but a large part is it’s the only movie featuring a young boys head being squashed by the wheels of an automobile that was subsequently made into a children’s environmentally correct cartoon show for Saturday mornings.”

“We got lucky, the people who made the toys for the (Teenage Mutant) Ninja Turtles wanted an environmental character and they settled on us and then the cartoons were financed and about two hundred companies started making Toxie clothing and colouring books and videogames. I don’t know if you follow him on Youtube but The Angry Video Game Nerd did a Toxic Crusader Video Game episode (you can see it HERE), it got about three million views and that brought us some many new fans who did not now or ever heard of Troma but had heard of Toxic Crusaders and didn’t even know we made live action movies, it’s pretty interesting. All over the world, everywhere I go all over the world people say ‘You know I never heard of Troma until I saw the The Angry Video Game Nerd episode with Lloyd Kaufman’ it’s pretty amazing.”
“There’s a whole new universe of YouTube stars, many of whom are Troma fans and they like Troma so they’ve been helping us a lot to get the word out”


Q7: It’s not been long now since you launched the Troma Now service, how has that been going?
“Troma Now is going great, you know we have Troma movies on Youtube to thank our fans for the years of support. We put up about 300 of our movies as well as many of my Make Your Own Damn Movie! lessons and other videos based on my six books and also political statements and videos and music videos. Troma movies on Youtube are all free to thank our fans but now we have Troma Now which is a subscription service, every month we put up world premiere movies. This month we have, I believe the amazing Junkbucket and the sequel Junk Bonds: Junkbucket returns, every month there’s two or three world premiere movies and then we curate buried treasure in the Troma collection of about a thousand movies. We put things up that we feel our fans might not be aware of or missed out on the first time. Troma now, you get that with, first month is free so you can check it out and pretty much see everything in the first month.” 

“Mostly our fans will keep subscribing to help us because we are pretty much economically blacklisted. It’s very hard to get any kind of revenue these days because the rules that used to prevent monopoly in my country and your country have been done away with, so you have Rupert Murdoch controlling a huge amount of the worldwide media and a small number of those conglomerates who conspire with the various governments to keep the status quo. Hillary Clinton being a limousine liberal who is totally financed by frivolous lawyers and the media elite. I shouldn’t say frivolous lawyers, I should say sleazy, money grubbing lawyers who gain the system. Those are her main… Phony liberals like Will Smith who pretend that he’s upset with Oscars So White but is afraid to say that Sumner Redstone who owns Viacom and Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox and the news company, they control 40% of the world wide media. So if he had any guts he would say that but he doesn’t he just talks bullshit. He should just tap dance and eat watermelons as far as I’m concerned.”

“If you wanna see a good Oscars So White video, click on Youtube, Oscars So White Troma Lloyd Kaufman, A Sensible Solution to Oscars So White (HERE) and I explain how the fact that the fairness option in the United States was done away with, the Financial Syndication Rule which required major networks in the US to licence at least a third of their programming from independent sources and of course the total collapse of the Public Domain area of intellectual property. Public Domain was supposed to be fourteen years and thanks to Clinton, the original to Bill Clinton, it’s now forever. Disney can have that mouse forever and that shouldn’t be, the public should have got that mouse back after fourteen years. It was the original intention of Copyright Law in the United States. I know it’s different in England but basically your government and the one or two big studios control everything, same thing. Your lottery system was all based in large part on Harvey Weinstein getting in lottery and a few favourites, the French systems the same, the CDC. If you’re in with the gang you get some help and if you’re not you’re sucking on hind tit.”

“But I’m not bitter, I’m getting to talk to Raz, it’s better than winning an Oscar or a Bafta.”

Q8: What’s your favourite story surrounding Troma?
“I don’t know if I’ve got a favourite story, it’s all been a horrible nightmare for 42 years, I can’t say I’ve got a favourite story. We have a small number of people here, I love what we’re doing and we all love movies and we’re here for that. We’re not here for cocaine or Kardashians or Twiggy or whatever. We’re serious, we don’t take ourselves seriously but we take our art very seriously. As I say we owe it all to our fans who’ve helped us out all these years, right from the beginning our fans were always very interactive with us and gave us many suggestions. They were the ones who told us about DVD, how great DVD was, they kept telling me what DVD started. We were probably amongst the first to get into DVD, way before the big studios did. I had a lot of experience with VD so it wasn’t a big deal to put another letter in front of it. Also our fans were the ones who turned me on to the internet. Roger Ebert, he was a major critic, he’s dead, he was on CompuServe as was I and he said I was the only studio boss who was online.This goes back 20-25 years, probably more. So our fans were the ones who told us to make a website and we did and our fans have been very, very interactive with us.”

“I’ve had several book tours and I do master classes, Make Your Own Damn Movie!, I did one in Oxford, two days Make Your Own Damn Movie Master Class. There’s always somebody, always some kid who stands up and says he was gonna commit suicide, he and a friend were being bullied or he was a manic depressive or he has aspergers or something and he watched Troma’s work. All our movies are based on underdogs, Toxic Avenger is the underdog, in Return To Nuke ‘Em High the lesbian couple are underdogs, so it’s unbelievable. I was just with my wife in Indiana and sure enough a kid with aspergers comes in and says to my wife ‘Your Husband saved my life, I was gonna kill myself’ and he saw Terror Firmer, the independent film makers struggle against the establishment yet hounded by the outside forces of evil. He says it saved him from killing himself. So I think that would be a very important anecdote about what we’ve done. We love making movies, we love entertaining people, if we can make a difference… It’s not like we did it on purpose, it so happens that a lot of people who are in the underclass , who are not in the billionaire class, really can relate to whatever it is we do.”

Q9: Has there ever been any ideas that…..

“Have I ever thought about killing myself? YES! I think about it everyday, I just don’t have the guts to do it. But boy I wouldn’t mind ending it, no question about it.”

“We have a great movie by the way that you can see on Troma Now, it’s terrific, it was made well before the found footage movies were made. It’s called Suicide and it’s about a couple who are making a documentary about suicide and as a joke they put something up on the internet, ‘If you wanna commit suicide let us know and we’ll film you’ and they never expect anyone to respond and suddenly all these people contact them. There’s a professor who’s dying of a disease and he doesn’t want his family to go bankrupt with his medical expenses but they’re not gonna kill him so he hires them and commits suicide for them, he takes poison and they film it and there’s two teenage girls who are sort of like Troma fans, they make a pact to kill themselves and they take pills and they get filmed so they can say goodbye to their loved ones and one of them vomits during the night after they pass out, one of them vomits and and the other one is in the bed dead. It’s a wonderful film, really dark and terrific and the people who are the documentarians in the movie who are filming, they get carried away with it and eventually they actually help the people kill themselves. There’s a guy with a shotgun who can’t reach the trigger, you know the long shotgun, so their cameraman helps. I don’t wanna be a spoiler but it’s a wonderful film. Made for nothing, shot on VHS, in the days of VHS which helps it, it looks like something real, it looks really real.”

“There’s a lot of those movies on Troma Now that nobody knows about, basically buried treasure. The first month is free and the I think it’s like £2 per month.”

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this interview this Friday!

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