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“Cult leader” Jason Mantzoukas foments revolt among The Late Show’s audience

Jason Mantzoukas, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show

Having never met Jason Mantzoukas before, The Late Show host Stephen Colbert quickly learned the dangers and delights of having the noted improviser; podcast star; Big Mouth, The League, and The Good Place (“Derek!”) scene-stealer; and star of the new film The Long Dumb Road in your house. (And don’t get us started on The House.) Fans of Mantzoukas’ work know he’s a dynamo of rapid-fire wildman outrage, slyly calculated for maximum explosive laughter, as when Colbert’s opening question about their shared improv backgrounds (Mantzoukas’ UCB vs. Colbert’s iO/Second City) segued seamlessly into Mantzoukas’ very convincing pitch that his training (and wild, wiry beard) make him an ideal cult leader.

Assessing his love of improv, Mantzoukas spoke of “the absolute limitless potential on stage, and discovery,” before noting the added benefit of “amassing, kind of, people who believe in what you do and are willing to follow you to the ends of the earth.” To Colbert’s judgment that that sounds an awful lot like a cult, Mantzoukas was all-in, joking, “If they are willing to murder for me, I can’t stop them [] It’s still just a comedy show.” To prove his point, the How Did This Get Made all-star immediately turned to Colbert’s crowd, claiming earnestly, “I bet I could convince three people in your audience to murder for me by the end of the night.” Colbert, citing insurance concerns, asked that he not, but Mantzoukas, perhaps just savoring his power, turned to the balcony, whipping up resentment against “the bottom people” and receiving a cult-like standing ovation from the nosebleeds.


Talking about The Long Dumb Road, which he called “a classic American road-trip movie à la Planes, Trains, And Automobiles,” in which an unkept drifter (“If you can imagine, I play that drifter,” he deadpanned) is picked up for the journey to college by The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori. After a (heavily improvised) clip in which the mismatched pair share their favorite movies (The Graduate vs. The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift), Mantzoukas enthused about the whole Fast And Furious franchise, where, as he put it, the central characters went from “trying to sell combination TV/DVD players” to racing a submarine while The Rock throws an actual torpedo back at the bad guys. “They are more powerful than The Avengers,” proclaimed Mantzoukas, while suggesting that his little indie film is merely stealth marketing for the Fast And Furious series. Coming from Mantzoukas’ mouth, you have no choice but to believe it. Just do what he says.

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.