Vince Vaughn has only been standing in the lobby of the TPAC Theater for a few minutes and already the table he’s leaning on is stacked with three Bud Lights, plus the one he has in hand, and a scattering of untouched cocktails. They’re presents from his loyal, and evidently hard-drinking, fan base. The gifters don’t expect much – maybe a handshake, a quick photo, or just to walk away with the story that they bought Trent from Swingers (or, for the younger crowd, Beanie from Old School) a drink tonight.
It’s a busy weekend for Vaughn, who’s brought the first Wild West Comedy Festival, sponsored by Budweiser and Netflix, here in downtown Nashville with headliners like Aziz Ansari, The Lonely Island, and Seth Meyers, who’s performing – and killing – at the very moment in Jackson Hall. “I’m a big fan of Seth’s, I think he’s doing a great job with his show,” says Vince, talking about Late Night with Seth Meyers which he plans to visit the first chance he gets. For a festival that seems to have to come together in relative haste he’s nabbed some top tier talent and big new names like Jerrod Carmichael. He spoke to Men’s Journal about comedy, friendship in the business, and the hardest time he’s ever laughed.
So what made you want to do a comedy festival in Nashville?
This all started as a conversation, I was talking to my friends in the comedy world and it was mentioned that there are no really great festivals in the South. We have the access, we know the right people and it was just a matter of finding the right city to do it in. I love Nashville, it’s a great city yet not too spread out, which was a plus because we’re trying to bring people together for this. I have been coming to Nashville for years, I’ve done films, I hosted Willie Nelson’s tribute here many years ago. It’s a beautiful place full of great people. I went out last night with some friends to see some of the local music, and we had a blast.
Have you ever thought about doing stand up comedy yourself?
You know I’ve really enjoyed hosting shows, like I did for the Wild West Comedy Tour, but I just always knew that writing and performing jokes wasn’t for me. I’d write things down but never performed them. I’m much better at story telling, so I’ve done that. I love the form though and am a big fan of comedians.
Your work with Owen Wilson has always been great. Are you guys going to collaborate again soon?
I love Owen, he’s not just a great actor but a great person as well. I’m really excited to see the next couple of movies that he’s been working on. We talk often but there aren’t any plans to do any sequels or anything like that at the moment.
Your next film Term Life, which Peter Billingsley directed, is a more dramatic film. Are you moving away from comedy in your acting career now?
Not at all. It really depends on the script and the subject matter. I enjoy working on dramatic films as well, it’s important to challenge yourself and take yourself out of your comfort zones. Term Life, which I produced, is going to be really great. I’m happy with what we were able to shoot. Hailee Steinfeld is a fine young actress, she’s the first one we went out to for the role and were very happy to get her and my buddy Jon [Favreau] is in it, which was a treat as well.
Did you and Jon Favreau get to do scenes together in this one?
Yes, we did. It doesn’t get old. He’s such a great actor and brings so much to each performance. Have you seen Chef? It’s really good. I’m a big fan of everything that that guy does.
Speaking about that, I have to ask, since Jon has all these ins at Marvel now, have you two ever discussed having you in one of their films?
No we haven’t really talked about it. That’s Jon’s thing really. Years ago, earlier in my career I was brought in by the studios to talk to me about playing a superhero that they had me in mind for. It just wasn’t a fit and that was that. I don’t really have any ambitions to do it now.
What were those chats about? Batman? Superman? Spiderman?
[Laughs] No, none of those guys. That’s all I’m saying on that though!
We’re at a comedy festival: What one performance made you laugh hardest ever?
Oh man. I haven’t thought about this in years, but there was one moment that had me dying years ago. So some friend and I used to go see stand up acts in LA. We went to some random club in the valley where they were doing auditions for comedians that wanted to perform at the club. We were just watching the acts go up and I notice there’s this old man sitting there by the stage by himself, just holding a bag. He’s standing there silently watching the acts go up and finally at the end of the night the host of the show goes up and finally he brings up the old man. It was obvious that the guy had been there a billion times trying to get a spot. The old man slowly stands up and before he goes on he puts on Mickey Mouse ears, I have no idea why, and his first words in the mic are, “You know Los Angeles is a very dangerous city. Murders are up. Crimes up. Thefts up. So I got a German Shepherd. He’s a nice enough old fellow.” That was his joke. Now I know it’s funny, but it made me f–king cry. Just the idea that this guy got up, ate, showered, and shaved the whole time knowing that he was going to get up on a stage with Mickey Mouse ears on and say this inane string of words. I cried through his whole set, I was in tears, people were looking and I didn’t even care.