Neighbors, which hits theaters Friday, features Zac Efron as tireless party boy Teddy, Seth Rogen as the tired new dad Mac who lives next to Teddy’s frat house, and a lot of penis jokes.
“We’re nerdy comedy guys, so we don’t really think about it in terms of, Is there too much cock?” said Andrew J. Cohen, who co-wrote Neighbors with Brendan O’Brien. “It’s more, What’s funny? Right now, it’s penises that are pretty funny.”
“Sex and cock and farts,” O’Brien added. “What do you laugh about?”
“There are a lot of dudes in fraternities, and therefore, a lot of cock,” Cohen said. “In such close proximity, we assume that they see each other’s cocks.”
Seth Rogen, who plays the family man next door to the frat house, agreed. “Thirty dudes living in a house together? There’s some dicks flopping around,” he told BuzzFeed.
And Rogen knows that from rooming with other men himself. The actor used to live with Evan Goldberg, with whom he co-wrote Superbad, Pineapple Express, and This Is the End, and who is a producer on Neighbors. “We would be honest about it, and just be like, ‘I’m going to go jerk off.’” Or, “‘Be right back, I’m going to go jerk off,’” as Efron imagined aloud in response.
“We were writing together, and then there was a point where — just the sheer desire to conserve time — we realized it would probably be better if we just jerked off at the same time. As opposed to him doing it, then me doing it,” Rogen recalled with his signature laugh. “And so we would kind of actually have coordinated jerk-off times. It’s bordering on… It’s homoerotic, I guess is what you would call it.”
And though openly gay characters in Neighbors are only fleetingly on screen — there’s a gay couple who checks out the empty house early in the film before the frat boys move in — homoeroticism abounds. Teddy, for example, grabs his friend’s genitals and doesn’t let go until said friend uses his ability to achieve voluntary erection directly into his hand. “It’s super gay,” Efron told BuzzFeed. “But it’s not.”
While the penis parade in Neighbors may seem carefree, for director Nicholas Stoller, there were some concerns: The one (prosthetic, enormous) penis you actually see in the film belongs to Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character, frat boy Scoonie, whose ample appendage is his dominant characteristic. And yes, it caused some trepidation.
“The rule that I heard was that you can show a penis in an R-rated movie; it just can’t be above 90 degrees,” Stoller told BuzzFeed. “So even if it’s flaccid, like if you’re flopping it around, if you flop it side to side, it’s fine. If you flop it up and down you can get into trouble.”
In its very brief appearance, Scoonie’s penis is wrapped around a woman’s neck. “I was a little worried, because around her neck, it is, like, a little bit, you know, in that gray zone. Is it at 90 degrees?” But the MPAA didn’t take issue. “I think by that point they were like, Whatever. This is just a disgusting movie. We’ll just give it an R,” Stoller assumed.
According to the director, Neighbors also has a penis Easter egg: During a scene where the frat boys are dressed like Robert De Niro, Scoonie is wearing boxer shorts. “If you look, you’ll see his penis hanging out of the bottom,” Stoller said.
The movie also has a funny and horrifying boob scene in which Mac’s wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), has a milk-duct debacle. But, as Rogen said, “Dicks are just funnier than boobs.”
Cohen and O’Brien saw the scene as a mild form of activism. “There’s something that sometimes seems sexist about frat movies or fraternities, and we just wanted to equalize it,” Cohen said. “We’re equal-opportunity cocks-men.”
O’Brien added, “In all of those movies, there always is the gratuitous boob shot, but…”
“What about the gratuitous penis shot?” Cohen asked.
Neighbors did have its limits, though: One scene with Nick Offerman, who had a cameo as a character with a penis “like a horse,” was completely cut from the film. “The audience rejects a lot of penis,” Stoller explained. “They get bored of it. They get grossed out. It gets kind of repetitive. I ended up just cutting all of it out except [Scoonie’s] shot. For maximum penis impact, or MPI.”
Reporting by Adam B. Vary.