AUSTIN — As if SXSW weren't already jammed to bursting with a film festival, an interactive tech festival, and a music festival, the fine folks of the Texas state capital also manage to host a comedy festival at the same damn time. That's supposedly the reason five members of the cast of Burning Love — the online Bachelor parody currently in its second season on Yahoo Screen — were in Austin. But when I met up with Ken Marino, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Natasha Leggero, and Rob Huebel to partake in some local Tex-Mex, it slowly became clear that at least some of them didn't even know where they were.
At least the pork burrito was delicious.
Ken Marino: One of the things that you guys should realize, and you may not know this, but "Tex-Mex" is short for "Texas Mexican" food.
Kumail Nanjiani: It's Texican Mexican.
Ken: It's not Texican Mexican.
Kumail: It's Texican Mexican.
Ken: I'm 70% sure that it's not that.
Kumail: I'm 100% sure.
Ken: That it's "Texican Mexican"?
Rob Huebel: What I'm having is really good.
Natasha Leggero: The pork burrito?
Rob: What's the name of the restaurant [where we got the food]?
Rob: (picks up voice recorder): When you go to Calons, get yourself a pork burrito. You'll be super-psyched.
Ken: I'm enjoying mine. These are all very tasty. It's like a carnival of flavors in my mouth.
Natasha: I don't know how I feel about molé [sauce].
Ken: I love molé. Good molé.
Natasha: It's kind of chocolaty.
Ken: It's hard to nail.
Rob: It's supposed to be chocolaty, right?
(They eat for a bit.)
Rob: We woke up today, and were really hungover.
Ken: Not me!
Rob: Ken was especially. And we didn't have time to eat breakfast. It's like 3 in the afternoon, and this is the first food we've had. It's really great.
So let's talk Burning Love! What brought you guys to SXSW?
Rob: Besides the Tex-Mex food? Well, we like to go to festivals.
Natasha: It's pretty great to get paid to hang out and get drunk with your friends while you're performing.
Rob: Last night we got to do three comedy shows in a row and get drunk and hang out with our friends.
Kumail: And they were super-fun shows.
Ken: For me it's about the material and the project. I come here to try to get the world to know more about Burning Love.
Rob: That said, Ken, at one point last night, did you or did you not rob a guy for cocaine money?
Ken: (mid-bite) I did. But that's like the bonus. But I'm here to spread the word about Burning Love.
Rob: If there's guns and a robbery, that's a side thing.
How has it been for the guys who are the bachelors on the show, to play that role? Did you research those shows at all?
Rob: Did we watch the show? Um, you guys watch it?
Martin Starr: I hadn't. I saw it when it first came out years ago. But I hadn't watched it in years.
Natasha: Erica, who wrote it, is obsessed with it, right?
Rob: Ken's wife, Erica, wrote all of it, and she is really into the show. If you watch that show, it's pretty out there. Those characters are already very funny. But Erica, to her credit, wrote characters that are tweaked just a little bit more. For us, it's really just trying to do a funny version of those guys.
Natasha: And also, Erica doesn't fall into the person who's obsessed with it in a real way, right? Or is she?
Ken: She doesn't believe what's going on.
Natasha: There are people [who do].
Ken: Erica and I both got into it for a number for reasons. It's compelling! It's fun TV. But no, she never believed it to be true. But those people on the show, they believe it on some level. They're invested in it.
Natasha: That's the brilliance of June in the second season. She plays that so well. She believes it, you know?
Rob: She's so hopeful that she's going to find love on a TV show, so much so, in fact, that a lot of the people on Yahoo that watch it think that it's a real show. Which is…
Martin: Totally understandable.
Rob: People are tuning in and they're seeing Adam Scott and Michael Cera, you know, recognizable people, but that doesn't compute to [it being fake].
Kumail: They're like, "That guy looks like the guy from Juno. Anyway…"
Rob: That was a real comment on the internet. "That guy looks like the guy from Juno."
Kumail: What's cool about all the guys is we're all, like, comedic archetypes, but each person, you kind of feel for everyone. Like you were saying, on The Bachelor, those guys really believe it. You kind of really root for them, even though they're these moronic characters.
Ken: It's also a testament to the format of these reality shows. They know what they're doing. They know how to suck you in. To embrace that format and that style, it only helped the character development and you invest yourself in watching the comedy of it. It's all an homage.
Rob: A lot of it too — we shot it in a mansion in Calabasas where they shoot the real show. They shoot the real show probably not far from there in a similar mansion.
Ken: A lot of reality shows are shot in that area. The Biggest Loser's right down the street.
Rob: It helps when you show up and it seems like the real thing.
Martin, how are you feeling about your taco?
Martin: (Gives exaggerated frown.)
So, um, verbally, how are you feeling about it?
Martin: (Long pause.) I like the hard-shell beef taco more than [this].
Kumail: Oh, is there more of that?
Natasha: It's delicious. But you have to eat the shell in there too.
Kumail: (Dives in to the last beef taco.)
Rob: Slow it down.
Martin: Kumail. There's no rush!
Kumail: Here's what I do. I make no eye contact with anyone while I eat.
(I take a photo of his pose.)
Rob: Do Pakistani people eat very slow?
Kumail: (Mouth full, in mid-chew) No, very fast, actually.
Kumail: (To me) Do you live here?
No, I'm from L.A. This is my second time in the city.
Rob: Are we in Austin or Boston?
Ken: I thought we were in Boston.
Rob: I thought we were in Boston too.
Martin: It was my hat. It might've been the "B" on my hat.
Rob: We're in Texas?!
So have you guys started working on the third season?
Rob: Great question. They shot it at the same time [as the second season]. Like The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix…
Ken: The Matrix Nobody Watched.
Rob: Yeah, we shot at the same time as Season 2.
Ken: And so Season 3 is basically like The Bachelor Pad, [which] brings a lot of your favorite characters from Season 1 and Season 2 and throws them into the same mansion, and they're competing for a cash prize of $900.
Rob: Are we all in that?
Ken: Martin's not.
Rob: (To Martin) All right, for this part of the interview, you be quiet.
Ken: Stop talking, Martin!
Martin's been pretty quiet the whole interview.
Ken: That's his style.
Natasha: He picks his moments.
Rob: We call him a three-point shooter, because he'll come in here in a second with something amazing.
Kumail: Just wait, just wait.
Ken: (To me) Having spoken to everybody now, who's your favorite?
Ken: Martin? Damnit.
Martin: What did I win?
You win another taco! There's one right there.
Martin: (Looks at taco. Grumbles. Does not take it.)
Ken: He's mysterious. Less is more. The lesson here is less is more.
Rob: OK, I want to go around, if I could, and ask everyone, on the "Burning" scale —
Ken: Oh, the "Burning" scale, ten being the hottest —
Rob: Yeah, one being not on fire, what is your mouth feeling right now?
Martin: Like a one.
Natasha: They forgot the hot sauce and the salsa. I'm at a zero. I might be at a negative two, because I really need spice right now.
Rob: So we came to Austin, and Austin didn't have enough spice for us at all.
Ken: Not at this meal.
Martin: Boston, guys. We're in Boston.
Ken: But Boston's not known for its spicy food.
Martin: We should have gone to Austin.
This interview has been edited and condensed.