Interview: Kenny Hotz, Star of Kenny vs. Spenny

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Kenny Hotz is a writer, director, actor and producer, best known as the co-creator and star of Kenny vs. Spenny, the Canadian comedy/reality series which is currently airing new episodes on Showcase. The show, in which Kenny and his friend Spencer Rice battle each other in a serious of gross-out competitions, has inspired several replicas of its format internationally, and reached US audiences after being discovered by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The cocky Hotz, who assures victory at the start of every episode and is most often correct, recently spoke to Goon about subjects including the current state of the show, accusations of scripting, his other ongoing projects, and the state of Canadian television.

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Season 6 is just starting to air – are there any particular episodes coming up that you are especially proud of?

Sure, there are always some diamonds in each season. Who’s a bigger idiot, 69, blacks, mom, better commercial…just to name a few. I’m proud of every one, really our show is great. I fucking love it!

What kind of processes do you go through in editing a show like this? Is it ever difficult to piece the footage together to create a storyline for each episode?

No, the show always cuts itself. Sometimes we have a soft episode but not one of them has sucked. We have some great editors, great music and my funny shit of course. It’s cut like any reality show; it’s pretty linear. You shoot around 30 hours and cut 20 minutes. I don’t know why other reality shows suck so bad.

How about some of the vignettes, such as the bizarre characters or the nude photo shoot in the woods (in the soldier episode)? Do you ever record anything after the competition has ended to bring more comedy to the show?

No, never! Once each show is shot that is it forever. Maybe the odd ADR (additional dialogue record), but that’s usually a broadcaster request. ADR shit is for stupid people, to spoon feed them story. I’m not a big fan of it. If you’re too stupid to get it fuck you I guess.

In season 5, Derek Harvie, known for his work behind making Tom Green a star, was added to the production team. Has his background affected the show, and if so, how?

Derek’s a genius, he and Tom revolutionized comedy in the U.S., eventually evolving MTV into “Jackass” land. I got KvS ’cause the CBC fucked up for ditching Tom Green. I owe him a lot. He also makes my shit funnier which only he, Jeff Kassel and my muse Sebastian Cluer have managed to help me do.

What do you think of the state of Canadian television, and what do you think could be done to help produce more success stories such as KvS?

To me a lot of Canadian TV sucks. Maybe the shows are great but I’m of a certain demographic. I really do think Showcase has some good ones coming out. What can I say, cool executives make cool shows…shows you how cool my execs are. Smart, great broadcasters make smart great shows.

Have you ever watched any episodes of the other shows that have taken on your format, such as Ed vs. Spencer, or Elton vs. Simon? What do you think of them?

Yes, I’ve watched tons of them. It’s impossible to understand them ’cause 95% are in different languages, but most of them are pretty disappointing. It is super fucking cool though, like come on! What other Canadian TV shows do shit like that? We’re diplomats of Canadian comedy around the world. Millions of people everywhere have seen me, or versions of my shit. I’d like to see “[Royal Canadian] Air Farce” do that! In fact I’d like everyone to stop doing horrible lame Canadian politics spoof shows and do funny shit. That shit is not funny, it’s a car crash. Put the corpses in the ground and move on.

Elton in Simon in particular has become a show where each episode is now just a series of mini-competitions. Would you consider more mini-comp episodes in KvS’ future?

Mini-comps are episodes I throw in when I need an emergency episode. Not my favorite type of show, but some of them turn out pretty good. Mini-comps are also used if a competition seems like it will never end, to speed the shit up, so we can finish and move on to the next comp.

Not long ago you popped up in Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. How did this come about, and do you have any other movie roles lined up?

It was weird. My agent got a call and I was in, no audition, no nothing. Later Kevin Smith told me that I was the first person cast in the movie. He said that when he wrote my dialogue in the script he was thinking of me saying it. He also told me that he wanted me to know that. He’s a fuckin’ great guy and so is Rogen. A very cool, super nice, down to earth and funny dude. Watching Seth do his shit was so natural and effortless; I’m so fucking jealous he can do that. I get pretty stressed out acting in other people’s shit. But I’m also in the new Degrassi movie and the series Pure Pwnage.

Is the ‘reality’ format a genre you especially hold dear? Would you go back to creating any other documentaries such as Pitch or The Papal Chase in the future?

Sure, I love that shit! Fucking love docs. Just so much work and how the hell do you compete with Borat? I have a few I want to make, we’ll see. I’ve turned down the odd feature including KvS a couple of times, but I might do another doc eventually.

How did the experience of those documentaries influence your work?

It just makes you do what you do better. The more films and TV you make, the more you know how much you fucked up the previous content. That’s my experience. Some people don’t use that previous experience as a learning tool. Some people I know that do alternate projects are just greedy and don’t give a shit about how good their stuff is in the end. They think they do, but they don’t. I find that people who have the ability to make amazing things but are to lazy and apathetic to do it right or don’t appreciate what they got are fucking retarded. Some people I know give up their creative approvals and let other people do the work for them. Neil Simon told me “It’s all in the work” and he’s fucking right. People in Canada need to stop making shows for cash and not art…but enough about fuckheads who ruin our film and TV industry in Canada. I’m super happy and humbled by my luck. I love making shows. I fucking love it and on KvS and Testees and my flicks I take the reins. I’m all over directing and pre/post-production. I’m totally hands on and anyone who works on that shit with me will tell you I’m the boss. Except Spenny, of course.

There’s an IMDB credit for you as writing an episode for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What’s the story there?

Yeah, it was for the live action series. It was a hack gig. They shot in B.C. and needed Canadians to write a script or two. But I loved it. I made 16 grand for a couple of weeks work and I guess they liked it ’cause most of my shit ended up in the episode.

You can’t get through any KvS discussion board without coming across accusations of the show being scripted. How do you feel about this coming up so frequently?

It’s a compliment. It means nobody can believe the show is that great without it being fake. Matt and Trey weren’t sure if it was real until they met Spenny and realized he was real! Then they fucking loved it. It doesn’t bug me. Sometimes I have a hard time believing Spenny is such a fucking gullible loser as well.

In season 5 a couple moments in particular had people calling shenanigans on the show. The big one would be the reveal that Spenny had been blown by a pre-op transvestite.

Yup, it’s true. A tranny sucked him off numerous times on national television. But so many people thought she was a chick as well! Tons of the comments on youtube were people saying how they got fooled, which means they would have let that tranny suck their dicks. So why the comments? Maybe they are scared that they’re as gay as Spenny? The thing I find the most unbelievable about the series is the shit Showcase lets me do. That’s what blows my mind. I try to top myself every season but I still get the rudest shit in the world on TV. I think KvS is the rudest show in history. I really do! Second was probably “Jackass”.

Most people would assume that Spenny must have a darker or more well-developed sense of humor than he has on the show in order to put up with you. How many times though has Spenny truly been on the verge of bailing on the show, and how did you bring him back in?

He has meltdowns all the time! He always threatens leaving – not showing up or not coming to work sometimes for the most minimal reasons. It’s not as bad as it used to be though. He’s used to his predicament. My God, on season 1 & 2 he was the biggest whiner – “Don’t film my ass!”, etc. etc. Now he basically walks around with his dick out on some episodes. He’s a strange egg!

Let’s say Comedy Central completely bails on the show. Is KvS something you would continue for the Canadian / international audience, or would that be something that would make you focus on your other projects?

They basically have bailed on the series. Oh well, their loss…no wait my loss but whatever. They censored the shit out of it anyways. The Showcase versions are the best episodes. I’ll keep doing it. I love it. Who am I to turn down work, seriously?! I love my life. I have the best fucking life ever.

What would signal to you that it’s time to wrap up the show?

Who cares, I’m a Jew…keep the cash rolling in, and cottages are expensive!

What is the current state of Testees, and will it see a DVD release in the future?

I’m fighting to keep Testees alive. It’s an amazing series. I want to save it because Derek and I have so much fun doing it. Even my pals at E1 love it. We’re all fighting for it. But I got some other stuff on the go. Either way I feel like my best work is yet to come. I’m experienced at making TV now and I am totally hands on. I don’t like people fucking with my shit. Maybe that’s why I think it ends up being so good.

Have you ever wanted to revisit certain KvS competitions and do them without cheating, or redo any episodes you’ve lost?

No. Spenny has argued for rematches. Fuck them. Bad idea. I think that’s being lazy, and we need to keep the shows moving forward.

What influences your shows? What makes you laugh?

I love Adult Swim stuff, some British shit and SCTV. But everything I love and hate effects my work, I guess. I put a lot of my life experience into my shows. My brother can notice way more childhood references in the show that anyone else. In fact, it’s filled with people and locations I grew up with. I love putting my life into the series and work very hard to make those elements fit.

Do you feel like even though he still loses, that Spenny has raised his game since the early episodes? When he does, what pushes you to the next level?

Spenny is Spenny. I watch him like you do. He’s amazing in the show, seriously unequaled in his ability to be lame. He is naturally hilarious. But he still has a hard time believing it. Which is good! His comedy is conflict. He’s funniest when he is himself. Sometimes he tries to act funny, but that’s not what makes him great. The more pissed off he is, the funnier he gets. So I like keeping him pissed; life likes doing that to him as well. Happy Spenny means shitty KvS.

So do you think the show is weaker if your actual friendship shows through more, like the Weed episode?

Imagine a series of happy Spenny episodes. There was only one episode like that for a reason. Spenny needs to be abused. He loves it! It’s his fetish. Maybe it’s ’cause his mom abandoned him as a child? I don’t know, but he’s a little bitch that will never be happy and that’s when he’s funniest.

What kind of negotiations go on behind the scenes before agreeing on a humiliation? What kind of extreme things have been turned down?

Not much, humiliations have historically been done when requested. Surprisingly enough those things are respected and rarely argued over.

Like Tom Green and Jackass, you often bring your family into the show. What do they think about being brought into the insanity?

They love it, in fact I caught shit from my sister this year ’cause she never made season 6. My mom loves it too. Like seriously, she was raised on a kibbutz and now she a TV celeb…who knew?

Can you give examples of competitions that never made it past the initial development phase? Any you started shooting and gave up on?

I’ve written tons and tons of ideas, many that Spenny refuses to do. But we’ve never shot a show that never became an episode. We have some that came close to not airing due to the Canadian Broadcast Standards regulations though.

What was your single lowest point in the history of the show? Any moments where you feared for your life? The forklift scene during the ’69’ episode comes to mind.

No. It’s when your pilot gets cancelled on U.S.A. network or CBC cancels your show after a year, or when people do things to fuck up your art. I find that nobody, and I mean nobody, cares as much about Kenny vs. Spenny as I do. So I find a lot of the nightmares come out of collaborating with anyone who doesn’t care as much as I do. Shit like that. That’s the scary stuff. Breaking a rib or two is a badge of honor. That shit doesn’t bug me at all.

As the show has progressed it seems the crew has gotten more and more screen time. Was this a conscious decision, or just something that developed naturally or by accident?

Developed naturally, but they still are not in it that much. A lot of episodes don’t have them in it. Our crew content is different. Spenny has his crew do work that he should do, building stuff or helping him. I use my crew for reactions and comedy, mostly. I do my own shit. I don’t need helpers.

Has there been any pressure to move the show out of Toronto to the US for the sake of the American audience?

No. None. Though I always hear the stupid “You should do a road trip” concept from the odd douche. Why? Fuck road trips, they suck and guess what? Road trip movies suck ass as well! So please don’t mention it to me ever again!

When all is said and done, how do you hope (or believe) the show will be remembered?

The funniest TV series in Canadian history and the rudest show in the history of television.

To keep up to date with Kenny, check out his Facebook page.

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  • rjdelight

    I find it funny that Hotz still refers to this as a “reality show”.

  • Goon

    he insists it’s unscripted. I conducted the interview and even I have a bunch of stuff I have a hard time believing. I find it funny either way.

    He’ll probably read this page so if you had any specific questions its possible he may ask.

  • Niklas

    Good interview, Kenny vs Spenny is the best Canadian show on TV for sure.

  • Tyson

    This guy doesn’t seem funny. Only petulant. He talks about how great and smart he is, and how lame and idiotic everyone else is; unless he’s ever worked with them, then he schmoozes.

    Being the best Canadian TV show sounds a little like being the smartest retard.

  • Goon

    “Only petulant.”

    Have you ever actually seen the show? Commenting on his character to me is kind of pointless if you don’t see how it works in the context of the program and how these two people play against each other.

  • Kenny’s personality on the show is pretty cocky and overconfident, which is part of his charm. I am assuming some of his responses are meant to be taken with a sense of humour although if you aren’t familiar with the show, I can see why you wouldn’t read it that way.

    Then again, it’s entirely possible that the TV version of Kenny is no different from the real world Kenny. :)

  • Goon

    To me its kind of like pro wrestling, where the public persona is an exaggeration of their actual character, for the sake of entertainment. If he gets under your skin, I’d say he’s doing his job.

    A lot of people who watch the show have a similar experience to this – they intially despise Kenny because he cheats and he blatantly plays up a heel persona. But Spenny, despite mostly playing clean, is often enough his own worst enemy and/or so naive, that people are won over to rooting for Kenny. Watch the show long enough and episode to episode who you’re rooting for changes, and since Spenny rarely wins, it’s more satisfying to see Kenny get his comeuppance than if he lost more regularly.

  • Tyson

    Well, was his interview in fucking character? Was his character was the guy who appeared in a Kevin Smith movie? Who did they make the check out to?

    That is ridiculous. He can’t call it a reality show, then say his childlike persona is a character.

    I’ve seen the show, it’s OK, but it’s a half scripted reality show that comes across as malicious more than it should.

    Reading the interview I see why. The guy can’t understand why more people don’t get his jokes, or douches think it would be funny if his show would do x, but fuck them, they don’t get it. Unless, you know, they’ve worked with him in the past, then they are talented and great.

    I stand by the impression I got from the interview.

    The point of interviews are not to pay lip service to characters. Ideally the guy should try to grow his audience, not insult the people who aren’t already fans. If he’s gotten this far in this business and can’t be a little humbled by it, then he has a personality disorder.

  • Goon

    You’re entitled to your impression, and of course it’s not going to be your thing if you think its too malicious. I mean that’s the whole premise of the show; spiking your friend with LSD, and then punishing him for losing by having the entire crew barf on him.

    To me it’s kind of like complaining that Care Bears is too kid-oriented.

  • Rob

    Thanks for the interview. I love Kenny vs. Spenny. I wish it was more readily available on DVD in the U.S.

  • rjdelight

    @goon

    I agree the show is still really funny, but it’s pretty obvious, at least compared to earlier seasons, that things are scripted.

  • Joe

    KvS is good, but the best Canadian show on TV is Dragon’s Den. Hands down.

  • Tyson

    Goon, I said it comes off as malicious more than it should. KvS feels more like a half assed jack ass, but at least the jackass guys get one over on one another occasionally, and seem to genuinely like one another.

    And at issue is not my impression of the show, it’s the whether or not Kenny is a jerk, or if he just plays one on TV. My impression from the interview is that he is a jerk.

    And Joe, Dragon’s Den is out of the UK originally.

  • Joe

    Well, the Canadian version is still great. And isn’t it originally from Japan?

  • Goon

    Dragon’s Den came from Japan where it was called “Money Tigers”

  • Niklas

    oh yeah, Dragon’s Den is awesome as well.

  • face

    The fart meter episode made me cry with laughter. funny show. funny characters. there’s no way parts aren’t scripted though…no matter what the guy says.

  • Goon

    Well tonights episode is “who can get further with the other guys mom”

    if Kenny nails Mrs. Rice I think Kenny would have a much tougher road ahead of him trying to convince anyone the show isn’t scripted.

  • A-Train

    It’s interesting to note that he knows the formula for the show’s success: “The more pissed off (Spenny) is, the funnier he gets. So I like keeping him pissed; life likes doing that to him as well. Happy Spenny means shitty KvS.” I never thought of it like that, but attention to things like that is why it’s my favorite original Canadian show since Kids in the Hall.

  • Does anyone know what Kenny did to Spenny’s mom to win the competition?? I’m guessing fingerbanging cuz he smelt his finger afterwords…

  • johnntchimpo

    I love KvS, but to be honest, the best Canadian television show is by far Trailer Park Boys. What a great show

  • pasha!

    man, you know your show is totally bitchin when someone can find it like years after it’s done and it’s still funnier than half the shit on tv at the time

    fucking fantastic show, kenny hotz is a the absolute man not just because of all his accomplishments but because this is the first interview I’ve actually bothered to completely read. shine on you crazy fucking diamond shine on

  • god him self

    i am planning to smite down kenny vs spenny because it makes me want to piss on my son with fire and then jump in a freezer and jerk off with anger