As Reno 911!’s Lieutenant Jim Dangle, Thomas Lennon has gotten himself into some pretty sticky situations in five seasons of fake police work. But without a doubt, the most impressive thing he has managed to get into are those shorts -- those famous skintight, thigh-baring Daisy Dukes that Dangle prefers for “mobility” purposes.
THIS MONTH, the shorts are back as Reno returns to Comedy Central for a sixth season. “The shorts are a little bit tighter this year,” Lennon says. “Though I think that might be just because I’m a year older. That may be through no fault of the costume designer.”
Lennon, who created the mostly improvised show with his costar and longtime collaborator Ben Garant, promises other changes to the Reno Sheriff’s Department this season as well. Namely, two new cast members -- Joe Lo Truglio, a veteran of Lennon’s the State comedy group, and Ian Roberts, who performed with the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe -- join the force. And as has become customary for the show, a whole slew of comedic guest stars will also pop up throughout the season, including The Office’s Rainn Wilson and Craig Robinson, Superbad star Jonah Hill, and Christopher Guest staple Jane Lynch.
Fans of the sometimes-raunchy mockumentary may be surprised when skimming Lennon’s lengthy résumé, which includes not only big-screen supporting roles (Hancock and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days) and memorable bit parts (Joey’s hand twin on Friends) but also writing credits for family-friendly films (The Pacifier, Herbie Fully Loaded, and the hugely successful Night at the Museum). The 38-yearold isn’t slowing down, either: He’s currently starring in 17 Again, a project bookended by his role in last month’s I Love You, Man and next month’s Night at the Museum sequel, which he cowrote and stars in.
In 17 Again, Lennon plays the friend of a man who mysteriously becomes a teenager again and gets to relive his high school years. The movie costars Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, and, in his first comedic role, High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron.
“The first time I met Zac, I was like, ‘Oh man, this kid’s going to be one of those weird Tiger Beat kids,’ “ Lennon says. “Turns out, he’s the most levelheaded, relaxed, smart, interesting guy you’ll meet. He’s a great singer and dancer, but he’s also super funny.”
Lennon is slightly more humble when it comes to his own comedic chops. When asked to sum up his on-screen strategy, he says, “I find that doing comedy is easier if I put on either the least amount of clothing possible or the tightest, shiniest amount of clothing possible and then try to act serious while I’m in it. Then, basically, my work is done for me.”
And that brings us back to the shorts. Lennon admits that his wife, who’s expecting the couple’s first child in July, isn’t crazy about his costume choices on Reno. But even she can’t help but be proud that Lieutenant Dangle’s getup has become one of the most popular Halloween costumes in recent years. Lennon does, however, have one gripe about the imitation uniforms. “The costume is so much bigger than my actual one,” he quips. “They need to still cut about three inches off of those shorts. You’ve really got to have some cojones to wear them.”
On where he falls in the spectrum of hot TV cops: “I’m going to put myself right after Adrian Zmed on T.J. Hooker. Well, I guess if we’re counting ladies, it would go Heather Locklear, Adrian Zmed, me. We should do a recount to see if I didn’t pass Adrian Zmed in some states.”
On whether he watches Reno 911!: “I actually don’t have cable TV. I get the broadcast channels. I try to minimize my TV consumption if possible, except for absolutely emergency things -- like American Idol.”
On the kissing abilities of Paul Rudd, whom he locks lips with in I Love You, Man: “Not bad. I would say in the seven or eight range.”
On the status of the long-awaited DVD of the short-lived MTV show The State: “The DVD is done, and it has all new commentaries on every single episode, deleted scenes, and sketches that never made the air. MTV and Comedy Central have promised us that it is coming out sometime in 2009, so keep your eyes peeled.”