Before returning to the role of nurse Morgan Tookers on The Mindy Project, Ike Barinholtz plays another lovably awkward goofball opposite Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn in the big-screen adventure comedy Snatched.
A decade after ending what he calls his “super gay” run on MADtv, Barinholtz explains why he still has LGBT stories to tell.
Your hair always plays a major part in your transformation from desperate losers to handsome love interests. You might have the most versatile male hair in show business.
I feel like I’ve been waiting for that compliment my whole life. It’s definitely good to be able to bounce from cut to cut, especially when I’m playing a big dork like in Snatched.
Your character, Jeffrey, is an agoraphobic nerd who speaks Klingon. He’s also the ultimate mama’s boy. Can you relate?
I do get giddy when I see, like, a Star Wars trailer. And as much as I hate to describe myself as a mama’s boy, I do talk to my mom about four or five times a week. So, wow, I guess I am a nerdy mama’s boy.
Jeffrey’s sister, played by Amy Schumer, teases him for being “gay for mom.” That mom, of course, is played by comedy legend Goldie Hawn.
I’m everything for Goldie Hawn—gay, straight, bi—I’ll do whatever she wants. I’ve been in love with her for 40 years. If at some point you can have dinner with Goldie Hawn, I highly recommend it. She’s so nice, and her stories are better than anyone else’s. She’s been around, man, and she hasn’t missed a step.
Are you aware of your gay following?
Gay fans do make themselves known. A gay writer on The Mindy Project and my parents’ gay best friends in Chicago also make sure to keep me updated on my gay following. And thank God for it, because I think gay fans may love me the most. In fact, let me check my gay fan boards real quick.
A gay video bar in my hometown used to repeatedly play a 2003 MADtv sketch starring you and Josh Meyers as football fans who start passionately making out while watching a game.
Honestly, you’re probably about the 15th, 16th person to tell me about their hometown gay club playing that sketch. It’s the greatest thing. What’s better than having smart, attractive consumers looking at you all night?
That sketch could have been offensive, but it actually celebrates two friends having a sexual awakening and discovering their mutual attraction.
Absolutely. It was by two writers who had done it as a Groundlings sketch, and Josh and I immediately got it. We’d lived together in Amsterdam where all our friends were gay. We just saw it as a funny comment on the latent gayness inside these football dudes who don’t know what to do with all their energy. People still tell me how much they love that sketch.
You fully committed. Was that your first time making out with a guy?
The first and only, really. Josh and I are still very close, so maybe that has something to do with it. It was a lot of fun. I never had any apprehension about doing a gay sketch. I basically grew up in the Boystown area of Chicago.
MADtv did a lot of gay sketches during your tenure, including “Gay Hulk” and the homoerotic Abercrombie & Fitch spoofs. One sketch was just you and Rob Corddry talking about gay sex. Were you guys working though some stuff?
[Laughs] Well, the head writer at the time, my good friend Scott King, is a level-5 gay. We also had guys like Michael McDonald and Bruce McCoy, who’s worked with RuPaul for a long time. Yeah, the show was super gay, but the gay sketches they pitched were always the funniest. We never worried about offending the gay community because we were the gay community. I think it also tickled the writers to see me, this big, jocky straight guy, in gay situations.
Nice RuPaul shout-out, by the way.
Hey, after years of everybody telling me I have to watch Drag Race, a few weeks ago my wife and I finally sat down to watch it, and we fell in love all over again. It’s a great show.
The Mindy Project also features LGBT characters, like Danny’s gay brother and a lesbian nurse played by comedian Fortune Feimster. As a writer on the show as well, do you see diverse representation as a priority in the writers’ room?
It’s not an active conversation. For season 2 we brought on Chris Schleicher, one of the smartest writers I know—you have to follow him on Twitter. Then you add writers like the great Guy Branum and suddenly half the room is gay, so more gay storylines make their way into the show. If you’re not telling stories about LGBT people, you’re not telling the true story of America right now.
Mindy and Danny may be the show’s endgame couple, but I’m rooting for Morgan and Danny.
Oh, if Morgan ended up with Danny, he’d be so happy. He loves Danny so much. Even if he’s not particularly into the gay sex aspect, he’d do it. But I think Morgan really wants Danny and Mindy to get back together and then raise him as their child.
You co-wrote Central Intelligence, last summer’s bromantic action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. Was that bromance inspired by your friendship with David Stassen, your longtime writing partner?
That’s fair. We’ve been best friends since 1989 or 1990. We often look at the cornerstone of a story being a friendship between two guys, and there’s always gay subtext if you scratch the surface. We’re starting to branch out—we’ve written a movie about a guy who falls for a girl who’s bisexual—but the strength of our relationship bleeds into so much of what we write.
You had to oil up a shirtless Zac Efron in Neighbors 2, and I couldn’t help but notice that you went straight for the nipple. Was that a character choice?
I don’t remember that, so it must’ve been pure animal instinct. Since the first Neighbors, I always thought my character was in love with Zac, so I guess I leaned into that in the sequel. I actually told a gay friend when I was about to do that scene and he was very jealous.
Do you see the appeal?
Of course. Honestly, everyone’s in love with Zac. He’s the only person I know that everyone wants to fuck.
Snatched is out in theaters today.