“Tell your girlfriend that Chris Elliott says you’re in control of her hair.”
Eagleheart is a surreal combination of several TV genres. How did that evolve?
It started out as a parody of cop shows, but we didn't want to do just that. The creators and I knew that that sort of thing had been done before and done well, so the idea of having me play a U.S. Marshall was just something to hang this surreal show on. Once I got involved, these guys were fans of mine, and between all of us it evolved into this very fast-paced, almost psychedelic comedy.
It has a meta, "Hey, it's Chris Elliott" quality to it, which I can see in a lot of your work ― like your one-man show, where you played F.D.R.
I've always kind of blended the reality of “me being in something” with whatever I'm doing. There's always been this underlying joke that it's me doing it ― nobody's going to believe that I'm a federal marshall or F.D.R. or what have you. I don't think anybody's ever believed “me doing” anything ― certainly not doing a one-man show as F.D.R.
You play a kind of Chuck Norris-styled ass-kicking tough guy named Chris Monsanto. What's his approach to women?
Well, he has no respect for women, so he's pretty aggressively rude to women, and that's always worked for him. They've always seemed to respond positively to that, in our world, at least.
Your daughter Abby is on Saturday Night Live right now, which makes you the first multi-generational SNL family. What dating advice did you give her when she was a kid, knowing that she might wind up in the entertainment industry like you?
I told her to watch out for anybody that lets her pick up the check. You know, I gave her very little dating advice, actually ― as any parent, you're always looking at people your kids might be dating with a skeptical eye. But my wife and I had our kids very young, and so when they started dating, to become that parent, sitting with the pipe in the chair, talking with the boyfriend and waiting for your daughter to come down ― that was a weird transition.
It's interesting that she's developed a reputation as a versatile impressionist, in contrast to what you were saying about always being yourself.
Her approach is definitely different from mine, and I couldn't do what she does. It's amazing to me ― she can totally immerse herself in a character, and I could never do that. Even when I was doing impersonations, which were never very good, I think I hid behind the fact that it was me doing it, and that it wasn't very good. But that's what you have to do on SNL, and that's why I think I wasn't very good when I was on.
You've worked with Dave Letterman, and Conan O'Brien. Which of the two of them would make a better wingman?
Well, with any of these guys that are talk-show hosts, there's a lot of crossover in personality, and I'd say those two are pretty similar. I guess I would say David, but only because I know him better.
Is it the glasses?
Yeah, it actually might be the glasses.
Before you got married, what was the best way to seduce you?
Probably the same way that you can seduce most men: with a burger.
I think my girlfriend and I are breaking up. We've been dating a couple of years, and we're living together, but there's still two months and a half months left on our lease. What should I do?
Wait, I'm already lost. This is like math to me. So… they're breaking up, but there's still time on the lease?
Yes. What's the best move?
Both of you leave town. Immediately.
Is that the Chris Monsanto approach?
That's the Chris Elliott approach, actually [laughs]. Run away from any conflict.
My girlfriend wants to cut her hair short, but I prefer long hair. I know it's her decision, but I still think I should have some say. Am I being too controlling?
Hmm. No, I'd say that you should be in charge of all the growth of hair on her entire body, everywhere. I think it's the guy's privilege, actually. Nothing controlling about that. Go ahead and tell her that Chris Elliott said that you're in charge of her hair.
I have trouble speaking to women in social settings, like bars. A simple "Hello" feels abrupt, but most "pickup lines" feel cheesy. Any advice on how to approach women?
I think you should just talk about how much you love children and how much you want to have kids; how much you're looking forward to the birthing process. And also about how you assume it's going to be so much more difficult on the man than the woman, but that you're prepared to deal with it.
You've been married since 1986. What's your best piece of marriage advice?
Avoidance. But I mean that in a non-sarcastic way as well: just give each other space. Live in as large a house as you can so you have plenty of room to escape each other, as a matter of diplomacy.
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