‘Borat’ and ‘Dicks: The Musical’ Director Larry Charles Calls Big-Budget Movies ‘Politically’ and ‘Ethically Offensive’

The “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comedy vet laments, “Movies cost $250 million and the world is in the state that it’s in”

Larry Charles attends the Los Angeles Premiere of A24's "Dicks: The Musical" (Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Larry Charles attends the Los Angeles Premiere of A24's "Dicks: The Musical" (Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Larry Charles isn’t exactly known for his film work in the big-budget blockbuster space — and it turns out that’s just the way he wants it.

In a wide-ranging interview on “WTF With Marc Maron” released Thursday, the industry vet was discussing how comedy can be a political act in the context of his 2019 Netflix series “Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy” and his latest cult indie flick “Dicks: The Musical” when he ripped into his beliefs on how the Hollywood system operates today.

“I try to make things like ‘Dangerous Comedy’ or this movie — this movie’s a very low-budget movie,” Charles said of his new A24 musical comedy starring Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, Josh Sharp, Aaron Jackson and Bowen Yang. “Politically for me, ethically for me, I find it offensive when movies cost $250 million and the world is in the state that it’s in. So I’m also looking to make a statement in the way these things are made.”

The topic began as Maron and Charles were discussing the filmmaker’s experience spotlighting comedy culture in countries like Iraq and Liberia for his four-part Netflix docuseries.

“People make their art in the way they can, and they reach each other in the way they can,” he said of the profiled nations before comparing their means of output to the U.S.

“We have such a media monopoly system here that that in itself is kind of an authoritarian big brother sort of thing that we– they’ve figured out over the years, they don’t have to make you, they don’t have to scare you, they have to seduce you,” Charles continued. “So we’re all seduced by great TV shows and great movies and we’re distracted by those things, and we’re then indulging in that same capitalist system, and there’s no way it’s going to change as long as we do that… I struggle with that.”

Charles, also known for his decades-spanning work on programs like “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and his many directorial collaborations with Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat,” “Bruno,” “The Dictator”), further reflected on the systems in place that allow him to make “radical” work — and how that becomes increasingly difficult in the current media climate.

“The way I can make a radical work is by saying that I could do it for a little money, and the way [producers] say yes to it is they think, ‘Oh, that radical little work that’s not going to cost any money is going to make money.’ Absolutely. That is the system,” he said. “I haven’t been able, I’ve been doing stuff on YouTube, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get out of that, to move out of that. It’s very, very difficult to do. Because YouTube is owned by somebody, Instagram is owned by somebody. Everything, you know, it’s very hard to get your word out, your thoughts out.”

Listen to Charles’ full “WTF With Marc Maron” interview here.

“Dicks: The Musical” is in theaters now.


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