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Alison Brie talks Mad Men, Community and clown school

Image for Alison Brie talks Mad Men, Community and clown school

She was very funny in Community, and not funny at all but still great in Mad Men. Now, Alison Brie is taking on the big screen. This week sees the DVD release of subversive rom-com Sleeping With Other People, in which she and Jason Sudeikis debate whether avocados are erotic or not. And later this year she'll appear in five more movies, from James Franco's The Disaster Artist to Anna Kendrick comedy Get A Job. Yep, the Brie business is a-boomin', so we sat down with her for a half-hour to discuss all manner of random things...

alison-brie-sleeping-with-other-peopleAlison Brie faces off with Jason Sudeikis in Sleeping With Other People.

Mad Men finished last year. Are you missing it?

I am, a lot. I watched the final episode of Mad Men at home with my father. I cooked dinner and we drank wine and watched it. It was great. We kept stopping and starting, though, because my dad likes to discuss what you're watching while you're watching it. But it's interesting because his father, my grandfather, worked for a period of time as an ad man. It was kinda cool to hear his stories. That was something I'd never known about my grandfather before I started working on the show.

Have you kept up with anyone from the show?

I've not. It's tough. The cast members of Community are much more like a family to me. I take more ownership of that show. We make an effort to see each other and we have a group text that is constantly pinging away, every day, so we still feel very connected. Ken [Jeong] uses the most emojis. He's huge on emojis. He likes to use the purple angry face and the flames!

What was your first ever acting experience?

I played Toto in a school production of The Wizard Of Oz. I was probably six or so. I didn't have any lines but I got to improv all my barking, so I think it was valuable, career-wise. If you're playing a dog, kneepads are essential. My mum sewed them into my costume for me. And I think I just read the room. There's a lot of opportunities for scene-stealing if you're a dog. I took the role very seriously even then. They would do two performances a night, with entirely different casts, and I just wanted to be better than the other Toto. (Laughs) My nemesis Toto, who I was clearly better than. "Oh, she's doing it that way? My bark isn't going to be quite like that..."

And what was your first brush with Hollywood?

I remember walking home from middle school and they were shooting a movie called Bye Bye Love that stars Matthew Modine and Paul Reiser. Somebody working on the movie stopped me and bought my school binder for $10, because they wanted one that looked like a real, used binder, with drawings all over it. There I was, in sixth grade, walking home punching the air. It was the coolest thing. I'll never forget that movie.

alison-brie-mad-menAs Trudy aongside Vincent Kartheiser's weaselly Pete Campbell in Mad Men.

Is it true that Halloween was filmed at your high school?

That is true. It sucks now, because they basically tore down the whole place, so it doesn't look the same at all. It's really a shame. When I was a freshman in sophomore, I had a locker that you could see in the movie! I always found that super-cool. The town I grew up in, South Pasadena, had a lot of movies shot in it. Old School was shot a block from my high school. We'd go by the set of the Beethoven movies, where I got to meet Charles Grodin. Father Of The Bride was shot in Pasadena proper. My dad would drive my sister and I past the Father Of The Bride house, because we thought it was so cool!

Famously, you once worked as a clown...

I was not a scary clown. I was called Sunny and I had a yellow ’fro and yellow-and-white polka dot outfit. I was 17 years old and I did it for a summer and it was a great job. When I think about doing something like now, it totally terrifies me: "Go and entertain these 20 seven-year-olds for an hour!" Kids can be tough critics. But it was actually really fun. I had a boombox and a bag full of tricks. I would play music and put down a parachute for us all to sit on. I'd make balloon animals and paint faces. Then we'd play games like Duck Duck Goose. My balloon animals weren't great, though. My giraffe looked exactly like my wolf. (Laughs) The only downside was all the dads hitting on me and walking me to the car and stuff. You're trying to balance doing these games with not showing your underwear to looming dads.

Sounds like a testing experience. Did it toughen you up?

Definitely. The company that I worked for was quite an amateurish one. Their headquarters was just this warehouse in Compton, full of bounce houses. Very strange. I would drive there, pick up my bag of stuff, go in their closet, paint my own face, then go to the gas station en route to three parties. I'd be fully dressed as a clown, red nose and everything, a 17 year-old girl pumping gas in Compton. And there'd just be some dude going, "Wassup?"

What kind of movies do you watch at home?

Alien is one of my favourite films. I'm a classic horror fan. It's a tough one for me, because I get scared quite easily. I've developed this system where my fiancé pre-screens new horror movies for me. I'll go, "Can I watch it?" and he'll shake his head. One we liked recently was It Follows. We watched it on a Sunday morning, because I like to have bright sunshine flooding into the room! The Babadook is on my list. And what's the one with Rose Byrne? Insidious. I walked in on him watching the end, and got haunted by that...

alison-brie-community-picGun crazy: Brie in Community's Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design episode.

What's the most star-struck you've ever been?

Jon Stewart. I was just thinking about this, actually, which is why my answer was so fast, because I was reading his chapter in Judd Apatow's book. I got to be on The Daily Show, maybe two years ago, and I was excited to be on it, but I just remember it catching me off-guard being in a room with him. I was speechless, because he is so charismatic and intelligent and is doing such amazing things. I am so in awe of what he does. Meeting funny people, you sort of think, "We have the same sense of humour and do the same thing!" With Jon Stewart, I could never do what he does. It's crazy. I almost didn't want to say anything, because I didn't want to sound stupid in front of him. The second person I'll say is Paul McCartney. At a BAFTA tea five years ago I got shoved into a group of people by my publicist, who was like, "Don't you want to meet Paul McCartney?" I shook his hand, dribbled slightly and then ran to the bathroom and cried. (Laughs) He did a voice on Bojack Horseman, which was insane.

Finally, you worked with Chevy Chase for many years on Community. What's your best Chevy story?

I have a number of stories, but what can I share with you now? (Laughs) The first season of the show, I'm standing out in front of this stage, on a break. And Chevy, who has a mischievous side, appears and says, "Come with me." He takes me over to this golf cart and takes me on a joyride around Paramount. I'm freaking out, because it's this new big job for me and I don't want to get in trouble. We turn a corner, there's this big van blocking the middle of the road, and there's only a tiny gap between it and the wall. Chevy goes, "We can make it." I look at him and say, "Chevy, we can't make it!" He floors it, which means we're up to about five miles an hour, and we slowly inch through, knocking the driver's side mirror off the van. The driver gets out, this huge guy, and I'm really scared. Then the guy says, "Oh my God, are you Chevy Chase?" He just wanted a photo with him. Chevy and I should make a Mad Max-style movie, just us in that golf cart.

Sleeping With Other People is out on DVD, Amazon and iTunes from February 22.