It’s not real, but Tacoma plays starring role in new TV comedy by guys who made ‘Super Troopers’
Mustaches are about to put Tacoma on the TV comedy map.
“Tacoma FD” is a new half-hour sitcom that premieres March 28 on the TruTV network.
The 10-episode comedy was created by and stars Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme — two of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe members who created the “Super Troopers” movies. Their latest, released in 2018, grossed $30 million.
The new sitcom is in the same style as those movies, just toned down a bit for television. Lemme and Heffernan will be in Tacoma March 28 for the premiere.
“Tacoma FD” takes place in Tacoma, Washington — the rainiest city in America where firefighters have a lot of down time because fires go out before they get to them.
That free time is generally spent involved in hijinks.
Lemme and Heffernan’s cult-favorite “Super Troopers” movies follow a group of Vermont state troopers as they pull pranks on each other and sometimes the public.
“The idea was, how would you have the same scenario for a firefighter?” Heffernan said earlier this week. “So, we decided to set it in the wettest city in America — where there aren’t a lot of fires to fight. We thought Tacoma was a great place for that.”
Tacoma doesn’t really hold that title. It belongs to Hilo, Hawaii, according to the Weather.com, or Mobile, Alabama, according to climate.com or … it doesn’t really matter.
This is Hollywood.
“We really wanted a rainy city, and we thought of Seattle, but then we thought that’s too simple,” Lemme said. “Then it was either Spokane or Tacoma. I think we were in Tacoma when we decided.”
The pair performed at the Tacoma Comedy Club in 2017.
“‘Tacoma FD’ sounds better than ‘Spokane FD,’” Lemme said.
None of “Tacoma FD” is actually filmed in Tacoma.
“We turned sunny L.A. into rainy Tacoma,” Lemme said.
But there was at least one moment when the real Tacoma and its doppelganger merged.
During filming in November, the Woolsey Fire broke out in Southern California. It went on to consume 1,600 structures and kill three people.
As the film crew was setting up a shot, an SUV pulled up next to the fake Tacoma FD firetruck.
“The guy in the SUV looked up — I was riding shotgun — and he said, ‘Wow you guys came all the way from Tacoma, huh?’” Lemme recalled. “I kind of smiled at him and he said, ‘Right on man, right on.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were actors.”
“What a jerk you are, Lemme,” Heffernan said.
“Look, I’ll let him dream the dream and in the process, Tacoma FD will get some goodwill,” Lemme said.
TV comedies, which usually revolve around sets, are rarely shot in the cities they’re set in. (“Frasier” was shot in Los Angeles, not Seattle).
“Tacoma FD” is no exception.
Still, the production team has gone full Tacoma, filling the show with visual references to the city.
There’s no lack of big red trucks emblazoned with “Tacoma FD.” Actors wear T-shirts with “Tacoma FD” logos, though they don’t match the real Tacoma Fire Department logos.
And there are a lot of mustaches.
A poster of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with the word “Cooperation” on it hangs on a fire station wall as do photos of the cable-stayed 21st Street bridge and Mount Rainier.
A tow truck sports a 253 area code, and maps of Tacoma show up often.
There is one out of place map, however. Tacoma police headquarters features a map of Ohio on its wall. It’s not an inside joke.
“We had to find that location quickly,” Heffernan said. “We went and shot in a police station (set) they use for another show and they had Ohio stuff on the wall.”
In that scene, Heffernan’s character enters the police station, finds an officer asleep at the front desk and then locks him in a holding cell.
“We were like, ‘If we go by really quickly, they won’t notice (the map),’” Heffernan said.
In their defense, Lemme pointed out that there is a Tacoma, Ohio — an incorporated region in the eastern part of the state.
“Do your research next time,” Lemme said to a reporter.
“But we’re in Tacoma, Washington,” Heffernan said.
Broken Lizard comedy is not for children. “Tacoma FD” gets raunchy but not to the same degree as the “Super Trooper” movies.
“We describe our comedy as smart comedy for dumb people and dumb comedy for smart people,” Heffernan said.
Compared with the stylized 2006 inebriation comedy, “Beerfest,” the troupe’s “Super Trooper” movies and “Tacoma FD” are a more realistic style.
“It could actually happen in real life,” Heffernan said.
There’s a constant rivalry between Tacoma firefighters and police officers in the show.
“You remember the FD-PD feud of 2006?” one character asks another during one episode.
“How can I forget?” he responds, showing off a battle scar.
Aside from changing uniforms, there is one significant change from the “Super Trooper” movies. The firefighters are always portrayed as competent and professional at their jobs.
“When ‘Super Troopers’ is described, it’s five bumbling highway patrolmen,” Lemme said. “We didn’t want that with this. We want to respect firefighters and not put them in a bad light at all.”
The firefighters of “Tacoma FD” might be indistinguishable from the real thing if it wasn’t for the bizarre and comic circumstances they frequently find themselves in.
In fact, “Tacoma FD” might be more realistic than fire-themed TV shows like NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” with its flame-fueled drama in every episode.
The fireless incidents that keep Tacoma’s fictional firefighters busy include a boy hiding in a well to avoid his overbearing mother and a spitting llama stuck in playground equipment.
“All those stories you see in our episodes are based on true stories,” Lemme said.
Heffernen has firefighters in his family. A cousin is a “collector of firefighter stories,” he said.
“We brought him into the writers’ room,” Heffernen said. “We had him on set. He had all sorts of funny stories you wouldn’t believe are real. Like, giving mouth-to-mouth to a cat.”
Heffernan plays the station’s captain, Terry McConky, and Lemme plays another captain who is McConky’s brother-in-law.
Other cast members include Marcus Henderson (“Get Out”), Gabriel Hogan (“Heartland”), Hassie Harrison (“Southbound”) and Eugene Cordero (“The Good Place”).
Jimmy Tatro (“American Vandal”) plays a hot-tempered Tacoma police officer, and Suzy Nakamura (“Dr. Ken”) is a pushy Tacoma council member.
Guest stars include J.D. Pardo (“Mayans M.C.”) and Will Sasso (“The Three Stooges”).
Heffernan’s character is a matured version of Farva, the obnoxious cop in “Super Troopers.”
“He still has those elements that Farva has in ‘Super Troopers,” Heffernan said.
Lemme’s character isn’t quite happy that his brother-in-law has authority over him and pulls some pranks to get back at him.
“And to be clear, my character, Capt. Eddie Penisi, is still a good firefighter,” Lemme said. “He’s just mischievous. With a good mustache.”
In one scene, Penisi hides raw shrimp inside McConky’s office chair tubing where it slowly rots. McConky tears his office apart trying to find the source of the odor.
“That’s something that I did to one of my teachers in high school,” Lemme said. “He was one of those mean teachers. They moved the furniture out and moved it back in. Of course, the smell was still there. He could never pinpoint the source of the smell. So, they moved his furniture into another office and the smell was still there.”
Audience reaction and ratings will determine if “Tacoma FD” gets picked up for a second season.
“We’d love to do this for many seasons,” Lemme said. “We’ve got 10 great episodes, and we’ve got a lot of ideas for more. It’s just up to the good people at TruTV.”
What: Screening with Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan.
When: March 28, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St, Tacoma.
Tickets: Free but limited.
Registration link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trutv-tacoma-fd-screening-tickets-58672544159