Well, luck may not have as much to do with it as circumstance, but the two funnymen, who co-wrote and acted together in the new movie Division III: Football’s Finest, have a tight relationship that has lasted two decades.
“He’s a big part of my comedy,” Dick said Wednesday in an interview session that included him, Henderson and Division III actor, co-writer and director Marshall Cook. They were all gathered at a retail shop on Wilmer Avenue in Anniston, Harvest Vintage and Thrift Store, which Henderson’s sister owns.
“We are best friends. We’ve been best friends for 20 years,” Dick said.
Henderson, who spent part of his military-brat childhood in Anniston, began acting at age 25, when he was cast in Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. Although his part was cut from the American release of the movie, Henderson had been bitten by the acting bug and moved to Hollywood. He began doing stand-up at The Comedy Store, whose regulars have ranged from Rosanne Barr to Robin Williams to Dave Chappelle. It was there he met Jim Carrey and gave Carrey the idea for his now-classic Fire Marshal Bill character. Henderson met Dick around 1990-91, just before Dick started on The Ben Stiller Show.
“We became like best friends,” Henderson said.
From there, the two toured the country doing Dick’s comedy show, which often “came apart and shattered and became a musical,” Henderson said. They played together on one of Dick’s music albums, and Henderson also wrote on The Andy Dick Show, which was on MTV from 2001-2003. Henderson has helped write much of Dick’s comedy, even comedy routines when Dick was invited on talk shows.
In 2005, Dick, Henderson and Cook were united for the first time when they worked on the movie Danny Roane: First Time Director — in which Dick and Cook starred — together. Marshall is the original writer of Division III, which started as a short several years ago. He fleshed out the script and handed it over to Henderson and Dick, who added more jokes.
“I put my sprinkle on it,” Dick said.
The movie tells the story of fictional Division III college football team, the Pullham University Blue Cocks — a mascot that was inspired by Jacksonville State University’s Gamecocks, Henderson said. When the head coach unexpectedly dies, the school’s president (Mad TV’s Mo Collins) hires Rick Vice (Dick), a known felon and all-round lunatic, to drum up attention from the media. Henderson plays Vice’s line coach and nutritionist, Bob Delgirt. Cook portrays the team’s quarterback, Mitch DePrima, who came to Pullham to be the star player. Mitch and Vice butt heads and Mitch struggles to find himself while dealing with his insane coach, meat-head teammates, his male cheerleader roommate and the sexy new sports trainer (the cast also includes Adam Carolla and Mad TV stars Will Sasso, Debra Wilson and Bryan Callen).
“Coach Rick Vice is just washed up, shouldn’t be coaching,” Dick said. “He’s a character created by Marshall and infused with my insanity.”
Dick has had several well-publicized run-ins with the law, including arrests for drug and sex crimes. He hasn’t had a drink “in a long time,” and explains his lifestyle as: “What’s crazy for you is Tuesday for me.”
So playing the over-the-top character of Coach Vice wasn’t much of a stretch for Dick.
“Hiding my personality is like throwing a thin veil over a rabid stray dog,” Dick said. “You’re still gonna hear it.”
Dick and Cook are taking the movie, which will be available on video on demand Nov. 18 and on DVD in mid-January, on a college tour and stopped in Anniston to visit Henderson’s family on the way from Birmingham to Virginia. Henderson splits his time between Anniston and Los Angeles, but always considers Alabama home. Dick was glad to finally see the thrift store in real life, his prior impressions of the place gleaned only from photographs sent by Henderson over the years.
The friends plan on continuing their working relationship in the future, talking about plans for new characters — like one based on a girl who claims to be Christina Aguilera’s cousin — and making the rounds of the talk shows, as they’ve done in the past. (David Letterman once said his favorite sketch from The Andy Dick Show was one that starred Henderson as Dick’s female blind date.)
“I can’t say that I made Andy Dick,” Henderson said. “But I helped make him.”