There’s a scene in Nathan Lane’s new movie in which the beloved icon of stage and screen grabs a sack of Boar’s Head deli lunch meat, chews it up, and spits it into the face of two writhing, grotesque, skeleton-like puppets. They’re the Sewer Boys, and alongside Lane, Megans Mullally and Thee Stallion, and two relatively unknown comedians—Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson—they’re the stars of Hollywood’s coolest (and weirdest) new movie, Dicks: The Musical.
A scrappy little A24 production made for about $8 million, Dicks was born 10 years ago as a 30-minute stage show created by Sharp and Jackson, who played all the parts and ran the show out of the UCB theater in the basement of a Gristedes in Manhattan. It was a riff on The Parent Trap—hence its original title, Fucking Identical Twins—and Sharp says that other than thinking that the show would maybe earn the pair a gig as stand-ins on Broad City, they truly never imagined it would go anywhere.
As the show grew in relative popularity, though, it became a touchpoint for queer comedians in New York, who, after the show, would follow Sharp and Jackson to a nearby gay bar, Barracuda, for a salon of sorts. There, people like Bowen Yang, Matt Rogers, Patti Harrison, and Julio Torres got to meet and hang out, with Sharp and Jackson’s events helping create a network of not just comedic collaborators but also close friends.
Yang first met Sharp when the two were doing Story Pirates improv shows for kids, and he now plays God in Dicks. Yang says that watching the scrappy little stage show become a full-fledged production has been “so beautiful.” Part of that is surely because he’s been able to celebrate the movie alongside the rest of the cast and director Larry Charles (Borat, Seinfeld) all over North America, from the film’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premiere pre-party at a local Hooters to its splashy red carpet premiere in LA, where everyone from Sandra Oh and Vanessa Bayer to Drag Race alums like Kerri Colby and Manila Luzon showed up to support.
All those interviews, premieres, and press events have been possible because, earlier this summer, A24 made a much–lauded interim agreement with both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), agreeing to the unions’ demands and reminding the world that, unlike media juggernauts like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery, they’re not part of the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), who the unions were (and are) facing down amid one of the longest-running strikes in Hollywood history. Though Dicks wasn’t part of the studio’s initial agreement, which was more about continuing production of movies like Mother Mary and Death of a Unicorn, A24 used the expertise it gained there to snag Dicks a SAG exemption at the 11th hour, on the eve of the film’s Toronto festival premiere.
“We are very pro-strike,” says Jackson, “but we didn’t expect it to last as long as it has. We didn’t expect the AMPTP to be such a disaster.” He and Sharp say that, prior to the exemption, they’d planned to attend the Toronto screening just to sit in the back and watch reactions, but that it did feel a little anticlimactic after a decade of working on the project.