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“Stiller does try to play a straight man,” says Cote.

“Yeah,” Ballard replies, “not really. He’s just taking the zany self-abuse character and putting it out front.”

The elevator car stops to admit another man, a stranger. There are acknowledgement nods all around.

“I mean, a dog biting him on the crotch?” Ballard continues. “Like five minutes of it, facial expressions and all?”

“That’s not straight,” Cote concedes.

The car stops again; there are nods; the stranger exits.

“Probably a bad place to come into that conversation,” says Cote, after a while.

“Yeah,” says Ballard. “Now that was a straight man.”


“Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan,” says Cote.

“What?” says Ballard. “You think that’s chemistry?”

“They’ve got it.” Cote slurps Slushee. “They’re like iconic for it.”

“That’s not chemistry! That’s the farthest thing from chemistry!” Ballard presses his face in his hands. “Everybody thinks that because everybody else says it, but it’s just two attractive people taking turns with–with jokes written by lonely women.”

“Lonely women can’t make jokes?” she asks.

“There’s no mmph! No chutzpah, no danger, no blood in the water!” Ballard’s getting louder. “Chemistry is about shit blowing up!”

“I wish you wouldn’t yell.”

“I’m not yelling!” he yells.