Life after ‘Napoleon Dynamite:’ Jon Heder interview

Emily Triebwasser

It is a severe understatement to call Jon Heder a funny guy. Best known for his role as the title character in “Napoleon Dynamite,” he has the innate ability to make anyone feel at ease. He understands his target audience and knows exactly how to turn any situation into a humorous one. Here, he discusses learning new skills, working with comedic greats and his new movie, “Blades of Glory.”

What was it like working with Will Ferrell?

It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. No, I’m kidding – it was great. I mean, pro: he’s very easy to work with, great guy, and he’s very calm. But con: he’s too funny and makes me look bad. Surprisingly, he has no ego, even though he’s an extremely successful comedian. He was definitely a lot of fun to work with.

How was the ice skating for the movie?

It was a challenge, but I loved it. I’m always excited to learn a new skill. They train you, which is awesome because I like to rack up the skills. But yeah, it takes balance and strength, but also grace and pizazz. You have to be beautiful on the ice.

What is appealing to you about comedic work?

There is something just so fun about it. You feel so good if you can make someone laugh. It really is the magic of laughter.

What would you consider to be your comedic strengths?

My strengths, if I have any, have to do with physical comedy. It’s all making your body like a cartoon character’s body.

Any comedic role models?

I try to do my own thing, but I was always inspired by the SNL-type greats. Will Ferrell himself, Chris Farley, Jack Black … especially those who specialize in physical comedy.

I heard you came up with a few new ice skating maneuvers. Can you share one?

Love Dust! I came up with Love Dust. It involves pulling the sparkles out of your heart and let it flow through your arms and out your fingertips. It’s all in the hands.

How was the atmosphere on set?

Murky. No, but really it was a workhouse! We had a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of hard work. It was comedy plus sports. When we were filming, it was like the kind of nerves you get before a track meet. We want to be funny, but we also want to look good on the ice. There were always a lot of extras watching, so it was very exciting and nerve-wracking.

How do you pick and choose roles?

[“Blades of Glory”] was a no-brainer. When I heard the pitch and concept, I was sold. You don’t see this often. I mostly just look for originality and something that I can have fun with.

Was there any comedic competition between you and Will Ferrell? Who was funnier?

No question – he easily beats me. The more competitive parts came on the ice, like who was the better skater. I remember thinking during filming, “Will had three extra weeks of skating training, and I can skate circles around him … I’m feeling pretty good about myself.” But he can skate comedic circles around me.

So no malicious pranks on set?

Maybe a few broken [ice-skate] blades, so he could maybe break his ankle.

Do you ever get worried about being too closely associated with “Napoleon Dynamite” for your whole career?

Even if I was stuck as Napoleon, I mean, that’s not a bad place to be. Not too worried.

How have you changed since college?

I can eat at nicer places. Not just Subway and Taco Bell every night.

“Blades of Glory” opens everywhere tomorrow.