Student loans suck. And they suck worse now than they ever have. But Natural Light beer has a solution. Well, for 25 of you anyway. The brand has teamed up with Jake Johnson (New Girl, Jurassic World) and decided to give away $1 million to (21-and-over) college students and grads to help relieve that burden. They’re even running a cool local ad in 10 college towns during the Super Bowl.
We sat down with Jake in the exceedingly cool new AB-InBev (Natural Light’s parent company) HQ in lower Manhattan (where we totally could have had breakfast beers, but didn’t) to talk about the Natty Light initiative, what’s coming up for the last season of New Girl, and dueling Larry King interviews.
The Manual: Tell us about joining this initiative.
Jake Johnson: When they came to me with it, honestly it felt like a very easy yes. What this push is is giving college students money. If you’re going to be drinking a Natural Light, rip the green tab off [from specially marked cans], turn your phone on, and make a video about your college experience. Send it in, and you might win. The steps are easy.
The contest seems very timely, given how the sheer scale of college debt is in the news lately.
I think it’s really hard to enter the work force outside of college right now. And it gets exponentially harder if you are three steps behind financially. So if you can enter the work force and you can say, “Well, this starter job, I’m not getting paid very much and I’m living with nine people, but this is what I want to be doing.” And you’re not in the hole starting out? I thought it was a pretty cool initiative.
I know you’ve mentioned before that beer is your go-to at events and awards parties.
Alcohol is great. But, if I’m doing an event, or I’m doing something where I’m like, not working but I have to be “here,” and I don’t want to get sloppy? Beer is perfect. When somebody goes, “Would you like a shot with that?” I’ll go, “Oh yeah, I’m going to take this mystery thing that might change the course of my entire life? I’ll pass.”
The last season of New Girl is premieres on April 10 (Jake plays writer-bartender Nick Miller, the on-again, off-again love interest against Zoey Deschanel’s Jess Day). Does it feel like everyone’s character got a good wrap-up?
It did, actually. After season six, showrunner/creator Liz Meriwether called, saying it was kind of over. Me and the cast were talking, Zoe and I were texting, and we all felt like the stories hadn’t ended yet. I also realized I personally need a “final eight” [episodes]. I really like Zoe and really care about her as a human being, and now I’m probably not going to see here that much. I really care about [cast members] Max, Lamorne and Hannah, and so it was really nice to know that there were two more months of shooting. It lets you really know that this is the end, which rarely happens in life. We all actually got to say goodbye.
There’s a time shift of three years from season six. Was that a challenge when it came to playing the character?
Kind of, a little bit. They made some choices with Nick. Liz is very smart, that show is her baby. She wanted to show Nick’s progression, she wanted all of the characters to progress. So, you know, Nick’s more successful and dresses nicer. It was like — I know this sounds like nothing — but I’m used to going to work and throwing on a weird pair of sweatpants and a flannel shirt. Now it’s … this is a suit?? I gotta wear a button-down?
They do grow up a little bit. And, for fans of the show, I think the final eight will be satisfying, because they really do finish storylines. It’s not one of those things where you’re like, “But, why did they do this???” Liz knew we have a fan base on that show, and we wanted to give them something that was really the end.
So I just learned that you were instrumental in getting the show Drunk History off the ground, which began life as a Funny or Die web series, then moved to Comedy Central. What happened there?
Derek Waters is a good friend. It turns out that, through competing Larry King interviews, we remember the night differently. I will put it here, to Derek Waters: You’re wrong, I’m right.
We were having a night where we were having a bunch of canned beer, and we decided to like, drink. Just the two of us. He came over to my apartment. I remember it, we were playing a game of quarters, he claims we weren’t because he says he doesn’t know how to play quarters. I refer to it as a college throwback night, and he’s like, “How could I be in a college throwback? I didn’t go to college.” But I’m like, “I know, but that’s what the night was.” We were listening to ridiculous music, drinking as many canned beers as possible.
And my buddy Bill had a story while we were growing up in the pre-Internet age. And that was, how Otis Redding died. It was a 30-minute story and we all were like, it’s an incredible story. So back then you couldn’t Google. Someone told a great campfire story — it’s real. I told it to Derek. I took my time with it — I had a bunch of beer in me, and it’s a great story.
The next day he goes, “Hey man, can I buy you a case of beer and come over and get drunk and can you retell me that story? But I’m going to have our other friend Jeremy film it.” I go, “… Why?” And he goes, “Because I wanna get our other friends to re-enact it, because I think there was a lot of that history that was a lie. I want to have the ghost of Otis Redding nearby going, ‘Bullshit. that never happened.’”
And I said, “Not a chance am I going on video to be revealed to be a drunken storyteller who lies.” So he got our other friends Mark Gagliardi and Mike Cera, and they and I acted out the first bits of another story, and we shot it in our friend’s backyard — a day’s shoot. We had a lot of fun. It got online and exploded.
And that was the beginning of Drunk History.
You guys should do a Drunk History of how Drunk History was created, with other people playing you.
Derek and I talk every year, and we try and find new ways. I’ve done a few episodes (as a character, not a storyteller). I think … sometime we’ll do something.
What’s coming up for you?
I’ve got a movie called Tag coming up this summer, that I shot last year. It was a real blast to shoot. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m hearing good things about it.
And of course, in 10 or 20 years, whatever has replaced Netflix will have The New New Girl reunion series.
I just heard that Murphy Brown’s coming back! So, yeah, in a bunch of years, you’ll see the cast of New Girl in our 50s.
Learn more about Natural Light’s million-dollar giveaway — and post your entry — at NattyStories.com.