Ike Barinholtz, the comic actor who starred in Blockers, The Mindy Project, and Neighbors, grew up in Buena Park in a family that, more or less, saw eye to eye politically. So when he found his family fighting at the Thanksgiving table three weeks after Trump was elected, he thought, If we’re getting mad at each other, what the hell is going on with other families? That inspired his directing debut, The Oath, which he wrote and costars in with Tiffany Haddish.
Tell me about the film.
This is my first interview about it.
We keep it local. The Oath is a dark comedy about an America that is very politically divided and a presidential administration obsessed with loyalty — so far removed from our reality that it’s almost like seeing Avatar for the first time. The government has announced that there is a not-mandatory but highly recommended Patriot’s Oath that certifies you love the country and would never do anything subversive. The deadline to sign the oath is the Friday after Thanksgiving, and my character, who is entrenched on the left, has all his family in town staying with him. And like for a lot of people, the Thanksgiving table becomes this flash point.
On Twitter, you’re unabashedly on the left. Will people on the right be able to enjoy the movie?
I truly hope they do. I made a concerted effort to not make this liberal porn.
Do you ever feel like you’ve got to get politics off your brain?
You have to balance it out. I allow myself in the morning to have a cup of coffee, read what’s going on, and maybe fire off an incredibly angry tweet and then go about my day. People used to take smoke breaks; now you take rage breaks.
Let’s get off politics. You do so many impressions. Are there any Chicago-specific ones?
I always wanted to do Mayor Daley on Mad TV, but it never made it on. I’ve lived in L.A. a long time, but if I get mad at all, my Chicago accent comes out. I’ll say to my wife in a thick North Side accent, “Can you fuckin’ believe this shit? I got a ticket.” And she’ll be like, “What happened to you?”
Your brother, Jon, plays your sibling in the film, and you fight a lot about politics. What did you fight about growing up?
Oh my God, everything. The biggest fights were — remember the Kellogg’s mini cereals that came in a variety pack? There was only one Cocoa Krispies. And we’d take turns, getting it every other week. Then on his week, I’d try to scam him out of his. He’d say, “No, no, it’s my turn.” Inevitably, I’d, like, put my finger in his cereal.