Ed Helms: Bluegrass Ambassador, Tiger Bed Maker, 'Office' Optimist
Ed Helms: Bluegrass Ambassador, Tiger Bed Maker, 'Office' Optimist

Talks L.A. Bluegrass Situation, John C. Reilly's Great Voice & the 'Work Cut Out for Us' If 'The Office' Gets Another Season

The 3rd annual L.A. Bluegrass Situation will be taking place this weekend. Conceived by Largo proprietor Mark Flanagan and comic actor Ed Helms, the last two years have featured performances by Vince Gill, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. This year Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, John C. Reilly and of course Helms himself will be performing. It promises to be a twangin' good time. Sorry. Helms spoke to Billboard about his passion for bluegrass music, the longevity (and music) of the "Hangover" movies and whether "The Office" has run out of toner.

Martin, Reilly, Helms... Are you part of a movement of actors turned roots musicians?

(Laughs) I didn't know there was a movement but if there is sure, feel free to rope me in. I've always been a musician, it's not something I've ever been shy about. I'm also totally realistic. It's not my main profession, for me it's an exciting and passionate hobby and I'm fortunate enough to share it in a context with really amazing professionals who jump on board.

What's on your iPod right now?

I really love the Punch Brothers new album and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers album is fantastic. I love Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show, Crooked Still, Dave Rawlings, some Decemberists.

And a little Liza to round it out.

Minnelli? Yeah sure of course! But that's a no brainer.

Steve Martin and John C. Reilly are performing this year. Will there be a celebrity super jam?

No, I don't think so. Steve and I are on the same show on Sunday and if history is any indicator then we'll do a tune or two together but John's fantastic. I don't know if you've ever seen him perform. He's someone I don't consider just some actor who likes to play music, he's like a real musician with a beautiful voice and a real passion for some great old music.

What do you say to people who automatically think "Deliverance" when bluegrass is mentioned?

First of all "Deliverance" is a fantastic movie. But you know what? It's not my mission to convince anybody to like the music. I just like to put it out there and if people respond to it, great. We all bring our own assumptions and prejudices to everything we consume and I would hope that people could see through any of that bullshit and really hear the music for what it is which is one of the most soulful tradition in the American music history. I love it and I love to perform it and I love to share it. If we can spread that joy around all the better but if someone hates it I'm certainly not going to make them sit through it.

Are you responsible for your songs on "The Office" and the "Hangover" movies?

It varies. The tiger song on "The Hangover" was Todd Phillips idea and then I wrote it and obviously performed it. In "Hangover 2" I did another song, a Billy Joel parody and that I had very little say in.

Were you disappointed that you were not nominated for an Oscar for Best Song?

Actually I would have been disappointed in the Academy if it had been (laughs). We submitted it for an Oscar because it met all the criteria and why not? And that was a fun exercise.

"The Hangover Part II" was a huge hit but essentially massacred by critics.

I think there were some fair criticisms of it, but at the end of the day nothing is for everyone and I'm still just damn proud of the movie. We had a hell of a lot of fun making it and we made a deliberate choice to stay in the neighborhood of the first one. Critics will say what they want and that's just fine. That's their job but I'm pretty zen about it. If I was humiliated or embarrassed about it I might be a little more bitter but I love the movie and I think "Hangover 3" is going to be even more imaginative and exciting.

Where will that take place?

Dunno or maybe I do and I'm not telling!

Is this going to be like "Police Academy"? Will there be "The Hangover Part VII?"

We've already negotiating "Hangover 23" right now. We've closed deals on 4 through 22. I don't know, Todd Phillips has always thought of it as a trilogy and been pretty open about it.

Is "The Office" a much calmer set now that Steve Carell has left?

Yes! I don't know what you know about Steve Carell but he is the most level headed, like anti-diva you could ever imagine and he actually in a wonderful way set the tone on that set because if the star of the show who's working harder than anybody else is not a diva then...

You can't slam doors because then you'll feel like an asshole.

Right! I'm happy to say that kind of legacy he created has remained.

I recently talked to Jenna Fischer and she said this season had "peaks and valleys."

I categorically deny that! I think Jenna Fischer has lost her mind and gone crazy. Look ratings have slipped and that is the metric. There are parts of this season that I'm proud of, there are parts that I was confused by but that's just sort of how it goes. On any show at any time you're grasping for what works and what's going to be fresh and new. When you're in a situation where you're forced to make big adjustments quickly as we did this year with Steve's departure, I think all of that was heightened. So absolutely I think Jenna hit the nail on the head, it has had some peaks and valleys and assuming NBC picks us up next year we have some work cut out for us.

Ever annoyed that Steve Martin is also into bluegrass music? If he wasn't you'd be the most famous celebrity playing it!

(Laughs) Damn it! You know what? Bluegrass needs as many ambassadors as possible. Let's be honest.

Find more on the L.A. Bluegrass Situation here .