Don’t you just love it when you get invited to go zip-lining through the Mexican jungle by a superstar rock god?
David Koechner does.
You may not know Koechner by name, but as soon as you see his bald head and knowing smirk you’re liable to smile and say, “Oh, yeah. That guy!”
Koechner, born in Tipton, Mo. — halfway between Sedalia and Jefferson City — specializes in playing sleazy dirtbags. But over the phone he seems nice enough.
Koechner (pronounced KECK-ner) has landed more than 100 roles on TV and in the movies, most famously as insensitive salesman Todd Packer on NBC’s “The Office” and Champ Kind — the cowboy-hat wearing sports anchor famous for yelling “Whammy!” — in the movie “Anchorman” and its upcoming sequel.
You know.That guy!
In the new movie “Hit Run,” opening Wednesday, he gets a scene playing yet another jerk, a redneck gearhead who lusts after the hero Dax Shepard’s classic Lincoln Continental.
But back to the rock-god story.
Koechner lives in L.A. with his wife, Leigh, a native of Overland Park who created a “backyard talk show” on her website,AbsoluteLeigh.com
At a school function last year he discovered that one of his daughters went to kindergarten with one of the children of Saul Hudson. Did we mention that Saul Hudson is the real name of guitar legend Slash of the band Guns N’ Roses?
“He came up to me and said, ‘Hey man. I don’t mean to bother you, but I’m a big fan.’ ”
Koechner’s eyes grew wide as a waffle iron.“But you’re Slash!”
he thought. “You’re a rock god, and I’m a mere mortal.”
They started talking and hit if off. Later, at a school auction, they both were bidding on a week at a vacation home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Eventually Koechner dropped out, leaving the trip to Slash.
Months later the guitar legend called Koechner.
“Hey,” he said. “We’ve got to use this vacation. Let’s go!”
So off they went, with their families.
“It was surreal,” Koechner said. “If I had told my 10-year-old self that one day I was going to be vacationing with a rock star, zip-lining through the jungles of Mexico, and my five kids are going to be there, too? You know, imagine having that dream!”
These days Koechner and his wife are busy with another dream — living the life of movie stars in Los Angeles. We wanted to talk to Leigh Koechner, an actress in her own right, but she had already left to go to the beach.
Hanging at the beach. Vacationing with Slash.
Nice life if you can get it.
But Koechner is no stuck-up star. By all accounts he’s a family man who cares about staying connected to his Midwestern roots.
In “Hit Run” you can see a tattoo with names on his right shoulder.
Yes, it is real. The names are of his wife and kids.
The couple, who got married at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, came back recently for the Big Slick Celebrity Poker Weekend charity tournament, organized by Kansas City-area natives Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle.
Koechner’s three sisters live in Olathe, Overland Park and Lee’s Summit, his mother-in-law in Overland Park and his brother-in-law in Kansas City.
Whenever the Koechners return, they each have places they want to go. For David it’s the “may-I-help you” goodness of Gates Bar-B-Q, while Leigh craves her childhood favorite, Taco Via.
“You know, we live near Disneyland, Legoland, Sea World, all that stuff,” Koechner said. “But they always ask: ‘When are we going back to Great Wolf Lodge?’ ”
The five kids range in age from 7 months to 13 years.
Are they shooting for an even half dozen?
“Uh, we’re done,” Koechner said with a bite-your-tongue laugh. “I just hope the parental fire marshal doesn’t come to my house and say we’ve over capacity, and I have to give a few back.”
It’s been a long, strange trip from Tipton to Tinseltown. A self-described “hyperactive brat” who was often sent out in the hall by his teachers, Koechner spent two years at Benedictine College in Atchison and a year at the University of Missouri before finding his true calling at the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago.
“It hit me like a thunderbolt,” he said. “This was what I wanted to do.”
He worked with a future Who’s Who of big-name talent: Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Chris Farley, Rachel Dratch, Andy Richter and more. He also worked with writers for Conan O’Brien, and Adam McKay, who co-wrote and directed “Anchorman.”
Speaking of “Anchorman,” the sequel, “Anchorman: The Legend Continues,” will start shooting in February, bringing back stars Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Carell, Rudd, etc. No release date has been set yet.
“We had a blast on that film,” he said. “And it’s just such a smart script. It’s really a satire of the American male in the 1970s.”
Koechner, who turns 50 on Friday, also has several independent movies coming up, including a Marlon Wayans film called “Smart Ass,” and animated features “Hell and Back” and “Small Apartment.”
He’s also partnering with the YouTube company Official Comedy to write and produce some digital shorts. Watch him on the Web in “branded entertainment” spots for Denny’s restaurants called “Always Open,” where he interviews stars such as Applegate and Shepard in humorous three-minute spots from a restaurant booth.
But his bread and butter will always be the jerk.
“We all know that guy,” Koechner said. “It’s too bad some people thinkI am
It doesn’t bother him.
“I know who I am,” he said. “And I don’t live a life of regret. I am grateful for everything I have.
“Look man. I’m from Tipton, Mo., and I get to make movies for a living. And I just went zip-lining through the jungles of Mexico with Slash! It literally doesn’t get any better than that.”