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Interview with Joe Dinicol of 'Servitude': a raunchy look at restaurant service

Servitude is the slapstick story of a waiting staff’s dream shift. After being made aware that they’re all about to be laid off, Josh and the rest of the serving team decide to inflict some pure food-revenge on their cruel clientele. With the film’s side-splitting premise and a solid dose of its raunchy one-liners in mind, NIGHTLIFE sat down with lead actor, Joe Dinicol for a Q & A about food services, the state of Canadian comedy, and the ongoing Just Pour Rire festival hosting the comedy.

Along the way, we may have stumbled upon some social-psychology gold and the start of an actor’s successful stand-up career. Hey, you never know. So check out our interview as well as the pretty bawdy trailer to Servitude further below.


So have you had any experience in the food industry yourself?
Yeah, tons. I’ve worked mainly in bars, but later on in high-end restaurants for five or six years—up until fairly recently actually. So I’d say I’ve had a lot of good research for the film. It’s my total, cathartic, dream-come-true role.

Sure. So the popular image, actors moonlighting as waiters—
Oh, it’s more than popular—it’s true. Most of us have actually worked in food services. Most of the writers, actors, even the director, [Warren Sonoda], have had extensive careers in the food services industry. So it’s a cliché, you know, for a good reason.

Maple Pictures 2011

What was your biggest pet peeve as a waiter then?
Well, when people come into a restaurant they don’t come in necessarily to talk to their waiter. And that’s absolutely fine. That’s their prerogative. But I think, in a general sense, that my biggest pet peeve is that people can be pretty shitty in restaurants when they don’t need to be. They can be unnecessarily cruel and, more than that, a lot of people go out to eat and they don’t even like it. It seems a weird thing to inflict on the public or, specifically, the wait staff.

I mean, some people really enjoy going out to eat—it’s a lovely experience, even if they don’t want to talk to their waiter. They know what they want, they enjoy being there. But a lot of people are just miserable.

So is that just because they’re lazy and don’t want to cook for themselves or is it a kind of power trip?
I think it’s probably more of the latter. I think people can afford it so they do it because it’s the thing to do. But really they want to substitute everything on the menu and they don’t really like being out.

Interesting psychological theory there. On a completely separate note, Servitude is coming out in partnership with Téléfilm Canada’s Comedy Lab. How would you say the Canadian film industry is doing right now?
I think it’s getting better and better every year. I mean, this film is a perfect example of one of the many directions we should be expanding in, which is making marketable movies. You know, a movie that’s not just for the critics, but it’s for the people—a real crowd-pleaser. And I think that’s what this movie is and what Canada has the ability to do.

It’s interesting. When we shot the movie, we realized that we don’t really make a lot of films like this. These are big laughs, high stakes. You know, we do quirky very well. We do. World class quirky, comedic, filmmaking country. But…Mike Myers is Canadian. Dave Foley is Canadian. We have the ability to make the movies that they do in the States—for lack of a better way of putting it. So this is just one—one of the many ways the Canadian film industry is improving I think. [Knocks on the metal table]. Umm…that’s not wood.

It’ll do. So you mentioned Dave Foley—but aside from him, Margot Kitter, and Enrico Calantoni, you have a pretty young cast. How did that dynamic work out?
I mean, I met Margo, but I didn’t personally have anything to do with her—didn’t have any scenes with her in the film. Unfortunately, because I’m a huge Superman fan. But Dave and Enrico were amazing. We were so lucky to have them. You know, I was a big Kids in the Hall Fan too. And a fan of Galaxy Quest—really anything that Enrico does actually because he’s like an alien that guy: such a good character actor.

But yeah, they were great. They threw themselves into it and they were happy to be there and happy to impart any wisdom or stories that they had. It was really nice because we shot the film in a very condensed time period, so it was a pretty intense shoot. And they just came right on board and threw themselves into it.

So yeah, we really lucked out with the whole team dynamic on the set. You know, myself, John Bregar, Jeigh Madjus, Rachel Skarsten, and Linda Kash—the core group of waiters—we just got along like a house on fire. We immediately knew what we wanted to do. And since we had all worked in the industry, we all had a common language. So we just went to town.

The last time most big-screen audiences saw you in a main role was for 2008’s Paschandaelle—not a Comedy by any stretch of the imagination. So would you classify yourself as more of a dramatic or comedic actor?
Yeah, not a lot of funny lines in that one. But sure, in general, I think I gravitate towards the comedy. My father and my grandfather are both character actors, so I go towards that side of things. That being said, I think any actor worth their salt is looking for anything that’s different from the last thing they did. So I feel like I always want to do a play when I just did a movie, I want to do a comedy when I’ve just finished something dramatic. But in general, my sensibility is comedy.

I mean, I’m a huge stand-up comedy aficionado. Just being here at [Just Pour Rire], I’ve been saying to myself: I can’t believe I haven’t come before. I was here in this bar last night and it was just like Disney Land—all these comics that I revere all just hanging out.

Have you done any stand-up yourself?
I’m gonna give it a try actually. I’m going up on Tuesday in Toronto. It’s an amateur night, so I think at best I’ve got 8-10 minutes up on stage. I’m really nervous though, and planning on no laughs.

Nah, I’m sure you’ll do fine. So is this your first time in Montréal then?
No, no. I shot a movie here about ten years ago, and then I’ve been back once a year for a couple of days ever since. I just love it. I’m sure no one ever says a bad word about Montréal though—especially this time of year. This is crazy, you know, the summer and even just these few days, it’s wild walking around here. I mean, I always love Montréal, but this is a particular brand of awesome.

Servitude at Festival Juste Pour Rire 
World Premiere at Cinema du Parc, July 28 
Out in Theatres this Fall | justepourrire.com