Jason Biggs on The Real Reason His Kids Speak German (Exclusive)

Actor Jason Biggs needs no introduction; after American Pie skyrocketed him to fame, Orange is the New Black sent him on many a prison visit, and his wife hired him a hooker for his birthday (no judgment!), he’s now starring in Fox’s new comedy Outmatched, in which parenting might as well be calculus. And honestly, he pretty much needs no interview, either. In fact, my interview with him this week basically conducted itself; Biggs is so charming and loquacious and such a chill, regular-seeming dude, it wasn’t so much an interview as two (very tired) parents sitting down to complain. We talked shop — parenting shop, that is — from Octonauts to kid travel to Dictator Lunches to his Heluva Good dip mac ‘n’ cheese hack.

It was also perhaps the most reverse-interviewed I’ve ever been by a celeb? Read on to see why.

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Jason Biggs: Amelia! How are you? How’s Silas? He’s four isn’t he? What a great age.

SK: Ummm…yes he is and yes it is, how did you know?!

JB: I’m an internet sleuth.

SK: You really are! My son is doing well, thank you, and he’s in the other room watching Octonauts on Netflix.

JB: OCTONAUTS! We love Octonauts. Man. You know, I have a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, and the 6-year-old, his fourth birthday was Octonauts-themed. There was a Professor Inkling cake! My wife and I, we scuba-dive, and I’ve always been fascinated with that stuff, underwater creatures. I looooove Octonauts.

SK: Oh my god my son would have died. An Inkling cake? I feel like as soon as he turned 2 and I let him start watching anything, he’s asked me for Octonauts literally 2x per day. Did you guys wait until age 2 for cartoons too, like the docs say? No judgment if you didn’t!

JB: I feel like at 2 years old is when it can finally hold their attention. Like we just now did the iPad for our little guy on our last trip that we went on, and it was great; it was a godsend. He watched a whole movie, which is insane. But you know, age 2 is insane.

SK: Oh I remember. The iPad on the plane makes such a difference. Where did you guys travel on that trip?

JB: The last trip was to Austria. We went to the mountains over Christmas and New Year’s — it was so beautiful. My wife and the two boys all speak German, which I know is super random. Jenny [Mollen, actor-author-Lunch Dictator and Bigg’s wife] is not German, but she studied in Heidelberg, and had a boyfriend for awhile there who didn’t speak any English. So she came back and was fluent but had nobody to speak it to…until we had kids. Our sons both went to German schools and have German nannies; they’re fluent. We try to go there once or twice a year — Germany or Austria — and I love it. It’s my favorite place to be; for me, it’s heaven.

SK: Did you learn German at all? Via osmosis/proximity?

JB: I understand context a lot. When they’re talking to the 2-year-old, I understand more of it! But now that Sid is 6, his vocabulary is insane — he can have full conversations in German.

SK: Sid Biggs is such a great name. I feel like all of our sons’ names — Sid and Silas and Lazlo — are somewhere solid on the name-weirdness spectrum. You know, between John and Banjo. 

JB: I love the name Silas. I love those references, too — between John and Banjo! It’s funny because I’m thinking about Silas now and I don’t think that name was ever on our radar. But we actually had another name for Sid in mind through Jenny’s whole pregnancy, but when he was born we were like, nope, that’s not his name. We were in the hospital, and we landed on wanting an “S” name, and we wanted one syllable — we thought it sounded stronger that way. It was Jenny’s idea; Jenny was like, “What about just Sid?” And Sid Caesar had just died, and I was a Sid Caesar fan, meanwhile Jenny liked the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious. We also just liked how Sid Biggs sounded like an elegant older man.

SK: It really does. “Written, produced, and directed by Sid Biggs…” It’s very strong. 

JB: And Lazlo, we honestly stole that from a kid in Sid’s school whose brother was named Lazlo. We only know it because one day he was visiting and we saw his backpack and it said his name on it. And we were like damn, that’s a great name. So we stole it but we took the “S” out — it’s a Hungarian name that’s usually spelled with an “szo.” But that’s…kind of confusing. And they’ve both totally grown into them; they’re totally their names. Sid was a “Sid” right out of the gate.

SK: Do you participate in Jenny’s “Dictator Lunches”?

JB: Oh of course. So, the genesis of those was when Sid started preschool four years ago. First of all, we both want to feed our kids healthy and are trying to help them make healthy choices, the whole thing. And his preschool, there wasn’t school lunch provided, we had to pack it, so it just started as a fun thing to do after they went to bed — to continue to connect with them. Jenny would make a little face out of his lunch, and Sid loved it; he’d go to school and get surprised. So she just really got into it, and started posting on her regular Instagram, and then was like, you know, I should do a dedicated page for this — and that took off.

And of course it’s not just “look at the ingredients,” with the Instagram Jenny gets to tell a story and write these really funny captions. And the first time she had to go away for work, she was like, “Oh shit, you’ve gotta make lunch.” I was like, okay, that’s fine… but I should actually do something ridiculous and post it. So every day she was gone, I made an insane lunch and posted it on my page. And now I look forward to it, coming up with something totally ridiculous.

In our house, we alternate responsibilities a little bit, but there are some things she prefers to do and some I prefer to do; the lunches she prefers to do. But when she goes away, I do my joke version, but then I actually have to, you know, feed the kids a real lunch. Which I do.

SK: Thank goodness! How do you get them to eat all those (shockingly healthy) meals anyway?

JB: Part of it is engaging them in the process of eating and cooking dinner, being able to make something with them; they’re more inclined if they feel invested in that way. There’s this recipe I came up with using Heluva Good dip to make mac ‘n’ cheese, and Sid and I made that, and he was so excited to eat it afterwards because he did the work! The more we can get him involved — and this is where Jenny gets a lot of credit, for trying to change up what they’re exposed to. One day it’s mac ‘n’ cheese, another it’s, I don’t know…

SK: Wiener schnitzel? How’s the schnitzel in Austria?

JB: Yes, exactly, schnitzel. They make incredible schnitzel over there. And surprisingly, my kids love all kinds of food. At the moment, anyway, we don’t have the kids that are like, “I only want my pizza or my chicken nuggets.” 

 

SK: Lucky! What’s your favorite children’s book to read with/to your kids? Is Sid reading on his own yet?

JB: Sid’s not reading yet, we’re still reading together. We’re reading James and the Giant Peach right now — we read about a chapter a night. It’s so good, but also Roald Dahl can get a little…dark? But he loves it, loves it. So many different books. The thing about Sid is, he doesn’t just like reading stories; he likes creating them. And Jenny, since she’s a writer, sometimes she’ll lay down with him and just make up a story off the cuff. And Sid will chime in, sort of like Mad Libs — I’ll hear him in the other room admonishing her, “No! The character should do this, not that!” 

And you know, our 2-year-old is into all the usual early books, board books. Honestly he’s kind of obsessed with Paw Patrol.

SK: Aren’t they all though. Will you ever let them watch your TV / film work? Or IDK, too embarrassing?

JB: Nah I’m definitely not embarrassed. So, the current show I’m working on, Outmatched, premiered last week. And my son Sid, he knows — well, Laz too, they both know — that I’ve been flying out every Sunday or Monday to work in L.A. and I come home Friday or Saturday morning. So the other night, we wanted to show Sid — not the whole show, but we picked a couple of scenes and showed it to Sid, and I tell you, the look of pride on his face! I mean, he knows I’m an actor, that kids at school have talked about me, that people come up to us on the streets. He knows, but there’s not much he’s seen. But so we let him watch a couple scenes of Outmatched and he was just blown away. I was just watching him the whole time, and his smile — there was this awe on his face, and it brought me to tears.

American Pie though, not so much. Not gonna show him that one.

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