Pitch Perfect was one of the sleeper hits of 2012—a movie that came with a small budget, big heart, and apparently, an audience that ate it up. But to anyone who knows anything about the collegiate singing world, its success was not much of a surprise: Amidst the choir geeks, opera divas in training, and madrigal singers, a cappella singers are the jocks, the kind of singers who slip into the spotlight with a sparkling smile and peppy pop number.
So it’s even less of a surprise that the Pitch Perfect franchise has returned with a bigger, louder installment peppered with glitzy surprise appearances and cameos. There’s Comedy Central’s Keegan-Michael Key, “Arrested Development”’s David Cross, and—in the most amusing turn of events—the Green Bay Packers. (Yes, they sing.) There’s hardly time for a plot, which, in this case, isn’t really a bad thing.
But if there must be a plot, then it’s this: After a mishap at a Kennedy Center performance attended by the Obamas, the Bellas are forever banned from competition unless they can defeat Das Sound Machine (DSM), the big, bad, techno-infused German group, at worlds. One of the movie’s funniest gags is Bella leader Beca's (Anna Kendrick) struggle to trash-talk DSM because she is too overwhelmed by—and attracted to—DSM’s intimidating female lead singer.
Over the phone, I spoke with Flula Borg, who stars in Pitch Perfect 2 as one of the leaders of DSM. Flula is a Bavarian YouTube star and DJ whose career has been built upon exaggerating and playing off German stereotypes. Now based in Los Angeles, his best-known work has riffed off American idioms such as “party pooper” and “shooting fish in a barrel.” Pitch Perfect 2 is his first Hollywood appearance.
Elaine Teng: Hello, I’m a big fan. My friends and I still talk about “Jennifer Poops At Parties” all the time.
Flula Borg: Well I tell you, I don’t know if she still does it, but I worry for her, I must say.
ET: So, let’s talk Pitch Perfect. Which Bella do you like the most?
FB: I would say Fat Amy. She has the most personality, and I love her long, long hair. She reminds me of a sassy horse prancing around the musical field. Or a pony. She could be a pony.
ET: Who’s the meanest?
FB: The meanest, to me, was Beca. She was pretty rough and tough, just always spitting the hardcore words. But I respect her. You have to respect your enemies.
ET: What was the meanest thing she said to you?
FB: She told me I smelled funny like an old cinnamon cupcake, which I thought was very rude. I told her it was very rude.
ET: What does a cinnamon cupcake even smell like?
FB: Exactly. Who knows? I experimented by purchasing one and letting it age, and I must tell you: It smells better than you think.
ET: Who’s the funniest Bella?
FB: Once again, Fat Amy, with nice jokes and sometimes just confusion—and with an accent like that. I respect accents, since I have one as well.
ET: What did you think of Anna Kendrick’s non-sexy pose?
FB: One of the hottest non-sexy poses in my life.
ET: How did you get involved with Pitch Perfect 2?
FB: I was just recording strange songs in my tent when I received an email to audition for the movie. I thought it was a hoax. I did audition, but I still did not believe it was real. Two months later, they offered me to be in the movie. I did not believe it until I arrived.
ET: Who was the initial email from?
FB: It was from one of the producers.
ET: Did they already know who you were?
FB: They saw some of the YouTube videos, just like you. The Party Pooper video, and when I recorded the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore outside a thrift shop. So I think they thought, “Is he insane? Let’s find out.”
ET: And what was their conclusion?
FB: I think they found out I was insane.
ET: So you work very hard at that?
FB: I do, and sometimes it does come naturally. But sometimes you have to exercise your insanity, to really make it strong.
ET: What was the first thing you ever put on the Internet?
FB: I wrote a techno song after I was deported. I was in America for a little bit, but then I was deported back to Germany. I was very sad. So I wrote a techno song about the four things I love in Germany to make myself happy, which are my grandfather, my two poodle pets, bread, and a strange but delicious Turkish dish called Döner Kebab.
ET: Did you say you were deported? Can you tell me more about that?
FB: I wish I could, but I can’t because of lawyers and all that. But the good news is—I’m not dead!
ET: When did you leave Germany?
FB: I left for the first time ten years ago. I would say maybe two years ago, I started to get a lot of work in Los Angeles, so now I spend more time here because when you’re a German in Germany, it’s not very special or strange. But a German in America is more interesting.
ET: That’s interesting, because it seems that a lot of your humor, especially in Pitch Perfect 2, is based on the fact that you’re German. Why do you think that Americans find that so funny?
FB: When I think of America, it’s a little more laid-back and smooth and relaxed. What Americans picture for us is that we’re very organized, maybe a little awkward, a little too serious perhaps. Of course there are differences from one person to another, and there are relaxed Germans and serious Americans, but to play with this contrast is very fun.
ET: You definitely play into stereotypes. Is that something you enjoy doing, or does it bother you at all?
FB: No, it doesn’t. If you take everything so seriously, it receives a weight it does not deserve. It’s fun to tell people—in a quiet way—hey, I know this is what you may think, but it’s not always true.
ET: What are the things people think of when they think of Germany now?
FB: Bratwurst, Schnitzel, Lederhosen, and for good reason—soccer. But yes, we are very organized and we have rainy weather.
ET: What got you started in music?
FB: I’ve always done music. I started as a Schuhplattler when I was about seven. It’s a very south German thing. It’s a dance when you’re slapping your legs, heels, and feet. I really liked the teacher we had, and he would teach me things on the turntable and also with music, so I wanted to make more music from then.
ET: Who do you look up to?
FB: I really like the Doors. I like Kevin Spacey, Bruce Springsteen, Will Farrell, Reggie Watts, Tina Turner, who is also very hot, Tracy Chapman. Beethoven.
ET: Beethoven? That’s an outlier.
FB: I think he’d be a pretty dope hip-hop musician if he were still alive today.
ET: Haha, okay. Do you have anything to add?
FB: I feel like I have shared my whole life with you, and I feel so nude and exposed. It’s great. I love it. It’s very freeing. I’m getting all sorts of perspiration and touching the world.
This interview has been edited for concision and clarity.