"Good comedies tend to be about people who haven't thought things through," Amy Poehler says.
In her new film The House, which is out next Thursday, this is definitely the case. Poehler stars alongside Will Ferrell as a couple who come up with a not very well thought through plan to pay for their daughter's university fees.
"I really thought it was just a funny, unique concept that this couple would make the horrible decision of opening an illegal casino in their neighbourhood," Will Ferrell laughs. "It's a crazy ill-fated plan but it's such a success they undergo personality changes."
Poehler agrees saying, "They forget their objective. They're just enjoying power and money and being corrupt. They get in over their heads because they really don't know what they're doing."
As their casino grows, raking in the cash and sending neighbours into their debt, the couple transforms from relatively normal and loving parents into a pair who'd be right at home in a Scorsese film. Poehler, dressed glamorously, sucking back weed and brandishing a gas torch, while Ferrell is all suits, slicked-back hair and swinging an axe as he morphs from hapless Dad into the alter-ego of "The Butcher".
"Amy Poehler found that look legitimately sexy," Ferrell says, bemused by the notion. "She kept saying, 'God, I really like that look'. I kept thinking she was joking until the 100th time she said it. I now know how to woo Amy Poehler. Just show up at her house looking like that."
"Oh I did!" Poehler says. "I found his Tony Soprano mob boss to be a side of him that I would follow to the gates of hell."
While Ferrell's Butcher turns out to be a queasy enforcer, Poehler's character, Kate, really takes to her new role as a fun-loving criminal. Was it fun to play a badass?
"Yeah, always," she enthuses. "It's a strange job when you're handed a flame thrower on a Tuesday afternoon. I don't know what the technical term for it [the flame thrower] is. I'm sure it was told to me in a safety meeting but, let's be honest, I wasn't listening. But it was really fun and also really dumb. The combination of those two things is my favourite."
While their characters, Kate and Scott, readily embrace mob life they're enabled by their friend, Frank, played by Jason Mantzoukas, who is filling the pain of his divorce with his enthusiasm for their casino.
"I have a real fondness for characters who are emotionally lost but have the bluff and bluster to present they're keeping it together but everyone knows they're a mess," he says. "Frank is operating centrally from a point of crises over his life being out of control and being heartbroken."
Mantzoukas' presence is pretty much a guarantee that bat-shit crazy, R-rated offensive, hijinks will soon ensue. He's most famous for playing Rafi, the wildest of all wild cards, in the outrageous sitcom The League. It's a role he was so damned believable in he now has trouble convincing people he's "normal".
"There's no separation. People genuinely think when they see me that they're about to meet Rafi. I just had it happen a week ago. I was in a public restroom washing my hands and some guy came in, saw that I was at the sink washing my hands and was like, 'Oh shit! This guy's here? I guess I'm about to see his dick!', And I was like, 'Oh god... No. You are not'."
He laughs at the memory and says, "It's actually quite a compliment. I'm so good at playing that level of maniac that people can't imagine a world in which I would be acting."
It's a disastrous bet in Las Vegas during the early moments of the film that kicks off the action in The House. As far as Sin City's temptations go, it turns out all three of the film's stars are far more sensible than their on-screen counterparts.
"I'm very conservative in the betting world," Ferrell admits. "I don't think I've lost too much. Maybe $1000. That's not too bad. But that was over the course of two days. It's child's play."
"I'm not much of a betting person," Mantzoukas says. "I'm trying to think if I've lost a bet and had to do something embarrassing. Not really. I never had that group of friends who would make bets like that with each other. Which I appreciate."
"As far as gambling goes I'm not the biggest gambler," Poehler reveals. "I just get too mad when I lose money."
Underneath all the wacky escapades and extreme violence ("There is a man who is set on fire," Poehler smiles) The House is really a film about parenting.
"We're all so much more invested in our kids, in a way, because you'll be shamed if you aren't," Ferrell jokes. "Our kids go to a school right now where you get docked for your lack of parental volunteerism. Growing up, my folks just put us on a bus and that was it."
"What I liked about Kate is that she's game," Poehler says. "Sometimes in films the wife is relegated to the eye-roller who's telling people to stop having fun. I don't really know a lot of women like that."
"That's another thing the film does really well is that we're a team," Ferrell says. "It's not one of us against the other or the wife wagging her finger. They both jump in and have each other's back. They're equally invested."
"We talked about the lengths one would go to for their kids and also when you've been married for a while, what is the thing that re-energises you, that puts things in perspective and makes you realise what you have?" Poehler says. "I love at the end of this film that they realise they still have each other. It's really sweet."
"We kept that as the backbone of the film in the hopes that when you're watching it on a rainy day on television three years from now it will still stand up."
Who: Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and Jason Mantzoukas
What: Outrageous new comedy The House
When: In cinemas next Thursday