The Comedy Couch

 MIKE MACDONALD - March 18, 2002

GUY MACPHERSON: How you doing?
MIKE MACDONALD: Actually, pretty good. I just beat
Florida, the Panthers, 7-1. So, uh, you know, I feel
pretty good. I had a hat trick with me.

GM: Really! Wow.
MM: It's my favourite game. I think hockey is
absolutely the best game
for video. It's the best conversion of all the sports
games.

GM: Why is that?
MM: It's the fluidity of it and the pace. It's just
the best conversion. It's so much fun to play.
Especially now, the games they have now, the
artificial intelligence is so good that it really
gives you a game.

GM: So you're a big video fan.
MM: Yeah. I mean, it keeps me occupied when I'm on the
road. I find when
I'm on the road, I vegetate. I can't really write or
anything. I worry about the show and just staying out
of trouble. So playing videos is perfect.

GM: You still worry about the shows after all these
years?
MM: Yeah. I hope I never stop. It's the same kind of
attitude where I hope
I never stop thinking when my wife wants to have sex,
there's that little
voice inside me going, "I'm going to get laid!" I hope
all that stuff never goes away.

GM: So there's a little nervous tension?
MM: It's not so much nervous. I want to remember. The
problem I have now is that I'm a much better writer
than I used to be. So I sit at home
and I write the stuff into the file on the computer.
My biggest worry is
remembering how I wrote it. Because if I can say it
the way I wrote it, it's going to be great. The big
deal is trying to remember exactly how I wrote it.

GM: So you're a much better writer now. I guess with
experience, people
get better at everything.
MM: Right. And plus, I'm just writing a lot more, be
it scripts or stand-up material. I write everyday just
to keep the chops up. My manager wanted me to do this
one-man show, so lately I've been going back and
collecting all the family material because we figured
the best show to do for people, and the stuff that's
connecting the best, I find, lately, is all the stuff
based on the second special I did for CBC called, "My
House, My Rules." And I think it's weird, too,
especially in the States, I think it's partly due to
September 11th, that people really get off on the
show. They come up to me afterwards and say, "Wow, you
really made me go back in time and be that teenager
again." Because of all these stories I do. It's
things that happen to everybody. So they connect to
it. And it's also a simpler time. It's something I'll
also remember from one of those shows like, Dateline
or 20/20 or whatever. But there was this woman in
Brooklyn who was a teacher and she taught a really
heavy-duty gang-banger class, like "To Sir With Love"
type of thing. And upstairs in the attic in the
school, she found all these old educational films from
the fifties. So she thought that the class would get a
real kick out of watching these and get a big laugh.
It's like, "Tommy has to comb his hair carefully
because he wants to be presentable as a gentleman to
Susie. He brings the corsage..." And she thought the
class would just die roaring with laughter, but they
were all really quiet. They all got really sombre. And
she realized that they were watching these films
thinking how great it was to have lived back then
where you only had to worry about your hair and a
corsage as opposed to crack and getting killed by a
drive-by shooting. So it sort of backfired. And it's
always stuck with me, that one story.

GM: Although back then they did have the "get under
the desk in case of
nuclear attack" films.
MM: Yeah, but who the hell believed that? I mean, I'm
sure if I would have
been back there, I would have been, "What the hell?
How is a desk going to protect me?" "Shut up,
troublemaker!" "All right, fine."

GM: Since September 11th, you're not doing different
things. You haven't
had to cut back.
MM: Not really. But I've been pretty good over the
last ten years about not doing... I think basically
I've achieved, for the most part, I've always thought,
ever since I saw Richard Pryor's first concert film,
how great it would be to be on stage, and if you had
been shot up with sodium pentathol before you walked
on stage, that the act would remain the same. That's
been the goal. And I think I'm pretty close -- I think
about 98
percent -- to that now. So I haven't really had to
change much. But there's certain stuff I've brought
back. I'd forgotten how well the family stuff really
connects. I was surprised. I switched it over in
November and, boy, it's been amazing everywhere I go
how much it connects with the audience.

GM: Everyone has one.
MM: Yeah.

GM: And they're all dysfunctional.
MM: Yeah, exactly. And it was weird, because I
remember one night in
Montreal a couple weeks ago, I had this one crowd that
didn't relate to
the stuff. Just my luck, a whole group of functional
families. "What? Your
father never hit you? You're not gonna enjoy this."
But it was funny because the crowd right after, I was
telling them about the first crowd
how they didn't get it, and they were just roaring. I
get that a lot where
people come up to me and say, "You're my brother, we
had the same father," blah blah blah. And it's weird,
too, when you think about it, the stuff that our
generation grew up with, people get put in jail for
now.

GM: What do you mean?
MM: I mean what our parents got away with. It's
amazing. And sometimes
when I'm at McDonald's or something, and I see parents
going, "Okay,
what would you like to eat?" And they spend, like,
five, ten minutes back
and forth arguing. Man, we never got asked! "You'll
eat what I give you and that's it!" My father had a
look and that was it. There was no question.

GM: Do you have kids?
MM: No, unfortunately. We found out my wife has this
bizarre, rare thing
where there's some kind of biological and chemical
reaction inside her
body that kills my sperm immediately. I do a joke on
stage: "If I had known that earlier, I would have
fucked her more often." And sometimes
audiences will give you the weird attitude about that.
And I go, "Listen, do you really think I would come on
stage and do a joke like that without
written permission?" My wife HAD to have okayed that
joke. There's no
way I would do that joke unless she thought it was
funny.

GM: Some people think everything a comic says is true
or literal, when it
may just be based in truth.
MM: Yeah. Sometimes you really have to slap the
audience across the face
and go, "Look. Relax." There's a friend of mine in
Toronto, Ron Vaudry,
who had the best line for situations like that. He
said, "Why don't you turn your halos down to dim and
we'll all have a good time?" And it's weird sometimes,
you have to explain stuff. Especially with a joke like
that. I actually stopped one time and I told the
audience, "Look, what exactly am I saying? I would
have had sex with my wife more often! I'm not saying
that I don't like having sex with her. I'm not saying
that I don't love my wife. I'm just saying I would
have had sex with her more often." Once you explain
it, the audience is cool. But sometimes you have to
challenge them. You have to tell them, "Look, I'm the
driver. Everybody shut up and sit in the passenger
seat and we'll all have a good time. While I'm
driving, just relax."

GM: What did you think of "Stand and Deliver"?
MM: Which one was that?

GM: The book that Andrew Clark wrote.
MM: Oh, oh, that! (laughs) That was hysterical! We
were laughing for all
the wrong reasons.

GM: There was a chapter on you.
MM: My wife and I, we got a complimentary copy from
this talk show host. I went on his radio show and he
brought it up and gave me the book
afterwards. So I brought it home and my wife and I sat
there and read
through the chapter on me and it was, like,
hysterical. We were dying. You
know, the Jim Morrison analogy... Oh, it's too funny.
I wish I was that hip. But knowing how exaggerated and
slanted it was on me, what happened
with the rest of the book, I sat there and I went, if
it's that much off the mark on me, how much is the
rest of the book off? So you start reading
everything with a certain kind of cynicism and not
believing anything.

GM: You were in a band, weren't you?
MM: Yeah, a drummer. I still play. I got the set of
drums in a soundproof
room in the house.

GM: What band were you in that toured Canada?
MM: It was called Maple Ridge. It was this weird band
that was formed...
The nucleus of the band started from the high school
choir. And the whole bunch of us quit high school to
go be in this band. We took, like, a
year, a year and a half off. Then afterwards, I went
back to high school and I don't know what happened to
a lot of the people. But they went their separate
ways. But it was certainly fun for a year and a half.
We
toured Canada. It was great. We had our choices of
picking the school
districts we went to, so we would always pick a major
one, like Toronto. But then we'd go out in the
boondocks, the sticks, in small towns where they'd
never even seen a live band before. And it was
amazing. They treated us like the Beatles. So we had a
taste of that whole entertainment success thing. It
was pretty neat. It was fun. The only thing I regret
is not
taking more pictures and not having the tapes of
stuff. I've been trying to get the tapes for a long
time from people who supposedly have the tapes. But it
would be interesting to hear that stuff now. Three
guys in the band wrote this whole rock opera based on
Louis Riel. You can't get more Canadian than that!
It's hysterical. The government said, "All right, give
them money, let them go across Canada and take drugs
and play music."
(laughs)

GM: So you were doing originals.
MM: Yeah. It started off with cover stuff but then the
three guys wrote the rock opera, and that's what got
the funding from the government. I mean, as soon as
the government found out we had a rock opera on Louis
Riel, it was like, boom, there we go, we were funded
by the government to go across Canada.

GM: Lesson learned for later.
MM: You know, the funniest part was we were really
cocky back then, me
and the other drummer. I remember one time we were
staying in Burlington. There was a high school dance
going on. We walked into the gym to see the band and
we were going, "Ah, this band sucks. They're trying to
be Led Zeppelin. It's bullshit." And it turned out to
be Rush. (laughs) Little did we know. "Ah, these guys
are never going to make it"!

GM: So the book got that part right. You were in a
band. What parts were
really wrong? Or was it just the general feel of it?
MM: It wasn't so much that it was wrong, it was the
stuff that was left
out. And I thought the analogies were funny. You know,
I find most of the
time you can tell a bad writer when they start the
article off about how
you walk into the room. "He walked into the room
looking like Colonel
Kurtz from Apocalypse Now."

GM: So you're not buddies with Andrew Clarke.
MM: Well, it's weird. The first time I saw him after
the book came out, he
flinched like I was going to hit him or something. And
I just said, "What's wrong? Don't worry about it. It's
no big deal." People like you and me know about the
book, but the average Joe Blow down the street, I mean
nobody read that book. It sold zilch. Two or three
copies and that was it. I mean, I thought certain
parts were very interesting, but then I wondered. The
weird part about it, what I heard, was that he was
shacked up with Sandra Shamus at the time when he
wrote that whole chapter on her.
I thought it was kind of sleazy. She didn't know that
he was writing the
book. So here she is having these private moments with
the guy as a
boyfriend-girlfriend deal, and all of a sudden it's in
the book. So she
couldn't have been too happy about it. I think of all
the chapters, that's
the one that I looked at and felt that if anybody's
going to be mad about
the book, it's going to be her. She has the right to
be mad because if you
don't know a guy's writing something, and you're just
living with the guy
and experiencing life and all of a sudden, boom, it's
in the book, it's like, "Hey! Wait a minute!"

GM: It did mention that when you started out, you
wrote two 45-minute
sets.
MM: Yeah, it was funny. I had no idea. No idea about
the mechanics. So I
gathered all the stuff... Half of it was stuff that I
had done in high school and assemblies and variety
shows and stuff. I did stuff that I thought was funny.
So I went up there and did it and half of it was funny
and half of it wasn't. So I threw out the half that
wasn't, kept the half that was and just kept on going.
And the cool thing about where I started in Ottawa, it
was basically the same crowd every week, so it forced
me to do new material. I mean, it got to a point one
time where I had done certain material so many times
that one night I went out and I dressed up as a nerd
and I passed myself off as somebody else. I mean, I
said I was somebody else, but everybody obviously knew
it was me. But I was saying, "Mike's sick and he's at
home with a 101 fever and so I came to do his act,"
and then I did the whole act, but I did it badly.
Like, I fucked up every joke. And they thought it was
hysterical because they all knew the jokes. And that's
one of those shows where, God, I wish I would have had
a camera that night. It's amazing when I first started
out the balls that I had to try out all this new stuff
and different things. Like, I had one where I came out
and I had all this stuff on tape and this little tape
recorder, and I set up a microphone on it. I pressed
the tape and it said, "Hi, I'm Mike's tape recorder.
Mike has laryngitis so I'll be doing the verbal parts
and he'll be acting it out." It was basically a
ventriloquist dummy kind of act but with a tape
recorder.

GM: So you were doing all the physical stuff?
MM: Yeah. And it was funny because in one part I
forget what the joke was, and he'd go, "C'mere!" And
I'd have to bend over and you hear this
"[loud unintelligible whispering] Now get out there
and do it!" "All right,
sorry."

GM: That sounds great. You should bring that back!
MM: I think also it was the climate of the times. You
know, Yuk Yuks in
Toronto, when I first got there, it was like a beatnik
club. They hadn't
got their liquor license yet and there was an eclectic
group of comedians
and it was all kinds of comedy. Like, I was in the
minority with one or two other people that did
monologues. I really think the downfall, or the
beginning of the downfall, of Yuk Yuks in Toronto was
when they got their
liquor license. Because then it turned all strange and
stuff, and then we
had to deal with hecklers and all this crap. And the
guys coming up after
me were all monologists. None of them were sketch
groups or anything.
None of them were anything different. It was basically
the Pryor school of
comedy. It was basically either Pryor, Carlin or
Robert Klein -- they were
the three main influences of most of the people coming
up after me.

GM: Including you? Who were your main influences?
MM: Those three for me. Richard Pryor, I mean, yeah,
the first concert film was the blueprint for me. And I
was happy to find out when I read his
book -- it's called "Pryor Convictions" -- I was happy
to find out that I was correct in my assessment of it
because he said that the first concert film was the
one that he worked on the most. He was on the road for
a year
and a half, so he knew the material like the back of
his hand. So when they put those cameras on, it was,
like, at his peak. The second one was
after the accident, after he got burned. And he only
worked on the material for, like, two months. So it's
a little bit shakey. And then the third one, it was
just like he did it for the money -- the drugs and
women
and shit. It was bullshit. The third one, it was shot
in New Orleans and you could actually hear people
heckling him. All these people heckling the
fucking master. It was really disillusioning.
Sometimes when I think about
it, when people say, "What were your influences?",
when I was growing up,
it was, like, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar. Like, my mom
would always wake me
up when Red Skelton was on TV and let me watch him.
But, you know, a lot of comedians, we tend to forget
that the very, very first influence was
usually the Warner Brothers cartoons. That's where we
really started with
the subversive kind of attitude with the comedy.

GM: They were the best.
MM: Yeah, with Bugs Bunny and with everything, it was
like the anti-authority. It started from those
cartoons. That's where the real thing started and then
it blossomed from there. And you can see a lot more
influence of people with cartoons nowadays, I think.
There's a lot of
eclectic acts out there that are directly influenced
by cartoons.

GM: Do you still watch a lot of comedy?
MM: Um, I watch a certain amount but it's frustrating
because it's like
being a magician, you know what I mean? Like, if you
know how to pull the rabbit out of your hat, it's not
thrilling when you see another guy
pull a rabbit out of the hat. But if he pulled a lion
out of the hat, then you
go, "Oh, okay! Well, that's a good switch!" You know,
like, the other night I was watching the Martin Short
thing.

GM: Jiminy Glick.
MM: Yeah, Jiminy Glick. And I'm laughing, I'm
laughing, I'm laughing. But
then I get frustrated knowing that it's that kind of
show that I would love to write for. It would be so
easy to write those questions and stuff. And the fact
that it's him and his brother who are writing it all,
I mean, it's very good and everything, but I've always
been of that adage that the more good people you
have... I mean, if I had the money, I would have five
or six comedians in a room all the time. If I was
making a movie, whether
I was in it or directing it or whatever, I would
always have the five
comedians on the sidelines in case anything went wrong
and it wasn't
funny or something wasn't working. I'd go up to them
and go, "Gimme
something."

GM: But you'd want five good comedians, not five bad
ones.
MM: The whole thing with Sid Caesar, at his peak he
had Neil Simon, Mel
Brooks and Woody Allen sitting there giving him stuff.
I mean, that's the
best. And there's all kinds of comedians out there.
It's not necessarily that they're bad, it's just that
I think most comedians are lazy. Most comedians, if
you give them a blank page, they won't be able to fill
it. But if you sit them in a room and you pay them and
you say, "Okay, here's the situation: It's a bar, the
guy walks in and sits down next to the girl. He says
this. What does the woman say back?" "Boom boom boom
boom
boom. Funny funny funny funny." "Okay, great, thanks."
If you're smart
enough to pull it out of them, great. But I think most
comedians are just
lazy. That's the biggest problem. It's easy to coast
on the same material
and this and that. It's easy to just go back and
forth. I mean, I remember
in Toronto guys used to get mad at me all the time.
We'd be at a party and
somebody would say something funny and I'd say,
"That's really funny. You should write it down and put
it in your act." And they'd say, "Yeah,
yeah, I'll write it down later." And I'd go, "Later
you're gonna forget. You
should write it down now." They go, "Hey, man, I'm at
a party, relax. Have
fun." I'd go, "Okay, look, if I don't see that line in
your act in three months, I'm gonna do it." And they'd
go, "Fuck you!" And they'd write it
down. (laughs) It took that much to get them to do
something that would
help their act. I mean, Jesus.

GM: Another thing about less funny comedians, shall we
say, who we see
on TV, is that it might be that they get elevated too
early. They haven't
developed enough. Maybe TV needs so many new young
comics that they get elevated on a good five, six
minutes.
MM: And it's also the problem, too, is they're getting
younger and younger. And it's like, when I think back
to when I was -- and this is one
of the lines I used in "My House, My Rules" -- you
know, my father had me
when he was 21. When I was 21, I didn't know shit. The
last thing that
somebody should've given me was a baby. So when you
see a 21-year-old
on the stage, you just go, "How much can this guy tell
me about life? He
hasn't even lived it yet." So there's a little bit of
that. Also, the other side of it is the fact that each
year at the Montreal Comedy Festival I get to meet
some old guy that's one of my heroes, and icons and
stuff, be it Jerry Lewis or Alan King or Lily Tomlin.
I mean, I've been on the last 20 years so I've met
just about everybody. I mean, the only guy I'm really
sorry that I never met was Red Skelton. They never got
around to booking him for the festival and he died
before they could. But one year, George Burns was
there and I was talking to George Burns and it was so
surreal. In the back of my mind, "I'm talking to
George Burns!" It's so weird. And he said something
very profound. He said, "The problem," he said, "is
that geniuses die broke. Mediocrity rises to the top."
And he goes, "If you wanna be really successful in
comedy, be mediocre." And you see that a lot. I mean,
there's a lot of acts that you just, "Wow, I have no
understanding of how they get so big." But part of it
is that they're easy to get along with and they take
direction no matter how bad it is. Imagine, back in
the movie "Tootsie", Dustin Hoffman was perceived as
being a son of a bitch. He wasn't perceived as being
the perfectionist that he should have been perceived
as. And the movie came out great because he demanded
that it be great. I mean, there's so many movies now
that you sit there and you go, "I can't believe this
was made!" You sit there and you laugh one or two
times and you go, "My God!" For me, Pryor's the
watermark, the acceptable level that you should try to
excel at in stand-up. But as far as movies, I always
think back to when I first saw "Annie Hall", I walked
outta there going, "I can't believe he put that many
jokes in one fucking movie!" You know? I mean, I
laughed 50 times. It's the same with some of the Mel
Brooks stuff. You laughed so many times. And now, in
an Adam Sandler film, you'll laugh three times. And
you sit there and you go, "I can't believe this is
popular. I can't believe this is making money." Three
times? Nine bucks for three times?

GM: Eleven!
MM: Yeah. Nine bucks American; 22 Canadian.

GM: Yeah, well there were probably crappy movies back
then, too, and just the ones we remember were the good
ones.
MM: Yeah. It's weird. In Hollywood, the whole thing is
not to be as good
as you can be; it's to get along and not have that
many fights and just get things done and everything.
And as soon as you put your foot down and
try to make something good, you're branded as a
trouble-maker. It's weird. I mean, I don't get it.
You're just trying to make something better
that eventually will put more money in somebody's
pocket, and you're
perceived as a trouble-maker. I don't understand it
where the object is not to be good. See, that's why...
I do a bit in my act about the reason why men love
sports so much is it's black and white. Everything
else is grey,
but in sports you actually try to be the best you can.
And especially in
the Olympics, anything that's judged by a clock, when
you're racing against the clock, that's the purest
thing out there. The guy makes it. Either you beat the
time, or you didn't. It's simple. As opposed to, like,
the
skating. It's all subjective, it's the judges. Because
life is so grey, we
appreciate it. "The guy won. The guy was the fastest
guy on the planet. Fuck you."

GM: Have you ever worked with Brent Butt before?
MM: Oh, yeah. Brent Butt is the quintessential example
of... He was like the last big guy to get black-balled
out of Yuk Yuks. It just proved how
stupid it is, the whole thing. I mean, because he's
such a great comedian.
Great comedians should not be black-balled out of
anything, you know what I mean? Great comedians should
be there. A guy like Brent Butt
shouldn't have to worry about where his rent is coming
from. Because he's that good. Plus, he's a nice guy. I
mean, I've known him since he first moved to Toronto
and had just been doing comedy for, like, a year. Let
me tell you something: if everybody was like Brent
Butt, this would be an easy business to be in. No
problems at all.

GM: Why was he black-balled?
MM: I think it was a political situation. It was a
thing where they wanted
to get more money. It's always the same thing. It's
the same thing that
happened at the Comedy Store and this and that. They
have a strike or
something, or they have a meeting and this and that,
and you're on one
side and you're on the other, and then things get
resolved and things are
conceded, and they say, "Okay, we'll pay the comics."
But there's a personal vendetta going, "Well, we don't
want you. You, get out." You know what I mean?
(laughs) So guys like Brent Butt are on the outside,
which is totally ludicrous because he's such a great
comedian. It's bullshit.
The bullshit factor in entertainment, it seems like it
must be the greatest,
but you look at Enron and all that stuff and it's
across the board in every job. There's a certain
amount of bullshit that you gotta put up with, and the
politics and all that crap. But in the perfect world,
it would be great. I mean, it's such a pleasure to
hang out with guys like Brent Butt because like I said
before about the magician thing, we know all the
tricks, so anybody that can make us laugh, it's, like,
doubly appreciated because most of the stuff doesn't
make us laugh in the first place. So he's one of those
guys that if we're hanging around and he starts going
off on something, we just sit back and enjoy it. I
mean, there's no competition like who's going to be
talking next.

GM: I've seen him dozens and dozens of times here in
Vancouver. I've
seen you four times, I think. And I would put you guys
in the same category in that even if you're doing old
material, it's still just as funny. Some comics, you
go, "Yeah, all right, I heard it."
MM: I think with Brent, him and me are the same in
that it's very hard to
sleepwalk through our acts. We have to be there, in
the moment. It's very
hard to fake it. With other guys, you get that feeling
like they're just
walking through it tonight. They're tired, or
whatever. Guys like Brent and myself, we actually care
about whether the audience likes us and is gonna like
the show. I mean, the bottom line is guys like Brent
and me, we want people to walk out of the show going,
"That's the best money I ever spent." That's the
bottom line. And, I mean, if everybody was like that,
comedy would be so much better. Every movie would be
better if everybody had that attitude. But
unfortunately, they don't.

GM: And you both give substantial shows, too.
MM: It's something that we love doing. I mean, for all
the bullshit that we have... The weird thing about
comedy is the hecklers and this and that
and all the politics and all that crap, but when you
got a good crowd, when you're on stage, it could be in
the middle of Kamloops, or something, it doesn't
matter. But if the crowd's good, that stage is
Carnegie Hall. When it's good, it's the best. When
it's bad, it's the worst.
Definitely, when it's good, IT IS THE BEST! (laughs)

GM: You talk about not getting along with the
Hollywood types. Is it
better now for you?
MM: Not really. I mean, knowing what I know now, I
would have started
doing things a lot sooner by myself and just saving my
money and going
out there and making our own films and stuff. But guys
like me were under the illusion that we thought it was
going to be like sports. If you can hit a homerun,
then, boy, you're gonna be on a team and you're going
to be first string and you're gonna be starting the
game and everything, but in comedy, it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter how good you are, nothing.
It's all bullshit. It's politics, you know what I
mean? It's just crap.

GM: You live down in LA. Why?
MM: For the weather.

GM: I understand that. As I look outside the window
today, it's been snowing non-stop all day. In
Vancouver! March 18! And there's snow
everywhere.
MM: People are going to have to burst into flames in
January before they
go, "Maybe this global warming thing..." You know, I
was just listening to
a radio show last night. They were saying that 2001
was the hottest year
in the history of science. You know? The first year
they said was the hottest was 1998. The second hottest
so far has been 2001. In the history
of science! It's amazing. How that doesn't make people
go, "Well, wait a
minute. Something's..." You know what I mean? But you
always have that
crowd of, "Aw, you fuckin' liberals. Tree-huggin' sons
of bitches. Shut
up." But they just don't get it. Now we have these
mild winters and mild
winters and all of a sudden Vancouver's getting snow
in March, and you're
going, "What the fuck?" You know, that's all the
pollution and stuff and
the ozone and all that crap, they're going to have
something to do with it. It's insane. But you have two
choices: you laugh or you cry. So we make jokes, we
try to get the message out, and that's about it.

GM: You say you're down there for the weather, but
didn't you also say
you hate the sun and you hate the beach?
MM: Well, it's weird. I don't go out. At all. I live a
vampire life. I just like the fact that I can walk
around with a short sleeve shirt on all the time. It's
not too cold; it's not too hot. You know Kevin Meany?

GM: Yeah.
MM: He used to do the bit, "I just want to live in a
mall. Like, 68 degrees all the time." That's basically
me. I have no desire to go outside and do stuff. I
just want it nice all the time. Because basically, I
could be sitting in front of the computer just about
anywhere on the planet and I'd be happy just writing.
But it is nice that it's the nice weather and
everything. But if Hollywood was in Alaska, we'd all
be up there with dog sleds. "We'll take my sled." "No,
we'll take my sled." And it's funny because people
always ask, "Well, why did you move?" Well, when I was
growing up, it was always Hollywood. It wasn't LA, it
was like, you wanna go to Hollywood. You want to be in
show business, you go to Hollywood. So you come to
Hollywood, you find out how fucked up it is, and you
make enough money to get out. (laughs) Simple as that.
You know, people like Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep,
they certainly don't live here. They live in normal
places and the scripts are e-mailed to them and they
say yes or no and then they come out to work. But they
don't have to live here.

GM: You say you're doing more stuff on your own.
MM: Yeah, well, we're trying. Right now, we're
actually in, I think it's Day 62 of a 90-day wait that
this guy said he could get us two million bucks to
make a film. So hopefully the guy's not shitting us
because if he is, I mean, he's like the best
bullshitter I've ever met. Because we checked him out:
he does have a big company, he's an investment broker,
he has all these clients and he says he wants to do
this, and blah blah blah.

GM: Do you have a production company?
MM: I have two partners that I've been writing with.
Two black comedians
that I've been writing with. And over the past two
years, we've written four scripts that are aimed at
the black audience. Obviously, if something
is really good, that the black audience loves, the
white audience follows:
"What the fuck's going on? Why are they laughing?
Okay, let's check it out." And it's sort of a propos,
being Canadian, being down here, being on
the outside, blah blah blah. I can relate to the
situation a little bit. And with the woman thing, too,
and the black thing, okay, fine, this makes
sense. And with the Pryor thing, too, it's stuff
that's always made me laugh. And the stuff that we've
done, God, I really hope that we get to
make the second film that want to do because it deals
with racism in what
I think is the funniest way ever. And it really deals
with it. It's one of those gut punches that'll take
your breath away.

GM: You want to make it yourself or you just want to
sell the script?
MM: You know, it was funny. The first script we wrote,
we said, okay, we're just going to fucking write this
and sell it and get the money and
make something else. But halfway through the script we
went, "This is too
good. Somebody's going to fuck it up. Now we gotta
make it ourselves."
So we put it in a drawer and we start writing another
one. "This one, we're
just going to write and we're going to sell it, and
that's it. We don't care what they do with it. Fuck
it. Just get the money so we can make the first one."
And halfway though, we realized this is too good;
they're going to fuck it up -- put it in the drawer.
(laughs)

GM: And now you got four of them.
MM: Yeah. So we just said, okay, we have to find
somebody that wants to
be in show business, that has a lot of money, that
doesn't want to, like,
fuck it up. We don't want somebody sitting there
going, "You know what I
think is funny?" "No! You don't think anything is
funny! We're the ones who know what's funny!" You know
what I mean? "You can go to the
dinners and the awards shows and you can do all that
shit, but you can't tell us what's funny."

GM: Who's doing the grunt work to get the money?
MM: Well, it's weird. The guy that we're waiting for
now, it was just a guy that I happened to meet. He was
an MC of a corporation gig that I did. And it was like
one of those $1500 a plate kinda deals, and I told him
about us trying to make movies. And he says, "Oh, I've
invested in these dramas in Canada but they're really
unsatisfying and they don't make any money. What I
really want to do is make comedies." And I was like,
"Well, we have scripts!" And the guy loved it and said
he could get the money so we're just waiting.
Literally. We're like Day 62.

GM: And would you hire a director? Or would you direct
it yourself? Would you act in it?
MM: I think my partner wants to direct it, which is a
job I wouldn't wish
on anyone. See, what I want to be is the
producer/writer. The director has
to deal with the talent, and people coming up to him,
like wardrobe people, asking, "What shirt should he
wear? The red one or the blue one?"
The director has to fucking deal with all that shit. I
just want to sit on the set watching a monitor and
they do a take and to look up at my partner
and go, "Yup, that's great. Let's move on." I don't
want to fucking talk to the talent! (laughs) "He's in
his trailer doing cocaine." I don't want to fucking
know about that! I want nothing to do with that! I
know how crazy talent are. I don't want to go anywhere
near the talent.

GM: Do you want a part in it?
MM: Ah, actually, it's weird. It's like, we have cameo
parts, but none of
us really want to get out there because my partners
are stand-ups, too. So
we sort of get our "look at me! look at me!" when we
do our act. That's
plenty. If it was the right part... I mean, I have
scripts that I've written by myself and there's one
script that I know I would have to play because it
involves a character that is so bizarre, like a
gremlin, and it would have to be played a certain way
that I would probably want to do that. But for the
most part, I get a bigger kick out of my words coming
out of somebody else's mouth than me doing them.
People always say, "It's bullshit, you're being
humble," and all this crap, but no. It's reality. It's
a fact. Like, certain people, like Marilyn Monroe,
like, the camera just ate her up. There was something
about her. You can't put your finger on it. You can't
explain it, but when she was in front of the camera,
the camera ate her up. And there's people like that
out there. But I'm not one of them. In my specials on
TV, we had to have the best make-up, the best hair, I
had to wear Gucci clothers, whatever, the best fucking
Italian clothes to look even adequate. But some
people, you get a guy like Jim Carey, boom, he looks
at the camera, the eyes go, and he's gone. It's just
one of those things. You have to accept it. It's the
same feeling I had when I was in grade four and the
Beatles came out and all the chicks were going crazy
for the Beatles. And I looked in the mirror and I
realized I didn't look like any one of them. And I
said, "Well, this is going to be a hard time."
(laughs) "It's not going to be fun for a while. How
long are these guys going to last?" "Fifty years."
"All right, fine."

GM: There's always being a character actor.
MM: Yeah. You know, the smaller parts and things like
that. It's also, for
comedy, it's not bad, but I certainly don't have any
desire to do serious
drama or anything. I'm not an actor actor.

GM: How about writing serious drama?
MM: Um, that I have a couple of scripts. I mean, drama
I don't mind writing at all. Good drama is good drama.
The weird part about it is
nowadays, with movies even going back to Casino and
Goodfellas, there's
more laughs in those movies than regular comedies. So
it's a lot easier to
put laughs in a drama than doing one of these stupid
comedies. What we
really want to prove with the comedy scripts is that
we can raise the bar
again because we really feel collectively -- my
partners feel the same way
-- is that the bar has been lowered so, so low. It's
really bad now. Basically, with most comedy scripts,
what you're seeing up there is the
third drafts when you should be seeing the 21st
drafts. And it's just a matter of people being lazy.
The example that I always use is Eddie Murphy and
"Harlem Nights". Now you here you have Eddie Murphy,
established star, big time, with all the money that he
wants, anything that he wants the studio says, "Eddie,
it's yours." So he gets two of his icons: Redd Foxx,
Richard Pryor. And then he gets Della Reese thrown in
just for good measure. You gonna tell me if you gave
me an unlimited budget, and two of my heroes, and a
great character woman actress, that I couldn't come up
with something better than "Harlem Nights"? For the
money that you spent on the fucking doughnuts that you
had at the Craft Services everyday on the set, I would
have four comics standing there, and they would fix
everything.

GM: But they are four comics, or three comics.
Couldn't they see it? Or
were they too close?
MM: It's just the kind of thing that they don't...
It's the last dollar that they never spend is on the
writing. It's so weird. I mean, Eddie's the worst for
this. And Jim Carey follows very closely, secondly.
They read a script and they think, "Okay, when I get
on the set, I'll fix this." Hey, the greatest improv
players ever are not able to fix something completely
like that. It comes down to the writing. You have to
be prepared. I mean, the first film that we're
planning to shoot if this guy has the money, we wrote
this, like, non-stop for five days a week, six hours a
day, eight months.

GM: Together?
MM: Yup. The three of us in a room. We banged it out,
and I mean banged
it. I mean, I was the task-master. Like, my partners
would go, "Well, you
know, let's come back to that scene later." "No, we're
gonna fuckin' finish it right now!" And they'd start
saying, "Well, maybe the guy doesn't have to say
something funny when he walks into the room." "No, no,
no, you're just saying that because you don't..." And
we'd argue and we'd argue and we'd fight, but thirty
minutes later, my partner would come up with something
and I'd go, "Ah, there it is! There's the piece of
gold we're looking for! See? Thirty minutes later we
got it. You were bitching about this, you were
arguing, but now we got it. Now it's fixed. Now we
don't have to look at this ever again until we shoot
it." And that's the way it is.

GM: Who are your partners?
MM: Wiley Roberts. And the first film was Ty Phipps.
Wiley Roberts -- Ty
is a little bit younger than us -- but Wiley Roberts
is the black equivalent of me. He came out of San
Fransisco. He was passed over by people like Mark
Curry and D.L. Hughley and stuff like that. But I'm
telling you, you put them on stage, all three of them,
pound for pound, my money goes on Wiley. He's got the
stuff that's got some thought to it, some content, not
bullshit. The other guys, it's the George Burns thing
-- mediocrity rises to the top. The guys that were
easy to get along with, that didn't... It's weird.
It's like, in comedy as soon as you say, "Well, let's
make this funnier," they look at you like you just
fucking raped them or something. Fuck! What is fucking
wrong with you people? We just want to make it better.
It's so bizarro. I just don't get it. It's also the
same kind of thing. It just comes down to what kind of
person you are. Like, I have never seen, like, Brent
Butt throw in the towel on a show. If it's not working
in the beginning, or if it's a tough crowd, he fucking
stands out there till he gets them. He never walks off
going, "Ah, fuck you."

GM: He's a real pro.
MM: Yeah. And that's the kind of attitude that
hopefully would cross over to his writing. It's just a
matter of discipline. I know that if we get this movie
made and we start getting serious money, and we can
pay comics
to be in a room, we're going to have comics in rooms
all the time. And
we're going to have three or four groups, and I'm
going to be sitting there like the story editor, just
walking into the room every day going, "All right,
pages 30 to 40. Let's go." Boom. You know? "Make this
shit better." It's as simple as that.

GM: Well this is exciting. I hope it gets made.
MM: Yeah, I hope so. It's something to look forward
to. If we make this film the way we really want to,
and if it doesn't happen, it doesn't make
it, well then, it's not our fault. It's really
everybody else's fault. "Well, we showed you the gold
and you didn't want it. All right, fine." (laughs) At
least we got a chance to show you. But I'm betting
that somebody's going to notice. I mean, all the
people that have read the script notice right away
that basically there's like a joke on every page.
That's gotta be different than reading other scripts.
It's a weird business. I'm constantly amazed when
something like "The Sopranos" comes on. I go, "How the
hell did this get under the wire? How did this get by
the suits? This is good." It's amazing how anything
good gets made. People are idiots. The downside of it
is, if you're dealing with music, like jazz, or
whatever, there's nobody telling musicians how to do
it, unless they were that good. Nobody told Charlie
Parker how to fucking play his sax. And it's the same
in, like, ballet, dance, any other artform except
comedy. All of a sudden with comedy, everybody goes,
"I got a sense of humour. I got a good sense of
humour."

GM: Mike, my buddy was here this weekend. He's an
elementary school
teacher and he wanted me to ask you if you were a
class clown in school
because he wants to know if these kids that he's
disciplining should shut
up. Should he be stifling them?
MM: Um, what he should be doing is not stifling them,
he should be giving
them the opportunity to come out with it so that they
don't have to do it... You know, basically in high
school it's the class clowns... You know
people are always asking, "Why are Canadians funnier
than Americans?
There are so many Canadian comedians." Because we're
bored. It comes out of boredom. I mean, we're sitting
in class and it's boring, so we try to
make it interesting by making jokes. So we laugh, so
therefore we're not
bored. And if these kids had an outlet where they're
allowed to be funny, then they won't be sitting there
fucking up your lesson plan later. So
intead of stifling, really the word should be to
redirect them to some area or some time where they can
explore just how funny they are.

GM: Were you the class clown?
MM: I was actually part of a... My best friend in high
school was John
Kricfalusi, who invented "Ren and Stimpy". He now has
a cartoon called "The Ripping Friends", and I do the
voice of Rip. And it's on Fox. And it's really
bizarre. It's about these four superheroes that don't
have any real powers except the fact that they just
work out all the time. We used to just sit there and
make jokes and stuff, but we would never get kicked
out of class because we'd always keep a low profile.
But we would get other people to do shit, so the other
people would do it and they would get kicked out. But
the bottom line was that the joke worked. (laughs) You
know what I mean? "I'm not going to do the joke,
because I know the guy's going to kick me out." I
mean, it was hysterical. I remember in German class,
we used to razz the German teacher so much. He'd come
in with a little film or something and we'd go, "Iz
zis how you won za war?" "Shut up!" He had this lisp
and was always mad at us. But eventually we would get
him to show the film backwards. He'd show the film and
do the lesson, then at the end of the class, he'd show
the film backwards. And we'd be howling. It was great.
And it was funny because he was one of those teachers
that I met later on in life. I saw him again, like,
five years ago. And he still remembered how many
laughs we used to have in his class. And actually
liked it, you know? So it was cool. And he's actually
proud of the fact that I was actually pursuing my
comedy and stuff as a career. The funniest thing in
high school was, I remember one time I mentioned it in
a newspaper article and they printed it and the person
who taught me lived right across from where my parents
lived. And she came right over and went, "Oh, I'm so
proud that Mike said the only thing that he uses from
high school is his typing. I was his typing teacher.
Just tell him I'm so proud." (laughs) And it's true,
though. You know what I mean? I mean, thank God I took
typing because now I can bang out 75 words a minute.
It comes in real handy when I'm sitting there in front
of the computer.

GM: You're not using your German so much?
MM: Not really. Not using the German. Not using any of
the math. And all
the fucking integers and shit like that. All the
bullshit.

GM: Good luck with the movie. You only have 28 more
days to wait.
MM: Yeah. The waiting part is very hard. I find myself
trying to be distracted as much as possible because I
don't want to think about the
waiting. Or just life. Life is going to be so good if
we get to make this
thing. And it's ironic, too. Once we make this thing,
and if it's a success, all these phone calls will
start. The people that wouldn't give us the time of
day. But the irony is by that time we won't need their
money because we'll have our own money. Our philosophy
is always dump the money back into the next movie.

GM: Well, then you can do like your joke about winning
the lottery. Call
up your boss: "Fuck you."
MM: Exactly. (laughs)


 
Return to Top