Bill Grundfest [Interview]


Why hello there old comedy loving friends. As you may have noticed in the last few months, we have grown quite fond of the world of stand up comedy lately. It is an ever-loving passion we have had for quite some time, but we have worked to bring to to an all new light lately. And today we have a perfect guest to help put us directly on top! Today we are speaking with the legendary comedian/writer/founder of the acclaimed Comedy Cellar in New York City, the great Bill Grundfest.

If you are any sort of fan of stand up comedy, or truly funny in general, there is no possible way you are not aware of the the legendary Comedy Cellar. It has appeared in just about every project that took comedy even remotely serious, including the recent De Niro fronted film The Comedian, which I have I recently watched on a plane, and have to say was actually pretty damn entertaining. Anyway, our main man Bill is the man who’s ass you should all be proverbially kissing, because he is the man who developed the original concept, and created the now legendary Comedy Cellar.

And what is more interesting….he left it all. He developed a comedic empire, and then simply gave it away. Why the fuck would you do that, you may ask? Well, when the end result would eventually be to become a Golden Globe award winning television writer on the coast with more sunshine, it probably wouldn’t seem so crazy. And that is exactly what he did. A man like Bill Grundfest is loaded with so much talent that it is almost unfair to his peers. He has had an incredible career that has spanned decades.

And we are so damn excited that he was gracious enough to share a few words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society today! We have had some legends in the past, but having Bill here today feels absolutely surreal, and we are so damn happy to have him! So please enjoy some great words from the amazing Bill Grundfest!

What was some of the earliest material you can remember performing when you first began telling jokes?

My first joke was when I was 5, and my audience was my Post World War II immigrant, barely-speaking-English parents. It was the Knock Knock, who’s there?, banana/orange joke. If you need me to write the joke out, forget it.
When you decided to develop the now legendary Comedy Cellar, what made you think it was going to work out? And could you have ever imagine what it would become shortly after you opened it, and what it became after you moved on from it?

I knew it would work, I just didn’t know it would last 35 years. Nobody and nothing in New York lasts 35 years. Neither me nor Manny imagined the level of success it achieved, especially under Noam and Estee’s execution after I left and Manny passed. I know he’s smiling from behind an oud in heaven.


You made one of the craziest decisions I have ever heard of when you decided to leave your successful career running the Cellar to pursue a career in the world of writing for television. In retrospect, you obviously made a perfect decision as you have had some amazing success in this business. But, what the hell, man? What made you decide you wanted to take such a crazy risk? What compelled you to leave such beautiful conformity?
I was 34, had had a radio show on NBC, a couple of cable specials, but I wasn’t becoming a star, and could see 40 looming. I wanted to be in the major leagues of television and if it couldn’t be as the star of a sitcom or talk show, then as a writer/producer would be fine. Rule #1: If you are willing to do literally anything to achieve a clearly envisioned goal, the odds are actually pretty good you’ll achieve it. Most people aren’t willing to do literally anything. I was – starting with being brutally honest with myself about my chances of becoming a star.
I recently heard you explaining to Barry Katz on Industry Standard about how you first kicked off your career in television by handing out spec scripts to whoever may take them. This is probably a pretty dated concept these days, but it obviously worked. What would you consider to be the modern day equivalent of these acts? What do you believe a new writer has to do today to break into the business?
It would work still today. New anythings in this business need to step outside the norm and do something crazy. You must break out of the safety of the “norm.” Failure to become a success is what’s normal in show biz. If you want to succeed in anything, you have to risk looking like an idiot.
What have you noticed to be the biggest change in the “writer’s rooms” and television writing in general since when you first began in the business, up to now? Besides the lightening of the wallets of course. And despite less pay, do you believe the quality of television has gotten better, or worse?

There’s an amazing amount of good TV out there. My only complaint is: can we stop with the “anti-hero” bullshit? It’s not funny, not cool, it’s really coarsening the culture and destroying the very idea of a “value system.”


Mad About You was one of those shows that has always stood out to me personally as a reasonably beloved show by both critics and audiences, although it was against some serious competition during its run. In your obviously much more knowledgable opinion, what do you believe it was that made Mad About You stand out amongst the crowd? 

Writing a sitcom is like writing a song – to be a hit you have to write a great song and have a great performer sing it. As writers, our staff was among the best in TV, and we had Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt to sing what we wrote.

We always have to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you keep your Golden Globe? And does its physical location have any sort of significance to you?

It’s in a shrine my mother has to her sons, in between my 3 Emmy nominations, and a Peabody award.

So what do you have coming up that our readers should know about?

I’m attached to a couple of pilots and am very big in China, where we adapted Mad About You for a Chinese cast and audience – and were the number one show for our run with hundreds of millions of views.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

BMy kids. They love me. Go figure.

Just so you know, Bill was not over exaggerating about the impact of Mad About You in China. Check out this amazing insight from The Wall Street Journal:

Katie Burgess [Interview]


We have a pretty awesome interview for you fine readers today. Recently I was passed along a screener for a nice little indie horror flick entitled Gremlin. It was a fun film to watch, but when I finished it, I was left with one large question….who is this amazing young actress who plays Anna? That young actress turned out to be the amazing Katie Burgess. And while I know I can’t be the first to say this, I still feel so compelled to say it…this is a young woman to look out for in the future. She is an amazingly talented actress who absolutely stole the show in Gremlin.

While looking into the work of Ms. Burgess, I soon learned that it was not just dumb luck and pure talent (which she definitely seems to have been born with) that made her performance in Gremlin so amazing. No, Katie has been doing this job for quite some time despite her young age. And dammit she is good at it! Again, if you are not yet familiar with the work of Katie Burgess, I am absolutely certain you soon will. That being said, we are so happy that she has been generous enough to share a few words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society. So ladies and gentleman, please enjoy our interview with the amazing actress, and the woman who has officially knocked out our old friend Tara Lynne Barr as our youngest interviewee to date, the wonderful Katie Burgess!

You’ve been acting for quite a long time for someone who is so young. When did you decide you wanted to be an actress? And what compelled you to join the world of acting?

When I was much younger (around 7) I was very shy. My mom decided that bringing me to an open audition for a local musical would be a good way for me to overcome my bashfulness. I ended up actually getting cast in the musical(Seussical the Musical) with a friend and that was the beginning of my journey. Around two years and 4 productions later I decided that I wanted to try my hand at film acting. My mom worked hard to find an agency in Oklahoma and scheduled an interview for me. I signed on with an agency soon after and booked my first commercial the next day. It’s always been so much fun for me which is really important in any business. You have to really love it.

What is the acting scene like in Tulsa? And are you still living around there? Any plans to ship out to one of the coasts to work?

The acting scene in Tulsa has always been pretty slow to be honest. The business in Oklahoma has only just started to pick up in the last few years, which is great! I’m actually moving to Malibu for college at the end of August as I’ll be attending Pepperdine University. I hope to continue acting there as well as learn about the business from all perspectives.


I recently watched the film you appeared in called Gremlin, and honestly have to say that your performance truly blew me away. You went through a lot of crazy dramatic turns with that character. What sort of preparation went into making this character come to life? And how was your experience in making this film?

Gremlin was a wonderful experience for me! It was a very professional environment where everyone was very passionate about and dedicated to their jobs. As far as the character, Anna is a 16 year old girl struggling to find herself and cope with life-altering news. Because I was exactly her age during filming, I could relate to her struggles. Every kid gets frustrated with their parents and, as a teenager, it’s easy to feel very isolated and lost so I channeled my own past feelings and allowed myself to go to those dark places Anna is trapped in. You have to be very aware of emotion during such intense scenes. It was important to me that I channeled multiple emotions at once and conveyed them authentically. Humans are really complex, so in order to make a situation as realistic as possible, you have to know how to be afraid, distraught, and angry all at once.

You also worked with the legendary Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. in the family drama The Lamp. What was it like working with a legendary figure like Gossett? Did he have any wisdom to pass on to you?

I was pretty young when I worked with him so I don’t think I fully understood just who I was working with. He’s such sweet man and he’s giant! His stand-in had to wear platform shoes just to reach his height. He loved to tell stories. There were a lot of kids on that set so he entertained us with funny stories between takes. I look back now and I wish I could have picked his brain more about his experience in the business, but as a ten-year-old, I just saw him as a fun grandfather figure.

What would you consider to be your dream role?

I love a good challenge. A character with different sides and a deep story is always fun. It’s thrilling to me to be thrown into a situation I would probably not experience in my life and find ways to make it real and interesting. Probably someone very different from who I actually am.

 

So what is next for you? Anything you would like to tell our readers about that you have coming up?

I just filmed another movie with the makers of Gremlin called The Jurassic Games. I’m super excited for this film so definitely stay tuned for more information! I play the main antagonist, which was so much fun as I was the youngest person on set. Ryan Bellgardt is such an amazing director so getting to work with him and his crew twice was a privilege.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

That is a really hard question haha. I smile literally all the time. This is going to sound really creepy, but I love observing people, especially kids. I love watching interactions between people because I just think they are really interesting. I actually think this has helped a lot in my acting, knowing how people react to certain things or interact with each other. I would say the last time I smiled was probably when I was listening to a conversation between little kids at the pool. They’re so funny! It really makes me miss being little.

Check out this trailer for Gremlin featuring Katie Burgess which is available on VOD now:

Philip Anthony-Rodriguez [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is another amazingly talented on screen and voice over actor working today. Philip Anthony-Rodriguez has had regular on screen appearances on TV shows like Grimm, The Secret Life of an American Teenager, 24, and so many more! And in the world of video games, Philip is a voice you will all surely know and love in projects like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo: Reach, and so many more.

But as many of our regular readers will know…if we are have an acclaimed voice over artists featured on the site, there is a 110% chance, they were also a part of a dearly beloved video game series here at Trainwreck’d Society. And you all would be absolutely correct. Mr. Rodriguez is the man who was responsible for bringing to life the smooth-talking, hard-working, name-reminiscent of a biker town in South Dakota, the great Sturgis! His Sanctuary’s own handy helper is with us today, and we could not be more excited to have him. And as an added bonus, Philip has also appeared in episode of the TWS acclaimed television series Becker, so you know we had to ask him about some of that magic. If there is one thing you could call us here at TWS, it is persistent. We know what we want, and we know what we love. And we love the work of Philip Anthony-Rodriguez!

So please enjoy some great words from the amazing actor and voice over artist, Philip Anthony-Rodriquez. And as he mentions in the interview itself, find Philip when you are making the rounds at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Enjoy!

 

When did you realize you wanted to become an actor? Was it a passion from a young age or did you just sort of fall into it? 

It was a little bit of both. I’ve always been a fan of TV and film. But when I was 9, a woman named Jeanne Niederlitz came to my hometown community center in Brooklyn with a summer theater troupe for kids. It was called Acting By Children (ABC) and we’d put on original musicals all performed by kids: costumes, rehearsals, audiences, the works!  I was instantly hooked! Later, Jeanne went on to be my very first manager. I then went on to do commercials, small parts in movies, TV shows …and the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the first film/television show you can remember having your name appear in the credits? Do you remember what you were doing at that exact moment when you first saw it?

I was cast as the lead guest star on one of Dick Wolf’s early hit shows called New York Undercover. This show had the actor credits at the beginning of the show. My heart skipped a beat and I got choked up seeing my name up on the screen. And it was even more special because I believe I was on screen when my name appeared.  I felt like I had finally “made it” as an actor (hahaha). It was a dream fulfilled!

You had a solid run on the hit television show Grimm. What was it like working on a show like this? And how did you enjoy my homeland up there in the Pacific Northwest?

Oh boy! This was a real treat working on for many reasons. It reunited me with my uber producer David Greenwalt from my days starring on Jake 2.0, which incidentally was a GREAT series that wasn’t given the chance it deserved to remain on the air. ;). But with Grimm, I was joining an established hit show and I got to have in on the fun and be a part of something really special. I also got to play a reeeaally slick but evil, Bond-esque, “Euro-Villain” name Marcus Rispoli. This was awesome for a few reasons. A) I wasn’t pigeonholed into being (solely) a Latino character with a Latino surname (nothing wrong with that, by the way) so it was nice to not be “Latino Phil” for something. B) He was an absolute badass that wore expensive suits and could kill you with his steely, death stare! Lol. And C) It gave me the opportunity to perform the character with the quasi-British/Mid-Atlantic accent I had worked on for years and SO wanted to “unleash” it onto the world. 🙂

The show’s cast and crew were top-notch as well as was your “homeland”. They and the city of Portland welcomed me with open arms…and sometimes a hug as well!   I always looked forward to flying up there from LA to work. And can I just say, “Portland, man! SUCH an awesome foodie town!!” I mean it, I had some of THE best food while I was there. So much so that I’d often find myself saying, “Eat your heart out, Paris, New York and L.A.!!” Portland is on the map for food glory these days!

I know it has been a long time, and it was only one episode, but you appeared on one of my favorite television sitcoms of all time, the amazing Becker. So I am obliged to ask, how did you enjoy being on that set? Was it a memorable experience in any way?

Oh wow, that is going back a bit! But hey, Becker…what can I say? Got to work with the legendary Ted Danson as well as the rest of that stellar cast. It was a short but sweet gig. But it was also special because it was a Christmas episode…those are ALWAYS fun! It also has the virtue of being THE first sitcom I worked on. What better way to get your feet wet than by being on a winner like that?

What would you say are the pro’s and cons of voice over work as compared to your on-screen work? Do you have a preference between the two?

Well, the pros are many with voice over work. I do it with just as much frequency as I do with my on-screen work. And it is the “bread and butter” work for me…from said frequency perspective. But you’ve also heard other voice talent mention the obvious perks: You can just roll outta bed in your jammies and into the recording booth if you want…because no one can see you. But that’s kinda gross. I like to at least wear jeans and a tee shirt! 😉 But seriously, doing voice over work is typically more “exotic” work for me. As in you typically perform unusual characters that you don’t often get to play on screen. With voice over work, I’ve gotten to play a “Spartan” super-soldier in Halo Reach, a homicidal super-cyborg in Metal Gear, an immortal shaman and rebel leader in Rise of the Tomb Raider and a member of an alien races of all shapes and sizes countless times. THAT’S pretty cool, in my book. There’s also that extra special goose-bumpy feeling that occurs when you see YOUR voice put to an animated or computer generated image of your character. It is…fascinating, to say the least. Some of the cons are that voice work CAN put a strain on your voice. Especially when we’re working on high octane, action-filled, single-shooter type games. Nothing that a couple days’ rest can’t fix, though.

And then you have screen work. Which can be a totally different beast altogether. That has its merit and uniqueness to it too. I know for me, I still get a kick out of seeing myself on the screen. Especially if, as I’ve said before, I’m doing something cool I don’t always get to do in real life. Again, I think it’s pretty cool. How many people get to say that?? That’s why I don’t buy it when you hear some actors say, “Oh, I don’t watch myself on screen!” Why the heck not?? That always sounds a little pretentious to me sometimes. Enjoy it. Revel in it! Be proud of it. You can do that without making it seem like you’re gloating or full of yourself. 🙂

How was your experience working on Fallout 4 as the go-to fixer of Sanctuary Hills, Sturges? Was it exceptional to other projects you have worked on in any way?

You know, it’s funny how the whole Sturges thing panned out for me. This was yet another situation where I got to go “against type” for me. A rockabilly, Elvis-inspired, do-it-all Mr. Fixit with a southern drawl for the ages! I mean, I’m a Puerto Rican kid…from Brooklyn, for cryin’ out loud! And here I am, suddenly thrust into a hit game AND franchise. Actors never see the forest for the trees with regard to how well a video game is going to be…or how popular. We just go into the booth and once there, the sessions are very methodical–in the sense that there is a lot of information and words you must dole out. BUT you also have to create and instill the performance aspect to it and bring that character to life. That’s why gaming and performances are SO “cinematic” these days. With the advent of CGI, motion and face capture, designers are always looking for solid and experienced actors to work on these games. That’s why you have stars like Kevin Spacey showing up on your most recent version of Call of Duty. You would’ve never seen this happen say, 25 years ago. Again, Sturges for me was exceptional in the sense that I got to play someone I’d probably never get to play on screen. And that,in itself, is special.

What has the fan reaction been like since Fallout 4 was released? Do you find Fallout fans to be a bit more fanatical (no pun intended) than other projects you have worked on?

The fan reaction has been unprecedented… at least for me. Like I said before, actors don’t know how well something is going to be until it’s released, gained some momentum with fans and then has that snowball effect in popularity. I LOVE how fans react to a game’s success (or failure). It’s always cool to read official fan Twitter feeds and how fans always refer to you by your character name when asking questions or posting game related tidbits. They really are savvy enough to know when something works and is clicking for them. If it’s entertaining enough and whether it holds its own as compared to other games, the buck ALWAYS stops with fans in terms of how successful a game is going to be…critics and game magazine reviews, be damned.! So, as a game designer, you better make sure you’re putting out a great product. Fans and true gamers can smell out a stinker. lol. It’s strange though what fans zero in on with characters on projects I’ve worked on. I’ve been on a few GTA series and it’s hilarious to me that I always get recognized for Maurice Chavez…a radio personality and voice you ONLY hear on the radio during game play. Too funny.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Well, for the immediate future, ComicCon Conventions. So, check out a ComicCon and gaming conventions near you. I’ll be attending the mother of all conventions in July, San Diego ComicCon with a signing booth! I am stoked, to say the least. I’ll be signing photos, memorabilia and action figures from Star Wars Rebels, Grimm all game projects I’ve been a part of over the years. Sooo, if you plan to be around for the festivities, I’d love it if fans would drop by and say, “whassup!?”. I also have a Guest Star role coming up on the Season 2 of Queen of the South for USA Networks. For the long term, I am super proud of the fact that I am a dad again! My wife Cindy and I are the proud mama and papa of a beautiful and totally awesome baby boy! So, that for me is my greatest adventure. But I’m sure you’ll be seeing me up on the big screen and/or the virtual world in the very near future! 😀

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Seeing my baby boy being born! And when he looks up at me…and smiles. (sniff, sniff!) Gets me all the time! 😉

Check out this video courtesy of Luridus for a great example of Philip’s work on Fallout 4 as Sturgis:

Sunday Matinee: Leftovers [Film]

“I live a pretty good life, so I have no complaints. Nothing.” These are the words of a man who is in physical pain every damn day. A man who literally depends on the help of a Meals on Wheels program in order to live a life of pain that he considers “pretty good”. And when he can, he donates some of the little money that he may have to foundations that feed children. In just few brief moments in this film, he manages to show the world what great people should look like. And wouldn’t you know….he lives on the brink of starvation. And furthermore, we don’t seem to give a single solitary shit about him.

When I started to watch Leftovers, I had a feeling it would be a very impactful film, simply based on the subject matter. But, I honestly had no idea just how incredible emotional and on the brink of tears it could make me, on a subject I had honestly NEVER thought about before.  I just want to be real with you good readers. I was honestly under the impression that Meals on Wheels, and other organizations that feed the elderly, were more of a nicety than something that was so important and absolutely necessary. I was aware of food banks and types of programs that feed the children….but, I never considered the elderly. And I don’t believe many people really do. I know I personally never thought about how shitty we as a nation are treating our senior citizens. This is the main reason that Leftovers may very well be one of the most important documentaries I have ever seen. It is a gripping, beautifully produced, and damned inspiring film. First time filmmaker Seth Hancock truly knocked it out of the proverbial park on his first time out. He’s tackled such a specific and dangerous problem that absolutely must be dealt with accordingly. And an amazing film like Leftovers may be just the tool necessary to bring about some serious change. I know he got at least one heartless blogger to re-consider his lifestyle and seek to find what he could do to help.

Seriously Everyone, I am finding it hard to completely describe just how important and impactful this film truly is. You absolutely MUST see this amazing film. And after you do, find out how you can give back. Look into your local Meals on Wheels program, and figure out how you can help support the over 5 million Senior citizens who are going hungry every day. “There is enough food in this country to feed every man, woman, and child, we just the courage to do it.” This is NOT a line we should have to hear in a film, but sadly enough it is absolutely true. We shouldn’t need “courage” to fucking feed people. It should NOT be a courageous act to give people the nourishment they physically need to survive.

Unfortunately, because hunger has become acceptable in our nation, it is indeed a courageous effort to help people simply not die. As pointed out while Seth was visiting in Texas, it was easier to receive a concealed weapons permit than it is to receive food stamps. Our priorities are fucked, people, and it has to be stopped.
Please, watch Leftovers, and find out what you can do help the fattest nation in the world spread the wealth a little bit and help those who truly need it.

Leftovers is available now on VOD, and will be available August 29th, 2017 on DVD. Check out the trailer for this amazing film here:

Larry Bishop [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is a very special person to me personally, and somebody you are all sure to love to all end. He’s one of the most recognizable badasses the cinema world has ever known, and an absolutely delight to see on the screen. If you are a normal human being and started at the top of this post, you know it is Larry Bishop.

That’s right, THE Larry Bishop! One of the original kings of the biker film world, and a regular in the Tarantino universe. He is the mastermind behind the Quentin Tarantino presented film Hell Ride, which we have talked about previously when we spoke with one of the film’s associate producers and actresses Laura Cayouette, who remains a dear friend of ours here at TWS, and remains as one of our favorite films of all time. He has also had some amazing roles in films like Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Sting II, and his brilliant breakout performance in 1968’s The Savage Seven.

This is an interview that has been literal years in the making, but it was SO worth the wait. We finally have some amazing words from Larry that we are so excited to share with you all right now. So, please Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the legendary man we know and love, the great Larry Bishop!

When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of acting? Was there any sort of inspiration stemming from living around your father’s career?

From the time I was 9 years old, I had the opportunity to see and be around Dean Martin in person many times. I knew right then that I definitely wanted to be in show business.

Around the same time, my parents took me to the movies one night. We saw a Stanley Kubrick film, Paths Of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas and featuring Timothy Carey. I left the theatre thinking that’s exactly what I want to do one day: act in motion pictures.

When I was 15, my family moved to California. At Beverly Hills High School, I met Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, and Al Einstein (Albert Brooks). We bonded in a big way… and we encouraged each other big-time. That was the year I knew I’d be an actor.

And what keeps you in the business? What keeps you striving to create art?

The idea that I will unveil something about the nature of the universe that no one else has ever thought of.

When I was 6 years, I was very influenced by The Emperor’s New Clothes — the Hans Christian Anderson story.

In my teens, I was intrigued by the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer (The World As Will And Representation), Nietzsche, and Jacques Derrida (the “Deconstruction” guy).

Regarding actors, Marlon Brando broke ground — he did things that no one else had ever even thought of doing.

What they all had in common: they were all rebels… which led me into the one “rebel” genre in films — the motorcycle movie.

Your role in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2 was absolutely fucking phenomenal, to put it bluntly. I was seriously awestruck. Can you tell us a bit about working on this project? What drew you to take this part?

Quentin wrote the part for me. And… he was naming the part “Larry”. And… he told the Wardrobe Dept. that he only wanted me to wear my clothes from my closet. And… he allowed me to do the part exactly the way I saw it.

I wanted my character to connote Power, even though his office is the smallest office I’ve ever seen in any movie. I felt my character — in his world — was as big as Sinatra in his world. So I slowed down my movements and line-deliveries, particularly at the beginning of the scene.

When Michael Madsen walked into my office, I stared at him for 12 seconds — every take, every angle. After awhile, Michael came over to me and said that he couldn’t believe Quentin was letting me eat up 12 seconds of film in every take — knowing, of course, it would never be in the film. But… Quentin used all of it in the film!

Two other things that made it such a perfect day. #1: When we were going through the first rehearsal, Bob Richardson — the great cinematographer — turned to Quentin and said, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Bob didn’t know anything about me but I guess I definitely got his attention — Quentin immediately launched into a ten-minute film history of who I was! #2: After the first take, Michael Madsen strolled over to me and said, “Larry, the scene’s all yours.” I felt it was a generous thing to say to another actor. In the spirit of reciprocal generosity, I wrote the role of “The Gent” in Hell Ride for Michael.

And shortly after that came the phenomenal film you wrote, directed, produced AND starred in Hell Ride, which happens to also star our dear friend Laura Cayouette who was also an associate producer. This film is still one of my favorites to date. What made you want to make this picture? What were you hoping to accomplish, and do you feel like you did?

At Quentin’s house — after he screened The Savage 7 (a 1968 biker film I starred in) — he told me it was my destiny to write, direct, and star in a brand new motorcycle movie. That was enough for me — I started writing Hell Ride the moment I got home.

I trusted Quentin’s word that we would make the film. I knew he would keep his word. (In Hell Ride, it came into play — Pistolero keeps his word to Cherokee Kisum)

Generally speaking, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of my movies; if I feel like I got to do them the way I wanted to. In the case of Hell Ride, I felt I owed Quentin and hoped he’d be happy with what I’d done. At our first Sundance screening, Quentin told me that I had hit the ball out of the park.

He particularly liked how far I went with my character, “Pistolero” — he said he’d always wanted the lead character (“the good guy”) to be badder than the bad guys.

In the 1950’s & 1960’s, there was a limit to how far you could go with the eroticism, violence, language, and moral ambiguity in a biker film. A motorcycle movie should be untamed. 40 years after my first biker film, I got the opportunity to make an untamed one.

If you had to choose one performance from the plethora of work you have created what would you say you are most proud of and why?

The performances I like the most are the ones I got to do exactly the way I wanted to:

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Q.T.)
The Big Fix (directed by Jeremy Kagan)
Angel Unchained (directed by Lee Madden)
The Savage Seven (directed by Richard Rush)

Naturally, when I started writing and directing films for me to star in, I got to do everything exactly the way I wanted to — so I’m going to include Hell Ride and Mad Dog Time.

I got lucky with Underworld (1997), which I wrote and starred in. Roger Christian was the director and he was hell-bent on making the movie exactly the way I wrote it.

In your obvious professional opinion, how has the movie industry changed since you started, and in what ways do you feel like we are in a better place? Or worse place?

Of course, I’ve seen many changes in the movie industry since I started.

I never worry about it.

I stay in my own narrative — my brain stays in my own movie.

Having said that, there’s very little in this world that I couldn’t get used to.

What is next for you? Anything you would like to promote here?

The One-Way Ride is up next. I’m doing the 4 jobs again: starring, writing, directing, producing.

It’s sexy, funny, and philosophical.

If it works, I’ve already written 3 more scripts to follow it up with – all within the framework of Eros & Thanatos.

What is the last thing that made you smile?

It never fails: every time Dean Martin pops into my brain.

Damon Standifer [Interview]


Today’s awesome interviewee is an actor who has for years now been working diligently at his craft as an actor of the screen and stage. And he is damn great at what he does. And, as per usual with our guests, I have a personal soft spot for his work for probably very specific reasons, but could definitely be shared by many. In the 90’s there was a defining film series that has consistently stuck with me, as well as a television sitcom that remains in my personal Top 5 to this very day. The first would be the Ace Ventura films, and the second would be the Ted Danson vehicle Becker. And as you could probably guess, Damon Standifer was a part of both of them.

Most of you will remember Damon as the hilarious Wachati Chief in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls who respectively spits in the face of Jim Carrey, as a sign of respect of course. I will remember him fondly for his reoccurring role as Mr. Williams on Becker, a show I adored a bit more than most 13-15 years probably should have. But, I was a weird kid. The show also featured one of our first interviewees EVER, going way back, with the great Hattie Winston.  But Damon has been far from absent since these two memorable roles. He has since taken on the role as a stand up comedian as well as an actor. He has appeared on a plethora of today’s finest television programming including roles on some of my own personal favorites such as Shameless, Superstore, Documentary Now, Casual, and just dozens and dozens more over the last couple of decades. He also had a brilliant role in a little known of classic film starring the likes of Jena Malone, Brad Renfro, Clifton Collins Jr., and comedian/documentarian Wayne Federman entitled Confessions of an American Girl, that is an absolute MUST watch.

And what is most important here? Damon Standifer is a hell of a nice guy! He was nice enough to share a few thoughts and words with us digitally, and we are so incredibly proud to have him be a part of the TWS alum. So Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor and a privilege to present to you, Sir Damon Standifer!

When did you know you wanted to make a living as an actor? Was it something you were always passionate about?

I’ve always been passionate about acting. I remember being a child and wanting to produce plays. My mother tells me that when I was a toddler I had figured out that the Super 8 camera made movies so when the camera came on they could never get another candid moment from me because I would always be preforming. However I didn’t decide I wanted to pursue an acting career until I was 15 or 16. I was asked to read a Quaker sermon called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” in front of my American Literature class. The teacher just wanted me to read the sermon but I decided to create a character. I believe I received a round of applause from the class. I recently reacquainted with my former teacher via Facebook and we both remembered the event.

And when did the stand up comedy begin? What drew you to this world alongside acting?

I did stand up when I was in college and didn’t like it so I quit. With the advent of social media I began to use my status updates as a platform for jokes. I got such good responses and encouragement I decided, a couple of years ago, to start doing comedy again. I do it for fun. Maybe I’ll soon start to pursue it more seriously.

What was your first gig as an actor that you can remember? Was it a pleasurable experience or a nerve-racking one?

My first paying gig was a show called Superior Court. I played a college football player on trial for rape. The victim was played by Paris Vaughan daughter of Sarah Vaughan. The prosecutor was played by Barry Pearl, Doody from the film Grease. Several years later Pearl and I were in the same Theatre Company when, during a casual conversation, we discovered that he was a participant in my first gig. My first commercial was a McDonald’s that appeared to be based on the film Coming To America. And my first speaking role was the Sherman Hemsley /Clifton Davis sit-com Amen. I played the Gang-leader in the episode titled “TV or not TV”.


You’re appearance in the 1996 smash hit of a comedy Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is the type of thing that legends are made of, in my opinion. So, what was it like doing your scenes with Jim Carrey? And how did the whole spitting thing really work? I couldn’t imagine you were actually spitting in an actor’s face…right?

I did actually spit in the actor’s [Jim Carrey] face, at his request. However when we walked out of the hut our faces were smeared with KY jelly. He was quite the perfectionist. Even though he would improvise and critique his own work he was also quite open to direction. In fact he demanded it. Watching him riff made it very difficult to keep a straight face but somehow we managed. Tommy Davidson was also great to work with. The man was a human jukebox. Always kept the cast and crew loose.

I can recall your short but effective stints on one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, Becker. I’ve talked at lengths about my love for this show, and was even fortunate enough to have Hattie Winston on the site. But, what was your experience like the set of Becker. Did your work on this show have any sort of distinction from your other work in television?

Becker was my favorite gig ever. I loved those people. Ted Danson is one of the nicest guys with whom I’ve ever worked, talk about playing against type. Alex Desert is one of the coolest brothers you’ll ever meet. Saverio was a great story teller. Hattie, Shawnee and Terry were all very nice to me. If I ever get a series that would be the type of environment I would love to work in.

What would you consider your dream role? What is the one performance that you have not had the chance to do that would make you the most excited? 

I would love to do a role in which I get to improvise. I got to improvise on Documentary Now, Love and Barbershop, the stuff didn’t get used but it was a lot of fun. I think improvisation gives the performer a chance to reveal something about his character, to find the funny or add to the collaborative process also it allows you to free yourself from the constraints of the script.

What does the future hold for you? Anything coming up soon that our readers should look forward to?

Who knows what the future holds? I’m still grinding away hoping to find that perfect role with a wonderful cast. I’ve recently made appearances on Hulu’s Casual, Netflix’s Love, NBC’s SuperStore and IFC’s Documentary Now.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Whenever I see a friend of mine on the big or small screen it brings a smile to my face.

Gareth Reynolds [Interview]

Happy 4th of July weekend Everyone! It’s that time of year we take a moment to look back on just how awesome it truly is to be an American. Because if you are like some of us, you probably spend the rest of the year being shamefully reminded of some of the truly fucked up shit we have done. Especially if you are a fan of the brilliant man we are going to showcase today!

Late last year, I had a great interview go live with a man I admired for his work on one of my favorite television shows in recent history called Maron. His name was Dave Anthony. He was a funny guy, and gave a wonderful interview. And in that interview, he happened to mention that he has an American history podcast entitled The Dollop. I had not heard of The Dollop for some dumbass reason, so I decided I would check it out. And wouldn’t you know it, I began proverbially kicking myself in my own ass for having checked out this beautiful godddamned podcast prior to interviewing Dave. It has since become my hands down favorite piece of media available right now. And I have vowed to get revenge on myself for making such a stupid, stupid, stupid mistake. It was a torturous winter that led into a hellish spring….but now summer is here. And vengeance shall be mine…..

Today we have a wonderful interview with Gareth Reynolds…..Comedian. Writer. Actor. Producer. Buzz Lightyear Impersonator. Flappers Cat Wrangler. And most importantly…Podcaster. Yes, Gareth, or Gary as some would incorrectly call him, is the amazing other half of the duo that makes The Dollop so incredible. For those of you who are not familiar with The Dollop, the premise is simple, yet crazily perplex. The aforementioned Dave Anthony tells a story to Gareth from American (mostly) history, the kicker being that Gareth has no idea what the topic is going to be about. And that is almost specifically what makes this podcast so damn amazing. Gareth’s reactions to some of the most fucked up events in American history is absolutely priceless and pure gold.

And through The Dollop, I have actually become a huge fan of Gareth’s entire body of work. He is a brilliant stand-up comedian and actor. He has appeared on numerous television shows, including Quick Draw with our old friends Bob Clendenin and Alexia Dox, and the previously mentioned Maron with Dave Anthony and another old friend Troy Ruptash. And while The Dollop may be the finest podcast I have ever heard, Gareth also happens to have another podcast that is almost equally amazing entitled Point Vs. Point, with former bar soap-rape victim Evan Mann, where Gareth takes a somewhat different approach than the Dollop playing the frantic and hyperactive character next to Evan’s straight man character. It is absolutely hilarious and another must listen.

So, why don’t we just get right into it, shall we? Ladies and Gentleman, co-host of two of the finest podcasts and one of the finest stand up comedians of our time, Mr. Gareth Reynolds!

When did you realize that you were a hilarious human being, and you owed it to the world to make them laugh whenever possible?

Well, I just realized right now when you told me that! Honestly, I guess when I was a kid I quickly found out I could make other kids laugh and that was fun. When I was 6 I did goldylocks and the three bears in French. A must see, I know. I don’t know what I was doing as the baby bear but I was adding looks and other things that got laughs. I knew it was either making people giggle or professional hockey. So around then. And then as I got older I found ways to use it to delay classes starting if I had teachers laughing. I was hooked! Laughter is addictive but making someone laugh is heroin. It’s my favorite.

I am always curious to know what stand up scenes are like in different, and maybe not so obvious, regions of the country. So, what was the stand up scene in Milwaukee like when you were first starting out? And when you occasionally go back around, has it changed much?

 

Well, I actually really started in New York for a half year or so and never really experienced the milwaukee scene stand up wise. Improv was what I did in Milwaukee and I loved it. I worked at a place called comedysportz and was around really really funny people all the time. I listened to them about what I should do after high school and generally sponged up their humor. Like in ‘Space Jam’ but with comedy in place of basketball. I’ve done stand up in the Midwest since and there are a ton of funny comics. I love doing shows in those parts.

What is your opinion of the current state of comedy? With all of the advancements in technology and so many different mediums, do you believe the quality of comedy has suffered? Or maybe that more people are getting the chance to show off their skills?

Well, like with the internet there are good and negative aspects. Someone who is talented can now get their voice out there so much easier than a decade ago. You used to have to move to LA or New York to get noticed but now you have people gaining followings and making money from all over the country and world. The downside is that a lot of it sucks and it clogs the market. Like vine stars. Sure, some were funny but for crafting comedy and making something valuable doesn’t seem like it can have an 8 second cap to it. God I sound old….and music is too loud!!

I will arguably say right here and now that The Dollop is the finest podcast out right now. After close to 3 years of regularly doing this show, what do you believe it is that keeps you interested and wanting to continue on talking about these crazy stories?

I appreciate it! Well, it still interests me I guess is the answer. History in school was never enticing to me, but the stories we cover on the dollop are so layered and crazy. I always think Dave will run out of tales but he has a deep bench. There are also so many parallels to our society today. We feel like we have come so far, and yet, we still have many many issues that have plagued us for years. It’s genuinely shifted my perspective on my day to day excitence. I can’t get enough.

Gareth Reynolds & Dave Anthony of The Dollop

The chemistry between you and Dave is undeniably one of the best elements of The Dollop. In your personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes you guys work so well together?

I think because we are different honestly. Dave is teaching me and I am a class clown in his class. Sound familiar?(I am referencing an earlier answer, this is a ‘callback’) But I now have a cool teacher! We know going in that it will be fun. I don’t know what he is going to say and he doesn’t know what I will say, but he has a road map that I trust. Also we now have such a shorthand with what the other is saying or doing. I am not sitting there dying to make jokes necessarily but what he lays it out he leaves me no choice, dammit! We get along great and both like to laugh. So it just has kind of worked out well. Thank god because I used to dress up like superheroes at kid’s parties and that wasn’t going great.

Have you had any serious backlash from some of the more controversial topics you guys cover on The Dollop? Has someone like Lenny Dykstra, or somebody you talked about who happens to still be alive, contacted you in anger? Or any other sort of received backlash from the show?

There’s some, yeah. I mean whoever is the focus of the story will get hit and others take some shrapnel. There have been some people who get upset from time to time but also some who are happy they were involved. We did one on a guy who lost both of his arms on a farm and iced the torn off appendages himself before getting them reattached at the hospital. He was great. We did an episode on it and the guy reached out to us! He said he was “pissing” himself. That was awesome and surreal. I do feel like Lenny Dykstra may murder sometimes, sure. But who doesn’t?? He’s the Dykeman!!

If you were given the opportunity to portray any individual featured in any episode of The Dollop on screen, who would it be?

Oh wow. Probably the rube or the lobotomy doctor. Or rainbow man. All three are such lunatics in their own right. The rube needs to be a film. We are starting to think we may have to write the thing!! But if I got any of those parts I would be “pissing” (this is another one of my classic ‘callbacks’).

So what does the future hold for you? Any new projects or shows you would like to plug to our reader(s)?

I am writing on Arrested Development currently, so people should watch the new season on Netflix when it comes out. Or drops, as the vine stars say (third callback and also employing the rule of 3 here). I’ll be putting out a stand up album soon and have dates coming up! Join me! The dollop will be touring Australia in the fall. Oh and we have a dollop book called ‘The United States of Absudity’ that people should check out.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I watched a video of a dog jumping on a guy’s back into a pool and riding him like a surfboard. The dog was so god damned happy about it. Hard to not crack a toothy grin at that!

R.I.P. Jose

Sunday Matinee: The Confessions [Film]

“A G8 meeting is being held at a luxury hotel on the German coast. The world’s most powerful economists are gathered to enact important provisions that will deeply influence the world economy. One of the guests is a mysterious Italian monk, invited by Daniel Roché, the director of the International Monetary Fund. He wants the monk to receive his confession, that night, in secret. The next morning, Roché is found dead…
Toni Servillo (Gomorrah), Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette), and Lambert Wilson (The Matrix Reloaded) co-star in a uniquely metaphysical whodunit, screening nationwide from July 7.”

I just have to come out and say this first off..there is SO much to love about this film. I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I know what I would like to focus on, which is the incredible cast. Of which I will speak of at lengths. But, I feel as though it would be behoove me to mention some of the other aspects that made The Confessions one of the best films to be released this year (for those of you in America, anyway).
The Confessions (or Le Confessioni) could easily be classified as an Italian film because, well, it’s made by and featuring Italians, but almost entirely set out of Italy and does not feature prominent Italian speaking roles, although much of it is. Confusing enough? Just go back to the first sentence of this article, and remember that the story takes place around a G8 meeting, and it should all make sense. Sadly though, I can tell that if this film had been a Hollywood production, it would have all been in English just for convenience sake. Thankfully it was not. No, this is not a Hollywood film, this is a true hearted and brilliant multi-cultured film. But, for the sake of argument and probably unnecessary categorization, let’s call it an Italian masterpiece. Although I would prefer to simply call it a masterpiece.

To start out with, filmmaker Roberto Andò had the brilliant mind to stack the deck a bit with an amazing script he co-wrote with Angelo Pasquini, as well as having Maurizio Calvesi work the cinematography. The look of this film is definitely one of the highlights, and truly pulls the words from the script out and into our ears like gentle daggers. It is a story that seems simple at times, but with the perfect bit of informational neglect, it keeps you on your toes and looks absolutely stunning while it does. With such a diverse and inscrutable group of characters, there was also no way this film wasn’t going to be amazing. Even then, it exceeded so many expectations.
Speaking of the group of characters, this is where the film truly gripped me like so few films coming out today seem to do. This was one hell of a cast. Obviously I have to state that Toni Servillo was absolutely phenomenal, and has again rose in the ranks as one of the finest actors of this modern time. While his role as Roberto Satus in The Confessions may not be as entirely fascinating as compared to his brilliance as the charasmatic Jep Gambardella in another amazing film, The Great Beauty, it simply shows that his versatility is absolutely amazing. We seriously need to see more of this guy in our world. And I mean in no way take away from his performance in this film, obviously. They were two entirely different roles, both some superbly well. Again, we need MORE Toni Servillo in our lives.

But, Toni couldn’t do it alone, and thankfully he didn’t have to! Literally every person in this film was absolutely incredible in handling their own, right down to the cute little Ben, the crazily obedient canine who played Rolf. Seriously, everyone in this film was so great, it is almost unfair to namedrop just a few. But, I guess I will: Marie-Josée Croze as the Canadian minister was a character that I felt was underplayed (or maybe I personally just wanted to see more of her) a bit, but every moment that Marie-Josée was on screen, she was absolutely dynamite.
Connie Nielsen (who is having a great year by the way, with the success of Wonder Woman as well) was all you would expect her to be as Claire Smith, which is nothing short of brilliant. Nielson is person I feel as though we need to see more of, and now that she has made her way into the DC universe, I feel like we will definitely be hearing more form her in the near future. But on a personal level, I am always going to adore her most for her work here in The Confessions.

Seriously folks, everyone in this film was absolutely incredible. Daniel Auteuil was just damn right spooky at times, and quite unpredictable as well! He had a wonderfully written part to work with, and he did it absolutely stunningly.
Again folks, I honestly cannot say enough good things about The Confessions. It is a beautiful tale of deceit, greed, and death that is as visually stunning as it is brilliantly written. For anyone seeking a true artistic experience in the world of cinema, I cannot recommend this amazing work of art any more. If I did the star rating thing, I would give this an easy 10 stars. Out of 5! Yes, It is that great. So check it out!

Check out a trailer for The Confessions which will receive a U.S. nationwide release this Friday, July 7th, 2017.