Steph Tolev [Interview]

Steph and her puppy Susan.

 

The world of stand up comedy is truly a weird beast, to say the least. I say this merely as a fan and avid listener. Honestly, I don’t get to see as much live stand up as I would like. But in this day and age there are so many ways to follow the world of comedy. In fact, live shows are probably a smaller portion of how the average fan enjoys comedy, which in itself, sucks, because this how they get paid and get to continue doing what they love. But alas, we as fans should appreciate the benefits and make every attempt possible to see live comedy when able.

So what the hell does this babbling mean? First of all, watch your tone. And second of all, it means we have an absolutely amazing comedian to feature on the site today who happens to have appeared on one of those “other” mediums that I enjoy immensely. Which would be podcasts. Podcasts are an almost necessary means of communication for comedians to fans, as will be discussed below. As we have done several times in the past, the absolutely hilarious Steph Tolev was recently a guest on one of the finest podcasts available right now, the incredible Who’s Your God? hosted by our dear friend & past guest Amy Miller, and Steve Hernandez. By my count, Steph is the fourth (fifth?) comedian I learned about directly from this podcast, was able to get them on this very site, and continue to enjoy to this day. So at least in my own manipulative world, the system is working?

No matter how you find yourself enjoying the absolutely hilarious Steph Tolev, I can tell you that you are going to be glad you did. Her new album is HILARIOUS and should be heard by all. There are plenty of videos out there for a Steph Tolev YouTube rabbit hole, and for God’s sake people, get out there and pay for live comedy! See Steph live, especially if you are in the L.A. area. I couldn’t imagine if I lived in that area, the pressure of what to see every single damn night. But, that’s neither here nor there. Or it is there? And not here? Anyway, Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the absolutely brilliant comedian Steph Tolev!

 

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When did you first discover that you were a hilarious human being and that you wanted to make people laugh for a living?

I think the exact moment was in high school, I was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing Nick Bottom and my teachers got this giant donkey head for me to wear and I got REALLY INTO it. The first night of the play I waltzed off stage in it and walked through the audience, stepping all over people and they were loving it. I remember thinking wow, I’m literally being an ASS right now and people are losing their minds. I didn’t really think I could make it a career until a few years after that, but that was the moment I knew I wanted to make people laugh.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of stand up? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

I honestly can’t recall the VERY first paid thing I did, I’m sure it was a weird stand up show that I had to drive pretty far to get to, most likely in white out snow in Ontario. But I know that the first time I got paid made me really realize I need to work MUCH harder to make this a real career, cause I can’t live off of $50 once a month.Thinking back now I can’t believe someone paid me for whatever the hell I thought was worth getting paid for. Stand up is very rewarding in that sense to see how trash you used to be to where you are now. The biggest lesson I would say is don’t get cocky and think your good 5-6 years in, the more time you put into this the more valuable you will be.

Having been performing in the states for quite some time now, I am curious to know what it is like to go back to Toronto to do shows? Do you feel a different sort of vibe returning home after spending your days in the L.A. area?

I do feel a different vibe but in a good way. Since I’ve been gone so long I feel very out of touch with the Toronto scene, so many new comics and shows I don’t know but I still feel like its home and the I have no stress on any of the shows. I can just go home see my family and friends and do shows with no consequences I guess? In LA you feel like every set is a showcase set, and you never know who’s in the crowd so you want to make sure you are doing a tight 7 IN CASE. But in Toronto I am so laid back and I always feel comfortable at my favs venues around the city like the Comedy Bar, the second I get on stage I feel like I didn’t leave. Also Torontonians are less sensitive then the people out here in LA. I get a lot more groans when I’m self deprecating out here and more laughs back in Canada.

I came upon your comedy from hearing you on our dear friend and past guest’s podcast, Who’s Your God? And I’ve noticed you’ve done a ton of other podcasts as well. So, with that in mind, have you found this to be a trend of sorts? In your professional opinion, do you believe that doing podcasts these days are actually necessary for a carrier to flourish?

LOL my professional opinion! I actually do think its necessary at this point, I never really did but I see so many comics having a way larger fan base because of them. Especially ones with good themes that people can really relate to.  Plus you found me through one, so it helps other comics get their names out there as well! I am currently working on one that will be released SOON with my co-host Daniel Webb called Chunter. Its really the opposite of what I just said, its the two of us plus guests talking about truly anything at all. Daniel and I co-host a show called Hags in LA and we host like two old hags screaming at the audience, but people seem to really enjoy our wild energy and wacky topics. Ignore my shameless plug, but yeah I think its a great platform to hear comics much more candid and off script so you can really get to know them.

Having performed your comedy all across the globe, from your native homeland of Toronto, to L.A., Edinburgh, and back again, I am curious to know what are some spots you have performed at that may be a bit off the radar? What are some rooms you have worked in that many people may not immediately recognize as great places to perform?

I would for sure say Edmonton, Alberta Canada is a really cool scene that I didn’t even know about until I went there a few years ago, lots of great rooms and supportive people in that city. I just went up to Humbolt, CA recently and really liked the show I did up there, it’s a weird place but they love comedy. Victoria BC is also a really nice place, being on an island the room “Hecklers” there is amazing and I just did “Rumors” in Winnipeg, Manitoba CA anther great room, staff, and all the comics make you feel really welcome. I have to shout out the Canadian places no one knows about cause who the hell else will! But also the Toronto scene is VERY VERY GOOD and I do miss it.

 

 

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

My album is out on vinyl now so I am really excited about that, link is in all my social media crap. Also I am doing my first ever ONE WOMAN SHOW at Dynasty Typewriter on Wednesday December 4th at 8pm called “I’ve Always Been Fucked”. I am nervous/excited for it!! If you are in LA please come! Also my show HAGS at the virgil with Daniel Webb is the last Tuesday of the month!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My puppy SUSAN!!!!! I love her so much and all I do is stare and her and smile, literally all day long and have been for the last three weeks.

 

Steph has a straight up smattering amount of shows lined up in the L.A. area over the next couple of months, as well as a headlining gig back in her homeland, Check her out. To learn more about the amazing Steph Tolev, check out her WEBSITE:

 

Nov 11- Mermaid Comedy @ The Hollywood Improv 8pm

Nov 12- Blair & Greta @ Gengis Cohen 8pm

Nov 14- Deanne Smith @ The Lyric Hyperion 9:30pm

Nov 17- Golden Hour 7pm

Nov 18- Kibitz Comedy @ Canters

Nov 19- Take On L.A @ The Red Lion Tavern 8pm

Nov 20- Super Serious @ The Virgil 8pm

Nov 22- Green Screen Show @ UCB Suset 10pm

Nov 24- Chatterbox in Covina 9pm

Nov 26- HAGS @ The Virgil 8pm

Dec 4-  ONE WOMAN SHOW ” I’ve Always Been Fucked” @ Dynasty Typewriter 8pm

Dec 7-  Good Heroin @ Stories 8pm

Dec 11- Junior High 7:30pm

Dec 12- Hard Times @ The Hollywood Improv 9pm

Dec 13- 14- Headlining Chuckles in St Johns New Brunswick, Canada

Dec 30- Hags @ The Virgil 8pm

Sunday Matinee: Somewhere in the Middle [Film]

 

“The film eventually examines the joys of being an artist, including the high of one’s work being appreciated, critically acclaimed and, perhaps most importantly, paid for by fans. As a young artist, meeting your idols, from jamming with Bruce Springsteen to ballroom dancing with Antonio Banderas to smoking pot with Willie Nelson, begins to elicit a real “pinch yourself” feeling. Like, “Wow, I’m doing this!” Doubt, fear, excess, anxiety about the future. Somewhere in the Middle takes viewers on a journey through the day-to-day minds of these artists. “My biggest fear is that I’ll never work again.” “I had to come to terms with the fact that I was an alcoholic.” “I’m never satisfied with my work.” “I definitely have regrets about choosing the life of an artist.” – October Coast PR

 

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Holy Hell, Folks! Do we have an absolutely spot on for this website showcase you share with you all today. If there were ever a documentary to exist that represents a large number of the participants of our beloved Trainwreck’d Society, it is most definitely the oh-so-inspiring, Somewhere in the Middle. It is a film that brilliantly describes what it means to be an artist in this day and age. The days of superstardom and fan-crazed success is technically not dead, but there is a whole new element of the business that deserves to be recognized, and it has never been done as well as it has in this very film. It’s an incredible movie that perfectly captures the idea that not everyone working in the world of creating art has to necessarily be “famous” in order to make a living. In fact, in this day and age, simply making a living solely on the metaphorical back of you work is a feat in itself. Even this dream can seem like a million to one shot at times.

And again, what better place for a film to be showcased than our little slice of digital heaven right here? We have been celebrating these folks for over 8 years. Over 500 interviews, hundreds of independently created albums and films, and not to brag upon ourselves, but I’d love to think that we have treated them with the respect they deserve. Sure, we have had the fortunate enough to speak with a handful of folks who have taken home a handful of Emmy’s or an Oscar, not to mention the biggest name in the adult film world. But overall, our methods have been to showcase in the same way that Something in the Middle does even better than we ever could/will: Art is life and no matter how recognized you become for your art, you should to yourself, stay true.

 

 

I will confess that I went into the documentary cold, only appreciating the premise of the film due to the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, it hits pretty close to come for this little site. It was only afterwards that I might have found another factor as to why the film was so good – It’s a freakin’ Nathan Ives film! If you can remember as far back as a year ago, we showcased an absolutely incredible horror film entitled The Basement that was so damn good that it ended up being one of our Top 20 films of 2018. We even had the absolute gem of an actor Jackson Davis return to the site, this year in our Month of Horror. And if you hadn’t figured it out by now, Ives is the mastermind behind both of these projects. Not to mention the criminally underrated 2000 comedy Dish Dogs, that I feel like we need to have put out in the zeitgeist more in 2020. Basically, the fact that this brilliant filmmaker is involved would have been an immediate indication that we had something beautiful happening right before our eyes.

And one last thing to add before we wrap this up and let you head on over to Amazon to see the film for yourself. Just let me add that this film should be required by law to be screened at every single actor’s studio or film school or collegiate art or music department. The clearly recognized highs and lows of the industry are all laid out on the table in a brilliant way. I do not say this as a deterrent to becoming a working artist, but more of an inspiration. Because if they expressed “lows” of the business can that easily deter you from seeking out your passion for creativity, it’s quite possible it was never there in the first place. On the flip side, if you watch Somewhere in the Middle and your only thought is, “Worth it.” Then by all means necessary, pursue onward. And hey, let us know about it!

 

Somewhere in the Middle is available now on Amazon, with other platforms to follow.

 

 

Saturday Special: Mnemophrenia [Film]

 

“The film explores how society is affected by and how it adapts to deal with mnemophrenia, a growing new psychosis and the still advancing technology. We see the story unfold over time, through the eyes of three generations of the same family who are all affected and involved in different ways. The story explores how attitudes to Mnemophrenia would differ from person to person and across generations, going from resistance and fear, through acceptance and eventually even using it to our benefit, pushing humanity towards a new evolutionary step.” – IMDb

 

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Usually we begin these Saturday Specials/Sunday Matinees with a quote of some sort from a press release of some sort, but this amazing film was sent to us directly from the team behind the film who actually managed to give an absolutely perfect and non-spoiler like description in the film in words that I am 100% in agreement with – “[this film has] the indie element, the polarizing technology theme and every reader will find something relatable in the film.” Again, I completely agree. This is a mesmerizing film that holds back nothing in regards to addressing the obsession with technology that is plaguing, yet also rejuvenating, our society as a whole. For every good, there is a bad. For every positive there is a negative waiting rear its ugly head in a bloody outrageous way. Mnemophrenia is a film that attempts to look at this idea at incredibly in depth and complicated angles. It is a biting look at what humans are becoming as a species as we become more and more reliant on technology to not only sustain our existence, but to guide us through said existence negating real experiences. At what point are we going to realize that we are manufacturing ourselves so much around the world wide web that even our memories are going to be questionable one day?

Do we really even know who we are anymore? It used to be that the anonymity of the internet was a compelling factor. Now we don’t entirely hide who we are, but we still attempt to reign with a mask of unearned superiority because we can not be physically harmed (in the moment) for the comments we make on the internet that are broadcasted to the entire world. So when does it go to far? Virtual Reality is a concept I have known about since my youth. And as technology advances, virtual reality becomes evermore popular. It is destined to become an absolute. It is destined to take over the the human psyche. And that is what a film like Mnemophrenia is trying to tell us. If we continue to become to attached to these things that are supposed to be pure entertainment, and we incorporate this madness into our everyday lives, we are destined to completely ruin ourselves and human existence as we know it. At least that is my take on things.

 

 

But, no matter how god damn scary the subject matter, it is suffice to say that director and co-writer Erin Konstantinidou has created an absolute masterpiece of a film that deserves to be loved by all. I am always impressed by the idea of a film have a wild concept that could technically carry the whole concept through with very little effort, yet still manages to be very well produced, stylized, and just a damn good film overall. And as far as performances go, the wonderful Robert Milton Wallace straight up acted his ass off with a performance of a lifetime. Robert took the idea of being a rational yet supportive person and made it extremely believable within a highly unbelievable context. Well done, Sir.

However you can, Folks, see this film! It is bound to blow your minds! Enjoy!

 

Doug E. Doug [Interview]

Douglas Bourne Headshots

 

Hello Folks! Oh, do we have a great interview to share with you all today! Today’s guest is another person that I have been wanting to get on Trainwreck’d Society since the site’s inception. He is an incredible actor who I have been watching on several different formats for as long as I can remember. It’s the incredible Doug E. Doug, Everyone! He iconically portrayed Sanka Coffie in the classic comedic rendition of true events known as Cool Runnings. And with a career spanning 30 years, he has had a lifetime of incredible roles that you all know and love, and we are just so damn excited to have him grace our digital pages today!

A man of several talents, Doug is also a brilliant writer who’s first novel, The Fall of ’87, coming soon! Be on the lookout for that! Below we will discuss his incredible career, Cool Runnings, the new book, and more! So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the absolutely brilliant Doug E. Doug!

 

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What initially inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it a yearning you had since your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this line work at random?

Initially. I was just trying to cheer people up and stop then from wanting to hurt me. Later I discovered this was a primal form of  entertainment.

What was your very first paid gig as a performer? And were there any sort of lessons learned that stuck with you and affect your work to this day?

My first paid gig was as a standup comedian at the Savage night club in NYC . I learned that even if you do well as a performer some people are reluctant to pay you. I show up to get paid like I wont leave without money now.

It would be remiss of me to not ask at least one question about your infamous role in the 1993 film, Cool Runnings. It’s been 26 years since the film was released, but the love for the film has never faded away. In your personal and obviously knowledgable opinion, what do you believe it is about the film that has made it a staple to this very day? As somebody who lived it at the time, what do you believe made the film special?

It is about the little guy persevering and earning respect. All over the world people have this struggle . They root for the bobsledders in the movie because they are deserving of respect. Everyone is.

 

 

On a personal level, your lead role in the 1997 film That Darn Cat is probably the most memorable and most watched roles for me. Well, full disclosure: I was 12 years old and haplessly crushing hard on Christina Ricci, so that may have been a factor as well. Anyway, there is the old saying, ‘Don’t work with kids or animals”, in regards to working as an actor. And I guess Ricci was in her teens at the time, but you get it. So you did both on this project and it turned out great. With that, how was your experience working on a zany and fun family comedy of this nature?

I love making movies for families and children in particular.

That Darn Cat was a lot of fun. Christina had way too much responsibilty at a young age. I treated her like a kid. It scared everyone who was dealing with her like a porcelian doll.  My goal was to respect the kids in the audience and behind the camera.

You have worked in just about every job possible in the world of entertainment. From acting to writing, producing, stand up, voice over, YouTube….the list goes on and on. With that in mind, I am curious to know what you find the most appealing of all the types of work out there? If for some strange reason, you were forced to only work in one avenue of creativity, what would you want that avenue to be?

If I were forced to do one thing I would write . Nothing brings me more joy.

When you look back on your decade spanning career in comedy, film, television, and beyond, what would you say you are most proud of? Doesn’t have to be a specific project (although it could if you wanted), but when you look back on all the great work you have done, what brings you the most joy overall?

I am most proud of the novel I have just written.  I have always wanted to do it. I just didn’t have the time set aside to climb that mountain.

 

 

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

I have a book that will be available soon it is called the The Fall of ’87. I am also in post production on a film I co-wrote and co-directed called Lil’ Girl Gone. (Im in it too.)

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My daughter coming back home from college on a break.

Peter Tolan [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And happy November to you all. We are just off a whirlwind of emotions after 31 straight days of horror related fun. And while we love it so much each and every year, it can be taxing to be focused on the frightening for so long. That’s why we are now coming out the gates swinging with an incredible interview with an absolute legend outside of the world of horror. It’s Peter Tolan, Everyone!

Tolan is damn near a magician when it comes to writing hit films and television series. Seriously Folks, his credits are simply astounding. From hit films like Analyze This (as well as That) and the seriously underrated reworked adaptation, Guess Who? and just so damn many more films, which will be discussed below. And then there is the television! We talk about Home Improvement and The Larry Sanders Show below, but how can we not at least bring up even briefly such incredible projects like Rescue Me and Murphy Brown (also mentioned below). He’s also a force behind the project Buddies, that was previously mentioned just days ago due to the appearance of our new friend Robert Zappia.

So Folks, welcome back to the real world of Trainwreck’d Society. Nothing better than adding another incredible Emmy award winning writer to the TWS family. We are so excited that Peter was able to spare some time to answer a few questions for you all here. So please enjoy some words with an absolute legend, the great Peter Tolan!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an aspiration you can remember having since adolescences, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was not inspired; I was pushed. I was a bit of a class clown in school, and in seventh grade (I think) my homeroom teacher strode over to my desk and informed me I was going to be the lead in the play the drama club was doing – very shortly. She was friendly with the teacher who oversaw the drama club, and when the kid who’d been cast as the lead dropped out, my teacher told her, “Don’t worry, there’s a kid in my homeroom class who thinks he’s funny. I’ll show him.” So I was in the play – which is not something I would have sought out by myself – and I was nervous before going on, but I got that first laugh on the little stage at the Scituate (MA.) Junior High School – and that did it. I was hooked.  Everything that’s happened since grew from the seed planted by that first laugh.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

Hard to remember.  I’m sure I was so happy about being paid that I wasn’t able to focus on learning anything! Years later, when I was in my early twenties, I worked at an improv theater in Minneapolis called Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop (it’s been around for a long time, and it’s still in operation).  I learned a lot there, because I was on stage in front of a paying audience doing seven shows a week in addition to improv sets after the main show.  You can’t be on stage that much and not learn something. And even though I stopped acting after a certain point and focused solely on writing, my writing is completely informed by the hours I spent on that stage in the Twin Cities.  It put a clock in my head in terms of storytelling – knowing how long to spend on one story beat before moving to the next – that sort of thing.  Out of entertainment, my first paid gig was a paper route – where I learned that a lot of people don’t like to pay on time.  Which I still deal with.

 

In 1991, you worked on the debut season of one of my favorite series from my time as a kid in the 90’s, Home Improvement, which happens to star our dear friend and past guest Patricia Richardson. I am curious to know what it was like to work on the early days of this now legendary series? Could you tell that it was going to be a hit right from the beginning?

I was working at Disney on a show called Carol and Company, starring the great Carol Burnett.  (I wrote a couple episodes of Murphy Brown at the same time, but technically Carol’s show was my first job in LA.) When that show ended, I should have had a clear exit to join Murphy Brown, but for some reason Disney held me back and said I’d have to work on the pilot and first six episodes of Home Improvement before I could go to the other show.  While Home Improvement was not my complete cup of tea, it was very funny, Tim made for a great lead, and it smelled like a hit from very early on.  In fact, Matt Williams (one of the creators of the show) – knowing that I was leaving for Murphy – told me flat-out, “You should stay. This thing’s going to be huge.”  I responded, “I have no doubt – but I came to LA to work on Murphy Brown, so I feel like I sort of have to follow that initial dream.”  But yeah, very early on it was in the air that Home Improvement was going to be big – and that rarely happens – where people just know.”  This was a long time ago – back in the days where the writing staff took a keen interest in the ratings – and mostly because the numbers (for both Murphy and Home Improvement) were huge.  I mean – huge.  I look at the ratings now and see popular shows pulling down a 1 share. I mean – how do you get excited about that?

 

The following year you moved to the absolutely legendary series, The Larry Sanders Show. It’s a brilliant program that deserves every bit of the acclaim it has received. I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a revolutionary project? And how was it to work on such a hilarious project? Was it as much fun to work on as it has been for audiences to watch?

Sanders was interesting in that we were keenly aware we were doing something very different, but as opposed to thinking it was going to be a big hit out of the box, we actually wondered if it would work at all!  So as much as we were excited about doing something out of the ordinary, there was a lingering sense (during the first season) that the whole thing could just crash and burn.  I remember very early on getting exactly what Garry was going for; he and I were in sync and doing a lot of the rewriting on the scripts – which was challenging but really enjoyable.  In terms of the “fun” of working on the show – yes, it was quite satisfying to be doing “adult” work (and I’m not referring to the language we were allowed to use; I’m talking about writing behavior as opposed to jokes), but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Rip Torn, while absolutely brilliant as Artie, could be a massive pain in the ass to deal with.  He was a bully, and he’d target other people in the cast or directors or crew members (never Garry) for punishment; it was pretty terrible.  Garry and I finally had to sit him down to confront him about it, but he was ready for us!  He just sat down, spread his legs wide and stared us down – knowing he had us by the balls – because he was so good in the show, he knew we couldn’t fire him! I’m a fairly even-tempered guy; I rarely lose my cool.  But I had a roaring fight once with Rip – that ended (once the dust settled after a number of months) with me writing a script for him – secretly about our working relationship – that won him an Emmy!  Which just goes to prove: the entertainment business, she is sometimes not fair.  One more thing about Sanders – in stark contrast to Murphy and Home Improvement – nobody watched it!  Those were the early days of HBO, so the only audience we know of was people in the business.  They loved it!  People in the rest of the country, whenever I’d mention what I working on – they’d scratch their heads.  It was only in the later seasons that it become slightly better known – and even then, only slightly.

 

 

Your 2008 film Finding Amanda is an absolutely brilliant and touching story that you both wrote and directed. I am curious to know where this story came from on a personal level? What made you want to put this story out into the world?

The bare bones of the story happened to an acquaintance of mine; he had a niece who – he was very surprised to find out – was working as a prostitute in Las Vegas.  He asked if I had any connections in the Vegas Police Department (because back in the day I was a bit of a gambler and spend some time on the Strip) and wondered if I’d go with him to Las Vegas to maybe look for her and get her some help.  And in that moment – sick gambler that I was – I thought, “Hey, great.  I get to go to Vegas!”  Like, it had nothing to do with helping this poor woman; it was all about me having a good time.  And I caught myself in the moment and thought, “That’s a movie.”  So the details about the young woman and the prostitution are all made up; the details about Matthew Broderick’s terrible gambling – pretty much all from my actual life.  I mean, I lost millions of dollars betting the horses.  My wife at the time worked on the film, so we’d be shooting those specific scenes – where Matthew’s character would be stealing checks from his wife’s checkbook and lying to her – and I’d look over at my wife on the set, and she’d just be shaking her head, like, “You sick bastard.”  I guess more than anything I wanted to tell a story not about redemption, but about the first baby steps toward redemption – because addiction of any kind isn’t cured easily, and representing that in a film seemed false to me.  But seeing characters taking very small first steps – that interested me.

 

We always like to ask our statue holding friends this two part question: Where do you physically keep your Emmys? And does their physical location hold any sort of significance and/or symbolism?

I’m not a huge fan of awards.  I’ve won a number of them (and have been nominated for a great, great many more), but the truth is – I only wanted to win one: the Best Writing for a Comedy Emmy Award.  For whatever reason, I just wanted to be in that rarified company.  So I won it (with Garry, for the series finale of Sanders) and then I stopped caring about awards altogether.  I don’t even put my work up for consideration – because the whole award thing – who really cares?  All the times I won an award, you know what I was thinking about?  The thing I was writing at that moment– not the thing I was winning the award for.  But to answer your question: some years ago, I lived in quite a fancy home in Pasadena, and my office was off the foyer inside the front door.  The Emmys were on the mantle above the fireplace, but when you prominently display your Emmys, visitors see them and want to pick them up. It’s like a compulsion!  And then – because the awards were heavier than they thought – when they moved to put them back on the mantle, they’d hit the mantle – and soon little chips of paint would be missing.  That’s when we discovered the mantle wasn’t stone; it was wood painted to look like stone.  They’re currently on the buffet in my dining room – a little more out of sight.

 

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

I’m currently writing and executive producing a reboot of the 90’s show Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt (the original stars), and we’re having a hell of a good time doing it.  The shows are quite funny.  It will appear on Charter/Spectrum – twelve episodes – six dropping on November 20th, and the second six dropping on December 18th.  It’s a multi-cam – and I haven’t done one of those in many years, but it’s been fun flexing those muscles again.  In January I start an overall deal at FX – for whom I did Rescue Me – so I’m looking forward to rejoining that fold.

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Probably seeing one of my lovely kids.

Jack Sholder [Interview]

Welcome to grand finale of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Well here we are, Folks! We done did it! Welcome to Day 31, our final day of our Month of Horror for 2019. And we have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all today. It’s Jack Sholder, Everyone! Jack has been working for quite a long time in the world of horror, writing and directing projects you know and love. In fact, this is personally a pretty huge moment for me, as Jack is actually the man who brought to the world what I consider to be my personal favorite horror film of all time. And that would be the brilliant second installment of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy’s Revenge. As he will even say in the words below, I found this to be one of those rare occurrences (although less rare in the world of horror) that the sequel was actually better than the original. It’s a real Godfather (or Critters?) moment in this respect. I fucking love this film, and always have. I’ve even had a burning desire to ask one very specific question, which I do below, that has been burning at my soul for damn near a lifetime. And I finally got to ask it!

Yes, I am so happy that Jack was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to headline our 2019 Month of Horror series. He is a damn fine person, and this absolutely marks a highlight here at Trainwreck’d Society. We love all of our guests equally, of course, but of the 500+ we have had, Jack ranks up there as a true inspiration and the person behind a project that I have been in awe of for as long as I can remember.

So Folks, please join me in welcoming the absolutely legendary Jack Sholder to the TWS family. Enjoy!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I always loved art. In the beginning it was classical music. I studied to be a trumpet player, and if I’d been just a little bit better that’s what I would have done. Then it was literature, mostly poetry. I dropped acid while a student at the University of Edinburgh and decided that words were meaningless, so that was the end of writing. My girlfriend loved movies and we saw a lot. The good ones really affected me, and I thought it would be great to be able to make them. It never occurred to me that this was a nearly impossible dream. It still surprises me that I actually succeeded through some talent and an equal measure of luck.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I think it was playing trumpet in the Philadelphia Accordion Orchestra, an organization run by an accordion school where every instrumental part was play on an accordion except, for some reason, for trumpets and timpani. I was around 14 and got fired because someone heard me say I thought the accordion was the worst instrument ever invented. I guess you could say I learned not to bite the hand that feeds you, though I’ve bitten a few since. I did a lot of performing when I was young and into my 30’s, and I loved the fact that the trumpets sit in the back of the orchestra, or sometimes we’d play in a pit if it was a show, so everybody could hear me but almost nobody could see me. That’s a lot like what it’s like being a director. Unlike an actor, I can go to the supermarket or the mall and nobody knows who I am.

In 1985, you directed the second installment, and hands down my favorite one, of the legendary Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I am curious to know what intrigued you about this franchise, and what it is you believe that you did differently in your installments?

Many may disagree, but I was never that impressed by the original and I felt I could make a better film, so I wasn’t intimidated in that respect. The main thing that scared me was how the hell to make it. It had a great many special effects, none of which I had the slightest idea how to do, and I only had 6 weeks to prep the movie since Wes Craven had just quit and I had to take it over. Fortunately, I had an experienced special effects guy, an old timer, and a terrific director of photography, Jacques Haitkin, who had shot the original Elm Street and knew how to do everything.  The only rules I was given by New Line were to keep Freddy dark and to make it scary. Also, keep in mind there was no franchise at the time. Elm St 2 was an attempt by New Line to wring a little more money out of the original and, if all went really well, to do an Elm St 3. Fortunately for both New Line and me, it went well.

 

 

One specific, and not entirely scary even, moment always stands out to me in Elm Street 2, and I am dying to ask you this question: There is a moment when the teacher drops a human heart onto a table, and some kid yells “YEAH!”. It makes me laugh so hard EVERY time I watch it. Was this scripted? Was this a bit of the Jack Sholder touch?

It was in the script. With so little time to prep the film, and with a script New Line was happy with, I pretty much shot what was on the page. What I will take credit for is my point of view, namely, what is the real story the motivates the plot and all the characters? For me the movie was about teen sexual anxiety which Jesse is in the throes of and which Freddy represents. I know the film has developed a reputation as an icon of gay cinema, and that interpretation is certainly valid and interesting. But that is not what I was going for even though that’s certainly one aspect of male teen sexual anxiety. I will take credit for the casting, performances, the way it was shot and edited. I feel the most important part of a successful horror film is to create characters the audience care about, otherwise it’s just an exercise in empty scares and special effects. Hopefully I did that.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

I’m not an expert on watching horror films, only in making them. But I think the good ones deal with people’s deep-seated fears and insecurities. And it presents those things in a way that is essentially safe. You’re sharing it with others, whereas you face your own fears alone. There’s almost always some laughter, at least in my films. And it’s only a movie. It’s over when the lights come up. Kind of like a rollercoaster: one moment you’re plunging to your death, then you’re not. It also is a genre that really makes use of the language and tools of cinema in a way that, say, a rom com does not, so it’s fun to watch on that level.

What is your favorite scary movie?

The one that scared me the most was Wizard of Oz when I was about 5 years old. I was terrified when the witch melted. Horror films in general don’t scare me since I know they’re not real, and there are things in life that truly do scare me.  But I did find The Exorcist pretty scary. And also the Spanish film Rec, not the mediocre American remake.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

It was fun to take my kids trick or treating. But they’re grown now, and I live on a somewhat remote road, so no kids ever show up. I certainly don’t dress up. I leave that to the actors and the fans.

 

 

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

I’ve got a vampire movie very loosely based on Carmilla, a novel written ten years before Dracula, that I’m hoping we can put the financing together for. Like any good vampire movie, it’s about a lot more than vampires, and the script is terrific. I’m also involved in a bio pic about a woman, child of British parents, who grew up in Calcutta in the worst kind of poverty and deprivation, lost five of her sibling in childhood to malnutrition and disease, who worked her way out of poverty, moved to the UK, became wealthy, and went back to Calcutta to set up charities to help people who are in circumstances like those she grew up with. She won the Mother Teresa Award a few years ago. It would seem like quite a change for me, but it’s actually the sort of film I thought I’d be making when I first dreamed of being a filmmaker.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

My Great Pyrenees, Beau, almost dying of accidental poisoning.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Beau coming home, healthy again.  And a few episodes of Seinfeld I’ve been catching up on. Particularly the one where George and Jerry take someone else’s airport limo and end up in a Nazi rally and the Yada Yada episode.

 

 

Mark Torgl [Interview]

 

Welcome to Day 30 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

Happy Halloween Eve, Folks! We are reaching the end of our 2019 edition of our Month of Horror. And if there is one aspect of the world of horror that we simply can not stress enough to be absolutely wonderful and exhilarating, it has to be the world of Troma! Over the years we have featured dozens of key players who have done some absolutely amazing work in within the proverbial love child of Lloyd Kaufman. Therefore it seemed only fitting that when we were handed the opportunity to talk with one of the most legendary figures from the world of Troma, it would have to be during the grand finale of this whole event. We have showcased Troma figures in and out of the Month of Horror for years now, but this one is HUGE! It’s the motherfucking Toxic Avenger himself, Mark Torgl!

Mark is a delightful human being who portrayed the ultimate nerd turned superhero(?) just 35 short years ago in what could arguably be Troma’s best film, The Toxic Avenger. The cult following behind The Toxic Avenger and Troma in general is hands down one of the most fanatical groups of people the world will ever know. Loners and shut-ins, gore porn junkies, and comedy horror aficionados all know and love this film and production company for obvious reasons. It is a masterpiece of a B-Horror film. When one wants to even begin to have a conversation about the best B-Horror films of all time, it is practically a crime to not talk about this masterpiece of indie horror cinema. And Mark Torgl is a key figure behind it all. And what an absolutely fascinating figure he is in and out of the world of horror. By weekday Mark is an award winning television editor who has worked on some damn fine programs. And then comes the weekend where you can catch him at any given Con anywhere in the country keeping the spirit of The Toxic Avenger with very personal and forthright appearances.

Mark is a truly incredible person, and we are so excited to have him grace our digital pages on the second to last day of this year’s Month of Horror series. Also, I would implore you to check out the incredible documentary Mark has put out recently entitled The Toxic Tutu, which he will discuss below. It is actually available on Amazon Prime, so if you are up on that, it’s free! You have to see this incredibly unique and so much fun documentary that is detailed and again, just so much fun.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Mark Torgl!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I was a completely normal kid, I liked to capture flies and tie a string around their necks and fly them around as my pets. I had a large mayonnaise jar where I kept my collection of toenails like all kids have. I was inspired by Surreal filmmakers like Bunuel and Dali and Lynch while attending Michigan State University. I loved the way they stretched the normalcy of life into fantastical ideas. Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou” especially made me want to pursue film in some way.

 

 

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I worked with Troma on their film The First Turn On the previous year before Toxic Avenger. I was going to New York University Film School and Troma put a notice on our Job board to come work on a real feature film, it also said there was no pay, just good experience.  I met with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz and they asked me what I wanted to do on the film?  I said I wanted to be the Script Supervisor so I could work with the director. Lloyd said ok you can be the Script Supervisor, what else do you want to do? I said, “I like writing”, Lloyd said, “Ok you can write some additional scenes, what else do you want to do?”  I said, “Can I direct?” Lloyd turned around pulled down his pants and said, “Only if you tickle my ass with a feather”. So I just did script super and additional writing. I didn’t sign on as an actor, but typically everyone on the crew of a Troma film ends up in the movie somewhere.  When the actor who was hired to play a major role, Dwayne a socially awkward super nerd, didn’t show up, Lloyd said, “Mark you go in and do the part”. The rest is history.

Dwayne was the obnoxious boyfriend of the sexy sleep away camp counselor. I had a famous scene where I met her parents and spread mashed potatoes and gravy through my hair, and fellated a corn of cob at dinner. I learned later that they had auditioned Madonna to play the camp counselor before she hit it big and they rejected her. It would have been epic to act with Madonna, oh well. The next year when they were auditioning for Toxic Avenger, after auditioning, they said hundreds of kids; Lloyd and Michael said what they were looking for  was the super geek nerd character like what I did in The First Turn On. They called me up and said, “If I want the part of Melvin, it’s mine.” I accepted and also did the script supervising. I still couldn’t bring myself to tickle Lloyd’s ass with a feather.

Working for Troma on my first gig has definitely affected my work in entertainment today, I now like to get paid.

 

 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

That sounds like an essay question worth 50% of my grade. Horror is the ultimate thrill escape! The same way people like roller coasters, they like to be scared and then to survive. I think that is what makes horror so repulsively appealing.

 

 

 

We are huge fans of the world that TROMA films has assembled over its time. You have appeared in several TROMA projects, including possibly the most renowned one of them all, The Toxic Avenger. So how do you enjoy working in the TROMA world? What makes it unique in your opinion?

 

Working on the set of Toxic Avenger was about as surreal as it gets! The sheep I had to kiss in the humiliation scene in the gym was full of jumping gnats and fleas and other unsightly bugs and worm like things.  After the transformation scene, the makeup I was in would not come off, after the makeup department tried unsuccessfully to remove it, they took me to a nearby YMCA where I went to scrubbing at the makeup in the shower they used for the swimmers. When a group of young boys went to the showers after their swim lesson, they came upon me, a naked 20 year old man violently scouring what looked like melting skin. I’m sure they were tromatized for life after seeing me. 

Troma movies are shot on a shoestring budget so there’s always some problem to overcome. When we shot the scene in Shinbone Alley where Toxic beats up Cigar Face, we disrupted a street person’s living area and he started waving a gun at us. The car in the chase scene when it flipped on it’s top, the roll bar protecting the stunt driver collapsed. We all ran to the car and saw only the passenger side collapsed, the driver was ok. Lloyd said if the driver died it would have been the end of Troma.  As far as I know no one has ever died on a Troma set. But stuff like this happened all the time; I could go on for pages.

 

 

 

What is your favorite scary movie?

The Toxic Avenger of course.  I’m also a huge Stanley Kubrick fan.

 #1 A ClockWork Orange A life changing journey.

#2 2001 A Space Odyssey An inspirational journey of evolution.

#3 The Shining. Redrum.  Are some of my favorites.

 

 

 

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year? 

I might be doing a convention in New Jersey. I used to enjoy the parade in NYC, I now attend the West Hollywood parade or have a party at my house. I hear they are trying to make Halloween a holiday that always falls on the last Saturday in October, I think that is a great idea. 

 

 

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

I’ve been working on an homage to Toxic Avenger called Toxic Tutu.

It’s the almost true story ff whatever happened to Melvin The Mop Boy, Mark Torgl of Toxic Avenger. I made this film with director Joe Nardelli. Joe and I went to film school together. So I’ve known Joe for over 30 years. 5 years ago I was contacted by the Mad Monster Party Convention to make a guest appearance. I called Joe and told him about it.  Joe said, “ I’ll come and bring my camera and we’ll document it”. So Toxic Tutu evolved from a 3-day convention documentary to a 5-year feature length narrative film production. Toxic Tutu is now available world wide, streaming on Amazon Prime, GooglePlay, Vudu, Apple I Tunes, and available on DVD at Amazon, and other outlets.

 

 

 What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

I was making a guest appearance at Comic Con sitting in with the Troma Group when a dude showed up and pulled up his pant leg. He had a tattoo of my face on his leg, scared the shit out of me.

 

 

 What was the last thing that made you smile?

My day job as a TV editor. I enjoy working in dark stale rooms with producers looking over my shoulder as I create magic. I love the fact that I have never had to pound the pavement as an actor looking for work. It’s inevitable though that every once in a while I get that call, “Could you do this part for us in our new movie?  We loved you in Toxic Avenger”. I’ve recently done a role in a new movie, The Monkeys Paw and a Mercedes The Muse production of Mopboy I was also in Greetings From Tromaville! And Troma’s new movie Return To Return To Nuke Em High, I have a very disturbing self-pleasuring scene in this movie! Lloyd’s wife the Comish, objected to the scene, and it stops the movie into a freeze frame while she complains. Ha ha ha.

 

 

And a few more photos for you all, courtesy of Mark himself: