Mark Normand [Interview]

 

Happy Friday Folks! And welcome to the finale of our quick week of comedy that has been so wonderful to share with you all. And we are so excited about the amazing comedian we have with us today. He is one of my absolute favorite comedians working today. I know, I say that a lot. But, I seriously can not convey how much I fucking love this guy! It’s Mark Normand Everyone!

I can’t exactly remember how I came across the comedy of Mark Normand. It may have been a Doug Loves Movies appearance somewhere, or maybe a Race Wars appearance? In all honesty, I can only remember hearing him talking about something that was probably so inappropriate in the current situation….and I loved it! So much so, that I had to check out his podcast, Tuesdays with Stories, and 2 years later, I haven’t missed a week. The banter between Mark Normand and his co-host Joe List is an hour long comedy “hang” that I couldn’t imagine not having each week. I have never enjoyed hearing two people shit on themselves and the world around them any more than I do being a huge Tuesgay, as the guys refer to their extremely loyal fan base. Also there’s Chipotle. LOTS of Chipotle.

And of course, Mark is more than just a brilliant podcaster. He is also one of the finest stand comedians I have ever seen. He made several late night appearances last year, and also had an absolutely incredible Comedy Central half hour special that you must see if you haven’t already. He is also one of the hardest work comics out on the road today. Seriously Folks, he is on the road pretty much every damn weekend, and any city you could think of.

 

 

I’ve heard you say in passing that you were an aspiring filmmaker in your previous life, even having attended film school in NYC for a brief period. I was curious as to whether you would be able to elaborate on this phase of your life a bit? What was it that drew you into this line of work at a young age? Was there a particular film that really drew you in?

Oh, Man, I was so rudderless. I was a drunk insecure kid with no direction at all. My folks were getting a tad nervous that I was going to end up with 4 DUIs or as a waiter forever. I knew I was creative and I loved movies so we gave film school a shot. It was wild, living in NYC, learning how to edit, shoot, and make films. But I hated the collaboration of it all. Even if you make an amazing flick, there’s studios and producers and fine print. It was all so daunting. That really turned me off to film. And weirdly enough, I had tried stand up in NOLA a handful of times. I looked in the phone book for comedy clubs and did the open mics at night. And I knew right away that stand up was the real passion, not movie making. So that was it. 

And the age old question: When did the comedy come into play? More importantly, when did you finally realize that you had a talent to make people laugh and enjoy themselves in a somewhat formal setting? 

I used to work at a Mexican restaurant in Baton Rouge, LA (Not bragging) and there was a funny guy there named Ryan who did Improv and stand up and knew that whole world. This is pre internet so I was clueless to anything out side of drinking and house parties. But he convinced me to try a set. I was horrified and put it off for at least 6 months. But I had so little going on in my life that eventually the desperation beat out the fear. I got wasted on vodka and did a 5 minute set at an open mic in Lafayette about 2 hours away. I didn’t want anyone I knew to see me. It went horribly but I loved it. After that I started doing more sets and really working on jokes. It was fun but I never thought I could make a career out of it.

While I would like to consider myself a huge “Tuesgay”, I have to admit that I have only been tuning into your podcast that you do with fellow hilarious person Joe List known as “Tuesdays with Stories”, for about two years. I’ve loved every damn second of it, but I am curious to know about the show’s origin? What brought you and Joe together to dot his thing? And in your personal opinion, what makes you two work so well together?

Hey thanks. 2 years is good because it was a little shaky before that. We were still finding our gay. Now I feel like we’re off and cooking. The whole thing was really Joe’s idea. Joe and I became good buds through comedy, drinking, love of Seinfeld and old movies and irreverent jokes, etc. We were very similar. A big part of comedy is hanging out and waiting to go on and me and Joe are good at that part. We love the hang aspect of comedy. Whether it’s in a green room yucking it up or at a diner till 4 am. He thought, “this would be great to capture on a pod.” We tried having multiple guests on but it wasn’t really gelling. Eventually because scheduling 3 comics a show became too much we just did it with the 2 of us. We slowly built a rhythm and a language and now people really seem to love it. Every ‘comedy’ pod now is “How’d you get started?” “What’s your process?” We just wanted ours to be funny. He goes to one city, I go to another, we come back on Monday and talk about it. In our own kooky way of course.

 

And one random question I am always curious to know whist listening to TWS: What would you give as a rough guess as to how many thousands of dollars have you received in Chipotle gift cards? Your fans seem to be some of the sweetest folks and want to keep you fed. So where you think you are at as total amount?

We have the best fans. They are sweet, smart and gay. I’d say we’re up to about 5k at this point.

One thing that is truly unique about your career that I have noticed is you have to ability to destroy no matter where you go. Sure, some shows are better than others I imagine, but you have said that you were literally have been on stage in a giant arena filled with people coming to see your pal Amy Schumer headline, and then would be doing a bar show for 15 people later that night. As a non-comedian, and generally just not funny person, this seems like a complete mindfuck! So how do you handle these types of situation, and manage to keep yourself somewhat sane? 

First off, I bomb a lot and I wouldn’t call myself sane. But thanks. Yeah, comedy is funny and if there’s 20,000 people in an arena or 20 at a bar show it’s still just people. All those people have the same weird worries and concerns no matter how many or few there are. And as a comic we can tap into that, the number doesn’t really matter. The real challenge is getting them to listen to you or trust that you’re funny. That’s the part of comedy that’s really challenging in the beginning. I just like telling jokes to strangers. I have weird thoughts that people find strange but if you put humor behind it for some reason people tend to go with it. 

Being one of the hardest working and constantly traveling comedians in the business, it seems like there are very few places across the U.S. that you haven’t performed in. So with that, I am always curious to know what may be some hidden gems for comedy across the country? What are some places that most people would never consider as great places to perform or watch stand up?

Comedy has taken me EVERYWHERE!!! UK, Middle East, Australia, Iowa. It’s wild. But literally every weekend I go out to some city in the US or Canada. There’s some amazing spots out there. Much like people, just about every city has something. Some hidden gems I would’ve never known about are Madison, WI. Love that spot. Ann Arbor, MI is so great. Santa Barbara is awesome. Asheville, NC too. Great spots.

In 2016 you appeared in the wonderful series “Horace & Pete” alongside our friend and past guest Liza Treyger. And I thought you did a truly amazing job amongst a real powerhouse of acting chops. So how was your experience working on this somewhat secretive project? Was this your first real “acting” gig?

Wow, I thought I looked horrible on that. I cannot act. I was freaking out the whole time on that show. It was wild. I was in way over my head. Working with Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Buscemi, Laurie Metcalf. That was insane. I’m still blown away I got that opportunity. I’m not sure it was my first acting gig but it was definitely the one I cared about the most. 

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

I’ve been touring with a fun hour that’s really humming at the moment and would love to get that out there. I’m pitching shows that’ll never get made but it briefly gives you hope for the moment, so that’s nice. Just look for more stand up, podcasts, online stuff and jokes. Always working on those. I love jokes. To see some follow me on twitter and Insta. And check out my pod if you’re not easily offended. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Somebody recently posted a video of a baby pig being showered and it was too much to handle.

 

 

Find Mark at city near you throughout 2019. Some dates are below, but be sure to check out marknormandcomedy.com, as he is continuously adding cities and is likely to be somewhere close by (including this weekend in St. Louis, MO at the only comedy club I have ever been to, fun fact):

January 11th & 12th : St. Louis, MO @ The Funny Bone

January 19th: Miami, FL @ Magic City Casino

January 24th – 26th: Uncasville, CT @ Comix @ Mohican Sun Casino

January 29th: New York City, NY @ The Village Underground (Live Tuesday’s with Stories)

February 6th – 9th: Cleveland, OH @ Hilarities Comedy Club

February 14th – 16th: Raleigh, NC @ Goodnight’s Comedy Club

February 22nd – 24th: Syracuse, NY @ The Funny Bone

February 28th – March 3rd: Philadelphia, PA @ Helium Comedy Club

March 14th – 16th: Royal Oaks, MI @ Comedy Castle

March 20th – 24th: Las Vegas, NV @ Comedy Cellar Vegas in the Rio

April 4th – 6th: Madison, WI @ Comedy on State

April 11th – 14th: Atlanta, GA @ Laughing Skull Lounge

May 18th: Columbus, OH @ Sonic Temple Music Festival

 

And check out this clip of Mark performing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon late last year:

Sarah Tollemache [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And I’ll be damned if we don’t have another amazing comedian to share with you all during this week of comedy. Today we have some words with someone who is actually one of my favorite comedians working today. It’s the hilarious Sarah Tollemache! Sarah has been one of those comedians who has continue to pop up on the old proverbial radar through a multitude of podcasts, and just the overall knowledge of who the finest NYC based comedians are out there working today. With a brilliant somewhat self-deprecating style & a hilarious take on the world around us, I simply can not convey just how much I enjoy Sarah’s comedy.

And as you all know by now, I am a huge fan of podcasts. And Sarah has an absolutely brilliant podcast for comedy fans with friend and co-host Adrienne Iapalucci called The Vadge Podcast, that I cannot recommend enough.

2018 saw Sarah make her network television debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, as well as stellar year overall. And we are so excited to see what Tollemache has in store for 2019. And we are so excited that Sarah was kind enough to kick off her upcoming year of excellence by gracing our digital pages here today! So Folks, let me stop with the babbling and share these wonderful words from the brilliant Sarah Tollemache!

 

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

Probably in elementary school. I grew up watching a ton of HBO comedy specials. I would repeat acts like Eddie Murphy or Robert Klein to my friends at the lunch table and enjoyed making them laugh so I was always constantly trying to think of something to say. I love goofing off and or that feeling of hanging out in the back of the class. It all paid off because in middle school I got voted most humorous. I’m still really proud of that credit. 

We have managed to speak with many fine figures from the world of the Upright Citizens Brigade over the years because we are fascinated with what it has become over the last couple of decades. So, how did you get your start in UCB? And what have you enjoyed the most about working with the theatre?

I was in Houston at the time. That’s where I got my start in stand up comedy. Then my friend Paul told me about UCB. He had taken several weeks intensive classes and then would come back and try to teach his comedy friends improv and then we formed our own group and would put on shows around Houston. Then after a year of that I decided to make the move to New York to pursue stand up. No one was getting discovered in Houston. Once in NY I signed up for all the improv classes. I liked improv but realized I was never going to make it in improv. I’m not an outgoing person. I still really enjoy it and think it’s only the best when you are doing it with friends. It was hard getting a group of relatively unknown strangers to meet up several times a week to work on improv. After deciding I probably wasn’t going to make it in improv I decided to get into sketch. It has always been a dream of mine to write for SNL and still is. I like sketch and I tend to think in sketch rather than stand up form. I love sketch because I love meeting with funny people and collectively working on putting on a show. It is the best time and a thrill to watch your peers move on to become big successes.

Congratulations on your recent nuptials! You married to another damn fine comedian, in an almost unfair pairing of comedic powerhouses! The life of a comic seems a bit anxiety driven and insane to manage with just one person, but when you are both out there doing your thing across the country, that has to be hard. So how do you make it work? What is a sort of grounding force that helps you manage the hysteria?

We’re super supportive of each other and I go on the road with my husband quite a bit which is really fun. I’ve dated several comics and I would have to say it is easier to date a comic. They just get it. You can go out every night to work on your set and they get it. They also get the neurosis of it. 

You currently reside in what is still the hotbed of great comedy, the cheerful little town of New York City. But, you do tend to hit the road a bit, and I always love to ask comics this one question: What is a hidden gem of a city in the U.S. that is especially great for comedy? Besides the obvious NYC or L.A. or even Chicago, what is a smaller city that is ripe for comedy?

I think DC is the best. It would be my fallback city. I love the architecture of it. I love how all the buildings are not high rises. Also, their comedy scene is amazing there. Sean Joyce has really built up scene there. It also seems like a city where everyone loves to go out. Plus I feel like the gossip there has to be amazing. 

I also love the shows at Comedy on the State in Madison, Wisconsin is cool. The crowds there are the best and so is the staff and they have a great green room with video games and snacks. 

You had a brief role in our past guest, and old friend, Henry Phillips’s delightful film Punching Henry, amongst a plethora of brilliant comedians (such as another old friend, Stephanie Allyne). How did you become involved with this project? Have you worked with Henry in the past? 

I’ve known Henry for years. We dated for a while when I first started doing comedy and we have remained good friends over the years. He’s probably one of the funniest people I know. He just asked me to be a part of the bachelorette scene and I said, Yes! I will never turn down a role from Henry. He is so good at creating a funny story. I also did one of his You and Your Fucking Coffee web series for JASH! He was always getting in these predicaments where he would seriously put people out with his coffee demands which always made me laugh. I highly recommend binge watching them.

 

I have recently discovered The Vadge Podcast, and I am very intrigued by it. I’m just getting started here, but for me and the readers who may not be familiar with the podcast, what can we expect? What are we going to love about it?

It’s a podcast hosted by the very funny Adrienne Iapalucci. Adrienne has the best jokes and no one is doing what she is doing. We became friends and thought we should have a podcast together. We named it Vadge because we thought people would be drawn to it thinking that we talk about out vaginas a lot, but we don’t, just a little bit. Come to find out you need to offer more to get people to listen. We record it from her car wherever we can meet in the city scheduled around our spot times and we shoot the shit. We always go on these weird tangents and come up with bits from it. 

What does the future hold for you? Any projects or dates coming up that you would like to tell our readers about?

No projects for now, mainly just working on trying to get a half hour or 15-minute special on either Netflix or Comedy Central as well as another late night spot. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Any animal video. I’m really into these puppy bulldog video where they are learning to walk on a linoleum floor and it’s just so spazzy and adorable.

Check out Sarah’s appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert from last year, and find her on Twitter & Instagram, @stollemache, for dates:

New Music Tuesday: Norman Salant: Always All Around You [Album]

Hello Folks! And welcome to our first (and hopefully many) addition of New Music Tuesday here at Trainwreck’d Society. And in keeping up with familiar fashion for the last decade of my career in discovering some pretty amazing tunes from the previous years, just days after publishing all of my “End of Year” lists already, wishing I had heard them just two weeks earlier! But alas, the brilliant sound has indeed been heard, and I am still so damn excited to share them with you.

So, no matter what the date says, I can definitely tell you that I have found absolute gold in Norman Salant’s amazing sophomore release, Always All Around You, as a singer/songwriter (and second in 2018 alone!) that is a beautiful and melodic folk masterpiece, if you dare say so myself. It is 10 brilliantly written tracks that evoke the power of nature, love, and the unyielding power of the world around us. If you were previously unaware of Salant’s work in this field, I simply cannot recommend this album enough. And I would also recommend checking out his previous 2018 album, Yodeling Goodbye, throwing them both on a playlist, and just mixing it up with the greatness that Norman was kind enough of offer up in 2018. It’s astoundingly enjoyable folk music, considering it came from the mind of a legendary figure in the electronic world. But, alas, art is and can be interpreted in so many different ways. And for some truly talented folks like Norman Salant, forms of expression are limitless!

I will admit that I was previous unaware of Norman Salant, or the immense amount of work he has been doing for over 30 years. It is most likely because he was working outside of my element as an electronic saxophonist. Although I was surprised to learn that he collaborated with the with the great Lynn Mabry at one point, which in retrospect, feels like an amazing experience that I need to check out! But nonetheless, without any prior knowledge of the man’s work or legacy, I am simply awestruck by the sound of Always All Around You. It’s hard to pinpoint a singular track that is special on its own, as the track list works best when played together, or in combination with his preivous album as I stated earlier. But, if I were to point out a couple of favorites, it would probably be “Grace (Love Song25)” and “Point Reyes”, which are reminiscent of those early Good Old War songs I fell love with a few years ago. Sweet. Melodic. And bursting with excitement yet remaining perfectly calm amongst the storm that is life spiraling around us.

It’s so good People! You have to check this one out. Plus, I’ve never steered you wrong in the past, right?

Always All Around You is available now wherever you buy and/or listen to music. Check out normansalant.com for details.

Bob Nickman [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Oh do we have an incredible interview to share with you fine folks! In fact, we have a wonderful week coming for you all. Because we didn’t want to waste any time getting to around to it in 2019….we have some comedy to share! Yes, we have three wonderful interviews with three absolutely hilarious comedians! And we are kicking the week off with legendary stand up comedian and television writer & producer, Bob Nickman!

Bob has contributed to some pretty legendary comedic television programs, some of which we will discuss below, like Maron and Freaks and Geeks, which we have talked about here via interviews with the likes of Dave Anthony, Troy Ruptash, Steve Bannos and more on TWS before, but obviously not enough! But, beyond just these two fine shows, Bob has also worked on several legendary shows with some folks we have talked to in the past as well. Shows like The Drew Carey Show, Roseanne, Mad About You, and the list goes on and on.

And as it tends to turn out, Bob is a hell of a nice guy! He has some wonderful words to share with us today. We discuss his past work, what the future holds, and, obviously, the importance of a healthy life in mind, body, and spirit! Because we all know that comedians are traditionally the most healthy people in the world, both physically and mentally. I’m kidding of course! Bob has a great podcast on the subject entitled The Exploding Human, which we will discuss below, and you should definitely check it out!

So, let’s get right into it, shall we? Please enjoy some wonderful words from the amazing Bob Nickman!

 

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What was it that drew you into the world of comedy? Was it a deep-rooted drive to make people laugh that you always had, or did you just sort of find your way in this business?

When I was a kid and first saw an adult on TV being funny, I was intrigued that this was something that was okay to do. It was far away and not a possibility in my mind at the time, but I never forgot it. Later, the options for conventional things to do seemed sad and boring so I thought I would at least try it and see. A friend in college said he thought I should try it and I would be good at it. Nine years later I gave it a shot.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of comedy, whether it be stand up or writing or whatever?

Opening act at a local comedy club in Columbus, Ohio. Don’t remember who the headliner was. But likely someone from Make Me Laugh. 

You have worked as a writer and/or producer on some of the most amazing comedy series to ever be put out. I don’t want to bother you and ask about each one, but there are a couple that really stand out, and I was hoping to talk to you about. First being the now cult classic series Freaks and Geeks. While the show did not last as long as you could have hoped, there does seem to be a real cult following for this program. As somebody who worked on the show in real time, why do you think that is? What makes this show so memorable almost 20 years later, even though it was cancelled so early?

A high level of honesty in character, dialogue and story. The focus on struggle and underdogs is very real for almost everyone in high school and people relate to that.  We avoided false victories and focused on what is the real thing that would happen or really did happen to one of us.

 

The second would a show that had a brilliant run, and pretty much rounded itself out nicely. And that would be Maron. You came around for the very dramatic and ultimately touching yet still hilarious final season of the program. How did you become on board with this project? And what made this one different from the plethora of other work you have done? Does anything stand out?

I know Marc from my stand up days and when I found out the show was looking for writers I called him, sent him one of my scripts and they brought me on board. It was a great experience, very collaborative with all great writers on the staff with a similar dark comedic sensibility. We were able to do a lot of things that you couldn’t do on network TV, which is always a treat. Marc encouraged that and was always ready to push the envelope and take chances.

As a person who has over 30 years of experience in comedy, from stand up to television production, I am curious to know what you think about the current climate of comedy. Obviously advancements in technology have changed access and the amount of comedy that can be consumed. But, I am curious to know what you believe is still the same as when you started. Are there still any core beliefs that seem to continue to hold true in the world of comedy? And what do you believe has been the toughest change to deal with overall?

I think it has evolved as an art form and that “joke technology” has advanced. There are so many great comics with great material.  The downside is that it is tougher for young comics to make a living. Less venues, less pay, more competition.  The internet and self-produced content has opened up new highways for comedy creators. Monetization and viewers is always the biggest challenge along with more a corporate driven entertainment industry. 

 

I am intrigued by a project you have entitled “The Exploding Human”. Would you mind telling our readers a bit about this project and how they can check it out?

Actually it is a podcast in the health field. It is not a comedy. I interview all kinds of health practitioners from conventional to alternative, and those who have overcome challenges.  It covers a wide-range of topics in body, mind and spirit. I do try to bring a humorous touch to the interviews at times, but I am more interested in exploring ways humans can expand and EXPLODE in making a better life. It is a result of my own curiosity and quest to find a healthier lifestyle in all areas.

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

I have two dramas and two reality shows, as well as a comedy I just finished. We’ll see if any of them fly.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Repairing a crack in the stucco on my house and painting it. It came out great!

Sunday Matinee: Moja Maisha – South Africa [Film]

A message from Bodi and Elephant Memories:

“Moja Maisha – South Africa is a film about the founders and residents of Nkosi’s Haven – a women’s and children’s shelter in Johannesburg, South Africa that has been in operation since 1999 and offered holistic care and support to hundreds of destitute HIV/AIDS infected mothers, their children, and resulting AIDS orphans (infected or not).

Nkosi’s Haven is named after Nkosi Johnson, the young AIDS activist who passed away on International Children’s Day on June 1st 2001, who dearly wanted a facility that would care for the mom and her child. He had been separated from his mom because of the HIV diagnosis and he never wanted that to happen to any other child. He also wanted HIV positive people to be cared for without discrimination or prejudice. His adopted mother, Gail Johnson, opened Nkosi’s in his memory.

Since 1999, it has housed, provided health and counseling services, and education to hundreds of women and children.

Moja Maisha – South Africa is made to be a fundraiser. The filmmakers do not wish to keep any proceeds from this film. Rather, we are asking viewers to donate to Nkosi’s Haven directly.”

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We here at Trainwreck’d Society are so honored to be able to call the amazing person that is Alexander “Bodi” Hallett a staple in our digital world. I have personally been covering his work for close to a decade, going all the way back to his days as a young rapper going by the name Alexipharmic. I have been a fan of not only his art for the last 10 years, but mores the person he has become, and the amazing things he has done for the world.

A few years ago, the man we now know simply as Bodi set out on an adventure of a lifetime, volunteering at orphanages across the globe for a over a year. And one of those places that seemed to really strike him as a truly special place, was Nkosi’s Haven in Johannesburg, South Africa. This led to the documentary you are about to watch that is absolutely heart-breaking, yet utterly inspiring at the same time. What you are about to watch is a well-documented depiction of a pandemic that has, and continues to, hurt so many innocent women and children. And they certainly could use your help.

As depicted in the film itself, Nkosi’s Haven is struggling to continue to exist. And mind you, this footage is from early on in this decade. The organization has managed to survive, but times have only grown tougher over the years. Nkosi’s Haven’s funding has dried up, which may very realistically result in the shuttering of this wonderful organization. Were this to happen, several hundred destitute women and children would be homeless on the streets of Johannesburg.

Bodi has been, and continues to, seeking distribution for the film and hadn’t planned on releasing the film to the world just yet. But, with recent events and issues with funding Nkosi’s Haven, our dear friend Alex decided he needed to help spread the word about this beautiful place filled with beautiful people, in hopes of keeping the place around for those who desperately need it.

So, we are happy to join in the fight alongside our dear friend Bodi and encourage everyone to check out this wonderfully done documentary, share it with our friends and families, and if able, try to donate to the cause keeping Nkosi’s Haven a current reality, rather than a future distant memory.

Learn how you can donate directly to Nkosi’s Haven by visiting the Moja Maisha – South Africa website.

You can watch & then share the entire documentary right here:

Phillip P. Keene [Interview]

Welcome to the first Friday of 2019 here at Trainwreck’d Society! I hope the year’s first week has served you well, and your resolutions are still moving forward. Today we have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all, with a person I have found to have an even more fascinating story to tell that of the character he famously portrayed for close to 13 years on two different series. Fans of Phillip P. Keene (of which there are an abundance) will already know that I of course am talking about the acclaimed TNT crime dramas known as The Closer and Major Crimes.

Now, I am going to be perfectly frank with you all here: I have honestly never watched either of these shows. In fact, beyond say Twin Peaks and another TNT vehicle that we can’t quite discuss yet, I am not particularly fond of crime dramas. Now I know this may go against our standard “fan first” mentality here at TWS, but here me out. After watching just a few (okay, dozens) of clips and moments of Mr. Keene portraying the now infamous Buzz Watson, I was convinced that he is definitely a damn fine actor and it would be an honor to have him on the site. There was no question in that. But, what truly struck me was his story of how he came to be who he is today. Having moved as a youth between South America and several cities in California, I even related to the lack of permanence he felt growing up, as I did the same as a youth. Also, I’m sure I am wrong here, but Mr. Keene may be the first major airline flight attendant to turn into a network television star? Working for Pan Am prior to getting into acting is a story all in itself when you think about what the now debunked airline did to history.

Yes, while most people may be drawn to Phillip’s work on two deservingly successful television shows, I have found his on personal journey to be one that should be documented. He is a pioneer in the LGBTQ community, coming out at a time that was regretfully much harder to do. He is an inspiration and truly just seems like the kind of person I would enjoy spending a day with. And a person of that nature will always be welcome here on the digital pages of Trainwreck’d Society. So new fans and old fans unite, and please welcome the great Phillip P. Keene!

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What made you decide to join the world of acting? When did you first realize it was your passion and the way you wanted to earn a living?

I always wanted to be an actor, but my parents actively discouraged it, and my high school academic career was something less than stellar, so I had very limited sense of my potential during my late teens and most of my twenties. But after I lost my job and went back to college, I began to hope a little. Never did I think I could graduate from college with two degrees! So as I began to consider the next phase of my life, I thought, “Why not go back to my original dream? And at least give it a try?” I was incredibly lucky, too, and very much at the right place at the right time. But I put myself out there. I gambled on my heart and I was fortunate.

Between The Closer and Major Crimes, you have spent over a dozen years portraying Buzz Watson to the admiration of your fans. Last January, it all came to an end. I am curious to know what it feels like to have ran through so many years with a character. And how does it feel to put Buzz to rest now?

A part of me will always be Buzz Watson. I am nothing like Buzz, really, but I like to think we share a common idea of decency. But Buzz lives a life of service to his community. Buzz is a hero and I am an actor. Is it weird to say that, to me, Buzz was like a real person? I can never put him to rest. I miss playing him. I hope another good role will come along, and I’ll get to tap into a different part of my heart. But I will always be proud of my 200+ episodes as Buzz.

I have learned that you are quite the fanatic for the world of Pan Am Airlines, with quite the expansive collection of memorabilia. What sort of things does such a collection contain? And where did the passion for Pan Am come from?

One day, while driving an iffy Volkswagen Bug to a restaurant where I was working as a waiter, my car broke down. I sweated my way through getting it running again, arrived at the restaurant on time, only to be sent home because they weren’t busy enough. I was broke and hungry (because I missed the staff meal) and on my way home, I bought a newspaper for the first time in my life. I skipped right over the events of the day to the want ads. And there, in the corner of the page (I still have it) was an announcement that Pan Am was looking for flight attendants. I thought about it and applied. And because I was fluent in Spanish, they hired me! And suddenly I was off to Florida for training and, before I knew it, based in London! I can’t tell you what a difference this made in my life. I had never travelled to Europe, I had never had a job that required life-saving training, and I had never worn a uniform: it was all incredibly exciting. Also, it was mind blowing. Living in and visiting different countries every week was the first part of my education, and my gratitude to Pan Am for hiring me, and to all the people with whom I worked while there, led me to preserve as much of the company as I could find. Pan Am employees are really like a very large extended family, and we have reunions and several organizations that keep us together, like the Pan Am Museum Foundation, on whose board I serve. In Pan Am, I made friends for life. And the considerable contributions Pan Am made to connect the modern world should be preserved.


If you were given the chance to portray any figure in American history of any sort of significance who would it be?

I love American history, and I study it in my spare time, so there are a lot of amazing figures from our country’s past that intrigue me. If I were to play anyone, though, I think I might choose Thomas Paine. He’s a vastly underrated person from the earliest days of our republic, and had an outside influence on the world. As a common man, largely self-educated, I relate to him in ways that I don’t to great men like Washington and Jefferson. And his writings – Common Sense, The Crisis Papers, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason – influenced the entire world. He had flaws. He suffered from depression. He was imprisoned by his enemies and ignored by his friends. But he never stopped trying to influence the future. I’m the right age to take him on! But I don’t know if it’s a story anyone is interested in telling.

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

I did a television movie that aired in 2017. I’m trying to get a documentary off the ground. And I’ve auditioned for lots of new projects. I’ve gotten very close to a several jobs, but not close enough! But if you can tell anything from this interview, I am persistent! I’ve also spent a lot of time at the gym and getting back in touch with my marriage and my everyday life. Since I’m pretty sure I’ll be working again, I’m determined to make this abundance of time off (the first time in my whole life when I haven’t had a job!) as enjoyable as possible. I know actors are supposed to panic when they don’t have a job. It’s not happening to me!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I actually smile a lot! So maybe I should say the last thing that made me smile a lot was a lunch with Jessica Meraz, dinner with Kearran Giovanni and G.W. Bailey and Graham Patrick Martin, and a phone conversation I had with Michael Paul Chan and a text message exchange I had with Kathe Mazur. The Major Crime alumni are pretty much staying together, and the ensemble of actors who worked together for thirteen years (which is like going from kindergarten through graduation from high school together) sticks together! You never know if that will happen until after the show stops. We miss each other, and we root for each other’s successes. I’m proud of my family, and I hope they are proud of me!

 

 

Check out this trailer for Deadly Shores starring Phillip Keene, which was released on Lifetime in August of 2018, and also features our dear friend Kristin Minter:

Lotti Pharriss Knowles [Interview]

Hello Folks! And welcome to our very first interview of 2019! And hot damn if we aren’t kicking it off with a wonderful one! Today we are sharing some words from the absolutely brilliant writer, producer, and actress Lotti Pharriss Knowles! She has done some incredible work in the world of horror and beyond. She has worked with some of our good friends here at Trainwreck’d Society as well, including the likes of Rena Riffel and Austin Ford in the wonderful film Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven, which is actually a franchise that Lotti is  currently working on that we are very excited for, and so happy that she was willing to share some information about in her wonderful answers. Lotti is also the writer and producer of one of the most hilarious comedy-horror films to ever be made, a wonderful film entitled Chastity Bites that we also got to ask a bit about as well, as it is a personal favorite of mine.

Yes, I truly believe that Lotti was the perfect person to kick of what we hope to be a wonderful 2019! So Folks, please enjoy an absolutely brilliant interview with an even more brilliant human being, the wonderful Lotti Pharriss Knowles!

What inspired you to get into the world of film and television? Was it an early aspiration to do so, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was always “theatrical,” and also drawn to the macabre. As a kid my main interests were in being in school plays, pretending to be a witch (not just on Halloween), and having my Barbies enact intricate scenes based on horror movies or nighttime soaps. By the time I was in high school, I was ingesting a steady diet of horror movies and telling everyone that was going to be my career. My first feature screenplay was for my senior creative writing class, a total rip-off of Halloween called Groundhog Day. So though I’ve done many things in my life and career, I’m happy that I finally did make at least one feature horror film!

 


The 2013 film Chastity Bites, which you wrote and produced, is one of the finest displays of horror comedy I have seen in the last 20 years. It’s truly original and so well written. So, what inspired you to modernize the story of one of the most notorious murders in history?

Thank you so much! I’ve been fascinated by Elizabeth Bathory for a long time (I think my first exposure was Hammer Studios’ Countess Dracula) and always wanted to write a script about her. When I wrote the first draft of the screenplay, it was 2004 and the middle of the George W. Bush years, when there was a lot of heavy Christian rhetoric being bandied about — and abstinence education was very “in vogue,” despite all the evidence that it actually leads to MORE pregnancies and STDs for young people. One day my political outrage, sensibility for satire and love of the Blood Countess legend all clicked, and the rest is history!

 


You have worked in one specific gig that I don’t believe we have ever mentioned here at Trainwreck’d Society, which would be a Post-production Coordinator. I noticed that you have worked in this filed quite a bit, including multiple projects with the legendary filmmaker David DeCoteau. So, for those who may be unaware of this position (talking about me, if I’m being honest), what is the duty of a Post-production Coordinator? What sort of work does this gig entail?

Yes, like most filmmakers I’ve had a lot of other “bill-paying” jobs, both in and outside of the entertainment industry. This happens to be one of the more fun ones for me, since I’m kind of OCD and love to check off lists! The job entails overseeing some or all of the post-production process on a film, and making sure all the moving parts (editing, sound, color correction, FX and more) are going to come together at the right time to keep the movie’s “delivery” on schedule.

 

Beyond the world of horror, you also worked on project that was directed by our friend Rena Riffel, and produced by another friend Ford Austin, entitled Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven that we love around here. So what was it that drew you to this project? What was it that inspired you to jump into the Showgirls universe?  

This could be a looooong answer that I’ll keep as brief as possible! Showgirls is easily one of my favorite non-horror movies of all time. My husband and I are literally married because of it, and had a Showgirls-themed wedding in Vegas. Since then we’ve been collecting experiences related to the movie, and when Rena (whom we’d met in 2009 when we co-produced VampireCon) announced she was doing a crowdfunding campaign for her unofficial sequel, I knew I had to pony up whatever amount I needed to get us speaking roles. Being in it was absolutely glorious, I’m so proud. And now I’m proud to say that I’m producing the definitive documentary on the subject, Goddess: The Fall and Rise of ‘Showgirls’! I’m working on it with director/producer Jeffrey Schwarz, after other successful doc collabs like I Am Devine and Vito. We’ll be doing a Kickstarter campaign in March 2019 — follow us on FB TW IG @ShowgirlsDoc!



While the world of horror is far from being your mainstay in the world of film and television, you have had some great success in the genre. With that, I am curious to know what it is you enjoy about working in the more frightening world of suspense and horror? What sets it apart from other projects you tend to work on?

Horror is just my true love, and more fun than anything else to work on. I love coming up with the ideas, I love seeing the gore FX come together (though they are often the most difficult parts of shooting), and I love knowing that the project will at some point be part of The Great Horror Canon. I also love horror fans and think they (we) are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! I’m convinced it’s because we embrace the shadow side of life and work it out in a healthy way, rather than repressing it. I get why a lot of people think it’s sick, of course, but the genre has actually helped me deal with anxiety.

What is your favorite scary movie?

That is always such a tough questions — there are so many, and each for a different reason. But I will narrow it down to two, and say:

1) Halloween, because it really did scare me so profoundly as a child, and yet kept me coming back to it over and over. My life was set on a certain course already, but that movie turned the key in my head to full-on obsession.

2) Hammer Studios’ The Vampire Lovers, because I love me a lesbian vampire film (hence Chastity Bites) and it’s among the best of the best. I love the lush, sexy, gothic sensibility of Hammer films, and Ingrid Pitt is my favorite female horror icon.

 

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

Besides the Showgirls documentary, I’m working on a couple of TV pilots. Last year I had a major disappointment, that an all-female-directed horror anthology series I was producing (along with a great team of people) was not picked up by the network we’d developed it with for a year, even after it was announced in the trades. I so badly wanted that to happen in the era of #metoo, and it would have been a dynamite show. But,  we face a lot of roadblocks and rejections in this business, and we have to pick ourselves up and figure out where to go next. I love these other series I’m working on now (one horror and one girl-power dramedy), and I hope they come to your TV screen soon! But if not, I will find something else that excites me — maybe try my hand at writing a horror book!

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

OMG right after this midterm election when Ann Coulter tweeted “Kansas is dead to me,” and Matt Oswalt retweeted that with “did it drop another house on your sister?” It was so perfect and funny — ever the witch, I CACKLED when I read that. But I smile and laugh at a lot of stuff, including myself). Life is stressful, and we all need to smile, laugh and hug as much as possible. And watch horror movies. 🙂