Interview: Mullet’s Night Show

The infamous zombie-clown Mullet takes to the stage at the Black Swan Comedy Tavern like the fixture of the Toronto theatre scene that he seems to be becoming. I feel like he should be our mascot in this way as he has most recently endeavored to present a monthly theatrical talk-show-style revue of various acts and cultural forces from Toronto’s milieu.

I saw the maiden voyage of the new phenomenon dubbed Mullet’s Night Show last month, and urge you all to take a sip from his goblet of Kool-Aid at this month’s offering, taking place this Thursday. If it is anything like what I saw the last time, you will be refreshed with an eclectic mix of performances by the brightest of Toronto’s up and coming stars, and conversations between them and the bluntly inquisitive Zombie Clown.This is who Thursday’s lineup includes:

Robin Archer (sidekick)
Dave McKay (bouffon)
Skanky (clown **debut turn**)
Katherine Curtis from Naked News (interview)
Nerds with Guitars (musical guest)

When I saw the Night Show, Mullet bantered with his good-spirited sidekick (for the night) Kristian Reimer (who also opened the show with a monologue) and welcomed guests from all walks of the Toronto cultural landscape. And all this while comedian/cartoonist Amy Zuch sketched humourous drawings on her iPad based on the happenings of the show, presenting them periodically to the audience. It really felt like an immersive buffet of talent in the nucleus of our arts scene.

Alissa Vox Raw particularly wowed the crowd using only a loop pedal and her voice. And the 2011 Trillium Book Award nominee Paul Vermeersch read selections from his collection of poetry, The Reinvention of the Human Hand, offering a delightfully literary presence to Mullet’s tapestry of the contemporary arts.

On the more theatrical end of the spectrum the rambunctious cast and puppets of the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Avenue Q performed a few rousing pieces from the show, Dayna Chernoff and Hayley Preziosi from the cast of Soup Can Theatre’s Love is a Poverty You Can Sell performed Kander and Ebb’s “Class” from the cabaret-style show which played in the Next Stage Theatre Festival. And the Amazonian Mary Katherine Gallagher-esque clown Botchie Bobby (Kate Dunbar) enthralled the crowd with her own charismatic shtick.

It truly reminded me of the Golden Age of late-night TV talk, with the live audience and the variety of acts.

I asked Allan Turner, Mullet’s director-producer-manager-handler to tell us more about the shenanigans and ambitions of the mysterious zombie-clown and this new talk-show-style revue. Here’s what he had to say.

JR: I find it adorable that I’ve had more in person interaction with Mullet than with Allan, who just seems like such a shy and reserved guy with a hint of makeup residue around his eyes only suggesting a secret clown within. How would you account for this? To what extent is Mullet an extension of Allan?

AT: I think what you’re confusing for makeup is actually dark circles under my eyes. Mullet keeps me up at night—just one of the many drawbacks of rooming with a zombie clown.

Mullet and I have many similar interests—comedy, clowning, dinosaurs—but fundamentally we’re very different. I think I can explain this best by describing two dreams I had recently.

I was hanging off the edge of a train trestle bridge, hundreds of feet high over a gorge in the Rocky Mountains, at the bottom of which coursed a fast-flowing river. I was hanging on for dear life but slipping. It was terrifying.

Then I was Mullet. I actually was Mullet—no mask, no makeup—and I was standing on the same train trestle bridge. I was leaning back against the railing when suddenly it snapped and I fell backward. The railing peeled away from the bridge while I hung onto the end of it like Tarzan on a vine and swung hundreds of feet out into space then down, down, finally landing onto the bank of the river below. It was exhilarating. No fear, just fun.

JR: Mullet’s night show is presented in a late-night talk format as we know it from TV, however your guests are mostly local performers and artists. What gave you the idea to do a talk show for Toronto theatre?

AT: It was my friend Melleny Melody’s idea. She saw Mullet’s Make-a-Play in the 2011 Toronto Fringe, loved it, and told Mullet afterwards he should have his own talk show.

Cut to October. Mullet was asked to host the monthly clown soiree Red Nose District. Usually there’s no theme, but I decided to give Melleny’s idea a go. I would structure the show like a late night talk show with all the usual tropes: opening monologue, interviews, musical guest, sidekick, desk. It was really well received and I resolved to bring it back. Then Ralph MacLeod of Black Swan Comedy contacted me and everything fell into place.

JR: Do you have any sources of inspiration that were important in the development of the Night Show? 

AT: Definitely! Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Groucho Marx (on “You Bet Your Life”), Steve Allen, Stephen Colbert, The Larry Sanders Show, The Muppet Show.

JR: Are there any specific challenges in adapting this style of program for a live audience without being able to do post-production, as they would on a TV show? Of course Mullet did point out some of these moments that may have been edited in post, and the transparency of that as a theatrical experience is very interesting for the comedy alone, pretty well satirizing the talk show. 

AT: Well my understanding is these shows are shot live-to-tape. When I saw a Letterman taping, it was all done in one smooth take. So I don’t think doing it live-to-audience is that much different.

JR: How do you pick your guests? Mullet really came to life when he got to meet the puppet cast of Avenue Q. How does Mullet feel about interviewing boring humans compared to these kinds of colourful characters, like puppets and clowns? Or is it more Allan who is interested in that?

AT: Mullet LOVED talking to those Avenue Q monsters! It was the first time he’d done anything like that and, yes, it was a very natural fit.

But as far as booking goes, I cast a wide net. There are a lot less clowns who are authentic. I see a lot of comics who to please an audience will act like clowns. But not everything needs to be comedy. Not everything even needs to be an act; I also need interesting personalities I can interview. Ultimately it’s a variety show in talk show clothing and I’m open to all kinds of variety. People are welcome to contact me.

JR: How do you pick your emcee/Paul Shaffer person? Are you going to try out a bunch of people until you find one that has a perfect dynamic with Mullet?

AT: I need someone who can banter and hold his or her own with Mullet. I need them to be able to write and deliver topical stand up. So far I’ve been lucky enough to work with Carmine Lucarelli and Kristian Reimer, but Mullet fired them both. Starting this month, Robin Archer starts what will hopefully be an extended run.

JR: How do you manage the many-faceted, multi-platform persona of Mullet? He has a comic-strip, a show now and then, a Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and a Facebook account, and he’s an in-person theatrical presence in the Toronto theatre scene. Is there a challenge in integrating all the media the internet allows an artist to use to create content with the live performance? How do you manage it? What’s your approach?

AT: The challenge is time. Juggling writing, performing, and marketing is getting more and more difficult, especially considering I can’t juggle. I need an intern to join the meMullet.com team.

JR: What else is on the horizon for Mullet in 2012 and beyond?

AT: This April, Mullet goes to New York! The long-awaited comic book “Miller & Mullet in Space #2” will premiere at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival where Mullet will be manning his own table. While there, he’ll produce a special New York-edition of the “Night Show.”

Also this spring, Mullet returns to TV as a contestant on the new YTV game show “Zoink’d!

Other things to look out for include:

– The relaunch and epic conclusion of the “Miller & Mullet” webcomic.

– A new short video titled “Mullet Goes to Camp.”

– “Mullet’s Make-a-Play Redux”—a rewrite and remount of the critical hit from last year’s Toronto Fringe.

– Mullet’s new one-man drama “Antarctica.”

– An all-new website at http://www.meMullet.com!

Details:

Mullet’s next Night Show this Thursday, February 9th at 8 pm

– Performed the 2nd Thursday of every month at the Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Avenue, 2nd Floor

– Keep in touch with Mullet by friending him on facebook and for info on upcoming appearances

– Event is pay-what-you-can