Wonder Showzen, The Interview
Courtesy of The Portland Mercury, with a doff of the cap to Brian at Liebography (now with 100% more Intercontinental Tranny Tricks!). Or was it the other Farrelly? Ah crap, hat doffs and curtseys to everyone!:
Here's a quick Q&A with John Lee and Vernon Chatman, the two batshit crazy fucksticks behind the greatest television show in the last 5 years, Wonder Showzen:
MERCURY: How did Wonder Showzen get its start?
VERNON: You mean the most hated show in television? We made this eight-minute tape a few years back and shopped it around. Eventually the USA network gave us money and told us to come back in six months with a pilot episode. So we did, and within five minutes--maybe less--USA canceled their comedy division as well as our jobs.
JOHN: It didn't help that we tried to make it a heavy drama. But it really tackled some serious issues!
So how did MTV2 come to pick up the show?
V: They're the most annoying network on television, and we're the most annoying people in television.
J: A marriage made in hell.
V: Basically, we shoved it down their throats. Kind of a combination of shoving and charming.
J: It was a charming shove--but even now, it's a struggle to get what we want on the air. The show we really want to make--that has 100% of what we want--would never make it on TV. It would be so raw, even we wouldn't want to watch it.
The raw style of Wonder Showzen seems to come straight out of public access.
V: Well, thank you for that insult. Thanks for shitting on our hearts. And our baby!
J: Yeah, you just threw our baby in a dumpster. How do you feel now, prom mom? We actually try really hard!
V: People are always like, "If you shot the show using better cameras it would look nicer." True, but that would make our bad comedy less funny.
J: I think the analogy is that of kids' finger painting. You're just happy that kids can throw something on paper. But if they're doing the same thing after going to art school, you'd be like, "Oh my god, that's horrible." So while our show may look like crap, we like to think of it as a simple pleasure.
Do you have any background in television?
V: I'm one-quarter television on my father's side.
J: He can open a casino if he wants to.
V: We've worked on various TV shows. We did Doggy Fizzle Televizzle [an MTV sketch comedy show starring Snoop Dogg], and that's where we learned that puppets are much easier to control than Snoop.
J: A stoner puppet is always easier to deal with than a stoner dude. But children bleed more when you stick them.
Which of the following do you guys like to satirize most: religion, politicians, or meat eaters?
V: They're all the same thing.
J: Jesus was the most carnivorous politician.
V: It's all in good fun. We just make jokes and Jesus comes out.
J: You got to aim high for the low blow.
What amazes me is the controversial things that come out of the mouths of these kids. Do they have any idea what they're saying?
V: What people don't realize is that these kids all have terminal diseases, and saying these things on television is their last dying wish. They're like, "You're the one who gave me cancer, so let us do this," and we're like "Okay," and whoopsy! We have a show. Sadly most of the kids don't live to see themselves on the air. But… there's always another season.
J: And there's always more invalid kids.
So that's how you find the kids? Trolling the cancer wards?
V: Hey! It's fun to kid around and everything, but cancer is no joke. I don't know what kind of paper you write for, but cancer is never funny.
J: Actually, if cancer fell off a donkey while carrying a birthday cake, or if there was a giant man-size tumor that slipped and fell in some mud, then yeah… that would be pretty funny.
V: Fine. Cancer is funny.
Do you guys ever get any hassles from the kids' parents?
V: We have to jump through a lot of legal hoops.
J: We made all the parents watch the show. And when they told us they didn't want their children anywhere near us, we ended up going down to Guatemala and buying a bunch of kids.
V: From a cigarette factory. Now we own 'em.
J: But they also end up owning us, in a way. Emotionally.
One of my favorite parts of the show is "Beat Kids."
V: Well, we're just doing our best to try and get the message out there… you know, to beat kids.
Are there any topics you would refuse to bring up in front of the children?
V: Like what?
I don't know… like donkey sex?
J: I'll have you know that donkey sex is one of the most beautiful things in nature.
V: Why would you want to keep that from a child?
J: How do you think children are born, anyway?
V: Luckily, we're taking advantage of the fact that kids are dumb. Except kids like Trevor, he's a superstar.
J: He doesn't have any legs or eyes, but he has a lot of heart. He's actually a giant 38-pound heart.
V: The kids have no context for what they're saying. And if they start to catch on, we use distraction. For example, we'll feed Trevor a line, taking it out of context, and when he starts to go, "Wait a second… " we'll start yelling, "Hamburger! Hot dog! Hamburger! Hot dog!" Then we throw a bunch of kittens on him. Before you know it, he's forgotten that joke about taking a dump on a nun's chest.
J: Our goal is to rip "context" a new a-hole and "situationalism" a new b-hole.
Where does the show go from here? Are you afraid of running out of sacred cows to slaughter?
V: Yeah, I just realized that we have no future. We've shot our wad. Which is interesting, because not many people will admit it. We shot our wad, we're dead, we got nothing.
So you guys are a lot like M*A*S*H in that way.
J: One good season, and then 12 to 15 years of riding the glory.
V: Alan Alda's going to be the star next season.
J: He's going to be Grandfather Time.