I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.
* Best-received interview of the year:
Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.
“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”
* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:
Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.
“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”
* The interview with an actor that most impressed my wife:
“Well, I definitely was playing some bongos. It was late, and it was hot, and there was…there wasn’t much clothing going on with the bongos.”
* The interview with a singer (and, okay, he acts a little, too) that most impressed my wife:
“I think the script (for ‘Hard to Hold’) wasn’t a really good script, and I was kind of at the point where I thought, “I can make anything work!” You know? I think what it was was a very, very extensive video. A song video, basically, is all it was. I know a lot of people who’ve said, ‘I love that movie,’ but I think that’s because it’s part of their life. We did our best in it; I think there are some funny and endearing scenes. I haven’t seen it in so long that I actually don’t have an opinion anymore. I think the last time I saw it was before the first rough cut, and that was the only time I’ve ever seen it.”
* The person who seemed most impressed that I’d seen and enjoyed his movie:
Adam Carolla, though I don’t know why he was so surprised. “The Hammer” is really good.
“I wanted to make something that was a little less theatrical in the boxing department because boxing matches…it’s, like, Mr. T doesn’t punch Sylvester Stallone in the face 10 times in a row and then Stallone yells, ‘Come on!’ You hit the ground.”
* The person who seemed the least interested in being on the phone with me:
Mike Epps (“Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins”), whose answers were so consistently brief and uninspired that I ran through all of my questions in about two minutes flat. I felt like quoting Chandler Bing: “Dear God, this parachute is a knapsack!”
Bullz-Eye: How many family reunions have you been to in your time?
Mike Epps: I’ve been to quite a few. You know, my family usually gets together.
BE: Like an annual thing?
ME: Yeah, an annual thing.
BE: Do you have sporting events at yours as well?
ME: Not really.
BE: Mostly just get-togethers and food?
* Best reason for getting into acting:
Rufus Sewell, star of “Eleventh Hour.”
“At first, it was sort of an attention grabbing exercise, but eventually it developed into a way of getting free sandwiches…like it is now.”
* The best anecdote I heard in 2008:
Eric Roberts‘ story about working with Sterling Hayden on “King of the Gypsies.”
“I’d been working about two or three weeks, and when we went into our night shoot, I had my first scene with him, in the back of a car. I show up early like I always do, and he shows up late, like he always did, and I’m waiting for him to get ready. The assistant director comes and knocks on the door and says, ‘Mr. Hayden would like to speak with you.’ And I’m, like, ‘Cool, man, great!’ So I go over there, and I knock on the door. ‘Come in, come in!’ So I open up this door, and it reeks of hash! And he says to me, ‘Have a seat, son! So, what are we doing tonight?’ I say, ‘We’re doing scene 85.’ ‘I know the number! What the fuck happens?’ I say, ‘Well, it’s a night scene, and you want to bring me back into the fold because you don’t think your son is too capable but you think your grandson is,’ I being the grandson. He goes, ‘Okay! How’re your improvisations?’ I said, ‘I’m pretty good.’ He says, ‘Well, that’s what we’re doing tonight: we’re gonna improv the whole thing. Now that I know what we’re doing, we’re just gonna shoot from the hip, okay?’ I said, ‘Great!’ He said, ‘Y’wanna get high with me?’ I said, ‘No, if I get high, I can’t talk.’ And he says, ‘Well, I can only talk when I’m high!’
* The quote that got me the most online mileage in 2008:
Barry Bostwick‘s comments about MTV’s remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“That’s a waste of money. That would be like saying…and understand that I’m not making this as a total comparison, but it would be like saying, ‘Hey, let’s go remake ‘Casablanca’! How are you going to remake it? Every time it was done on stage, I thought it showed the flaws of the piece. I think it’s a one-off; I don’t think you can repeat that. I mean, look at the sequel. What was that called? ‘Shock Treatment’? I never saw that, but it was a miserable failure…even more of one than ‘Rocky Horror’ was when it first came out! That one wasn’t even re-discovered and turned into a cult hit. I mean, I don’t know. You should just leave those things alone. I think films like (‘Rocky Horror’) are stand-alones, and they’re brilliant for what they were at the time they were done. I mean, you would have to do it as a period piece. It’s not like you’re going to update ‘Oklahoma.’ It’s of its time.”
* Proof that wishes do come true if you keep wishing long enough:
After many years of trying, I was finally able to interview two of my all-time favorite musicians, Lindsey Buckingham and Billy Bragg.
“When (Fleetwood Mac) got off the road after the Say You Will tour in 2004, I said to the band, ‘Don’t bother me for three or four years, because I really want to put out two albums in relatively short order for me and tour behind both of them.” – Lindsey Buckingham
“There is the opportunity to reach a younger audience, and that’s almost all done now through peer-to-peer recommendation. In some ways, what other people think of as pirates are actually my promo force, so I’m rather loath to clamp them in irons and fine them for being enthusiastic about my music!” – Billy Bragg
* The best two-for-one special for a straight-to-video project:
Clint Howard and Larry Miller, who were both promoting “Senior Skip Day”
“I figure I just keep working and let the chips fall where they may, and if that means I end up having an eclectic career, so be it. For me to try to manipulate things or for me to try to tell people or the system how it should be…I’m just a kind of a more go-with-the-flow guy when it comes to my acting career.” – Clint Howard
“Even the movies or TV shows that haven’t been that good, there hasn’t been a day on that set that I haven’t loved. Even when people say, ‘This caterer is no good, this guy with the food isn’t as good as the other guy,’ I’m there with a giant pile of free food, thinking, ‘Gee, it tastes pretty good to me!’” – Larry Miller
* The most easy-going interviews of the year:
Bill Lawrence, creator of “Scrubs,” and Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby on “NCIS,” mostly because they both remembered me from in-person encounters during past TCA Press Tours.
“It’s tough to write the same show for eight years, man. I made some mistakes. I let (‘Scrubs’) get too broad and goofy in the middle, and, y’know, we got a little lazy sometimes and were a little bit of a caricature of ourselves.” – Bill Lawrence
“Every Halloween since Season One, I see so many people walking around dressed as Abby! Because it’s such a fun costume — and it’s easy! Ponytails, fake tattoo on your neck, lab coat, big boots, choker collar, wrist bands, done!” – Pauley Perrette
The question I was most proud to have gotten answered:
I didn’t know how Denis Leary would react when I asked him about the longstanding claims that he plagiarized a lot of Bill Hicks’ act, so I waited until the end to pose the question, but there was no tension in his voice when he provided me with a lengthy answer. In fact, it’s so long that I’d feel guilty posting it all here, so here’s the link to the whole interview, and you can just skip to the end if you don’t want to read it all…though, of course, you really should read it all. It’s only polite.