Tag Archives: Andy Dick

How Mick Napier almost killed me…

Mick Napier, as many know, is the founder of The Annoyance Theatre, which has just re-opened at its space at Clark and Belmont in Chicago, a stoned throw away from the one-time site of Crosscurrents Cabaret, where so many of us started out.

 Image

I had been studying and performing at Crosscurrents for a while when Mick Napier came along in the mid-to-late 80s. We were all working with Del Close and Charna Halpern, who had started the ImprovOlympic not long before that. My team, the Baron’s Barracudas, was the first house team of what later became the iO, and Mick moved up through the ranks quickly.

I remember coaching one of Mick’s early teams. I also remember directing a show called “Children’s Hospital” ay nearby Sheffield’s (which is one of the few places that’s still there today), which also featured Andy Dick, among others. And Mick was one of the few non-Baron’s Barracudas (Rich Laible was the other one) to appear in “Honor Finnegan vs. the Brain of the Galaxy,” the first scripted show directed by Del after he left Second City.

Mick eventually approached me about a new project he was doing for a new theatre he was creating. He called it Metraform, and he was going to stage an ambitious, messy show he was calling “Splatter Theatre,” in the upstairs space. He wanted me to present, between acts, what we lovingly referred to as “Meat Puppets.”

 Image

It was a subtle as it sounds. I was the host, a Frazier Thomas figure to pieces of raw meat that were manipulated from below by my puppeteers (who included, if I remember correctly, Dave Pasquesi and Tim Meadows. Wonder whatever became of them?…). The storylines, as they were, usually involved some sort of infidelity between a chicken, a pork chop, and whatever other cuts of meat happened to be on sale that day. They all ended violently.

It was one of my more dangerous shows. Every night before the show, I would have to prepare the various meats (and thaw out the whole chicken–for some reason, the chicken was always at least partially frozen). The water upstairs at Crosscurrents was always as cold as the chicken, so I could never truly disinfect my hands, and salmonella was a real possibility. After each show, I tried to get to the water before the “Splatter Theatre” cast. They were all covered with chocolate syrup dyed red to look like blood, so I didn’t blame them for wanting to clean up. But I was trying to ward off salmonella, so we all jostled with each other for access to the icy water. I guess it was a draw. They got clean, and I didn’t get salmonella.

And now, many years later, after decades of success doing it his way, The Annoyance Theatre has re-launched. I don’t know what they’re going to be doing, but I know it’ll always be worth checking out. So even though you’re undoubtedly uncomfortable about all of the attention you’re getting, deal with it, Mick. It’s what comes of doing things your own way for so long. And long may you annoy.

Advertisements

RIP Sid Caesar

There’s not much I can add to what so many others have written about the death of Sid Caesar since his death was announced. A genius? Yes. Brilliant? Of course.

Image

I only met him one time, briefly, and of course it involved Monty Python. In 1994, I was attending a party celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Monty Python at the British Consulate in L.A. It was an outdoor affair, a garden party, and as is usual for these sort of things, there were a number of celebrities, some undoubtedly Python Fans, and others having very interest in Python. Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, and Neil Innes were there representing Python. The press had turned out, and set up interviewing areas. A number of them were swarming around Richard Pryor, who was holding court in his wheelchair on a small makeshift stage. The Pythons themselves were more low-key, usually speaking to reporters one-on-one.

I ran into Andy Dick, who was a friend from Chicago, and we were catching up and name-checking some of our other mutual friends. Suddenly, in the middle of a story, Andy stopped and gasped “Oh my God, there’s Sid Caesar!” I turned and saw a tall, elderly man apparently wandering by himself. Andy and I scurried over to him and gushed a bit, expressing our admiration for the man and his work. Caesar looked a bit tired but grateful and thanked us. I was called away, but Andy remained, singing his praises to the legend himself. At that time, I think Andy had done NewsRadio, but it was before he had gone through his now well-known rough patch with drugs and alcohol, so he was a respected TV comedy figure. Whether Caesar even had a clue as to who Andy was, I don’t know. But I had the feeling that Caesar heard this a lot, and while he appreciated it no matter who it came from, he was also a little bored and frustrated because he was working very little. He looked old and tired, but managed to live another twenty years clean and sober, which for him, probably meant a lot.

A few minutes later, Andy ran over to me excitedly. “That was Sid Caesar! We just talked to Sid Caesar!” he gushed. While Caesar had probably forgotten both of us by that time, I think it’s something that both Andy and I will remember.