This coming week I’ll be posting the most exciting chapter of our story so far, our trip to New York last October where, amongst other things, we attended NY Comic-Con. As a teaser, here’s a bit of footage from our bat sh*t crazy trip across the pond:

To put this into context we thought it’d be a great idea for our potential pitch/ Kickstarter vid to get me stopped at the entrance to Comic-Con by a cop and have a bit of a tussle. On the third day of the Con we pretty much figured getting an actual cop to partake might be a tall order, until near the end of the day, we happened upon this guy in a Gotham City PD uniform. Perfect! (or so we thought)

After explaining to this guy and his friend what we were doing the man in blue agreed to help us and off to the entrance we went. Lou had lined up the shot and explained to us both what he wanted. I was to walk through the door, once I got to the security counter this ‘cop’ would stop me and we’d have a bit of an argument whilst he demanded I take my mask off. What actually happened (and what I wasn’t prepared for) was that the guy immediately launched at me and started wrestling me to the ground. My heart was pounding as I saw the pure fury in this guy’s face as he tugged at my shirt, countering every attempt I made to wriggle free. Time slowed down and I genuinely thought this guy was going to floor me. I tried desperately to ‘tap out’ of his vice like grip until he suddenly realised this wasn’t supposed to be real and laughing, let me go. Slightly shell-shocked, I took off the mask and the guy patted me down and shook my hand.

“You put up quite a fight there buddy but I would have got you in cuffs eventually” he said. Now I know cosplayers can sometimes take their role play quite seriously but I thought “this guy is dedicated”. 

Whilst all this was going on, Michelle was stood watching this spectacle with the guy’s friend and had been having quite the conversation. Here’s her side of what went down:

So I’m left talking to this way-tall Stevie Van Zandt type in a bandana and leather trousers who’s nursing a beer – an unusual sight at Comic-Con – not so much because geeks don’t drink (hey-ull no) – more coz beer’s about nine bucks a pop in the convention centre. We’re stood about twenty feet away from all the action, amidst the thronging ninja turtles and chicks dressed as the Tardis. This guy leans down and says in pure Italian American Jersey: “Err… I think you oughtta know… errr… my buddy over there… he’s a real cop. And… errr…” At this point, it’s kicking right off, about fifteen feet away from us. The Gotham cop is wrestling with Gritty and it’s No Quarter – a veritable maelstrom of limbs, boots, and black hair. The chimp mask looks like it’s screaming. Stevie Van Zandt rubs his chin and nods, like he sees this stuff all the time. “And errr… yeah… he’s been drinking since noon…” I’m watching with extra interest, now I know it’s ‘real’, which is soon confirmed. The first thing the breathless, shiny-eyed cop does when they all bundle back to us is flip out his NYPD badge – aye carumba. As for Gritters, when he took off that mask it was like he literally had tweety birds circling his head. 

As we were leaving we saw the cop having his photo taking with his hands around Darth Maul’s throat. I leaned over to him and said “He’s getting off light, innee?” Gotham cop chuckled and nodded in a way that signaled loud and clear – NEVER get on the wrong side of the law in Jersey…

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12 oz

12 Oz Mouse

If Swim shows were qualifications 12 Oz Mouse would be a Ph.D. in Freakonomics.

I have to confess, it was the show I never got into in the heady Bravo days. I think because of Bravo’s erratic scheduling I failed to notice there was any kind of continuity let alone any point to it and now I’m kicking myself for it! Matt Maiellaro should be a familiar name to any Swim aficionado having been one of the creative forces behind everyone’s favourite food based treat Aqua Teen, the parody of anime that is Perfect Hair Forever and the hick-tastic Squidbillies… Well ok, he was there for the birth of Squidbillies. That slack jawed, betentacled baby definitely belongs to Dave Willis now. I’ll get on to the squids some other time, this bit’s all about the mouse.

With this project Maiellaro shifts focus squarely on character development rather than glitzy flash animation or gimmicks. With his other projects there was already something the audience could instantly hook into. For example Aqua teen sets our food based characters in a house with a neighbour and they’re…well, food! There’s no continuity allowing an infinite cavalcade of dadaist   situations every week. Squidbillies, they’re squids and a little bit country. Perfect hair, the floppy fringed anime thing.

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With 12 Oz mouse there is no immediate sense of what’s actually going on. You’re presented with essentially animated scribblings. When Matt Maiellaro pitched this idea after the huge success of Aqua Teen and Space ghost it was on the premise that it would be ultra cheap to make and could be delivered quickly (in some cases very quickly with some shows airing unfinished). He drew the characters himself to the best of his ability, which is not very much at all, and decided that the world they lived in was made of cardboard.

Should he have explained this to the audience? No need and that’s the essence of 12 Oz Mouse. The lack of anything to instantly grab you means if you want to get into 12 Oz Mouse you have stop looking at the ‘why?’ and just see what happens. There’s a mouse called Fitz, everyone around him isn’t a mouse. The world is very basic but nobody cares.

So what does the mouse do? He drinks beer occasionally (his favourite drink is 12 beers) but that’s not a big part of it but it is a part of it. He has a pal named Skillet who is a squirrel/ Chinchilla and an excellent drummer, he doesn’t speak he just squeals loudly. Oh and Skillet isn’t drawn, he was nicked from some old clip art book. He looks all the better when wielding a deadly arsenal in one of the show’s many action scenes or when gagged with a gimp ball whilst the hula hooping ‘New guy’ tortures him with mesmerising music.

Then there’s a shark voiced by the talented Adam Reed of 70/30 fame. He’s sort of the boss. The shark as you can imagine doesn’t move so well out of water although he’s able to breath, drive a car.. oh and he’s bullet proof. The image of the shark is the other character not actually drawn by Maiellaro and is stolen from an old episode of Sealab and was used numerous times by different shows, most famously appearing in  Space Ghost. The shark’s closest associate is a pink square with glasses but no eyes.  That doesn’t stop him from seeing though. He’s also very rich and very arrogant.

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Have I lost you yet? You see if you happen to catch an episode you can look at it two ways. Firstly you could see it as an absurdist, one off cartoon with badly drawn yet excellently scripted characters. It may just turn you off or you could spend 11 minutes mesmerised by the pretty shapes and perfectly executed use of the pregnant pause. On its own an episode makes very little sense. Your other choice is that you could become a mouse devotee and follow it from start to finish. Things happen, characters appear and disappear, there’s the occasional  musical number, in fact one episode is just raw footage from the title scenes with Matt Maiellaro’s music on top of it spliced with bits from the show. It all seems very weird for the sake of being weird but this isn’t the case. If you are familiar with the Black Lodge or the Log Lady scenes from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks you’ll get a sense of what he’s trying to do here in terms of story telling, albeit in a much more comical way.

The truth about 12 Oz Mouse is that there’s a gloriously constructed conspiracy story underneath all the weird but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Some episodes go nowhere just when you think you’re getting your head round it. For instance, it took me two seasons to figure out the wall clock was a character let alone the boss! The story is brought together through the superbly written dialogue between characters, professionally done by Maiellaro himself and the co-workers he thought would best suit the role. Take the stoner peanut cop for instance. This is voiced by Nick Weidenfeld, the executive producer who green lit the project. It’s testament to the way things work over at Williams Street that everyone scrubs up and gets behind projects that excite them and it’s the only reason anything like this could ever air. It was animated, usually at very short notice by the folks at Radical Axis, masters of flash animation who go far beyond the usual stuff you get on the web.

12 Oz Mouse will tickle the most gooey parts of your brain if you let it. Don’t be a chump like I was and dismiss it as nonsense, let Fitz into your life and surf the weird for a while.

Banana Magic

Banana magic the night before (the toaster has no part in it other than holding everything in place) I’ll explain it sometime… or maybe I won’t

After Tim and Eric we got a proper ache to get this film done. With just a couple of weeks notice we decided to take the plunge and head over the pond to New York to cover Comic-Con where we hoped to reach out to the adult swim talent who would be appearing there. This is the story of that trip and the important next step in getting this thing made.

THURSDAY

I awoke after a restless sleep, most of my was packing done and I had time for a last-minute panic whilst breakfasting before I was on my way. Mrs C got up with me and we spent our last couple of hours together watching Vintage TV which at that time of the morning must cater mainly for the elderly owing to the rampant blitz of 40’s and 50’s music. Bloody Vera Lynn, nothing like a weepy war classic to make you realise how much you’re going to miss someone. The emotion hit me like a wave as I got to the front door and fighting back tears (like a man!) I bade a sad farewell to Mrs C and headed out to the airport. Sadness gave way to giddiness as I neared Piccadilly train station. Before I knew it I was bounding up the escalators at Manchester airport and onto the blue lit travelators that reminded me of every overseas adventure I’ve had in the past decade.

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The lady on the drinks stand accidentally made the drinks glass look like it ha man legs

Online check in! What a saviour, after legitimately barging past the massive queue of travellers I went straight to baggage check leaving me with ample time to peruse the duty-free. Ah duty-free, the best luxury of a trip to the US. After posing for a comedy picture at the rum tasting booth and equipping myself with two litres of Jim Beam for an amazing 24 quid it was time to board. I don’t want to bore you with the details of the plane, you’ve all probably been on one right? Think of that except I’m sat next to you drinking all the free wine I could blag from the flight attendants. I arrived at.. What was the damn time?  Mid day I think, yes that makes sense as I got 5 hours back (always a little odd). It was when stepping off the plane and into the security check queue that I realised how pissed I actually was and that I really hadn’t a clue what I was even doing there. Reality hit me as they took my fingerprints and quizzed me about my visit. “On holiday?” I said. Well that was technically true but it was definitely more like work, as you’ll find out later.

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Wine, comics and more wine please….

Our director (Native New Yorker and fellow bearded guy) Lou had sent me an email to say he was going to pick me up at JFK airport and maybe get some shots as I arrived. Hmm, no sign of Lou. I went outside to a much warmer climate than grizzly ol’ Mancland and had a cig whilst contemplating my next move. “Maybe he’s late” I thought, quickly followed by “Where am I? What am I doing? Where’s the friggin ashtray and how much will it cost for a text on this silly roaming tariff??”…  the important stuff.

Well Lou turned up eventually, he thought I was on a BA flight and was at the wrong terminal.  After manly handshakes and another cigarette we headed to his swish car and we headed to the City. The plan was to battle through the jet lag and pick up our Comic-Con press badges before getting me to my hastily booked accommodation.
Having only met Lou once previously (at Tim and Eric), this car ride was a great opportunity to learn more about each other. Crossing into Manhattan I felt butterflies in my stomach and as we passed familiar looking New York landmarks and buildings Lou told me of his love of Graffiti  and pointed out some his favourite tags done by close friends and local graffiti legends. As we neared the almighty Javits Convention Centre, home of New York Comic-Con, we looked for a car park and we were excited to see the plethora of costumed geekery walking down the road towards us… and this was only Press Day.

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Javits Convention Centre. Let the geekery commence!

Now I’m a massive believer in luck, fluke and wild unlikely coincidence. This manifested itself immediately as it would throughout the rest of this crazy trip. “I wonder if John J Galbo (my buddy from adultswimcentral.com) is going to be here today?” I said to Lou as we got near to the Press Entrance. I took all of 5 seconds to take in the enormity of the building before my eyes focussed on a male with bright blonde hair right in front of us in the queue. It was John J! BOOM! We couldn’t have organised that meeting if we tried. Now I’ve known this guy for two years, spoke to him many times on podcasts but that didn’t mean the intro in person wouldn’t be a bit clunky, especially meeting like that. I needn’t have worried though, we bonded quickly over some Walgreens Bacon Jerky and like best buddies we headed onto the show floor, all of us eager to see what geeky treasures awaited us. 

We weren’t disappointed. Video games, comics, action figures and massive Lego were the order of the day as we walked through Javits. To be honest there’s too much to describe. Close your eyes and think of that film ‘Paul’. Yes, that one that wasn’t as good as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of The Dead. Well think of the scenes of them at the convention and you’ll get the picture.  OH! We saw the Adam West Bat mobile and the Delorean from ‘Back to the Future’ and for $40 you could have your picture taken with the vehicles and a ‘hot’ model. We politely declined.

Batmobile

Der na na na na na na na, der na na na na na na na Adam West!

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Lou and the Lord of the Rings Lego

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Lou and John J check out the vintage gaming

Fate showed its hand again and we bumped into Jon Schnepp, director of Metalocalypse who I’d been frantically Facebooking only days before trying to line up an interview. He’s a big man and he was getting his swag on early carrying a massive bag of goodies so we set up a time for a Friday interview and got on our way. After a couple of hours of oohing and aahing round the myriad of weird and wonderful stands it was time to get me to my digs. The stress of the flight was taking hold and I was hungry and tired. To the East Village we went.

I arrived at the apartment just off Avenue C and 5th Street at around 6pm (about 11pm UK time). I climbed the grim looking staircase and was happy to be greeted by a lovely English lady, Jo who welcomed me in, got me a glass of water (I had a proper sweat on from dragging that suitcase up the stairs) and gave me the keys. After a brief chat I went back downstairs where Lou was still waiting. The great thing about doing this trip with a local was he knew where everything was. We walked and talked whilst looking for somewhere to eat. There’s a distinct air of crazy in every part of New York, in some areas it’s more concentrated than others and it was certainly more noticeable here in the East Village than the plush surroundings of midtown I’d been used to before. Hardcore tramps, the odd smackhead and one or two meth zombies can be initially daunting but on the whole it’s a beautiful area. We got proper pizza, my first taste of New York in five years and every bite was pure heaven.  We had a bit of a wander round the neighbourhood and dropped in on Clio who runs a trendy pudding shop called ‘Puddin’ (seriously, amazing pudding). This is the lady I’d be staying with next, one of Lou’s oldest and dearest buddies.  After an amble back to the car and feeling much calmer I said farewell to Lou and headed back up to the apartment where I had a great chat with Jo and got stuck in to my duty free. Jo had asked for some English treats from Tesco and I obliged. Twiglets, biscuits and hot sauce were the order of the day and I didn’t feel so much like a stranger in a strange land anymore.

Jos flat

Jo’s apartment was great and she had a superb music collection

The only thing worrying me at this point was Michelle, her accommodation had fallen through and although Jo had agreed she could stay with us, the last message we received from her was just before she got on the plane. I got hooked up to the internet and aimlessly watched a bit of American TV whilst I awaited word of what she was doing. By 10.30pm I knew her flight had landed yet still no message so I stayed up for as long as I could and by midnight I’d technically been up for 24 hours. It turns out her phone had taken ages to kick into the US networks and by the time it was working (2.30am) she’d given up any hope of getting to Jo’s and spent the night in the nearest Holiday Inn. Once I knew she was safe it was time for a heavy jet lagged snooze till Friday.

I won a Swimmie!

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Misc
Tags: ,

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adultswimcentral.com have graciously awarded me ‘Best British person on The Swimcast’ at the 2012 Swimmie Awards (note – that’s not the actual trophy)

In the face of stiff competition from 3 non-British and a bowl of Petunias I accepted the award live on air at around 4am one cold night in December. On behalf of all British adult swim fans everywhere I’d like to say thanks to John J and Trish Henson for making this possible and I promise to keep the British end up on the world’s best (and definitely most professional) adult swim related podcast ever created.

To hear my acceptance and the rest of the awards featuring adult swim legend Andy Sipes follow the link:

Adultswimcentral.com – The Swimmies 2012

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Tim and Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!

It’s 4am. It’s been a long night and the last stragglers from your epic party are vegging on the couch idly watching TV. The only thing to do in this situation is to send them home baffled and confused. Tim and Eric are essentially the most surreal arm of adult swim and the show presents an awkward take on public access TV. Through sketches, musical numbers and confusing commercials Tim and Eric make you feel like you’re watching the world after a particularly dangerous blow to the brain. Keep an eye out for the many celebrity cameos from people like Jeff Goldblum and Michael Cera.  Just give it a go and if you still don’t get it have some shrimp and white wine and give it another go until you get it. You won’t regret it.

Doctor Steve Brule

Steve Brule is played by the excellent John C. Reilly (think Step Brothers/ Talledega Nights). Dr Steve Brule dishes out absurd ‘do it yourself’ advice on everything from picnics to body odour. Check out Steve Brule on wine to get a flavour of what I’m on about.. For your health!

James Quall
Now this guy is not a character, he’s 100% real. James Quall’s talents lie in really bad impressions of celebrities, most of which involve him saying ‘Spaghetti and Meatballs’… oh and he sometimes sings. For that special ‘what the **** are we watching?’ moment James Quall is the man of the hour. I’d personally pay to see him do a three hour set in the freezing cold he’s that intriguing.

 

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Tim and Eric

We took our first plunge into film making on our home turf, London. Tim and Eric had toured the previous year with their live show, at the time we had managed to meet them thanks to some superb scheming by Michelle who not only got the tickets but sorted them an after party at a Camden Club down the road. It was all going great but a combination of tiredness and a couple of Serafinowicz-es meant they didn’t stay long and though I got to meet the pair they were not in the best of moods.
Still this was a new year and they were under less pressure as they were here to promote ‘Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie’. They were doing two showings an evening at the Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square, one with an intro and Q and A afterwards, the other the same but with live commentary throughout. Once again Michelle had her scheming cap on and got in touch with their agent in order to sort us out with an interview. All we needed was a crew.


Michelle enlisted the help of one her Turner buddies, Fadzai and a guy called Lou, a director working with 1185 films in Shoreditch to help get this started. Lou had previously directed music videos and a documentary about Haiti, he was also a massive adult swim fan which was a bonus because he at least knew what we were on about.

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Me and Michelle arrived at the cinema about half an hour before the first showing and were surprised to see the huge queue snaking around the corner. We took this opportunity to shoot some basic outdoor footage of the fans on Michelle’s handheld camera. We headed straight to the front of the queue to meet some diehard Tim and Eric fans who had been waiting outside for nearly 6 hours make sure they got front row seats.

As the queue started to move we were joined by Lou and a pal of his, Barney, a seasoned cameraman and director who had worked on, amongst others, those Guinness ads with Rutger Hauer in the 90’s. After speaking with cinema staff and Tim and Eric’s PA we headed in to set up the camera, we didn’t have anything too fancy, just a top of the line SLR camera, some decent microphones and a couple of lamps. It was then, once everyone had settled into the theatre that we first saw Tim and Eric. We said hello and they went off to start the intro to the movie, at which point we hurried in and waited in the aisles to get footage of the intro. They arrived to thunderous applause and got stuck into explaining themselves. It was decided that although we wanted to catch the film ourselves, we would wait for the second sitting and the juicy commentary.

Once they did the intro we met them again and they explained they needed to go eat. Off they went for a Chinese, this was our chance to play about with the camera. I’d brought my chimp mask, previously having only worn it at festivals and a Metalocalypse club night I’d organised the year before. I was representing my alter ego The Gritty Chimp and the mask was my uniform, combined with a cheap pirate hat, it was grotesque and baffling.
We took to the streets of London, me in the mask freaking out tourists and commuters alike. Lou and Barney directed me.

“where are you? Are you lost? What’s that over there? LOOM over me, LOOOOM!”

I felt a bit ridiculous but shrugged it off as I love the mask. The funniest part of the whole affair was shooting at the exit of a tube station. We had to wait downstairs and then walk up into the outside. Whilst we were waiting, a flurry of confused tourists walked past, some gasped and I made a baby cry. Brilliant! I couldn’t see anything below my own nose so stairs are a problem. Michelle grabbed my hand so I didn’t kill myself and we got a few shots of us coming up the stairs.
We wandered back to the cinema and got another shot of me sinisterly stalking a traffic warden without him realising. Watching it back, it looks quite creepy!
Then, Tim and Eric turned up. I turned round to find a confused looking Tim looking at me. Great Job!

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We started the interview just outside the screening room in the noisy foyer.  Tim and Eric had seemed quite nice initially and then stopped us almost immediately in our tracks. I should have seen this coming, most of the online interviews I’d watched were pretty intense with virtually every interviewer cringing their way through questions at the mercy of the madcap pair. They sensed our fear and the fact we were rank amateurs at this type of thing and pounced on us. After a lecture on not asking ‘yes/no’ questions they proceeded to go off tangent on virtually everything else we asked. It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced.
We struggled through to the bitter end, semi-shell shocked and a little star struck. We’d taken a massive beating by the surreal comedy kings but we kind of liked it. After the interview we could hardly look them in the eye but they took us to one side and apologised, they explained that’s what they do when the cameras are on and gave us some go advice on our interview technique going forward. We talked for a while about their movie tour, their trip to Europe and food. Tim and Eric appreciate decent nosh and complimented Michelle on her choice of restaurant which she arranged last time they were over.  Finally we talked about our film, our quest to find Lazzo and they were genuinely supportive. Tim and Eric are lovely, it’s official.
The only thing left to do was to settle down and watch the movie feeling slightly smug having survived possibly the hardest interview of the lot.