Tom Lenk is coming to Portland to perform his one-man show this Friday. I don't know about you guys, but Lenk's character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Andrew, was my favorite of all the Joss Whedon characters ever. Tom was kind enough to grant me an interview—I believe the restraining order he has since requested was well worth it.
Mercury: How does your new show differ from your previous solo shows?
LENK: My current show is a sort of alt.comedy/stand-up/storytelling format. This one is all about the things that happened to me on and off the Broadway stage. My previous shows were more sort of show and tell-y. I was reading Buffy-era comments about me from the internet computer machine, my first "modeling" photos, etc. They featured guest stars like Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Danny Strong, Emma Caulfield, my family. My Dad and I played a tuba duet together. Who does that? Me and my family apparently.
This new show is just me and whatever local guitar player I find in each city. I'm really excited about it, but seeing that most people know me from Buffy and I haven't done my previous shows outside of LA, I might need to give Portland a little Buffy sampling from the old show. I want to give the people what they want! It's like going to see Madonna. You're just plain angry if she doesn't sing Like A Virgin! At least do it in a medley or something! And yes, I'm like Madonna. I'm totally a chameleon. Mercury: You originated the character of Franz in the '80s rock musical Rock of Ages. Which was your favorite number? Can you sing it for me? In my apartment with candles burning? I know you don't have the same feelings for me (YET) but you'll learn. OR ELSE. Oh ha ha! Um.
My favorite song is actually one I didn't sing... "Can't Fight This Feeling" as sung by two heterosexual men to each other. I actually have a version of it that I do using a video of myself—it's me singing a love ballad with myself. I can sing it to you, but I'd like to request that we have a chaperone.
I read on Twitter you're a big 30 Rock fan. If you could write your own character for that show, what would it be?
Maybe I play a blogger who is obsessed with TGS and his posts start to boost ratings when he attaches video clips of Jenna's sketches that go viral? In an effort to keep him appeased Liz invites him to hang out at the show for a week. Things go totally wrong and Jenna throws up on me.
BTW, One of the cast members in Rock of Ages is friends with her [Jenna], and I told her never to tell me if she was in the audience, because it would make me too nervous. But then sometimes when I was under the weather and exhausted I would think to myself... "What if Tina Fey is in the audience right now?" And then my heart would start racing, get nervous, and I would do it for TINA!
Where do you see yourself in five years, six months from now? Answers will be recorded and followed up on—by the FBI. I'm serious.
On an extended vacation in Miami in a private facility where I drunkenly sit in a jacuzzi wearing nothing but a skull and cross bone doo rag waiting for my hair plug surgery to heal.
Mercury: Buffy Buffy Buffy OBLIGATORY BUFFY QUESTION. Just put anything you want right here. Maybe a sketch or a thumbprint or a funny picture of a cat. Or a poem. About me.
by thomas loren lenk
glorious days of Buffy
comedy and drama mask together as one
artists painting with enchanted brushes
many magical unicorns and rainbow pony friends
oh dance memories in my head of spells and times of frolic
fake blood and prosthetic heads of laughter echo in my heart chambers
Was that ok? I mean, that show changed my life. I feel like everything I do now can be traced back to that one casting director workshop I did with Lonnie Hammerman. She brought me in for Anya and Amy and they saw me for the role of Cyrus. And then they kept bringing me in for other roles on Buffy and Angel and then the guy playing Tucker wasn't available for the role and they brought me in for it. I mean what was meant for someone else turned into a job that has taken me all around the world where I've met fans of the show... I mean it blows my mind. I mean I'm living a character actor's dream! My career has been a series of happy accidents and bad haircuts. I love it.
Your grassroots effort to engage the internet in booking and filling seats at your shows is pretty great. When/how did you decide to do it that way?
I had some friends heading up to Seattle for July 4th and I was itching to do my show again and to get out of town. So thought, well, I'll see if anyone in Seattle might wanna come. And they did. What has prevented me from doing my shows outside of LA and the one time in NYC, was that I had no idea if people would show up. I just had this crazy fear that I would be performing to an empty theater. But now I can ask people where they want me to go and who wants to see it.
So now, I've been picking cities where I have friends or that I'd like to visit and then putting the word out to the masses to see if they are up for a Lenk-invasion. Portland is first; I'm trying to nail down some dates in SF, looking at a full weekend in Seattle for the first week of September and Toronto after that! And that's just the beginning; I'll be adding cities, as people demand them!
You did Mortified. I love Mortified! Did this inform your solo work or was it vice versa?
I LOVE Mortified. Actually going to watch the LA show tonight! I started doing my solo shows even before I heard about Mortified, but they are my people! I love them! I had so many friends who had performed with them and they put me in touch with producer David Nadelberg. Mortified totally changed my life. I didn't realize diving into my past would bring up so many emotions. I found a collection of songs that I wrote in Junior High and High School that are TERRIBLE. I mean they are hilarious! But there was also this whole storyline about who I was writing them for that is really sweet and touching. Reading stuff that I wrote as a teenager is quite possibly the most vulnerable thing I've ever done as a performer and certainly one of the most awesome! I've done it in LA and SF and perhaps I'll have to come back to do the Mortified Portland edition!
Tell me about the creepiest fan letter you've ever received. Make sure to leave my name out of it.
I used to get these cool creepy letters from this guy in Germany who had some sort of online shrine to me. He's since gone offline with his Shrine. So sad for me. I guess I'm not current enough. I gotta make a sex tape or something and really get my starmeter up. I met him once at a Star Trek convention I was appearing at in Germany. He gave me a book about the small town in Old East Germany where my family was from. It was pretty cool. Also at that same convention I heard a Star Trek Enterprise cast member perform a fully realized hip hop song about Star Trek. I think he rapped. I was never the same after that.
Can you tell me anything about the character you'll be playing in Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods? And if not, can you make something up? Try to make it sexy and controversial. I want a lot of page views.
I play a techie lab guy. I think that's all I can say. It's just hit me that I play a lot of smarty pants computery type tech guys. If only I was as intelligent as the people I portray. I have a degree in Theater. If only the characters I played needed an intense background in Chicano Theater History. Let's discuss "Marisol" or "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges." Or how about several semesters of Acting voice and movement with a focus on Corework: "Tell me a story about the moon and the stars in a foreign language not of this world...goooo!!!! --- Hahbalabah zee bo da ba zeee naaaayyy." Also I spent a lot of time trying to learn how to breath from my private parts. I did not answer your question good. I am a jerk.
Would you like to touch my hair?
Is it soft? Do you have extensions? Chemically treated? I don't know how to french braid so stop asking me. How often do you condition? Have you thought about a hairmask? Or VO5 hot oil treatments? It seems like it's really dry and brittle, like elephant hair. Did you know that elephants have very fine hair almost invisible to the human eye? That's what makes them mammals, Oh and that they have mammary glands. Did you know that they also go through several sets up teeth through their lives and then after their last set falls out they can't eat anymore and then they die of starvation or malnutrition. So that's essentially why they know they are going to die. Because they are starving. Maybe we can launch a campaign to feed elderly elephants soft blended foods and smoothies? Together we can make a difference. End of interview sad face.