Some are born to it, while others have it thrust upon them. Consider the case of the "Famous Mysterious Actor"--the host of the hilariously surreal late night talk show parody, The Famous Mysterious Actor Show (currently showing on Comcast cable channel 14). Clad in what appears to be a Mexican wrestling mask (but really isn't… more on that later), soiled army parka and black fright wig, the Famous Mysterious Actor was born to fame--but is more than willing to thrust his fame down your throat.
Though considered the brainchild of local sketch comic Joe Frice--leader of the erstwhile Portland Underground Showbiz Society Y'all (P.U.S.S.Y) comedy team--The Famous Mysterious Actor Show actually has a belligerent drunk to thank for its current incarnation. While performing a sketch that parodied a Leno-style talk show, a loud rambunctious drunk from the audience began screaming and throwing beer at the players. The cast was all too happy to return the favor, and the show quickly turned into an out-of-control melee.
As producer J.D. Fisher puts it, "Afterwards we were like, 'Wow… we've really got to do this again….'"
The talk show parody hosted by Famous took off. After months of highly successful bi-weekly performances at the Ash Street Saloon, local film production company Funland Pictures took The Famous Mysterious Actor Show to its current weekly spot on Comcast channel 14. [It should be noted that Comcast 14 differs from cable public access in that production values are much higher, and the shows are supported by advertising… just like real TV!]
However, while cable television and The FMA Show may sound like a match made in heaven, there is the Comcast code of decency--which often runs afoul of the FMA's need to yell words like "foreskin," or "vaj" (as in VAJ-ina).
"It's ridiculous," says Frice. "Lars Larson [also on Comcast 14] can go on TV and spew hatred, vitriol, and call [Washington governor] Christine Gregoire things like 'Stalin.' All we're doing is making jokes about farts, foreskins, and fur [yet another code word for vagina]."
Nevertheless, the cast has come up with a deviously clever way of sidestepping any potential censorship problem [again… more on that later]--and while Comcast may have a conservative bent, they seem dedicated to keeping the hilarious and subversive comedy of The Famous Mysterious Actor Show … and the Famous Mysterious Actor, himself.
But who exactly is this Famous Mysterious Actor person? For those unfamiliar with this walking squeaky-voiced enigma, he--or it-- is a sugar-addicted enfant terrible who possesses both the charm and festive cruelty of an eight-year-old going on 60. A stuttering pop culture enthusiast, Famous waxes high-pitched poetics on subjects as varied as Pixie Stix, Michael Jackson, the Iraq War, and as you will read in the following interview, Hostess Twinkies. For those who haven't experienced the magic of Mysterious, tune in to Comcast 14, or attend a taping (more info later). For those who have had the pleasure of witnessing his sugar-sprinkled majesty and his clever cohorts, prepare to learn the deepest, darkest secrets of the mysterious man behind the mask.
At least I think it's a mask.
THE FAMOUS MYSTERIOUS INTERVIEW
[Though our phone interview was scheduled far in advance, I had the misfortune of calling during one of Famous' favorite cartoons, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. If his responses sound at all testy, this is the reason.]
THE MERCURY: Famous, why are you such a mystery? Why don't you show your fans the face behind the mask?
FAMOUS: That's a very confusing question, because I DON'T WEAR A MASK. I'm not from the United States of Earth. This is my real face. I came out of the egg looking like this. I don't know why you would say something like that. You wouldn't walk up to some Chinese dude, and say, "Yo! Open your eyes, or I won't accept you!"
I'm sorry… You're exactly right, I'm a racist.
You want to race me?
No… I'm… forget it. Tell me about your history.
I was born out of an egg and then I started a life of showbiz. I was an entertainer in Germany's bathrooms. Then I was an entertainer on the stages of America. And then I was the host of my own talk show.
A German bathroom entertainer? What kind of entertaining is that?
Mostly chair taming and juggling chain saws. And magic tricks! Like the "East German Frankfurter Ace of Spades." That's where you pick a card and then you try to find your card, and I keep following you around until you order a hot dog--and you find your card under the mustard. That's when you devote your life to me.
On your talk show you often reference a character named "Slit Van Winkle."
Yes. He's a character of lore. He sleeps in the woods until teenagers wake him up in the middle of a nasty sex dream. Then he chases them and slits them. And then he sleeps for another 20 years, and that's the end of Slit Van Winkle, part one. In part two, Slit Van Winkle is recruited by the government to hunt Bigfoot. At the end of that one, the government and Slit Van Winkle realize that whenever you slit a Bigfoot, a new fully formed Bigfoot jumps out. And if you administer a double slitting? Double Bigfoot. Anyway, that's why I like Slit Van Winkle. Plus he has the dopest slit techniques I've ever seen…
Tell me about the other characters on your show.
There's my best friends John Schmitt and Cutter…
Cutter only speaks German, right? Does he understand any English?
He can understand it if you were talking right at his eyeballs, or if you're shaking your fist at him. He gets the point. Then there's my producer J.D. Fisher and Danny, and my band, the No Joke Ensemble. Plus "Turkey the Rooster" is my chicken. And the picture of the black panther I wear around my neck is named "Scorpion Blackie."
Where did you get that picture, anyway?
Someone hit it with a dart at the fair.
Who do you consider to be the most and least valuable players of your ensemble?
"Me" is the most valuable. And the least valuable? The guests who come on the show who bring me no candies and presents. I have no value for that.
What makes a perfect FMA show guest?
Having a sense of reverence and awe is a good start. I expect them to talk about me mostly, but I do have a question or two for them. A bad guest would be one who uses dirty language. Comcast makes us bleep dirty words. But I talked to Comcast and they said we can use the word "fudge" instead of "bleep" so when someone says something dirty, it would go something like this: "Yo, ladies have a [FUDGE]ina." Or "Yo, you dirty cocksucking mother[FUDGE]er."
What's next for the FMA show?
We move to our new time slot at 10 pm on Sunday nights starting April 10, and I will be happy because people will know where to find us. That way they don't have to keep looking around with a flashlight in different caves and in the attic behind all the fruit jars.
Now it's time for the questions I stole from James Lipton from Inside the Actors Studio. Question one: What can I say to make you cry?
Name something that gives you joy in life.
Being the greatest entertainer in the world, the likes of which humanity has never seen… and then, gummy sharks.
What does "success" mean to you?
Being able to make or break someone's career based on the outcome of a footrace.
Anyone in particular you have in mind?
Shirley. She's that lady who brings bad desserts to potlucks all over town. And people are always like, "Eww, Shirley brought that," and you have to set it aside. But nooo, you can't make fun of Shirley.
What's your favorite word?
My favorite word would be, "Famous… you have Twinkie the Kid on line two."
Twinkie the Kid! Him and Fruit Pie the Magician used to sell Hostess Twinkies and Fruit Pies back in the olden days. But that Fruit Pie the Magician? Lying son of a bitch. I would say, "Did you take my pants out of the dryer, Fruit Pie?" And he'd say, "No!" Then I look in Fruit Pie's laundry basket… and there they are. He could just tell me he took my pants out of the dryer… I won't be mad.
Hmm. All right, what's your favorite dirty word?
It's like a play on words. You know that T-shirt that says "Whooph arted?" Mine's a lot more clever. And it's copyrighted so don't try to steal it. My T-shirt would say, "Whooph uckin arted?!"
Where do you see yourself in five years? 15 years? 45 years?
[Muttering under his breath, "Mmm… five years plus 15 years is 20 years plus 45 years equals…"] Oh! In 65 years? I guess I would be with Waylon Jennings, Slim Goodbody, and Destro [from the G.I. Joe cartoon] in the "Famous Mysterious Actors Hall of Fame"! Okay, I have to go now 'cause Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space is almost over. I don't know if they're taking off in their rocket ship to escape the evil dude, or if they've already won.
[You can watch The Famous Mysterious Actor Show this Saturday, April 2, at 8 pm on Comcast channel 14, and starting on April 10, every Sunday at 10 pm until forever. Catch a live taping of The FMA Show, featuring pizza and beer, at 7 pm on the first three Wednesdays of every month at Studio 1050, the Lippman Building, 50 SE Yamhill (Yamhill and Water Ave). See www.thefmashow.com or funlandpictures.com for details.]