Famous Mysterious Actor Latenight Talk Show is
some funny fuckin'
shit. I'll admit I had no idea of its existence
until they called me to be a guest back in April.
It's a post-apocalyptic post-modern stew of Saturday
Night Live-style sketches riffing on politics
and current events, strange public service announcements,
gimmicks that are designed to fall flat and local
The Ash Street is turned into a television studio
for FMA, and onlookers become the live studio
audience. Portland celebrity guests are all but
ignored while Famous freestyles in his annoying
nasally whine and the slicksters in suits act
smug and, well, slick. Towards the end of each
show, a local band plays a song or two and then
is invited up on stage for more weirdness. If
you like the Dead Milkmen, you're gonna love Famous!
Not surprisingly, the show has become enormously
popular. So popular that local art star Mona Superhero
deigned to be a guest on the show ("My tit fell
out of my dress onstage....I was so nervous I
didn't notice!") and subsequently fell in "love"
with Famous. So in love that she took time out
of her busy art star schedule to do this interview
with the crew: FMA creator Joe Frice, German-speaking
slickster Cutter, Ed McMahon foil John Schmitt,
producer J.D. Fisher, videographer Wally Fessler,
intern (who doesn't have an intern?) Kris Lutsock
and, of course, Captain Happy.
SUPERHERO: Joe, you began performing with the
Bottom Rung in Eugene, OR. Tell me about the Bottom
FRICE: REAL cutting edge stuff. Corporate comedy.
We would get hired to do faculty shows with community
college related sketches. It wasn't really funny.
Had anyone had performing experience prior to
None of these guys were in the Bottom Rung. It
was me and three other guys. We did it for a couple
of years and then I moved to Portland.
Did you get your start at the Ash St.?
SCHMITT: Jimmy Maks.
Jimmy Maks was the first place. Week after week
we had a continuing storyline with Famous, the
other John Schmitt, Cutter and Denny.
What happened to the original John Schmitt?
He got kicked out and was so despondent that he
spawned an evil doppelgänger John Schmitt...who
was dedicated to destroying everything the Famous
Mysterious Actor stood for. Famous loves freedom.
Did you have an ultimate battle of good vs. evil?
In evil John Schmitt's mind, but to the audience
it was like, "Well, this guy's not entertaining."
He had fireballs.
Yeah, he would throw imaginary fireballs.
LUTSOCK: Chucking T-Bone halfway across the room
was good. [All agree.]
T-Bone has been there all along. He was the first
person I met in Portland.
Had anyone done any comedy prior to that?
J.D. and I wrote comedy in High School that we
never thought we'd actually perform. It was sort
of a continuation of playing Dungeons and Dragons.
So you're saying you never got any tail in high
That sentence could end at tail.
Do you have any ice I could chew on?
There's quite a buzz surrounding the Famous Mysterious
I think I'm inside the bubble. I don't hear about
the buzz because all my friends are in the show.
Would you consider televising the show?
I would because on TV you have much more control
over what the audience is looking at. You can
use the medium and really focus on the bits.
It's the logical next step.
We need to find a TV studio with beer taps.
You air videos, "commercials" and trailers during
the show. Are there any plans for a full-length
Trailers are much more interesting.
Trailers are always better. I know what the Two
Brothers movie is about. Tigers. One is regular,
one is bionic.
Haven't you seen the trailer for it?
It was going to be called the "Battle of the Bionic
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
What's it called when you never die?
I would be an immortal seagull. I'd be at the
beach all the time and I'd never have to pay for
You wouldn't have to worry about Alka-Seltzer.
I don't want to be chased off by the other seagulls
though. "Why don't you go to the dump? Go pick
over that shit. Forever."
How much of the show is improvised and how important
There's not a full rundown with everyone in the
room until about an hour before the show. Everyone
has a good idea what their role is but they don't
know what the others are doing.
Ideas have been kicked around but nobody knows
what will happen. Basically, the guests make it.
Who has been the most outrageous guest?
He was out of his mind, wasn't he? What does he
call himself? A Jimi Hendrix look-alike. Not an
He doesn't impersonate Jimi in any way. He just
looks like him.
He can't sing, can't dance, can't play guitar.
He wouldn't even touch the guitar. He was like
"Get it away from me!" Dude, it's a prop. I'm
not asking you to play it.
I think Famous' perfect guest would be a mirror.
Who are you influences?
I don't think we have any...
I've loved comedy since I was a kid.
Yeah. I can't think of any direct influences that
shaped the show. It's basically a diagram of the
late night talk show designed by Jack Parr and
Steve Allen. We follow that format as Johnny Carson
did, Letterman does, Leno, Conan. We have influences
that we liked but I don't know that they have
directly influenced the show.
You are being compared to Andy Kaufman.
That has been said for a long time.
I don't know where the comparison lies, but especially
at Jimmy Maks we would do stuff that one third
of the audience loved, one third hated and the
last third was just confused. We would show up
in the middle of open mic comedy night. There
would be four comedians and then we would come
up and weigh a watermelon. I don't think the show
we do now is Kaufmanesque. We're going for laughs.
We don't want to creep people out. The confusion
comes from people wondering why this fucker has
a talk show. He's not the most eloquent.
Is there a chance we might see you...
We see you do that every two weeks! Is there a
chance we might see you perform in another context?
Oh yeah. Until we started doing the FMA show about
a year ago, we were doing other characters at
the open mic and comedy nights.
I want to hear more about P.U.S.S.Y.
The Portland Underground Showbiz Society, Y'all.
It was a collective.
It was the FMA players. We also had F.I.C.T. The
Freemont Institute of Technology. They were scientists.
We would conduct experiments and do audience interactive
If you could have any superpower what would it
Kris has a list of them.
One of them is getting tail.
He'd be happy just to have the power to convince
women that they have had relations with him. So
the woman is walking around going "Yeah, I did
Josh and I sat down with our friends and came
up with a list of our superhero powers. I could
eavesdrop on free-range chickens.
Mutant hand. Like in Total Recall where
that guy took off his hand.
I can tell you that Josh would assume the power
of China O'Clock and he was the Master of Monkey
[Translated from German.] Does that include chinchilla
Despite my undergrad degree, I know nothing of
I probably wouldn't be in a situation where cops
are chasing me but if bad guys were chasing me
and I was like "Oh man, I'm doomed!" and I was
running across rooftops then I could jump and
splat up against the side of a building and slide
down like a Wacky Wallwalker. Hell yeah.
Brush the dirt off, wash yourself with soap and
be sticky again.
That's the thing. It would be an exciting episode
because there's no soap to be found!
[Translated from German.] I would be able to grow
large and crush buildings at will. I could also
make myself small again.
The commissioner would call you up. "We need this
building demolished now!" You could make some
Do you remember the show Captain Nice?
It was about this mild mannered guy who would
eat these pills and turn into Captain Nice.
He was an asshole? He'd have to take the pills
to be nice in certain situations?
I know that's how I operate.
He'd be flying Great American Hero style
and the pills would wear off and he'd be f'd.
Captain Nice went off air and Mr. Terrific
[Translated from German.] Was it live action?
It was done by the people who did Get Smart.
Buck Henry and Bernie Kopell.
My one qualm with the Love Boat...
You had a qualm?
They all had white guy afros.
What's wrong with the white guy afro?
I have very straight hair.
You'd never get on the show.
This question is for Patty. Lovers: salty or sweet?
I am a lover of all things that are sweet.
I'm a salty sour kind of guy.
Salty sour is good. You gotta have the best of
both worlds. Laffy Taffy and Cheetos.
Is this a veiled reference to what kind of tail
He's trying hard to think back to the last tail
I'm still looking through old issues of National
Can I buy you a drink?
miss the next convergence of these freaks on August
4th, featuring guests Sam Mallory and Mike Clark,
and the FMA anniversary EXTRAVAGANZA on August
29th, featuring all of Famous' favorite guests,
including myself and Mona Superhero!