"I think you guys are very tied to America. I mean, to me Canada's like a fucking state of America. I don't know if that's an insult or what."
– Bob Odenkirk
Bob Odenkirk: How is it that there's a magazine called Georgia Straight in Vancouver?
Guy MacPherson: Well, we're right beside the Georgia Strait.
BO: Oh, I didn't know.
GM: What were you thinking?
BO: What's the Georgia Strait? A river?
GM: It's a, uh, a strait.
BO: I don't know what a strait is.
GM: Well, you got me. I don't either. I vaguely remember it from geography. It's between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
BO: Oh, yeah, yeah. A strait is a piece of water.
GM: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, it's a "piece" of water, I think that's the way we learned it.
BO: It's a hunk of water.
GM: Right!... So how you doing?
BO: I'm doing good. I'm in Madison, Wisconsin. We're gonna rent a bike.
GM: Oh. What are you doing there?
BO: We're doing a show tonight.
GM: So the tour has started, right?
BO: Oh, man, we've been going for a week and a half.
GM: And how's it been going?
BO: (long pause) It's going really well. It's really good. We've got the show figured out.
GM: You got it figured out, so by the time you hit Vancouver...
BO: It'll be drop dead boring.
GM: Oh, I see.
BO: No, we're having a good time.
GM: Mr. Show was a favourite of mine. How did the name come about?
BO: Well, um, we had a competition to see who could name it. We were just a little theatre show at the time, you know? And it was like, put a name in a hat and name the show. And this one guy, he didn't really understand what the show was, right? And he wrote "Mr. Show." It was really sloppy, you know. This guy, I guess, hadn't even seen the show. He, like, stopped by to pick up a friend or whatever, and he said, "I got a name for a show." He kinda heard a little about it and he wrote "Mr. Show." And we were like, that's a great name for a show. It's real simple and it sounds absurdist. And then we met the guy later and he had written "Mrs. How." He thought it was a detective show with a woman. He thought that's what we were doing in the theatre, was a detective mystery, like a dinner theatre show. Because he met one of the actresses coming out. He was an old guy. He was, like, 70 years old. And he had written "Mrs. How" and he told us that was always a show he wanted to see, a show called Mrs. How with a female detective. Isn't that weird? And he, like, scribbled it so badly we thought it said Mr. Show.
GM: And is that true?
GM: Okay. I'll buy it.
BO: I mean, people think about TV a lot. So he was some weird old guy who thought about TV all the time.
GM: I didn't realize it started as a theatre show.
BO: Ah, yeah, we did it five times in the theatre.
BO: In LA. Around. They weren't even theatres. One of them was a disco. And we did it there three times, and did it twice in a place called the Upfront Theater. You asked about names, it was originally called The Three Goofballz. Then it was called Grand National Championship. And then it was called The Cross-Odenkirk Problem. And then it was this guy's Mr. Show.
GM: So you're going back to your roots now. You're back in the theatre.
BO: I guess so. I don't feel like I've been that far from it. I've done a number of shows in the theatre since the show went off the air.
GM: And it's been off the air for three years. How long was it on the air?
BO: It was on the air for 33 shows.
GM: Was it taken off the air because you guys wanted to do other things or because HBO said, hey, no one's watching?
BO: Well, David and I kind of had a falling out. We haven't actually talked about this a whole lot. It happened. But we're having a good time now so I guess it's opened floodgates or whatever. We used to have these races. You know, driving legal speed, but you pick a place in another town that you don't know that well, or a third person says Pancake House, Pasadena, but doesn't tell you where it is. Then you race there. But you have to drive legally. It's all about knowing the backstreets in LA. It's key. There's actually a book called, Shortcuts in LA. I'm sure you can't buy it where you are, but you can definitely get it in LA. It tells streets that you can haul ass on.
GM: Legally, though.
BO: Well, they actually detail a thing called a California rolling stop. Have you ever heard of that?
BO: You know what I'm talking about.
GM: I know.
BO: And you don't stop, you just kind of roll through the stop sign. So anyway, it's all about driving like that. And you gotta get there. And we just were getting into it like you get into a video game or whatever, having these races, you know. And he beat me, then later I found out that he knew where this Pancake House was. He'd been there before. And we had been working really, really hard on the fourth season. It was a lot of work and we spent hours in the office together. And I know it's a stupid fucking thing, but this thing that he did, I just fucking went through the roof. I was so mad. Because I almost got a ticket. I almost hit something, I don't know what. A skunk or something. And I was so mad. But it was about working together so hard for four years. And spending, like, twelve hours in an office with the guy everyday for four years.
GM: And then he pulls something like that on you.
BO: Well, he said that he'd been there once but he didn't know where it was, you know what I mean? Like somebody else took him there to this place. And he was like, "I'd been here but I didn't know where it was." And I got so fucking mad. I was dumb. It was just an argument. I mean, you know, it sounds stupid but that's what arguments are a lot of times.
GM: And are you talking now?
BO: Oh, are you kidding me? We're having a great time. This tour has been great. I mean, no, we couldn't do this otherwise. We're talking and laughing and joking around. I've never... We've never told anybody about that race thing--
GM: So I have a scoop, then, is what you're telling me?
BO: Yeah. But it doesn't matter. But now that you print that, I bet you people do those races like crazy because they're really fun. The only thing is, please say "Drive the legal speed" because it's not about driving fast; it's about knowing streets that are fast and learning the shortcuts. Have you ever been to Los Angeles?
GM: Yes, I have.
BO: Yeah, so you know... Have you lived there for any length of time?
BO: Okay, well, the traffic is terrible. It's terrible. So it's all about knowing side streets.
GM: It's about out-sitting the other person.
BO: Yeah, it's about knowing the streets and learning them.
GM: When I think of Mr. Show, I think of the classic sketch shows like... Red Skelton and Carol Burnett. You're very similar to all those shows.
BO: Uh, well, when I was a kid, my family didn't watch a lot of TV, but we did watch Mary Tyler Moore and we did watch Burnett. You know, I loved that show. And I watched a lot of it when I was a kid. To me, it's much more influenced by Python.
GM: I was joking about Carol Burnett and Red Skelton. And your show, more than any other, I mean, they say Kids in the Hall was like Python, but I think your show is, with characters going from one sketch to the next and sort of absurd.
BO: Yeah, we didn't repeat characters like Python didn't repeat characters. They repeated a character within an episode. But they never really repeated them from episode to episode. And we did the same thing.
GM: In your show, you do a lot of double characters and play different people. How hard is that to duplicate on the stage?
BO: Well, it's not hard at all. I mean, we're performers and, like I said, we did this show live. And actually, the show itself was done live. We had an audience there and we showed stuff on the video.
GM: It's called "Hurray For America!!!"
GM: Full of irony and sarcasm, yeah.
BO: Yeah, absolutely, it is. There's no way around it.
GM: Are we the only Canadian city you're coming to?
BO: Yes, you are.
GM: And how do you think it'll play?
BO: I think it'll be great. I mean, I think you guys are very tied to America. I mean, to me Canada's like a fucking state of America. I don't know if that's an insult or what, but... But you know, in that the things that happen here, you guys know all about them. You read about 'em. You know what I mean? Like, our show references, in its own way it references the Enron scandals. It's about electing a president and the story we tell in it is about how Globo-chem, this corporation, runs an actor for president, and it's David Cross. They run David Cross for president. So you guys get what that's about.
GM: Yeah. I mean, it's a little out-there to imagine an actor being elected president. I mean, that's a little ridiculous, but other than that.
BO: Well, that's what you do in comedy, you stretch things out a little to a funny sense. I mean, you're right, but in its way it's true. You know, I mean, people are elected president who are a frontispiece.
GM: A what?
BO: I think the word is frontispiece.
GM: Okay. I'll look that up.
BO: F-r-o-n-t-i-s-p-i-e-c-e. I believe that would be a good descriptive word. I might be wrong. I'm just using it. Or let's say a facade for an organization or a group of people. You know what I mean? I mean, look at Reagan. Look at George W. Bush. I mean, these are not leaders on their own. Bush is ridiculous. He's just an old clubby boy who got in the group. But Reagan was like a statue that you could move his lips. He looked the part and he knew how to play it and these guys backed him on it. So it's not a paranoid thing where we think there's some dark back room where these deals are made, but it's what ends up happening because the system eats so much money and the only people with that kind of money are major, major corporations and groups.
GM: Looking at your list of credits, I'm heartened to see that you wrote for Get A Life.
GM: It was a great show.
BO: Thank you. I'm proud of it. We were watching it the other night. I love that show.
GM: Also, I guess you and David are pretty busy with your Famous School For Comedians.
BO: Yes, well, you know, there's always a new crop of really promising ... idiots, who need to learn the rules of comedy.
GM: You have some great rules, such as "Izzarding up your act." I thought that was perfect.
BO: I think it's about time somebody said something, announced the Emperor had no fancy feminine clothes. You know, he's not really a transvestite like he claims. He's a guy who wears fashionable clothes. Transvestites want to appear as a woman. They don't just wear women's clothes. He doesn't in any way want to appear to be a woman.
GM: He's a cross-dresser.
BO: No. A cross-dresser wants to appear to be a woman. He's fashionable. That's what he is. He doesn't want to say that because he wants middle-America to be titillated by his little dumb choice. And it works. But he's technically not those things that he claims to be that are risqué. He's actually an avowed heterosexual, as he says in his act, who isn't appearing to be a woman at all but rather looks exactly like a man who happens to be wearing some semi-feminine shows. And he has a little bit of make-up, which a lot of men wear. And, oh yeah, not that funny. But I think smoke and mirrors are there for all to see. I mean, if he were funny, he wouldn't fucking have to pretend he was a transvestite.
GM: Have you seen his act?
BO: Yeah, I have seen his act. I couldn't believe that in the year 2000, which is the year I saw it, he was doing stuff about the fact that the Star Trek character that you don't recognize is the one who dies. I thought that was about as lame as you can get... without smashing a watermelon. I really couldn't believe it. It was stunningly cheap.
GM: So you didn't go backstage and talk.
BO: Yeah, I did, actually. He's a nice guy. He's a really nice guy... but his act sucks. Nothing against him as a person, he's just fucking fake. And that's what comedians do is point out that. Maybe he could have another career pointing out what an empty bunch of crap his first career was. Anyways, buddy, I'm on a bike on a street. I'm probably going to get run over by some idiot doing one of those dumb races I just suggested people try.