An Interview With Chuck Watkins
This week on Funny Title Here, Austin’s Chuck Watkins steps up to the Funny Title Here to explain a love for TNG (That’s Star Trek: The Next Generation to you non-trekker), the perks of acting like a goon, and the trouble with technology.
Paolo: Finding your Star Trek song at RooftopComedy was one of the things that made my month. Would you care to articulate in textual terms your love for Geordi La Forge and/or Levar Burton?
Chuck: Warp factor: Ridiculous!!!!!
I’ve always been a big next generation fan, and love to write these huge epic ballads about people. But the idea didn’t come to me to do a Jordi LaForge song until I was forced to write an entire musical in a week for our sketch group last year. The opening scene was a band meeting between some krusty punk rockers who just want chicks and beer VS. the biggest nerd in the universe, who is only in the band because he’s got all the cool music equipment.
My girlfriend’s name is Jordi too, so I thought it would also be funny to be like, “listen baby, I’m writing you an epic love song…sortof.”
Once I got the idea for the song, it only took about 20 minutes to write and about an hour to record the music, which is pretty rare for me. I’ve only performed it twice, once for the sketch show and once at Cap City Comedy Club, but it’s one of my favorite musical pieces I’ve ever gotten to do.
Paolo: How did you get into comedy?
Chuck: I’ll give two answers to this question and let the readers decide which one is the real one…
I was born into this hustle that we call comedy…….Literally.
I was born behind a Ms. Pac-Man machine in the early 80′s at “The Wacky Factory” in Bananarama, Alabama. My father was the house MC. He went by the stage name of “Doctor Pie-in-the-Face”, which wasn’t too far of a stretch from his real name: “Professor Pi N.D. Krotch.” He changed it because he didn’t want to seem too “low brow”, and this way he still got free pie, which was important in those days because being an MC didn’t pay shit, and he was hungry with a wife and kids. At some point he invented the poop joke, and the paychecks haven’t stopped rolling in since.
Acting like a goofy idiot has been the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I’ve always been playing music, writing sketches and plays, but at some point a few years I stumbled up onstage and did standup and people seemed to either like it or were so baffled they couldn’t boo, because I kept coming back week after week and haven’t really let up since.
Paolo: Who are your comedic influences?
Chuck: The guys I gravitated to at a very early age (6,7,8) were guys like Steve Martin & Gilda Radner & Bill Murray, because I remember watching them on Saturday Night Live or The Muppet Show, (The Muppet Show is a big deal for a 5 year old and leaves a very lasting impression)
But when I hit my teens I got really into “serious film” (whatever that means), which is how discovered into Woody Allen and Robert Altman. I remember loving Woody Allen and wanting to make movies like him but then buying his standup records and just thinking, “Man, screw the movies, all the funny is right here. You don’t need a camera, you just need a microphone and someone willing enough to let you be a goon.”
Woody Allen and Steve Martin, more than anyone else, showed me that you could distill these giant, worldly ideas (which might take someone in another artistic medium tons of time and money) and turn them into something silly and fun, without making the “idea” any less important. I think that’s why the concept of enlightenment through idiocy has always been appealing to me.
Paolo: What was the absolute worst show you ever had?
Chuck: I started to write out a semi-bullshit response about how even the worst shows you do can be really constructive and whatnot, but screw
that- I’ve got a great story about a horrible terrible show…So here goes-
A few years back, a club opened up in Temple, Tx that a bunch of guys from Austin drive down and worked a lot. The owner was nice but it was a terrible room. They had giant local ads up all behind the stage for things like fire insurance and the local AIDS hospice and whatnot.
(Who doesn’t want to look at a giant AIDS billboard while they listen to jokes?)
The owner got this idea to host “The Funniest Person in Texas Contest” which is a pretty cocky thing to do for a club that hosts hip-hop night on Sundays and open mic poetry on Wednesdays (“Roses are red, violets are blue, my wallet is empty and my future is too.”)
Prize money was $1000 bucks, so what the hell, I signed up, made it through the first round by because only 4 comics out of 12 showed up, and four advance each round. I made it through the 2nd round by being the only comic of the night to solicit a laugh, when came when I while I was hassling the guy in the front row heckling me, who turned out to be one of the judges.
The final round comes and i go on after a contestant who happens to be the insurance salesmen sponsor whose picture is on the wall. He closes with this convoluted bit where he turns around and his jeans have the ass cut out of them (for some reason!). I had seen him do this in the 2nd round and thought it would be funny to take off my underpants in the bathroom and tuck them into my blazer like a hanky, then be like “hey forgot something” and throw my underwear at him from onstage. Bad idea, turns out that was only funny to me, because no one laughed at that or anything else I said for the next 10 minutes.
It comes time to announce the winner, the host brings ALL the contestants onstage, and announces “Hey, everybody give a big round off applause for Chuck Watkins, the proud winner of 7th place.” Then he went down list in descending order.
My buddy Michael Naverette won and i was going to ride back with him, but had to wait around a bit while he got his prize money. I go drink a beer at the redneck bar around the corner (yeah- the one with the giant mural of a plane hitting the twin towers as a bald eagle cries a solitary tear) but when I come back I find that the host had miscalled the show, my buddy Michael had actually been voted 2nd place and 1st place really belonged to the guy who went up on the 10 foot unicyle and juggled knives for about 10 seconds. The host had rightly said, “Screw that dude- Naverette wins it” and called it for him. The unicycle guy starts a bitch fit and the assless insurance man starts turning over tables because apparently he had been promised 3rd place by the owner for being a sponsor. I left just before things got violent and never went back. Two weeks later my friend got mugged outside the club and shit her pants.
Paolo: It might be too early to ask, but how is your posting a music video a week on Youtube going? Are you writing an original song a week in addition to producing a music video?
Chuck: The weekly Youtube series has been a lot of fun so far. I started it because i wanted to keep myself in a constant music/humor cycle, and I was really worried that I would have a hard time coming up things that were somehow both musical and comedic all the time, but once I really got rolling I realized I had a ton of ideas. I’ve already got the next month of videos either completed or fully conceptualized and ready to perform.
The only real problem is that technology is such a pain in the ass.
I’ve a camera that loves to flake out on me when I need to shoot stuff and occasionally my computer or Youtube will grind things to a complete halt. I just finished a radio play parody 80′s romantic comedies called “When Harry Met Sally When She Got Mail While Sleepless in Seattle” and for some reason my computer doesn’t really want to upload it onto the web, but it will upload all my other videos. What gives?
That and it’s kind of annoying to go through all the social networking sites week after week and bug everyone you know to come check out yet another video of you acting very very silly. I love goofing around and making videos, but I hate all the PR work that comes along with it.
Paolo: You were just in our fair city of San Francisco for SF Sketchfest with your sketch group, The 3 Actorteers. What makes an Actorteer different from a regular, mortal actor?
Chuck: I have asked my friend Sillioquiolis, the 3rd greatest actor in the universe, and founding member of The 3 Actorteers to field this question.
There is no higher purpose in life than acting, this we all know. It is also true that the human psyche is never so fully realized of it’s potential than when it is an audience for theater, specifically one of our productions. Therefore, we can conclude that to be an actorteer is to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
When The 3 Actorteers tour the world, performing such theatrical masterstrokes as Tony Kushner’s “Angels in Antartica” and Eugene O’Neil’s “The Iceman Can’t Cometh” (about the sexual dysfunctions of a frozen neanderthal) we strive to touch that place deep inside the audiences metapyhscial loins, and massage it until they can’t help but have messy explosion of theater all over themselves. That’s a powerful feeling, for both audience and actor.
As you may know, I am an Actologist who studies at the Church of Actology in Los Angeles. I got my big break as the underwear dancing teen in the film “Moderately Unsafe Business Venture” then went on to star in the box office hits, “Objective: Unaccomplishable”, “Objective:Unaccomplishable II” and, to a lesser extant, “Objective:Unaccomplishable III”, but never have I felt more satisfied and realized as a person, than when performing with The 3 Actorteers.
Paolo: Do you have anything you’d like to say to you adoring fans out there?
Chuck: Yes, I certainly do. Adoring Fans: please walk up to me and say “Hello.”
I was laboring under the distinct impression that you were a fictional construct of my mind.
It would be quite nice to be proven wrong. And if you’re too far away to say hello, hit me up on the web at www.youtube.com/ChuckWatkinsEsquire