Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kathy Kinney

Prior to her appearance at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet with Drew Carey and the Improv All Stars, Kathy Kinney, Mimi from The Drew Carey Show, joined me on the show for a little chat. Here's an excerpt...

Mike Williams: You’ve had a long career in improv – that’s kind of how you started isn’t it, in New York City?

Kathy Kinney: It is. Thanks for knowing that, because people always say, ‘oh, you started as a stand-up comedienne didn’t you’, but I actually started with improv, became hooked just like Drew Carey did, and just ran with it.

MW: What was it that drew you to improv from the get-go?

KK: My friend Cindy made me take the class with her. I got in there, and I had no idea that I was funny and people were laughing at me, and I thought ‘this was kind of nice.’ There’s something about it. It’s kind of like crack – although I’ve never done crack – you do it and you get people to laugh, and it’s coming from inside of you, it’s very freeing, and all of a sudden you’re hooked.

MW: How did you get to The Drew Carey Show?

KK: Cindy and I, after taking the improv class, were working as secretaries at the Broadcast Center in New York City. We were working with a guy who wrote a movie, probably while we were sitting there at work, and he wrote a part for me, asked me to be in it, and I did the movie and people liked what they saw. The building burned down so I moved to Los Angeles, got a few jobs, and the next thing I knew I was on The Drew Carey Show.

(Kathy mentioned that she had "a few jobs" prior to hitting it big on Drew Carey. See for yourself. This is quite a list.)

MW: As a big Seinfeld fan, I was wondering if you had any anecdotes from your one appearance on the show (in "The Handicap Spot").

KK: It was fun for me to do the show because it was filmed on the same lot where I had recently done the Newhart show, so I knew just about everyone from the crew. On the other hand, it was shot outside and it was kind of cold, so we would sit inside while we were waiting. Everyone on Seinfeld, Jerry, Kramer...were saying, ‘When are we going to do The Tonight Show? Are we doing that Wheaties box thing?’ and they were sort of ignoring me. They had gone so far into their celebrity. I have to admit I thought to myself ‘if I ever get on a show of my own, I’m gonna be nice to everybody. And, I hope I am.

MW: You had a nice long run on Drew Carey, but wasn’t that originally not meant to be a recurring role?

KK: It’s true. We always say that the story of how I got that job needs to be woven into a tapestry and hang it on a wall somewhere. They hired one woman to do the pilot, the network didn’t like her and she got fired. Then they said, ‘remember that other one was ok, let’s get her,’ and they called her in but they had the wrong name with the wrong actress, so she was gone by noon. They held another set of auditions and I came in. I had just worked on Grace Under Fire with the director. I ended up getting the job, but it was just supposed to be a one shot deal, just for the pilot. They called me up and said we’d like to hire you for seven episodes out of 13. I ended up being in every episode.

MW: Who came up with the concept of having Mimi wear so much makeup?

KK: Bruce Helford and Drew Carey were the creators of the show. I think Bruce had worked with someone who looked like that, and it was supposed to be a one-note gag. They always say if you’re in the department store and you’re looking to buy some makeup, don’t have your makeup done by someone wearing makeup that you wouldn’t wear. The fact that Mimi really wanted to work in the makeup department but looked like that, that was the gag. We can blame Bruce Helford for that.

MW: After all these years, does it bother you at all to be recognized as Mimi? Some people have a problem getting past their most well known character, is it a problem for you, or do you welcome that still?

KK: I think it’s a problem in Hollywood. People in the business, when I’m trying to get another job, will say, ‘oh, her comedy is so broad.’ I went to an audition last week and the casting director called my agent and said, ‘she just looks so plain. She needs to wear more makeup.’ And I was wearing makeup. I’m just a plain person. In real life when people not in the industry recognize me, I’m always so surprised. When people recognize me it makes me really happy. Because of playing her, people are so nice to me. Total strangers are so kind to me and treat me the way I think that everyone should be treated in the world anyway. I’ll always be grateful for Mimi and for being recognized.

MW: It’s great that they treat you nicely, even though they probably wouldn’t treat Mimi the same way.

KK: I know, I’ve never understood that. I’ve had people come up to me and say, "oh, you’re Mimi, can I have a hug?’ and I’m thinking ‘have you ever watched the show? Mimi doesn’t hug people (laughs).

MW: Could you have ever predicted Craig Ferguson’s current success as a talk show host? (Ferguson played Drew’s boss, Mr. Wick)

KK: Looking back now, he said that when he went out on stage for that first show once he opened his mouth and it just clicked, and he thought that this is what he was supposed to be doing. He can talk and talk and oh my, he’s funny. He’s just one of the funniest people ever. I had the great fortune to go with him to the Persian Gulf over Thanksgiving to do a USO gig and he’s just the guy that you want because he’s just funny. A funny, good person. Everyone on the show was. Drew’s the most patriotic guy you’d ever want to meet. He’s the one that got me started working with the USO. He’s a good person. We all are. But we’re funny. We’re good people, but we’re funny.

MW: It was such a fun show to watch, the one-liners, the anticipation of jokes, too, the studio audience would be laughing at the setup of a joke, Drew would have that ‘I might crack up and lose it’ look on his face but he’d hold it together and belt out the punch line. The show took a lot of chances, too, with the musicals and live shows, it was just a fun show to watch.

KK: Well thank you, we had a lot of fun doing it. I think the first season is coming out on DVD, which is exciting. I’m looking forward to that.

(It is expected to be released on April 24th).

MW: Hopefully there will be some good extras, and some commentaries. I don’t know if you were involved with that...

KK: I was. I don’t remember what I said, but I hope it was funny.

Over the next few days, I'll post the transcript of my interview with Greg Proops, and I'll post some backstage pictures from the improv show.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Please, No(ah) More!

Will someone please knock off the Florida Gators so I don't have to open a newspaper, or go to a sports-related website and look at another one of these pictures of Joakim Noah again?!?! It was overdone a year ago, and it's really overdone this year.

Can't we balance it out with a picture of a Gator cheerleader rah rah rah-ing Florida to its latest win?

The pictures that we always see of Noah are all the same -- crooked arm, clenched fist, big ugly mouth wide open. Need more evidence? Try here, or here, or here. Don't forget this one, and that one. Oops, I almost forgot about this, and that. One more. Ok, I lied, here's one more. Ah the heck with it. Let's enjoy them in a collage.


Meanwhile, I'm not sure if you saw this -- I sure didn't -- but you need to check out the ending to the Division II Championship game from the other day. If this had happen for Joakim Noah's team, he may have opened his mouth and screamed so loud and forcefully that his hair would have fallen out. After his heart attack, stroke, and brain hemorrhage.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Create A Mosaic

Here's a fun little site that allows you to upload a photo, and the site then creates a mosaic of that image. You can save the finished product as well.

The mosaics are created using random images from the web.

The picture here is of Megan and Sarah from an earlier post in the blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Improv All Stars

Hopefully you enjoyed my interview today with Greg Proops. The Whose Line Is It Anyway regular is making an appearance with Drew Carey and the Improv All Stars for two shows Saturday night at the Rialto Square Theatre.

I'll post the transcript within the next week or so. Kathy Kinney will be on Thursday's show between 7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. I'll also put that transcript on here eventually as well.

One other radio note, kudos to my wife, Laurie, for stepping in this morning to handle our unofficial American Idol report. Our six-year old, Megan, was going to do the report -- she even took notes while watching last night's performances -- but she may have been a little overwhelmed at the prospect of laying down a serious beatdown on Sanjaya. I'm hoping I can get her on one of these weeks to offer some thoughts.

Laurie did a very nice job. She may have stumbled onto a continuing gig. To borrow a phrase I heard this morning on the ABC news (regarding Adam Sandler subbing for a sick David Letterman last night), she "pinch-hitted", and hit a homerun.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Idol thoughts

I think I have a possible solution for American Idol's consistent "I can't believe America voted to keep this person in the contest when he/she is clearly the worst singer" problem that seems to rear its ugly head every season. Instead of opening the phone lines inviting people to vote for someone, how about opening the lines so America can vote against someone.

Don't you think it would be much easier for the approximately 30 million voters each week to concentrate their efforts on bouncing one of the dreadful singers out of the competition, rather than trying to lend their support to one of the better singers, while hoping that more people vote for the good instead of the bad?

Think about it. Let's take this week for example. It's obvious that Sanjaya doesn't belong in this competition anymore. Everyone, except for however many people voted to keep him on the show, knows this. Judging by the way he did the Charlie Brown sad walk back to his seat, even he knows he shouldn't be there.

So what ends up happening? Those that want him to stay, vote for Sanjaya. Those that want him out of the competition vote for Melinda, Lakisha, Blake or whomever. Safe to say the people that didn't want Sanjaya to stick around probably didn't vote too many times for Brandon -- clearly a better singer, who unfortunately, was pretty underwhelming throughout the competition. So, Brandon gets the raw deal. Cue the viewer outrage.

Instead of hoping that enough people vote for the better performers (Brandon, Phil, Jordin, etc.) instead of Sanjaya for example, it would make much more sense to have the audience call to vote someone out. Everyone voting would simply have to target their vote toward the person that clearly deserves to go. I think the cream would rise to the top with this change.

Sure, it might make it a bit more awkward after each performance when Ryan instructs the audience, "Ok, if you didn't like Sanjaya's performance and think he should be going home tomorrow, here's the number to call..." while Sanjaya wipes tears from his face with his flowing locks, but still.

Now who knows what was going through the voters minds, or how often they vote, or if they vote many times for one contestant, or spread their votes to more than one of their favorites. I have no idea. Honestly, I've never voted for anyone on the show before, but I think my solution might clear up some of these problems.

I'm sure the folks at Fox love the buzz that is created when Sanjaya (and Haley) get to stay much longer than they should, but if this truly is supposed to be a contest to find the best singer, then I think some changes need to be made.

Even my six-year old, Megan, knows things aren't right. She was talking about it two days after the fact.

"America messed it up! Brandon was better than Sanjaya," she said.

Truer words were never spoken.

Sidenote: If all goes well, beginning next week, Megan will be my American Idol correspondant on the morning show.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Love French Fries

Megan and I have a ritual each Monday afternoon -- I take her to McDonalds after school for a Happy Meal. She usually goes with the 4-piece Chicken McNuggets. She even chooses the apples and caramel dipping sauce instead of the fries most of the time.

Bless her (healthy) heart.

I actually like it when she picks the fries, though. She rarely finishes them which means I get to gobble up the dozen or so that she doesn't eat. I hover near her like a vulture waiting for that "I'm done" moment.

I love french fries. They're too good to not love. I can't help myself. I have to eat them. Ya gotta love 'em. But, who knew they were so effective when trying to paint a replica movie poster for "Super Size Me"?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Toss Me A Beer, Please

His parents must be so proud. A Duke graduate has come up with a mechanism that launches beer cans roughly 20 feet from the fridge to the couch. The full story can be read here.

Nowhere in the story does it mention if this guy -- John Cornwell -- has a job, but maybe this will be his ticket to fame and fortune. Well, at least (a little bit of) fame. At the very least, Miller Lite will probably send him a free case or two.

Instead of blowing $400 and over 150 man-hours putting this thing together, why not just plug the mini-fridge in next to the couch? He's put in an awful lot of time, effort, and money for the ability to be lazy. Why not be lazy from the start?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

RUSH'S New Album Coming Soon

I realize that the news of a new RUSH album will elicit a response from you -- and most people -- somewhere between "Who?", and "Who cares!?". For me, this is exciting news. The album, entitled Snakes and Arrows, should be out in early May. The first single should be released within a week or so.

I've been a RUSH fan for about 20 years. I've seen them in concert four times, most recently in 2002. Schramm went with me to that show. That was the night they played the Spotlight On Sports closing theme song. We both screamed in amazement once the first few notes kicked in. That could have been the beer talking. Still, we were stoked.

Down the road, maybe after the album comes out, I'll devote a longer post to RUSH, one of my top five bands, so consider this a distant early warning.

In the meantime, enjoy a classic drum solo from the master himself, RUSH'S Neil Peart.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Went To A Fight And A Hockey Game Broke Out

I took Megan to her first hockey game last Sunday. We went as part of her brownie scout troop for a Chicago Wolves game. It was an eye opening day for Megan -- and it was a bit of an eye closing day for me after Megan accidentally poked me in the eye with her foam Wolves claw -- as she got to witness her first fight.

It was a doozy, too. Video evidence can be found below.

It happened right after the initial puck drop. I had spent several minutes prior to the game trying to explain how the game works. I kept it simple.

"The guys in the white jerseys are the Wolves, the good guys, they're going to try to put the puck in that net, and the guys in the red are the bad guys, and they're going to try to put the puck in this net," I said.

After the deafening pregame player introductions, Wayne Messmer came out to sing the anthem. That never gets old. I wasn't sure if Wolves fans continued the tradition that began at the old Chicago Stadium of cheering the anthem from start to finish.

They don't. And, it felt weird. Although, there was one guy a few rows from us who stood up and clapped throughout the entire song. He didn't care that nobody else was joining him. It probably would have been more embarrassing to stop mid-song, so he kept right on going until the end. Dope.

We were just settling back into our seats when the opening faceoff was immediately followed by a great battle between Wolves player Nathan Oystrick, and Knights' player Brett Palin. Oystrick certainly got the better of Palin. He landed several solid punches, took him down, and may have broken his nose. The crowd went nuts, and Megan had a "what did I just see?" face.

That was before they came out to scrape the blood off the ice. She looked at me, I smiled at her, put my hand on her leg and said, "Megan, welcome to hockey."

The legendary Pat Foley is on the call of the fight, which you can see below. Pat's one of my idols. I actually got to interview him about 15 years ago while I was in college. I owe that to my Mom who wrote him a letter, as only a loving Mom could do, and he actually called me to help set it up. I got to interview him prior to a Hawks game at the Stadium back in '91.

It's good to still be able to hear him call games.

If I remember, I'll share some old Blackhawk game stories with you in another post.

The Wolves game kind of had a feel of a Blackhawks game. Foley on the play-by-play, Messmer on the anthem, and a lackluster 4-2 loss.

But the final score is one of the last things Megan will remember from that day. She got a puck -- given away free before the game to all scouts -- signed by the mascot, "Skates". I bought her the Wolves' foam claw, and she survived, and seemed to enjoy, the most intense and loudest indoor pyrotechnic pregame displays she's ever experienced, and probably ever will. But even those things weren't at the top of her list.

I asked her when we got home what her favorite part of the day was.

"The fight," she said, without much hesitation at all.

Megan, welcome to hockey.