Amos Altman: Dream Weaver

After a lengthy hiatus from the blog, we return to tell you… nothing about our upcoming season. Yet. But rest assured next season will be, like this past season, an incredible success (and by incredible success, we mean no one died during any of the shows). But enough talk of death. Today is about life; specifically the life of LLBS co-founder and artistic director Amos Altman. He has avoided an interview for years, but now, as an elder statesman, he is allowing us into his thought-space to experience his “brilliance” and finally speak to us about the origins of the LLBS and why he is always so sunny and optimistic. We tracked him down beneath a bridge, where he was scrawling sketches for an upcoming show.

Amos, how are you?

That’s private.

Okay… Well, what are you doing?

Making the world remember me with beautiful words.

Are you writing poetry?

I am writing a sketch about lady-cops. Called Vadge of Honour.

Uhhhh…

I also came up with a title for one of the shows next year: Sketch-up and Mustard.

Goooooood.

Thank you.

So, how did you get involved with the LLBS?

I birthed it. With some others. Erin. Gavin. Amanda. Meg. And sometimes Justin.

Cool.

I know. Those first shows, in the days of yore-

2006?

Indeed. Were treacherous. But wonderful. And now, well, things remain mostly the same.

So, you still feel like you tread treacherous ground?

In a city of 1 million people, about 450 have heard of our amazing show. Maybe 451. If we are to take over the galaxy with our sketch comedy, that is not enough of an army. And we asked Nenshi and Obama to do a couple of clever nude scenes -which would have been tasteful/hilarious- to help us get some exposure (pun intended), but we got no response… Except from the Secret Service. But I’m not allowed to talk about that… Next!

Who or what inspired you to perform?

I don’t think I really wanted to perform. I wanted to write. The storytellers of my young adult life… I read a lot… My pops always had Stephen King or Elmore Leonard books on the shelf that I would borrow, or I’d feed myself some of that sweet young adult fiction, like Judy Blume or Martyn Godfrey.

You are a liar!

It’s true, silly goose! I wanted to tell stories. But I always knew they were a bit twisted. In seventh grade, I wrote a fairy tale, where the happily ever after was cleverly twisted into tragedy by a final paragraph from a troll’s point-of-view. Like, these Hansel-and-Gretel types get away from this witch and the reader thinks it’s okay, but then they get eaten by trolls… I always preferred dark humour.

But you perform, idiot. You were voted ‘weirdest sense of humour’ in your yearbook.

Define weird. I was just very quick with a joke. Like, imagine Vince Vaughn’s character from Swingers as a slightly less attractive/pudgy 13 year old boy. I think people didn’t really get how hilarious I was… You know, small town.

So, Vince Vaughn inspired you to perform?

Whoa! No. I had already performed at that point, I guess. At summer camp. They made you perform. But I guess if I’m being honest, Corey Feldman was who -I wouldn’t say inspired, but- made performing intriguing to me. He was playing people of a similar age, but completely different worlds: this mouthy goof in The Goonies and this angry, abused kid in the 1950′s in Stand by Me… That threw me, I remember. HE’S THE SAME KID? But he’s a DIFFERENT kid? And the John Hughes movies, ’cause they were about teenagers. But mostly The Breakfast Club. Either way, I didn’t perform, really, outside of summer camp stuff, until university, where my reputation for playing bailiffs is still legendary.

Ah, university. Where you would meet those instrumental in creating the LLBS…

Yes, Lethbridge. Where I met those kindred spirits and messed around with being funny, acting, and writing… But it was more about realizing a common element, a comic rapport, and becoming friends with those whose personalities you gravitated toward… Good times… And in that, a bond grew, so that when we were done school and all drifted to Calgary, doing a show between any other work we could scrounge seemed logical.

Good story. Also, can you stop using ellipses? Now, how do you feel the show has developed though the years?

We’re more efficient. Rehearsals are a month shorter. We’re more musical, more comfortable with improv. The ensemble has lost a few folks, but gained a few, and the group dynamic is solid… We gathered a good bunch o’er the years and I think, for the most part, we can trust each others’ instincts… the majority of the time.

Do you like to party?

Yes.

Are you currently single.

Yes.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen at the LLBS?

I’ve never really been an audience member. I’ve done… all the shows? But there has been some gold in rehearsals. Meg smelling toothpaste as Rhonda is an early time when I remember laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Onstage, I think, though, Pat Quinn’s epic 2nd scene in the Miming Blowjobs trilogy, in which Justin Michael did some things that to me, are the most cherished memories I’ll have… Or shooting a promo video with Justin and Gavin, with Justin in a Bat-mask… Priceless… Making Pat break onstage is pretty fun, too, especially if it involves multiple stars of David… I could go on… A lot of good laughter has been made.

What’s coming up for you this summer?

Well, Accidental Humour Co. is doing a play of mine at the Edmonton Fringe (Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin 2: The Whackining, a sequel to the hit Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin) that will also tour southern Alberta (dates TBA) and then Storybook Theatre is mounting a production of The Wizard of One in September (12th-20th), starring THE Neil James in multiple roles. Still writing sketches… And I’m writing a couple of plays that will likely never see a production.

Why is that?

Racism? … Also, the plays might not be very good. Time will tell.

Have you ever known true love?

How dare you!? You know I have!

You’ve often spoken of leaving Calgary… You ever going to make a decision on that?

I hope I can make a decision… one day… But Calgary’s been a’ight… I got to develop a play with Theatre Calgary right out of school… And, I mean, I just got offered a leading role on the upcoming season of Hell on Wheels, which I’m probably going to have to turn down because I’m waiting for the offer to be the new Wolverine, once Jackman slips a disc… And I’ve totally got ladies texting me, like, all the time, and.. you know, I keep busy crying in the tub. But as fun as all that is, I’d like to live somewhere with better transit and no winter.

What surprises can we expect next season in the LLBS?

Well, we start from scratch every year, so everything is a surprise. I can say I think our first show back after the summer will be in September. Will it be Sketch-up and Mustard? Time will tell…

What were your comedy influences?

Well, my friends informed my comedy. Still do. A friend named Bartko, in ye olden times. And my pops… But, if we want to get into pop culture, let’s start with Looney Tunes. Then SCTV. Kids in the Hall. SNL. Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The Simpsons. Mr. Show… Married, with Children. But Kids in the Hall was a real standout. They were doing stuff I couldn’t believe was on TV… CBC, no less. Then I saw The State, in university… The first bit from a stand-up I remember was a Jon Stewart run about religion, that turned into an argument about flossing vs. masturbation… But, living in a pre-cable rural area, stand-up wasn’t really available to see on TV til I was older. Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun. Oh, and John Ritter. Three’s Company was huuuuge. Don Knotts, too. But whenever Ritter played Jack Tripper and Austin Tripper at the same time, my mind was blown… And Eddie Murphy. I wasn’t allowed to watch Raw or Delirious as a kid, but I remember watching Trading Places or Beverly Hill Cop with my pops and just laughing like an idiot. Dave Chappelle. Steve Martin… Tom Hanks in Big. The movie Kingpin… Waiting for Guffman… Mel Brooks; Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles… Billy Crystal from, like 1987-1993. Rick Moranis is probably the icon for me, though. Ricky Moranis. And Billy Murray.

No ladies on that list?

Maybe women weren’t funny until I was older? (he chuckles, then pauses, staring intensely)… There were some funny ladies in some of the troupes I mentioned. Catharine O’Hara being #1 in my book. I think Dratch was underrated. And that Amy Poehler kid… She seems amusing. I think she might make it. And I didn’t know who Nora Ephron was at the time, but she was definitely an influence.

When Harry Met Sally, am i right? … Anyway… What would be your dream role?

Golly! Well, I’m a list guy… So… Movie role? Not that I could improve on any of these… 5. Almost anything Sam Rockwell does comedically: Seven Psychopaths. Galaxy Quest. Box of Moonlight. 4. Luke in Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman is… There are no words… 3. Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) in Ghostbusters. 2. Sal (John Cazale) in Dog Day Afternoon… 1. Otto (Kevin Kline) in A Fish Called Wanda

A lot of idiots.

I’m not done! I forgot about Phil Hoffman’s Scotty in Boogie Nights.

So, a lot of ensemble work-

I’m. Not. Done! … TV… Top 5… Dennis Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny… Calamity Jane in Deadwood… Michael Knight in Knight Rider… Omar Little in The Wire… GOB Bluth in Arrested Development… Honorable mentions: voice of Sterling Archer in Archer. Oh, and Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation.

Moving on-

No! Theatre… Would be Cyrano de Bergerac. Or Galileo in Galileo… or Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. If I could carry a tune, I guess I’d choose a musical. But I can’t. So I won’t.

Can we move on now? … Okay. If we were playing the casting game, what role do you -or would your hombres- think embodies you, fits you like-

You don’t need to finish the simile… It’s Adam Scott in Party Down. No question.On film, it would be the Kaufman twins in Adaptation.

I’ve never seen Party Down.

Then this conversation is ove-

Wait! We have to do the thing. Like, the questionnaire from Inside the Actor’s Studio, which was, in turn, ripped from Bouillon de Culture, which was ripped from Proust.

(sighs) Fine.

‘Mos, what’s your favourite word?

Pamplemousse. But if we’re limiting it to english, it’s probably… stellar.

Yes. What’s your least favourite word?

Anything that’s mispronounced. Li’bary. Prob’ly. Ver-gina. I also don’t like Wednesday, because that spelling is ridiculous for how it’s said.

What’s your favourite sound?

A hearty laugh or a light breeze through the trees.

What’s your least favourite sound?

Twisting metal. Or one o’ those crying babies everyone seems to tote.

What turns you on?

Ladies. Good banter. A lady wearing one of my shirts. Delicious food. Creativity. Ladies. The moment of hesitation before a first kiss.

What turns you off?

Cigarette smoke. Hatefulness. Any diva behaviour, or any behaviour that says to someone else I’m better or more important that you.

What’s your favourite curse word?

Oh, the compound curse words: Dick-hole. Motherfucker. Whore-nun. Fuck-face. Ass-clown. Cock-fuck. Cockity-cock-ass. Douche-bag. Turd-burglar. Fuck-nuts. Dick-balls. Cum-dumpster. I think I probably say fuck or fuckin’ the most, but a clever compound always makes me smile. I think dipshit is probably my favourite of those.

What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

I think I would actually just make my ‘profession’ my profession. I think writing is what I do, regardless, so getting paid for that would be great. Or being the GM of a major sports franchise.

What profession would you absolutely not like to attempt.

Parent? Or anything else where you have to clean up fecal matter.

Who is your hero/heroine from fiction or history?

Fiction? Well, listing again, but novel-wise it’d be Augustus McCrae and Woodrow call from Lonesome Dove… Other media, it might be Dalton from Road House, ’cause he’s so badass but also, like, philosophical. History… I think anyone who stood up against tyranny or religious/racial intolerance is a pretty good bet…

And, finally, what would you like to hear “god” say to you when you arrive at “the pearly gates”?

I don’t think we’d say anything… I think we’d just look at each other with disbelief, and a little suspicion.

Wow! The greatest interview of all time, with the greatest human who ever lived. Amos then went home and sat in the tub… but didn’t cry. Check out Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin 2: The Whackining at the Edmonton Fringe this August, and The Wizard of One in Calgary this September. If all goes according to plan, you can also see Amos and the rest of the LLBS crew return to the Calgary stage this September as well.

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