Today I have the great honor to interview the extremely funny star of YouTube’s hit comedy series, The Dick and Jane Show, namely Elvis Winterbottom. He carries an ubiquitous pipe, but never have I seen it lit; he displays a wry deadpan humor reminiscent of a hodge-podge of comedy’s greatest; and he has as his wife on the show (Jane)a the very cute and witty actress, Kate Dean (who is also the Executive Producer).
Like baseball’s one-time motto, “Catch the Fever,” you should do yourself the favor of checking out even one episode (they’re short; under ten minutes each) of the series, and you’ll catch the fever, yourselves. It’s the cure for the dreaded Bieber Fever (Yes! That’s preachable, or at least, Tweetable!). The shows are like Saturday Night Live skits, or Second City ones (which Elvis has been a member of), and Elvis’s humor reminds me of an unholy cross between Seinfeld, Bob Newhart, Jon Lovitz, Bob Hope, and Dick Van Dyke, with a little bit of Ren & Stimpy thrown in for good measure.
Let’s get on to the questions, shall we, Elvis?
Douglas R. Cobb: Elvis, I am a recent fan of yours and The Dick and Jane Show, but I’ve seen all of the first and second seasons, and found myself laughing out loud at them. Are you filming a third season, or have some episodes already been shown on YouTube from a third season that I’ve possibly missed?
Elvis Winterbottom: Well first off, thank you for the incredibly kind words. As far as the third season it actually has a bit of a story to it. I noticed that anytime a show has a “lost episode” the fans go nuts and run out and by it in droves. So I thought I’d pull a publicity stunt and have the third season be a “lost season”. Well I then thought the best way to make sure the third season stayed lost was not to shoot it at all. Then from there I’d tell everybody it’s lost. But unfortunately I’m not good at keeping a secret and I told everyone that I didn’t really shoot the third season and am only doing a publicity stunt so it never took off like I hoped. I’m now thinking of skipping the third and fourth season all together going straight to the fifth season but getting canceled from YouTube before we can shoot it. That way the fans will get upset and demand us to come back. I haven’t worked it all out yet but something like that.
How long does it generally take for you to write an episode? Is there much ad-libbed material in an episode?
Well don’t tell anybody but they’re all first drafts and I write them in about an hour. Just tell everybody that each episode is hand written from the finest ink imported from Germany and has taken Elvis on average four years per episode to write. Wait… this is a blog…umm…OK….tell everybody not to read the first part of my answer.
OH. You asked about ad lib. Well once I write the scripts I never read them again so they could be ad libbing and I’d never know. I can’t read or write so I have no clue what their lines are but don’t tell the actors that.
I can tell you that I usually give the script to the actors about a day or two before the shoot, sometimes the day of the shoot. Then they yell at me for not giving them anytime to learn their lines. Then I say, “I’m sorry but I was watching TV and forgot to write the script.” Then they say, “This has been scheduled for weeks. What could you have been watching that long?” Then I say, “Cartoons.” Then they say, “Do you think that’s a good idea since you have a family to take care of?” Then I say, “Mind your own business.” Then they get mad and go get something to eat at craft services.
Dick’s love of pipes and his dream of owning a Meerschaum pipe is a pretty cool running joke throughout the series. And, pipes seem to be something that all of the males characters of the series, with the possible exception of the “Canadian” Burt (really Shane, from Springfield, Illinois), also use as props and are almost worshipful about.
Maybe this is a MidWestern thang; my father smoked a pipe (cigs, also), and my oldest brother smokes one, and, though I live in Arkansas now, I am also a native of Illinois. Crap! where’s my question?
Oh, here it is; I wrote it down on a napkin at lunch. What gave you the idea to use a pipe as a prop for your character of Dick? Why is the pipe never shown lit?
Well the pipes represent a dark side of my life. I was once in a pipe gang. We were as evil as they came. We’d hit the streets and just wait for someone to come by smoking a pipe and then mug them for their pipe. Pipe jacking. It didn’t matter to us who it was. A priest, rabbi, kid, mom, we stole from all of them.
Once there was a baby smoking a pipe and we stole it from her. Jesus, she couldn’t of been 8 months old at best but I didn’t care, I had to have that pipe. I’d gotten in deep and didn’t think I’d ever get out. At one point I couldn’t even take a shower without smoking a pipe. But then I went to pipe rehab and vowed to never steal a pipe again. I’m 38 months clean now. So I guess the pipe symbolizes all those people I’ve stolen from. I know they’ll never get there pipes back and there isn’t a night that goes by that I don’t wake up in a cold sweat knowing that those poor people are pipeless. So I guess me putting the pipes in the episodes is me saying I’m sorry.
Oh and as far as it not being lit, it’s just for continuity.
I’d like to ask you some questions now, Elvis, about some of the episodes of the first & second seasons.
I noticed certain repeated phrases or variations of them that might be considered to be catch-phrases of Dick’s, like “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” and “Who would have thought?” Did you intend from the very beginning of the first season to have these be memorable catch-phrases, or did they come about as the series progressed and your audience built up?
Ummmmmm….yea. I meant for them to be catchphrases. I knew it all along. I’m good that way. Yep. Catchphrase that’s what I meant to do. So there’s no need to think otherwise.
Hmm. I was going to sue myself for plagiarizing myself but if it was just catchphrases I don’t know how strong of a case I’ll have. Have to ask my lawyer what I should do.
The third episode of the first season, “Dodge sucker,” is one of the earlier ones that I really enjoyed viewing. Could you go into it a little bit for our readers, and explain how the idea of the suckers stuck in various characters’ hair came about? Also, Jane’s (Kate’s) line referring to her husband, Dick, about “He is my Alpha dog and I’m his Alpha bitch,” was an inspired piece of writing. Did you come up with that turn of phrase, or did Kate, or someone else?
Well many people don’t know this but I was in the Air Force. At one point I was stationed in Caribou Maine. I very dangerous place. While there I was captured by the enemy and they would make us play Dodge Sucker and bet on who’d win. One time Airman Lawson got some sucker juice in his eye. He said it stung really bad.
As far as the “Alpha dog” line goes everything for the most part is scripted. But like I said, I can’t read or write so I’m not sure what I typed. Like now, I could be typing the Constitution and wouldn’t know it. I’m just pressing buttons.
Douglas R. Cobb: Jane’s character is obsessed with food in the shape of balls, like popcorn ball, ham balls, etc. No wonder, I guess, with a husband whose first name is…that’s too easy of a joke, but it’s actually the truth. As Peter Griffin (of Family Guy) might say: “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”
What’s your personal favorite ball-shaped food, and your favorite type of pipe?
Well I like Butter Balls. As far as pipes go you have to give it up for Dunhill or Savinelli. But if I had my choice there’s these really neat ones that you can put bubbles in and then blow and bubbles come out. Who’da thought!?!
Shane’s character (Houston Graham)of the “New Guy” who moves himself into Dick and Jane’s house without their permission (initially, at any rate) was a great addition to the series. Whose idea was it to add him? Didn’t Bush build a fence to keep out Canadians? How did he get into our country, anyway? Were any Canadians hurt during the filming of your series? Who thought up the idea that “Burt,” is a shorter, more American name to refer to Shane? Those crazy Canadians with their difficult-to-pronounce names…why, if I didn’t like maple syrup so much, I’d….
OK. You asked a lot of questions here. I got confused at the two dots after your name.
First off as we all know Canadians are pure evil. I would know better than anyone because I used to be Canadian. Now I know that my mother and father were born and bred in Chicago and I was born in Joliet Illinois and have the birth certificate to prove it but that still doesn’t account for the fact that I enjoy fishing for Walleye Pike. It took over 6 surgeries to get all of the Canadian out of me but I finally did it. I think that’s why I use to steal pipes to be honest.
The point is I wrote him into the show just to let the Canadians know that I’m on to them. And yes, they have hard names to pronounce. Like Shane or Jessica.
OH and I almost forgot half of them are pretending to be French. So you think you’re talking to a French person but no, it’s a Canadian. Slippery fellows those Canadians, just like Walleye Pike.
Another Favorite episode of mine from the first season was Episode 4: “Yo Mama Smells Like Ham Balls,” with Jane giving Dick lessons on how to do Yo Mama insults in order to win a ham from the Beaver Lodge, where Dick is a member. The reason she wants a ham? As Jane says: “Ham balls will go well with my macaroni balls.” Yum. My mouth is salivating at the very thought.
Mild-mannered (but lady’s man, somehow) Dick has to go head-to-head against his fellow Beaver Lodge members, finally facing a surrogate, a ringer who’s won several Yo Mama competitions. The scene where Dick fires back a series of expletives which are all bleeped was one of the funniest bits of the entire show and the series–I cracked up, despite not knowing what it was Dick was actually saying.
Who came up with the Yo Mama jokes, and the idea for Dick to face the ringer?
OK, this is the only time I’ll be serious.
First off, the Yo Mama jokes for the most part have been past down for years. Nothing new there. Did you know that there really is Yo Mama competitions? True story. Now in some of the poorer parts of cities many people don’t have money to go to movies or go see a comic and pay a two drink minimum so they’d goof around and tell Yo Mama jokes to each other for their own entertainment. I totally dig that. So it’s my homage to those guys I guess. I like the fact that people don’t need a gadget or the Internet to entertain themselves.
As far as the ringer, it was played by Brian Lay. It’s funny, he may just be the nicest guy out of all of us. I remember when we were shooting he waited around for hours just in case we needed him again. Didn’t have to do that but he did. I wanted to shoot some more with him but I ran out of time and we couldn’t shoot the scene I wanted and he was like, “No worries. Just glad I could be in it.” I’ll never forget that.
I also love the attention to detail, like even background detail, in the series. The banner at the Beaver Lodge that says: “We Eat Wood,” was great, and it was a nice homage to Bob Hope when you included his photo (pipe included) on one of the Lodge walls.
Are you a big fan of Hope’s, and some of the comedians of the past, like Benny, Dick Van Dyke, and Newhart?
Huge fan of all those old timers. Their timing and delivery was off the charts. As far as Bob Hope, most of all I love his body of work. It didn’t matter to him what medium he found a way to get in there and work. Kinda like me and telemarketing. It doesn’t matter what product I have to sell as long as there is a $300 paycheck at the end of the week I’m happy.
In Season 2, I think in the episode “Pipe Poker,” you mention your honeymoon with Jane to Jamaica. Alway the tobacco aficionado, you manage to track to a special blend there. Could you tell our readers what happens after that?
Well the last thing I remember, we somehow ended up in Cuba then the next thing I know I was on a raft heading for Florida. Seems like we were on on that raft for days. I remember we’d sing show tunes and laugh. Best of times. We got picked up by the Coast Guard though. I don’t know what happened to the other guys on the raft. I miss them dearly though.
The Game Show of Love you have in the Season 2 episode 4, “Gettin’ Some,” where Jane tries to get Burt/Shane a date was hilarious, also.
That’s when we learn about Dick’s fondness for thinking up bumper sticker remarks, my personal favorite of his being: “Do chickens think rubber humans are funny?”
The surrealness of, or ultra-realness of, the world of Dick and Jane is one of the qualities that makes the show work so well on so many other levels.
What made you decide to do a series that is in part an homage. and in part a send-up, or the classic comedy series like the Dick Van Dyke Show?
Oh I had to do some community service for some unpaid tickets and this was my punishment.
I could go on and on, but I’ll conclude the interview with one more question (maybe–no promises). What projects are you currently working on, Elvis? And, do you have plans to eventually expand the Dick and Jane Show to a half-hour in length? Also, where can our readers learn more about you, and The Dick and Jane Show?
I’ve completely quit the business and now only do Multi Level Marketing. But don’t tell the readers that. Have them skip over that part as well. Tell them that I’m busy with a feature film that I’m writing and directing. You know what? Better yet, tell them that I now own Universal Studios and Warner Brothers and that I’m this really powerful tycoon and a bunch of people like me and want to hang out with me but I’m too busy and famous so I can’t and then they want to hang out with me even more and then I sign autographs for them but they say it’s for their kid but I know it’s really for them.
Thanks, Elvis, for granting me the privilege of interviewing you. You and your co-stars, Kate Dean (Jane), Jessica Drolet (Rose) and Houston Graham (Shane/Burt), as well as the many other very funny guest stars of the series, deserve to see even more fame and a wider audience.
So, all of you reading this interview: If you haven’t already checked out The Dick and Jane Show, I urge you to do so asap! You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll LOL at Elvis’s and Kate’s excellent series, as I did!
Who are you talking to?
Click to watch Elvis’s Stand Up Comedy
Click to watch The Dick and Jane Show