Today we speak to a member of a sketch comedy group who we have interviewed a number of times on The Phoenix Remix and this time they are not just here to promote their shows that are happening this week but to announce that a much loved character by the audience is releasing a comedy music album. I spoke to Nick Peterson to find out more about the Live From La Crosse shows and the album he is releasing as Brooks Honkeydonk.
Hello Nick! Tell us about Live From LaCrosse who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
Live from LaCrosse is a scripted sketch comedy show. The structure of the show is modeled after Saturday Night Live with a guest host, a live band, and broken into three sets. Each show has approximately 12-15 new, original sketches with a runtime around 1.5-2 hours. We have a cast of 12 performers, various stage hands and people working in front of the house, a producer, a videographer, a sound engineer, audio technician, and a director. This coming episode will be our 16th episode which wraps up our 5th season.
Tell us a little bit about the shows that are happening this week?
Our next show is Friday, May 4th and Saturday, May 5th at 8pm and is performed at the Cavalier Theater in La Crosse, WI. This show is titled “Episode 16: Honkeydonk’s America,” with American Nationalism being a running theme throughout the show. Though it is a traditional sketch show, this one will include more musical pieces in support of the release of my third musical comedy album.
What sort of style of show can people expect?
We have no defined “style” other than we shoot to make our sketches “relatable.” In other words, we want our audience to say “Why didn’t I think of that?” This show in particular has 15+ sketches, and with this much content, our writers are forced to work very hard to to create as much comedic variety as possible. In any given show, the audience will experience impersonations/impressions, anachronisms, musical comedy, slapstick, epigrammatic, parody, ironic, situational, self-deprecating… you name it, our show more-than-likely has it. Bare in mind, it is for mature audiences, but it is not designed to “gross-out” or “shock” people.
You are also releasing a musical comedy album as well this week – wow! How did that come about?
I have already released 2 musical/comedy albums, but the writing of those was a slow building of content over the course of a couple years. I knew I was ready to do another album, but I wanted the writing/recording process to be different. I did some research about how bands have creatively made albums, and I stumbled across a documentary about Tom Petty. In that, he talked about the recording of Full Moon Fever with producer Jeff Lynne (the iconic album with Running Down a Dream, Free Fallin’, Won’t Back Down, etc…). What he did was write a song one day, recorded it the next, and then mixed on the third BUT on the second day when he was recording the first song he would be writing the second song… and so forth over the course of a couple greuling weeks.
So that’s what I did… it was a very isolating experience, but the product was by far the best work I have ever done. I would stand this album up with any musical comedy product out there.
How difficult is it to actually write a comedy music in character – tell us about the writing and production process?
When I write a comedy song, I make it something I am passionate about (the Tim Minchin approach to comedy songwriting, who I regard as the greatest musical comic in the world). Many musical comics I have heard only hit superficial topics (ie: sex, drugs, and love songs). I have found that writing comedy music follows all the same rules of general songwriting… people can tell when you are authentic or not.
The wonderful thing about writing songs as a character is that you get to take an entirely different perspective, which allows you to approach the comedy from a different angle. So I share how I feel about something, but in an ironic way… through somebody else’s voice. It adds another layer of comedy. Is the process more difficult?
Once you have a character established, not any more difficult than writing other songs, but it is absolutely more time-consuming and thoughtful.
Do you have to do any rituals or routines to get into character of Brooks?
Ha! Rituals… hmm… First I sacrifice a live chicken to the gods of comedy, and then… kidding. It usually starts with just tagging something with “Freedom.” For example, if somebody asks me what I ate for breakfast, Brooks Honkeydonk respond with “scrambled freedom with a side of crispy liberty.” Then the character just sort of takes over, and it’s pretty safe he’ll reference eagles, America, and Ronald Reagan.
If people want to listen to this album where can they go to buy it / listen?
This album will be available (with help from the good people at TuneCore) on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Shazam, and Pandora. You can search for Nick Peterson, but I am optimistic I will have the direct links within the coming week.
My other musical/comedy albums (Problem to Your Solution; 2012, and Abundance of Nothing; 2014) can be streamed/downloaded for free (because I’m terrible at business) at: https://www.reverbnation.com/nickpetersonmusic
What’s the highlights of some of your previous shows that you have performed?
That’s a tough one… too many to count. In the 15 previous episodes, we have put up nearly 200 sketches, and many of those have had powerful comedic moments. The sketch I had the most fun performing this past season (and has also garnered some popularity on YouTube) was called “Yngwie (Fucking) Malmsteen.”
Yngwie, one of the greatest guitar players of all time, is trying to teach beginner guitar lessons for kids, and has extreme difficulties not being such a “rock star.” I’m partial toward sketches that include music and musicians. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIw6CiAbHD4
What have been some of your favourite shows with Brooks and your favourite scenes and why?
Brooks was first introduced to our audience with the song #Freedom 3 years ago with a sketch about the American Country Music Awards – lampooning the pandering nature of modern pop/country music (inspired by an atrocious Jason Aldean concert I was dragged to). After that, Brooks second appearance was a big hit amongst the other musical comics at the Laughingstock musical comedy festival in Chicago. But the biggest highlight for the character was when I opened for The Kyle Gass Band (THE Kyle Gass of Tenacious D) in April of 2016.
I played a solid 30 minute set and closed with Brooks singing #Freedom. Not only did I get to open for a legend in musical comedy, but I got a standing ovation! I’ve never felt energy like that. It was surreal… and the icing on the cake was that Kyle and his band were AMAZING guys. Polite, authentic, personable, and very talented. Getting to hang out Kyle and his band for the evening was out of this world.
Here’s the song #Freedom: https://www.reverbnation.com/nickpetersonmusic/song/23472329-freedom
What other characters do you enjoy playing and why?
In 5 years, I have played a lot., but I LOVE playing characters (mostly because my normal self is boring). The voices, delivery, costuming, mannerisms… bringing a character to life is incredibly fun and fulfilling. It’s like doing pretend-play when you were a kid. My favorite character is an impersonation of folk musician Gordon Lightfoot.
In the sketch, his internal monologue is speaking of his daily adventures while writing in his diary to the tune of his own music (which gives the one liners a poetic cadence), but he is chronically interrupted by his needy wife who is unsuccessfully trying to get him to be a “regular husband” and do daily chores around the house – which he does not receive well. Being that most of the sketch is happening in his head, we get to explore his strange thoughts, insecurities, and imagination. I am l shocked at how well it resonates with audiences… probably because it is so unconventional. I get a message at least once every 2 weeks from random people with something about Gordon Lightfoot in it. Check the sketch out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2BBy0yD9vw
A lot of people at the moment are trying to transition sketch into video to post on social media channels – do you think this works for sketch or do you think the art form is lost in the transition?
I appreciate video sketches – people trying to bring joy to the world and immortalize themselves in the recesses of the internet. That being said, the internet is completely saturated with them… and 99% of them are not good – either unoriginal or underdeveloped.
I think the reason they are so rough is because they are not testing them on an audience, which requires you to practice, rewrite, rehearse, analyze, stage… perfect the sketch. Video sketches do have their place, but I prefer them as part of a live show to offer the audience some balance (ex: SNL shorts).
What have been some of the most unique and different comedy sets you have seen this year and why?
This past year at the Chicago Sketchfest, I got to see a group from New York City called “Dinner For One,” and they were BRILLIANT! I have watched a lot of sketch comedy, but I’ve never seen anything like this group. Timing, energy, performers, writing… they were all fantastic. They have a sketch called “Lamaze” that made my stomach hurt I laughed so hard. I do not want to spoil it because I honestly think it is THAT good. Here is a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y6_ygJ3aKw
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
YouTube search: “Live From LaCrosse comedy”
What are some of the shows that you guys have coming up for the rest of the year?
Other than next week’s show, we have a “Best Of” episode happening in August, where between audience and cast polls, we are pulling together a full show of our most popular sketches. We will then have another show in November as well as a couple festivals.
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
We don’t follow rules.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
(answered in the style of character Brooks Honkeydonk)
What is one of the things you would put on your “bucket” list?
My face on Mount Rushmore along with the other four great American patriots: George Washingmachine, Jeffer Thomasson, Ted Theodore Logan, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Achy Breaky Heart
When I dance, I look like…?
… I got shot right in the freedom.
What is your favorite T.V. channel?
If you could get a yacht what would you call it?
“Trespassers Will Be Sh-Yacht”
What TV sitcom family would you be a member of?
“Who’s the Boss?” But if I was on the show, they would have called it “He’s the Boss.” because everybody would know right away.
Last item you purchased?
Eagle underwear (seriously, this is what I bought for the upcoming show: http://a.co/jkPhlIa )
If you could win any award what would it be, why?
The Nobel Peace-Maker Prize…prize given to the person who gives foreign countries a Peacemanker missile.