Matt Besser ('Freak Dance')
'Ah! All right, I'll look in your damn bucket! The big freakin' reveal!'
As you all should know by now, Matt Besser is an American actor and comedian best known as one of the four founding members of the wonderful Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy troupe. They had their own show on Comedy Central from 1998-2000 which ran for three (3) seasons and was, to most minds, cancelled too early!
Besser recently wrote and directed his first film 'FREAK DANCE', based on his long-running UCB stage show. The film premiered at the Austin Film Festival on October 21, 2011 and had a limited theatrical and video on-demand release in May 2012. The film is now available on DVD and iTunes.
In 'FREAK DANCE,' a spoiled rich girl who wants to be a dancer finds herself caught into between two rival dance groups set to do battle at an underground competition.
Chatting recently with Matt Besser himself, I first wondered, as the very first words heard in 'FREAK DANCE' are "I'm gonna go out there and get mine," as he sat here with me today, what was HE gonna go out and make his?! "Hollywood. I’ve always heard that Jews control Hollywood but I have yet to get invited to a meeting!"
Being that 'FREAK DANCE' was based on your very own long-running UCB stage show of the same name, is there a chance that FREAK DANCE could now become an actual Broadway Musical?! "Of course, if all those shitty jukebox musicals and Spiderman can have a musical then why can’t we?"
The film was finished in 2010, so why has it taken some 2 years to finally come to DVD? "Holy shit, it’s not still 2010?! Everything in the movie business takes way too long."
How long did it take for the actors/dancers to get some of those major dance routines down? "We ran it on two years on stage so they had plenty of rehearsal time. And all the really hard dancing was done by dance doubles."
Now, in all honesty, were the singing voices that came out of all the main actors really their own voices?! "Yes! When I held auditions I was looking for double threats, funny and ability to sing. And if they couldn’t sing they went the Rex Harrison route."
And with regard Funky Bunch, did his package really have to be SO frickin' large in the show?! "That was his real penis and I didn’t want to cut it down!"
The doctor scene where he explains a bunch of b/s to Asteroid is hilarious, my fav straight scene, but I get the feeling it went on much longer than we actually get to see on the DVD? "You’re right. There was a whole riff on country-rap being the next wave in hip-hop."
My four (4) favorite songs from the DVD are listed below - please tell us a little bit about how each one came to be, and if there are any funny stories behind them:
a) Work That Butt (inspiring Coco in their HQ) – "I think this song came closest to accomplishing why I wanted this to be a musical. You would think that a musical about street dancing would be a rap musical or at least have a latino flavor so I went the opposite direction and made the musical numbers more “old school” musical songs. In this song the lyrics are actually very rap-like, course, and mean but sung with smiles."
b) The Weed Song (at the posh event) – "I love how society villainizes marijuana so this song shows how you can blame everything on weed."
c) Private Dancing For Cash (in the club) – "I wanted a Rex Harrison, talk/sing kind of song and this character was just the one to do it."
d) Yo Momma (at the main event) – "I was with your mama and she thought it would be a good idea!"
As there are not many CGI moments in 'FREAK DANCE,' I was surprised to see one crop up in the head explosion scene! Brilliantly executed though, but was it tough to capture? "That scene has always gotten a big reaction in our public screenings. All the credit goes to my co-director Neil Mahoney."
That butchering of the pig scene was absolutely the grossest thing in the movie - in fact, worse than some b-movie horror flicks that I've had to review recently!! What were you thinking when it came to creating that scene and did it all go according to plan? "The blood was fake but the pig was real. This scene was really rough on Megan Heyn our lead actress. I told the actors, 'workers in slaughter houses have to work in this every day'. They responded, 'that’s why we don’t work in a slaughter house'."
'FREAK DANCE' includes a decent chunk of face time for fellow UCB'er Amy Poehler (as Coco's mother), but a sparse 60 seconds for poor Don Cheadle! Understanding Amy's role time is one thing, but Don's ... in all politeness, why even bother?! "How dare you?! That’s my buddy, and comedy genius Tim Meadows!"
Hmmmm, I don't know if that makes it any the more understandable, but ok. Moving on, just where did the freak dance itself actually originate? As it must have been from a very deluded, sick mind?! "Freak Dancing is a real thing also referred to as “grinding”. It is currently the scourge of all high school dances."
The Freak Dance exists - proof!
And, just for the record, you are stating that Men Without Hats are mentioned in the Bible, yes?! "Yes, as are the Flock of Seagulls."
Will there ever be a sequel?! "If there is it will be in 4-D!"
Your role in 'FREAK DANCE' is just that of Building Inspector General - why choose such a small role ... is it simply because you feel you can't dance?! "You nailed it!"
Did YOU sing all your song parts?! "I can’t dance but I can sing like a mutherf**ker. Did you see how long I held that note?!"
I also noticed that once you had "revealed" yourself right at the end, as you headed towards the camera and turned to face them all in the last sing-along, you yourself were sporting a huge, bouncing, floppy package! In truth, in the first shot it looked like they were man boobs they were bouncing so high! "The director should always have the biggest penis. Mine was wrapped around my waist and flipped over my shoulder. A surprise to my co-director I might add."
I have to say that the twist ending was 100% completely NOT expected! Congrats on that, my friend. But was that always the way you envisioned it to end or was there an alternate version, perhaps? "Alternate version is everything goes black and we play a Journey song!"
This question is usually posed to musicians, but as this was a music-based film, if asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why? "Anything by DEVO because devolution is happening all around us."
Moving onto Upright Citizen's Brigade for a hot second, you still perform with other original members at the Los Angeles Theater every Sunday night re: ASSSSCAT 3000! What kind of show is it and what keeps you still going re: UCB? "Asssscat is our flagship improvised show. I’m addicted to it. Check it out on DVD!"
And, just where did UCB's name actually originate - and what other name was also in the running up until the last moment?! "We wanted something that sounded Big Brother-ish like the Ministry of Information. Runner up name was Monty Python but that name was already taken!"
In reflection, was just three seasons on TV too short a time for such a troupe of talented people? Any angst still pent up for those that cancelled you?! "We got cancelled?!!!"
What was your fav moment as a member of UCB? "Probably filming our first pilot because all of our dreams were coming to fruition."
Could UCB come back to TV today and be as strong as ever? "Shhh, don’t tell everybody! (Season 3 DVD will be released this Fall by the way.)"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins (the bird) ... do you? "I love the birds, but the way they dress is a little stuffy. I prefer my birds in cargo shorts!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED 'FREAK DANCE' DVD Matt, just answer this easy question: In 1996, the UCB relocated to New York City. In NYC, they made three seasons of their sketch-comedy series Upright Citizens Brigade on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000. The cast consisted of Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh. But it originally included a voice-over by ... whom?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful signed DVDs! Just send us an e:mail here before September 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: FREAK DANCE SIGNED DVDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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