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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mike Bullard interview

Mike Bullard – February 12, 2008
"You don't want to sit on [the internet] all day because there are some people on there who you've never met and you're surprised at how much they hate your guts." – Mike Bullard

Guy MacPherson: I'm a big fan of yours. Or was, when I could see you every night.
Mike Bullard: Thanks, man. Thanks a lot. It's nice to hear from a British Columbian.

GM: You don't often?
MB: No, I do. BC's always been good to me.

GM: What have you been up to?
MB: I've been doing a lot of corporate stuff. I was at XM but as you know they're broke.

GM: How was that experience? I don't have satellite radio so I couldn't hear it.
MB: I love radio.

GM: Yeah?
MB: Yeah, I really love radio. That's where I think I want to wind up.

GM: Was that your first experience with it?
MB: Yeah. I've always loved guesting on shows.

GM: What do you love about it?
MB: The immediacy of it. There's none of this, "Hey, let's write this, let's go over it 25 times, and put it on the show tomorrow." It's right there and now.

GM: You were on every day for, what, three hours?
MB: Yeah, every day for three hours.

GM: That's a lot. But I guess it's right up your alley because you're a spur of the moment guy.
MB: Yeah, a lot of spontaneity. And I was with Lawrence Morgenstern and Judy Croon, and they're both great.

GM: You've been with Lawrence for a long time, haven't you?
MB: Lawrence was a writer on the [TV] show, yeah. I've known Lawrence for 25 years. You must know him, too, right?

GM: Not personally, but I certainly am familiar with his work.
MB: He loves it, too, so we're going to get back into it somehow, some way.

GM: On satellite radio, there are no language restrictions, are there?
MB: If you're a caller, you didn't get cut off. (laughs) The only effect it had on me was if you were a caller you could swear all you want and you didn't get bleeped.

GM: So you could take the show to a commercial station.
MB: Terrestrial, yeah. That's what I want to do.

GM: Was it a shock when your TV show was cancelled?
MB: Uh... no, I felt it coming. I wasn't exactly impressed by the fact I was on for six weeks, but...

GM: Yeah, you had just signed with Global.
MB: Yeah. I can't get into that. You know what? I was disappointed, let's put it that way. I still have 50 people a day walking up to me, which is gratifying as hell but I wish we were still doing it, you know?

GM: Was it that you left CTV or were they going with The Daily Show?
MB: I left. No matter what you hear, I left.

GM: I didn't hear anything, that's why I'm asking.
MB: Okay. Well, I heard otherwise. No, my contract was up and I thought, "You know what? I'm going to try some place else and see what happens." But I could have gone back, I think. Well, I know I could have gone back. Do I wish I had? Many times. But you know what? I don't look back, right? I try to look forward. And then about a year ago I started doing clubs and theatres and stuff again and I'm having a really good time doing it.

GM: The special you did, which I think was before your TV show...
MB: Oh yeah, that was way back. That was in '96.

GM: That's one of the best Comics! specials they've ever done. It was great.
MB: Really?

GM: Yeah.
MB: Thanks, man. That was at the Opera House in Toronto.

GM: I have it on video.
MB: Do you really?!

GM: Sure.
MB: Wow. Well, that's still what I'm doing. That stuff is all spontaneity and dealing with the audience. And that's what I'm still doing. I guess it's weird. There's not many people that do it. I was out in Edmonton and Calgary a couple of weeks ago and Jesus, the internet buzz was unbelievable. Well, you know what? When I started doing the show, and even when I left the show, the internet was kind of in its infancy that way, right? It's kind of weird now, the immediacy of feedback. Then again, you don't want to sit on that thing all day, either because (laughs) there are some people on there who you've never met and you're surprised at how much they hate your guts.

GM: Exactly! Everybody's a hater on the internet.
MB: I don't know why that is. But it doesn't matter who you are, either. I saw something negative about Dennis Leary a couple of weeks ago and I went, "Jesus, what's your bone to pick with that guy? Rescue Me's a great show, he's a great standup." You just never know with people.

GM: Everyone's got an opinion and they want to share it with the world.
MB: Yeah, exactly! (laughs) And sadly they can.

GM: You had a lot of diehard fans and a lot of detractors.
MB: Everybody has that, though, you know? You know who else has that? Letterman. Leno has it, Letterman has it.

GM: Did it ever get to you? Or do you just accept it as part of the business?
MB: You accept it. The detractors, you never get to meet them. (laughs) If you know what I mean. You never meet them in the flesh. The diehards, you do meet in the flesh. So you just go with the ones you meet in the flesh. You can't believe anything good or bad you read about yourself, you know what I mean? That's the old story, but it's true. The best thing you can do is try to get yourself a nondescript car and never give anybody the finger no matter what they do to you on the road. Because if they know who you are, it'll be on the internet in five minutes.

"It kind of makes me sad because there's never room for one [talk show] in Canada yet there's room for four in the U.S." – Mike Bullard

GM: Are you surprised that Canada doesn't have a late-night talk show anymore?
MB: We've got George Strombolopoulis.

GM: Does that count?
MB: It's not comedic, that's for sure. It's not done the traditional way, the way I did it, that's true. I like George, though. He's a good guy. But no, it's not surprising because there are costs involved. And I never got any government money. I see all this stuff going on with Jim Shaw wanting to pull out of the Canadian television fund. I never got any of the CTF money or any tax credit anyway. And I look at it and I go it costs a lot of money to put those shows on. And you're competing against American juggernauts that are cash cows. That's the trouble. The first thing I ever said when we did the show is they better figure out a way to make this thing revenue enhancing.

GM: And did they?
MB: No, because after 11, there's not a lot of ad revenue in Canada, right? It's not like the U.S. where after 11 there's still a ton of ad revenue. Some people use the 10 times rule when they're talking about the U.S. versus Canada. But a friend of mine said, when it comes to consumers and viewership, it's more like 25 times. Americans are huge consumers. Way more than we are. I don't know. It's just a weird thing the way they do it. They're just different consumers than we are. And the bottom line is it kind of makes me sad because there's never room for one in Canada yet there's room for four in the U.S.

GM: When I stumbled across your show back when you were in the Wayne Gretzky restaurant...

MB: If I had one wish it would be that we stayed there. I wish we'd stayed there forever. I liked it. The place seated 100 people. It was small and didn't pretend to be something it wasn't. And that's the way I wanted to keep it.

GM: And you didn't pretend to be something you weren't, either, which I really liked.
MB: No. I'm glad to hear you say that because that's really important to me. To me it's about being a regular guy and making a connection with people and trying to live your life like a regular guy.

GM: And also as a fellow non-hockey fan, I appreciate the fact that you admitted that publicly.
MB: (laughs) You never saw me getting bent out of shape over the Detroit-Toronto rivalry, that's for sure.

GM: Hockey fans are amazing. They'll hold that against you, won't they?
MB: You know what? I had to read Hockey For Dummies. Somebody went and got it and gave it to me and said, "Listen, you better read this because you're getting letters that should be reserved for child molesters because of the fact that you don't know anything about hockey."

GM: Yeah. How Canadian can you be?!
MB: Yeah, people would get incensed about it. We had hockey players on and they would look at me like I was from Mars. I'll never forget the time Tai Domi was on. I asked him what position he played. That was probably my Larry King moment, when you ask questions you shouldn't ask, not necessarily questions that no one else asks. That's when I went downstairs and somebody on staff had gotten me that book and it was sitting on the table.

GM: Do you have those regrets where you go, "Oh, geez, I shouldn't have asked that."
MB: No. I have moments I'm glad I had, like when Julian Lennon was on I asked him who his favourite Beatle was. The best moment for me was when we had Ricky Martin on. That was my favourite moment of all time. They said under no circumstances am I to ask him any questions about his sexual preference. I guess he'd had a couple of tense moments with other people. So he sits down and we do the interview (chuckles) and it's going really well and we're almost at the end. And his manager's standing at the producer's table. And I go, "Listen, Ricky, I don't want to pry, but I gotta tell you I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't ask you this question." And you could just see the colour go right out of his face. And I could hear his manager at the producer's table going, "What the fuck is this?" I said, "But if I don't ask you this question I really won't be able to look in the mirror tomorrow morning." And he stutters and stammers and goes, "W-w-what is it?" And I go, "Are you Spanish or Puerto Rican?" You could just see the colour come back into his face right there. It was incredible.

GM: (laughs) You were making him sweat. Did he say anything after?
MB: He shook my hand and the manager came over and wagged his finger at me. Then they walked out. That was it. Believe it or not I didn't join these people for smart cocktails after. The bigger the star, the quicker I knew they were going to get the hell out of there.

GM: But they enjoyed coming on, didn't they?
MB: Michael Moore came on. But the turn-the-corner moments for me were when Dennis Leary came on and when the prime minister was on. That, to me, was probably the biggest night we ever had.

GM: Cretien.
MB: He was actually sitting in office and he came on. And that was probably one of my favourites, too.

GM: One of my favourites was Lawrence Morgenstern as Santa Claus with Scott Thompson.
MB: I used to love that when he'd come on as the Yiddish Santa. I loved that every Christmas when he did that. He really loved doing that stuff. That was my favourite time when he'd come out and do that because he'd go into that and he just wouldn't come out of it. And when the kids were phoning in, that to me was the most fun. I loved stuff like that.

GM: There should be a DVD of highlights of your show.
MB: Why don't you say that in the article? People walk up to me and ask me that all the time: "How come you haven't done a Best Of DVD?"

GM: What were the years you were at CTV?
MB: 1997 and I was finished in 2004.

GM: Especially now, every show ever has a DVD.
MB: I know, I know.

GM: It would have been good.
MB: Hey, man, if you want to print that and tell people to write letters, go ahead! (laughs)

GM: You had some heat from the States at one time, didn't you?
MB: Yup.

GM: What happened there?
MB: Merv Griffin's company. I don't know. Nothing ever came of it. I don't know what it was. It never got past the point of... Actually, I'm not the one who even got to talk to them. You'd have to ask other people.

GM: You and Pat are probably the only brothers who have hosted talk shows.
MB: Yup, I think so. Actually, I do believe that. You're probably right. He's got a show coming on ABC March 2nd.

GM: What kind of show?
MB: It's Nest Egg. I can't really give you what it's all about but it's pretty funny. It's about married couples. Sort of like a remake of Johnny Carson's show Who Do You Trust?

GM: So a game show.
MB: Yeah, it's a game but from what he told me about it, it sounds pretty funny. Like how much you trust your wife, how much you trust your husband. And it's not just monogamy; it's about a million and one other things. Like, they blindfolded a guy and put him in a car and he had to trust his wife to tell him where to turn and what to do and all that jazz. And I think the prize at stake was like ten grand for that one thing. I think that's on the first one. He says it's pretty funny what these guys did. It was him and Greg Fitzsimmons on the show. He's a great comic. He was a writer on Ellen DeGeneres's show. So Greg Fitzsimmons has something to do with it, too.

GM: Who's older, you or Pat?
MB: Me, by seventeen months.

GM: You worked for the phone company almost right up to the point where you got your show, right?
MB: Till eight weeks before it went on the air, yeah.

GM: That's amazing. So you could always go back there.
MB: (chuckles) Yeah. I was there for twenty years. I was doing standup at night and working at Bell during the day. Nobody in showbiz world knew that I even had a job. It was kind of interesting.

GM: How did you get the show? Did you audition? Or was it your idea for the show that got picked up?
MB: I did a golf tournament and Doug Bassett, the owner of Baton and CTV – he owned all of that, and CFTO; basically the owner of CTV – he was there. He walked up to me after and he goes, "Geez, that was really good. You ever thought of doing TV?" I go, "I really want to do a talk show." He goes, "I tell you, if we get the comedy license, I'll have Yvonne call you." So they were true to their word. Then I did the special that you talked about and it went from there. I was on the air, I guess, six months after that.

GM: That's fast.
MB: It was fast by this country's standards, yeah. Really fast.

GM: Who went into comedy first, you or Pat?
MB: My brother. He left and went to L.A. then I said I'm gonna start doing this myself. So I just started doing amateur night in '88.

GM: Did you ever do a standard act with material?
MB: Yeah, probably. I can't even remember what it was. I probably had jokes that I got up there and did. And then when I started emceeing, I just stopped doing joke jokes. I just stopped doing bits and started talking to people. And I remember thinking this is probably a good way to go for me because I feel really comfortable. And then I read an interview with David Letterman in Rolling Stone and I thought, "I knew it! This is the way to get a talk show." Letterman never headlined; he always hosted at the Comedy Store. He was always the emcee. And he said that's where he learned how to do a talk show. And I thought I gotta be on the right track here. Because I love Letterman. I love Letterman.

GM: I wonder if he ever saw your show.
MB: I used to hear rumours that he had, but I don't know if that's a fact or not. The same lady who booked his show, we used her company to book ours for about two years. I don't know if he ever saw it or not but she was a great lady. She booked all our guests. That was the best time because we either had some of his guests before he had them or after he had them. Toronto and New York aren't that far apart.

GM: Did they ever use your show as a testing ground for new guests to see how they'd do?
MB: We had a lot of comics come up from New York who wanted to try our show first. And then you'd see them a couple of weeks later on Letterman. She booked a lot of New York comics on the show. That's how I met Greg Fitzsimmons. He was on our show then two weeks later I saw him on Letterman.

GM: And you had Mitch Hedberg on.
MB: Yeah, probably one of the first TV shots he ever had, I think.

GM: And Wendy Crewson was laughing hysterically.
MB: Yeah, she was great. I think she was on seven times.

"I guess I've never lost a brain cell through drugs or booze because I never drank or anything. ... But on the down side, I'm up all night with sparks going off in my head. That makes me wish I had had a drink once in a while." – Mike Bullard

GM: You guys had a real rapport.
MB: Oh, yeah, I loved Wendy Crewson. I loved her. She was just fantastic. I used to make fun of her all the time for being the wife or the girlfriend. That was all she ever played, right? She had a great sense of humour about it.

GM: You have a great memory when you work the crowd. Was that something you had to develop or has it always been sharp?
MB: Everybody asks me that. I don't know what it is. I guess I've never lost a brain cell through drugs or booze because I never drank or anything. So I don't know if that's the reason or not. People ask me that. Funny you say that because somebody just asked me that when I was getting gas this morning. They said, "How do you remember so much stuff?" I said, "I don't know. But on the down side, I'm up all night with sparks going off in my head." That makes me wish I had had a drink once in a while.

GM: Was your comedy hero Don Rickles?
MB: When I was a kid, yeah. Don Rickles and Johnny Carson. Yeah, but I loved Don Rickles when I was a kid. I used to love Carson when he was on. Then when I was older I really loved Garry Shandling. I drove all the way to Atlantic City just to see him and came back the same night.

GM: One of my favourite shows was It's Garry Shandling's Show.
MB: That was a really, really funny show and a real tribute to Jack Benny. It reminded me of The Jack Benny Show. I loved Larry Sanders, too, but I really loved It's Garry Shandling's Show.

GM: Have you checked lately?
MB: No, what's there?

GM: It's a Dutch site.
MB: Oh, really? Okay. That's funny. I guess they didn't hang on to it.

GM: You have a website under construction.
MB: Yeah, hopefully this guy's going to get it together soon. (laughs) But I've been remiss, too. I gotta go in and get head shots done. Because if you don't have a website, man, you're missing out on work.

GM: You and Derrick Edwards.
MB: Derrick Edwards doesn't have one?! Well, you can't be in better company.

GM: Some people are afraid you're going to pick on them. I remember that woman in the audience of your special who wouldn't say a word and it drove you nuts.
MB: Yeah, but that was on TV. They're different when you're not on TV. When you're in the clubs, everyone wants to talk to you. It's good that way. I haven't seen this club. I haven't been there. It's a new one. I heard it's beautiful.

GM: It's very nice. What can we expect from your show? An hour of you making fun of us?
MB: Sure. High energy, lots of spontaneity, and a good time had by me, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For me, the Mike Bullard show trumped Letterman, Leno - all the big night names - purely due to Bullard's venturing into the crowd feeding off the 'moment'. Every night it was a carnival of the unknown. What a talent. Great interview, Guy.