“We think big; if you come into one of our shows we want to give you something special” – Adam McKenzie on Watson & Go to Hell!
“[My favourite word] is ‘meanwhile’. I love the word ‘meanwhile’; easiest way to get from one place in the story to another… here we are, having an interview, MEANWHILE, on the moon…”
Horror comedy trio Watson are back for another year pants-wetting laughs and gasps. Armed with the Moosehead Award and a theatre space, they look set to take their audiences straight to hell. Nick Jones caught up with Adam McKenzie to chat about the show, the Award, and what exactly horror comedy is…
The show is WATSON – Go to Hell!; tell us about that.
The elevator pitch is it’s a horror comedy set around people’s fears. There’s so much to fear in this world at the moment – the Donald being one of them – it’s kind of crazy out there at the moment, so our show is about people’s fears, and how to deal with them. It’s a horror comedy, so you’ll have just as many scares as you will laughs.
What does ‘horror comedy’ mean to you? Is that Snakes on a Plane?
[laughter] A little bit! It just means that after you laugh, you’ll wee yourself a little bit. It’s much like a comedy show, but with a little bit more laundry.
Comedy and horror are so similar because it’s all based on surprise; I think people want to go out and laugh because it gets to something really primal, inside us, and I think horror does the same thing, and I think the horror comedy thing is about surprise and really keeping the audience on their toes.
Who are WATSON?
A bald guy, a girly guy and a girl from TV; good mates who like to put together good shows. We always say we compete with big budgets by having big ideas… we finished one of our shows having a sword fight on the street – that was excellent! – with proper swords; we found out when we got there on the opening night we were supposed to have done a risk assessment, and we asked them, “first of all, what’s a ‘risk assessment’?”, and they said, “well, is anyone going to get stabbed with a sword?”, and we had to tell them, “…possibly…?”. We’ve had to sneak an audience out the back door once because the government was trying to get us, we flew in zero gravity… the thing with WATSON, what differentiates us, is that we think big; if you come into one of our shows we want to give you something special.
Your previous show Who’s Afraid of the Dark? won an award…?
I don’t like to go on about it, but yeah, we won an award, Best Comedy at the Fringe Festival ’14, and that was lovely…
It had demonic possession…?
Yeah it did.
And locking people in cells.
It did! Sometimes not necessarily on purpose! Yeah, we did lock people in cells and really terrorised them; I don’t know if you’ve been to the Old Melbourne Gaol, it’s great doing a horror there because all you have to do is turn the lights out and put them in a cell and people freak out! We even had a safety word so if anyone really freaked out they could say the safety word; one person did one night, and we were like, “really?”, and she went, “yep, this is too full on”… [chuckles] but we ignored her and went on and it was fine!
Who’s Afraid of the Dark? was really, really great; that was in the gaol, that was on location, and this year we’re in a theatre, and that’s what we’re really excited about, using that theatre and seeing what we can do to really scare the pants off people.
At the Malthouse, I believe.
At the Malthouse! Lah-di-dah! It’s got doors and everything!
WATSON have been announced as a Moosehead Award recipient; what has this meant for you as performers, and for the show?
Well, what it means for us is that we’re incredibly thankful to be a part of the Moosehead… it’s such a great grant for shows that might not necessarily have gotten up. I think the best way to put the Mooseheads – at least, the way I describe it – is that they like to put on shows that otherwise would be either too hard to put on, or might not necessarily have a mainstream appeal, or are a bit left of centre, and it’s really lovely that they’ve taken part – basically – and they’ve helped independent artists.
And it really is about independent artists, helping them with their shows. And what it means for the show is that they take this idea and it means they can make it as good as can be; they give you a director, they help you with marketing, you get a producer… it just means that you can go and be funny and not worry too much about the other stuff, which is amazing.
And this is also why you should really go and see anything you can at the comedy festival, whether it’s us or anything, because most of the people – I would say 90% of the shows – are self produced; the person on stage is also the person who rang the journalists to get the interviews, they probably made their own posters and put them up around town – they did their own flyering! – it is truly an independent festival in that way. [It’s really inspiring] and also these people are trying to write a new show most of the time, these aren’t remounts, not shows they’ve put on before… it can be very stressful, and something like the Moosehead is just a Godsend to help with that stuff.
Your wife [Rama Nicholas, an actor and improviser, who received the Moosehead in 2014] is also doing a show…?
She’s just incredible; she’s doing one woman, narrative comedy, where she plays all of the characters, tells a whole story in an hour. This year she’s doing a romance, and erotica show, like a Mills & Boon novel… it’s great, there’s like eighteen characters – she plays them all, men and women, crabs – and she’s on a the Malthouse as well. Just before us, actually! Double feature!
She’s amazing. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife; in fact, I married her because of it.
Go To Hell! is on at the Malthouse Theatre from 30 March to 23 April at 9:30 pm, no Mondays. Tickets range between $24 and $29, and are available online and at the Malthouse box office.