Superheroes Bobbi and Wanda are going up against the evil Mr Cheesehead, but they’re going to need your help to do it!
The latest from the Choo Choo Troupe masterminds Alicia Gonzalez and Debbie Zukerman is a lactose and laugh heavy children’s show called You’ll Never Guess Where I Hid the Cheese. Part sketch, part improv, part audience participation, part sound effects wonderland (courtesy of Steve Meagher), You’ll Never Guess Where I Hid the Cheese is a highlight of children’s comedy at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Alicia Gonzalez took a moment to answer some of our questions about being a clown doctor, the Choo Choo Troupe, and this strange Mr Cheesehead character…
I can see that you’ve said this show was inspired by cheese, and that the villain is aptly named Mr. Cheesehead – in addition to the cheese, what can we expect from You’ll Never Guess Where I Hid the Cheese?
This show is full of high stakes excitement and games! Mr. Cheesehead will turn everyone into a cheesehead unless the audience can stop him. Since the audience is doing the hero work, we don’t really know what’s going to happen from one show to the next. So I guess, expect the unexpected (that’s what we’re doing).
Where did the inspiration come from for this particular show?
Steve, who plays the music in the show, came up with the title well before we had written anything. We applied for Sydney Fringe Comedy with nothing but a title and they gave us a really early weekend slot, so we decided to make it a kid’s show! I’d been hanging to make a kid’s show forever so this was a perfect opportunity. At that point we figured it should probably have something to do with cheese, and voila Mr. Cheesehead (played by Debbie) was born! The high-camp, attention seeking, power grabber that he is.
You’re part of the Choo Choo Troupe – what drew you to doing an original show away from that, for the Melbourne Comedy Festival?
This is what Choo Choo Troupe does now! We’re a loose collective of comedians with a similar feel for what is fun and funny. We used to run a fortnightly comedy cabaret in Sydney, but since the venue shut down a year ago, we’ve been focusing on creating individual shows. This is my first time presenting at MICF and the first time Debbie and I’ve made a kid’s show together. And I’ve got to say it’s pretty mad fun. Kids will do things that an adult audience won’t. Like try to run onstage. Or backstage.
You define yourself as a Clown Doctor – what is that exactly?
It’s therapeutic clowning for The Humour Foundation, an Australian charity dedicated to promoting the health benefits of humour. I’m known as Dr Ding Dong, an Idiot Specialist, and I get to work in a variety of hospitals across Sydney. Essentially my role as a clown doctor is to transform the energy in the room and heal with laughter. We’re all professional artists highly trained to deal with difficult situations and the sensitive nature of the hospital environment. Patch Adams the movie with Robin Williams is a nice little reference. Oh and being a clown doctor is one of the best jobs in the universe, it’s so emotionally rewarding. There I said it, the clown is out of the bag.
With both yourself and Debbie Zukerman, there is quite a variance of talents across both comedy, children’s shows, clowning and more serious work. Was it difficult to narrow down the direction you both wanted to take for the show?
It’s the opposite of difficult! We have a very similar sense of humour and when we’re together the ideas just spill out. It is so much fun to write with Debbie, she’s a keeper. She’s actually in contact with some kids that saw the show in Sydney and they want to go again. They can’t wait. They don’t even know we’re making it better.
Are there any shows at comedy festival this year that you’re excited to see yourself?
Debbie is excited to see Neal Portenza, Betty Grumble, Hannah Cammileri, Celia Pacquola, Craig Quartermaine, Damian Power, Josh Glanc and I am excited to see The Gonzo Hour, it’s Debbie’s wacky solo show. I am her biggest fan.
And how would you sum up You’ll Never Guess Where I Hid the Cheese for any potential viewers – both children and adults.
It is so much fun and really silly. The kids are the heroes, and also the comic heroes (how funny are kids?!). It’s like an old school panto (He’s behind you!) and a new-school superhero story. Actually, it’s probably most like a bizarro, surreal, cartoon. But interactive. and not a cartoon.
You’ll Never Guess Where I Hid the Cheese is on as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall from 10 – 15 April at 11:15am. Tickets are available at the Choo Choo Troupe website or the MICF website.