Interview: Facemelt

Every Thursday this month, two two-person sketch teams from the Kill All Comedy collective, TV Screams and Dumbface, will perform their new conjoined sketch show, Facemelt at iO. All four performers involved with the show, Steph Cook and Joey Dundale from TV Screams, and Devin Bockrath and Brian McGovern from Dumbface, were nice enough to talk to me about their background and the process behind putting up Facemelt.

The Steamroller: First off, how did TV Screams come together?
Steph Cook: Joey and I met in iO classes.  We became friends and I lived on his couch for a few weeks.  We did stuff with a 3 person group called $1000, kind of more conceptual stuff.  

Eventually we started doing 2 person TV Screams stuff, because we found out we would come up with the dumbest bits, dumber than anything we ever came up with with anyone else.

Joey Dundale: The way I remember it is that after $1000 split, I was gonna have Steph direct my one man show, but then she wanted to be in it real bad.

SC: Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Joey wanted his whole show to be about dogs.  At one point he wanted a parade onstage of real dogs that were super fat.

TS: and what about Dumbface?
Devin Bockrath: Brian and I actually met at photography camp the summer before freshman year because we got placed in a small group together. When high school started, our lockers were next to each other for all four years, but we didn't speak until sophmore year because I thought that Brian was an upper classman (terrifying), and Brian was shy. We wasted a whole year of day by day locker banter! 

After high school we both went to college at U of I, we ate lunch together everyday and got super sucked into the comedy scene there, performing with different groups until our senior year. That group basically went on to be The Other Other Guys here in Chicago.

Brian McGovern: Dumbface as a name really only started in the past few months, but Devin and I have been around each other forever. We were both in the sketch group The Other Other Guys for years and when that ended last summer we knew we wanted to start writing sketch as a duo.

TS: Is this the first time these two teams have performed together as Facemelt?
BM: Just us, yes, but Joey, Steph, Dev, and I are all cast members at Holy Fuck Comedy Hour at The Annoyance so Dumbface and TV Screams sketches have been performed together before. 

Plus with doing stuff there or at Upstairs Gallery or CIC we’ve all worked with each other a bunch. Let’s just say I’ve definitely made the fart noises coming out of Steph Cook’s butthole before.

DB: Our pairing for this run must be credited to Mr. Michael Balzer, better known as Baz, the creative director of iO and all around mega WIZ (as in wizard, but the cool kind of wizard, ala the Michael Jackson version of The Wizard of Oz better known by its actual title The Wiz- and when I say "The Wiz” I am simultaneously referring the 1978 cinematic gem as well as the cool way that I abbreviate “wizard” to refer to Baz before I launched into this ultra thorough explanation). 

It was his grand scheme to pair us for the run, which we were psyched about because all of us are friends who also dig each others’ comedy.

JD: Mike Balzer at iO is a real champion of comedy by stupid people. 

TS: Is this the first show that falls under the Kill All Comedy umbrella to go up at iO?
SC: I suppose so, though we all perform at iO doing other stuff. Everyone in KAC performs at iO in some capacity, this is just the first one with the banner on it.

TS: When prepping and putting together stuff for these shows, was there any sort of themes or goals you had in mind to address or is it more just about letting the silly bits flow naturally?

BM: A while ago Devin and I made a list of types of sketches we wanted to work on. It included fucking with gender politics and sexual harassment, specific taboos that made us personally uncomfortable, and working with movement and silence. When we found the frame for this show, they all fell in pretty naturally (Don’t worry: there’s still plenty of yelling at each other while standing still!).  

SC: Once we have a few sketches, Joey and I start to shape the show, and it becomes about the entire show and how to spiral it. Then we add a bunch of jokes and more dumb stuff. Once we write it all out, we work a lot on the logic of the shape of the show. Any sort of theme, though, is generally incidental. 

Also, to be honest, our show is so dumb, people probably think we’re idiots, so it’s not like people watching it would know we work on any logical aspects of it. If we ever feel the need to enhance the stupidity, we do.

JD: We could only think of a couple sketches so we made the first one we thought of really really long, so we didn't have to write any more.

DB: Both groups had individual preparation before we met to clue each other in on what we had cooked up. I think we both like to be somewhat secretive about what we are scheming, but because we know each other’s sensibilities we knew that there would be a lot of thematic or stylistic cross over which would make for a nice shared time slot. I think Baz (the Wiz, remember from earlier?) also knew this, but one can never assume anything about his ways.

TS: If there's a common theme connecting your two sets, what would that be?
SC: How dumb can 2 people be together.

DB: Irreverence.

BM: Both shows feature a guy and a girl trying to figure out the opposite sex in a technology-obsessed culture but learn something about themselves (and the country they love) in the process.

JD: Dumbness. The shows are basically mirror images.

TS: KAC puts up shows at a lot of venues around town, is there anywhere you'd like to produce a show that you haven't yet?

JD: I'm not too concerned these days with what venue we put stuff up at. It's nice to be at iO, and have that built in audience of students and such, but the most fun show I've done recently was in someone's living room. 

Also you know it's "next stop: TV!" for the Screams. Won't be doing these dinky LIVE shows much longer. I will have. A. Million. Dollars. SOON.

DB: Roof show- doesn’t matter where, but the cops can’t be invited.

BM: I’ve always wanted to do more music venue-y stages or places that are performance spaces but not necessarily “comedy theaters.” Also on top of The Bean.

SC: In Austin, one time I watched Brian Jonestown Massacre play a show in a car wash parking lot on this tiny stage someone built. This guy in the crowd who was super messed up and only had one eye got up on stage and started trying to sing all their songs, so they just started playing this one song for like 20 minutes while this guy made up the words. So something like that, if you know a place.