Friday, November 5, 2010

The Boston Comedy Interview: Paul Day and Jessie Baade, The Saltwaters

Jessie Baade and Paul Day as
Newton and Precious Saltwater,
tonight at Great Scott in Allston.
How do you get to the Grand Ole Opry? Through Allston, apparently. Or at least that’s the trajectory that Newton and Precious Saltwater are attempting. The Saltwaters are the fictional couple, played by Paul Day and Jessie Baade, at the heart of the Dr. Otis Birch Branch (Kind Of) Radio Show, playing Great Scott in Allston tonight as part of the Boston Comedy Festival, presented by Anderson Comedy (who present a show every Friday at Great Scott). It's part of the "Fringe" of the Festival -- as far as I can tell, it is actually the entire Fringe.

The Saltwaters were a traveling husband and wife music and comedy team, until their RV broke down at a Stop and Shop near their daughter’s school – MIT. Now they are more or less a stationary husband and wife music and comedy team, trying to create a variety show with Boston’s comedians and musicians, a world with which they are completely at odds.

I spoke with Paul and Jess about the characters and the show through the miracle of Skype earlier this week. And then they interviewed me for their podcast, which you can find on their blog here.

Who are Newton and Precious Saltwater?

Jess: They’re a married couple who are from Aspic, Texas. And their whole goal in life is to play the Grand Ole Opry. Is it to play or host, Paul?
Paul: Host.
Jess: Host the Grand Ole Opry.
Paul: Anybody can play the Grand Ole Opry.
Jess: They want to host. Oh, anybody.
Paul: Anybody. Literally anybody.
Jess: Then we should. But, how did you put it in the press release?
Paul: We nearly achieve competency?
Jess: But you also have, “but success eludes them.” They play Motel 6’s and VFW halls, and basically, success eludes them.
Paul: We’re the king and queen of the Motel 6 circuit.
Jess: Motel 6 lobby circuit.
Paul: That’s right. Very important distinction.
Jess: The desk areas.

Is that like the white trash chitlin circuit?

Paul: Pretty much.
Jess: When there’s not like, pastries, there’s us.
Paul: When it comes to chitlin, it’s more the white trash instant chitlin service.

How did they wind up in Boston?

Jess: Our daughter, Chastitty Bono Saltwater, also known as “Titty,” and the way I’ve been spelling her name on the press release is “Chastitty” Bono. Mostly because I’m paranoid about being sued. Chastity Bono Saltwater. They saw Sonny and Cher had a child, and they were using it on their television show so successfully that they went out and adopted one themselves as kind of a career boost. And then they made a living of putting her in beauty pageants. And they’re very disappointed that she ended up being smart –
Paul: And going to MIT.
Jess: She goes to MIT. A molecular biologist. Which really doesn’t exist, but…
Paul: Yeah, so our RV broke down when we were kind of in the neighborhood. So we’ve been pretty much kind of squatting in her apartment, and no matter how often she changes the locks, she can’t really get rid of us.
Jess: So she does our show with us to kind of tolerate us. Anything to get rid of us. And every once in a while Chastitty will lock us out or try something, and then they move back into their RV in the Stop and Shop parking lot until something horrible happens to it.

And the Saltwaters think they’re doing a radio show, correct?

Paul: Yes.
Jess: Yeah. They found a manager named Tom, found him busking. We had two places. Either the All Asia or the Middle East. They’re busking in front of it, they’re not in it, and this guy decides he’s discovered them and he’s going to make them the Grand Ole Opry stars they deserve [to be] basically by putting them in coffee shops in Allston, and indoors.
Paul: With a lot of people they just don’t understand.
Jess: He books their shows for them. And there are always these people, like the Donkey Brothers, who are going to be on this show, who are their match as sullen hipsters. The Donkey Brothers is another singing couple, another duo, Chris and Rob. And their back story, they’re the hipsters who just think that everything is disdained. Everything is beneath them. And they’re actually booked on this show with the Saltwaters this time.
Paul: So they’ll be singing songs about boners, and we’ll be not quite understanding what they’re doing onstage.
Jess: And they feel required to interview them after each act. And somebody like, Andrew Mayer’s going to be on it, and I’ve got a feeling we’ll be a little frightening to him. And Freddy Nacho’s on it, and his entire act is basically Spanish. So they have to interview him on that. And then we have Raj Sivaraman, which, they don’t even know where he’s from.
Paul: Which was hilarious the last show. I think that a lot of the fun I have, I think, comes from the interview segment where you’re dealing with these people. What I think is most interesting is this culture clash that happens onstage, and just comparing and contrasting these various cultures that really should not belong together.
Jess: And the booking genius that is their manager puts them onstage with us. The thing with the acts that are on it is, we pick acts that are very good on the cuff, so that when we do the interview segment, it’s almost entirely improv. So we have some scripted stuff, and then we have the acts doing their acts, and we have our music, and we have the back story set up. But then we actually have these people who can keep up with us on an interview, too.
Paul: I think really what we’re striving for in some ways is to actually be doing reality. Our own little fucked up version of reality. We don’t want to be winky-noddy.
Jess: We believe everything.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. It’s like the old adage in Hollywood, show people something they’ve never seen before. They certainly have not seen Newton and Precious doing kind of a loungy, country-western version of “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
Jess: We do “I Wanna Be Sedated” as a singalong.

How well do the guests know what’s going to happen? Do they know the characters? Do you do much rehearsal?

Jess: No. Except the Donkeys a little bit, because there’s music involved. The Donkeys have to have the lyric sheet, because we’re doing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and they’re going to help us with the closer on that.
Paul: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on kazoo.
Jess: Kazoo and keytar. Also we have Nick D’Amico as our keytarist, who is our band. Who really resents being there with us. Somewhere, there’s blackmail. He’s not happy, so we make him do “Devil Went Down To Georgia” on the keytar with us. Key-tar, not gee-tar.

What was the inspiration for the characters?

Paul: As I remember it, Jessie has done an amazing job with Billy Bob on The Hour of Being Good. I’m not trying to suck up here, cuz fuck Jessie –
Jess: Ha!
Paul: It was basically doing something that was along the same lines, but not political. So we just kind of started talking about it, what could we do? And the answer evolved into Newton and Precious.
Jess: It’s suspended reality characters. It’s not improv, it’s characters that you know so well as actors that you can react in their skin. So when we’re doing it, it’s not just improv, it’s, we know these characters, where they come from. You see a lot of similar characters in Chris Guest movies. That’s the same form of improv they do for those.
Pau: Exactly. It’s short form, or shorter form, and not as plotted, but we do try to work a plot in, a little bit.
Jess: You kind of have a sketch. You have a skeleton. And also really important that you know the back story. And Paul and I have really good timing together, there’s a really good chemistry –
Paul: Because Jess and I have really good timing.
Jess: Ha! Fuck you.
Paul: We have really good chemistry.
Jess: Yeah. Right.
[Paul laughs]
Jess: It’s like a real marriage. It’s a real marriage but without sex, too.

When did Newton and Precious first come into existence and start not having sex?

Jess: We had a theory at one point that Newton’s actually gay, too. He just doesn’t know it.
Paul: And Precious actually ran off to Las Vegas to become a female impersonator but was found too unbelievable.
Jess: As a woman. They didn’t believe her as a woman.

And when did this all start?

Jess: We did it for a couple of Wednesdays at ImprovBoston in December last year, and what we wanted to do was have a running story with them, so every week, something happened, and the next week it happened, so you had this surreal story every week that’s tacked on.
Paul: And it was brilliant because it kind of happened that every week we would lose somebody.
Jess: Yeah, Castitty wasn’t there one week because she had locked us out completely. She kept hiding from us.
Paul: And the last show was just me onstage with everybody gone.
Jess: Because Tom and I had run off to Vegas, Newton and Tom had run off to Vegas so she could be a female impersonator. What really happened was, it was Christmas, and I had to leave town.

If you had to describe for people in a couple of sentences what they’re going to see Friday, what would you say?

Paul: Lobsters dancing Swan Lake in Hello, Kitty costumes?
Jess: Holy water.
Paul: I think what they’re walking into is a new reality. A different reality. Bringing something that hasn’t been seen together. The best sell, I think, is the woman who came to the Mottley’s show. She had no fucking idea what she was walking into. She won tickets. She walked in, she had no idea what she was walking into, left, and found us on Facebook that night, I think. She was thrilled. She was like, where are you guys playing? What do you guys do?
Jess: We work on a lot of different levels, so you’re getting the music end of it, you’re getting the comedy, you’re getting improv with it, you’re getting a back story with it, you’re getting guests and variety with it. So it’s this whole mess. It’s not just a single thing. It’s not just, oh, you’re going to see a variety show, you’re going to see something that has improv, but you’re also going to see something that has structure to it, too. So I don’t know, what’s a simple way of putting that? It’s not a regular variety show.
Paul: You said it pretty well, it’s like a live Chris Guest movie.
Jess: Ali G meets Andy Griffith.

1 comment:

Jessie Baade said...

Thanks Nick! Our beautiful Katie Lasky is Titty. I kept forgetting to mention this because she is so good she suspends my reality.