With the release of the new web series Safety Geeks: SVI and interviews with Tom Konkle of Dave and Tom fame, we’ve been mentioning Dave Beeler a lot around here at ÜberSciFiGeek. Like his writing partner, Dave is a multi-talented writer, actor and comic with both screen and stage credits. For those of you who’ve been waiting patiently, we’ve finally had a chance to talk to the man himself!
ÜberSciFiGeek (ÜSFG) Did you have an active imagination when you were a kid?
Dave Beeler (DB) Wow, what kid doesn’t? I’m reminded of the wonderful Picasso quote, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” I remember watching a Clint Eastwood film and thinking he was so cool (and he was and still is) and I would act out bits of the film while I was supposed to be going to sleep. And when I was about 10 years old, I made a mustache out of some black craft hair my Mom had (she was always doing artsy-craftsy things). I fished some old toy six-shooters out of my toy box, shoved them in the waistband of my mint-green pajamas, taped that ’stache on my lip, got my step-dad’s black cowboy hat and aviator sunglasses and wandered into my parent’s bedroom where they were lying on the bed. They looked at me and started to chuckle when I drew my guns and exclaimed, “Freeze or I’ll blow your balls off!” Well, that cracked their stuff up and they said, “Do more!” So, I did. My Mom loved “garage-sailin’” as she called it; and so, she’d bring home hats and wigs and costume bits and pieces which all went into this clear plexi box called “David’s Costumes.” When company would come over, frequently to play cards, I’d dress up and come out and improvise bits — everything from a little old lady, to Elvis, to Adolph Hitler (which really weirded my grandma out, “How can he do that so well? He shouldn’t even know who Hitler is!”).
(ÜSFG) How old were you when you decided this is what you wanted to do with your life?
(DB) When I was twelve I thought I would either study aeronautical engineering and work for NASA after a stint as a fighter pilot; or go into entertainment. I loved making my classmates laugh. One day my Mom got home and used my full name. You know, when a parent uses your full name, it ain’t good. “David Christian Beeler, I need to talk to you.” My mind started racing, “What did I get caught doing?” (Notice it wasn’t “What did I do?” but “What did I get caught doing?”)
“I got a call from your teachers today.” Change gears: “What did I get caught doing at school?”
“Your teachers are worried about you.”
I think, “My grades are good. What is this about?”
“They think something might be wrong with your brain.”
My mental gears grind to a halt, “What?”
“Your teachers think you may have some sort of equilibrium problem. You keep bumping into things, falling over chairs, walking into doors. Now I need to know, is something wrong, or are you just clowning around?” I’m busted and I don’t know how to answer. “…Well?”
Somewhat sheepishly, “I was just joshin’. Trying to make people laugh.”
So, the local theatre was holding auditions and I thought, “Well, maybe I should see if this is something I want to do.” So, I auditioned and got the part of “Gus, the German Boy” in an original musical about the boyhood life of LBJ called The Texas Hill Country. My dog, Duffy, was also in the show as Lyndon’s dog and consequently had a bigger part than me. But the performance bug had bit and by the time I was 15, I knew that I would be an actor.
(ÜSFG) You’ve done a lot of comedy but there are a few dramatic credits on your resume as well, especially on stage. Why did you decide to focus on comedy?
(DB) Well, once I decided to be an “Act-TOR”, I began to take it seriously. I wound up training at a British acting conservatory, The Central School of Speech & Drama in London. (Coincidentally, a couple of my classmates who your readers will know were Ben Browder of Farscape and Stargate fame and Rufus Sewell of Dark City and Eleventh Hour. And to anticipate a question, they’re both great guys.) After living and working in the UK for a decade, I realized I really wanted to work in film and, after what I called a “reconnaissance holiday,” I decided that LA was the place to be. Part of this change was reflecting on what got me into acting in the first place, being a bit of a class-clown, making people laugh, doing characters. So, I got into an improv group, which is what ultimately and circuitously led to meeting and working with Tom.
(ÜSFG) I read on your website, daveandtom.com, how you met Tom Konkle during a production. If you were both characters in one of the sketches you now write, what would that first meeting have been like?
(DB) You know, that’s a really tough question to answer. Tom and I are both character actors — we love disappearing as much as we can into a character. And my take on acting is that we all have many facets (which is what makes us so interesting as humans) and acting — esp. character acting — is taking specific facets, juxtaposing them and seeing how that plays out via imagination in the given circumstances of the scene. So, different characters would totally change that first meeting. But, to answer your question: if it were Reginald and Bud, they would be checking to see who this other person is, but any reservations would quickly fall away as they connect over their shared passion for safety and they would soon realize that they not only have a shared interest in safety, but their skills and talents could compliment each other. Then they would mud wrestle. (Substitute the word comedy for safety and that’s pretty much how it happened. Tom is a champion mud wrestler, by the way. Don’t ever let him get you in the “Sunday Go ta Meetin’” hold.)
(ÜSFG) You both seem to be fans of British comedy, especially Monty Python. How did that come about and how does it influence your sketches?
(DB) Well, Tom was an Python freak as a little kid. When I was a kid it was Jerry Lewis, Abbott and Costello (their old films would play on Saturday afternoons on TV) and then Peter Sellers. I came to Python later as a teenager and then again while I was in England. I love those guys. Genius. Python is such a wonderful blend of high-brow, low-brow humor. And when you throw in that absurdist element, it just really appeals to me. It’s like a gateau cake of comedy — layers with different flavors, but all working together to make something wonderful. And then I spent ten years having my sense of humor sharpened on the grindstone of British sarcasm. Their wit can be very subtle and very dry, which forces you to pay attention. One of the things about the English is that they really relish language and that is especially apparent in their humor. Does it influence our sketches? Only all of them.
(ÜSFG) You’ve created quite a collection of characters over the years. Where do you find inspiration for characters like Brian Forbes and Richard Lagina?
(DB) They’re essentially the same character — uhm, I mean long lost twin brothers, separated at birth. One of the things that Tom and I love is someone who takes themselves just a little too seriously being put in awkward or ridiculous situations. Then as they become flustered, rattled or unwound, their “reasonableness” is challenged and yet, they will doggedly hang onto that very reasonableness. For example, Brian Forbes is a chat show host and he takes his mission to inform people about new inventions and gadgets very seriously; and so, when Bo-Hey No, who is a complete loon, goes off the rails, Brian has to fight to keep it all together. That conflict, that struggle, to maintain control and composure when it’s all spiraling out of control can be a lot of fun and, hopefully, very funny.
Invention with Brian Forbes — The Unbelievable Levitation Machine
The follow-up to this one is fun, too:
Invention with Brian Forbes — The One After The Bees
(ÜSFG) Do you have a favorite or most memorable character that you’ve played?
(DB) Dad. Love Dad. Love the Compulsively Talking Mime too. And of course, Reg. And then there was Joey-Bill in Destiny’s Stop, our little Western piece directed by Thor Melsted. As a matter of fact, Benton Jennings, who plays Hopkins in Safety Geeks, was a professional gunslinger and we’ve been talking about collaborating on a western comedy series. Tom and I are fans of the Leone Spaghetti Westerns, so this was a wonderful opportunity to walk in those boots and still have a surreal and fun twist to it. But, picking a fave… It’s like picking a favorite child. However, Dad might be my favorite. He is a wonderfully manipulative, sweet, mean, guilt-tripping, lonely, stubborn, maddening, child-like character who happens to be this very working class old Cockney curmudgeon. To use the analogy from earlier, he has a lot of facets packed into him. And his relationship with his film-star son, who has airs, is wonderful and touches on so many aspects of parent-child dynamics. Tom and I would love to do a series with these two called The Apple Falls Far. There are a couple of sketches from live shows of these two in action which you can check out.
(ÜSFG) I thought your parody Star Wars: Fate of the Duel was hilarious. What made you decide to add “Sci-Fi” to your list of comedic genres, and have you thought about doing more?
(DB) First of all, thanks. That one came about when I was at this girl’s apartment. No, I was helping my friend help her move. She had this metal light saber hilt, so I asked her about it. Turns out Luke’s lightsaber was made from an old photo flash called the Graflex. I don’t remember the prop master’s name, but he repurposed that and used it as the basis for Luke’s A New Hope lightsaber. Apparently hers had been modified in the 70’s (after the 1st film was out) to be a lightsaber and given to her. So I asked if we could use hers, and that was the inspiration for the piece, as well as the one we used in our shoot. (There was a stunt double lightsaber when it needed to be dropped as they are pretty rare now).
(ÜSFG) In your latest project, Safety Geeks:SVI, you play Reginald Syngen-Smithe. Tell us a little about your character.
(DB) Reginald Syngen-Smithe is a great character too. He’s a sort of id beast with a noble calling to make the world safe, and yet he is innocent and often very child-like. With Reg I aspire to achieve what Peter Sellers did with Inspector Clouseau, in that there is a bravado about him, but also something very likable and charming. Watching some of my work in season one with Reg, should we build a large enough following to warrant a second season, I’d love to feather in more dignity in the face of Reg’s ineptitude which (like Seller’s work) makes the slap-sticky stuff funnier. And there are other shadings in there as well — there’s overtones of Batman where a traumatic event sent this incredibly rich kind down a path of service, The Saint (Reg is a safety Simon Templer), Kung Fu (the TV series) in the flashback to Reg’s time with the Tibetan Safety Monks — there is a lot to play with and I look forward to developing that character and getting deeper into his skin.
(ÜSFG) Most actors put a little bit of themselves into the characters they play. Do you share any qualities with Reginald that weren’t intended?
(DB) Oh, there’s a lot of me there. There’s a bit of Reg which was me when I was single — the whole id beast thing. I can also be ridiculously clumsy. Our sketch group used to say my Indian name was “Furniture is Not His Friend.” I really hope I’m not as much of an idiot as Reg, but I fear I might be…
(ÜSFG) Is Dave really stalking you?
(DB) Am I? Can I stalk myself? Wasn’t Self Stockings an old cable show?
(ÜSFG) Ha! I meant to say Tom but I love your answer, and I think that show was called Silk Stockings. What is one of the interview question you’ve always wanted to be asked but never have been, and what is your reply to that question?
(DB) I’ve always wanted to be asked by James Lipton, “What is your favorite swear word?”
A: Swollen Haggis!
(ÜSFG) What else are you working on right now and what would you like to do in the future?
(DB) Tom and I just shot another Invention with Brian Forbes.
We call that “The Little Series that Could.” It is a very simple show: two good characters, saying funny things. It started as a sketch in a live show and we filmed one, and then kept doing it, and now it’s developing quite a following. Who knew? But we’ve fallen in love with that show and look forward to rolling out many more. We have several more series ideas that would work for Internet or traditional media already written and we keep talking about doing a two-man sketch show with guest appearances. We also have a feature film for which we were gearing up to start a raise at the end of ‘08, but when the economy tanked we decided to hold off. So we’re looking forward to getting that ball back in play. And I just came up with a concept yesterday which I think would be great as a web series, so there’s no lack of creative ideas.
When we have bounteous resources (good word, bounteous…), we’ll hire talented people, so we can take off a few of the hats that working in the micro-budget realm necessitates. Then we can really focus down on writing, developing and performing, and get more projects going at once. We have a war chest of ideas and projects already scripted we’d like to see to fruition, including a full-on dramatic sci-fi feature film. Hmmmm…
(ÜSFG) Is there anything else you can think of that you’d like to share?
(DB) First of all, thank you, Raven Kai, for sharing our chat with your readers. And I would be remiss to not express our debt of gratitude to all the people who’ve collaborated with us on Safety Geeks:SVI and on our other projects over the years. Filmmaking is truly a group effort and a lot of people have pitched in to bring the funny. Tom and I are truly blessed to have partnered up and be such congruent collaborators. Tom is absolutely one of the funniest people I’ve ever met; where others have funny bones, he has funny marrow, and the fact that we can get together, laugh until we cry and share that with the world is really cool.
For more info visit us at daveandtom.com, and be sure to sign up for our list if you’d like to get updates.