AUSTIN TICHENOR: I'm Austin Tichenor...
MATTHEW CROKE: I'm Matthew Croke...
REED MARTIN: I'm Reed Martin...
ALL: And we are The Reduced Shakespeare Co.
FIREZINE: HAS THE FIRESIGN THEATRE HAD ANY INFLUENCE ON YOU ALL?
AT: Oh yeah. Yeah definitely, you know just the whole idea of verbal comedy, and also recorded comedy influenced us. We used to listen to all of the big comedy records of the big comedy boom of the 60s and 70s. The Firesign and Bill Cosby, George Carlin, and Stan Freberg...
MC: Minnie Pearl...
RM: Big influence...
AT: George Goober Lindsey... all the greats.
MC: Barney the dinosaur, "I love you, you love me...
RM: Spiro Agnew... those nattering nabobs of negativism.
FZ: WHAT KIND OF AN INFLUENCE DO YOU THINK THE FIRESIGN HAS HAD ON YOU?
AT: I think the Firesign influence has been the primary thing that's kept us off drugs.
AT: Because we saw what it did to them.
FZ: WELL THEY DID DO SOME OF THAT SHAKESPEARE STUFF.
AT: That was not something that we knew about. I mainly knew about them as just radio / audio comedians. My favorite of their albums is "The Giant Rat Of Sumatra", because it actually tells a story. I prefer something that's slightly more linear than some of the other stuff. We listen to some bits of it now and then and it's really some brilliant stuff.
RM: Yeah, we get people after nearly most every show say, "Oh you remind me of the Firesign Theatre."
FZ: DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?
ALL: No! No!
AT: Its a great compliment. When you see the show there are several homages or lobsters as Proctor likes to call them. And also we seem to be tapped into the same cultural sources. I notice that Proctor uses a joke that we use, the Spiro Agnew joke that you're going to see tonight. So we're all tapped into the same well spring.
FZ: SO HOW DID YOU MEET PHIL?
RM: We were performing in London.
AT: Yeah, 4 years ago.
RM: And he just sent a note backstage saying, "I don't know if you know who I am but I'm at the show...". Apparently he and Melinda had a debate about it. He said, "Oh they won't know who I am?" She said,"Suuuure they will!"
AT: And we did, of course, and we went out to meet him and they're great people.
RM: We saw them again at Stanford recently and had dinner with them.
AT: I live in LA now and so I see him fairly regularly, and we have the same agent as a matter of fact. Then we met both David and Peter at various radio conventions. They're great. The only one we haven't met is Phil Austin. Their Austin as opposed to me.
FZ: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN TOGETHER?
AT: The company's been around since 1981.
MC: Reed and I've been dating about 2 years now, and have been doing very well.
RM: We met in the witness protection program.
MC: Reed you can't say that.
RM: Why not?
MC: Well forget it now!
AT: Reed and I went to college together. We went to Berkeley together and one of the founding members of the RSC was also at Berkeley with Reed and myself.
MC: Yourself being Austin Tichner.
AT: Myself being Austin Tichner of The Reduced Shakespeare Co. And bluahhhh. So Reed was a serious actor and I was a serious director and we started doing this instead.
MC: Reed and I met in the circus. We were in Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.
RM: The greatest show ...tonight.
MC: That you can muster for $5.
FZ: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME?
RM: Well it started as a pass the hat act at Renaissance fairs in California. So the performance slots were half an hour so the performances had to be less than 30 minutes and something Elizabethan, so Shakespeare seemed logical. Our name became a play on Royal Shakespeare Co., the initials. It gets us more attention when we play the UK than over here. It doesn't hit very strongly over here. We've gone on to do other shows and sometimes people get a little confused, but we say,"Well Monty Python's Flying Circus has nobody named Monty, no python, they don't fly and its not a circus, so at least we reduce things." At least we're consistent in that sense.
FZ: SO YOU GUYS ARE DOING THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA CURRENTLY.
RM: Uh huh. Our first show was the complete works of William Shakespeare. That show developed over about 10 - 15 years and we ended up performing it in London in 1992. We're very popular in England. We felt a bit like Jerry Lewis in France, you know, and so we thought while we'll be playing in America we couldn't think of a literary equivilant, so we thought of history. Austin had been a history / drama double major in Berkeley and I'd been history / poly-psy so we sort of had an interest in it. So we wrote "The Complete History of America" while we were performing in London in '92, and then ended up performing it at the Kennedy Center in the summers of '94, 95.
FZ: HOW MUCH HAVE YOU REDUCED THE HISTORY OF AMERICA TO?
AT: About 90 minutes.
MC: We go from the Big Bang all the way to Paula Jones. Which is basically the same thing.
RM: More or less the same thing.
AT: We cover it all.
FZ: I'VE HEARD YOU GUYS A LOT ON NPR.
AT: On "All Things Considered". When we were at the Kennedy Center we did an interview with Robert Seagle and they asked us to contribute 3 minute commentaries on the news, The Reduced Shakespeare Roundtable, which we did and would have liked to continue to do but they're not really that committed to comedy. The Republicans came in and they all got a little nervous.
RM: It was easier when we were in DC, because we could just more or less walk in and say, "We're doing something this week." When we're on the road the technician over there has to agree with us.
AT: When its satellited, it becomes a much bigger deal.
FZ: HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED THE FOLGER SHAKESPEARE THEATER IN DC?
AT: A couple times. We've not done "The Bible" there but we've done our other shows there. Yeah, DC's been very good to us. DC's a good town.
RM: After the "America" show we wrote our newest show "The Bible", which premiered at the Kennedy Center in the summer of '95. We're taking it this summer to England to sort of hone it for an English audience and open it in the West End.
FZ: SO WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU GUYS?
MC: I thought I'd just go home.
RM: Have a drink, go to bed.
AT: I'm hoping to become a video actor.
RM: I'm playing the lead in Carmen Jones at Lincoln Center.
MC: I'm working on my one man show "The Complete History Of Cheese". It will be a big hit.
FZ: YEAH, IN WISCONSIN.
RM: We're writing a pilot for London Weekend Television, sort of a half hour sketch show with a theme each week. Like our pilot theme is plastic, so we built our sketch around plastic surgery, baggies, condoms and credit cards.
AT: It will be called "The House of Knowledge". Hopefully they'll pick it up. Also we'll be writing our next show where we'll condense the entire millennium.
FZ: YOU BETTER HURRY UP YOU ONLY HAVE 3 YEARS OR IS IT 4 YEARS.
AT: We figure it will make a lot of money in 1999, 2000, 20001.
FZ: DOES IT START IN 2000 OR 2001?
MC: That's the big debate.
RM: Hmmm, its a great mystery.
MC: There you go...
AT: We will solve that.
FZ: GREAT! WHEN YOU DO, LET ME KNOW. HAVE YOU GOT ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY?
MC: Hi mom.
RM: Hey Firesign.
AT: I believe all men and women on Earth should live as brothers.
MC: That's beautiful Austin.
RM: Sniff... Well in West Virginia they already do...
FZ: THANKS A LOT FELLAS.
(The boys have their own website! Trundle on over to http://actwin.com/REDUCED/ and pay them a visit - you'll be glad you did!)