1 MC & 1 DJ: An exclusive series of discussions between the AD and GM of Monkeyman Productions… two men of letters. This edition’s topic: Pop Culture Footnotes – The Language of Monkeyman
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 – 8:07 PM
MC: Wow, Deej. It’s been a while since we last sat across the internet from each other for one of these.
DJ: Well, you know how it is. The best laid plans of monkeys and men…
MC: Things are a-cookin’ for Uncharted Zones… but we know the internet was clamouring for a glimpse into our Monkeyminds. So here we are to talk about… how we talk… about.
DJ: Indeed. Not only UZ but Monkey Night coming up in the near future. But there’s always time for a quick chat among friends.
MC: I’m compelled to cue music from an 80s family sitcom.
DJ: I’ll be the Skippy to your Alex P. Keaton.
MC: A fine show.
DJ: And conveniently enough, a fine introduction to the subject du jour.
MC: A subject that permeates and helps define the Monkeyman experience.
DJ: Absolutely. We are our pop culture references, in a lot of ways.
MC: I like that your ‘we’, there, is as much talking about Monkeyman as it is talking about the Monkeyman philosophy on… everyone.
DJ: While I’d say it’s our subject matter that makes us a geeky theatre company, it’s certainly the references that provide a common language that we share with our audience.
MC: And that’s kinda going a step beyond Hornby’s High Fidelity line, “what really matters is what you like, not what you are like.”
…which Brad has famously quoted at company meetings. How’s that for meta? ;)
DJ: And rightly so. While it’s a line that comes off as a little bit flippant outside the context, it’s saying the same thing we say by making Godzilla references and Star Trek in-jokes – something that’s been at the heart of Monkeyman from the beginning – these geeky enthusiasms are our common bond, and it’s not surprising that it carries over to the language of the lives we bring to stage.
MC: …I’m realizing going off tonight’s topic is actually staying on tonight’s topic of how our going off topic is staying on topic. Sorta.
Or rather how we, in our shows(and lives, really), go off topic to stay on topic.
DJ: And, of course, our own language. Our company meetings often devolve into a succession of rapid-fire quotes and obscure allusions.
MC: Indeed! Roberts Rules Of Order never quite fit the Monkeyman model.
DJ: And you’re right, it is using the seemingly off-topic to come back around to whatever is at the heart of each story we tell. It’s never just about the references themselves – it’s what they lead us to.
On stage and off.
MC: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, if you will.
DJ: Sometimes, you surprise even me.
But yes, just that.
MC: Sokath, his eyes uncovered!
…it was too perfect. I couldn’t resist.
DJ: Nor should you. Again, that’s practically the point.
MC: So… let me ask you… because much in Monkeyman starts with your plays…
Was there a time before you started including this sort of very Monkeyman approach to language in your writing?
DJ: I think if there was … it was only while I was in that particularly jejune stage as a writer where you’re still copying someone else’s style, instead of finding your own.
I was going to say ‘aping’ a style, but certainly my style is most apish here and now.
MC: When have I ever stifled a pun?
DJ: I believe very strongly that much of the best language on stage is what sounds most real to an audience. I don’t throw in references specifically to pander; I include it because that’s the way I, and my friends, actually talk.
We discussed that quite a bit while putting together Godzilla on Sundays for the first time.
MC: …and there were a lot of comments from our audience about knowing or being guys like Dale and Kadin. And that had so much to do with the dialogue.
DJ: But you can’t do that by saying, “Oh, okay, we’re going to throw in a Scooby Doo joke here.” It has to come naturally from the characters and the situation.
The same way we don’t sit around with our friends just waiting to talk about Ghostbusters – well, Brad sometimes. But it just happens, and sometimes we’ll find that we thought we were making a Ghostbusters joke, and what we were really saying is, yeah, we’re a team and we’re gonna stick together.
Dale and Kadin talk their way around some pretty majorly emotional experiences together, but they do it with jokes about Godzookie and Luigi’s Mansion.
MC: I think we’re more like the Ghostbusters than the team in the Mystery Machine… I mean, the Ghostbusters wouldn’t be fooled by the old man in a sheet.
DJ: Who would win in a fight – Slimer or Scrappy Doo?
MC: I say they fight to the death and we kill the victor – everybody wins.
Or wait. Slimer’s already dead, no?
What was he before he was a ghost? Is that ever explained?
DJ: Not that I know of. There are still some major logical gaps in the Ghostbusters mythos. Which is why we need another movie so badly. Or perhaps just a well-researched Wiki instead.
But allow me to divert that diversion before it runs out of steam. Tell me this – do you ever feel like our love of a well-placed reference goes too far?
There’s a quote from Joel Hodgson of MST3K that gets bandied about a lot – “When we write a joke, we never ask, “Who’s gonna get this?” We always say, “The right people will get this.” And I like that … but at the same time, is there a line where you’re starting to alienate your audience?
MC: I really don’t think so. I mean… I see works of Shakespeare that I haven’t ‘studied’ without a lexicon handy… and I know I’m missing contemporary puns and allusions… but as long as context is clear, I think you’re safe to make as many references as you like.
DJ: (And if there is, that line is probably about Battlestar Galactica.)
MC: I don’t think enjoyment is severely diminished by not understanding everything.
DJ: That’s true.
I know we hear a lot of people say after a show that they didn’t get all of the references … but it’s not usually a complaint as much as … they’re just sort of stunned at how fast and how far they go.
MC: If it was nothing but references with winks and nods… then, that might be too far.
But, I think some of the fun is seeing how many references you do get.
DJ: It’s something that I think is actually a lot harder in a more comic piece like one of the Phoenix plays, or Nefarious, than in Godzilla. I think it’s easier to go too far with the references when you’re mostly making jokes.
MC: Well… yeah. It’s not the same if you’re making a reference for the one-liner of making a reference.
But sometimes, there’s no better way to explain a moment than referencing something. Shorthand.
DJ: Exactly. It’s a common experience.
MC: I think it might be too that in today’s world we make more cultural analogies than… natural ones.
People might write less poetry because what they want to say has been better expressed in something they could put on a mix tape.
…even that reference is archaic. :P
…not that there’s nothing left to write… but we’re not all writers.
DJ: And comes back again to High Fidelity. ;) But I know what you mean. There’s a concept in postmodern cultural theory called framing – the idea that we interpret all of contemporary experience by relating it to what has come before – and it’s perhaps more relevant to our particular crowd than most.
MC: Since you bring up High Fidelity, I have to point out that I enjoy the part in the book where Rob actually contradicts the earlier statement and says it’s more about what you’re like.
It’s neat that he doesn’t have that revelation in the movie. Not overtly.
Maybe as framing becomes the norm we’ve become more movie-Rob-like.
DJ: Whereas actually, I think it’s more a combination of the two. What you like does say something about who you are. Not everything … but it’s an open door for other people to get a sense of who you are.
MC: Maybe that’s a result of being exposed to more of the ‘what has come before’.
DJ: Or at least to the same somewhat-obscure parts.
MC: I think you succeed at finding the balance in your writing, though. I mean… not every character you write is a Dale or a Kadin. I mean, although there are going to be lots of fun pop culture references for our audiences in Uncharted Zones, their frequency fits the characters making them.
DJ: It’s definitely a bit of a departure in that way. I think the bulk of the references in this show are all in the last ten minutes or so.
Whereas in, say, Godzilla on Sundays, they come almost every minute or so through the entire show. I was doing a count today for my own amusement, and I found 73 separate allusions to comics, TV shows, movies, songs, video games …
MC: Impressive. And that sounds about right. ;)
But, like I said, I think it makes sense for the characters/setting in the final episode in the sequence of four that make up Uncharted Zones.
The whole experience will be very familiarly Monkeyman… even if we save the pop culture references for the end.
DJ: Definitely. They’re very much in a situation where they use those references to relate to one another.
MC: And, speaking of “the end”, I think it might be time to lower the curtain on this edition of 1 MC & 1 DJ.
What do you think of asking our readers if there’s anything Monkeyman-related they want to see us ramble on about?
DJ: I’m always good with that.
MC: Yeah. Me too. I enjoy this format.
DJ: Saves me time thinking stuff up. ;)
MC: Also that.
DJ: Heh. What’s always really amusing at these times is how hard it is to come up with a reference when I really want to. It’s natural or I’ve got nothin’. :D
MC: Second star to the right… and straight on till next 1 MC & 1 DJ?
DJ: “Take us … out there, somewhere.” Wait, is it still a reference if I’m referring to my own work?
MC: Hell, yes. That one’s even in print and available for a reasonable price well ahead of the holiday shopping rush. looks at the readers, knowingly
DJ: Handily, at all major Monkeyman events!
MC: Like Monkey Night in Canada on October 27th.
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 – 9:33 PM