George McGrath talks about his work on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and writing the movie Big Top Pee-Wee

George McGrath is known for voicing the characters Cowntess / Fish / Globey / Flower / Pterri in “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”. He is also the writer of various episodes of the show including the theme song.

George also wrote the film “Big Top Pee-Wee” and was a writer on the HBO series “Tracy Takes On”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” and his work on the show.

Jodie Resther talks about “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” & PBS Kids series “Arthur”

Jodie Resther is known best for her role of Kiki in “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. She is also the voice of Francine Alice Frensky in the PBS Kids series “Arthur” for over 20 years.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jodie about “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and her voice over work in “Arthur”.

Eric Bauza talks voicing Bugs Bunny on Looney Tunes Shorts & working on Ducktales & Muppet Babies

Eric Bauza is the current voice of Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes Shorts. He also voices Daffy Duck / Marvin the Martian / Tweety Pie for the show.

Eric also voices Fozzie in Muppet Babies, Master Frown in Unikitty!, Splinter in “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and various voices in Ducktales.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric to discuss taking on these iconic roles and talking about voicing his dream role.

Kevin Carlson talks about working on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Beetlejuice & working with The Muppets

Kevin Carlson is the voice/puppeteer of Clockey / Conky / Floory / Fish and Knucklehead from “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”. He also worked on projects like “Beetlejuice, Child’s Play 2” and “Team America: World Police”.

Kevin has also worked with Jim Henson on projects like “Muppet*vision 3-D” and is the voice of Timmy the Tooth in “The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth”.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about his roles and what it was like to work with The Muppets.

Follow Kevin on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/KevinCarlson1962/

Bill Farmer talks about Disney+ series It’s A Dog’s Life, Voicing Goofy & the 25th anniversary of A Goofy Movie

Bill Farmer is a Disney Legend. He has voiced the role of Goofy since 1987 and the voice of Pluto since 1988. He currently has a new show on Disney+ called “It’s A Dog’s Life with Bill Farmer”. He also currently voices over 20 characters on Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures”.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Bill about his new show “It’s a Dogs Life”, voicing Goofy for all these years and reflecting on the 25th anniversary of “A Goofy Movie”.

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30 – “Long Gone Summer’

On September 8, 1998 my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when J.D. Drew hit his first career home run. I’ve told this story for over two decades.

Most people know Todd MacFarlane as the creator of the popular SPAWN comics and his amazing toys. He is also a huge baseball fan. We learn that as the film begins with McFarlane bidding almost $3 million to purchase a baseball. But not any baseball. This is the ball hit by Mark McGwire for his 70th home run, at the time a new record. The summer of 1998 was a big one for baseball. After the players strike in 1994 caused the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in history, the game began to draw fans back in 1995 when Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2131st consecutive game. But the summer of 1998 is the one that drew fans, old and new, to the game. It was the summer McGwire and Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa swung their way into the history books.

“Long Gone Summer” not only chronicles both players assault on Roger Maris’ then-record of 61 home runs in a season, but the effect the challenge had on America. People that had sworn off baseball after the strike left a bitter taste in their mouth began to pay attention to the game again, while people who had never shown interest began to watch. Having been in Camden Yards when Ripken set his milestone I was already a fan so I followed the exploits of McGwire and Sosa daily, ensuring that ESPN’s SPORTCENTER was a must-see every night.

As the film follows McGwire, Sosa and, for a time, Ken Griffey, Jr, it also talks with some baseball fans who are household names, among them Bob Costas and George Will. Also interviewed are Roger Maris’ sons, as well as Cardinal’s broadcasters Jack Buck (though archival footage) and Mike Shannon. The race had a personal feel to Shannon, who had been a Cardinal teammate of Roger Maris in the mid 1960s.

But the big voices here belong to the two players themselves. McGwire explains his lifelong desire to hit the ball far while Sosa talks about the fun he had. What they don’t talk about are the accusations that both were using performance enhancing drugs. In fact, in a show that runs almost 1 3/4 hours, PED’s are not mentioned until the 45 minute mark, when a container of Androstenedione is spotted in McGwire’s locker. He brushes the questions off, noting that Andro is available over the counter. It’s almost another 45 minutes before the subject comes up again.

Of the two players, McGwire comes off the best. He is insightful in looking back at what he describes as both the best, and worst, time of his life. Sosa, speaking perfect English – when he testified before Congress he had to have his attorney read his statement, as he felt his English wasn’t strong -is more concerned with relaying the fun times he had that summer. Archival interviews with both – again with Sosa speaking English like a native – gives a look into the love and respect Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy had for each other. As the season ends, McGwire finishes with 70 home runs, Sosa with 66. Sosa would hit 63 the next year and Baroid Bonds would hit 73 in 2001. By then, the PED cat was out of the bag and, in the almost 20 years since Bonds, no one has hit 60 home runs in a season.

Given an opportunity to confirm whether or not he juiced, Sosa will only say that “Everybody was doing them.” After years of denial, in 2010 McGwire admitted to using PED’s. His admission and apology seemed sincere to me. So much so that I can tell you that, on September 8, 1998, my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season over the left field fence, directly below where we were sitting. No disrespect to J.D. Drew, but this story is more exciting.

“Long Gone Summer” airs this Sunday night at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN and will stream directly afterwards on ESPN+.

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30: BE WATER

I’m old enough to remember watching Bruce Lee as Kato on television’s “The Green Hornet” when it originally aired on ABC. T o me he was just a cool guy who wore a mask and kicked ass. But there was a lot more to Lee, as both an actor and a person, and those remarkable qualities are revealed in the latest ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, BE WATER.

We first meet Lee as he is completing a screen test in 1964. He is quite and soft spoken but, when he is asked to demonstrate some of his martial arts skills, he is a tornado. Even in these few minutes of film, you can see the legend that lie ahead.

Born in San Francisco (his father was a popular Chinese actor and opera performer), Lee’s family returned to Hong Kong shortly after his birth. Like most children, Lee had a mischievous side and his father allowed him to begin acting in films as a child in hopes of curbing his rambunctious attitudes. Finding his idea unsuccessful, his father sends him to Seattle to attend college. It is there that he begins the journey that most fans know. But there is also a lot they don’t and that is revealed here in Lee’s own words. Using archival interviews and quoting his letters, read by his daughter, Shannon, we learn that Lee was a very philosophical man who yearned to bridge the racial prejudice felt in America. He wanted to be able to share and express his culture and was tired of seeing such actors as Mickey Rooney, Marlon Brando and John Wayne portraying Asian characters on screen, usually in ridiculous make up.

Lee’s short-lived small screen stardom begins to fade and he is hopeful for the lead in an upcoming program to be called “Kung Fu.” When he is passed over for the role in favor of David Carradine – we hear the show’s producer proclaim that he could not find an Asian actor he felt could handle the role, he takes his family to Hong Kong,, where he will soon make film history.

BE WATER gets it’s title from a philosophy that Lee often shared in interviews. Water, he notes, is the softest substance on Earth, yet it is strong enough to penetrate rock. It takes the shape of whatever vessel it finds itself in. The film is full of amazing archival footage and the story is told through conversations with not only Lee’s daughter and widow, Linda, but various friends and former students, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died. 10 days later, “Enter the Dragon” was released, making him an international superstar, ironically a term Lee disliked. His impact on pop culture and racial acceptance is still being felt today. With the current situation the nation, and the world, finds itself in, we could use a man like him today.

BE WATER airs this Sunday night at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN. It will stream afterwards on ESPN+. Don’t miss it!

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30 – LANCE

In 2008 I was driving through downtown Kansas City when I was amazed at the sight of a seven-story banner of Lance Armstrong hanging from the building where my wife worked.  I called her and asked about it and she informed me that her company – an investment management firm – had partnered with Armstrong to promote his LIVESTRONG investments.  Hearing this, I asked her “and what happens when it finally comes out that he was a cheater?”  “Hopefully that isn’t true,” she replied.

LANCE, the latest episode in ESPN’s brilliant “30 for 30” documentary series, is a two part look at the rise and the fall of one of the most celebrated athletes in American history.  Episode one begins with Armstrong telling director Marina Zenovich how he knows there are many people that, upon seeing him, just want to scream out “F**k you, Lance,” but seldom do.  He also recounts how, once when a group heading into a restaurant did just that, he called the restaurant, informed the manager that he would pay for their dinner and asked the manager to inform the party that “Lance loves you.”  Unfortunately, Lance also loves himself.

We are introduced to the young man that would go on to “win” seven consecutive Tour de France bicycle races, the most prestigious race in the world.  He played several sports as a kid but didn’t excel in any of them.  He tried swimming and developed a passion.  Entering triathlons introduced him to competitive cycling, which is where he found his calling.  Then, his life was dealt a blow when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  Beating major odds, Armstrong not only survived his ordeal but returned to competitive cycling.  He also returned to a dark secret he had been hiding – taking performance enhancing doses of such banned (in competitive sports) substances as EPO and Andrial.  He admits this rather non-chalantly, falling back often on the old “everyone else was doing it” excuse.

However, in Episode two, which airs this Sunday night on ESPN (and will be available afterwards on ESPN+) the true Armstrong comes through.  Like many athletes, Armstrong was set on winning at any cost, allegedly going so far as to inform the anti-doping agency that a rival cyclist was juicing.  Like many people in denial, Armstrong was like a pit bull in his defense of his reputation.  Whether using his cancer as a sympathy ploy or slandering his accusers (while testifying in an inquiry he calls one woman who filed a deposition alleging his cheating a whore) or using his status and power to destroy other riders, he comes off as a man who still feels that he’s done nothing wrong.

Part two also looks at Armstrong’s effect on those close to him.  His son, who played college football, is asked if he would ever use performance drugs.  His reply – that he only wants to succeed through his own hard work – is heartfelt and honest.  That’s what all athletes want to do.  Asked if he still considers himself relevant, Armstrong declares, “I AM relevant.”  He also refers to former U.S. Postal Service team mate Floyd Landis – who was the rider that finally outed Armstrong’s doping – as a “piece of s**t.”  Other team members relate that Lance was fine with them as long as they kept his secret but, at the slightest hint of disloyalty they were gone.

On the positive side, the film also takes a look at the magnificent work that the Lance Armstrong Foundation and LIVESTRONG have done in support of cancer patients everywhere.  Thanks to Armstrong’s popularity hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised for these organizations (I’ll admit that I bought a LIVESTRONG bracelet when they came out).  And this achievement allows Armstrong to ask if the ends justify the means.  Would this money have been raised if not for him?

In the end, you come away with a man who still doesn’t accept responsibility for anything (except his divorce).  He also laments the hardship he endured having to date such celebrities as Cheryl Crow and Kate Hudson.  Wahh!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever run into Lance Armstrong on the street so let me just say here, for the record, “Hey Lance – F**k you!”

Throwback: TNT’s “Snowpiercer” at NYCC

This Sunday TNT is readying for viewers to depart on their massive eponymous train, SNOWPIERCER. Starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, the series is the second adaptation of the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige after it got the big screen treatment from director Bong Joon Ho in 2013. TNT describes their series as follows: “The world has become a frozen wasteland, and the only survivors are those aboard a perpetually moving train that circles the globe. See how class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out on Snowpiercer.”

Cast members below series concept art

Given the expansion from a film to a series, the show promises to take a more in depth look into the characters and divisions that exist in the remnants of humanity aboard the some thousand cars of this monster train. Though some nods to the film–such as a character loosely based on Tilda Swinton’s “Mason”–are to be expected. The cast joined show runner Graeme Manson this past fall on stage at New York Comic Con. You can head over to our Facebook page to check out our full album of panel photos before catching the premiere!

Jennifer Connelly (“Melanie Cavill”) and Daveed Diggs (“Layton Well”)

SNOWPIERCER debuts on 5/17 at 9pm on TNT

STEEL PANTHER TO APPEAR ON TONIGHT’S EPISODE OF TRUTV’s HIT SHOW IMPRACTICAL JOKERS

200th Episode Airs This Evening At 10PM (Check Local Listings)
Band Wraps First Leg Of Successful European Headline Tour In Support of Latest Release Heavy Metal Rules Next Week
On the eve of the most romantic holiday Hallmark has ever created, heavy music’s medically-cleared lovers and partiers Steel Panther are adding another career milestone to their ever-expanding resume. Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx and Stix Zadinia joined up with Q, Murr, Joe and Sal for an appearance on the 200th episode of their hit TV show, Impractical Jokers. Impractical Jokers airs on TruTV and the Steel Panther episode is set to air this evening at 10PM (check local listings).  

“What says good times, rock and roll, and making your buddies look like jerks in front of other people more than Steel Panther and Impractical Jokers getting together in one killer episode????? Well, nothing. Seriously, nothing says it more. This 200th anniversary episode was a blast to film, and we were so excited to be asked to be a part of it!” exclaims Steel Panther.  

Steel Panther is currently in the middle of the first leg of their 2020 year-long world tour in support of their latest release Heavy Metal Rules. The tour has seen the band play to sold out rooms across Europe and the guys were even joined by their friends in Five Finger Death Punch during a show last month in Helsinki. Shows in Canada were recently announced with plans for more dates in the United States and Australia to be announced in the future. Information on all shows can be found at: https://www.steelpantherrocks.com/pages/tour.
Confirmed 2020 World Tour Dates (So Far):
Feb 15: Belfast, UK – Ulster Hall
Feb 16: Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
Feb 17: Cork, Ireland – Cyprus Ave
Mar 12: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Mar 13: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Mar 14: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Jun 10-13: Nicklesdorf, Austria – Nova Rock
Jun 13: Krakow, Poland – Studio
Jun 14: Budapest, Hungary – Barba Negra Track
Jun 16: Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
Jun 18-21: Dessel, Belgium – Grasspop Metal Meetin
Jul 1-4: Ballenstedt, Germany – Rockharz festival
Jul 10: Mansfield, OH – Inkcarceration Festival 2020
L to R: Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, Stix Zadinia (Photo by: David Jackson)

Recently Steel Panther released their latest video, the NSFW clip for the title track “Heavy Metal Rules.” The video picks up right where the video for their hit “Death To All But Metal” leaves off. The video then follows the band on the road to stardom from small clubs to some of the largest festivals in the world filled with copious amounts of beauties, blow, and boobs. The video set new records for the band in terms of engagement until the fun police at YouTube got wind of the video and slowed it down. 

“Heavy Metal Rules,” directed by Frankie Nasso, can be seen here: https://youtu.be/uvubIgC9zi0.

The song comes from their “now available everywhere” latest album, Heavy Metal Rules (https://lnk.to/HeavyMetalRules).  

ABOUT STEEL PANTHER:  

For the uninitiated, Steel Panther was formed in 2000 and is comprised of Michael Starr (lead singer), Satchel (guitarist), Lexxi Foxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums). Hailing from Los Angeles, the epicenter for rock n’ roll in all its debauchery and glamour, Steel Panther has established themselves as the world’s premier party band, melding hard rock virtuosity with parody and criminally good looks. Steel Panther is a global phenomenon with four full-length albums, touring across the world, platinum-level You Tube status and high-profile television appearances such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, Larry King Now, and FOX NFL Sunday. 

Rolling Stone avowed, “There’s a reason Steel Panther have transcended their origins as a cover band playing the Sunset Strip,” while Metal Sucks declared, Steel Panther’s concept is genius…their songwriting is…preposterously snappy – and relatable.”

Connect with Steel Panther: www.steelpantherrocks.com

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO SURPRISE DROPS THE SECOND SEASON OF ACTION-THRILLER TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN

The Second Season Of The Amazon Original Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Is Now Available Globally

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN 

Today Amazon Prime Video surprised fans by globally releasing the second season of action-thriller Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski (A Quiet Place), one day early.   The announcement was made via Krasinski’s social channels in which immediately following his posting the series went live on Prime Video.  

In the second season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, after tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan, portrayed by Krasinski, heads down to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos. 

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season Two, is a co-production of Amazon Studios and Paramount Television and produced by Skydance Television, will premiere exclusively on Prime Video. 

In addition to Krasinski, the second season of the dramatic series also stars  Wendell Pierce (The Wire) as James Greer, Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) as Harriet ‘Harry’ Baumann and Michael Kelly (House of Cards) as Mike November. 

The series is executive produced by Andrew FormBrad FullerMichael Bay, Krasinski and Allyson Seeger, along with Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, who created the series for television. Additionally, Andrew BernsteinVince CalandraDavid GrazianoTom ClancyDavid EllisonDana GoldbergMarcy RossMace NeufeldLindsey SpringerDennie Gordon and Phil Abraham also executive produce the second season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

NYCC 2019: Hulu’s Castle Rock

The cast of Hulu’s Castle Rock at MSG during New York Comic Con

Just in time for Halloween, Hulu is ready to invite viewers back to the not-so-sleepy town of Castle Rock. The fictional Maine location may sound familiar to even casual horror fans, as it features across the many works of Stephen King. To celebrate the launch of season 2, the cast of the anthology series joined fans at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden for a screening of the premiere episode at this year’s New York Comic Con.

The highlight of the premiere was the debut of Lizzy Caplan as “Stephen King’s nurse from hell” Annie Wilkes. Wilkes was the star of King’s Misery where she was willing to go to lethal lengths to get her way from James Caan’s stranded author character. Bates famously won an Academy Award for her performance and if you had asked me if I needed to see more background on her character I may have doubted you until this episode. Caplan channels her own unblinking manic energy and manages to make Wilkes’s “cockadoody” vernacular her very own. As a bonus, she has the wonderful Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as a daughter to play off of in this series.

Lizzy Caplan (“Annie Wilkes”) and Elsie Fisher (“Joy Wilkes”

While I won’t go into spoilers for the show, suffice to say there was at least one jaw dropping scene that made checking the show out in the massive NYCC audience incredibly satisfying.

Head over to our NYCC Facebook album to see even more photos from the panel which also featured Shawshank Redemption alum Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins (“Pop Merrill”)

Castle Rock season 2 is available on Hulu starting October 23rd.

Christian Jacobs of “The Aquabats! Super Show” Discusses The Show’s New Episodes and The Bands New Album

Christian Jacobs is a former child actor and the co-creator of the award winning kid’s television series “Yo Gabba Gabba!”. He also fronts the popular ska-punk band The Aquabats! under the pseudonym of The MC Bat Commander. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Christian recently about the group’s current tour, the bands successful kickstarter campaign and when fans can expect new episodes of “The Aquabats! Super Show”.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the bands current “Holy Guacamole Tour”?

Christian Jacobs: We did a previous tour in July however this tour sort of marks the first headlining tour we have done in some time that has gone east of the Mississippi. These shows are reuniting us with the “Legion of Righteous Comrades” who this last year helped us raise money to film new episodes of “The Aquabats! Super Show”. We have ten episodes shot and we are going to be shooting one more once we have the guest star lined up. These are fun sized episodes meaning they aren’t as long as the previous episodes from season one and two but, they are still a lot of fun. This tour is kind of recognizing the completion of those episodes and all the merchandise that we designed for that campaign. Getting out and playing is a way for us to meet up with the fans that helped keep the Aquabats! alive and a chance for us to say  thank you for the support. From that Kickstarter campaign we have been able to film the new episodes, record an album, prepare to start another album in December and to do this tour. This band has been around the block a few times and the fact that there is a new generation of fans coming out to the shows and helping us put out new content has been just great.

AL: What was it that appealed to the band about using Kickstarter?

CJ: Us doing a Kickstarter has been talked about for a long time. We hesitated a bit as we are old-school. I was worried that we might look bad asking for money in this type of way and we were very nervous. I think a lot of people have the perception that with our previous things being successful there should be no reason why we can’t put new stuff out on our own. Sadly that’s not always the reality and that’s what happened for the Aquabats! We did try other networks when The Hub folded however, sometimes when things fail a stigma can often get attached to those associated making it difficult to keep going. We knew that people liked the show and wanted to keep it going so after meeting up with a couple guys  who had experience with fan funding they gave us some great  insight that helped us change our minds and see fan funding in a different light. Everyone who donated is a big part of what we accomplished. It’s like they are all producers which I think is very cool.

Ian Lawton: How do you come up with the characters for the show?

CJ: A lot of the things you see on “The Super Show” I think are influenced by stuff we watched as kids growing up. Everything from “Godzilla” movies to really weird Japanese kids shows and some of the shows from Sid and Marty Krofft who put out “Land of the Lost” and “ H R Puff N Stuff”. A lot of the characters we write and come up with are in a way homage’s to those things. Characters like Cobraman! came from Japanese common writer shows, Space Monster M was this weird Gung Ham hybrid robot that we loved. We wanted to create characters that our kids could be introduced to in a fun way while at the same times we as parents could watch and reminisce about the shows we used to watch. We had the same idea when we were putting together episodes for “Yo Gabba Gabba”.

IL: Can you tell us about the cat that shows up throughout the Aquabats! series?

CJ: That is actually a fox and he is hidden in every episode that we have done. Our special effects guys name on the show is Joel Fox. He does all of the weird lead in screen effects like floating pizzas and fingers turning into bananas. That stuff never ends up in the actual episode but it’s there and the beginning of each segment. Joel is sort of an enigma as he never tells us what he is going to do. Being he is our good friend we got him this fox costume and hid him in all the shows. He is somewhere in all the new upcoming episodes as well. It’s going to be harder to find him but he is there.

IL: Do you have a favorite character that you have come up with?

CJ: I really like all the Aquabats! character because they are just really funny. Each character is sort of an extension of the guy who plays it. The Bat Commander and I our definitely not the same guy but maybe some of our personality traits cross over. I can be a little like the commander but not totally as he is kind of a jerk sometimes. It’s all satire for each of us. I do like how we have evolved over time and how we can poke fun at each other through the production. Pilgrim Boy is a favorite as he is one of the original characters we came up with back in 1996. We had written out a bunch of the episodes at that time and the shape shifting pilgrim boy was a part of that. Cobraman! is another great one both on stage and on the show. The guy has snakes for hands which he shoots live snakes out of. (Laughs) Plus he has a very funny voice. Silver Skull is a good character as well. We sort of gave him this Bane type voice as that was a big joke at the time.

AL: Is there a time table for when we will see the new episodes and album?

CJ: We finished recording the album in July however due to everyone having family stuff going on and our producer being away it took awhile to get all the mixing done. We have it all completed know and would like to have it out around Halloween given a lot of the songs have a spooky vibe to them. We aren’t sure if that will give us enough time to promote it so aside from as soon as possible there is not a solid time table for that. We want to make sure we have good promotion in place and a couple videos as well. The new episodes of the show will start airing around September 20th on our YouTube channel.

AL: One of the things you do outside of the band is summer drawing classes for kids. Can you tell us about that program?

CJ: My brother Parker does these drawing classes and he always recruits me to come and help. It’s always a lot of fun. When we were kids we didn’t have distracters like phones and tablets so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Technology is wonderful but I think when you have a lack of resources you have more of an opportunity to use your brain and be creative. By having these classes my brother is able to teach kids how to doodle and how to use their imaginations. The classes are designed to be free flowing and not necessarily about how to draw something right but more to challenge your creativity. You won’t be drawing a bowl of fruit to look like a bowl of fruit. Instead you might draw whatever you want and have it fighting something inside comic panels or creating new characters no one has ever seen before. It’s a way for kids to bring their imagination from their heads directly to their hands. In this day and age it’s great to encourage kids that they too can create things “Fortnite” or “The Aquabats!”. Growing up we had punk rock to inspire us but we want to get kids going even younger and that’s a lot of what “Yo Gabba Gabba” was about. It’s extension of doing things yourself with the ideas being geared or aimed at young people. You don’t have to sit and wait for the next thing. You can be the next thing. With YouTube and all these things there is no reason anyone can’t if they really want to.

AL: Are there other projects outside of what you have already mentioned that we can be watching for?

CJ: We have been talking about and pitching new shows ever since the network we were on went out of business. There are just so many places to pitch new ideas that we have been going practically non-stop. We haven’t quite struck gold yet but given our track record with “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “The Aquabats! Super Show” we have a solid formula. The ideas are there we just have to get them out there while juggling families and all that. We do plan to tour again once the new record is out and we are on the hook for one more record after that as well so we have a lot that will be going on. If you had told me twenty five years ago that we would still be doing this in 2019 I would have laughed at you but it’s really great that we still are able to do this and we really enjoy it.

 

 

 

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SopranosCon Announced; First-Ever ‘Sopranos’ Themed Convention ‘For The Fans, By The Fans’

Time Immemorial, Famous Signs and Michael Mota present SopranosCon, the first-ever “Sopranos” themed convention, to be held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey on November 23rd and 24th, 2019. 

Visually inspired by the Feast of St. Elezar, SopranosCon presented by East Commerce Solutions, is a fan convention unlike any other. Billing itself as “for the fans, by the fans,” SopranosCon will feature a once-in-a-lifetime reunion of key cast members, including Tony Sirico, Federico Castelluccio, Vincent Pastore, Vincent Curatola, David Proval, and over 30 supporting cast members, with many more special guests to be announced in the coming days.  

“In a nutshell, this is The Sopranos meets New York Comic Con. However, our event is going to be much more than pictures, autographs, and vendors,” said Daniel Trader who runs @TimeImmemorial_, a creative Instagram page that boasts the largest Sopranos fan network on social media with over 225,000 combined dedicated followers.  

Guests of the two-day convention will be able to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series by showcasing Italian culture in New Jersey with food, drink, music, comedy, and show-related businesses (such as Holsten’s Ice Cream, a sponsor of the event). There will be fan art galleries, exhibits, Q&A’s, trivia, contests, games, and more.   

“This event will be an experience no true fan will want to miss,” said Joe Fama, owner of Famous Signs and a co-presenter of the event. “We have spent years designing sets, exhibits, and more for this event.  There will certainly be something for everyone.”   

In addition, an accompanying documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary of the hit HBO show will be released after the event.  The as-yet-untitled documentary will focus on three superfans — Michael Mota from Lincoln Rhode Island, Daniel Trader from Baltimore, Maryland and Joe Fama from Long Island, New York — who came together to give every Sopranos fan the opportunity to celebrate history. The documentary will also feature many key cast members telling “their story” and other exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the Con.   

Federico Castelluccio, better known as Furio Guinta on The Sopranos, has been chosen to narrate the documentary.   

“When the first season came out, I was a huge fan myself.  I told my agent that I had to be on the show.  Having the opportunity to be a part of SopranosCon and celebrate with the fans is an amazing opportunity.  I am honored to be a part of this documentary, and I am excited to showcase what a few fans can do when they have a passion for something,” he said, exclusively.   

“I can’t put into words the amount of support we have received for SopranosCon.  People all over the world have reached out to us and are coming to the United States for the first time for our event.  This show touched so many people and has left a mark on their lives forever,” said Michael Mota, founder and CEO of Skyline at Waterplace, and one of the key organizers of the event.  “I have thrown several Soprano themed events but this is something much larger. This is truly for the fans, by the fans.”  

Tickets are on sale now at www.sopranoscon.com. For a limited time, fans can enter the promotional code HipHopGamer to receive 10% off all ticket packages.

BookCon: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3

The second season of Hulu’s hit series The Handmaid’s Tale left more than a few fans stunned when June (Elisabeth Moss) bucked her chance to escape to freedom in Canada with her baby and instead handed the infant off to Emily (Alexis Bleidel) while turning back into the world that still holds her other child hostage.

This weekend eager Handmaid’s fans finally got to see where June’s unexpected decision has lead the inhabitants of Gilead when showrunner Bruce Miller and actress Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) brought the premiere episode of the third season to New York’s BookCon.

Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) and Handmaid’s Tale showrunner, Bruce Miller

Without going into episode spoilers, I will say what I saw went a long way in explaining why June would make such a tremendous sacrifice in that finale and the acting across the board continues to be top notch. Alexis Bleidel’s Emily in particular had me moved to tears more than once. And the BookCon crowd broke out into applause at least twice.

While the terrifying Aunt Lydia did not appear in the premiere ep, the trailers showed that she will return after Emily very literally stabbed her in back last year. Dowd, who was also nefarious in last year’s horror hit Hereditary, is delightful and warm in person and said of Lydia, “she is doing quite well…she’s very concerned” She also offered some exciting tidbits into where season three might take Aunt Lydia.

Although in the last two seasons we’ve seen almost every protagonist’s backstory, Aunt Lydia has remained a mystery. Apparently that will change in season three. Of this insight, Dowd commented that while it wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be “it’s so true to what might have went wrong.” On that change she added that whatever happened, “her life leaned toward Gilead and [to being] one of the most staunch believers of that group.” And while Dowd clearly loves playing Lydia, she joked about her inner dialogue with the character: “I say I’m disappointed with her and she says to mind my business!”

Dowd complimenting a Handmaid cosplayer in attendance

The Handmaid’s Tale returns weekly to Hulu starting Wednesday June 5th.

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