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Name: Adam Bernard
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Medium Face - Going From Bayside High to JonBenet Ramsey
Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Collectively, the New York City comedy trio of Bob and Tobly McSmith, and Mary Crosbie (pictured R to L), go by the name Medium Face, but thanks to their offbeat, pop culture-centric, musicals most of the faces they’ve seen as of late have been smiling ones. Earlier this year they put on Bayside! The UnMusical!, which was a send up of Saved By The Bell that included a pregnant Kelly, and homosexual Slater, and last week they debuted their latest work, JonBenet Ramsey: Murder Mystery Theater!!!

With topics and storylines such as those it’s no surprise that when it comes to comedy, Bob McSmith says “everything has to be on the table.”

Having seen successful initial runs of both their shows, and Bayside! The UnMusical! getting a second run in 2012 starting September 18th, the Medium Face trio are a comedy team on the rise. This week I sat down with them to find out about the intricacies of working with pop culture related topics, where their inspiration comes from, and what kind of jokes don’t go over well. The team also revealed the worst idea they’ve ever had, and what Queen Latifah has to do with it.

Adam Bernard: Earlier in the year you did Bayside! The UnMusical! and just last week you put on JonBenet Ramsey: Murder Mystery Theater!!! What are your main concerns when crafting something based on pop culture items?
Tobly McSmith: We don’t want to get shot. That's one thing, for sure.
Mary Crosbie: I do.
Tobly McSmith: Well, 66% of us don’t want to get shot.
Bob McSmith: I think the most important thing is to pay respect to the subject, regardless of what it is. If it was a little girl that was murdered, or a stupid piece of TV, it’s really important to get to the bottom of it.

Adam Bernard: You seem like you have a lot of fun. What’s your creative process like? Were you just sitting around one day and said “let’s do a musical based on Saved By The Bell?”
Tobly McSmith: For Saved By The Bell we were high on mushrooms and we had just gotten out of the grocery store after purchasing steaks and we were staring at a tree. That’s when we came up with the idea, and that was in 2003, so we worked fast, and we got it up.

Adam Bernard: In the nine years in-between, what happened.
Bob McSmith: In 2005 and 2006 we did two different runs. The first was at this really terrible bar called Apocalypse Lounge, which was like an art space in the East Village / heroin den.
Tobly McSmith: Then we carried it on to a slightly bigger bar for Bayside 2: Electric Screechio. After that we took a few years off, then we put everything together and rewrote what you saw.
Bob Smith: Also in the meantime we became part of a sketch group called Beaches 2, and that’s how we met Mary, who is the third member of Medium Face.

Adam Bernard: At any point during the creation of these productions did you say “we can’t go THAT far?” What was the limit for you?
Mary Crosbie: Bob’s mom said not to be too horrifying when it came JonBenet.
Bob McSmith: We will edit ourselves if we go too far, but everything’s fair game, I think.
Tobly McSmith: And we’ve learned, this is what doesn’t work - poop jokes.
Mary Crosby: Like one after another.
Bob McSmith: We still have poop jokes in this, though. Fat jokes also don’t go over well, strangely enough. And the Holocaust.


Adam Bernard: Obviously there are big differences between Saved By The Bell and the murder of a child. What made you feel that your audience, and audiences in general, might be ready for something humorous based on JonBenet Ramsey?
Tobly McSmith: What it is, is we love JonBenet, and the jokes aren’t on her, they’re on her family. That’s the people that are the comedy because it’s so obvious that they did it. So I think it’s a tribute to JonBenet and a complete sacking of her family.
Bob McSmith: We are ruthless with the parents and the brother. We’re not gonna make fun of a dead girl. Well, we do, but...
Mary Crosbie: She’d like it. I swear she’d like it. She was a fun loving kid.

Adam Bernard: Are the words “honey boo boo child” uttered at all during the production?
Bob McSmith: Not once. She’s the original. The OG.
Mary Crosbie: They need to talk about her.
Tobly McSmith: It’s all based on the night before the parents call the cops, and when the cops come, so we really try to keep it in 1996.
Mary Crosbie: And we read three books on it, so we’re pretty informed.

Adam Bernard: I didn’t even know there were three books about it.
Mary Crosbie: Another one just came out.

Adam Bernard: Is there a JonBenet Ramsey reading club?
Bob McSmith: There should be a book club.
Tobly McSmith: Maybe we’ll start one. We’ll pass a list out.

Adam Bernard: What do you think the success of Bayside!, and your ability to put on JonBenet, says about the relevance of pop culture, which is something many consider to be disposable?
Tobly McSmith: People need a hook, right? Our hooks are things that interest us, and we make sure to always put on plays and musicals that we would attend. These are things that we’re interested in, and it turns out other people are, too. Although JonBenet is quite polarizing. Either people are very into it, or hate us.
Mary Crosbie: So we’re doing it in a very small theater.
Bob McSmith: The thing is it’s hard to get people out. People aren’t gonna just go see a sketch show. They’re not gonna just go see a play with no name, but if you add something like JonBenet, that’s instantly recognizable, and that name recognition is what draws people in.
Mary Crosbie: Or what makes them run way.
Bob McSmith: Right, but at least it gets them to notice us.

Adam Bernard: Did you have any problems finding a theater?
Mary Crosbie: No, weirdly. I think we’ve just found some kindred spirits.
Tobly McSmith: And we will be getting it into festivals later in the year, too.
Ben McSmith: There’s the Frigid Festival in February. The baby murder toddler festival.
Tobly McSmith: And Bonnaroo.

Adam Bernard: Tell me about something cool that’s happened to you because of these musicals.
Tobly McSmith: Well, I got laid. We’re talking to a theater company about licensing Bayside for a fringe festival in Florida. Our second run of Bayside, for sure we’re gonna try to get more people in, and get it seen more.
Bob McSmith: We really want to bring it to a bigger space, and a theater that will work with us to make it as big as possible.
Tobly McSmith: We’d actually like to tour in a bus with Kelly Kapowski and Jessie Spano.
Bob McSmith: The Bayside Bus. That's our goal.

Adam Bernard: You have Bayside coming back, you have JonBenet, what are you looking to do next?
Tobly McSmith: We’re not ready to talk about what horrible idea we have next.

Adam Bernard: Forget the future then, let’s talk about the past. What have been some of your most horrible ideas?
Tobly McSmith: We did a fart show.
Bob McSmith: That was horrible.
Tobly McSmith: I think we wrote something up about Queen Latifah traveling in time.
Bob McSmith: A Connecticut Negro in King Arthur’s Court. Queen Latifah comes back to medieval times, puts rims on the chariot...
Tobly McSmith: Tyler Perry won’t buy it. I don’t know why.

Adam Bernard: Finally, where do you hope your work takes you?
Tobly McSmith: The Olympics
Mary Crosbie: We’re gonna go for gold in 2016.

For more Medium Face check them out at wearemediumface.com.

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