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Right you are, Ken. Christopher Darga was indeed the voice of MXC's Kenny Blankenship, as well as a writer and producer for the show's 5th season. He also provided the voices for other characters and the contestants, including the well remembered Rob Tussin. The following interview may not be posted outside Takeshi Kingdom or Keshi Heads without permission.
Joshua M: How did you first get involved in the MXC project?
Christopher Darga: I knew Paul Abeyta and Peter Kaikko from doing a show called Nightstand with Dick Deitrick. It was a spoof of Jerry Springer type shows. Even though it was hard to spoof them, it was really funny. I wrote a few episodes and played the same character in a couple of episodes. That's basically how I knew them. Paul got a hold of this footage from Takeshi's Castle and said "This would be fun to voice over". He called me along with Mary Scheer, John Cervenka and Vic Wilson to see if we were interested in voicing the footage. We were the original cast and writers. Herb Goss, Roy Jenkins and Kevin Schini came on staff later.
Joshua: What did you think of the footage from Takeshi's Castle when you first saw it?
Chris: I thought "Oh My God" I couldn't believe that people did that stuff. Now it seems a little passť because everybody has a version of it now, with games where it looks like people are getting killed. But I thought it was great and was amazing material. One of the clips was the guy who does the backflip and looks like he snaps his neck, Rob Tussin, I was voicing him. Outrageous that people, regular people, middle-aged women would do this stuff. It was very funny and it was a gold mine to over dub it.
Joshua: Where did the character of Kenny Blankenship come from?
Chris: It's weird, Kenny kind of evolved. With the first few episodes we played it with straight broadcaster type voices. As it progressed, we found the characters. Kenny became this sort of idiot party goer, He was interested in chicks and beer, and he only got the job because his uncle owned the network. Vic Romano was like a consummate professional who fell hard into alcohol and tanked his career whose now stuck doing this show. So we started out as sort of Broadcaster voices and it evolved as we went along. Kenny does all these Jerky motions and that had to be filled. That's where his stupid "Ha" laugh came from. That's how he turned into a Frat boy basically.
Joshua: You were also half of Em on Em.
Chris: Yeah and I did some of the characters Brad Lesley played. I think I heard that he died.
Joshua: He did, I'm told he was not a fan of MXC.
Chris: Yes, I think I heard he wanted to sue. Don't know what happened to that. I was also the voice of The Diddler.
Joshua: You know you're in trouble when the sanest character on your show is a guy named "The Diddler"
Chris: I don't remember how that name came about. But it's funny, it makes no sense but it's funny. We would try to layer in jokes so if you were laughing at one thing you would miss 5 things. That's one of the reasons why the show had so much replay-ability. It was so silly. We tried to make it clever, funny, and smart, with Innuendo. It wasn't subtle, but there was some subtlety like the shout-outs. They were just random things like, "I like mayonnaise".
Joshua: "I go to church" was my personal favorite.
Chris: I watch episodes now and I don't remember writing any of it but it's just so funny. I'm surprised that it couldn't find new life. Spike just became a moron network that got away from comedy. But we had a good run.
Joshua: You were very popular until they moved the show to midnight on a Friday.
Chris: Yeah, then they just stopped showing it all together. It was such fun show to work on. I cherish those 3 or 4 years I spent on that show. We did 79 shows or something.
Joshua: And I know that you could have done at least 1-2 more seasons with the remaining footage.
Chris: We had plenty of footage to use. We could have even reused some stuff and just changed the dialogue. There's plenty of opportunity with stuff like that. One issue that has come up is getting the rights to use the footage again. I don't think TBS was very happy with the way that we treated the characters. Some of them are cult heroes in Japan. Kenny was a governor at some point.
Joshua: He was. The character of Kenny Blankenship was nowhere near as bizarre as the actual guy in the footage.
Chris: Didn't he have some weird past?
Joshua: He was a comedian who worked for Beat Takeshi and the thing about Takeshi was he would force his crew to do dangerous stunts. There's footage of those guys getting into a bus and then get dropped into a lake while still inside.
Chris: I've seen that footage. Yeah they have a very dark sense of humor in a Japan. We did a similar thing with Super Big Product Fun Show. That never really took off the way MXC did. I think because we were limited in what we could use. We tried another show using footage from a talent show with very bizarre acts, called Buzz Merkinís show. It has some interesting stuff but again we couldn't use a lot of stuff. MXC had a lot of good stuff
Joshua: Do you think there was something special about Takeshi's Castle that made it work as opposed to other Japanese Shows?
Chris: MXC had Vic, Kenny, Guy Leduche and the Captain who were like the core of the show. You create their character and their back story. I think that's what made it work from a writing standpoint. Along with the outrageous games the field interviews, it was a plethora of material. With Buzz Merkin, it was just acts, some of which were too weird. Also there weren't a lot of opportunities to put in dialogue on that show because it was mostly just acts. So we had to do a lot of commentary on that show and sometimes that gets old. I think Takeshiís Castle was one of a kind. I wonder if there are any shows like that in Japan anymore.
Joshua: Nope, The Japanese government cracked down on shows like that.
Chris: Someone supposedly died on the show.
Joshua: Takeshi's Castle?
Chris: Yeah. Or was injured badly or something.
Joshua: I've never heard that.
Chris: It was probably just a rumour. We did the MXC Almost Live Show where we had actual college kids doing some of the stunts. We didn't jump on it at the time. We should have done an American version of that show like what Wipeout ended up doing. Now Wipeout made millions of dollars off the concept. We had one writer who worked on both MXC and Wipeout, but it was mostly just our core group of writers. I was able to pursue acting while I was working on MXC. We were never locked into doing just MXC
Joshua: What is your reaction to people saying MXC was offensive, like the mental retardation jokes?
Chris: I never heard of anyone being offended by that. We never said anybody was retarded, we never called anybody retarded. We just did those voices. I don't know if it was ever meant to be mean spirited. The thing about comedy is you're always going to offend somebody. Also I think that's what is fun about comedy. Now comedy is just so politically correct. Everything seems to be sacred. We did get away with a lot of stuff.
Joshua: I'll quote the National Lampoon, "If you make fun of everybody you can't be accused of being biased".
Chris: Exactly. We also did a lot of Gay Jokes yet we still had a huge Gay following. Someone told us that Bill and Hilary Clinton were fans of the show. We thought about getting celebrity guests at one point but I think we realized that it would ruin the integrity of the show. It helped to have the same 4 people do all the voices. Look at something like The Simpsons. Imagine if someone else came in and did Homer Simpsons. It wouldn't be the same, like when Mel Blanc's son did all his voices; it's just not the same.
Joshua: When did you know MXC wasn't coming back?
Chris: I don't remember. It was during the off season when they decided not to pick it up.
Joshua: If there had been a finale do you know what it would have been?
Chris: We thought about that at one time. The problem is we can't find the footage to justify the end. They didn't have a show like that on Takeshi's Castle so we really couldn't have a show like that for MXC. We didn't think it was going to end. That was the problem; it ended when we weren't working on it. It's too bad, it had a really big cult following. It never had the following of other shows, but that cult following was big.
Joshua: I'm surprised it was never put into Syndication.
Chris: I know. It reran on Spike but yeah it never went anywhere else. There must be something with the rights.
Joshua: Do you have any favorite jokes or characters from the series?
Chris: Not really, my favorite character is Guy Leduche. He was just such a perv. The Japanese guy was so funny and animated. I don't really have a favorite joke. I think there are episodes that I've never seen finished.
Joshua: One last question, where is Kenny Blankenship today?
Chris: Kenny probably runs a chicken ranch out near Reno.
Joshua: Does he have an active role or is he just a supervisor who sits in a room and doesn't do anything all day?
Chris: Yeah he probably just sits in his office and watches porn all day. Or he manages a 99 cent store somewhere. He probably weighs 300lbs. Actually he always fell into some luck so he probably had some idea for a sports drink and made millions of dollars. Vic Romano Is probably the one whose living in his car.
Joshua: This has been a fun conversation. Thank you so much for your time.
Chris: No Problem.