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Mary Scheer has worked for TV projects such as Hey Arnold and MadTV. Arguably her claim to fame is for her work on MXC. Not only did she do the voice overs for all the female roles, but she was also MXC's producer and eventually Supervising producer. Below, J. Murphy has been talking to Ms Scheer about her time on the show. This interview is not to be used outside Takeshi Kingdom or Keshi Heads without permission.
Joshua M: How did you first get involved with MXC?
Mary Scheer: I had known Paul Abeyta for years. I was a staff writer on his show, Night Stand. I was brought in by Paul and his partner Peter Kaikko. He was looking for comedy people, and went to the Groundlings. That's how John Cervenka, Chris Darga, Vic Wilson and Myself all knew each other because we had worked at that theatre. I think I was the first staff writer on the show.
Joshua M: How did Paul pitch the show to you?
Mary: He said he had this really great footage from this Japanese game-show from the 80s. Paul's just one of those guys who knows a lot unusual stuff. I'm not sure how he knew of Takeshi's Castle in the first place. This was before the internet when you could find anything, that's what was so fascinating about it. But he had access to this huge archive with all this footage. I remember going there and watching all these Army films about STDs with him and other films that make you wonder, "Why would anyone have this stuff." I love all of that arcane knowledge and so Paul explained it and showed me the footage. But I think one of the most heart-breaking things about MXC is that Wipe out just ripped of everything from Takeshi's Castle.
Joshua M: WHAT?!?!
Mary: (laughs) I know this is the first anyone's hearing of it. The biggest insult I got was my brother said to me, "Oh (MXCs) so funny, I don't really listen to what they're saying but those impacts are great". I thought "Do you think I had anything to do with that footage from the 80s?" People couldn't make sense of it. Weird.
Joshua: I remember being in school at the time and everyone saying, "They just translate it". I'm like no they don't.
Mary: Oh My god, do you know how hard it was to match the voices and body language with the jokes we wrote? On the original show they were probably saying something mundane and we would take it and have them say something really horrific. Doing things like having Captain Tennille be so politically conservative and judgmental, which always made me laugh. I don't know if you noticed that.
Joshua: Oh yeah. John Cervenka said it best when he referred to the captain as a Right-Wing bully.
Mary: Yes that's exactly what he was. I loved those moments when he would talk to the crowd and get them on his side, then immediately turn on them. Also, I actually pitched that Guy's last name be "Le Douche". Because I was the only one who spoke French I knew Le Douche meant "Shower". They all loved it cause we could say "Douche" on the air. We loved that locker room humour.
Joshua: Well he's French, He's just saying that his last name is Shower. That's not an expletive.
Mary: I know, it's like "Why are you reading into that, It just means shower. That's harmless. Why are you reading into it you weird-o."
Joshua: I know Herb Goss said the only time the network said know was when there was a reference to the movie Sophie's Choice. What do you remember about your interactions with Spike TV?
Mary: If the Network had a problem with Sophie's Choice it was because they wanted references within the last year. We were always fighting for references to be timeless. They wanted references that only a 20 year old would understand at that moment. Those battles were boring. My favourite Network quote we got was "If I tell you to paint the wall blue, you paint the wall blue." Not that my idea or the network's idea was better just a "Do What We Say" attitude. We were on speaker phone when they said that and we had to turn the speaker phone off because we were laughing so hard because in their minds we were idiots when it comes to comedy. So Yeah, I loved em all.
Joshua: What was your reaction when you first saw the footage from Takeshi's Castle?
Mary: I remember it being really shocking. Having known someone who worked on Wipe out, she told me that the people on that show had to sign liability waivers to keep them from litigating if they got horrible injuries. I don't know if the Japanese have that litigious stuff in their country. But I just can't believe that people did that and didn't die or get horrifically injured. That's what was so amazing about it.
Joshua: I've done research and am amazed to say that no one was seriously injured on that show.
Mary: Wow. Cause doesn't it look like some of them broke their necks?
Joshua: It does look that way. I think the look of it was a little more effective then the actually pain. Kind of like how Stunt persons are able to do these horrific looking stunts but plan them in a way where they don't get hurt.
Mary: Yeah, but those people weren't stunt people. Getting that footage from Paul was great. He was sort of the heart behind putting the show together and pitching the idea for the show. Just seeing that footage took hours because we would stop it and cringe with pain. Or seeing them fall into that disgusting liquid.
Joshua: That water was not treated. People did get sick from the water.
Mary: that stuff looked like Raw sewage. We always commented on that.
Joshua: Was it difficult being the only female writer on a very college humour oriented show like MXC?
Mary: You're usually the only female comedy writer in a room. I think they always hire one token female writer. Every staff I was on I was the only female writer. I there were other women given vocal credit on the show but I was the only female writer in the writers room. It didn't bug me though because when I was in the Groundlings Theatre, it was very diplomatic. Those guys especially were used to Groundlings where if you wrote a funny thing it went in. You'd write for everybody or cast for everybody. Occasionally jokes would go to far, but I would pitch things that went to far as well depending on someone's point of view. The only time I was every offended was when I was writing a pilot for a woman who won a comedy reality show. I pitched something and she said, "See this is the problem. Most women who are funny look like you. (Whereas) I'm hot and I'm Funny." (Laughs)
Mary: Isn't that great. I think it's funny because I've been treated better by men in the writing room but treated better by Women when I'm auditioning for something because most casting workers are women. Other then Mad TV, I can't say that I've ever felt frustrated working with the men. But it is a boys club. Sometimes it gets to the point where you drive each other crazy.
Joshua: You did most if not all of the female voices. How were you were able to do all of those voices? Was it ever stressful?
Mary: It was very stressful. I'd done a lot of voice-over on Hey Arnold and other shows before then so it wasn't like I came in cold. And since then I've done some King of the Hill some Family Guy and 24 episodes of Penguins of Madagascar. But for me I ran out of accents and characters. But luckily for every 10 male contestants on the show, there was only one female contestant. So the ratio was a little easier on me. John and Chris had done a ton of voice over and we would all help each other out and give each other ideas. Not too vocally stressful unless we had a lot of screaming. But I've been in some weird situations. Once I was on a beach in Hawaii and I yelled something at my kids. Someone yelled back across the beach to me, "Oh My God, I recognize your voice, You do the shout outs on MXC". I don't know if that's good or bad.
Joshua: It was kind of a throwback to early dubbing of the 80s where 5 people would dub all the voices in the cheesy monster movie
Mary: Yeah I go to voice-over auditions and it's usually the same 10 people who audition. I can't say that I would only do voice-overs because I think I would lose my mind but it's a very fun field. The fun of MXC was coming up with what they were saying. Like in the addict show where we had a woman who was addicted to Guy Le Douche and figuring out what she was saying in the interview afterwards. That stuff was always fun. We had so much fun with the contestants who would cover their mouths when they would laugh. I know that's like a cultural thing to not show your teeth when you smile. But I loved figuring out what they would say.
Joshua: I remember you had the Female Guy Le Douche vomiting in her hand when she did that.
Mary: I think I was best know for my disgusting burping and vomiting noises. Here's a fun fact about me: I can burp on cue and I'm proud of that.
Joshua: Herb Goss said it was amazing you well you could burp.
Mary: (Laughs) Why would anyone want to have that skill? Oh Herb. We made him that huge pile of dung, Herby the Steamy Pile, on the show and he was such a good sport about it. He was so funny. At the end of a long stressful day I might have had a breakdown if I'd had a steaming pile of crap named after me. Herb was beloved.
Joshua: What do you remember of the initial reactions to the show?
Mary: Here's how it works: Executives don't tell you that it's the highest rated show on the network. They don't tell you that it's making them all kinds of money. Because they don't want you to know that you're successful because if you know you're successful then you'll ask for more money. If there's a breakout character they tend to write them out, it's just a financial thing. With our show we just didn't know. We were working in a little bungalow, which as since been torn down, not knowing what's going on outside with this show. They didn't give us rating breakdowns. We had no idea how successful it was until a writer from the New York Times named Jeff Klien had a son who was a huge fan of the show. He said, "I had to fly out to do a story on the show because my son and I love watching the show together." It was like, "Oh My gosh, people watch this show?!?". We're just trying to make each other laugh but people outside our writing room found it funny as well. But again, we weren't able to get a hold of the network executives some days because they were too busy buying vacation homes in Hawaii with all the money we made them. It's funny, We're sweating in the valley, I wish I could of bought a second home. Instead my vocal cords are strained because of all the voice-over screaming we're doing. But that's okay. I feel good knowing we were in the sweatshop and they were getting rich off our hard work.
Joshua: In season 4 you became the supervising producer. How did that change your roll on the show?
Mary: Well we weren't allowed to call ourselves writers because of the Union. Paul gave me that role because he was working 7 days a week and I don't think anyone can keep up that pace. As a supervising producer I was in charge of making sure we met our quotas for writing. I think he thought I could make everyone fall in line. I think In my own personal experience I can get a script finished and he thought I could prevent any infighting.
Joshua: What do you remember about the final season?
Mary: Honestly They all kind of run together. I think the last year was a little less stressful as we had a little bit more balance in the writing room in terms of politics.
Joshua: What in your opinion is the legacy of MXC?
Mary: I think if people are honest to themselves, which in Hollywood they never are, They'll realize. People still quote Kenny with "Indeed". Right after we became big the film Dodgeball came out. In the movie they basically borrowed the sports pattern that Vic and Kenny had. I would also run into people who would say, "You did MXC? I loved that show. I watched it all the time". I think MXC had locker room humour, but very well written locker room humour. Everything now has gotten so blue, Not to give ourselves too much credit but I think we were the first to do cleverly written gross jokes. I don't find a lot of mainstream comedy winners funny. I don't find Big Bang Theory funny.
Joshua: Neither do I
Mary: That makes two of us. Those shows make millions of dollars, yet I'm reminded of people coming up to me saying "Oh MXC was hilarious". So the legacy is that when you watch the show it's still funny. It has jokes that still ring true. I just wish more people would be aware of it.
Joshua: I'm shocked and saddened that there is no show like it on the air.
Mary: Well I think it was a combination of the footage being funny, The extreme sport format, and how blue we could get with the humour. I think Paul deserves the credit for finding that footage and saying "I think there's a show here." He and Peter realized how great it was. I don't know if they'll be another show like it. I think people think of dubbing the way they think of Improv as just Who's Line is it Anyway. Like it's just the same joke over and over again, but Improv can be really funny but it depends on how it is done.