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"A lot of people seeing the title are probably wondering how this is possible. I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Wilson back in September of 2015. Unfortunately Vic passed away before I had the chance to finish editing the interview. After going back in for in my mind and with some of the MXC staff: I've decided to publish the interview, as in my brief time speaking with him, I believe that's what Victor would have wanted. Victor Wilson was the voice of Vic Romano on MXC and was the Supervising Producer during the 3rd season. Of all the people I've interviewed for MXC, Takeshi's Castle and various other projects I've been involved in, Vic Wilson was by far the most fun to talk to. I consider it a privilege and an honour to have interviewed the entire cast of my favourite Television show and that wouldn't have been possible without Mr. Wilson's eagerness to be heard from. From everyone at Keshiheads, This one's for you Vic."
This interview is not to be used outside Takeshi Kingdom or Keshi Heads without permission.
Joshua M: How did you first become involved with MXC?
Victor Wilson: I had worked with John Cervenka, Chris Darga and Mary Scheer at the Groundlings theatre; I was also friends with Paul Abeyta and Peter Kaikko. It just sort of happened. Larry Strawther called me up and said "Hey we're working on this thing, do you want to come take a look at it?" Paul had, I guess licensed the footage from Takeshi's Castle and wasn't quite sure what to do with it. So we just went in there and sort of played with it for a long time. Spike TV, which was previously had been known as The Nashville Network, had been taken over by Albie Hecht and decided to change the name of the network to Spike TV; which we all thought was the douchiest name. We got in at the right time because they didn't jack with us. They had all this animated stuff, Stipperella with Pamela Anderson and a show with Kelsey Grammar. Because of that we were left to our own devices.
Joshua: What did you think of the footage from Takeshi's Castle when you first saw it?
Victor: I thought "Seriously?" It was so bizarre, because it's kind of a complicated show structure. They would literally have one hundred people who had to make it to the end to participate in some weird, fabricated laser battle. It was like "Wow". It was great how it fell out. You couldn't believe it. That show was from like the late 80s. Takeshi Kitano is a great actor and director. One of my favourite movies is Brother. But that was the great thing "How can we not make this thing funny?" I think we wanted to do it without mocking it. That's what helped us hit our grove, because the footage was already absurd, but we played it as if it were absolutely real. I think Christopher Darga and Mary Scheer had a lot to do with that, we just wrapped our heads around that idea. Like with the Tricycle game we pretended like it was a NASCAR race. We just bought into the idea.
Joshua: I've heard that you were the catalyst behind the playing against the picture aspect of the show.
Victor: That's very kind of my friends to say that, but I think we were all responsible for that aspect. One of the things I remember was Paul Abeyta and Peter Kaikko are great producers to work for. The first episodes were very broad topics: College Girls, Couples Etc. which made them arduous and lengthy to come up with material for them. I remember Larry Strawther, who's a big Sports fan, saying that because everyone's costumes are so particularly random, why don't we just make it two teams competing against each other? You'd have one person dressed like an alligator and another dressed like The Wicked Witch of the West, it's not like anyone could tell. That's when we really jumped onto the idea because all of the sudden we had Home Caregivers vs. Automotive Workers. You could really bring the categories to the show. That really enriched the show and I give Larry a lot of Credit for that.
Joshua: I know that one of the things Herb Goss said was that making the contestants everyday people really helped give the show longevity.
Victor: Exactly, you know "I can't think of another College girl joke". That's what made it fun. It was enriched. Our sensibilities really lended themselves to that. It was always fun.
Joshua: Talk about the Vic Romano character
Victor: That's interesting. That's one of the things we agreed upon early on in the show. John Cervenka played the captain who was this hard core conservative man about town, a real ladies man who had no tolerance for idiots or conservatives. Guy LeDouche: he was just a sexual deviant. A gust of wind could turn him on. In early episodes Chris and I tried to sound like sports casters. We realized that wasn't it. Chris, who is a brilliant improviser, really made the Kenny character work. He became the nephew of the guy who runs the network. He's just there to cater to the young guy market. Vic Romano was in the same league as Tom Brokaw at one point. But Vic Romano liked to drink to many cocktails and accidentally threw up on George Bush Sr. and that was the end of his career, The MXC show being his attempted comeback as it were. Mary Sheerer is very...Well first of all she's hot. Second of all she's incredibly talented. She was "Every Girl". It was amazing the voices that would come out of her. We could write anything and she could do it.
Joshua: How much of Vic Romano is Vic Wilson?
Victor: Probably too much. No, it was all kind of manufactured and basically an accident that I became "Vic". I'm pretty sure Paul had the name of the character before I came on board. But that was the fun part, we got to invest in the characters and figure out who they were. To me, that's the best thing about TV shows, if I put the character of Vic Romano in an episode of Mad Men, I would know exactly how he would react or behave. I think we all, especially Chris and John, did a great job investing in their characters. They made them real. It sounds very David Mamet but our characters had histories. That's what made it funnier to go in there. We would go in there four days a week and we could get away with anything. Sometimes I would run into people and they would they would say, "I can watch the show with my kids because they don't get the jokes." The kids liked watching the stunts while the parents liked the double entendres which I apologize for because they were pretty tawdry.
Joshua: Do you remember what the original reception of the show was from the general public and reviewers?
Victor: Well, Because Spike TV wasn't really on anyone's radar at that point we didn't have many mainstream reviewers. But there were a lot of nice things on IMDB and it just went from there. We were popular in colleges. A lot of Drinking Games came out of the show, which I feel very bad about. But every time I said "Right you are Ken" or "Indeed" someone would have to take a shot. I'm sure we're responsible for some alcohol poisonings.
Joshua: I know MXC actually aired in Sweden.
Joshua: Yeah, it's your edit of MXC and your audio with Swedish Subtitles.
Victor: I'd love to see Swedish MXC. Funny thing is a lot of our viewers thought we were translating the original audio. They didn't get the fact that we were re-voicing everything. This has nothing to do with the original series. We worked very hard to match what we said with the mouth movements. We would spend hours in the recording studio doing that.
Joshua: It was very much a throwback to dubbing in the mid-70s.
Victor: Yeah there really aren't many shows that do that anymore.
Joshua: When do you think the height of the show was?
Victor: I have no idea. Spike did this weird thing where episodes were released in odd portions. I know season 1, Spike left us alone and we were allowed to developed and find our characters. After that it was all gravy. Sometimes we had 13 episode seasons; sometimes we had 26 episode seasons. You just never knew.
Joshua: Yeah Spike never promoted the show. I remember once I was talking to my friend on the phone and I saw a new episode on the show and so I hung up on him to watch the episode.
Victor: No they didn't. Spike didn't own the show. So I think they always had a hard-on against it. They were basically just licensing it. There was no real financial windfall for them with the show, I'm not a business person but that's just my opinion. We never got promoted. We had to make our own promotions. We were the highest rated show on their network, but I don't think they wanted to admit that because they didn't come up with it.
Joshua: I know Larry Strawther told me that Spike couldn't own the show and that they really wanted their animated line up to succeed.
Victor: Yup, But we did get to go to a party at the Playboy Mansion for Spike TV. Albie Hecht threw a party. It was pretty awesome to go there.
Joshua: Chris said that either Albie or Kevin Kay was bowing to him thanking them.
Victor: Yeah they were up our ass how great we were. But, didn't necessarily show up in the pay checks. I wish we had had more support. A lot of our fans found the show on accident. If there had been more promotion, I can't imagine how much more successful we could have been. It's a bit frustrating.
Joshua: Were you there for the almost live show in Florida?
Victor: I wasn't there but that's basically Wipe Out. Larry went down there and set it up. He did a great job. I thought it would have been a great way to continue the show. The great thing about that was all those Florida kids showed up in costume and had their shout-outs ready. That was hilarious. They were funnier than some of the stuff we could write. For some reason Spike didn't go through with it though. Also I think there was something elegant with using the old footage. Maybe the show wouldn't have survived. But at the same time, when you see Wipeout or American Ninja Warrior it's like, "we had that, we could have done that and made it funny."
Joshua: Do you have a favourite shout out?
Victor: That was a great fun of it. It would blow your mind how many jokes we had per episode. 200 to 300 jokes per episode that we would edit down to fit in the mouths of the footage. It was a blast. Imagine a job where you sit in a room and make jokes all day. I don't think Spike TV paid any attention. We said a lot of stuff. They just didn't get what a blumpkin was. We got away with murder and it was awesome. Everyone there was super funny and I was just the Vagabond that got to hang on.
Joshua: Now after season 3 you were no longer a producer on the show.
Victor: No, I went to Mad TV.
Joshua: But you still played Vic Romano on the show.
Victor: Yeah I would come back on the weekends and do that. Roy Jenkins joined the staff at that time and he's the funniest guy in the world. The last two seasons I wasn't in the room until we did Super Big Product fun show...Which was Crap.
Joshua: Do you think the show changed after you left?
Victor: No not at all. I think it was already established. Plus I was still allowed to improvise stuff for the show when we would record. I don't think me leaving killed anything because it was still a good show.
Joshua: Did the end come as a surprised to you?
Victor: Again I really had no notion of what season it was because of the way Spike would split them up. We'd be off for some months then we'd come back. I don't think I had a notion either way. I can't tell you the difference between season 5 and season 3.
Joshua: If Vic Romano were a real person, where would he be today?
Victor: I don't know. I think Kenny probably usurped him in terms of fame. Vic Romano probably had to take a day job. Even though he worked hard to come back. I loved Vic Romano, he was a cool guy. He drove around in the Matador.
Joshua: Is there anything you ever wondered about Takeshi's Castle that I could answer for you?
Victor: I'm curious why there was a season where Takeshi wasn't there and they head a big head there.
Joshua: He was photographed by a magazine out with a young lady-friend. He had a bunch of cast members go to this magazine's headquarters a vandalize it. Because of this, he was under house arrest and was barred from appearing on Japanese Television.
Victor: Are you kidding? That is fantastic. Those were the hardest episodes, we didn't use too much of that footage. We were like, "what the hell do we do?" but we made it work. One last thing, I do creative consulting for companies. I was on a speakerphone interview for a real estate company wanting me to help with promotion. We're sitting their having this conversation and in the background I hear someone say, "Holy F***, that's Vic Romano." He was a young guy and I hear other people on the call saying, "No it's not, that's Victor Wilson". I can hear him getting reprimanded as the interview keeps going. Apparently, this kid was the nephew of the owner of the company and they made him call me back to apologize. He says "I'm sorry Mr. Wilson that was inappropriate." I say "What are you talking about?" He says "I shouldn't have said that's Vic Romano during our discussion." I said, "I think that's badass". So there you go. It's great when MXC comes up. It was a wonderful experience; I was basically just hanging out with my friends all day. Thank you for interviewing me, Josh. This was a real pleasure.
Joshua: Thank you taking the time.