There are plenty of troubling scenes and images in Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe. The film topped out for me when Jesse Ventura, miscast as a Terminator-meets-Suburban Commando hero, is sitting up in a bed, mostly topless, and a child comes to the doorway. As Ventura beckoned to him in, every part of my being wanted to get into the movie and tell the kid, “You don’t enter a room with Jesse Ventura alone, especially when his chest is uncovered.”
A lot was going on with Abraxas, none of it good, making it the perfect choice for the first of Jayden Pfeifer’s Talkies, a new even he’s holding at the Creative City Centre. Every month, Pfeifer and a friend will sit in front of an audience and watch the movie along with them, making fun of it as they go along. Last month, it was Abraxas.
“I thought it went great,” says Pfeifer of his first show. “I thought the movie was horrendous. I had a lot of fun doing it. We laughed ourselves ridiculous all night. We had a lot to talk about afterwards. Everyone who was at the show who I talked to said they had a really great time being tortured by it.”
Pfeifer, a veteran improv performer in Regina and across the country as well as the host of the monthly variety show Red Hot Riot, started Talkies as a casual outlet to watch and make fun of bad movies, a tried-and-true concept that rarely fails to entertain.
Check out a conversation I had with Pfeifer about the origins of Talkies after the jump.
When did it first occur to you to do something like Talkies?
Originally, I had imagined that we do a version of it somehow as part of Red Hot Riot, where we would do sections of movie reviews or just something to do with it on the show, but as the show was being created it became obvious that we weren’t going to have that sort of set up for the show every month where we would have a projector and a screen as part of the show. So, I abandoned it for a while.
Then, I was talking to some friends about this idea of just basically doing our own Mystery Science Theater 3000, where we would watch our own movie. Probably in November or December, I decided I would do it within the next few months. Like most things that I work on, the way that I get myself to do them, I announce publicly that I’m going to do them and then I’m forced to do them. That’s how a lot of things go for me, actually, because otherwise I’ll just agonize about them on my own.
At the December Red Hot Riot, the Christmas show, I just announced I’d start doing this show in the new year and I had to follow through with it because I said I would do it. I had already talked to Marian [Donnelly, of the Creative City Centre] about booking the space, but we hadn’t talked about any firm dates, so we set a bunch and it fell into motion after that.
The possibility of public shame is a great motivating factor.
I genuinely love doing that sort of thing. I think it comes from the nature of improvising or of giving yourself obstacles to surmount. Otherwise, I’ll agonize over it forever, over whether it’s a good idea or it’s perfect or if I’ll have time.
In this case, it was like, if I just tell everyone I’m going to do it, then I won’t have a choice, because then people will be angry or upset that I didn’t do a thing and then I’ll feel horrible about it and I’m going to feel like a loser who can’t follow through on it. That ended up being a motivating factor as to how I did it in the first few months of the year.
With the movie you’ve already done and the movie you’re going to do, you’ve said in public that you haven’t watched them beforehand and you aren’t doing too much research into them. Why have you decided to fly blind into these movies?
I think it’s the nature of the way I like to work. I like to improvise. I prefer not to know what’s coming in advance. That goes for almost everything I work on, as an improviser but also in the variety show, which is 85 per cent improvised. I prefer to work where things are coming at me and I have to be surprised by them. I think it gives the best experience for me as a performer — I have the most fun that way — and I also think it gives the most fun experience for the audience because I’m experiencing it at the same time as they are.
It becomes a little bit more communal that way. Otherwise, I’ve just written a whole lot of jokes and I’m hoping they’ll land, but if it’s improvised, it’s half about the comedy of it and half about everybody watching it for the first time, like a shared experience with the audience.
How deep does your relationship with bad movies go? How much of your monthly movie viewing is taken up with bad movies?
My bad movie history is pretty deep. The part-time job that I had all through university both in Calgary and Regina was working at a Rogers Video. I worked at a Rogers for two years in Calgary and three in Regina. The one I worked at in Calgary, we had the largest library of any Rogers in Western Canada, I think. We had something like 10,000 titles. My roommate was a cult movie fanatic, so we would rent all the horrendous movies from Rogers all the time, old VHS movies, and just kill ourselves laughing for hours at how ridiculous they were. There’s so much joy in just making fun of them and tearing apart the decisions the filmmakers made and how bad the genres were at certain time periods.
On a monthly basis, I watch a decent number of movies on my own. I’m pretty good now where I only watch movies I want to see or movies that I think will be good. Talkies is my outlet for bad movies now.
Talkies is happening tomorrow, April 16 at 8 p.m. at the Creative City Centre.