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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sorce-1 Sits Down With Kevin Allison

My quest to interview every member of The State is coming together slowly buy surely. Since embarking on my quest nearly a month ago, I’ve interviewed three members of the cast. My third interview is with Kevin Allison. Following The State’s short-lived stint with CBS Kevin has built a strong writing and editing resume, with articles appearing in The Village Voice, Giant, and Premiere. While his writing resume may be impressive, he’s recently made the decision to re-focus on comedic acting. In addition to his recent appearances in the films The Ten and Reno 911!: Miami, Kevin was named artistic director at The People’s Improv Theater (PIT) in New York City. I’m super duper stoked to present the most recent addition to the Heavy In The Streets interview series with The State, Kevin Allison.

DJ Sorce-1: One thing I wanted to touch on that I didn’t get to ask David Wain or Michael Showalter was what happened when The State left MTV and went to CBS. I’ve heard several different things, and I wanted to get a clear version of what exactly went down and why you guys decided to dismantle after your deal with CBS fell through.

Kevin Allison: My memory of all the exact details is a little hazy and you might want to ask some other people from the cast about this. But as I remember, we quit MTV because we were kind of big for our britches. We wanted to take a big risk. We knew we were taking a big ass leap, but we wanted to go to network. We landed a little gig at CBS that was supposed to be a series of specials that could potentially lead to a weekly series, but Les Monves was hired as the president of CBS right in the midst of us putting the show together. I believe what happened was he took a look at this roster of people that had been hired recently and was like, “Oh, fuck, I don’t want to deal with a sketch group right now.” I frankly don’t think he even looked at our show. I think we were pretty much just fired outright. They also put no promotion into the show and put it on at Friday at 10 pm or something so there was really no chance of it going anywhere.

Then we kind of made the same mistake with movies. We knew someone who was an independent producer of movies. He had just done Godzilla, Citizen Ruth, and Kids. And he was ready to do a movie with us and we said, “Nah, were gonna go for a bigger fish.” So we went with Walt Disney. And they strung us along for about a year asking us to give them Animal House. We gave them different variations of what could be like Animal House. Finally they came back to us and said, “No, no, no. When we say Animal House, we mean “Scene Two: The dark haired rebel character puts down the blond bimbo character and leaves…” know what I mean?

Barney McMaken Skit From The State

DJ Sorce-1: They were trying to do it for you.

Kevin Allison: Yeah, we said, “Why did you hire us?” By that time we were so frustrated, and we were all running out of money. If you ask me, once the CBS thing blew to pieces, we could have, and probably should have gone back to MTV and said “Whoops, we fucked up, we’re back with our tail in between our legs, let’s try this again.” Or we could have tried to move over to Comedy Central or something like that. Frankly the group’s psychology, the group head, was just too frazzled to try something new. That wasn’t even a possibility for us.

Eventually what happened is it became more and more difficult for us to figure out what we were actually going to be able to do next. We had an unwritten rule in the group. Nobody could take on a major project that would clearly conflict with the group being able to do its work. We kept that through thick and thin, through many offers, over many years. Finally Ben, Tom, and Michael Black went to Comedy Central and set up the show Viva Variety and said, “Guys, we have a show now.” That was basically letting us know we no longer had a career as The State. The reason it was such a shock at the time is we had spent years foolishly saying, “We’re not doing The State for our individual careers. What we’re doing is creating an artistic entity that will support us for the rest of our lives.” That was naïve of us.

DJ Sorce-1: It must have been upsetting to see The State fall apart, because it sounds like you guys were all pretty close.

Kevin Allison: We were very, very close. For so many years in college we were working together on shows and partying together at night. At MTV we’d show up at nine in the morning, we’d work until six or seven at night and then we’d party together and continue brainstorming. We were like a dysfunctional family that was never away form each other. When Viva Variety happened it was not just that our career paths were splitting, but there was also a realization that we were going to be in different places. I spent years after The State ended having no idea exactly what I wanted to do. To this very day I find it hard to wrap my head around how to exactly package myself as a solo performer. The State was kind of a package on its own.

When I say all this, I don’t want to sound bitter and angry all these years later. I see that Ben, Tom, and Mike did what they had to do to keep moving forward. It would have been ideal if the group could have stayed together and kept working together. But that’s such an unpredictable thing. It’s like a marriage. And it was a marriage of 11 people. There were times when really felt like we were beating our head on a wall like, “God dammit, why can’t we all get on the same page again?” when we’d all been on the same page for such a long time.

Nowadays were talking about doing reunion project. The subject comes up every year or so. Of course now we have such disparate schedules that it’s terribly hard to do. Whenever we do discuss potential reunion projects, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page. It’s funny, there was such unity for a long time, and I guess you don’t realize how fragile that can be.

DJ Sorce-1: When the CBS deal fell through did you think, “This could be the end of The State as people know it,” or did you think you would rebound and come back with something else.

Kevin Allison: We all said that we could rebound. We really thought we could do a movie, and do what Python did. After they did Flying Circus they did Holy Grail. Either that or we could do a new TV series. It seemed to us that there was no reason logistically that we couldn’t do something like that. The night we were told we were fired; a couple of us went out to the Chelsea Piers and hit some baseballs at a batting cage there. We did that for a little while and then drank some beers. I remember when I went home to my apartment I lay down on the floor and my body just started shaking and convulsing. It was as if my body couldn’t handle the news. There was a part of me that knew things had broken apart. It really took years for that to completely sink in like, “Oh, shit, this is over.”

DJ Sorce-1: I think it was the same way for a lot of fans too. When I heard about The State getting cancelled I thought, “They’ll be back. They’ll put out an album or a movie; they’ll do something. It’s nothing to worry about.” Then as time went by and I saw people working on different projects, I realized that people from The State were moving in different directions.

Senator Tom Franklin Skit From Kevin's Other Sketch Group Big Flux Comedy

Kevin Allison: What’s disappointing about that is that the chemistry of a group is a kind of mysterious thing. When you put two personalities together, you get one bigger personality. When you put 11 together, who knows what you’re going to get. With our particular group of 11, there was something very special. There was a balance there where a shitload of smart, creative stuff could happen. I really don’t think any of the group’s smaller break off things have matched the energy and creativity of when we’re all together.

I should also say that back when we were on TV, if there was one person who was a bit of a loner in the group, it was probably me. Part of it was because I was the gay one. We were in our early twenties, and I was one of the only people in the group who had a completely different social scene. I was maybe not quite as tight with a lot of the members of the group.

Nowadays I look back and I really regret that when The State broke up I didn’t try my hardest to stay in touch and keep working with everyone as much as I could. Stella happened, and David’s movies happened. There’s a lot of stuff since The State that I missed out on in a lot of ways because I kind of fell away for a while, and even stopped acting entirely for a while. Now I’m in this place where I’m clawing my way back in to the whole acting scene. I really do hope that The State gets to do a reunion project. Not just because I’d love to work with everyone again, but also as a way of saying, “Hey guys, I’m back. I left for a while but I’m back doing this.”

The funny thing is, at this point, it’s not even so much an issue of offers not being there. With the DVD coming out in September…

The State on "SQUiRT TV" circa 1995

DJ Sorce-1: Is a DVD coming out?

Kevin Allison: Yeah, it’s gonna be a box set of everything on MTV.

DJ Sorce-1: Man, I’ve been waiting for a long time for that to happen.

Kevin Allison: There will be a lot of never before seen stuff, some of which is horrendous, but some of which is really funny. There’s a lot of commentary. So the box set should be pretty damn cool. The only regret we have about it is that MTV let us use a shitload of their music, in fact they forced us to use a shitload of contemporary music back then. Something wasn’t completely ironed out as far as rights to the music, so we had to edit in a lot of fake music underneath some of the sketches.

The State cast on the set of Reno 911!: Miami

DJ Sorce-1: I read somewhere that was the big red tape issue, that MTV wanted to release the box set but with music copyright stuff being as sensitive as it is now they were running into a lot of trouble. And you guys used so much music in the skits.

Kevin Allison: They really wanted us to carpet the show with music. We were always more interested in an archetypal comedy. It wasn’t someone imitating a famous person; it wasn’t someone doing a fucking George Bush impersonation or something like that. It was little stories about fictional characters. When we first came in there, MTV of course wanted us to really utilize pop culture. They actually gave us a list at one point of subject matter they wanted us to use. So we struggled with that until after a while they were like, “Ok, do what you want, what you’re doing is working.” But at that point we were enjoying throwing all types of wacky music in the skits.

The box set should be a lot of fun. What I’m hoping it does is bring us attention again. One of the things that has always frustrated me is our audience was so exclusively kids in college and high school in the few years we were on. As a result of that, many people in the movie and television industry don’t know who I am and they don’t know what The State is. Now we’re at an age where finally some young people are getting into positions as agents or executives who are like, “Oh, yeah, I know The State.” But for so many years nobody who counted in the industry knew what it was. So that’s always been frustrating, it was such a cult thing for kids that the rest of the industry didn’t pay any attention to it.

DJ Sorce-1: I would assume that you all expected a certain level of success after The State. Realizing that the people in control were not really watching it must have been tough.

Kevin Allison: Right. I don’t think we completely knew this at the time, but I’ve been told that MTV actually wanted to give us a contract for about 30 more episodes. I don’t think we realized just how good that deal was back then. I don’t think that number really registered and we were so dead set on going to CBS that I don’t think our managers were giving us the whole story. But that’s exactly what we needed. We needed to do just as many shows for MTV as we had already done in order to really solidify and establish ourselves.

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, it seems like you got cut off right as you came into your prime. Another thing I wanted to talk to you about was some of your new acting projects. Is film acting something you’re going at full force right now?

Kevin Allison: I’ve just gotten myself a commercial agent, and I’ve started auditioning for commercials again. I haven’t yet nailed down a legit agent for film, sitcoms, and stage. My next goal is to nail down a legit agent in the next couple of months and start perusing that stuff in a big way.

DJ Sorce-1: In both Reno 911!:Miami and The Ten all of the original members of The State were featured. Did it feel like things were starting to click again?

Kevin Allison: Reno was super fun for us. We all flew out there so that we would be together for the same two or three days. It was the first time that all 11 of us were working together again since…Jesus, I don’t know when. It was such a good feeling. There was no tension or nervousness. It was kind of like a sigh of relief to just be having fun together again. Everybody just fit back together like a glove. It was really neat, because Ben and Tom were commenting about how the film crew there was so impressed with us. They were like, “Holy shit, this group has taken over our set.” When we come onto a set, we’re very focused. Nobody’s relaxing back at the trailer or anything. Everyone’s always dedicated to making it as funny as it can be together. It was a great experience. It made us all really want to work together again.

I’m super excited about The Ten. What’s great about David Wain is that he’s found a way to continue making comedy that really doesn’t try to fit in. He’s still making comedy that’s very authentically based on what he finds funny, without giving a thought to what’s going to be accessible or buyable. That’s really commendable, that he’s done that. I haven’t actually seen the whole thing, but from what I’ve seen and heard about it, it seems like it’s going to be extremely funny.

DJ Sorce-1: Is there anything you want to mention before we wrap things up?

Kevin Allison: I guess if there is anything I want to plug it’s The State DVD and my hope that we all get to work together soon.

For more on Kevin, please visit his website.

Also make sure to check out my interviews with State members David Wain and Michael Showalter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

ego trip

Fuck Rolling Stone, ego trip is the greatest music magazine of all time. The look, feel, and smart-ass writing made it untouchable. One of my favorite series in ego trip was the Count Chocula interviews. They had The Count interview rappers like Fat Joe and ask them random, funny questions. I plucked this from ego trip Vol. 2, Issue 3, where they have Count Chocula sit down with Count Bass D. Check it out here compliments of Heavy In The Streets.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Some More Found Pictures

Round 2...
Again, these are pictures taken by my uncle Rob that I found while cleaning out my grandparents house. I have a ton of really good ones; I'm going to continue to upload them gradually for people to enjoy.

The picture above is my favorite of the entire lot. It's a classic photo of my grandfather.

New Interview: TSS Presents Smoking Sessions With Ethan Brown

My big writing project recently was conducting an interview with Ethan Brown, author of the book Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustler for The Smoking Section. It is one of the most in depth interviews I've ever been a part of, and I'm very happy with how it came out. Please take a minute to read it by clicking here.

More Cool Finds

I recently stumbled upon these amazing photos while helping my family clean out my grandparent’s house. All of the photos were apparently taken by my uncle Rob, except for the one of the two little kids sitting on someone’s porch steps. I think the pictures are great and decided to share them. Enjoy. If anyone who reads this post or the interview with Davy Rothbart wants to share any finds, feel free to email me at

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Heavy In The Streets Interviews Davy Rothbart

Davy Rothbart seems to have endless energy and creative spark. Not only is he the co-creator of Found magazine, he’s also a writer, contributor to the popular public radio show This American Life, and filmmaker. For those unfamiliar with Found, it's a collection of found love notes, pictures, letters, grocery lists, art, and anything else you could imagine from all over the world. Since its first issue, the magazine has spawned bestselling books, tours, audio projects, and even an evil twin, Dirty Found.

I recently contacted Davy with a question I’ve always wanted to ask him. Out of all the Found material he has seen over the years, which find has had the greatest impact? Read our interview below to see his answer.

DJ Sorce-1: My favorite Found story was in the first Found book. A man named Don Smith was at a canal near his house and he found a note in a bottle. A kid named Roger J. Clay had written the note nearly 20 years earlier. The man did some research and found out that Roger had died in a motorcycle accident years ago. Don was able to find Roger’s parents and give them the note. For me, it was the best back story of any find. It really hit home. Have there been any Found stories that you’ve found particularly moving?

Davy Rothbart: Have you seen this kid Aaron Hartman’s Algebra test in the first Found book? He’s from Portland, Maine.

DJ Sorce-1: It’s sounds familiar…

Davy Rothbart: He didn’t know the answers to the problems on this Algebra test, so he came up with funny answers. They asked him to graph two functions, so he graphed a smiling face and a frowning face. There’s one problem that says, “Use the properties of logarithms to solve this equation” and he drew an old man saying, “Get off my property.” There are all these rhymed couplets that he wrote on the back of the test. One says

“My name is Aaron
I’m in Algebra Two
I sit in class for an hour
And nothing to do.”

This kid didn’t know any answers to the problems, but he made up all these hilarious answers instead. The teacher gave him a zero, which is fucked up. If he’s my kid, he’s getting an A+, best grade in the class. He could have just left the page blank, but he showed off this great creative spark. I might say something like “Aaron, clearly you need to talk to me so we can get you caught up to speed. But your answers are hilarious and you have a great mind.” Something like that; you have to find some way to encourage him.

I love this kid. I read this note all the time for a couple years. These people were even trying to do an Aaron Hartman college scholarship fund. They were gonna build a fund for him to go to college, because he clearly needed to be at a school where he was appreciated for his talents. I read this test on the radio show This American Life for this live tour we did. Tons of people heard it and emailed me about how much they loved this kid.

Everybody was like, “We gotta find this kid and let him know how much he is appreciated.” People had written Aaron all these letters I was going to try to forward to him. One day somebody emailed me who had done some online research. It turns out that a couple of years after he had done this algebra test, at the age of 19, he was driving with three friends in his moms Geo Metro or something. They were all drunk, and they hit a tree at 100 miles an hour and they all died. I was fucking crushed. I just started crying as soon as I read the article.

I found out when I was in the middle of a tour. I used his test to close the show at the end of each night. It was so funny it would bring down the house. So the night after I found out I read it and everyone was laughing. After I was done reading it I said, “Yeah, um, he’s fucking dead. Him and his friends all died in a drunk driving accident, it’s so fucked up.” Everyone was stunned. And then I had no idea what to say so I was like, “Well, have a good night everyone thanks for coming.” The audience felt manipulated because I got them all hyped up and laughing and then I told them that the person who did the test was dead.

Then, what got even weirder is I continued to read the test because I still loved it, but I wouldn’t explain what had happened to Aaron. My brother and my other friend who was on tour with us would look at each other after I read it. There was this horribly sad ending, but I didn’t tell anybody else. These days I don’t even read it as part of the show.

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, it seems like there isn’t really a right way to do it.

Davy Rothbart: Exactly.

DJ Sorce-1: That’s an incredibly powerful story. Thank you for sharing it with me. It’s heartbreaking.

Davy Rothbart: Yeah, I haven’t really talked about it before.

DJ Sorce-1: It gives you an intimate connection to someone you don’t know. And that’s what I think is so important about the whole Found project.

Davy Rothbart: Absolutely. It’s amazing to connect with people through these Found notes. Reading through all these Found letters and notes, the people who write them become a part of your life. All the people I’ve met through reading these found notes are a part of my life.

To find out more about the fascinating world of Found visit their website and MySpace page. You can also check out Dirty Found by visiting their own seperate website and MySpace.

Some additional Found notes and pictures for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Half-Assiduitous Arts

My friend recently started a website called Half-Assiduitous Arts. It's a collection is of bizarre and tripped out sketches, drawings, and clay figure slide shows. For various reasons my friend doesn’t want his legal name attached to the project, so I’m honoring his request. I do however think that a lot of his material is very interesting and worth checking out. Included here are a few of my favorite drawings. If you are interested in checking out the actual site, you can do so by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Blendmatic: 5 Classic Nas Blends

I recently wrote a piece for The Smoking Section highlighting five of my favorite Nas blends from my mix tape collection. You can read the article by clicking here. You can also download each blend I write about in the article. Please post some feedback and let me know what you think.

DJ P Interview Coming Soon....

I just wrapped up a phone interview with DJ P of Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 fame. The interview went great, and I'm working on transcribing it as we speak. I should have it up in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Smoking Section Mentioned in Vibe Magazine

Yes yes ya'll. It's been a big month for Heavy In The Streets and the other site I write for, The Smoking Section. The Smoking Section was recently mentioned in the new issue of Vibe magazine. To read the article, click on the images below.

Big ups to my TSS Crew for their hard work on the site. It's starting to pay off in a major way.


Sorry there hasn't been an update for a few days. I just moved and I'm still in the process of moving. I'm working on some great interviews that will be up shortly. In the meantime, here is a great fluffy 80's jump off for you to enjoy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I'm Leaving

After nine crazy months in the city, my time in NYC is over. I'll be sad to leave my two great friends and roomates, Adam and Evan. I'm also going to miss Astoria, one of my favorite parts of NYC. Hopefully one day I can figure out a way to come back.

Sorce-1 and Showalter

There are some people that have a knack for always being able to make me laugh. Michael Showalter is one of those people. Between The State, Stella, and Wet Hot American Summer, his humor has been an important part of my life. Luckily for me, Michael is the second cast member of The State to agree to be interviewed by me for Heavy In The Streets.

Take a minute to find out where the idea for Doug from The State came from, the challenges of making Stella, and what kind of zombie purist Michael considers himself to be. Please welcome Michael Showalter as the second installment in the Heavy In The Streets interview series with The State.

DJ Sorce-1: Where did you get the idea for Doug from The State?

Michael Showalter: Where I went to high school in Princeton, NJ all the cool dudes used to "dip" tobacco. It made them talk funny. I was on the tennis team my sophomore year and played doubles against upper-classmen. They both dipped and were really preppy and "dude-like." I hit a drop shot and they were too lazy to run for it. One kid, Evan, said in a total Doug voice, "Yer pretty cute, Showalter." Doug is a less preppy homage to those dudes. Plus, my Dad is really cool. It's hard to rebel when your parents are cool.

DJ Sorce-1: Are you ever surprised that the members of The State still collaborate on projects regularly?

Michael Showalter: Not at all. We're all on the same page comedically. We speak the same language. We're like family. It's easy to work together because there's so much history there. Let me think of some more clichés: a stitch in time...

DJ Sorce-1: What mistake did you make during your career that you have learned the most from?

Michael Showalter: In the last season of The State we dissed MTV. I regret that. You should never bite the hand that feeds you.

DJ Sorce-1: I read on your blog that you consider yourself a zombie "purist". I'm gonna test you on that. I too consider myself a zombie purist. Name your picks for favorite, most underrated, and worst zombie flick.

Michael Showalter: I'm only a purist in that I believe zombies should not have any intelligence. I'm no expert on zombie movies though. I do love zombies though. My favorite zombies, some of them aren't even really zombies, like the orcs in Lord Of The Rings. Those fuckers are brilliant.

DJ Sorce-1: Do you ever get burned out on doing comedy and find it hard to come up with ideas?

Michael Showalter: Sure. All the time.

DJ Sorce-1: What comedian has had the biggest impact on your career?

Michael Showalter: Probably Woody Allen or Steve Martin. I think the British Office is the greatest single comedic achievement ever. For that reason Ricky Gervais has become a God to me.

DJ Sorce-1: Talk about the differences in doing Stella as a live show and television show. Did you like one better than the other?

Michael Showalter: The TV show was a lot of work. We shot each episode like a film. We worked long hours. It was the summer. We were overworked, hot and tired. No one was watching the show. I'm very, very proud of the result but the process wasn't a ton of fun.

DJ Sorce-1: You were recently on the cover of Re-Up magazine with the puppet from Masta Ace's "Me and The Biz" video. Talk about how that has positively effected your street cred.

Michael Showalter: To the best of my knowledge it hasn't.

DJ Sorce-1: Do you think I'll be able to get the other nine members of The State to do interviews with me?

Michael Showalter: Nah. Prolly not.

DJ Sorce-1: Tell us what new projects you are currently working on.

Michael Showalter: Michael Black and I just did a pilot on Comedy Central called Michael Ian Black Doesn't Understand. He's the star of the show. I'm his little fuck boy. We co-created and co-produced the show together. I'm excited about it. I'm recording a comedy album this summer, touring, making some episodes of Showalter Showalter for College humor and doing a few other bigger things. I like to keep a tight lip about stuff. Don't wanna be the boy who cried wolf.

To learn more about Michael Showalter, please visit his website by clicking here.

To read his hilarious Thanksgiving recipes on his blog, click here.

Bonus Jump Offs

Cutlery Barn Skit from The State

The Michael Showalter Showalter with Paul Rudd