Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wayno Draino, artist/actor/stand-up comic

this from January 2010:

I had a late lunch today today with Wayno Draino at a diner in Manhattan. We spoke for a long time and there is much to write so this interview will be put up in parts.

Wayno was born in Bayonne, NJ. He declares: "I was born under the smokestacks of Bayonne, and that is why most people think I have brain damage now. At the hospital, the birthing room is underneath the smokestacks and when the babies are born they get that toxic injection of smoke to prepare them for living in Bayonne. If they don't, they can die within a month." Wayno says the air in Bayonne is 60% nicotine. He grew up on a cul-de-sac, 75 feet from a chemical container. When he was a kid, he used to play "hide and go seek" and hide on top of the tank. But, "it is really tough to hide when you are glowing."

Wayno was an illustrator who did not really play with other kids because he was very introverted. He says in Bayonne everybody was beating each other up all day long. He learned to play hockey and football not because he wanted to be a great sports man. He liked tackling and punching the other kids.

He always was looking for friends... so when he was a teenager he was sitting around on the docks at his Long Beach Island summer home and everybody was real quiet. You could hear the crickets. He was introverted, but he started talking. The more he talked, the more the girls liked him. He would tell stories about his life; his wild and crazy days. He was overly animated and added punchlines and would "crack everybody up." It was an amazing feeling getting everybody in the group to laugh. He felt "connected to humanity" which is a feeling he almost never had. He was truly happy when he saw people around him laughing and that is why he began doing stand-up. And comedy is also a defense mechanism that helps him get through miserable days. It was very dark and industrial in the part of town in which he grew up and Bayonne was "not a very happy place."

Wayno said his whole family was in the TV business. His father was a film editor for CBS and at the end of his career he had his own film editing company that edited TV commercials. Early in his career, Wayno was a "shock" comic to get the attention of the audience. I met Wayno in about 1988 at the Eagle Tavern, which was located on West 14th Street in NYC. The pub had great comedy open mic nights for beginners, and this is Wayno from 20 years ago doing stand-up. We got along and became friends, and Wayne cast me as his mother in his film, which he said I could call "Challenged Superheroes." It actually had another name.... and Wayne laughed when I told him I was changing the name of the film for this blog. Anthony Ribustello was also in the film. Wayno told me the film in which I appear will soon be up on YouTube. I still can remember my first line: "Hey everybody, Wayne's here." And Wayno reminded me that I was in the illustration of the film for his "New Underground Magazine."

We went on to discuss Dan Aykroyd's "Out There" show. Wayno Draino worked for the show as a graphics and animation producer for 6 weeks. After 60 shows were recorded, the show was cancelled.

Wayno is indeed outrageous and he went on to tell me how his "doodling" got him into some recent trouble on a plane. I was really laughing. He certainly has a way of telling a great story.

Wayno Draino has given written permission for all of his art work (posted below) to appear at this blog.

Henriette Mantel, actor/writer/director

this from September 2009:

Henriette at IMDb

Henriette is a morning person. I am a night owl. So this interview took several months to coordinate... but, it finally happened in a diner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at about noon today.

I have known Henriette probably since 1986. I met her at a comedy club called The Eagle Tavern, which was on Ninth Avenue and West 14th Street. It was right next door to where Comix is now located. We were a group of comics that performed on all different levels. Jon Stewart and Henriette "killed" on Thursday nights and I plodded along mostly bombing but nevertheless enjoying myself and receiving great encouragement from the club's booker, Tim Davis. I thought Henriette was an amazing comic, and I went to see her at Caroline's... which back then was a small club on Eighth Avenue. I also saw her at a club on Grand Street called Comedy U. I remember seeing Sue Kolinsky, Susie Essman, and Joy Behar do short sets at many of the same shows. Henriette impressed me with her sharp and topical wit and she was smart, clever, and always very funny. In the years that followed, I would bump into Henriette in the neighborhood and in places like Whole Foods... where we would stand by the hot prepared foods and schmooze about life and stuff. Today, I had a chance to really catch up with Henriette and hear her talk about her work.

In 1978, Henriette was 21 and working for Ralph Nader. Years later, in about 1987, when Henriette was working in comedy clubs... she met the comic Steve Skrovan who was fascinated with Ralph Nader. He was always asking about Ralph Nader. Henriette was so happy that a comic was smart enough to ask about something other than himself and they started to talk.

In 1999, Steve had a deal for a sitcom and he wanted to write one about a consumer advocate's office. So Henriette introduced Steve to all her "old cronies" and Steve wrote a pilot but no network bought it. They discussed Ralph Nader and the presidential election of 2000, and they decided the story had to be told because it was so convoluted and people had no idea what really happened.

They decided to make a documentary. Henriette had worked with Michael Moore and on the reality TV show "The Osbournes," so she had some experience in filmmaking. The documentary, "An Unreasonable Man," was made and screened at Sundance... and they were short-listed for an Academy Award.

Henriette is very proud of this film because it tells both sides of the Ralph Nader story. She feels the movie educates people and this makes her feel very good. Henriette says, "Two comics made a very serious documentary." And what an excellent documentary it is!

"An Unreasonable Man" was reviewed on January 31, 2007 in the NY Times. It was called, by a viewer at IMDb, a "brilliant, in-depth examination of Nader and his societal interactions" and you can read that review here.

Henriette talked a little about her "great experience" working for Michael Moore. Since she worked with Ralph Nader and coming from a background in politics and comedy... Michael Moore was perfect for her. She wrote for his series, "The Awful Truth," and she really enjoyed writing for the segments. Her work included writing voiceovers and structuring the pieces.

I asked Henriette what she is doing now. Henriette wrote a book with Teri Garr called "Speed Bumps" which is about Teri Garr's life and multiple sclerosis. She told me she just wrote a children's book, and she is working on another docmentary, and she just wrote and directed a "short" film called "Pink and Blue." It is about a policeman who had to make a call on a woman because all the neighbors heard screams coming from the apartment. And Henriette looks forward to writing and directing a feature film.

Henriette sort of phased out of stand-up because she is "tired at night." If she could "do stand up at 11 in the morning," she would "really like it..." She loves writing and no longer has that mad desire to go on stage at midnight and make people laugh anymore. I laughed to myself because there is that morning person surfacing again.

So, the interview ended and I left the diner and walked down Broadway to the subway to take the #1 train back to Chelsea. I walked and wondered if as we grow older do we become defined by whether we are either morning or night people. I was very glad I got up early and met Henriette for this interview. She is an interesting and talented woman whose intelligence and eclectic career I very much admire.

Several hours after the interview ended, I realized I had forgotten to tell Henriette that my first car was a 1962 light beige almost gold Chevy Corvair...

Kevin Meaney and Henriette Mantel in "In the Middle"

Mark Ebner, investigative journalist

This is a quote from my friend, Mark Ebner, investigative journalist.

"The next person that messes with my talented friend Marjorie Levine will have to answer to me. In other words, I’ll be investigating you next, and you really don’t want that."

 Mark Ebner

  Mark Ebner Host of RICH & RECKLESS