Today, I have Neil Crone, actor, comedian, columnist, poet visiting The Author’s Voice.
I’ve bumped into Neil several times over the years, as neighbour to friends, as teacher of comedy writing at the Ontario Writer’s Conference, guest speaker for the WCDR breakfasts and at the Sunderland Music festival. And for an actor, he’s not a bad guy. You hardly notice his enormous ego. 😉
Neil, thank-you for agreeing to drop by.
Being an actor, comedian, columnist and poet, which one holds the most satisfaction for you?
Neil: I think the writing. The older I get the more I covet having ‘creative control’ over my stuff. Writing gives me that to a much larger degree than acting. Actors are told where to stand, what to say, what to wear, what to look like. While that’s not a huge deal, it does get bothersome after a while. The freedom of writing is exhilarating to me and the feedback I get from my readers is much more satisfying than anything I hear about work I’ve done on the screen.
Does it get hard juggling all those hats or does your schedule make it easier?
Neil: I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and you simply just get used to it. My life has very little ‘schedule’ to it. Some days my agent calls me at 6:30 or so in the evening and lays out the next days schedule for me in terms of bookings, auditions etc. That makes it difficult to plan anything. There’s a saying in the entertainment world…if you want to get work, book a vacation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cancel plans for work. That’s the other issue….as freelancers we are conditioned never to turn down a work opportunity. That’s a terribly inbalanced way to live, but we’re prey to it nonetheless.
I’ve followed your career via my girls with Really Me and myself via The Red Green Show, Little Mosque on The Prairie, and listening to Q107. I must say, I like spotting you in various shows and exclaiming “I know that guy!” Is there a particular show you’d love to guest on or have a recurring role in; a dream job per-se?
Neil: I would still love to do a Western or a War movie. I was raised watching all of those old John Wayne type films and they hold a special place in my heart. I’m still that little boy who would like to dress up like a cowboy or a soldier and pretend. I love horses and love to ride too, so to get paid to do that would be a bonus.
You’re like the Canadian version of Steve Buscemi, is there any role you wouldn’t take? Have you turned down a role and if so, why?
Neil: Wow. Thanks. Me and Steve Buscemi…that’s high praise. I have turned down work on occasion. There are certain companies that I will not promote for personal/ethical reasons. Walmart and Monsanto are two that pop easily to mind. I have only walked off one set and that was Mike Myers The Love Guru. I spent a very lonnnnng day on set there on my first day of filming. Never shot a second of film. Just spent the day waiting and being ignored. The vibe on that set was incredibly negative. I almost felt sick being there. I went home that night, called my agent at about midnight and asked him to get me off the picture. That was the first time I’ve ever done that and it was a pretty serious deal. I was walking away from a pretty hefty paycheck, but no amount of money was worth the anguish I was going to subject myself to. Life is too short. One of the main reasons I do what I do is because I love it and it makes me feel great.
In eavesdropping at the Blue Heron, at your book launch, I heard that you’ve actually been writing poetry for quite some time now. How did you discover that you like, or had a knack for, writing poetry? And what drew you to it?
Neil: I think when my children were very little. I began to just play with words. I seem to have a facility with fooling around with the sounds of words. I like listening to the way small children talk too…they love words also and easily play with the sounds of them. So, it seemed like a pleasurable, natural thing to turn to when my boys were young. I used to write about all of the stuff I saw them enjoying…and that, in turn, brought memories from my own childhood.
You said once that farting, or just plain bodily functions, is universally funny. My house, for example, is infested with African Barking Spiders. noisy, stinky, little buggers. Fast too, can’t hardly see them. Those and very vociferous furniture. Hey, when one does’t have a dog to blame, one has to get creative . How did the whole fart thing start? And who knew it would make for great poetry?
Neil: Well, again, we’ve made this farting thing taboo and that in itself makes it funny. It’s like laughing at a funeral…you’re not supposed to do it so the temptation is that much greater. Plus farts just sound hilarious. There’s no other sound that is so universally silly. And kids love it.
The illustrations in Who Farted have a classic feel to them and yet they still appeal to the kids today and better still, match each poem spot on. How did you find/decide on Wes Tyrell?
Neil: Wes and I kind of grew up together. I’ve known him and his brothers since my highschool days. He’d done some illustrations for me in the past and he is a very funny, very off the wall kind of guy and I knew immediately that he and Who Farted were a perfect fit. Sometimes the universe just puts really great people in your life to help you out.
You do a lot of writing with your column and the poetry. Have you ever considered writing a novel or a how-to book? Maybe a Mechanics of Farting, explaining the varied terminology and tips for concealing one’s “butt speak”?
Neil: Not sure about the ‘How To’ book. Everyone has their own spin on passing wind. That’s part of the fun. I actually have written a novel. It’s sitting in a drawer in my office. Perhaps someday I will take it out and revisit it. I have another on my hard drive that I peck away at but really need to get serious about. Novel writing is very hard work. That’s probably why I shy away from it.
You are very gracious with your time and a pleasure to talk to, how have you avoided the stupidity that is normally associated with stardom? Does your family keep you grounded?
Neil: Absolutely. I’m very lucky in that I have always had a great support network of very sane, very normal people who are not in the entertainment business. People who give me perspective on what is really important in this life. If you look to celebrity or fame to give you joy you will be let down every time. You have to build your life on a much more solid foundation of things like love, friendship, passion, loyalty. Those things will never let you down.
Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics spoke at the WCDR’s April breakfast and his book, On a Cold Road, addresses some of the trials Canadian musicians face and how the rest of the world (read U.S.) sees them. As a Canadian actor/performer, do you find it harder to break into the American market? Is it harder for Canadian actors/actresses to make it big? And are Canadian based shows improving, in your opinion, in spite of Can-Con?
Neil: I think for a long time American productions/markets kind of looked down on Canadian shows and talent as a sort of poor cousin to the industry but that is changing. The Canadian entertainment industry is quite vital now and we are producing some really terrific stuff. It’s been a long, slow journey because we were trying to grow a business while living directly above the biggest entertainment factory on the planet…but we’re getting there. At this point in my career I don’t really care about breaking into the U.S. market. I’d be perfectly happy, and am, making my living among and for my fellow countrymen. Canada is a great place to make a living in this business and with a little creativity you can make it happen.
What’s next for Neil Crone the actor and what’s next for Neil Crone the author? Director maybe? Script writer?
Neil: I’d love to do more television series work and I’m sure something wonderful is on the way. I love tv work because when you work for a long time on a series you get to feel like part of a family. It’s relaxing and energizing at the same time and your confidence soars because you feel so comfortable on set. I love the atmosphere of tv series. Especially a comedy. So I’ll always look forward to doing more of that. I will definitely continue to write. My second book of poetry for kids ‘I am dead at Recess’ is already in the works and hopefully I will get that novel together too.
Thanks again Neil, it’s been a slice. And by the way, it wasn’t me… damn squeaky imaginary blog furniture… ya, that’s the ticket.
One final question. I know this will be like asking you to chose which child you like the best but, if you had to pick, which poem from Who Farted is your favourite?
Neil: I think my favourite poem is either Nickname or Ian Resnick.
I think my favourite is I Just Squished a Bug. And on that note, here is a snippet of Nickname.
Seems like every other kid I know
has got some name that’s neat
like Jimmy Johnson’s “Junkyard” and Stu Melman’s “Stinky Feet”
and Paula Parkill’s “Putty Nose” and Willa Walsh is “Welch”.
And everybody knows that Mitchell Keenan’s name is “Beltch”.
There’s “Monkey Face McGreetchy and there’s
“Boogers” Thompson too.
“Barf Bag” Reynolds, what a guy,
and don’t forget “P.U.”
Want to read more? Buy the book!
To find out what Neil is up to, visit his website HERE. To get your own copy of Who Farted and you are in the Uxbridge area, stop by Blue Heron Books or for you cyber-shoppers, go HERE, or go directly to Wintertickle Press HERE.
As always, got a question? Ask away, let Neil hear your feedback of his book, or even of his shows, which are you favourites?
And now, I’ll quarter-cheek sneak right out of here. I’m sure that will leave a lasting impression… get it? To quote the illustrious Fozzy Bear, Wakakaka!
Ok enough groaning at my bad puns. Go on, get outa here. Go buy Who Farted. Go now! While supplies last! You kids will love you, your grandkids will love you, Neil will love you. Well, ok maybe that’s going too far. He’ll like you in and author/reader sort of appreciative way.
Are you still here? Well, turn the lights out when you leave, ok?