Rick Miller describes MacHomer as "kind of like a Simpsons' Halloween episode"October 16, 2009
MacHomer makes The Simpsons and MacBeth curious bedfellows
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By Paul Lucas
I want to tell you about a very special production of a very special play. The play was written 400 years ago by the worlds most celebrated playwright. The cast of 50 is celebrating its 20-year anniversary for its own landmark network television show.
The star is best known for his marketing slogan for edible underwear. The leading man has pitched products for Dunkin Donuts and 7-Eleven. The leading lady is next months Playboy cover girl. Oh yeah, and this is all being performed by one extremely talented guy. His name is Rick Miller and he makes the yellow cartoon version of Sybil look like a slacker.
I am talking, of course, about MacHomer.
What? Youve never heard of MacHomer?
MacHomer is Millers one-man, multimedia performance of Shakespeares MacBeth, but with a wonderful and original twist.
Weve all heard the criticisms. Shakespeare is oooooh sooooo boring. Well, yes it can be. I love the Bard, but Ill be the first to start yawning during a mediocre production. You know, the ones where the actors recite long dronings of dialogue with no emotion. They just want to get through the damned thing. And more often than not, their idea of acting is a highbrow snootiness that feels like someone is holding a fresh turd under their nose.
This is not what Shakespeare had in mind! Miller could certainly teach these idiots in tights a thing or two. With MacHomer, Miller makes Shakespeare exciting. In fact, he makes Macbeth, one of Shakespeares most famous tragedies, well hysterical.
Why? Because Miller has recast all the roles with characters from The Simpsons television show. And its not just that Miller has nailed all 50 of the characters voices and mannerisms. He has done it in such a way that brings MacBeth to exhilarating life.
The greatest compliment Ive had is from people who are surprised at how much MacBeth resonates underneath all of the silliness, says Miller.
I know a lot of people worry that Shakespeare is over their heads. They dont understand what is going on and the language is almost frightening.
Dont worry about the language, says Miller. It was written 400 years ago for an audience that was illiterate.
And as for frightening, well, Its kind of like a Simpsons Halloween episode, says Miller. One dysfunctional family does another dysfunctional family. Both are extremely intelligent and, in different ways, extremely artistic. The characters are tragic and noble. They have these good intentions, but they are stuck with their lot in life.
So how did MacHomer make it to the stage?
I was playing the coveted role of Murderer #2 in MacBeth in 1994. I was sitting backstage thinking, Wow, this is really weird because Im starting to hear Simpsons voices in all the actors, says Miller, who also credits the fact that he had lots of free time backstage while standing around waiting to say his handful of lines.
It became this 10-minute sketch with hand puppets at the cast party. It was a chance for me to goof off and show off and the idea stuck.
It was a big hit and then I took it one step further and made it into a small Fringe Festival show. That premiered in Montreal in 1995, says Miller. Gradually I began to realize that the show was becoming more and more popular and that I had hit on something with this intuitive crash of highbrow culture and lowbrow culture. I had made something that was resonating with a lot of people, because a lot of people are rabid fans of both source materials.
But why does MacHomer work so well?
I think Shakespeare was pop culture during his time. He was, in a way, reaching the TV-watching audiences of his day. He was trying to please a king but also please the masses, says Miller. And The Simpsons?
Theyve got MacBeth and Hamlet references. Youve got Homer breaking off into a soliloquy or doing Edgar Allan Poes The Raven. Its a melting pot of pop culture references.
Miller has not only pleased the masses, but also the king himself. MacHomer has played all over the world to rave reviews and Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, has even given him his blessing.
I have spoken with a number of The Simpsons writers over the years and I was told that they were going to do a Simpsons do MacBeth episode a long time ago, but they didnt want to appear like they copied from me. Which is a compliment, in a way.
So The Simpsons camp is behind him. What about Williams crowd?
I find that the people who would normally go to see Shakespeare are aware of the intelligence within The Simpsons, says Miller. So they dont dismiss it. They totally get it.
MacHomer is for Simpsons and Shakespeare fans alike, but it is especially wonderful for people who never thought they could enjoy Shakespeare. With special effects and a large video screen complete with animations, it really is a one-of-a-kind multimedia experience.
One of the greatest things about performing MacHomer is knowing that I am bringing people into a theater that would otherwise never touch one with a 10-foot pole. We get teenagers coming in being dragged by their fathers because they watch The Simpsons together at home and it really is encouraging, says Miller.
And when I have teachers come up and tell me after the show that they were watching their students open up and not get blocked by language that was written 400 years ago, well, when they open up and experience it, its a huge compliment. Its one of the driving forces that keeps me going with this show.