If you’re aMonty Python
fan, or enjoy farting in peoples’ general direction, you’re no doubt aware thatSpamalot
is closing its run in Houston this week. We thought it would be cool to catch up withPatrick Heusinger
, who plays the enviable roles of Sir Lancelot, Tim the Enchanter, the Knight Who Says Ni and of the famous privates-waving Frenchman.
Heusinger was eager to share his thoughts on Python and Houston for our Night&Day section, and somewhat reluctant to talk about his own newfound stardom. (Dude’s getting good reviews and quite the female following both locally and nationally.) Here’s the full interview, Charlie Rose-style. (Well, instead of sitting in dark room, Heusinger was getting shouted down by HPD for jaywalking downtown and got stuck walking through a rainstorm -- while I sat in my office. Other than that, totally Charlie Rose.)
Houston Press: I have to ask you about the famous Knight Who Says Ni line, the one you customize to each city. You still doing ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ at the end of it like you did on opening night?
Patrick Heusinger: Yeah, totally. I go, ‘We are now the Knights Who Say Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-P’tang, Zzoo-Boing, gdgdbaaoizen… The stars at night, are big and bright…!’
Dude, slow down! You know how hard it is to type ‘ecky-ecky-ecky…’ while you’re talking?
Sorry! And lately, I’ve also been adding ‘Ima’ get-get-get get you drunk, get you love drunk on these humps.’
Ah, the immortal words of Fergie. Nice. You guys killed on opening night. So how have the Houston audiences been since then?
Oh man, it’s a rock concert atmosphere -- everyone’s screaming their heads off! The first week was nice but very restrained. Now it’s thirtysomethings and kids. Not that one’s not better than the other; we just hear something different with each crowd.
Would you say Houstonians are pretty Monty Python savvy?
Sure. I mean, they scream when Patsy comes out for the first time, and for the French taunter. But it’s not like other towns where they scream for every single character. And you know what I love about Houston? Everybody dresses up for theater here. You can tell they respect it. That kind of died in New York. I mean, I’ve seen girls in full-on gowns. To me, that’s an audience that’s saying ‘This is gonna be an event,’ rather than ‘I’m schlepping in because grandma gave me these free tickets and this is close to the bar I was just at,’ like in New York.
You should see how we dress to tractor pulls. I’ve read that you describe yourself as a ‘learning comedic actor.’ How daunting is it to star in one the most popular comedies, like ever?
[Original Broadway director] Mike Nichols and Eric Idle came out when we were in Philadelphia, and that was really intimidating -- to have Eric Idle critique you. I was scared out of my mind. My first line didn’t quite land. But I’m working with an amazing group of actors who’ve really helped me. Later, Nichols and Idle came up to me and said they were pleased, and that was the ultimate compliment.
It had to be tough to take on roles that John Cleese made famous. Dude gets laughs just walking into a room.
Exactly! He’s John Cleese. The scene that really helped it was the Concord scene. When I started putting boy into the Lancelot role, it started popping. Then all of a sudden, there it was.
That makes sense: Lance did have a boyish charm to him. It’s like, he didn’t mean to kill all those people in the wedding – he’s just trying to be a good knight. Did you watch the Holy Grail for inspiration?
I did, actually. It’s funny, when you do Hamlet, the director’s not gonna say ‘Go out and watch Hamlet.’ With this show, they said ‘Go out and get the movie, and study it. That should be the springboard for all things.’
How does a guy from Jacksonville, Florida pull of the sheer Britishness these roles demand?
Well, I dated an Englishwoman for five years and worked summers in England, so it was a strange place where life met technique.
Interesting that you mention women. You’re getting some serious love from the ladies on the message boards. Allow me to paraphrase: ‘There is already buzz that Mr. Heusinger is Jeff Buckley meets Matt Damon!’
Aw jeez, what do you say to that? I’m out here having a good time, it’s really fun. I mean, I have a huge amount of respect for Jeff Buckley and Matt Damon. But would I compare myself to those people? No.
That kind of praise could go to your head, you know.
I don’t let it. When I was in high school, Peter Weller from Robocop was in Jacksonville directing a movie. And he told my high school theater group this story about fame and the Romans. He said that when the army would win a major battle, the winning general had to choose the most luxurious chariot and ride around the city in a grand parade.
But -- they had to ride around with one of their filthiest, poorest servants. And all during the parade, the servant had to whisper to the general ‘All glory is fleeting.’ I don’t know if that story is true, but it’s a valuable lesson and one that I never forgot. So it’s always nice to hear praise like that, but I’m always aware that all glory is fleeting.
But it’s not just your acting and singing chops fans are praising. This Spamalot fan posting says ‘… he's got an amazing body, he's drop dead gorgeous, looks like a model, he can act, and man can he sing!! I think I'm in love...’ Your response, sir?
Uh, um… I’m very flattered. I don’t really know what to say to that. I was a gangly, pock-faced glasses-wearing teenager. So to hear that now, it’s really nice. And the muscles…yeah, I don’t go to the gym.
Oh, whatever! That’s like those female swimsuit models who say, ‘I don’t work out – I just sit around eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer.’
I really don’t, man! Look, I had a kegger on Monday. I mean, I stay active -- I went surfing last week in Galveston. But if I wasn’t in this show, you wouldn’t see any muscles.
Yeah, yeah. You’re a young, single actor in a big town. So here’s the most important question: You having fun with the locals?
Oh, that. Um, well, Houston women are all beautiful, smart, ambitious, they’re really sure of themselves. They’re good Southern girls. Oh, and they’re not crazy. I’m having a lot of fun – I’ve certainly had my experience of Southern charm.
How do you like our fair city?
Man, I love the variety! I could go to Uptown Park to Uptown Sushi or Belvedere, then I could go to the game, then downtown and the Flying Saucer and get a burger, then I could go to Midtown to a dive. And I can check out the love music or go listen to a DJ. The music acts have been as good as New York here. The variety of scenes is amazing. I’ve had my New York City nightlife and pace with Jacksonville people and the humidity.
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No, really. I love the humidity.
You’re a walking ad for our Visitor’s Bureau. Well, since you’re a total local now, where can we tell your adoring fans you’ll be heading to after the show tonight?
Hmm… I’m probably gonna go to Cecil’s Pub. I love that place. I can go take it easy and kick back. I’m telling you, I’m really liking my stay here.
Great, now there’s gonna be a mob at Cecil’s. – Steven Devadanam