Recently I had the honor of interviewing Palmer Scott, of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! fame. As I mentioned at the time, I was hopeful that he wouldn’t be the last member of that cast that I got to speak with, as there was a wealth of fascinating individuals on that show.
Michael Q. Schmidt might be the most fascinating. Not only did he make his Tim & Eric debut a few years earlier than the Awesome Show gang, but he’s also had probably the richest, most varied career as well.
I was — and am — flattered that Michael took the time to speak with me, and so enthusiastically provided me with all of the images you will see in this article as well. He’s a smart man, very chatty, and up for anything, which makes him a more perfect fit for this site than I realized. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed speaking with him.
LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: Michael has actually volunteered to answer any reader questions, so don’t be shy if you have them! They will be posted in a followup feature down the line.
1) You might be the longest-serving of Tim & Eric’s onscreen collaborators, as you played a central character in Tom Goes to the Mayor. How did you get involved with that project? And what about it appealed to you?
If not the longest, then at least the most uninhibited. I first met Tim and Eric when I went to a scheduled audition on a Monday in late 2003, at their old Dipshot Films offices in LA. They wanted character types to be the townsfolk of Jefferton.
I posed for pictures making expressions and clapping hands…stuff like that. The next day I got a call. They liked my (then) long hair and (still) big tummy, and stated that they’d like it if I would agree to being a recurring character in their upcoming series.
I said sure.
They said I might have to wear a dress.
I said sure.
I returned Wednesday and they gave me a few larger size dresses to check. We decided to go with the now-famous muumuu, and Joy Peters came to life.
2) Unlike some of the later collaborators, who might have at least seen Tom Goes to the Mayor for reference, I can’t imagine you had much of an idea of what to expect from a Tim & Eric production. At any point was there confusion on your part about what they were intending to do, or what the final product was going to be like?
I am always up for anything off-the-wall…and was invited a few times to sit in the production offices and see episodes before they aired, so it was a treat and not a surprise. I found myself looking forward to see what Joy was up to next.
And a couple times I got to be non-Joy characters. In season 1, episode 7, “Vehicular Manslaughter,” there were scenes where Joy was using the family laptop for her online sex business, and I was the fellow with whom she was having computer sex.
Hilarious. Also, in season 2, episode 5, “Wrestling,” I was Tim’s body-double when Tom was bulked up on “Flax-O-Max.”
3) You were the face and body of Joy Peters, but not the voice. Do you feel that that hindered your ability to put your “stamp” on the character in any way?
As I mentioned above, I was not always silent…I did react to Joy in my own voice for the “Vehicular Manslaughter” episode. Since I was not originally asked to put a voice to Joy, I trusted production to be happy with my giving her character believable action.
The “stamp” of body and movement was mine, and I was happy to provide. What production did with guest stars and town members was have us re-enact our scenes in costume and in front of a white-screen for a photo shoot. They then chose through the photos of actions and picked out ones to convert to the now-famous, blue-outlined, mimeograph-like townsfolk of Jefferton.
4) Joy’s voice was provided by Stephanie Courtney, which was a shock to me when I found out. Many people probably know her as Progressive’s Flo now…a sunny, helpful character that couldn’t be further from Joy Peters. Did you get to work with her directly?
I first met Stephanie at the premiere party on Sunday, November 4th, 2004, when the first episode aired simultaneously. I was introduced to her by Eric Wareheim and was surprised and pleased when she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a hug…telling me she loved what I brought to the Joy character. Joy was pleasant and polite to everyone except her husband Tom. She is an absolute doll.
5) “Raise My Roof” only constitutes about 30 seconds of screen time. Why do you think it’s become one of the more popular and recognizable moments from Awesome Show? What causes it to resonate?
Well, beyond the actual screen time, “Raise My Roof” became a featured moment of live performance during the Awesome Show summer tours (at least in the southwest). It first went “live” at the Muscles for Bones show at LA’s Troubadour in August of 2007.
It was so very well received, Tim and Eric had me reprise it at several more such live shows. That first live appearance was filmed and became the basis for the later Awesome Show season 3, episode 5, “Muscles for Bones.” The live dance can be watched on the DVD’s extras.
6) Where did the dance come from? And the idea in general? How much of it was you, and how much was Tim & Eric?
Tim and Eric pretty well knew that I was unabashed and up for any sort of craziness. Series producer Jon Mugar called me and asked if I’d like to a wacky dance for their “new” series.
I said sure.
He said, “You might have to be naked.”
I responded, sure.
The day of the shoot, we shot the exteriors on a sidewalk a block away from the studios and then went into the studios for the dance. When I asked what kind of dance they wanted, they played their “Raise My Roof” music and told me to improv something that would work, so I did. It was their music and their trust that I would bring it home.
One simple sentence introduced what became strangely popular: “Hi, I’m Michael Q. Schmidt, and I’d like to perform for you a new dance I invented, called ‘Raise My Roof.'”
They did ask that I should treat the dance with a dead seriousness and not smile. I was fully naked for the in-studio taping, but for airing on Adult Swim, they placed a black square over my privates. However, each live performance after that, I came out in front of the audience, introduced myself with that same stoic line, dropped my robe and stood fully naked waiting for the music to begin.
When it started, I would perform the dance for about 60 seconds until the music stopped. And for an extra “zing” when the music stopped, I would look around nervously for the dropped robe, and with my backside toward the audience do a slow bend-over to get the robe.
The moon came out and the satellites were in orbit. The appreciative shrieks were astounding.
7) You’ve been in close to a hundred projects over the years, including video games, music videos, feature films…pretty much everything. Does it worry you that a certain number of fans will always remember you for doing a naked dance on a silly television show?
Well…several years before meeting Tim and Eric I had been doing nude art modeling for classes throughout southern California. So being “known” for being naked is fine with me. If the fans like it, I’ll do it. No problem.
Indeed, several times I have appeared at fan parties and performed live, posed for pictures, and signed autographs.
Additionally, as an art model I have been naked in public for many events in Los Angeles, including art installations at the Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica, The Hive Gallery, The Post Gallery, The Blackstone Gallery, LA’s Art Walk, and I was naked for six hours in Chinatown as “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
8) Tell us about your modeling career. You’ve taken what could have been a joke and elevated it to a form of art. How did that recontextualization come about?
Well…the first thing for me, as an art model, is to separate what I am doing from who I am. I do not think about the many starring eyes studying my every curve and crevice; I concentrate on simply holding still.
From the very first time I (nervously) stood in front of a room full of strangers, and then had them thank me for sharing my body, I was hooked. Apparently artists are mainly concerned with capturing the human form in its many varieties — tall, short, thin, fat, smooth, wrinkled, young, old — and I found a niche. There simply are not that many fat guys able to “let it all hang loose” in front of strangers.
My professionalism allows me to be the model they want and appreciate. They’d far rather draw curves and character than draw GQ gym rats.
9) Body image is a major issue in modern America, and it’s something that can be tremendously damaging, to young people and children in particular. Why do you think that is?
I think the causes for self-doubt in body issues is rooted in and caused by the fashion industry trying to convince little girls that they need to be unrealistic “perfect” little Barbie doll types wearing size 1 clothes, and little boys that they need to become buff with 32 inch waists. That unrealistic demand on our youth creates the ready market for plastic surgeons who use body modification to make payments on their new Mercedes or Lexus.
As American youth is conditioned to be visual, simply telling someone to not worry about physicality is likely to fall on deaf ears. What I do as an art model is show that body type is what it is, and does not define the inner spirit.
10) How many of the Awesome Show regulars did you get to work with directly? While you weren’t in the show proper more than a few times, I know you appeared on Tim & Eric Nite Live and were a big part of the Chrimbus special.
Including the live shows, and apart from the obvious Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and producers Bob Odenkirk, Jon Mugar and David Kneebone, I got to work with the talented Richard Dunn, Tanese Gray, David Lieberhart, James Quall, Palmer Scott, Ron Austar, Doug Lussenhop, Neil Hamburger, and non-regulars Rainn Wilson and Seth Green.
And, yes, while I was not as “regular” as many of the others, I did my best to create memorable moments for the fans. Those who have seen or found Tim & Eric Nite Live will remember my “Santa No-Pants” at the end of the Christmas episode, and my “Cupid” in the Valentine’s episode.
No doubt John Mayer will remember my Cupid most of all.
11) Tell us about your experiences with the fans.
I loved meeting fans at the Tim-and-Eric-hosted AwesomeCons in San Diego the same weekends as ComiCon. It gave me the opportunity to share stories and bring smiles.
Most memorable are those times a fan invited me to attend a party or event and perform “Raise My Roof” live. It’s for them.
12) Of all the actors, artists, musicians, directors, and anyone else that you’ve worked with over the course of your career, who was the most surprisingly pleasant?
I have enjoyed working with and for so many great talents. Wow. Once while completely naked I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tony Shalhoub, and there are a great number of rising star filmmakers with whom working was a real treat. Acting with talent such as Richard Riehle and Bill Pullman on 2008’s Your Name Here, I was both pleased and surprised at how nicely they treated me.
But I have to give the nod to director Don Coscarelli of 2012’s John Dies at the End. He made me feel very special indeed.
Of course, more recently I worked with the amazingly funny Chris Kattan…I’m pretty sure he will not forget our time together on Fox’s new show Riot!
13) You’ve just been cast as the next James Bond. Who do you cast as your Bond girl?
I’d want dual Bond girls. (James gets what he wants, right?) My choices would be actress Robin Jean Springer [above] and model Debbie Day [below]. We have all three worked together on film projects, and they are wonderfully warm and beautiful talents with delightful senses of humor.
I think you might agree. Working with friends who know my proclivities makes any project better.
14) How well did you know Richard Dunn?
I first met him while working for Awesome Show, and while I did not know Richard as well as I might have wished, I had the honor to be part of his final photo project before he passed.
He and I were chosen to portray Bella and Edward in a spoof Twilight poster promoting a Los Angeles film festival. He made a marvelously ancient Edward and I a very matronly Bella.
15) When I interviewed Palmer Scott it was very soon after you and he had worked on the pilot for Your Honor. He was tight lipped with details, but in the meantime some footage and photographs have started circulating. What can you tell us about the project?
I was introduced to the project by its creator, Adam Carbone, and cannot tell any more than has already been hinted at…except to say that any who loved our contributions to the former Awesome Show will be delighted with this new project. Color me tight-lipped as well… but I will available for appearances and interviews after the pilot is released.
16) IMDB lists your earliest credit (narrating a short film) as 2001. What did you do professionally before becoming an actor?
Actually I did not “narrate” the film Schmucks!, but had the role of an on-screen narrator, seen smoking his cigar and sipping his wine while discussing what the viewer was watching, in the manner of Masterpiece Theater.
Before turning to acting, I worked as a hazardous materials consultant. I began modeling and some early acting during that same time. Indeed, when other employees bragged about traveling during vacation leave, I was able to brag about being in a film.
My very first feature, Naked Shadows, was shot in 2002 during the week I took off for my own birthday. Being an indie film, it took a few years to finally get released. Kirk Bowman, the director, had so much unused footage of my character from Naked Shadows that he created the short Misadventures of Mort the Landlord as an extra for the film’s DVD.
When the company for which I was working relocated, I left them and concentrated on more modeling and lots more acting.
17) What’s your favorite Tim & Eric moment or skit that you were not directly a part of?
Awesome Show season 2, episode 9, “Pepperoni”…because the episode begins with a live action re-enactment of Tom Peters in the Mayor’s office. It was a salute to the series Tom Goes to the Mayor, and had I not been working a different gig when it was filmed, I would have been in the episode as Joy Peters.
Maybe grabbing Tom by his ear and scolding him. Maybe having Tom hug his shrewish love Joy. My loss. Gee…I wonder if they still have her muumuu in storage?
18) The entire stable of Awesome Show regulars seems to be polite, enthusiastic, and always willing to engage with fans directly. Why do you think that is? And how did one show manage to assemble an entire team like that?
I like to think that like attracts like…or it could simply be kismet, and that something special in our makeups drew us all together.
We all appreciate the fans and their allowing us to be part of their lives. I think Tim and Eric were lucky to have found us all.
19) What would your dream project be? Any medium, any collaborators, any concept.
A dream project? Perhaps as the lead naked guy in a comedy series that, like the former Awesome Show, celebrates idiocy and pokes fun at societal mores and misconceptions.
Or, totally against type, how about a horrific feature film where I am the antagonist serial killer who. like a Ted Bundy cannibal, feasts upon the bodies of his victims after he uses them for his personal delight. And in the film’s climax, it is revealed that my character has survived and escaped to haunt everyone’s nightmares another day.
20) If you could perform “Raise My Roof” one-on-one for anybody, alive or dead, who would it be?
Simply put, I would be honored to perform it for anyone who asks…without the travel limitations caused by distance.
BONUS: What would you like to say to the readers that you haven’t had a chance to say above?
I greatly appreciate that I am myself appreciated by so many simply for giving in to my own adventurous spirit. If a fan wishes to have the “Raise My Roof” dance performed live at a party or event, or if a filmmaker wishes a Larger Than Life actor willing to give beyond expectations or hopes, they need only contact Michael Q. Schmidt.
I also wish to add that I love contributing to music videos. Some may remember having seen me in some and thought, “gee…that guy looks familiar.” What a director wants, I give.
I can give a director anything except thin.