Charlotte Squawks, an annual parody play described as Broadway meets SNL, surprises me year after year.
It’s one of those weird experiences where you’d never guess two older white guys – one a corporate attorney and the other a host of a local pubic radio show – could put on a play with Blumenthal Performing Arts that was actually offensive, funny and really, really good.
In its 11th year, Brian Kahn, an attorney at McGuireWoods LLP, writes the script each year and Mike Collins host of WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” stars and directs. It opens today and runs through June 28th at Booth Playhouse downtown.
Kahn, being the kind man that he is, took a break from billing hours and answered some questions for us about Charlotte Squawks: The 11th Glower and all things ripe for the pickin’… Taylor Swift, local breweries, mayors going to jail and Spinal Tap.
It’s a musical comedy/parody show making fun of all things Charlotte. Think Saturday Night Live meets Broadway meets Weird Al meets Charlotte.
(2) On a scale of 1-10, how idiotic was our community last year? Did we give you enough fodder for this year’s show?
Well, the obvious answer would be 11…but I’ll say 9 only because the mayor didn’t go to jail this year.
(3) Don’t lawyers usually write eye-gougingly drab contracts peppered with “Notwithstanding the foregoing‘s” and “As set forth hereunder‘s”? How did you get to be such a Funnyman?
Lawyers are angry sarcastic people. We need outlets. This one is mine.
(4) What’s the backstory here?
Squawks originated as a fundraiser for WBTV. We were awful at raising money because we pissed off all of the sponsors. The Blumenthal is in the performing arts so they are used to losing money and pissing folks off, and they gladly accepted us.
(5) I hear this year’s play covers topics such as the Hornets, toll roads, the Kardashians and the closing of The Penguin. How do the events of the past year compare to other years?
I feel like every year is very different. While we haven’t had a ton of huge news this year (Mayor Cannon, Democratic Convention, Duke coal ash spill) there have been a lot of interesting smaller stories (the Penguin, the naked guy in North Charlotte, the city council transgender debate). Sometimes those are more fun to write about because they haven’t been beaten to death.
(7) What does 11th Glower mean?
It’s a play on “11th Hour”…I wanted to do “Squawks Goes to 11” (Spinal Tap joke) but I was overruled (it won’t happen again).
(8) A Creative Loafing article from last year challenged you to be more offensive and biting in your play. Do you think you’re getting softer with old age?
Screw them…and screw you too!!! Does that answer the question?!?!?
(9) How long does it take you to produce the script? What’s the process like to create this annual performance?
I start about six months out writing the songs. Once the actors get the music (about two months out) we are constantly tweaking it.
I try to write the news segments about a week out and the slides are still being put together (that part KILLS me – it takes FOREVER). Everything is constantly being tweaked though – even after we open the show. It is a huge time commitment, but I love to do it.
(10) Can you ever take news seriously or do you just think about how it will make for a great musical number?
It’s funny. Like anyone, I get angry when our city or state does stupid things but I do feel a bit of excitement as well because it’s usually good material.
(11) What did you have for breakfast today? A Axios Charlotte signature interview question.
(12) Breweries are popping up in our town like Starbucks in the 2000’s. Can you do a number called “Put a Brewery in It” inspired by Portlandia‘s “Put a Bird on It“?
Great topic! I actually had that on my list this year and didn’t quite get to it. Maybe l can get it in the news [segment of Squawks] somehow…
Favorite Squawk sketch? Morris Jenkins Commercials
Favorite Squawk song? Maybe Circle of Bikes about the Booty Loop (“Circle of Life” parody)
Favorite comedian at the moment? Amy Schumer
Favorite sketch TV Show? Inside Amy Schumer (but I like Key & Peele and the Kroll Show too)
Favorite thing about Charlotte? You don’t have to be from here to be involved.
Change one thing about Charlotte? More breweries. 😉
Question you wished I had asked you? Can I buy you a beer?
Tickets are about out, but it’s worth splitting up from your friends and taking those remaining solo seats. Unbutton those starchy shirts CLT, and let’s enjoy the evening laughing at ourselves.