Jim Piddock
Interviewed By: Gringo

Jim Piddock's been in some very funny movies; Best In Show, Austin Powers: Goldmember. He's also been a regular on Mad About You and The Drew Carey Show among many other television shows. As you'll be able to tell from the interview below, he's got a good sense of humour. And even though he was born in England, he's not a snotty Brit. I, however, am. On with the questions and answers!


Gringo: For those who might not have seen your work, who are you?

Jim: A good question. "Who am I?"..."What is life?"..."Where are we all headed?"... I'm no Stephen Hawking, but I'll try and answer as best I can. In the early/mid 80's I was a highly respected Broadway actor, but since then I've been doing my utmost to "sell out" and have consequently appeared in many tv shows -- a snotty doctor on "ER", a snotty theatre dircetor on "Friends", a snotty neighbor for a couple of seasons on "Mad About You" and a snotty owner of Winfred Louder on "Drew Carey Show" last season, to name but a few -- and films such as Lethal Weapon 2, Independence Day, Multiplicity, Austin Powers 3 and Best In Show. I also played Prince Charles -- a snotty Royal, in some misguided people's opinion -- in a CBS miniseries about the Windsor clan, which was possibly my funniest performance to date and has almost certainly damaged my chances of ever getting a knighthood. I'm also a writer, incidentally, and have written feature films and tv shows for unsuspecting audiences both in the US and the UK.

Gringo: How did you come to be involved with Best In Show?

Jim: I'd known Eugene Levy for many years, and it was his idea for me to play the British commentator as a counterpart to Fred Willard's character. I met with Chris and Eugene over at Castle Rock and that was that. There was a slight complication in that I was writing and producing a BBC sitcom at the time "Best In Show" was to shoot, but I managed to hop on a plane from London to Vancouver between the Monday table reading and Friday "producers run-through" of an episode of the show, and it all worked out well. For me, anyway.

Gringo: Did you like Christopher Guest's other movies: Waiting For Guffman and Spinal Tap?

Jim: Loved them both. I was completely blown away when I first saw "Spinal Tap" and couldn't believe Chis, Michael (McKean) and Harry (Shearer) weren't true Brits. Both films remain classics, cult or otherwise, and deservedly so.

Gringo: Playing the straight-laced dog show commentator, did you do any research?

Jim: Unfortunately, yes. For about six weeks before shooting, I read a few pages of the American Kennel Club bible every night before going to bed. It's one of the most boring books ever published in the Western hemishere and certainly helped me get to sleep very quickly during that period. I also watched tapes of the Westminster Dog Show and went to a Dog Show at Olympia in London, which were more entertaining exercises.

Gringo: Just how hard was it keeping yourself from laughing at Fred Willard's outbursts?

Jim: Very hard. He was ridiculously funny and, as all the movie's dialogue was improvised, I often -- certainly on the first takes -- had no idea what the hell he'd come out with next. However, my mandate was to keep the "telecast" of the dog show going regardless as one would in the real situation, so I had to bite my lip and rise above it all.

Gringo: And what's the line you're proudest of in your scenes?

Jim: My favorite line is where, near the end, after quietly and politely stewing throughout the whole show, I finally get to stick the knife in his back by saying "Yes, I remember you told that joke last year" in response to yet another of his inanities. That's also the line most people quote back at me on the street. My proudest moment, however, wasn't a line at all. It was when he said something so entirely stupid, I just stared at him for some time, completely lost for words. I'm proud of that because, in improvisation, it's very easy to feel compelled to talk and compete with other actors in scenes, and in this instance I did exactly what I probably would have in real life. Just stared back at him incredulously.

Gringo: How did the part in Austin Powers: Goldmember come up?

Jim: I was actually supposed to be in Austin Powers 2 as an ice cream salesman. I had an excellent "crushed nuts" joke, then pulled off my head to reveal I was in fact Michael York in disguise. But the scene got cut from the script before I ever got to shoot it. So I think Jay Roach, the director, was being very kind and made sure I snuck into Goldmember for what I believe turned out to be the briefest cameo in history.

Gringo: Did you have a good time on set? What did you make of the finished movie?

Jim: I had a great time on the set...for all four hours I was there! Unfortunately, I've been rather busy in the last few weeks, prepping a movie I've written and am co-producing, so I haven't had a chance to see "Goldmember" yet. I'm therefore unable to deliver my witty, incisive and informative review of the final product at this time.

Gringo: Have you finished shooting on Christopher Guest's new movie? How long were you on set?

Jim: Yup. We finished "A Mighty Wind" at the end of June. I worked on and off throughout most of the shoot, as my character seemed to keep popping in and out. Though once it's all edited down from the 60 hours of footage to 90 minutes you never know how much you'll really be in or out, popping or otherwise.

Gringo: Can you tell us anything about the role you're playing in A Mighty Wind? Has it been an even better experience than Best In Show?

Jim: I play a very congenial catheter salesman, who's a model train fanatic in his spare time. It was a very enjoyable film to do because pretty much everyone in it knows each other now, so it's a bit like a high school reunion. Also, I play Catherine O'Hara's husband, and she and I have been friends off-screen for about fifteen years so that was great.

Gringo: Do you prefer working to a script or improvising?

Jim: That's a bit like answering the question: do you prefer acting or writing, which people sometimes ask me and to which I never manage to give a coherent response. The truth is I enjoy the opportunity to do both. Improvising is terrifying and liberating at the same time. On the first day of "Best In Show" and "A Mighty Wind", I was literally shitting myself with terror, but once it flies -- if it flies -- it's incredibly exciting, knowing that you've had a big part in creating your whole character and what he says. But obviously there's no hiding or any comfort-zone that there is with a script that you just have to learn and show up on time for. Improvising is one step away from stand-up, which is a step I have no desire to take incidentally. Although I imagine the "stage high" from that, if it's working, must be even greater.

Gringo: And how about working on TV and movies - which is your favourite type of job? Did you enjoy working on Mad About You? Did you find the series funny?

Jim: I like working, period. If someone's prepared to pay me to act, I'm thrilled. "Mad About You" was an enjoyable experience, and I thought it was a very well written show. Everyone was pleasant to work with, but -- for whatever reason -- I can't honestly say I ever really felt part of the family there. "The Drew Carey Show" was the most fun to do. I can't say enough nice things about Drew. I'd love to make this interview more interesting by trashing him and exposing him as a complete fraud, but I can't. He's exactly as he comes across. A truly delightful person, who makes his comedic talent seem effortless.

Gringo: What sort of response do you get from your website?

Jim: Considering how completely crap it is, I'm amazed I get any response at all. I created it when I changed internet browsers and wanted to prove to myself that I'm not a total idiot by putting my own homepage together. All it has done is prove beyond a doubt that I'm a computer illiterate as I have no idea how to get rid of the out-of-date photo collection and have failed several times to remove the link to the Internet Movie Database website. I publicly apologize to everyone and anyone who has unwittingly stumbled into its rubbishy confines.

Gringo: What's next for you?

Jim: All being well, "A Different Loyalty" -- the film I'm currently prepping as writer/producer -- will start shooting in November, starring Rupert Everett and Sharon Stone. Hopefully I'll also find a part to play in it also -- preferably not a snotty Brit.


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