During his 10-year stint on "MADtv" (the longest in the show’s history, for the record), Michael McDonald played colorful characters ranging from Stuart, an incorrigible little boy with a bowl cut and heavily-rouged cheeks, to the self-explanatory Depressed Persian Tow Truck Driver. These days McDonald is gaining recognition for his talent behind the camera, as well. In addition to writing, directing and producing “Cougar Town” for several seasons, he’s directed episodes of “2 Broke Girls” and ABC’s new sitcoms “Family Tools” and “How To Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life.” Later this year, he will co-star in “The Heat” with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. And now, he’s touring the country doing stand-up comedy, or as he refers to it, his “summer job.”
Kerry Speckman: With your success as an actor, director, producer and writer, what would possess you to try your hand at stand-up?
Michael McDonald: You have total creative freedom. You can say any word or talk about any subject. There’s no network or studio or producer telling you what you can do or say. The only people who matter are the audience. If you make them laugh, then you did it. If a joke doesn’t work, you can change it right away. The immediacy and creativity — it’s really intoxicating.
K.S.: You’ve been doing stand-up for less than five years. Is treading into uncharted territory something new for you?
M.M.: [Before getting into acting,] I worked as a loan officer at bank. I majored in business and had no interest in show business. Then, I went to a Groundlings [improv/sketch] show and thought, “Oh, I’d much rather be doing this.” After that, I worked as a waiter and, on several occasions, had to wait on people who I had turned down for loans. It’s not like I yelled at them and said, “Ha ha! You’re not getting the money,” but it was still embarrassing — for them and me.
K.S.: Speaking of uncharted territory, you said you’ve never been to Jacksonville before?
M.M.: I’ve been to Florida, but I have not had the pleasure of coming to Jacksonville. I did do a little research via Twitter, though. I asked people, “When I go to Jax, what should I do?” I got a few very funny, irreverent responses, like “keep driving to Miami.” The only other response I got was “zoo.”
K.S.: Did you like the parts of the state that you did see?
M.M.: Florida is like the freakiest state. Whenever I hear anything on the news that truly defies all logic, I’ll just wait for the reporter to say, “reporting live from Florida.” I don’t know if it’s the heat or the mosquitoes or the alligators or the serial killers or the sink holes or the human cannibals, but what in the hell is going on down there?
K.S.: Have you personally had any strange experiences here?
M.M.: Well, when I was in Miami, I saw the guy who had his face eaten off. We were on the [MacArthur Causeway] in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and we saw this guy who was covered in blood. At the time, we had no idea he was missing his face. … And then in Fort Lauderdale, a cabbie was dropping me off at the Hard Rock. He turned around with this big smile on his face like he was trying to sell me something and says, “Anna Nicole Smith died here!” His tone was so weird like he was telling me Lucy and Ricky [Ricardo] had their baby there or something. I’ve never walked away from Florida thinking, “You know, I wish something [interesting] would have happened.”
K.S.: What would fans be surprised to learn about you?
M.M.: I actually lead a very quiet, conventional life. But I’ve played freaks, murderers, pigs, the grossest and weirdest people ever, so people say the craziest shit to me. One time a police officer came up to me and started doing Stuart. He was in a police uniform. With a gun. I’m like, “What the hell just happened?” It was in Florida, of course.