NHTE 144 Mark McConville

An actor, improviser, musician, and podcaster, he currently performs in several different improv and comedy groups in Los Angeles. He is also a contributor to the Superego podcast. Music-wise he is a singer, guitarist, and pedal steel guitar player. He performs with an L.A.-based bluegrass band called The Dust Bowl Cavaliers. They got approached to do an album in the popular Pickin’ On series. And, the band just got hired to do an episode of “American Crime” (ABC). CORRECTION: The Joel Schumacher story referred to in this interview was from Episode 137 (Marco Argiro), not Episode 141 (Fly By Midnight).

Show Quotes: 

“I think we’re in an era now where the barriers of entry to some of this stuff have lowered, meaning, you can make your own stuff much more easily than you could ten years ago or 15 or 20 years ago and so I think it’s important for people to, sort of, if they do wanna pursue a music career, then, like, it’s easier to get the stuff you need to do that – you can record at your own house, you can make recordings.”

“An acting teacher of mine was sort of like, ‘Actors are these sensitive beings that can’t do anything else.  Like, only do this if you can’t do anything else.’  But now I think you’re in trouble if you can only do that because I think you also need to be able to be a little business savvy and you need to be able to sort of represent yourself if you need to correspond with somebody about opportunities.  Like you have to present yourself in a way that they will want to hire you.”

“I won’t deny that sometimes I feel spread too thin and sometimes I feel like something’s gotta give and sometimes stuff does give.”

“I don’t think there’s ever any time where I’ve gone, ‘That’s it.  I never wanna touch a guitar again,’ or, ‘I never wanna look at a script again.’  That doesn’t really happen.”

“Money aside, if you could just do the one thing, boy I just think I would get bored.”

“I do think it’s important to have more than one pursuit, more than one interest, because I think it’s boring if you just – I’m thinking of acting, specifically – if you just took acting classes all the time and auditioned all the time and never ever ever experienced the world through another lens, it’s so damaging as an artist and as an actor.  You can’t, you need to be out in the world seeing people and how they interact.”

“I don’t think I fully understood the value of practice, because… practicing piano was a chore.  It was… ‘Okay I’m going to play this three times and check!’ and be done with that.  It wasn’t a thing of, ‘Okay I’m going to play this to the point of understanding it.’  It was always just, ‘There’s the notes.  Let me play them, and, we’re done.’”

“I say it’s a magic trick.  I mean, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of, ya’ know, the cast knows each other pretty well and they work together really, really well, but it feels – when the show’s great – it feels like a magic trick.  It feels like, ‘How did they do that?’  Ya’ know, we’ve been accused of writing them – writing shows and saying they’re improvised, which is a really great compliment.”

“Improv… can help you become a great actor.  It just keeps you open and listening.  There’s just, like, … seemingly minor skills that help so much.”

“(John Hodgman said) ‘The hardest thing about being an artist is making your thing and then putting it out in the world and not caring whether or not anybody checks it out.’”

“If you want all those trappings of, like, ‘I wanna play these arenas and I wanna headline a tour and I wanna live on a tour bus,” and be that traveling troubadour, I think you have to be willing to play a party in somebody’s backyard for beers.  And you have to be willing to play at a bar on a Tuesday night for nobody.  It has to thrill you to do it on any level.”

“Improv is hard.  It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle.”

Songs on this episode: 

"I Wanna Be Sedated" (Ramones cover)
"Got Me A Woman"