Rip Taylor is a very unique performer. With his rapid wit, quickfire puns and bursts of confetti, he’s been the Clown Prince Of Pandemonium for more than half-a-century. In the 90s, I saw him in a variety of projects ranging from Ducktales The Movie and Wayne’s World 2 on the big screen to Amazon Women On The Moon on VHS. Always an enjoyable talent, I was able to speak to Mr. Taylor on February 27th. I hope you all enjoy this interview.
Say hello to Rip Taylor!
Johnny: Hello, Mr. Taylor. This is Johnny Caps of Pop Geeks, calling for the interview.
Rip: Hiya, pal.
Johnny: Hello. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Rip: Where are you?
Johnny: I’m based in New York.
Rip: Oh, really? How’s the weather there?
Johnny: The weather’s been kind of schizophrenic these past few weeks over here, with snow, then heat. You never know what it’s going to be next.
Johnny: I have my questions ready to go, starting off with some questions about your documentary. You’re the subject of the documentary Rip Rip Hooray. When you were first approached about a documentary about your life, how did you react?
Rip: I figured, well, I haven’t lived at all yet and I haven’t got the punchline ready.
Johnny: What are your favorite documentaries, and did you mention them to filmmaker Anthony Barnao as possible ideas for inspiration?
Rip: No, I didn’t. We let them do what they want, and then we put it all together, both of us.
Rip: It seemed to work out. I hope it does.
Johnny: I hope so, too. As many documentaries aren’t able to cover all of a subject’s life, what deleted scenes do you wish had been retained for your documentary?
Rip: None at all.
Johnny: What advice do you hope to impart to viewers of Rip Rip Hooray?
Rip: Just don’t give up. Keep working. It’s not an uphill climb. It’s what you make it, for God’s sake. You can’t start bitching and moaning. You’re in control, so make it all work. Onward and upward, ha ha ha.
Johnny: Fantastic advice. Jumping from the documentary, I would now like to ask about some of your film and television work. My first exposure to your work came when I viewed DuckTales The Movie: Treasure Of The Lost Lamp, where you voiced the Genie. That would be the first of several Disney projects you were involved in. What was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Rip: Every bit of it (laughing). I had more fun than the audience most of the time.
Johnny: I liked your entire routine. “Get up, get down, get a haircut”. Those were really funny lines from you. Speaking of cartoons, you were a reliable player for Hanna-Barbera. My next exposure to your work came via the 90s Addams Family cartoon, where you voiced Uncle Fester. As your career was active when the original live-action show was on the air, did you ever audition to appear on the live-action program, or was your stand-up career the primary focus at the time?
Rip: The stand-up. Whenever they called me, I would be there. Anything. I’d open the door, sweep, clean, tell jokes, mop (laughing).
Johnny: I see. I saw you in the flesh for the first time in Wayne’s World 2. When you were sent the script, how did you react?
Rip: Well, I was surprised that they asked me to do it in the first place, because nobody ever takes a comedian seriously. They think you can’t do anything but be a ham. They forget that you can do other things, and that it takes discipline to get that far, and they still do.
Johnny: I really enjoyed your work in that movie. I just like how when Wayne (Mike Myers) told you about the dream about the Weird Naked Indian, you just rolled with that and talked about how you saw that, too. It just had that wonderful fantasy element to it. (Rip laughs) Some have said that Mike Myers, who plays Wayne, is difficult to work with. Did you have a hard time working on the movie, or was it easy?
Rip: I don’t have conflict with any of them. You go in, do your job, and do what you’re supposed to do. You’re professional people. That’s why you’re still at it to this day. You don’t let that get in the way of anything. It’s called show business.
Johnny: Good advice. You have several connections to rock music and its’ variants, from appearing in the music video for Helix’s “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” to the aforementioned Wayne’s World 2 to introducing The Bloodhound Gang’s album Use Your Fingers. Is rock music a favorite genre of yours’, or do you prefer something more mellow in your musical tastes?
Rip: Whatever’s available right now, we go with the flow. It changes every hour.
Johnny: That’s true.
Rip:…And you can’t please everybody (laughing), although you try.
Johnny: In 1996, on a visit to my uncle’s house for several days, me and my brother rented Amazon Women On The Moon, and loved it, especially the Roast Your Loved One segment. As someone who has performed in your fair share of roasts, would you ever do a roast at a funeral in real life, or was that just a movie idea?
Rip: That was just a movie idea.
Johnny: When I interviewed Belinda Balaski, who was part of the Roast Your Loved One segment, several years ago, she told me of how the writers were coming up with new quips off-set and sent them to her via one of the actors playing her children. Did they create any new lines for you, or was it your own material?
Rip: It was all my own. You know, they can’t write for us. You answer their questions, and if they like it, they talk. If not, they change the answer.
Johnny: I loved your line, “Harvey, the President couldn’t be here, so he sends a wire”, and then you bring out a wire hanger. “This is it, folks. I don’t dance”. (Johnny and Rip laugh) I just love that line. It’s just so perfect. You’ve made memorable appearances in the Jackass movies. For me, your work with Johnny Knoxville and crew defines the concept of the inter-generational friendship. How did you become collaborators?
Rip: they liked my work, and asked if I wanted to work with them. I said I’d be honored to, and when I did, we had more fun than we expected. I never do. They do. I never know what to expect. We’re professional people. We do that, and we’re still doing it.
Johnny: Ooh, sounds good. It’s a blast to see how you appear at the end of every movie. Speaking of which, were you considered for an appearance in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, or as that movie was primarily fiction, did they want to go in a different direction?
Rip: They wanted to go in a different direction.
Johnny: I see, because I was thinking it would’ve been interesting if you appeared at the end as his friend.
Rip: Of course. Me, too, but you don’t tell them what to do.
Johnny: Fair enough. As mentioned earlier, you did voice-work in DuckTales The Movie. That’s not your only Disney credit, as you also appeared in projects like an episode of The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody and a recurring role on the TV series The Emperor’s New School. As there have been people given the honor for less credits than yours’, if Disney’s D23 were to name you as a Disney Legend, would you accept the honor?
Rip: I don’t know. I’m just glad to be performing. You don’t do it for the honors. You do it because they ask you, they know you, you can do it, and they know you can possibly put some more constructive ideas in if they let you.
Johnny: Alright. Jumping back to the 70s, you worked for Chuck Barris as host of The $1.98 Beauty Show, as well as making regular appearances on several of his other shows. What do you think has made Barris’ programs stand in people’s memories decades after their cancellation?
Rip: Because no one ever had the courage to talk back to the emcee in those days. No one ever did that. It was brand new to hear. “Oh my God, he said that?”. Everything was written for you, and then they’d say, “Oh, what do you want to do?”. You’d say what you wanted to say, and if they liked it, they let you say it. You know what I’m saying?
Johnny: Right. It’s interesting to look back on The Gong Show, and then think about how they’ve tried reviving it, but the revivals just haven’t worked.
Rip: Yeah. I used to “gang-Gong” people. I loved that one.
Johnny: Alright. You made appearances on many talk shows, ranging from Jackie Gleason’s American Scene Magazine to The David Frost Show to The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Although you did your comedy, you also engaged in conversations with the hosts. It seems that most late-night talk shows nowadays are less about conversation, and more about game play and shtick. Do you think there will ever be a talk show again where talk is the primary focus, or have those days passed?
Rip: Those days have long passed. I don’t know why people don’t find it interesting, especially the producers of each show, but they don’t. They want you to “Yes”, “No” and move on.
Johnny: Yeah. I was born in 1982, so unfortunately, although I did know about Johnny Carson and David Letterman, I was far too young to actually watch them. On a lighter note, you’ve spoken often about your love of performing in Las Vegas. What has Las Vegas provided for you that cities like Los Angeles or New York have not?
Rip: The audiences go in to be entertained. They don’t go in to say “I dare you to make me laugh”. That’s the difference. When you’re on a marquee in Vegas, they say, “You must be good to be working here”, no matter who it was. They were good audiences because they walked in with a positive attitude. “Oh, boy! We’re going to have fun”, not “I dare you”.
Johnny: Vegas is another thing that’s changed tremendously, but we’ll get to that at the last question. I still have a few more to go. You’ve collaborated with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Funny Or Die on several videos. Did that come about via your cameos on Saturday Night Live or via another source?
Rip: I think it was Saturday Night Live. I’m not quite sure.
Johnny: I remember you appearing on an episode in 2003, appearing in the Super Buzzers sketch, which was a spoof of the panel game shows of the 70s that you frequently appeared on. How accurately would you say Saturday Night Live got that?
Rip: Pretty good, but nobody checks up on that stuff much anymore. They don’t care (laughing).
Johnny: I see. One of the Funny Or Die videos you worked on was The 1982 Tron Holiday Special. Even though it was intended as a send-up of The Star Wars Holiday Special, it was also a riff on variety specials in general. As a veteran of many genuine examples of variety specials, do you think they could ever come back as a regular thing, or are they just limited to things like the Oscars and the Grammys?
Rip: Yeah. No, they’re not going to come back with that stuff. They’re constantly looking for changes and looking for new people to write changes.
Johnny: Alright. In one of your more serious roles, you played Mr. Langford in Indecent Proposal. Many have said that your work was a highlight of the movie. If you could’ve played more serious roles in movies and on TV, which do you think you would’ve done well with?
Rip: Any of them. When they saw that, they said, “I didn’t know he could do that”. I said, “Well, nobody ever asked me if I could do that”.
Johnny: Your work was definitely good in that movie. I actually read a description of Indecent Proposal that basically said it was the movie-length version of an old joke. Let me see if I can remember it. I don’t know if you’ve heard this one or not. You probably have, but the joke about Indecent Proposal is this: A guy asks a woman, “Would you sleep with a man for a million dollars?”, and she says, “Yes”. The guy then says, “Would you sleep with me for five dollars?”. She says, “What kind of a woman do you take me for?”. THE guy says, “Oh, we’ve already established that. Now we’re negotiating”.
Rip: Good. Good line.
Johnny: Although you’ve made appearances as yourself in several projects in recent years, it’s been a while since you’ve essayed a role in a fictional movie or TV show. What director would you most like to work with?
Rip: I don’t know. They keep getting younger. I don’t know if they have that imagination. I mean, they think they do, but I don’t know if they do.
Johnny: Alright. For my final question, an elaboration on the talk show question, but keyed to a bigger picture: What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between the 1960s, when you rose to fame, and 2017?
Rip: I think the material is getting more risque. There’s no reason for that, and they talk like that on a daily basis. They do it on TV, in your living room. You can’t emphasize it any more by being risque or cursing. That’s just how bold the times are changing.
Johnny: I hope I didn’t offend with that Indecent Proposal joke.
Rip: Not at all.
Johnny: Well, that about does it for my questions. I do thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me. Projects like DuckTales The Movie and Amazon Women On The Moon were tremendous influences on my pop-cultural enjoyment.
Rip: Oh, good.
Johnny: You were an essential part of both, and it was an honor to speak to a person of your talent.
Rip: Well, keep in touch. This isn’t the end.
Johnny: I’m looking forward to your future output. I hope you have a good afternoon, and again, I thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Rip: Thank you very much. Keep in touch with me.
Johnny: I will, Mr. Taylor. Have a good day.
Rip: Bye bye.
I would like to thank Harlan Boll, who also set up my interview with Judy Tenuta, for arranging this, and I would like to thank Rip Taylor for taking the time to speak to me.
For more on Rip’s life and career, as well as updates on the documentary Rip Rip Hooray, you can visit his official website.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview will be conversations with actresses Stacey Nelkin and Hilary Shepard. Thanks as always for your support and feedback.