TV Article

THe Gnarly World of Mike Myers

The world of Mike Myers -- A comic from the Great White North is now a big player on ''Saturday Night Live''

Welcome to Wayne’s World. Here's your excellent host, Wayne Campbell: His hair is greasy, verging on dreadlocks, he lives in a single pair of reeky, shredded jeans, his eyes are permanently glazed from an overdose (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) TV and junk food, and he speaks in a combination of heavy metal fanatic and surfer-dude. But behind the dazed veneer, Wayne is smart — a tribute to the lively intelligence of the guy in the costume. Since he joined NBC's Saturday Night Live in January 1989 as the youngest member of the show's comedy ensemble, 27-year-old writer-performer Mike Myers has brought a sharp pen and an acute sense of observation to a host of characters: Middle-Aged Man, a potbellied superhero who imparts humdrum wisdom to the young (''I understand escrow!''); Dieter, a German talk show host with a pet monkey and a penchant for ambiguous epigrams (''Your work pulls down my pants and taunts me''); and most of all, Wayne, the Illinois teenager who hosts a public-access TV show from his parents' basement.

''You don't want to do the same thing all the time,'' says Meyers. ''You can get really bored. People come up to me and say, 'Do you do Wayne every week?'' This year I’ve done it just three times.'' Among Wayne's most memorable stints as cultural commentator this season were his review of Madonna’s ''Justify My Love'' video (''Omigod! Look at her! She's giving herself a paw!'') and his concise analysis on CBS' war coverage (''Dan Rather...NOT!'').

''The beauty of the show is that if things break in the week, you can respond,'' Myers says. ''The idea for the 'Wayne's World' (about war coverage) was agreed upon at 11:30 Friday night. We wrote until four in the morning, and we rewrote it until 23 seconds before it went on the air.''

''I was a feral child raised by television,'' says the Canadian-born actor, who forged the very middle-American Wayne out of his own childhood in Scarborough, Ontario. ''It's very suburby suburb of Toronto, very flat — there a lot of doughnut stores and factory carpet outlets. Wayne is everybody I grew up with. In my neighborhood, everyone had a basement. Everyone had table hockey in the basement, which doubled as table tennis. Everyone had aluminum siding. You know, I think there's a homogenous North American adolescent heavy-metal suburban experience. Kids from Virginia would stay in our house during soccer tournaments, and they'd say, ''Oh, your mom has wood paneling in the basement too, huh?'' As for Wayne's not-as-dumb-as-he-looks observations, ''I used to hang out with metalheads like that, and half of them would just quietly do their homework and get A's and not say anything about it. Basically, they were all pretty decent people who liked to have fun.'' Myers himself was more passionate about punk, smuggling Sex Pistols albums past his British father. ''He's a working-class monarchist,'' Myers says with a laugh, ''and it was like, 'Look what they're sayin' about the Queen! Oi'm no 'avin' that rubbish in the 'ouse!''

An actor since the age of 8 (he once played Gilda Radner's son in a Canadian TV commercial), Myers honed his improvisatory skills at Second City troupes in Toronto and Chicago, the same comedy groups that spawned many of SNL's first generation. And even now, that moment at 1 a.m. when he gathers at center stage with the rest of the Saturday Night Live ensemble waving good-bye ''blows my mind. I stand there thinking, Aykroyd was here. Bill Murray was here. Belushi was here. I watched the very first show in 1975,'' he recalls. ''I remember saying 'Wouldn't it be great to be one of them?'''

Originally posted May 17, 1991 Published in issue #66 May 17, 1991 Order article reprints
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