Scared Weird Little Guys
Sunday, May 16, 2004
The Scared Weird Little Guys have a special position in the pantheon of musical comedy outfits. Tripod have garnered a popular following through their presence initially on Triple J (with their âsong in an hourâ challenge and subsequent CD releases) and then on SkitHOUSE. Yet they have to contend with comparisons to other pre-existing trio-and-guitar combos â the Three Canadians, Corky and the Juice Pigs and the Doug Anthony Allstars to name but several. Then thereâs the Dodge, who began as Freefall but had to change their name for copyright reasons. I recall accosting members of the Dodge, while they were still Freefall, at a Melbourne Comedy Festival some years back. âI know you must get this all the time, but you know who you guys remind me of?â I began. âYeah, yeah, we know,â they said. âTripod.â Which was cute. They reminded me of early Allstars. But it was nice that everyone else who would have once been comparing Tripod to the Allstars was now comparing Freefall to Tripod. Then, of course, thereâs Gud â the band that are most like the Allstars, having, like the Allstars, Paul McDermott as their central character.
The Scared Weird Little Guys are the ones who get compared to others least of all, mostly because they are a duo (and partly because I canât be bothered bringing Lano & Woodley into this introduction, even though they began as a trio, became a duo, and also dabble in music).
Beginning as half of a barbershop quartet, the Scaredies have made much of being able to utilise many musical genres. Of late, they have taken to doing their own version of a musical challenge. Whereas Tripod are given a topic and an hour to turn it into a song, the Scared Weird Little Guys take a leaf out of Andrew Dentonâs book â since the âmusical challengeâ dates back not to Dentonâs Channel Seven tonight show of 1994, for which musical guests would have to render standards in their own style, but to an earlier show, The Money or the Gun, which featured âStairway to Heavenâ performed in various ways by a multitude of artists. The Scared Weird Little Guys invite musical challenges of that nature: in addition writing satirical songs, sometimes to the tune of familiar songs, the Scaredies like to perform familiar songs in vary unusual genres, and invite fans to submit suggestions for such songs in a prcess referred to as âStump the Scarediesâ.
Thus, the Scared Weird Little Guys' new album Bits and Pieces â the excuse upon which this interview is hung â contains a bunch of satirical ditties and a sampling of Scaredy-stumpings.
Having previously interviewed the Scared Weird Little Guys, I already knew the answers to a few of the questions. But they were worth hearing again in the context of the story, rather than trying to bung âem into an introduction â look how cumbersome this one is without them! Besides which, the answers sound even better when illustrated with soundbites.
The Scaredies have a clutch of shows coming up over the next little while, and theyâre a lot of fun live. Check âem out.
The interview went to air Saturday 15 May, an MP3 of which may be heard here.
Music: âRock n Roll All Nightâ in the style of a barbershop quartet â The Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
Demetrius Romeo: Before you became the Scared Weird Little Guys, you were both in a number of a cappella quartets. What led you both to comedy and to being in a duo? Rusty?
RUSTY BERTHER: We did start out, when we first met, in a barbershop quartet. In fact I was in this barbershop quartet for a year. It was called Four Chairs No Waiting and I was in that group for a year in Melbourne and then John auditioned and joined that group. Thatâs how we met. It was a bit of a âwacky, zanyâ kind of a group, which was a lot of fun and a good thing to be doing at that time. Then we were in another five-part a cappella group called the Phones, which was a little more serious on the music side, with heavy doses of comedy, but weâd decided when we started the Scared Weird Little Guys, âletâs write original comedy songsâ. So we kind of fell into it that way.
JOHN FLEMING: When Rusty and I met each other there was a bit of a bond that happened there, I guess. It was a business relationship but we were both into similar sort of stuff, so by the time three years had gone past, it seemed logical that we might go on to write some songs and I was playing guitar, we were both singing so we went for it.
Music: â30 Secondsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
Thereâs only thirty seconds left in this song.
If you got a stopwatch and tried to work it out
Then youâd find around now that the time remaining
Would equal twenty seconds, yeah.
Now itâs down to eighteen.
Seventeen seconds: no time to rest.
If this was an ad youâd be impressed.
If youâre in a hurry you wonât be late,
âCause if for the end of this song you wait
Thereâs only four seconds left.
Thereâs only one second leâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: Rusty, the name âThe Scared Weird Little Guysâ was indirectly bestowed upon you by Al Pacino; is that correct?
RUSTY BERTHER: That is correct. Itâs a line from Al Pacinoâs movie called Cruisinâ. Heâs an undercover cop in the serious, gay world of New York at the time, and thereâs murders going on. Anyway, regardless of what the filmâs about, the line âscared, weird, little guysâ was in it, and we thought, âscared, weird, little guys; thatâs a weird grouping of adjectives â with âguysâ at the end â letâs call our group that!â We were searching for a name at that point.
JOHN FLEMING: Yeah, thatâs right. And we have a fear that maybe in New York âscared, weird, little guysâ means something different, so we havenât played in New York ever.
Music: âStaying Aliveâ in the style of a Welsh Male Choir â the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces.
Demetrius Romeo: Your new album Bits and Pieces is album number three. John, tell me where the title comes from.
JOHN FLEMING: Well itâs pretty simple, really. Itâs a whole collection of things from different places, all chopped up and not really contiguous, so Rusty suggested that we might call it Bits and Pieces because thatâs the kind of thing that it is, so thatâs what we did.
Demetrius Romeo: One of the highpoints of your live routine is where youâd do a version of Princeâs song âKissââ¦
Music: âKissâ done in reggae style â the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
Demetrius Romeo: â¦You did it even more distinctively by inviting various different genresâ¦
Music: âKissâ done in Indian styleâ the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
RUSTY BERTHER: We donât really do the âKissâ routine anymore, but weâve kind of morphed that idea into a thing called âStump the Scarediesâ: people write in and ask for a certain song to be performed in a very different style than itâs originally performed in, or even in the style of another song.
Music: âBorn in the USAâ in the style of Austrian Tyroler music â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
Demetrius Romeo: I notice one of the tracks on the CD, âCleaning Out My Tucker Bagâ, seems to tip its backward cap at Eminem. Tell me a bit about that song.
JOHN FLEMING: Well that was a kind of âStump the Scarediesâ thing again â the song âWaltzing Matildaâ, what can we do with it? We said, âletâs do it in an âEminemâ styleâ.
Music: âCleaning Out My Tucker Bagââ Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
She came from St Kilda,
Her middle name was Hilda
And her dad was a builder.
When he could see the steam on his tea
He said, âYouâll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me!â
Yo, come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me!
Down came a jumbuck (baaa!)
And he was dumbstruck
He jumped upâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: There are a number of musical comedy acts on the scene at the moment. Do you see a reason for the rise of the musical comedy act?
JOHN FLEMING: Well I guess, in the most narcissistic way itâs because weâve been around for so long, weâve spawned a lot of acts. But seriously, weâve observed a rise of variety act over the stand-up comic for a while, and while thereâs always going to be more stand-ups than variety acts that are successful and successfully performing, there seem to be more variety acts coming up now.
Music: âWorld Leadersâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
I beg your pardon, have you forgotten
One Osama Bin Laden?
Oh behave! He didnât shave â
Heâs been hiding in a cave
The US Army couldnât find that man
So they bombed the crap out of Afghanistan,
That crazy al-Keida Kookball
Demetrius Romeo: Whatâs the secret of being a musical comedy act, and successful?
RUSTY BERTHER: I think, donât take yourself too serious, number one; enjoy what you do; and I think, personally, we just try and be really good at what weâre doing.
Music: âWhistle Popsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
John: Tonight weâre going to use some of the most rare and difficult of the hand-crafted instruments: ladies and gentlemenâ¦
John & Rusty [in unison]: The whistle-pop!
Demetrius Romeo: Scared Weird Little Guys, that you very much!
JOHN FLEMING: Thanks Dom.
RUSTY BERTHER: Thank you Dom.
Music: âWhistle Popsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
I played out on the street.
From far around they came.
The crowd, they clapped and cheered.
I won fortune and fame.