John Paul Tremblay (“Julian”), Mike Smith (“Bubbles”) and Robb Wells (“Ricky”) are The Trailer Park Boys, the Canadian cult cable sensations performing a bit of “community service” this Friday night at the Count Basie Theatre.
The last time the world heard from the Trailer Park Boys, the trio of petty criminals, backsliding lowlifes and substance abusers was more or less secured within their natural habitat — behind bars, and lashing out against the media attention that helped make their mugshots a household brand in dozens of countries.
It was a fitting valedictory for “Julian” (John Paul Tremblay), “Ricky” (Robb Wells) and “Bubbles” (Mike Smith), the characters who evolved (so to speak) from several low-budget film projects by Canadian writer and director Mike Clattenburg.
Dedicated to the mantra “get rich, get high, and stay out of jail;” navigating life at Nova Scotia’s Sunnyvale Trailer Park with a work ethic, a moral code and an F-bombed vocabulary that made our own Jay and Silent Bob look like Frasier and Niles, the Boys spent seven seasons as the stars of their own “mockumentary” TV series — an international cult hit seen Stateside by DirecTV subscribers.
The series that ended in 2008 — think COPS times Sunny divided by The Office — gave noisy birth to two theatrically released feature films, an all new TV vehicle for the three actors (The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Fun Hour), and several live appearance tours, the latest of which rolls into Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre this Friday night, May 11.
Subtitled The Ricky, Julian and Bubbles’ Community Service Variety Show, the stage presentation ostensibly springs the three recidivist jailbirds for an evening of court-ordered lecturing on the evils of drinking and drug abuse — an edu-taining interlude in which Bubbles gets to perform his ventriloquism act (and sing his signature anthem “Liquor and Whores”) while the other guys do their best to involve the audience and send the whole thing careening off the rails.
UpperWETside spoke to Julian and Ricky — yes, in character, and while riding in a luxuriously appointed tour bus that’s a far cry from the various trailers, sheds, beater Chryslers and jail cells they’ve inhabited over the years.
RICKY: Oh, we’re lovin’ it. Just livin’ the dream. But the only riders we have are like clean socks and underwear…Julian really screwed up our contracts.
JULIAN: Ricky’s the one who screwed up…that’s how we went back to jail. Bubbles started cryin’ on the stand, begging the judge for mercy, and that’s how this whole Community Service thing came about.
This is probably your biggest American jaunt yet, you’re hitting a lot of places like Boston and other cities in the northeast, and since you’re seeing so much of the country in style I wonder if you have any thoughts as to what you love and hate the most about the US of A…
JULIAN: Hate the toll booths! We’ve been shellin’ out of our own pocket for all these tolls and gassin’ up the bus…
RICKY: I love the food though…especially Bar-B-Q.
I’m sure it sucks being forced into this tour, having to lecture on the evils of drugs and alcohol…but still, it’s got to be better than prison by this point.
JULIAN: Yeah, but it’s kind of a drag. We sometimes don’t feel like entertaining…fortunately, everybody in the audience likes to get drunk and get high.
Well, at the end of the COUNTDOWN TO LIQUOR DAY movie in 2009, you guys were getting really pissed off with the camera crews; knocking the camera out of their hands and everything. It’s as if you were tired of being public figures, and preferred to retire to a life of quiet dignity and contemplation…
RICKY: Julian likes being famous, but I never liked having the cameras follow me around. Those camera dicks were always makin’ me look bad. The clips they show make me look fuckin’ stupid.
But it also made you an international star. And you gotta admit it was funny.
JULIAN: It wasn’t that funny for us, all the things we had to go through. Our lives were not really like what you saw on TV. We always wound up payin’ the price, and we signed off on a lot of rights too. The worst part is that they would use the camera footage as evidence against us.
That does kind of beg the question, how could you guys ever expect to get away with most of the shit that you were involved with, knowing that it was all going to wind up on national TV?
JULIAN: When we started, we thought we were really gonna be able to tell our own story…y’know, COPS from the criminal’s point of view.
Even so, that fame and recognition has to carry some sort of advantages…
RICKY: Well, yeah, we get extra desserts from people and everything…and I wouldn’t be gettin’ banged as much. But I’d still be happy.
Alright, so assuming that someday you guys are able to get a new contract, work off all that community service, take control of your careers for the first time, what would you do differently? How would you merchandise your brand?
RICKY: We’d probably make our own rolling papers, bobbleheads…I’d have my own line of cigarettes.
JULIAN: I think we’d do our own Western movie. Like a Clint Eastwood picture. And Bubbles would want to do sci fi.
Tell us about the Variety Show that we’ll be seeing at the Count Basie Theatre. What kind of enlightening, positive message will you be exploring?
JULIAN: It’s a good way to knock two hours off our community service…where we kind of go off the rails, get to be drunk and high onstage. We make sure the crowd has a good time…we have a lot of games and contests where we get the audience involved, bring ’em up and make ’em do the work.
So you’d say it was an educational sort of presentation. But why is it being performed to a bunch of drunk adults in a theater instead of in front of kids at a school? Are you trusting the adults to kind of “trickle down” the message to the kids when they get home?
JULIAN: They probably wouldn’t remember anything that happened after it’s over. We hypnotize them so they don’t remember any of it the next day.
Well, around here we have our own pockets of trailer park culture to be sure…those of us who grew up in a Sunnyvale kind of environment know that there’s a deep and abiding truth behind the comedy. But do you really mean to tell us that you wouldn’t change a thing if you had half a chance?
RICKY: Living in a trailer park is like goin’ campin’ every day. We would never buy fancy houses; that’d be stupid…even if we had money, we would still live in a trailer.
Tickets ($24.50 – $35) for Friday’s 8 pm performance of The Ricky, Julian and Bubbles’ Community Service Variety Show can be purchased from the Basie box office right here.