Monday, March 19, 2012

An Interview with David Zed

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today we are bringing you an interview with (if I may be sold bold to say International Star) David Zed (David Kirk Traylor)! Back in March of 2011 I posted a blog about my discovery of David Zed thanks to YouTube's 'suggested videos' whilst rocking out to some Kraftwerk. David recently left a message on the blog so I jumped at the chance to connect and get this interview.

1.) Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions David. My first one is a simple need to be nosey... Did you Google yourself and find the 2011 blog post that way?

Yes, I have been working on updating my website and so I thought I'd see what people were saying about me behind my front. Your blog made me realize that it wasn't easy to put all the pieces of my story together, but I was impressed by your research. You might want to check out my website  http://www.mrzed.com .

2.) My post did a lot of generalizing in regards to your career simply because I didn't have much to work with. Can you give us a very quick run down of the general time frame in which you started your career (presumably in Italy) then moved here then back there again?

I don't really know where my career began. I did my first professional theater gig in 1967 as part of the Royal Danish Ballet. I did my first stand up gig in 1973 in a coffee house in Quakertown Pennsylvania.  In 1976 I had a comedy radio program in Philadelphia. But nothing compared to the big mainstream audience I found in Italy.  In January of 1979 I came to Italy to study abroad. But then I got a load of the local girls. I was only supposed to be there for a semester.  With in a year I had a hit TV show and a hit record. I would go on to star in another hit series from 1983-85. So the 80's saw me touring Italy for almost the entire ten years. In 88-89 I did a highbrow theater tour for "La Scala" but the critics only cared about what I had done on TV years before. I realized I had gone as far as I would be allowed so once it was over I moved to L.A. and started over from scratch.  In 91' I married my Italian girlfriend and she joined me in LA. Things went well. I became a paid regular at the Comedy Store on the sunset strip. I toured. I played Vegas. In 93' I was the first new comedian Jay Leno had on his new Tonight show. Things were going great guns. Dick Clark and I had put together a proposal for a sit com for ABC. Things seemed to be happening when, in January of 94', we were wiped out and almost killed in the Northridge earthquake. My first daughter, Sara, was born 9 months later. Whether this was the cause or the effect of the earthquake has never been established, but we are all breathing easier now that the statute of limitations is up. With the earthquake all of my work dried up.   The Vegas gigs went south. The sit com died. Even some minor work I had set up in TV and movies all died.  
My wife was getting too pregnant to fly so we took some of the frequent flier miles I had accumulated touring and went to visit her folks in Rome. While there I got an offer to do my own TV show, in English, of an International satellite network that had just opened in Rome. And so the Mr. Zed show was born. The first comedy program shot entirely on digital video, it was a hit for the network from the first episode. So much so they also ran it free to air to gain subscribers.   At the same time the Japanese and the Brits came a knocking on my door. My first TV show for the Japanese was the night my daughter was born in November of 94. The show for the BBC was a hit too. Now Tokyo is the same distance from LA as it is from Rome. London is a lot closer. So we moved back to Rome.  As you know, I still do the odd program in America, but Rome is a much saner place to raise kids than LA. My second daughter Marina was born in Rome in 98.

3.) One of the very first videos I clicked on that featured you was Balla Robot 'with English subtitles'. Someone typed out on the screen what they were 'hearing' when you sang. If you haven't seen it take a look, it's infectious and borders on being an Internet Meme. Have you seen it and if so what do you think about it? Do you mind having your original work being altered in that way?

I think it's very funny. This is the Internet!  There is another little Internet anomaly on youtube. Someone took a recording of one of my stand up bits in America and replaced the sound track with beeps and boops. The surprising thing to me is that it still got a lot of viewers.   I can't find it anymore but here is one where they put one of my Italian records from the 80's over an American stand up routine. 

4.) I saw one video which someone is talking about your encounter with the Pope John Paul II. Please tell the story as to how you came to be at a Pope 'meet and greet'. I noticed that the Pope didn't seem to pay much attention to you in the clip. Did he do his best to 'look beyond' you to avoid the awkwardness of the moment or did we just not get to see the actual encounter? I must give you props for staying in your robot character infront of the most influential people in the whole world!

With the Pope it was kind of a tender situation. I was the comic relief on a popular Italian talk show at the time. I am not Catholic and I did not want to seem disrespectful, so I thought I'd just hang in the back, but the guards at the Vatican were big Zed fans and they brought me right down front.  The woman who's show it was was, Raffaella CarrĂ  was insanely jealous, but she was powerless as the guards brought me down front. She was not however powerless once the footage got back to the network. What you see here is a specially edited version to play down the fact that the Pope and I had a long friendly chat while he virtually ignored her. In Italy this went out live.  There was no denying what had happened. CNN got in touch right away and did a special report on the incident and the success of the Zed character.  But I had made a powerful enemy that day.  To this day official references to that program cut me out and I am artfully photoshopped out of all the photographs. It's kind of like having been in Stalin's Russia. It was one of the reasons I left Italy in 89. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate it and thanks for all the fun!

That's all Mr. Traylor had time for this go-round. He is very busy on tour in Italy and I REALLY appreciate that he spent so much time filling in all those details. I have a few more questions for him so perhaps when his schedule permits in the near future he can continue giving us the low down!