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SAN DIEGO -- If you like politically incorrect humor, silly skits and a little rock-n-roll wrapped up all in one, you are in for a real treat.
A local duo will be celebrating the launch of their new online webseries with the premiere of their first episode, Wednesday, March 28 at Bourbon Street. They will also perform for the live crowd and film their second episode at the same time.
You remember those old school variety shows -- starting with the 1960's and the Smothers Brothers (67-68), the Carol Burnett Show (67-78), Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in (68-73), and even the Sonny and Cher show (71-74, 76-77) -- that kept you in stitches and riveted to your TV screen as a child.
Some, like Laugh-In and Carol Burnett, had larger ensembles, each playing multiple characters in skit after skit, but Sonny & Cher and the Smothers Brothers played all the characters, themselves.
These popular programs were a mixture of stand-up comedy, character spoofs and skits, a whole lotta music, and generally, an equal amount of controversy.
Unfortunately, aside from late night reruns on TVLand or Nick at Night, there hasn't been a show quite like any of these, for a very long time. Fast forward to 2012 and we now have our very own "The Nick and Mel Show" bringing it all back.
Nick and Mel are two local women who play guitar, sing, dance, do silly skits -- and get plenty controversial -- all while making you "laugh until you pee."
They've had a couple preliminary shows at Bourbon in the past (December and February) but now they are ready to take their show to prime time, and they want you to be a part of it.
The dynamic duo meets and sets the stage
"Nick" is Nicki Walker, who has been the front woman (as lead guitar and primary singer-songwriter) of local band DROPJOY, since 2003. A Brooklyn native, Walker first tried her luck in Los Angeles, before eventually settling in San Diego.
Three years ago, Walker lost a man she called brother -- DROPJOY's longtime drummer, Andy Light -- to complications from heart transplant surgery. Light, born with a heart defect that was expected to claim him long before it did, had a set of drums in his hospital room and a stick in his hand, right up until his death.
Although the band is currently on hiatus, DROPJOY carried on for almost two years after Light's passing, just as he would have wanted. Light's strength and courage still feed Walker's soul and mentor her artistically.
But it was back in Los Angeles where Walker serendipitously met "Mel" (Melanie Peters) for the first time 15 years ago -- while working in a Starbucks. Something clicked over that exchange of money and latte and they've been friends ever since.
A rock-n-roller, herself, Peters was one of four women who made up San Diego's ROOMfullaNipsy in the late 1990s, and later, got even more creative with her then-partner and collaborator, Jana Losey. The couple toured the country while making and producing music, videos and even a popular reality television show that aired for seven episodes in the Northeast, called That Song You Heard.
When the relationship finally went south, Peters returned to San Diego and started her own production company, MPP, where she's built up quite a clientele the last few years.
Two years ago, Peters reconnected with Walker and eagerly signed on to produce DROPJOY's last album, Dirty Virgin. Ironically, despite their long friendship and shared musical interests, the two had never considered working together on stage.
But then something happened. The original idea for Nick and Mel came to Peters in the middle of the night. "I literally woke up 18 months ago thinking about the Smothers Brothers," she recently told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
Of all those ensemble shows of the tumultuous 60s and 70s, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was probably the most controversial of its time. Tommy, who played the dumb brother on the show to Dick's more refined and authoritarian persona, was actually the producer. It was his genius and politics that always pushed the envelope, and that eventually got him blackballed.
Peters knew an LGBT-centric variety act along those same lines was in her future.
When you spend a little time with her, you realize Peters rarely sits still or lets her brain stop churning. She is always thinking about the next opportunity, the next client, or the next role she will play in the world.
After all, helping others lay down their tracks on video, vinyl and stage is rewarding in its own way, but Peters longed to get back center stage, herself.
The white San Diego native knew she and the native New Yorker of Guatemalan descent had what it takes -- and the ability to be controversial. The "lesbian Smothers Brothers" were born.
A fast translating chemistry and a whole lotta talent
"We've got that chemistry, the bantering, the fast translating," Peters said. "Nick makes me laugh. She is funny and quick-witted. She always has a sub-plot, a transcription going on."
The night that one specific Nick and Mel character was born, the two friends were sitting on the couch watching the Chargers, when according to Peters, the conversation "digressed to local pro sports and fair weather fans."
"The same goes for the arts," she explained. "Every time I've ever been successful, I had to leave San Diego."
Case in point, RoomFullaNipsy was San Diego based, but the group found their audience in Los Angeles. Her next success with Jana Losey came first in New York. Walker has struggled artistically in San Diego, too, and Peters is justified in her wish that both women earn the proper respect they deserve from their local peers and audiences.
She thinks the timing may finally be right.
"San Diego has the 'Dude' mentality," she said. "It has a small town feel, plus there has always been so many other options, so many things to do here like surfing, skateboarding, hiking. There just hasn't been enough interest in the Arts, but that is changing. There is an influx in the population and more venues available with better support."
Now, the two women are bringing four decades of combined experience to the table and blending it into a full production variety show to a live audience, and then streaming it for online television.
Extremely talented guitarists and songwriters in their own right ("we're not folk singers, we're rock and blues acoustic guitarists" Peters asserted), Nick and Mel also found in their friendship an easy and natural comedic timing. It is something they hone weekly, during "strategy sessions" conducted in Mel's living room, with Mr. Jack Daniels acting as both referee and muse.
Their logo (shown at top left, middle) came from these sessions, since they often play "song in the hat," whereby each writes a set of chords on pieces of paper that they later pull out of the hat and must create a song around, on the spot.
"It's an interesting way to create but it's working," Peters said.
All that strategizing not only got them their logo, but a multitude of characters were born, and there is an even bigger backlog of schtick to play with. During these sessions, they take turns sharing ideas and taking the lead.
"I need a front person," Peters explained. "I'm a back seat driver, but I couldn't do it if the front seat wasn't talented."
With names like Tony Felacio (fuhgettahboutit), Melsy Cosell (spoof on Howard), David Steele (smooth talking ladies man based on Billy de Williams), Joni Lovepower (a granola-style songstress), and Puck Strokenoff (a "black Russian" hockey player), there's bound to be some political incorrectness going on.
Walker more recently suffered the loss of her mother, as well as the end of a longterm relationship, but she seems to have found a much needed comfort zone within the humor and lightheartedness of this new creative outlet.
"It's a fresh new twist on the comedy of the human condition … straight forward and unforgiving in honesty and chock full of real emotion," Walker mused. "A tongue-in-cheek variety show that laughs first at itself, then with the audience.
"Personally, the show allows me to express myself in a brand new way. I've always fronted a band, but this is a whole new element. I've never experienced more fun and has such a real connection with the audience as when they are laughing with me and Mel."
What both women enjoy the most of their new venture, is the audience participation aspect and they encourage this even more by handing out musical accoutrements to allow others to join in. You definitely won't be bored, so expect to be fully entertained.
Help Nick and Mel launch the web series
You can get a front row seat for the "lesbian Smothers Brothers" when they launch their new web series, The Nick and Mel Show, on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at Bourbon Street on the back patio.
Doors open at 7 pm with happy hour specials for both food and drink and the show will start promptly at 8 pm. Admission is free.
Diane Jean, co-producer of the local Brew Ha Ha comedy event, will open for Nick and Mel and be the night's emcee. Jean will open the show, followed by The Nick and Mel Show's Episode One - which will premiere on the big screen, and then Nick and Mel will perform live and film Episode Two. Details for the online airing of the show will be provided.
You won't want to miss this historic night of comedy, filled with song, spoof and schtick.
Jean, along with her Brew Ha Ha coproducer Chris Clobber, is also hosting "The Week You Missed with Diane and Chris" an online radio show at MY107.9. Note: Listen to Nick and Mel live on the show the night following the Bourbon Street premiere.
Check out the teaser for the Nick and Mel Show:
To see more Nick and Mel, visit their You Tube Channel.