Eva-Marie Fredric is an actress, writer and filmmaker. Her short film series Shorty & Morty is currently on the indie circuit. AmericasComedy.Com recently caught up with Eva on the road via email to see how things are going and to ask more questions about her friend and mentor Andy Kaufman.
AmericasComedy.Com: Give us a brief synopsis of Shorty & Morty.
Eva-Marie Fredric: Two extraordinary homeless people – both having been handed a rough deck in life – find one another and fall in love. Shorty/Celine doesn’t remember losing her legs or where she came from and meets Morty, a dwarf, on the streets of Hollywood. Morty stands up for her and she helps him get sober. At the same time, he wins her heart and builds her legs to see the world through new eyes and with her legs off. They’re the same size and see one another as the same. It’s an odd, romantic love story of two who strive to survive on the ruthless streets of Hollywood, a town that won’t play fair, yet with each other, they keep going no matter the odds that are against them.
AC: I find it very refreshing that these films are highlighting and uplifting the idea of being unique, while some critics have complained that they exploit it. How do you respond to that?
EM: Thank you. I think it’s sad that with originality in presentation of not only a bi-racial couple, but a dwarf and legless woman, has been the target of complaints in today’s world, but I welcome all reactions. At least I haven’t been called a racist. I’ve been told I make fun of midgets and amputees and my bully, Jared (played by the amazing Ralph Guzzo), goes too far.
Not everyone is going to adore or even like us but they will be affected by Shorty & Morty and the ongoing ludicrous-but-oh-so-real cast of characters. How often has anyone seen a dwarf as a romantic lead? Or a woman who isn’t perfectly gorgeous? They are perfect in the land of ordinaries, outrageous, haves and have nots. Shorty and Morty represent the abused underdogs who manage to find new ways to exist. The late great writer, Hubert Selby, Jr. aka Cubby told me, “Never deny your characters their soul and existence – do not get in their way and if one person tells you that you suck, fuck ‘em, keep going – it’s just an opinion.”
The feedback from audiences and comics, producers, actors that I respect has been overwhelmingly positive. We could use some help to continue. I’ve always loved reactions because no matter what slant it comes from you get to see how you’re affecting another’s life for a moment. A friend with cancer came to a private screening in Los Angeles and he turned to me crying with laughter and said, “I had no idea how much I needed this.” He probably saw layers of Shorty & Morty I’m not conscious of.
AC: Shorty & Morty seems to be getting rave reviews. It’s been in a lot of festivals with others coming up. Tell us about that.
EM: Our first festival in 2011, weeks within finishing the project we played in Los Angeles for the Reel Recovery Festival and for an unjuried festival we were a smash. The folks running it told me it was the best original piece they had had in their then 3rd year running.
Thanks to my associate producer, Peter Flaherty in Australia, we have played 4 festivals with several to go. Short Cut was our first there and then in Comfy Shorts we won semi-finals as best short of July so we’ll go for the final best of shorts for 2012 in November or December. August 27th we just screened at MUFF (Melbourne Underground Film Festival) and I await word on how we did. We are also up for Westside Shorts and some other festivals. Peter is a wonderful friend, actor, director himself. I feel so fortunate to have the cast/crew I’ve had and continue to have on no money or little to keep a project alive from love of the work and the characters.
AC: When you first came up with the concept, did you expect all of the positive feedback Shorty & Morty has received?
EM: Yes and no. No, in that I felt since we started out as one short we’d be pigeon holed as an addiction film or a weird puppet addict flick. Yes, in that I think people have wanted something not of the usual fare and the comments I’ve gotten from many I thought would hate us has been the opposite. Often when people don’t understand something they’ll dismiss or throw it away. People tell me they view Shorty & Morty over and over to really see the multiple layers in these characters.
Originally, I just thought I had come up with the oddest, most romantic couple using Scott Land’s (Team America: World Police) marionettes and Dylan Bocanegra’s illustrations to break more realities. Early on I got notes from one of the Wilfred producers, Mark Grossan. He told me I had some good stuff and helped tweak it into a better first outing. I felt rejuvenated because we went from concept to final in less than a month.
Andy Goldberg (Zippy) is a talent I respect and when he told me, “You have an original here.” I was confused until he smiled and explained, “You can’t cross it with another film. Like Jaws vs. Predator.” I’m just waiting for that one person to help me inject the life and monetary fuel to make this a feature or series for FX or one of the cable networks. As Guillermo del Torro says: “If you have only ten fucking minutes then give them the best fucking ten minutes you got.” He is an inspiration. I met him at a film festival when he won the Oscar for Pan’s Labyrinth. I hope to get the shorts to him. I thank you for being so supportive – you are the bomb, Darren!
AC: As a fan of comedy, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about your friend and mentor Andy Kaufman. How did you guys meet?
EM: At the Hollywood Improvisation Cafe through his assistant and my friend, Linda Mitchell. He came in with her while I was bartending and I yelled out to him. Andy smiled, waved and I pointed to Linda. Andy looked confused but he pointed her in my direction and they came over together and we were introduced.
I think he was surprised I called to Linda first. I was new in town and had met her through a mutual friend. I was happy to see her and meeting Andy was fun. It was within a week or two that Andy came in and hung around the bar when I worked – nibbling on popcorn – staring at me and giggling. I knew of a bit of his work. It was the final season of Taxi, but I hadn’t seen the show much as he slowly started talking with me.
He seemed shy until we found out we both loved The Three Stooges, fast rides and street theatre. He just came alive and so did I. I’ve never had such a wonderful relationship of pure fun as I did with Andy and didn’t speak about it for so many years. As a matter of fact, my first time going out with him was with Linda. She told him that I had never seen It’s A Wonderful Life. He loved the film and insisted I come. He said, “You’ve never seen It’s A Wonderful Life? Impossible! Okay, you’re coming with us!”
AC: Many people reading this may only know Andy from the film Man on the Moon. You knew him personally. What do you think about Jim Carrey’s portrayal?
EM: I couldn’t see the film for two years because Andy’s death runs very deep for me. He rang all his friends to tell him he had cancer but when he rang me, he lied and said all the news was baloney and he was fine – just had bronchitis and we’d talk soon. Andy was gone not long afterward. In hindsight, he was protecting me, but at the time I felt betrayed.
Might seem silly but when you truly care about someone – for me – it’s natural to want to share it all – that includes death. I had huge reservations about Jim Carrey as Andy. I loved his movies but didn’t think he could do Andy. He NAILED him. What a magnificent performance and I was able to meet him and tell him at a screening of one of his films. I cried a lot during that film. They left a lot of the Andy I knew out and he didn’t have a Courtney Love personality as a girlfriend but that’s Hollywood. Andy would have loved it.
AC: Who was the “real” Andy Kaufman?
EM: Andy just wanted to entertain people no matter where he went and I got to be a part of that the last years of his life. I treasure it. He was a big kid, always up to something, brilliant and when I got him a few times, he rang me up and would say, “That was fucking brilliant! How’d you come up with that idea? No one gets me, I get them!” or “Eva-Marie, you are….spice! I’ve never met anyone like you.”
He was amazingly fun and I’ve never met anyone like him. He didn’t care if people understood him – he just wanted to affect them. Wake them up, shake them and get reactions and, boy, did he. Andy was the biggest kid and with me he even bought me a Christmas tree after we went to Knotts Berry Farm and the Santa Claus there thanked us for watching him do what he loved, helping children. In the parking lot, Andy screamed with his wide eyes, “There is a Santa Claus, you were right – I’m a believer now – wait’ll Bob (Zmuda) hears about this!”
He was the kind of guy that would take a girl to a movie and say we’ll just get a revolving ticket so you can experience a taste of each film – then walk this non-believer to the ticket booth and ask for two revolving tickets as if the girl in the booth knew what he was talking about. Then he’d pick a show and say, “It’s okay, next time when they train you right, we’ll get them.”
He was the kind of guy if a friend got into minor trouble would say, “Well, there are two kinds of people in this world, those who’ve been to jail and those who haven’t – you get to join the ranks of those who have!” It was his way of uplifting a bad situation and it worked. I have so many incidents and days of performing street theatre with him in my memory. I miss him very much and always will. He was a huge part of my life when I first came to town, scared, no money and filled with dreams. Andy never made fun of me – he encouraged and insisted that I push the envelope.
Andy and I were going to go on People’s Court and I was going to play the abused assistant against an impossible boss. He would win, and as I left the court I’d tell the reporter he lied and how I felt cheated. Andy’s plan was to tell the same reporter, “She’s right but I won!” And he wanted to go on about how it was fun to be an abusive boss and that he got one over on the judge. A relevant performer that reminds me a bit of Andy is Sasha Baron Cohen. Andy came along when there was no one to compare him to – it’s what made him so loveable to me. He was simply put, Andy.
AC: The Internet is filled with rumors that Andy is still alive. Can you officially put that rumor to rest and what would Andy think about all that?
EM: Andy would love that everyone thought he was faking his death. In all truth, he would never have done that to his family or his closest friends. Andy was out there but he wasn’t cruel. But love the attention? Oh yeah.
AC: What would Andy think about Shorty & Morty?
EM: He would want to be a part of it and help me make it even better. Andy would’ve loved it and it’s odd to say but I feel him in this particular project more than anything I’ve written. Although, there’s a graphic novel of a script I wrote that has hidden references to Andy. It’s a thriller. That, he would really get a kick out of. As a matter of fact, I just remembered he took me to Midget Wrestling. He would love that Dana Michael Woods is a black dwarf who gets the girl as Morty. Andy loved when the underdog got the girl.
Check out the Shorty & Morty trailer. You can find more information on Eva-Marie Frederic here, and listen to the audio of a previous Eva interview at DylanBrody’s Neighbor’sCouch.com. Eva will return to the podcast on October 7, 2012. Also, you can discover Dylan Brody information and merchandise here.
About the Author: Darren Staley is the host of Atari-winning podcast Dylan Brody's Neighbor's Couch, based out of North Carolina or Los Angeles. He is known in comedy circles as "Who?" or "Oh, That Guy." Darren's two biggest fears are spiders and Paul Provenza.