'Completely Hollywood': 197 Films, Abridged Most people will never have time to see the greatest 200 American films of all time, so the Reduced Shakespeare Company is making it a little easier. The three-man troupe condensed 197 of what they deem Hollywood's best — from Chinatown to the six Rocky's — into a stage show that runs under two hours.
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'Completely Hollywood': 197 Films, Abridged

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'Completely Hollywood': 197 Films, Abridged

'Completely Hollywood': 197 Films, Abridged

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Most of us probably don't have the time to take in 200 great American films in one sitting. So The Reduced Shakespeare Company has made it a little easier. The three-man troupe, best known for boiling down the bard and granulating the great books, has now condensed 197 of what they consider Hollywood's best into a stage show that runs under two hours. After all, you could waste that time on "Citizen Kane" alone. How much better to throw in "Avatar," "The Sound of Music," "Chinatown," all six "Rocky"s and, well, so much more.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company brought "Completely Hollywood Abridged" here to Washington, D.C. for a run at the Kennedy Center. Today, Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin and Dominic Conti join us here in Studio 4A. If you'd like to propose a cinematic condensation, if you'd like them to downsize your favorite film, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Oliver Stone joins us. His new documentary, "South of the Border" showed at the Silverdocs festival last night. But first, Austin Tichenor, Reed Marin and Dominic Conti, The Reduced Shakespeare Company, thanks very much for coming, appreciate your time today.

Unidentified Man #1 (Reduced Shakespeare Company): Thanks for having us.

Unidentified Man #2 (Reduced Shakespeare Company): Thank you for having...

Unidentified Man #3 (Reduced Shakespeare Company): Thanks for bringing all these staff members in here. They get younger every year.

CONAN: Indeed they do.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, absolutely.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Why don't you get us started with a taste of "Completely Hollywood Abridged"?

Unidentified Man #1: All right. Well, here's the first thing you need to know about the movies.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, this is Hollywood Lesson #1.

Unidentified Man #3: Write this down.

Unidentified Man #1: Every new movie is just a combination of two old movies.

Unidentified Man #2: Right.

Unidentified Man #3: See, I could see a lot of our people out there nodding. You all knew all this. Studios don't want to take any risks.

Unidentified Man #1: Because movies are incredibly expensive to make, and that's why every new movie that comes out is either a straight remake of an old movie - "Casino Royale," "Batman," "Karate Kid"...

Unidentified Man #3: Or a combination of two old movie ideas.

Unidentified Man #2: Right, like they combine James Bond and "Home Alone" and get "Spy Kids."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Uh-huh. Or they mix "My Fair Lady" and "Klute" and get "Pretty Woman."

Unidentified Man #1: Uh-huh. Or you mix "Unforgiven" with "The Birdcage" and get "Brokeback Mountain."

Unidentified Man #2: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: You know what? Gene Kelly could take Dustin Hoffman to Las Vegas in "Singing in the Rain Man."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. Or Meg Ryan could fake an orgasm for Clint Eastwood, "When Dirty Harry Met Sally."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. Eddie Murphy, Winona Ryder, "Dr. Doolittle Women."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: No? Maybe not.

Unidentified Man #2: You know what? This one has Oscar winner written all over it: Kevin Bacon teaches a disabled writer to dance in "My Left Footloose."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, all singing, all dancing aboard a German submarine, "Das Showboat."

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

CONAN: That's Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin and Dominic Conti performing "Completely Hollywood Abridged" at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C., here in Studio 4A. Again, if you'd like them to condense your favorite film down to 15 seconds ago - of complete absurdity, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

And why did you eventually - you did The Bible, you did all of Shakespeare - great, great language. Now you're taking on "Rocky"?

Unidentified Man #2: Well, yes, we're taking on something really important for a change. I mean, it just seemed like, you know, the whole world - we boiled down Hollywood into 12 easy lessons, because the whole world is addicted to the movies.

Unidentified Man #3: So it seems only appropriate to look at Hollywood through a 12-step program.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, yeah. Hollywood is taking over the world. It really is the dominant cultural force of the 21st century.

Unidentified Man #3: And an international commodity.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: Do you know what America's largest multi-billion-dollar export is?

Unidentified Man #2: The movies.

Unidentified Man #3: No, weapons.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: But the movies are a close second.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, we've taken serious topics - Western literature, American history, The Bible, and so we thought, well, maybe we'll go in a more popular direction.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: Doesn't "Transformers 2" get a turn?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, absolutely.

Unidentified Man #1: It should.

Unidentified Man #2: It should. Well, and also, we love the movies. That was the other thing. We spent so many years doing our shows, reducing these subjects, and we absolutely love the movies for different reasons.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, I mean I love, you know, escapism. You know, I love movies with special effects like "Avatar" or where they use miniatures or where they turn the camera 90 degrees to make it look like they're climbing up the side of a building.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. I love thoughtful, independent, totally unbiased films like "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, exactly.

Unidentified Man #2: You know what? I love to watch actors stretching themselves, you know, doing things they're not necessarily good at, like Clint Eastwood singing or Keanu Reaves acting - you know what I mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: But you're sure you've picked the - that's an interesting number, 197 great American films of all time?

Unidentified Man #1: Actual greatness may vary.

CONAN: Ah...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, it's supposed to inspire debate and conversation. You know, there's - a lot of lists come out, and everybody sort of agrees, all right, "Citizen Kane," "Godfather"s one and two, "All About Eve," "Gone with the Wind."

Unidentified Man #3: "Ben-Hur."

Unidentified Man #1: "Ben-Hur." These are some of the great films, but we...

CONAN: And "Benji" one, two and three.

Unidentified Man #1: "Benji" one, two and three, and "Rocky"s one through 12. But it was just, it was great for us to just kind of examine a more populist subject.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, I mean, there's some agreement on the top 25, and after that, what did we have funny ideas for, what would be people like - and it ended up at 197.

CONAN: Anything that works.

Unidentified Man #1: Exactly.

Unidentified Man #3: Exactly.

Unidentified Man #2: You know, and our favorite movie of all time is "Wordplay" starring Neal Conan.

CONAN: Of course, and, well, you know how to get a hand there.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, yes.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Let's see if we can get callers in on the conversation, 800-989 -Will Shortz might object to that. Anyway...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: ...800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And this is Deborah(ph), Deborah calling us from - ooh boy, I can hardly read that - well, you're going to have to pronounce that, Deborah.

DEBORAH (Caller): Okeechobee.

CONAN: Okeechobee, okay, there you go.

DEBORAH: I was calling - "Steel Magnolias," did they work on - have they worked on that movie at all? That's my favorite.

CONAN: "Steel Magnolias."

Unidentified Man #2: "Steel Magnolias." It would be so great for the three, us three guys to play those six women.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEBORAH: There are a lot of one-liners in that one.

Unidentified Man #2: There are a lot of good - Robert Harling is an excellent screenwriter. And Dolly Parton's arguably best work, I would say.


Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Lions and tigers and bears.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: Whatever that means.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Is there another way you could spin "Steel Magnolias," though, like, you know: "Steel Magnolias." You know, like could it be a hard-core sort of action movie?

Unidentified Man #2: Well, we do do - we combine movies. That's one of the things that we discovered as we talked about it. Movies are combinations of old movies, and we don't really do "Steel Magnolias," but we do do a Jane Austen action-movie chick-flick called "Darcy's Angels." So you'll have to come to - come to the Kennedy Center until July 11 to see that.

Unidentified Man #1: Absolutely.

CONAN: Deborah, thanks very much.

DEBORAH: Well, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next - this is, I know this is Kalamazoo, that's easier to pronounce, and it's Jim(ph). Jim's on the line.

JIM (Caller): Yeah, I actually had a question, as far as what two movies they had in mind that created the movie "The Crow" with Brandon Lee.

CONAN: "The Crow," the chop-socky film.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, the chop-socky - that's the film on which Brandon Lee died.

Unidentified Man #1: Isn't it?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: We couldn't find a lot of humor in that.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, that was not that funny, but it was, yeah, sort of Marlin Perkins' "Wild Kingdom" meets "Spiderman"? No, I don't know. The superhero movie? The dead come back to life? No, there's a reason, as you can tell, why we didn't cover that movie.

CONAN: "The Birds" meet "Darkman"?

Unidentified Man #1: "The Birds" meet "Darkman," well done.

Unidentified Man #3: With a touch of "Freaks" in there?

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

CONAN: That could be, yes. One thing you learn: Never cross the freak.

Unidentified Man #2: Absolutely.

CONAN: Tod Browning lives. Thanks very much for the call, Jim.

JIM: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. As you go about this - you talk about these combinations of films, the 12 rules of cinema. Is one of them, in fact, that all films are made from two other films?

Unidentified Man #2: That's one. That is Hollywood lesson number one, yeah.

CONAN: There have to be others.

Unidentified Man #2: Well, and there's all - Hollywood lesson number two is that in the movies you want to show it, don't say it, right? In other words, don't say something if you can show it instead. Try to tell your story visually. Use action, not words. Be physical, not verbal.

CONAN: That's how - we say that in radio too.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, well, exactly right. Yeah, show it, don't say it. You know, just don't keep - just explain it. You want your movies to be visual, not oral, O-R-A-L or A-U-R-A-L. I mean, the point is, don't just stand there talking long after the audience has understood what you're saying. Do you understand what I'm saying, Neal?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Let me see if I can explain it better. You know, just get to the point. Be succinct.

Unidentified Man #1: Thank...

Unidentified Man #2: Well...

Unidentified Man #1: Succinctly put.

Unidentified Man #2: I think I said that. I think I've clarified that.

Unidentified Man #1: Short and to the point.

CONAN: Terse, if you will.

Unidentified Man #1: "Terse of the d'Urbervilles," yes.

CONAN: But there's a whole realm of cinema, maybe its first 30 years, that's totally closed to you because they only had title cards. It was silent movies.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, it's not closed to us. In fact, let's - here's our...

Unidentified Man #2: Here's our little tribute to the great era of the silent movies.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: Thanks.

CONAN: "All Quiet on the Western Front."

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. That works better on stage, when people...

CONAN: It's funny how that...

Unidentified Man #2: You know, let's not do that on the radio next time. That really died a death. Okay.

Unidentified Man #1: And no mime.

Unidentified Man #2: The most important Hollywood lesson that we learned?

Unidentified Man #1: Well, the most important Hollywood lesson? Well, there's only two movie plots.

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, that's true.

Unidentified Man #2: Wait, wait, only two - say that again. Why?

Unidentified Man #1: Every movie ever made is either about coming of age or a fish out of water.

Unidentified Man #2: No.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: Talk us through this.

Unidentified Man #1: Okay, well, in a coming-of-age movie, the lead begins immature, but by the end he grows up and discovers what's truly important.

Unidentified Man #2: Hold on. The two movie plots are boy meets girl and the Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #1: No, like Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars," coming of age. He finds his destiny.

Unidentified Man #3: Wait a second. Luke Skywalker is the chosen one. He's the savior of the galaxy. That's the Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #1: No. Now, in a fish-out-of-water movie, the lead ends up someplace where he doesn't fit in.

Unidentified Man #3: Like Peter Sellers in "Being There."

Unidentified Man #1: Exactly.

Unidentified Man #3: Gotcha. Chauncey Gardiner walks on water, for God's sake. That's the Jesus story.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: So wait, so "E.T." and "Beverly Hills Cop" are fish-out-of-water stories, but what about "The Graduate"?

Unidentified Man #1: Coming of age.

Unidentified Man #3: Boy meets girl.

Unidentified Man #2: "Splash."

(Soundbite of clearing throat)

Unidentified Man #1: Fish out of water.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: All right, "When Harry Met Sally."

Unidentified Man #3: Boy meets girl.

Unidentified Man #2: "The Way We Were."

Unidentified Man #3: Goy meets girl.

Unidentified Man #2: "The Crying Game."

Unidentified Man #3: Boy is girl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: "Silence of the Lambs."

Unidentified Man #3: Boy eats girl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: What about "The Graduate"?

Unidentified Man #1: Coming of age.

Unidentified Man #3: The Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #2: No!

Unidentified Man #3: Come on. In "The Graduate," you know, Dustin Hoffman rides off in the bus with a young lady, and he didn't know how it's going to end.

Unidentified Man #2: Well, what about "The Godfather"? What about "The Godfather"?

Unidentified Man #1: Coming of age.

Unidentified Man #3: Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #1: No.

Unidentified Man #3: Michael Corleone is the son of God... father. Think about it.

Unidentified Man #2: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: What about Harry Potter?

Unidentified Man #3: The Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #2: "The Matrix"?

Unidentified Man #3: Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #2: "Jesus Christ Superstar"?

Unidentified Man #1: Fish out of water.

Unidentified Man #3: Fish out of water.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And as we all know, from the end of "The Graduate," what do we do now? The Reduced Shakespeare Company are with us here in Studio 4A -Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin and Dominic Conti. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. Thats at npr.org.

If you've got a favorite film that you'd like to see them condense or some film that you think is the product of two other films, usually better to begin with, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Usually, when the Reduced Shakespeare Company performs, they take about two hours to run through 200 or so of their favorite Hollywood films. Today, we're giving them about 40 minutes.

Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin, Dominic Conti of the Reduced Shakespeare Company are with us. They're performing "Completely Hollywood Abridged" right now at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C. Well, actually, they're performing bits from it right here in Studio 4A.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: If you've got a favorite movie you'd like them to downsize for us, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And we've got some people here with questions in our studio audience.

ALLISON(ph) (Audience Member): I'm Allison from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I was wondering if y'all could condense "Grease."

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, well, if we go back to the thing about there's only two movie plots, I think any movie that anybody would say, we could say which of the two movie plots it falls into.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, "Grease" is boy meets girl. It's boy meets girl, and it's also sort of coming of age.

Unidentified Man #1: Yep. Absolutely.

Unidentified Man #2: You could also say that it's the Jesus story because sort of John Travolta saved the first movie, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: And was not there to save the second.

Unidentified Man #2: He was not there to save the second and third.

Unidentified Man #3: We needed a second coming there, and it didn't happen.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, we did.

CONAN: Or "Bye Bye Birdie" meets better music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: A question from a caller with a very bad line, so can you combine "American Beauty" and "The Shawshank Redemption"?

Unidentified Man #3: Wow, "American Beauty" and "The Shawshank Redemption."

Unidentified Man #2: I love my neighbor's daughter.

(Soundbite of screaming)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: For those of you listening, that was a visual.

Unidentified Man #2: Again, these visual things don't work on the radio so much. That's so odd.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Alex(ph), and Alex calling from Kansas City.

ALEX (Caller): Two quick questions. One is are you guys coming to the Kansas City metro area? I would love to see you perform. Two, could you condense "The Matrix" series into 15 seconds or less and/or "Super Troopers"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Two very similar films. Yes.

Unidentified Man #2: Well, "The Matrix" is easy to reduce: Whoa.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I thought that was "Bill and Ted."

Unidentified Man #1: It is.

Unidentified Man #3: The movie would last only a couple seconds if he took the other pill, right?

Unidentified Man #1: That's right.

Unidentified Man #2: It was also "Much Ado About Nothing."

CONAN: That's getting back to your original schtick, so - come on.

Unidentified Man #2: And "Super Troopers," that's obviously when the big lizards come down from the other planet and start singing ABBA songs. I think that's what "Super Troopers" was about.

ALEX: That was "Starship Troopers." No, "Super Troopers" was about the cops in the highway patrol.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, right, yeah. So that's "Reno 911" meets any cop-buddy movie, buddy-cop movie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much.

Unidentified Man #2: And oh, we would love to come to Kansas City, anytime.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, check our website. We have our tour dates.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, reducedshakespeare.com, if I'm allowed to plug for a website.

CONAN: Isn't this all just a plot to write cable TV off of your taxes?

Unidentified Man #1: We can't really say.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, absolutely it is. It's also a plot to try to get on cable TV.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We have another questioner here at the microphone in the studio.

BREANNE(ph) (Caller): Hi, I'm Breanne from Los Angeles, and I was hoping you would reduce "The Big Lebowski."

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, that would be "The Small Lebowski."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: I am drinking a Caucasian right now.

CONAN: I'm trying to work "Bowling for Columbine" in there somewhere, but...

Unidentified Man #2: Well, "The Big Lebowski" is also sort of a coming-of-age movie, as well, wouldn't you say?

Unidentified Man #3: A little Jesus story there, too. The Dude.

Unidentified Man #2: The Dude. You know, The Dude abidith.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Yeth, he doeth.

Unidentified Man #3: You need to get that fixed.

Unidentified Man #2: I do need to get that fixed.

CONAN: Well, every once in a while, he wins an Oscar, too, so - let's go to Jacob(ph), Jacob with us from Little Rock.

JACOB (Caller): Hey, thanks for taking my call. I was just wondering if there was any serious tension in choosing the movies between the three of you guys.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, there used to be four of us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, there is tension. We argue quite a bit about -all the time about what our favorite movie is. Your favorite movie is...

Unidentified Man #1: "Rocky IV."

Unidentified Man #2: Really?

CONAN: Which one was that?

Unidentified Man #1: "Rocky IV."

CONAN: I know, but which one is "Rocky IV"?

Unidentified Man #1: Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed during a fight.

CONAN: Okay, all right, the Russian one.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, the good one, the good "Rocky."

CONAN: Okay.

Unidentified Man #3: Here's an example of some of the tension.

CONAN: Not the one that won the Oscar.

Unidentified Man #3: I'm feeling it right now. Right in the old bloodstream. Of all the great movies you could pick, "Rocky IV" is your favorite?

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, you want to make something out of it, string bean? I'll break you like a pretzel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: I withdraw my complaint.

Unidentified Man #2: But you know, that is sort of Hollywood Lesson 11.5, right?

Unidentified Man #3: There's no accounting for taste.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Jacob, thanks very much for the call.

JACOB: Thanks.

CONAN: Email from Charles(ph) in Minnesota: Tom Cruise and Will Smith in "Born on the Fourth of July," "Independence Day."

Unidentified Man #1: Now he's writing our material for us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: He wants 10 percent if you use it.

Unidentified Man #2: He's the president of the department of redundancy department.

CONAN: This again from David(ph) in Knoxville: Combine all the "Star Trek" movies and the "Star War" movies into one movie.

Unidentified Man #2: Wow.

Unidentified Man #3: Can we leave out the last three, or first three, depending on how you define it, "Star Wars?"

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, can we leave out - yeah, if we leave out the first, the second trilogy of "Star Wars," and if we leave off the odd-numbered "Star Trek" movies...

Unidentified Man #3: Yes, exactly.

Unidentified Man #2: I think we'll be...

Unidentified Man #3: Keep "Wrath of Khan" in there.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, keep "Wrath of Khan" in there. Keep two, four, six, eight, and the new one.

CONAN: And the new one's good.

Unidentified Man #2: And the new one's good, yes. So yes, we could totally do that.

CONAN: Otherwise, you end up with "Galaxy Quest."

Unidentified Man #2: Also not a bad movie.

Unidentified Man #1: You could do a lot worse.

CONAN: Very nice little movie. And one of the great lessons of cinema, or "Star Trek" in that, is when Tony Shaloub goes down to the elevator, wait a minute. I'm not going down to that planet. I'm the extra crewman. I'm going to get killed.

Unidentified Man #1: That's it, that's it.

Unidentified Man #2: By Grabthar's hammer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Charles(ph), Charles with us from Charleston.

CHARLES (Caller): Yeah, my favorite movie is about a fish out of water who comes of age because he meets a girl. It's the original "Karate Kid," and I'd love to hear that broken down.

Unidentified Man #2: Wax on, wax off, my man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: "The Karate Infant."

Unidentified Man #2: That's how you'd reduce that even further? "The Karate Toddler"?

Unidentified Man #3: I thought it was curious that that crane move that he pulls off in the first one then comes back to bite him in the tushie in, what is it, the second or the third one because then the guy does defend it. So that makes Pat Morita a liar.

That's not really a part of anything but, you know, just something that's bothering me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you for sharing, Dom.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, it's been stuck in my craw for a while. Glad you brought it up, Charles.

CONAN: This is Michael(ph) from Lansing in Texas, excuse me, Lansing, Kansas, wants to hear how you might reduce "Lawrence of Arabia."

Unidentified Man #1: Wow.

Unidentified Man #2: It needed it.

CONAN: It needed it because it was in two parts.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, it wasn't...

Unidentified Man #1: "Lawrence of Suburbia." We can keep it closer to home. And we'll just call him Larry, "Larry of Suburbia."

Unidentified Man #2: "Larry of Suburbia."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: And put him on a golf course. Get rid of all that sand.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, the sand is too much. It makes me thirsty.

Unidentified Man #2: No, yeah, that's what we need to do. I mean, one of the other things we learned about Hollywood movies is that no matter how long it is, no matter how reduced it is, you've got to fill your Hollywood movie with beautiful movie stars. That's the way to make it a hit.

Unidentified Man #3: Beautiful and tall.

Unidentified Man #2: Well, actually, a lot of movie stars are shorter than you think because, you know, in fact, my idol, Tom Cruise, is legally a hobbit. So that's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: I'll buy that.

CONAN: Let's go to Veronica(ph), Veronica with us from Baton Rouge.

VERONICA (Caller): Hi. I'd like you to combine all things Nick Cage.

CONAN: All things Nick Cage so lots of drinking on Air Con.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, lots of drinking on Air Con, and it depends, if Nick Cage in serious mode, he doesn't wear a hairpiece.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: But when he's in bad Hollywood action movie, he wears a series of elaborate hairpieces.

Unidentified Man #3: Much like William Shatner.

Unidentified Man #2: Exactly.

Unidentified Man #3: Different ones for different films.

Unidentified Man #1: Different films. So it really depends on the Nick Cage toupee. Toupee or not toupee, really.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: One of us, probably me, would have to work on my Nick Cage mumble. I'd have to get it down.

CONAN: Get a little more volume. We need a little more volume.

Unidentified Man #3: That's all I had.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Oh, sorry.

Unidentified Man #3: Like I said, I'm working on it.

CONAN: I thought you were going to disappear into the pyramid there and find something for us.

Unidentified Man #3: No.

CONAN: Anyway, thanks very much, Veronica. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Chip(ph), Chip calling us from Portland.

CHIP (Caller): Yes, I had an interest in what they might do for "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Unidentified Man #1: Ooh, yeah, "11: Space Odyssey."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Twenty, "20: Space Odyssey." Yeah, just stick with the monkeys. I liked that movie up until it got into space.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Only the first 45 minutes, then.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: But you have an opinion about another Stanley Kubrick movie.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, Stanley Kubrick - well, okay, this is going to go against people's grains, but I think Stanley Kubrick is the mayor of the overrated, you know.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, man, burn, super-burn.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, "Shining" was a great book, terrible movie. There, I said it. I meant it.

Unidentified Man #3: "Eyes Wide Shut"?

Unidentified Man #2: "Eyes Wide Shut," you know, I never - I liked that movie so much, I didn't even see it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Too busy with "Clockwork Puce," perhaps.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Now "Dr. Strangelove," however, great movie.

CONAN: That's a great movie.

Unidentified Man #2: Great movie, fantastic.

CONAN: Which of the Sellers characters did you like the best?

CHIP: Oh, me? Oh, I would say probably Mandrake.

Unidentified Man #2: Was he the president?

CHIP: No, no, he was the colonel that was assigned to the Air Force base.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, yeah. I love his presence.

CONAN: Was there a Colonel Bat Guano in that too?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: But I also like Peter Sellers' American president and his accent for his American president, very, very good.

CHIP: President Muffley.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CONAN: There's a great - there's an absolutely awful movie called "After the Fox," which is just filled with incredible talent, people who made wonderful films in many other contexts except this one, and in it, Peter Sellers is forced to play an American. He doesn't speak English and just goes into a restaurant, the only good part of the movie, and just makes noises in an American accent.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, now I'm going to rent that.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: It sounds pretty good, actually.

CONAN: It's actually pretty good.

Unidentified Man #2: That's what "House" is all about. Isn't that "House"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Hugh Laurie, that's what he's doing, I think. Yeah.

CONAN: Brad wants to know about "Chinatown."

Unidentified Man #2: Who doesn't? Forget it, Brad. It's "Chinatown."

CONAN: It's "Chinatown."

Unidentified Man #2: "China Alley." Yeah. Yeah. "China Court."

CONAN: "Wizard of Oz." Girl meets...

Unidentified Man #1: Monkeys. Fish out of water.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah...

CONAN: Fish out of Water

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, girl meets scarecrow.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

CONAN: Uh-huh.

Unidentified Man #1: Little Jesus story in there.

Unidentified Man #2: The wizard, I guess. That could be the Jesus story.

Unidentified Man #3: Absolutely. Depending and - yeah. I mean, we do a version where Toto is played by Yoda. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Follow the yellow brick road, we must.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Max(ph) is on the line from - is this Pink in Oklahoma?

MAX (Caller): Pink, Oklahoma, yes. I'm interested in your takeoff on Mel Brooks or Woody Allen movies.

CONAN: Taking off of the taker-offers.

MAX: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: All we try to do is be as good as they are, you know, we wish.

MAX: "Blazing Saddles."

Unidentified Man #1: "Blazing Saddles." We do our own - yeah, we do our Western - we do a Western but with far fewer - much less flatulence.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: It's trickier to put the comic hammer to stuff that's already pretty darn funny.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: You know, like it's easier to take like, you know...

MAX: The world needs humor, thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. That's true.

Unidentified Man #1: We agree. And we couldn't find the humor in Woody Allen's off-screen antics either so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: ...decided to stay away from that.

CONAN: I'd like to hear, writes Paul(ph) by email, "Top Gun," the greatest movie ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Okay, there's a problem with the premise. But...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. So how do we reduce "Top Gun"?

Unidentified Man #2: "Bottom Pistol"?

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: And there's, you know, I mean, you know, there's some boy-meets-boy business going on in there or something.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. Absolutely.

Unidentified Man #1: And there's some theories that would back that up.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, that's right. It's not quite boy meets girl, it's...

Unidentified Man #1: I'm writing a book about it.

Unidentified Man #2: It's boy meets boy, boy meets jet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And boy sings a lot of songs on the jukebox too...

Unidentified Man #1: That's right, boy....

CONAN: ...the Righteous Brothers.

Unidentified Man #1: It's sort of a, yeah, it's sort of an '80s, one of those '80s romantic musical montages, which is such a great Hollywood cliche, which we try to dabble in. We get all the Hollywood cliches into our show - and plus a few cliches that we made up.

CONAN: You made up cliches?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. But we also found a bunch of cliches. Like if a character coughs in a movie, he's dying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: They're dead by the end.

Unidentified Man #3: They're dead by the end, you know?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

CONAN: Did that formula, by the way, for the old Perry Mason TV show -it is always the character with the fewest lines in the first half hour.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes. Yes. It's...

CONAN: If there's an elevator operator, he says "Going up," he did it.

Unidentified Man #2: He did it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: That is all - or it's always the really great actor that you're sitting there the entire movie going, I wonder why he took this role.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, he's Keyser Soze.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh. Now I know.

Unidentified Man #3: Sitting there with a smug look on his face, just waiting.

CONAN: We're talking with the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin, and Dominic Conti, about their show, "Completely Hollywood (abridged.)"

Unidentified Man #1: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can go next to, this is Leslie(ph), and Leslie is with us from Wasilla in Alaska.

Unidentified Man #1: We're getting people from, just from comedy town names.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Wasilla, Wiper, Oingo Boingo.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. Yeah, Okeechobee.

Unidentified Man #1: Okeechobee.

Unidentified Man #3: Okeechobee, Kalamazoo. Somebody from Cucamonga soon.

CONAN: Yeah. All right. Wasilla, you're up.

LESLIE (Caller): Hey, guys. Well, you know, Wasilla is funny for so many reasons, but... whole different conversation...

(Soundbite of laughter)

LESLIE: I am so thrilled and amazed about this troop being on the show today because I was a fan of the Reduced Shakespeare Company - oh my gosh - 30 plus years ago, when it was a group of guys who were friends with my older brother, Jerry, at the Renaissance Fair in California.

Unidentified Man #1: That's where we started.

Unidentified Man #2: That's right.

LESLIE: And it is so cool. You guys have actually even been to Anchorage and I was able to see you here last year, or two years ago.

CONAN: Leslie, they're still wearing tights.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LESLIE: So, you know, I just thought it'd be fun to hear a little bit about, you know, how the troupe has evolved since those Renaissance Fair days and how amazing it is that you guys are still together.

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you first of all for making us feel very, very old.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LESLIE: I'm there with you.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes. We were all five when the troupe started. And, well, it started in Renaissance festivals in Northern and Southern California, doing 20-minute versions of reductions of Shakespeare's work and passing the hat. And that's where our style developed - fast, funny, and physical - to keep people at the shows to the very end, and they'd throw money into the hat. And it was done for the love of it, on weekends in the summers at these ren fairs.

Unidentified Man #2: For almost 10 years.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. And it evolved into a fulltime job around 1990. We ran for a year in London in '92, '93. We came to the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C. for the first time in 1994. That kind of put us on the map here.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Unidentified Man #1: And then with this troupe, ran three shows in rep in London for about 10 years at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus, our Shakespeare show, our Bible show, and American history show. So kind of what Jerry Lewis is to France, we are to England. We're old, bloated and angry.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: And we're hoping to - I think we're coming to Fairbanks sometime in 2011.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: Right. Right.

Unidentified Man #1: So we'll be back up in Alaska.

CONAN: Leslie, thanks very much. Here's an email. This is from David in Laramie: I just tried to log on to the Reduced Shakespeare Company website and it's overwhelmed with traffic and you cannot access it. So I guess both lines are crammed.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, that's the first time I think that more than two people have tried to do it at the same time.

Unidentified Man #2: And you know what, somebody probably cut the string between the tin cans, so yeah...

CONAN: One thing you haven't done though: documentaries. Do you do documentaries?

Unidentified Man #1: Well, we...

Unidentified Man #2: They're kind of dry.

Unidentified Man #1: They are - they are a little dry. And also one of our favorite genres is Westerns. So we thought there was a way to combine, you know, the action of a Western with the hard-hitting social analysis of a documentary.

Unidentified Man #2: That might go a little something like this.

(Soundbite of singing)

Unidentified Man #1: Well done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: I'm calling you out, Nimrod.

Unidentified Man #1: I ain't backing down, Beelzebub. Your campfire is polluting the air.

Unidentified Man #2: It's my land. You eco-Nazis can't tell me what to do.

Unidentified Man #1: Your carbon footprint's having a negative impact on this here ecosystem.

Unidentified Man #2: Next thing you'll tell me, I got to stop eating beans.

Unidentified Man #1: Yup, greenhouse gases.

Unidentified Man #2: I ain't got to listen to your speechifying.

Unidentified Man #1: I reckon you'll listen to anything I got to say.

Unidentified Man #2: I reckon on the count of three we'll let our guns do the talking. One, two...

Unidentified Man #3: Now, hold on a minute, fellows.

Unidentified Man #1 and #2 (in unison): It's Nobel Prize-winning sheriff Al Gore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Stay out of this, Sheriff.

Unidentified Man #2: It don't concern you.

Unidentified Man #3: Global warming concerns all of us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: You need to put your guns in a special lock box.

Unidentified Man #1: We can't let these people get away with it, Sheriff.

Unidentified Man #3: I hear you. And together we can find a solution. After all, I did invent the Internet.

If you just come back to the jailhouse, we can watch my DVD. Global warming is both a challenge and an opportunity. And now that I'm 95 percent Tipper-free, I can really focus on it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Glad to see that one has a happy ending.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin, Dominic Conti, the Reduced Shakespeare Company with us here in Studio 4A. Thank you very much for your time today.

Unidentified Man #1: Thanks for having us.

Unidentified Man #2: Thank you, NPR.

(Soundbite of applause)

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