Bill and Clay capture the spirit of do-it-yourself TV

Spotlight -Sentinel - Friday, Dec. 1, 1995
By WALLACE BAINE Sentinel Staff Writer

IN A KINGDOM ruled by Ace Ventura, Bill Goff and Clay Butler would likely be dukes, counts or, at the very least, feudal lords. Like Jim Carrey's enormously popular alter ego, Bill and Clay understand the beauty of a well-turned poop joke. They know that even the most pointed social commentary goes down easier with heaping globs of sarcasm. They see that in every mature, sophisticated, literate adult, there is a Beavis dying to get out. As the Lords of The Bill and Clay Show, the two are funhouse curiosities to thousands of Santa Cruz County channel surfers. Fixtures on Community Television's arts channel ? TCI's channel 71, Bill and Clay are the closest Santa Cruz comes to Wayne and Garth of "Wayne's World" fame: two unrepentant rough-around-the-edges wackos playing out juvenile fantasies for kicks with nobody breathing down their necks about ratings. They are the spirit, if not exactly the ideal, of public access TV. 'It's definitely guy humor," says Bill, 32, of "Bill and Clay" which airs each Friday evening at 8 p.m. and alternately at various times throughout the week. "Yeah, I guess we're into gross out jokes," adds Clay, 29. "Like we just did an ad parody, like a Ronco commercial, on this thing that cleans out all your orifices at once. We call it the Orifice?O?Matic." " That's the Orifice?O?Matic 2000," says Bill.

Ad parodies are, in fact, the bread and butter of "The Bill and Clay Show," soon to air its 12th episode. There's the "Hemp Hair Club for Men" spot, selling wigs woven from cannabis and featuring a spokesman who introduces himself as "another bald man in denial." There's "Little Frosted Sugar Cubes breakfast cereal ("Free Satan mask inside"). There's also the "Masters Institute of Obsolete Technologies" and the call?in "Psychic Sports Sex Line." The "Hooked on Phonics" gag features stoners learning to read words like "crystal meth" and "barbiturates." But true to its calling as a sort of poor man's "Saturday Night Live" "Bill and Clay" has a little bit of everything for everybody. "We do a variety show basically," says Clay. "It's got puppetry, animation, skit comedy, satire. We take jabs at local issues. And we feature a local band every show. Every episode we try to do something we've never done before." How about a clay-mation sequence built around a talking mound of feces? Done that. 0r, how about a stop-action animation skit involving a drunken joy ride that ends up with broken and vomiting bodies on the pavement? Done that one too.

As you may have picked up by now, Bill and Clay are not exactly aiming for the intellectual heavens. Though their humor can often be clever, cutting and confrontational, it can just as often be crude and puerile. But in a world of Howard Stern, Al Bundy and "Dumb and Dumber," "The Bill and Clay show" might indeed be parked solidly in the mainstream. "We're a little crazy sometimes," says Clay. "But we know what's funny. We don't, for example, find cruelty funny or racism funny. Whatever we do, it's usually positive and fun." If you don't find vomiting particularly witty, you still might wonder how Bill and Clay got toy action figure to toss their cookies. In other words, if the humor doesn't turn you on, the inventiveness of the animation techniques might.

Bill and Clay try a little bit of everything in their show from hand puppets to stick figures to claymation. One skit, titled "Angry Dan the Abusive Man" cleverly uses paper collage cut?out animation. Another, using simple stop-action animation, shows Clay stick a carrot up his right nostril and pull it out his left, a trick you won't find in many of Noel Coward's comedies. Both Bill and Clay work as artists, painting designs on tiles for a Seaside ceramic company, though they each make Santa Cruz their home. "We found out that we both had a lot in common," said Clay, the one with the surf boy good looks -and the scraggly mane of shoulder-length hair. "We both went to art colleges. We both left art colleges. We were both in bands at one point. And we both have the same sense of humor." Each guy has his pet influences. Bill talks about Jonathan Winters and "Mork and Mindy." Clay talks even more passionately about the bizarre live-action puppet shows of Sid and Marty Krofft: " 'H.R. Puffenstuff.' 'Sigmund the Sea Monster,' 'Lidsville.' As a kid, I didn't realize the heavy psychedelic influence behind those shows." Bill's current hero is British animator Nick Park. who produced the cult hit video "The Wrong Trousers," a claymation classic. "I look at that and I'm thinkin? 'How did he do that? Think of the time that went into that."

Time is a big factor as well at "The Bill and Clay Show." The two estimate that they each spend roughly 40 hours a month on their show - they are, it should be added, volunteers and don't get paid for their work. "Animation takes the longest," says Clay. 'It's always four frames and stop, four frames and stop." "To get a good minute and a half of claymation," adds Bill who in contrast to his partner is bald and goateed, "It takes about, oh, six hours. And things go wrong too. An arm will break off or something."

Bill and Clay pay a great deal of attention as well to the backgrounds for their puppet skits. They use the technology at their disposal (crude but getting better) masterfully and efficiently. And they get around technological problems with some clever short cuts. For example, in the "Psychic Sports Sex Line" parody, an illusion of a split screen is created using two differently decorated halves of the same set separated by a thick black line recorded in the camera's memory, a sort of double exposure. "We invited Bill and Clay to do a producers' seminar for us," said Community Television's director Laura Greenfield. "And everyone who showed up was really impressed by what they've done. Everybody was also in rolling in the aisles. It may not be in everyone's taste, but it's extremely creative and it has inspired people to call up and help them out." But don't these guys have better things to do? Why are they pouring time, energy and money into this show? "Oh, I already visualize us as a big show with national ratings," says Clay. "All we gotta do is to continue topping and improving ourselves."

The two have already won a spot in Spike & Mike's "Sick and Twisted" animation film festival for 1996, which travels the country in hopes of connecting animation artists with an audience. Currently, the two are considering hiring an agent in hopes of making "The Bill and Clay Show" a bigger commodity, perhaps even the spiritual heirs of "Beavis and Butt?head." Right now, we're taking it of slow and learning how to protect ourselves and our ideas," says Bill. "We want to learn from the mistakes of others who've signed contracts with production companies not knowing what it is they signed." Until then, expect more comic mayhem and commercial parodies (Wait till you see "Hammered beer") as "The Bill and Clay Show" continues to give Community Television some sorely needed adolescent energy. "We have the luxury of just sitting back and seeing what happens," said Clay. "We're going to control our creation and nobody's going to bribe us with 'How would you like your own TV show?' Hey, we've already got our own show. That's all we want anyway."

Spotlight -Sentinel - Friday, Dec. 1, 1995

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