Hoboken is home to many celebrated artists, but few can say that they’ve embraced the city quite like actor Robert Capelli. As an actor, producer, and even former Film Commissioner for the Mile Square, Capelli has worked hard to get the city on the map.
While probably best known as an actor in the films “Waltzing Anna,” and the recent “Breaking Point,” which featured Tom Berenger and the late Arturo Gatti, Capelli works equally as hard behind the scenes as a producer and screenwriter. As a lifelong Hobokenite, he films in the Mile Square and uses local talent for productions whenever possible.
“I always include Hoboken. I love shooting in town,” he said.
He has earned praised for his touching comedies and several films won awards, including “Rules for Men” (1999), which won Best Comedy and Best Actor at the Atlantic City Film Festival. In 2003, Capelli co-wrote the film “Mail Order Bride,” which won Best Comedy in the Moscow East Film Festival, and Best Comedy in the Back East Picture Show Film Festival. “Mail Order Bride” starred Danny Aiello, Artie Lange, and Vincent Pastore.
Otto and George
But films aren’t his only interest. Capelli has branched out to the Internet, producing a new variety show on the Web for BashBox TV that promises viewers uncensored comedy.
The show, which premiered late last year, has gained fans for its irreverent take on well – just about everything! “The Pig Roast with Otto and George” features the talents of comedian Otto Petersen and his sidekick George. George, incidentally, is a puppet. A very life-like puppet which looks devious when sitting quietly and quite agitated when speaking. George pretty much hates everything.
The men recently sat down to talk shop about what it takes to make a successful show and plans for the future. Otto was quick to tell me that George also has a last name. It’s Dudley.
“He was named after my late Uncle Dud. He used to talk comedy with me and he turned me onto comedy,” said Otto. “So when he died, I attributed it to him.”
Otto, who leads all the segments of the show, says that it has been a challenge, but so far he is very happy with it.
“The response that we’ve been getting from the show has been incredible,” said Capelli. “Every week, more and more people are watching it. One of the biggest compliments we’ve gotten has been from Lewis Black. He told us that everyone in the industry was talking about it. He said there isn’t a show out there now that is as raw or politically incorrect.”
A Different Kind Of Show
There are die-hard fans of David Letterman or Jimmy Fallon or Conan, and taste probably dictates which you prefer. Yet there is probably something about each show that many would agree to like. Fans of the “Pig Roast” are probably in a whole other category as really nothing is off-limits for guests or for the hosts. I asked Otto and George how they thought they compared to “Saturday Night Live.”
“SNL is not funny anymore. It’s a mediocre restaurant in a great location,” said Otto.
“Comedy has gotten so watered down,” agreed Capelli. “People have forgotten what it’s like to be politically incorrect. We really want to push the envelope a little. I think Otto and George are the centerpiece to the show – no one is doing what we are doing. I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the show. Otto is really the only one I had in mind for the show.”
Much like many late night shows, the Pig Roast features elements that are in every show, like dance routines by the four ladies called the “Piglets” and they even have their own house band called Abe Ruiz and the Squatters. And that is probably where the similarities in format leave off. For starters, most of the guests on the show are well, pretty unusual. Some of the guests are well-known comedians, but Otto and George have also interviewed lesser known people who have boat loads of odd talents.
One of the episodes featured “Doctor Adventure,” who lay down on broken glass while a few of the Piglets danced on his chest and then he did the same maneuver on a bed of nails while his sidekick smashed a concrete block on his chest.
All of this is a typical day on the set.
“Usually the band rehearses while Otto practices his monologue – and he gets mad,” said Capelli with a laugh. “But we have a great time doing it.”
One of the things that was important for Otto as a performer was getting the guests in and out fast. He didn’t want them to have to wait around for six hours to tape a segment.
“We try to get the guests in and out in an hour and half,” says Otto. “We tape the interview and the closing first and then if they want they can go or they can stay and watch the rest of the show.”
While there were many segments that they both felt were successful, there were also times that were trying for the show.
“One of the not-so-perfect moments was when George broke,” recalls Capelli.
“We had to Jimmy-rig his mouth,” said Otto. “That was a high pressure day for me. My puppetry was off. Once I got through that day, I thought any day after that would be a cinch.”
The only other “George” puppet is owned by David Copperfield, who told Otto that if he ever had a problem with his puppet he could borrow his. The main difference between the puppets is the expression on the face. Otto’s George looks a bit more devilish.
“When George broke his neck I had to borrow his for the show,” recalls Otto. “Copperfield was having his puppet built around the same time I was. He said if I ever needed to borrow his I could. And he kept his word, which is great.”
They also did a “Lost Episode” segment that was a lost pilot for the show that took place in 1977.
“The whole show, the guests were all from the 70s,” said Capelli. “The guests on the show were Cher, John Travolta, and Elvis.”
There are guests already lined up for the next season, said Capelli. Many who are easily recognizable by name or reputation. Capelli also plans to invite some former co-stars to the show, such as Artie Lange and Danny Aiello, who both worked with Capelli in his films.
“I’d like to try to get Buddy (Cake Boss) to come on the show,” said Capelli. “It’s such a unique experience being interviewed by George and Otto,” said Capelli. “It’s hilarious.”
“We need to do more location shoots,” he said, adding that they’d like to do more sketches. “We really need to get out on location and do fun stuff with guests.”
They did an episode last season on location with Rescue Inc., a group that helps animals. The group approached Capelli about being on the show. Otto’s landlord appears on the show and he attempts to adopt a pet.
They also plan to include more musical guests on the show.
“Yeah, Bono called. And Bon Jovi. I think they said they want to be on the show,” Otto chimed in.
“And I’d love to see Bruce on the couch with Otto and George,” said Capelli.
The beauty of the show is the pace and the in and out of the different guests, said Capelli. The show works because of the mix of celebrity and part circus act aspect of guests.
“The funniest parts of the show are the guests on the show that no one knows, like the 80 year-old contortionist,” he said.
Moment to Moment
Film work has certainly given Capelli the experience necessary to run a variety show, but he believes the two worlds are “night and day.”
“Me, Otto, and my partner Jay Webb, who produces the show with me are the primary writers,” he said.
Webb also worked with Capelli several projects, including the film “Breaking Point.”
One aspect that is completely different is the ability to take an idea and run with it.
“With the show you can come up with ideas on the fly and just shoot it,” said Capelli. “By far, it’s the rawest thing I’ve ever done.”
While Capelli is mostly behind the scenes now as a writer and a producer, he has appeared on a few episodes:
“Bobby [Capelli] is a fearless actor,” says Otto. “He grabbed a wig and did Elvis and did a segment where we did the dating game.”
Now that they have the show down, it really is a matter of running with it. They both hope viewers like it and tell “like minded friends,” says Otto.
“When they say it is really great and if your peers like it – it’s a good start,” says Capelli.
For more information about the show, visit: www.pigroast.tv. All photos by Krista Kelly.