A few days before SDCC '15 was set to begin I got an email asking if I would be interested in interviewing Sid and Marty Krofft. While I was thinking about it my hands went a head and replied "Heck, yeah". As much a part of my childhood television watching experience as anything, the Kroffts brought me and others from my generation such shows as H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and more.
When I arrived for the interview I was surprised to learn that I would only be interviewing Marty, as Sid was unavailable, and that with Marty I would also be interviewing Cesar Milan and his son Calvin Milan. They were all at SDCC promoting their new Nickelodeon show Mutt & Stuff, executive produced by the Kroffts and Cesar Milan, and starring Calvin.
Joshua Stone: (To Marty) So I just want to say what an honor it is to interview you. I grew up watching Land of the Lost, H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, those shows, when I was a kid, they just shaped me.
Marty Krofft: I am not taking that, you think your getting away with that with that shape.
JS: One of the things I have always heard in showbiz is to never work with kids and animals. You (To Marty) have worked with kids in the past; you (To Cesar) have always worked with animals. For you (To Marty), what is this like, this new experience?
MK: It's incredible. If I hadn't met Cesar it wouldn't have happened. I was told to meet with Cesar, and I found out he had a kid who was 13 at the time, he is now 28 that's how long this took. No he's 16, that's how this whole thing was born. It was a natural thing. What we wanted to do was different with what he was doing, but it wasn't different. You just have to do it differently. You're playing to another age range, but yet the show plays to kids and adults. You got to get the kids, but the adults get sucked in because of the dogs and the whole thing has to work. You know someone just asked me, what is the Krofft look, and you know it is bright and colorful, it's evergreen. But no one goes out whistling the sets, you got to have people who are likeable, the puppets are always loveable. You can't make it unless your likeable, you can have an edge, but you have to be likeable. This guy (To Cesar) didn't make it by mistake, and we know how to do it also. Now he's (To Calvin) the one performing, so this has been a great relationship because he's leaving me alone and I'm leaving him alone, but together we're good.
Cesar Milan: Respect.
JS: It's a scripted show, right?
MK: Yes, scripted.
JS: So this is a new experience for you (To Cesar) then?
CM: Way different. My show is really not scripted. You can't tell a dog when to bite me, they just bite me.
MK: The really interesting thing is, that I didn't know, is he's in as many shows as he wants to be. He loves doing this show.
CM: I love this show.
MK: He loves it's different than his show. He comes into a whole different world.
CM: I get to be with my son too. I get to see my son shine. I get to see my son grow. I get to see my son accomplishing his goal in life. You know it was a dream that he had. It's good as a father to be part of his dream, to be inside his dream and support him.
JS: I have two boys, and three dogs, a Spaniel to a Great Dane, so I can't wait for the show to be on the air, because I will sit down and we'll all watch. It's very exciting that this kind of show is going to be out there.
CM: I have to say something, because he (To Calvin) was in my dream first. I was doing the Dog Whisperer, and he was little and I brought him in and so he didn't know he was in my dream because I wanted it to be something with dogs. But now it's good because I can go back almost like paying it forward, and say thanks for being in my dream even though you didn't know, but now I am in your dream and accomplishing what you want. It's really nice; it's a really good cycle.
MK: It's literally a family business here. You got two families who came together and you know what, it's working.
JS: For me I watched your shows (To Marty) as a little kid, now this is going to be on, and you have some other stuff in development. My kids are going to watch, so you have generation to generation and this (Motioning to Cesar and Calvin) speaks to that, the generations. Does it ever occur to you the effect that you have had on people and families?
MK: I know that we have, but it's hard to really feel that. My father always said, "Remember one thing, you work in fantasy, don't live in it."
CM: That's a good one. I actually work in reality and live in it.
JS: I was looking at your website (To Marty) and I knew all the kid stuff, but I didn't realize all the variety shows you did. But more importantly, I had no idea you did a Richard Pryor kid's show in the 80s. How did that come about?
MK: That was scary, but I got him to do it. We got him to do it, and then he comes to the studio and we have already been building the sets for like $500,000, and he came with his lawyer, who was my lawyer at one time, and he says, "Richard doesn't want to do it anymore. " I said, "What? We're in the middle of building it." He say's, "No, he has a check in his pocket for $500,000 and he wants to give it to you." But you don't have time for Richard Pryor stories.
JS: I always have time for Richard Pryor stories.
MK: You don't. I will give you one story quick. He calls me up one day and says, "I want you to go on a drive with me at lunchtime." I say "Ok". I get in the car and say, "Where we going?" I figured we were going to lunch. He says, "I'm going to a bank because I got a million and half dollars in this bank and I hear they're going under, ok?" I say, "Ok." We're driving up Sunset and he makes the turn up Fairfax Ave, and I think wait a second, which one of these banks? He then drives me to Century City to the Bank of America. He thought they were going under. If they go under the country goes under.
JS: Now you mention how you were brought together, but can you describe the interaction of the puppets and the animals, because dogs and people sure, but puppets.
MK: In this show, right now, we only have two cats, who are like the old guys in The Muppet Show, there in a tree and they're funny.
CM: Super funny.
MK: Already Nickelodeon said they want to do a spin off on the cats.
CM: No. Do I get a part of that?
MK: He's asking if he gets a part of it.
CM: Of course. I'm the cat whisperer now.
JS: This is your (To Calvin) first scripted acting?
Calvin Milan: It is.
JS: Describe the process for you.
CaM: The process is going into the dressing room, getting ready, hearing Marty's dated jokes. He always helps me with the scene, and comes on set and he's like "Dam." That's it and he just walks off.
MK: He does impersonations.
CM: He's a good impersonator. He can impersonate anybody.
CaM: It's really fun. There's no dull moments, it's the best part of working on a Nickelodeon show. The only part that might be a downside is going home. You can't live on set.
MK: The big thing with Calvin, the challenge, is that he's (To Cesar) the father and he's successful and people think he just got all of this with a silver spoon. I always tell him that's why you have to work harder because people got to like you and respect you, and they do. It isn't easy for him.
CM: He's a natural. I saw him growing up. I raised this boy, and since the moment he was born he was just doing something extremely artistic, extremely funny. He's always improvising. It was just a matter of time to be here. We just didn't know we were going to do it with the Krofft brothers, we didn't know we were going to do it with Nickelodeon. For us it's just a mind-blowing experience.
JS: I sense the father-son passion, which I imagine will make it a very successful show. The love that is there, with what the Krofft brothers bring with their history of children shows, I mean when is season two going to start filming? Because I don't see how it can't move on.
MK: First of all, we have 85 men and women that don't even want to get paid; they're having such a good time.
CM: I didn't know that, that's great.
MK: But they'll take the money. You have a positive environment with that.
CM: It's a great show.
JS: SpongeBob just crashed my interview.
Tom Kenny: I thought you guys were done, it was so quiet. "And now back to our regularly scheduled interview."
CM: Do you know who this guy is?
JS: Not personally. But I have 9 and a 10 year old , I know SpongeBob.
From there Marty and Tom starting talking about getting together to talk. And then…
TK: Is this still an interview?
JS: I'm not stopping it, are you kidding?
TK: It was so quiet I thought it was done. I do owe Marty a call. Does crashing the interview count as a call?
At that point he backed out to let me finish the interview.
JS: When does the show first air?
JS: Sorry, I was here.
MK: Every Friday at 10am on Nickelodeon.
JS: And it reruns throughout the week?
CM: That's for sure. It just has so much greatness, especially for parents and kids who want to have a dog. Every kid that I know wants to have a pet. The one thing the parents don't know is how to tell the kids to be responsible about it. They want to provide what the kids want, but they don't know the education behind it. So this show is not just entertaining, which is obviously very important for a TV show, it's educational. That's what I bring into the picture. I educate humans. My whole life is about rehabilitating dogs. This is about prevention. This is about the next generation, your children, knowing what to do so they don't develop dogs with problems. Because we don't have problems with dogs, dogs have problems with us not knowing what to do. So at the same time, as fun as the Krofft brothers colors and puppets and all that, but it has the education with the Milans. It's a perfect combination.
JS: Yes, it's very exciting. Thank you very much for your time.
For further musings from Joshua Stone you can follow him on the Twitter @1NerdyOne