The Cast's Real Lives Impacting the Show

Mike Nelson’s book “Mind Over Matters” is one of my favourite books; I’ve probably read it fifteen times at least. So many brilliant essays. In one essay, he talks about his experiences doing theatre in high school and college and talks about how he was so awkward performing in “Anything Goes” that the director had him sing but other people come out and do his dances.

And so today I saw “Danger! Death Ray” for the first time, and there’s the opening where TV’s Frank has become an agent and casts Mike in Anything Goes, which he then proceeds to sing a bit of. I was like…whoa! Mike’s making fun of himself!

Are there other examples you guys know of where things from the cast member’s real lives make their way onto the show?


Well, IIRC, Frank did work in fast food at one point and Mike did have his keyboard stolen by an ex. Also, Mary Jo’s real life hometown of Circle Pines, MN is mentioned several times. Joel really didn’t get along with prop comic Gallagher, who rudely went through Joel’s stuff without permission, berating it.


And let’s face it, Gallagher is very unfunny floating.


Ooh, where does the stolen keyboard come up?

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The watermelon is funnier.


It’s in a riff or two-- “Stop her! She stole Mike’s keyboard!” I forget the episode(s?), though.

I think it’s from Gamera Vs. Guiron.

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In Joel’s defense, everything I’ve ever heard about Gallagher makes me conclude he’s an a-hole.


Mike’s chronic headaches get mentioned a few times.

This was apparently based on something Frank did in the writer’s room.


If I remember the days of the snail-mail newsletter properly, MJ’s dad was actually Mayor of Circle Pines for awhile, and folks there really did throw hard candy in the local parades (as seen at the end of Delta Knights ). Fictional Mike and real Mike also were both employed in a cheese factory. Real Mike said in the newsletter that once he fell into a giant brine tank and the other employees thought that was a scream. (Ouch!) I also remember hearing that Paul Chaplin and Kevin Murphy (or at least close family) were avid fishermen, which explains the abundance of fishing jokes and “The Big Jacks.”

Also detailed in one of her books - I think it was Employee of the Month and other Big Deals.


I think it’s also known as “I Lived With My Parents and Other Tales of Terror.” I believe “Employee of the Month…” is the more recent publication, though.

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Is Mike’s writing as funny in that book as he is in the episode guide?

Yes. It’s worth a read.

That said, I do not recommend Death Rat! It wasn’t a bad novel, but it was nothing special.

It is fantastic. He also had a book about terrible movies, which was good but didn’t stick with me in the same way. I don’t have that one anymore. But Mind Over Matters has some really good essays – the one about visiting a spa with Bridget is amazing.

He also had the Pop Ink books, where he’s basically riffing on pop art, kind of what James Lileks has done on his website.

And I recall enjoying Death Rat myself.

I liked the other two books, very funny, though his simplistic review of The Last Days of Disco made me cringe. It criticizes the style and cinematic language employed in the movie, which is his right, he has the right NOT to enjoy that, but he completely misses the meat of the thing, the reasons WHY Whit Stillman tells his story that way, fails to understand why he repackages words and repurposes them, etc, and what this says about the culture and the characters.

It was an embarrassing, naive review.

Other than that a few other weakish essays, I found his writing funny and clever.

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It’s pretty obvious the host segments from The Incredible Melting Man came from the real life frustrations they had to go though to make The Movie.

Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the dialogue was unchanged from the true events.

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Yeah, those sequences are pretty fierce. I tend to fast-forward through the melting and crackers so I can get to them quicker.

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In Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders someone mentions they “gotta z-out the cash register.”

Only someone who’s worked in a restaurant or retail would be familiar with that dreaded nightly closing chore. Basically, balancing the cash in the drawer with the sales report.

Spoiler alert: It never balances…