Eric Price is a funny guy. He won't tell you that (he's much too modest) but catch him in any of his multiple comedy projects, and you can see it. Born and raised in Bay View, Price has always played the high-energy jokester. He continues to hone his comedic craft through regular performances at ComedySportz, but then a bit part in a small Wisconsin movie set the wheels in motion.
Now, Price splits his time between auditions in L.A. and ComedySportz, all the while making his fan base in Milwaukee as proud as can be. OMC sat down with Eric Price to discuss comedy, future plans and "The Godfather of Green Bay" for this edition of Milwaukee Talks.
OMC: Tell me about your experience in "Godfather of Green Bay." Was that your first movie role?
Eric Price: (The experience) was mind-blowing. I walked on set and said, 'This is where I should always be.' It was a really great cast and crew, and they were like, 'There's (Price's character) Rat Boy!' Not that that's the best thing to be known for -- but it was a good thing. Hey, I made my big break being Rat Boy... and that started everything. In the film, I had a really small role and they kept adding me in the film, which was really kind of (Pete) Schwaba. 'Let's put him in the background here, put him here, put him here.' Which is more screen time for me, which is great for a reel.
OMC: So you traveled back and for the between Milwaukee and L.A.?
EP: I did a lot last year after the pilot season ended, then I came back. I made two more trips out there for auditions, one for the "Wild 'N Out," the Nick Cannon show. I didn't get that, and the show turned out differently that I thought it would. The audition gave me a different idea ... But it was one of those where I sold my motorcycle to get the ticket out there, and it broke my heart. Then I didn't get it and I was like, "And I don't have my motorcycle," but you've got to make it happen, whatever you can do it make it happen.
OMC: Ouch. Was it worth it?
EP: Yeah, and the connections I made were irreplaceable. The casting director put me up last year while I was in L.A. for three months -- a nice extra bedroom in Burbank, in-ground pool, in-ground hot tub, which was OK (smiles). I'd get phone calls from my wife: "Hey, honey, how's it going?" "Oh I'm sitting by the pool." "Oh I'm shoveling eight inches of snow." So, I felt a little bad.
OMC: And that opened the door for "Reno 911," right? Has life changed at all since your "Reno 911" appearance?
EP: Not a whole lot has changed. I'm back from L.A. right now, back to doing the norm of ComedySportz and our late night show, "Cock and Toast." Right now I'm currently working with another group toward a written show, a travelling medicine show. My life hasn't changed that much. There are people that are really excited about it. There's a "Reno 911" movie coming out, and I might have a bit role in that. You just go back to work, and try to get as much work as you can.
OMC: Most people would presume the next step is to move to L.A. and do the comedy club circuit, but you stayed here in Milwaukee. Why?
EP: That's what my manager says. He's been talking to me ever since I signed with him, 'Hey, when are you going to move out here?' Right now, my wife (who is artistic director at Danceworks) has some projects here. She's tied up until end of next year with projects. I want to be there at some point, but I want to make it work for the both of us. It's really hard to leave what we have going on here, where we can be creative, we have a house, we have a great dog, things are really comfortable here. And I don't like being comfortable, but I also don't want to go out there to wait tables, but I want to be realistic about it. It's not realistic to think I'm just going to go out there and land a sitcom. I've been doing a lot of auditioning in the sense that this is a NBC project, this is an ABC project, so it's very possible, but it might be a pipedream. I'm willing to believe it. I just love what I do. It's a really fun job.
OMC: What are you working on now? What's this 'travelling medicine show" about?
EP: We're working on it, we have a start right now. Group of five of us, and all those guys are in "Cock N Toast," and The .357 String band is this hard-core blue grass band so it's an old travelling medicine show we're putting together. It's call "Dr. Preacher." It's a crazy show, so we're not sure (laughs).
OMC: Is it set to open any time soon?
EP: We're shooting for within the New Year to get it up and running. We have done shows in the past were we kind of rushed it and it was December and, oh my gosh -- it's the busiest time for all of us! It was a good show, but it could have been a lot better if we took the time to prepare more. And that's what we're taking into consideration with this new show. Lets be kind to ourselves, take the time, then we'll be happy with the improv.
OMC: You do so much physical comedy. Doesn't that get exhaustive? How do you keep your energy?
EP: In the "Godfather of Green Bay" there are a couple of moments where they let me dance around, run around and stuff, and that was fun, but most of the time you're trying to tone everything down when you get in front of the camera. And that's something I have to work on. I'm a little too animated sometimes and they have to tell me, 'Hey, tone it down.' I'm so used to doing live performances.
A few years ago at ComedySportz, I did a record of 520 shows that year. And it's nonstop. That's three a day on Saturdays, two a day on Fridays, a couple of remotes during the week, for a company party, a show for a middle school, a high school. It keeps you warm which is great, that's another thing to, hey I'm working, I'd doing what I love, but also to feel like I'm on top of my game, not just sitting back and saying, 'Oh, something else will happen,' I'm still working toward something. ComedySportz is a great place to bust your chops.
OMC: Don't you get burnt out after a while? How do keep going?
EP: That's the tough part, where you're like 'We've played this game 100 times!' but it's always improv because though we've played the games, it is never going to be the same. We're never going to get the same suggestions, the same audience, never do a scene the exact same way because hey, we're not that smart. We can't memorize all that.
You get the burnout factor, but its one of those things that if you do, take the night off, take the weekend off. You have to do that to get away from it, and come back to it.
OMC: How did you get to where you're at now? How did you get started?
EP: I've been doing comedy since forever. I was always the dude in the back with the joke. In high school, I did a couple of comedic roles, and after I started waiting tables and telemarketing, just some "get-by" stuff. And then I started working at Ed Debevic's, playing a dork character. I had a lot of fun, made a lot of money there. Joined ComedySportz 1997 and from there I was like, I'm home!
OMC: Were you new to performing in front of an audience?
EP: And I was as green as green could be. I went to the High School for Performing Arts, where I did a few theater things. And at ComedySportz, the improv was figuring out who I was on stage, who my characters were. I came in at a good time, when actually a lot of people were moving on, and leaving. And they were looking for someone to play and I was at at the right place at the right time, ya know? I start in 1996, and by 1997, now I'm doing shows regularly so I can stop waiting tables. I had a 1987 Mazda, but I was able to do what I loved, and started getting into this movie idea.
OMC: How did that come about?
EP: I was flown out in 2000 by David Zucker, the guy who did "Airplane," and he was looking for someone who was a rubber face. I auditioned on camera for David Zucker and sent it out. And one day I was sitting on my couch, eating cereal, watching Maury Povich when I get a phone call: 'Hey, this is NBC. We were wondering if you'd be available to come on out for an audition tonight?' And I was like, 'Who the hell is this?' and that day was a blur. And it hit me: Oh my god! They are serious! So I went to ComedySportz, pumped out a resume, and they flew me out to audition for this role. And I tried to be ready for it -- as much as you can. And I didn't get, which was a heartbreaker, because I kept thinking, 'OK, OK, this is going to be it," and then I didn't get it.
But there are so many ways not to get a role. They kept their eyes on me. And you know who they went with? He was a little-known actor named Steve Carell. So I was OK with being beaten out by Steve Carell, because that meant I had some work to do. If I could even come close to his caliber, I'd be happy. So that happened and I thought I'd really start working on my career.
OMC: So that's where it all started, where you started to take it as a career choice?
EP: Yeah, ComedySportz is a gift that I accept with open arms, and I started working with agencies here in Milwaukee a little more. And that's how I got in "Godfather of Green Bay" and everything started to snowball. It's been great.