HELLO AMERICA!—When I was fortunate enough to catch a recent show at The Improv Space Theater in Westwood, I was totally unprepared to enjoy it as much as I did. The team of “The Last Men On Earth” took the stage and mesmerized everyone in the room. Two brilliant, talented young actors Anthony Owliaie and Mike Cardella ruled the night with their verbal imagery, projecting scenes and stories with every inch of themselves. The audience was captivated, emotionally moved and didn’t want to accept the ultimate return to reality.
MSJ: When did you and Mike meet and then decided to team up as partners?
ANTHONY: Mike and I met in Las Vegas while studying at Second City. We both studied and completed the Second City Training program in Las Vegas. We were selected to perform on their house team with other performers in 2008 and later decided to form our own two-man team or troupe. Second City Las Vegas eventually closed and we continued to perform with a new company called Improv Vegas until Mike moved to LA in 2010. I didn’t move to LA until 2012 and we started performing our two man improv show in 2013.
Our first LA show was at the IO Improv festival in 2013. We have performed at numerous indie theaters and took part in other cage match shows. But we entered the Space Wars Cage Match in the fall of 2013 at The Improv Space theatre in Westwood. We were lucky enough to win 26 weeks in a row and were rewarded with a residency at the theatre and perform one show monthly on the last Tuesday of each month, calling it “Last Tuesday: With The Last Men.” The show you came to was a Space Wars Cage Match against the Krazy Cangaroos. The reason we were brought back was because they had won 25 weeks in a row and were looking to tie our record. Since we won we are now on a new cage match run, starting over now at 1-0. We truly admire the other team and will be sharing our last Tuesday slot with them from now on.
MSJ: Mike, is it true you grew up in the world of comedy?
MIKE C: Yeah, you can say that. I’m originally from Chicago and my mother was my biggest influence. She became a comedienne after my dad found her in Chicago as a singing waitress and turned her into an actual comedy act. She improvised her act every night, roasting the audience ala Don Rickles (though she never cursed on stage). So I grew up in the industry and remember meeting some amazing talents such as Sammy Davis, Jerry Lewis, Franki Valli, Ben Vereen, etc. George Carlin was my first “favorite comedian” as a child. I loved his wordplay and smarts even at a young age. I used to beg my mom to let me go to his show when he has a regular Vegas show at Bally’s but she thought it was completely inappropriate for a 10 year-old to be in his audience.
He was a master with breaking down concepts in a fun, melodic way with facial expressions that resembled an actor on “Sesame Street” or “Mr. Rogers.” I also watched Carol Burnett regularly and wanted to be in that cast of actors she had on her show. They always looked like they were having as many laughs as the audience. Then in my early teens I became attached to the early 90s SNL cast and that show became a big influence on everything I was and wanted to become. Now that I’m in the industry, my favorites are George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Doug Stanhope, Bill Burr, and Katt Williams. All six of those guys could just riff on a topic and not only make you cry laughing, but make you think. That’s hugely important to comedy for me. Having a deeper point.
MSJ: Anthony, what would you say has been a continued challenge as an improve performer?
ANTHONY: Connecting with the audience. Every performance introduces a different type of audience. Some will love what you do and there are those you have to work your ass off to make them accept the ideas or understand what you are creating. However, it helps to build and sharpen up your craft as an improve performer.
MSJ: Mike, how do you handle an audience, generally?
MIKE C: Because I’ve always grown up around the stage, I’ve never really feared it. As an improviser it’s important to ignore the audience as much as possible because if you allow the laughs or no laughs dictate how you improvise scenes your scenes can quickly lose their integrity and derail the show. Yet as a stand up, listening to the audience response is absolutely everything. If you approach a crowd who isn’t into your material as a stand up, it’s important you try to figure out what it is they can connect with. Whether they aren’t enjoying your subject matter or something happened earlier in the night before you went on, you need to attack that elephant in the room so you can connect with wherever they are at. That’s also because stand up is in the first person with you talking directly to the audience and improv is in the third person with you performing scenes for the audience to sorta peek in on.
MSJ: Anthony since coming to Hollywood, do you feel you have changed very much?
ANTHONY: Not really. But because there is so much talent here, you have to work extremely hard on the craft of acting and comedy. And that’s good.
MSJ: And you Mike, has Hollywood changed you very much?
MIKE C: I don’t feel like Hollywood has changed me at all. Then again, I think most everyone in Hollywood thinks that of themselves. Even the scummiest of scum. I never truly know how much I’ve changed until I go back home to the Midwest. I’ve definitely become a lot more liberal and a lot more tan. But then I remind myself, so was Jesus. “What Would Jesus Do?” This, apparently. (Damnit, is a God complex a side effect of Hollywoo