It Couldn’t Be Any More Straight Forward
KNCE radio show Alligator Farm is an anomaly for the grassroots radio station for at least two reasons — the content is from another dimension, and the show is recorded outside of Taos and sent here.
First, to the latter point, why is this even happening? KNCE prides itself on local everything — from programming, to news, to DJs, to sponsorship — yet from 1 to 3 a.m. every Monday, those of us awake and tuned in will be listening to outlandishly funny material pre-recorded in Oklahoma City.
As the story goes, a cook at Taos Mesa Brewery named Russ is to be thanked. There have been various formations of bands involving the cast of Alligator Farm and Russ since the 1970s. Band names are clearly of the same aesthetic I have come to know and love as Alligator Farm’s irreverence: Locusts on Leashes, The Bearded Woodsmen, and Toney Deaf to name a few. Russ has been living in Taos for some time but the tribe is still very much in place and includes another history besides playing music together, as told by Alligator Farm cast member, Darren Dunn: “We spent many college evenings making comedy tapes on cassette. We’d hang out in the apartment and pass around two microphones and just make up stuff that made us laugh.”
These sessions were the beginning of what would one day become Alligator Farm. You have many questions still, dear reader, and they may or may not be answered by the time you’re done reading and hearing this. Thankfully, I have been given samples of the show to supplement what answers or further questions do come of an interview with three cast members.
Along with Darren Dunn (volunteer at Lady Mohammed Alligator Farm, Tilt-A-Whirl Mechanic) there were Mike Waugh (“Loveyoulongtime,” unpaid volunteer at Lady Mohammed Alligator Farm), and one Davey Wells (retired opera singer and gator farm volunteer — hobbies include: partial mind-reading, mink oil tester and lathroscopic surgery). I was cautious at first, as a great fan of the show and a relatively conservative person — not politically, but socially. As the conversation went on it became clear that my enjoyment of Alligator Farm was as I had suspected, born of a mutual appreciation with the cast for those things that are absurd in life and can make us laugh. So much absurdity in life, yet so little of it makes me laugh.
BH: I didn’t realize you all started out as a band (or bands), though it makes sense. The music on your show is off the beaten path — who picks that out?
DD: There’s a Junior Achievement chapter at the Vo-Tech in Farmington that provides a partnership program in selecting the music. Some years ago they started working on a project for their national convention concerning ‘musical dissonance and dream interpretation’ and that’s when the partnership began. Mike and Davey can fill you in a little on this. [They enjoy] working with youth, but the partnership got off to a rocky start when they only programmed Herbie Hancock records for three years.
MW: That’s why I’m in it. The kids. Never had kids of my own. Couldn’t have ’em. I’m a man. That’s my deal. I’m the least musical, but I can’t get enough of forcing young people to listen to music from the ’70s. I’ve got a big voice, but I choose not to use it. That’s the other thing. The music. That’s really why I’m here. Kids are great, but try having a normal conversation with one. Music is the deal. That’s why we’re here. The music and my mom, God rest her soul. She had a saying that means a lot to me this very day and it goes like this, “Underneath all this shit, there’s gotta be a pony.”
[Audio: “Bedtime Story” – Alligator Farm]
BH: The art of the absurd, expansive non-sequitur is strongly represented on your show in my view. By the time I’m done listening, for example, I start taking for granted the half-human half-alligator girl and assuming that the real issue is her dating life; then it’s fair game again to ask me to take something else entirely for granted, deleting or referring to the last quantum leap as only an impression — something even the cast doesn’t quite understand or care about anymore. As a fan, I’m loathe to deconstruct what I’m hearing, but do you have anything that you think listeners should know about how all this materializes? Any comedic … influences, other than that life itself is an expanding, absurd non-sequitur, deserving of as much mockery as any group of humans can broadcast between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. Mountain Time?
[This must have been a poorly constructed question. There was some mention of National Lampoon, and I brought up an obscure British comedy show, ringing no chords with the group. There were gurgling sounds and growls and after listening through many times, slowing it down, speeding it up and playing it backwards this was all I could get out of the chaos]:
DD: We were orphans, raised by a family of scorpions in an abandoned mine shaft.
BH: You originally had a slot between 4 and 6 a.m. on Friday mornings, but apparently someone called and complained? Any idea who called in, or more importantly, what they said?
DD: I have NO IDEA why someone would have complained. It seems like it would go back to Oldies for an hour then [our] morning show would start, but I did hear another DJ come in and make some comment about not understanding what he had just heard — that was after a bit where Goliath, our second-oldest and third-largest alligator had been explaining a new era in which alligators were communicating a sort of anti-zoo sentiment. ANYWAY.. [we were told] someone had complained that we were offensive so [I was asked] to defend the comedy. Truly, that was the first time I had really thought about what we were doing. To me, it’s all pretty straightforward: three guys have to live on an alligator farm and can’t really leave or the blood gutters might clog, (or something). The weird part about the complaint is that we are Tim Conway-clean. There’s not even too much double-entendre. It’s pretty straight-ahead situational comedy. I [said] we didn’t really care when we aired and that we’d probably keep doing the show no matter whether we were on the air or not but truly, I wish we aired some other night when more people might be awake. The problem comes in the fact that many times the last DJ of the day might stay later on weekend nights and if they go one second into our slated hour the computer won’t play our program. They have to be totally clear and playing oldies for our pre-recorded show to come up.
BH: Is audio the only medium through which you’ve performed comedy? Any film, theater, street performance or other experience among the group? How about when you perform music — is there room for any of this style of humor between songs?
DD: Davey and Mike are accomplished actors and improv comedy performers. They both have done and still do theater. They both have movie credits. I want them to tell you about it. Our bands were full of stupidness but not, like skits on stage.
DW: Mike and I were founding members of an improv group which performed for 20 years. Frankly, that adventure stemmed from our age-old practice of sitting around with tape rolling while we riff on whatever comes to mind. We spent about 8,000 hours doing that in our 20s.
Darren was part of that scene, but it’s his eclectic music influences that make the farm the farm.
It’s a perfect marriage. And by perfect, I mean it amuses us. We still do theater, but the farm is our free-form therapy. I think you’re onto something with the British comparison.
While not intentional, I think it feels like some older British comedy. Python gone farming.
BH: I’ve heard at least a handful of guests on the show, and they’ve each seemed to blend in seamlessly with the aesthetic of Alligator Farm. Can you talk about some of these guests — where they come from, how you know them, why the chemistry works so well?
DD: I was hoping we’d lie and be hilarious all the way through this interview but I do want to be sure [to give the] guests credit since we don’t even give them beer or snacks. With a couple of exceptions, the guests on the show are all either members of the comedy group Davey was talking about or have logged hours in the apartment back in the early ’80s making comedy tapes. We have two contributors who work on their own and send me files for edit. Rebecca McCauley and Beth Swales, both accomplished actors, writers, performers. [They] make the announcement clips and the self-help for alligators segments. Rebecca also played Dame Breeta, half-a-woman, half-a-alligator on a few episodes. They both have helped us with the phone calls. Others who have helped us out are Lance Farley, Pete Young, Stacey Farley, Rurie Dobson, Tommy Cunningham, Brian Garrett, and Jeff Caughron as Timmons. One of the really great things about this whole deal is that we can invite longtime friends over and have a reason to get together without having to go to the bar or do a cookout or some other easy thing to not want to do. They are way, way talented people and it’s great they will occasionally come over and act the fool.
BH: The Alligator Farm has rules. I think there were several last I heard. With or without naming them, let’s talk about those rules and how they fail or serve both human and alligator kind.
[Audio: “Carl’s Qualifications” – Alligator Farm]
DW: They are so important that we have to purposely forget what they are and read them aloud from time to time … we are all about rules. Really you have to be when you house acres of hungry alligators. It’s all for their own good.
DD: There are a wide variety of alligator types on the farm: we have hybrids, Dame Breeta is half-a-woman, half-a-alligator, we have one we call Jimi Hendrix because of the unruly shock of wiry hair growing on his head; we have a cackle of gators, (that’s a group of alligators — a cackle), from France who not only walk on their hind legs but also dance … so you can see there have to be rules. There are a whole set of rules concerning the possession of Boston Baked Beans, the peanut candy. It’s deadly to reptiles and so every guest is subject to search.
BH: Let’s talk about the undead. Many of your guests have returned from the grave. Who were some of your favorites of this lot, and why do you think the Alligator Farm is so popular among those no longer with us?
[Audio: “Skelety Bones” – Alligator Farm]
DD: Davey and Mike used to run a séance tent at the yearly metaphysical fair. They got to be pretty good at it. I spent my entire savings trying to get them to contact Minnie Ripperton’s ghost. I could even smell her perfume one time.
DW: Harper Lee loves us most. The deceased find us approachable generally. One of the beautiful things about the farm is that I promptly forget which dead people called us until I listen to the episode. Like it didn’t really happen. But of course it did. Or we wouldn’t say it.
BH: Speaking of metaphysical, what do you see in the future for the Alligator Farm? Be specific; or don’t — it doesn’t really matter.
DD: We’re hoping to build a haunted house that ends with a zip line into a used ball pit we bought from a Chuckie Cheese’s franchise owner.
What did I forget to ask, dear readers? Perhaps you should find them on Facebook and ask yourselves: https://www.facebook.com/alligatorfarmKNCE/
I remember when I first started listening to the show and I tried to call in, not realizing it was pre-recorded. I had mixed feelings — I was excited that there might actually be people behaving that way, at that hour, but felt intimidated at the prospect of speaking with them, and also like interaction could stop it from happening somehow.
Right then, on the show, they happened to be taking calls. Of course, the Alligator Farm telephone sounds like two human lips mimicking the analog telephone ring, “Brrrrrr—ring!” But that didn’t stop me from waiting right up until the KNCE Google answering machine or whatever picked up. I was squinting in fearful anticipation and felt quite the fool soon thereafter, but I’ve been listening and loving it ever since.
As I come to the end of this piece, though, I have a strange feeling — spelling the show out in a relatively linear way for you people makes me feel a little dirty for some reason. Get it yourselves — you’re big boys and girls and oh so very clever in your own ways I’m sure. Set your radio alarm clocks to 93.5 FM and just see what happens maybe.
[Audio: “Headphones: Self-Help for Alligators” – Alligator Farm]