From 'Schmo' to 'Show' 

Spike TV's 'Lance Krall Show' keeps one foot in Atlanta

When Lance Krall performed improv comedy in Atlanta in the 1990s, his audience was limited to the patrons of Whole World Theater. As an up-and-coming television star, Krall plays for the whole world - or at least the viewership of basic cable.

A breakout player on Spike TV's bogus reality program "The Joe Schmo Show" in 2003, Krall parlayed that success into his own improv-based sketch comedy series. "The Lance Krall Show" launches its eight-episode run April 18 with segments that range from slapstick sketches about ninjas in the workplace to man-in-the-street stunts to prank calls. Krall, who now lives in Los Angeles, explains in a phone interview how it's easier to fool people in Atlanta and why Spike TV trusts him to write, direct, produce, edit and star in his own show.

Creative Loafing: Why did you film "The Lance Krall Show" in Atlanta?

Krall: We were originally going to shoot it in Los Angeles, but there's a law here against the recording of prank phone calls, so we flew to Atlanta to do those parts of the show. While we were there, we scheduled bits that would be hard to do in L.A., like a fishing sketch on a lake. The experience was so positive that we decided to do all of them there. They're a little jaded in Los Angeles, but in Atlanta everyone put their hearts in it, from the cameramen to the grips.

Also, for the pranks, it's easier to find marks to mess with in Atlanta. In Los Angeles, everyone's in the business, so when they find out they've been tricked on camera, they'll say, "You'll have to talk to my agent" if we want to use them. In Atlanta, people know how to take a joke.

The "Trick*d" segments spoof shows like MTV's "Punk'd," but with so many programs like that on TV, are bystanders more savvy now?

Completely. We did video prank stuff in public when I was at Whole World, and people are much wiser about them now. To get around that, you have to prank a lot of people. It's like the same way they found the O.J. Simpson trial jurors: You keep asking until you find someone who says, "Who's O.J.?"

How did you come up with "The Lance Krall Show"?

One of the first things I did after I left Atlanta was a sketch show called "The Downer Channel" produced by Steve Martin that was canceled after four episodes. It wasn't as good as it could have been, but when a show gets canceled, it hits your ego and you ask yourself, "Do I suck?" Just to prove I could do a better sketch show, I got together with my friends from Whole World and self-produced a rough, half-hour pilot just for fun. After "Joe Schmo" aired and I was the standout, I pitched the show to Spike TV and brought our homemade tape to the meeting. After they saw it, they were rolling on the floor laughing, so we basically got the deal in the room. But I told them that if they wanted a show they'd like as much as the pilot, they'd have to let me do my own thing.

On "Joe Schmo," everyone but Matt Kennedy Gould, the butt of the joke, was an actor playing a stereotypical reality show contestant. Was it hard pretending to be a gay Cuban-American for so long?

For me, it was actually easier than a lot of people think, because Kip was a 180-degree switch. The people who were cast more like themselves had it much harder, because it was easier for them to make mistakes. I only objected to one thing. They were going to have me sleep in the same bed as Matt on the first night, which would've been awkward for him since my character was gay, but I said, "What if I talk in my sleep? I can't guarantee that I'll wake up in character." So I stayed in character nonstop for 10 days - it seemed like longer - and when it was done, everyone, cast and crew alike, was used to me talking like Kip. When I finally started speaking in my natural, deeper, unaccented voice, they were all a little freaked out.


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