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This season, Small Town Security's Chief Joan Koplan shares weekly workplace wisdom in her "Ask Joan" advice column. This week? Joan fields questions about bathroom etiquette, amorous advances, and lazy employees.
Q: How do you deal with someone who is really loud in the bathroom? Is there 'bathroom etiquette' I should follow?" -- Dizzy
A: I think if a person is loud in the bathroom, that's just the way they are. We all have peculiarities. It's OK as far as I'm concerned. If they work well in the office and they do everything else that they're supposed to do, then the bathroom thing is no big deal. I don't think there's any point to carrying on over something like that. Anybody who works for me who does an excellent job, I can excuse their quirks. For example -- and he's going to get angry at me for mentioning him, I don't give a shit -- Brian does some things that annoy me. Like, I was just sitting here and he was getting me coffee. He put some kind of stuffed animal in my face and it scared the hell out of me. When I have an argument with him about something and I know that I'm right and he's wrong, it doesn't matter. He cannot think for one minute that he's wrong and I'm right. So I just have to walk away. I do always get the last word, though, like "Kiss my ass" or "Stick it" or something. So that ends it. But Brian not only does a great job, he treats this company like it's his company. That's how devoted he is to it. So I'm willing to put up with anything that he says, because he's a wonderful human being.
Q: How do you handle whiny people at work who always want to leave early? -- Patricia Franks Martin
Lisette Bustamante, a dancer and choreographer who has worked with Madonna and Britney Spears, is now mentoring small town talent on AMC's new original series Showville. In an interview with AMC she talks about the mad scientist who auditioned for the show and the act who made her laugh the hardest.
Q: Have you ever been in a talent show before?
A: Yes! I was on a cruise ship and I was 13. My mom said, "You should go. You're a dancer. You'll win. You're amazing." And I was like, "Oh, yeah. I got this in the bag." I went out on the dance floor and totally slipped and fell. A lot of dancers are klutzes and I can be one as well. I came in third place. I was devastated. And I think that scarred me for life because I never did another talent show after that. It was a humbling experience... I learned early on, "OK, girl. You're not all that."
Q: Do you think that experience affects the way you judge for the show?
A: Absolutely! Because I've been onstage so many times in my life, I can see through nerves. I can see what a person truly has to offer, even if they don't have the best audition. Some of the people were awesome and some of the people were very nervous. They had Hollywood coming to them. This was their big chance to become a local celebrity. I tended to pick people who may not necessarily have had the best audition, but I could really see doing well in the talent show -- being able to work with them and give them the confidence boost to get up there and kill it.
Q: There are a lot of interesting acts in Showville. What's the craziest one you saw?
Alec Mapa, the former star of Ugly Betty and Broadway's M. Butterfly is now mentoring the small town talent on AMC's new original series Showville. In an interview with AMC he talks about the scariest acts from the series, and the different flavor of talent each town had to offer.
Q: You and your fellow coach Lisette Bustamante have great chemistry together. Did you two know each other before Showville?
A: We were complete strangers and from the moment I met Lisette, I immediately liked everything about her. And that's important because we were gone on the road together, like for eight weeks. So if we didn't like each other this would have been really hard job. [Laughs]. She is an amazing teacher. She has so much experience, but she never used her resume as a way to feel superior to anybody else. She was always immediately generous with her gifts.
Q: There are a lot of interesting acts coming up on Showville. What's the craziest act you saw?
A: One of the most fun things we saw was a puppeteer in Rhode Island who had a sheep puppet who sang "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." To obscure himself as the puppeteer, he put this black hood over his head to cover his face. So the whole time, it looked like we were getting this puppet show from a bank robber or a terrorist.
Q: Was there any act that really scared you?
Small Town Security's Joan Koplan talks about her sexual aura and which fellow cast member she'd take to a desert island.
Q: You've wanted to be famous your whole life. Is it everything you hoped it would be?
A: I'm somebody that's extremely conceited, and I'm a showoff and everything, but for some reason I don't feel like a big star... That's the good part of me. I don't show off with that.
Q: What's it been like watching yourself on Small Town Security?
A: It doesn't register. I don't say, Oh my God, it's you, Joan. I swear to God it's like seeing a stranger. I must be a weirdo, really.
Q: Has reaction to the show affected the behavior in the office at all? Like, did you all ever think to yourselves that you should tone it down?
A: Most of Season 1, I said that to myself, but then I thought I must be a stupid ass because if it wasn't for that, then the show wouldn't be watched by so many people. I didn't like when I peed in my pants, but I thought, well, you know, that's something that everybody was laughing at, so it's okay.
Q: How has Dennis becoming more of a man changed your relationship with him?
Curious about the AMC original series Freakshow? One way to learn more about it is to check out amc.com's interviews with the cast. Below is a sampling of what the members of the Freakshow family had to say -- click on each cast member's name to read their entire Q&A."I've found that if you seek out the wonders of the universe, the doors open and they seem to be waiting on you." -- Todd Ray
"I'm a nervous wreck whenever everybody does their stunts. I'm the one who always worries about everything: 'Are you saving your money?' Did you guys eat?'" -- Danielle Ray
"I love when children say things, like 'Mommy, she's magic!' I love keeping that feeling in people, because sometimes as people get older, they lose their faith in magic." -- Asia Ray
"The other day I was at the kitchen counter, eating a bowl of cereal next to a pig with its brain outside of its head." -- Phoenix Ray
Freakshow's Danielle Ray is affectionately called "Mama" by her extended family of sideshow performers. In this interview with AMC, she discusses why she fell for her husband Todd and her favorite memory from working at the venue.
Q: You've been with Todd since you were 17 years old. Was it love at first sight?
A: Completely! And then as soon as I heard his accent, forget it. I was done. It was love.
Q: You're a sucker for a Southern accent, huh?
A: I'm from New York and I met him the week I turned 17. I had never really left New York my whole life -- well, maybe once. Then when I met him, it was like this whole new world. We drove down to South Carolina. I remember, we hit Virginia and I was like, "Pull over! I'm feeling claustrophobic!" [Laughs.] I had never seen so many trees before.
Q: What made you decide that he was the man you were going to marry?
Freakshow's "Indestructible Woman," Brianna Belladonna, currently holds two world records for sword-swallowing. In an interview with AMC, she talks about the secret regimen that allows her to eat light bulbs and a death-defying stunt she'd like to try.
Q: One of your signature stunts is eating light bulbs. How did you teach yourself to do that stunt?
A: I sent out a couple of emails to performers, but no one got back to me. So I just looked stuff up. I watched the [performance artist] Todd Robbins video over a hundred times, of him eating a light bulb. I learned that glass is made of sand, that's melted into liquid, so you have to break it down to that same property. I remember my first time, I smashed up this lightbulb into these tiny pieces and I took the smallest piece. It took twenty minutes to finally put it in my mouth [Laughs]. Then I just kept carefully chewing to break it down. But I didn't swallow it. That was very scary to me. Not until I finally got in touch with a performer who told me that there's a regimen you have to follow beforehand so it doesn't cut up your insides.
Q: What's the regimen?
A: There's a diet you want to follow 24 to 48 hours beforehand. There have been times when I've gotten a call to do the stunt with less than that, so there are things I can do to compensate. I don't want to give away any trade secrets, but I will just say the diet involves a lot of carbs. And then there's stuff you have to do afterwards too.
Q: What other dangerous items do you eat?
Freakshow's Morgue is one of the world's premiere shock artists. In this interview with AMC, he talks about his most dangerous stunts and the best audience reaction he's ever received.
Q: What was the first stunt that you learned to perform as a shock artist?
A: The first weird stunt I learned, when I was like 11 or 12, was putting razor blades in my mouth. I would put a length of string in my mouth, as well, and then tie them together through the holes in the razor blades. But I didn't really start doing shocking public performances until three or four years ago.
Q: How did you come to join the Venice Beach Freakshow?
A: Eventually, I got into street performing. I started out on the Huntington Beach Pier in Orange County. Then moved all over California. Because my street performances are very shocking, I got arrested in Hollywood. I got banned from the Santa Monica Promenade. I never got banned from Venice Beach, but I did have quite a few visits from police. So eventually, word about me got to Todd. He became interested because I do stunts that other performers don't. So he contacted me, and we got to talking for a while. I started out as a guest performer there, and he was so happy, I eventually became a featured act.
Q: All of your stunts are self-taught. Have you ever had to stop practicing a stunt because it was too dangerous?
Taxidermy expert Rachel Poliquin talks with Paul Rhymer from AMC's Immortalized about the season's craziest creations and sourcing animals for the Smithsonian collection.
Q: You started working as a Smithsonian Institution taxidermist when you were only 21. How did you get so good, so young?
A: I first got a very entry level job there doing a little bit of design and illustration. I wanted to be an illustrator, but in the bigger exhibit office that I worked in, there was an opportunity to do a little bit of taxidermy and model making. I had the experience because my dad was a taxidermist, and I had done it as a kid. Within about a year I moved into the position as a full time model maker and taxidermist. Back in those days, they would often hire people in entry level positions and then bring them up in the museum so you would learn the protocol of making the exhibits and handling artifacts. You can't really go to school to learn how to handle the Hope Diamond. You learn that from being around professionals.
Q: What was it like working on the renovation of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History?
A: When that project came down the road, we knew it was going to be total change in the mammal hall. Changes like that happen not even once in a generation, so to be part of a project like that was really a big deal. Everyone was excited. Another taxidermist was hired for the project, and he and I worked full-time for two years mounting for the exhibition.
Q: Where did you get the animals from?
A: The majority came from zoos. The museum wrote to several hundred zoos and said, "These are the species we are looking for. Should you have any of these animals that die in your zoo, we would be very interested." And we got a lot of animals that way. Some animals -- about two dozen -- came from Ken Behring, who donated the money for the hall. And some were donated by other taxidermists or other people. The Smithsonian was very clear that it did not want to go out and actively collect for the hall.
Q: You also did work at the Swaziland National Museum. What was that experience like?
Taxidermy expert and author Rachel Poliquin talks with Brian Posehn from AMC's Immortalized about how the show fits into today's "nerd culture."
Q: Were you surprised when you first heard about a competitive taxidermy reality show?
A: No, not at all. I'm on the road a lot, and I see what's on TV. So it wasn't surprising at all. With all the reality shows and competitions that already existed, a show about taxidermy makes sense.
Q: Had you ever really thought about taxidermy before getting involved in the show?
A: It's not something I grew up with, but once I got into it I found it really interesting, knowing how much work goes into it. I wasn't even aware that there are different styles of taxidermy, traditional and rogue. I wound up really liking the rogue stuff the most, just because it is more artistic and people can go anywhere with it. That stuff I really liked. Honestly, I would have liked to buy some of those pieces.
Q: You're kind of a nerd authority. How does Immortalized fit into today's nerd culture?
A: What I think makes people nerds is just being obsessive. I think that's what nerdiness really is -- its people who don't just passively like something, they get passionate about whatever they like. Everybody who came onto the show was really passionate about taxidermy. The two judges I worked with really know what they are talking about and have lived it for years. They are taxidermy nerds. All the people who came on in the competitions -- all the Immortalizers are the kings of the taxidermy nerds, and the challengers were pretty darn nerdy about it too. So I think the show does fit with nerd culture.
Q: You were on an episode of Talking Dead. Is that how you got involved with Immortalized?