Michael West as “Tree” A Comedy Interview

“Tree” played by Michael West was a Northern California favorite when it came to standup comedy. This character hit the stage with force…very “Alpha-Male” and he quickly controlled the audience with his leather clad biker look and shaved head….. Then after about 10 mins, he became “Therman” his Gay Alter-ego…Hilarious on stage. Enjoy this interview of Michael as he explains how “Tree” was created and where comedy led his life…Live theater, parts on Don Johnson’s “Nate Bridges” & the “Malcolm in the Middle” TV shows. A fun interview to get….enjoy!

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Podcast Transcript:

Announcer: 

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee, celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business, stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here’s your host and emcee Scott and words.

Scott Edwards: 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another great show. We have another fantastic interviewee waiting to talk to us. Now you may not remember but one of the most fun stand up comics had ever come through the club was this big, scary looking guy. That turned out to be one of the nicest guys in the business, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the podcast tree. Ladies,

Tree: 

thank you so much. Thank you, Scott. Thank you. That was that was that was a proper intro. Yeah, I may not, you may not remember this guy, because it was 1000 years ago. Oh,

Scott Edwards: 

no, I just meant that without

Tree: 

Sheki.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, we should let everybody know that Tree’s real name is Michael West. And he was a performer back in the 80s and 90s. And worked for me several times. And we just had a blast having him on stage. But Michael had a stage persona by going by the name tree. And I just want to set the folks up and then we’ll jump into the interview if you don’t mind, Michael. Yeah, no problem. Go for it. So Michael is a big guy. He’s probably about six, eight. He’s got a shaved head.

Tree: 

No, no, I’m six, four.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, you’re well with the lifts. You were six? Yeah,

Tree: 

and with your stage, yeah.

Scott Edwards: 

But he is a big guy that has shaved head.

Tree: 

And I block out the sun. He

Scott Edwards: 

wore a black leather jacket, like kinda like you’d picture from the biker movies, and black leather chaps. And it was kind of an intimidating figure. Kinda, well, okay, you were a scary looking guy. And you would come on stage and everybody in the room would kind of lean back a little bit. And what was so interesting was that you had this kind of scary big persona on stage. But offstage, a lot of the staff commented on you being one of the nicest guys they ever worked with. And by the way, thank you for that. When I told several of the old staff people that I was going to be interviewing you, they were not only a very excited that we connected, but wanted to share that you were one of their favorite people to work with, because you were such a nice guy offstage.

Tree: 

So there’s that. But then when I would go through the rules at the beginning of my set, rule number one was always tip your server? Well, yeah, we reinforce in the course of the evening, because I came from a background of like, over close to 30 years in food and beverage bartender by cooking my mom’s restaurant when I was 13. Wow. So So food and beverages come on my blood.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, so you imagine this big, intimidating guy laid out in black leather coming out and pointing at the audience and saying, You will tip the waitresses.

Tree: 

I learned I learned how to acknowledge the food servers.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, there you go. Yeah, but still, it was a great way to start off your set. So let’s let’s back up a little bit, because I know what working with you how that was it laughs but share with the audience. How did you kind of fall into stand up comedy?

Tree: 

Well, it’s something that I had loved since I was a kid and I’m probably dating myself but growing up watching the old Ed Sullivan Show and shows you know the variety shows. I always loved it when the comedians came on again, you like checking green mirin Cohen, you know, the old Borscht Belt comics were the first ones and then evolved into you know, Cosby Carlin which she prior before he turned into Richard Pryor, and I was noticing when people were watching, you know, family was watching it, everybody was laughing. And so everybody was in a good mood. And I always liked humor, and always like being you know, joking around with my friends and being the funny guy. And so, one day, you know, back in the 80s, is you know, when comedy took off, and all you had to do is slap up a comedy sign on a bar and miss you could misspell it, and the place would be packed because comedy was the the new rock and roll and you know, basically low overhead because you just had, you know, a slab of meat and a microphone and a light was really easy to put on. So that’s how I got into it was one Saturday morning, I woke up I wasn’t hungover. And I seen in the San Jose Mercury News Lee whiners was a columnist back then. And that this guy named Dan scow was teaching an improv comedy class at the last laugh. I think you probably remember that pleasure. Yeah. So I literally literally grabbed myself by the collar and took myself down. I said, you know, it’s time to, you know, just do it. The worst that can happen is will be horrible. And then you’ll know, because one of the things growing up, you know, hey, you’re a funny guy. You’re a funny guy. We still like to do accents and joke around. And so I went down. And at the end of it, the guy came up to me and I was gonna go, he’s all getting going, Hayden’s gonna go, hey, you know, you really suck, you need to leave. He goes, Hey, you’re really funny. Can you do other things? And that that was my Harry Potter moment, you know? And Hagman says the Harry Potter, you’re a wizard, Harry. And suddenly, suddenly, it’s like, everything I do is valid. And so that’s how it started. So I started out doing improv comedy with a group and the guy Dan scow, late, great departed, unfortunately, but he was a DJ at an oldies station in San Jose. And so he got us, he set up an open mic at a place called Captain Cooks in Cupertino. And we really didn’t actually expect to perform in front of people. We thought it was just going to be the class, you know, you’re going to perform in front of an audience, and we were scared out of our brains. But that we started doing that as we opened the open mic. So I got to meet a bunch of, you know, comedian Rob Schneider used to come down and be set. Because that was back in, like I said, The time when, you know, comedy was everywhere. You could drive around the Bay Area and who got four or five sets a night? You know, if you timed it out, right?

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, it was. It was an incredible time. Like a wild west. Yeah, I actually helped the last laugh, open their doors and get started as a comedy club. But what year was it that you were doing this improv group?

Tree: 

Around? Let’s say at ninety-five, maybe.

Scott Edwards: 

So the comedy boom was really flowing. Then as you mentioned, clubs were open all over the place, you found your voice on stage as part of an improv troupe?

Tree: 

That’s a great way to start getting onstage, yes. You know, actually being able to perform on stage having never done it before. I was in my 30s. At that point, you know, I’ve never, you know, always thought about it never done it. The inspiration for the crowd control aspect of tree came one night, I went to an open mic someplace. And I just suck. It was horrible. People not only didn’t like me, but they they vocalize how much they didn’t like me. And so I was driving home. And I was just like, you know, sad. So I got home cord myself a couple of nice stiff drinks, smoke a big fat joint, and sat down and World Wrestling Federation came on, you know, Vince McMahon. And so I’m watching this, and I’m high. And the guy, Gene Okerlund. He was like a little announcer guy, little kind of pudgy guy, because he’s starting our next match is going to be suddenly Hulk Hogan comes out, grabs the microphone, and starts screaming into the camera. And that’s when the light bulb went off. What I need to do is I need to intimidate the audience before they intimidate me. Someone has to establish order, someone has to establish the rules. I said, because anybody else, you know, you saw, you know, billion comics, Hey, how are you guys doing nice to be here. Trying to make the audience like them, I forced the audience to like me, I forced the audience

Scott Edwards: 

to will not necessarily like you, but they had to pay attention, you took control of the room, from the very first words, you had to

Tree: 

you had to because having been an audience member, you’re in a room full of strangers who have been drinking and mayhem could easily break out. So somebody has to be in control of the room. And so I just took it that’s that’s the angle that I pursued that and eventually evolved into you know what I was doing. But it just came out of fear and depression.

Scott Edwards: 

But you know, it’s interesting because I’ve interviewed over 40 entertainers to this point. And everybody kind of had a similar but different experience. In other words, everybody’s intimidated and scared at first. Everybody got their start by falling on stage through some other improv or theater or, you know, some open mic somewhere. But if you find your voice on stage, and in your case, you found a character tree that gave you the ability to control the room and then share your material and we want to let the audience in on a little secret. You would come out and do about 10 minutes of this kind of really Butch scary Oh yeah, authoritative attitude, but it was really funny. You had good material. But what really set you apart, and I’m going to give away the big secret is you would like snap. And all of a sudden you’re this big guy and leather chaps and a leather jacket and totally gay.

Tree: 

Absolutely gay a feminist. I’ve had gay comedians in San Francisco. So you know what treat your gear than I am. I think I think it was, I think it was Scott Capurro said that. Well, we went he goes, gantry even more gay than I am. And just as an aside story, one of my best one of the many, many best nights I had working at laughs was a command. I’m doing that stick. There’s these two guys. Basically trailer trash looking guys, you know, flannel shirts, seed hats. They probably had shoe in their back pocket. And they were just, they were just going with the all the way. Yeah, yeah, chicks are stupid. You know, they’re just crazy. And then I whip out the fan. And start doing I call this character. whip out the fan start doing Thurman. And these guys were horrified. Right up front, you’re dead center up front next to the speaker. And they were horrified. And they were like, no, no. And they actually scuttled out of the club. This was the old sack club. Oh. As they were running out, they were telling people queer. Men would say you got a gun.

Scott Edwards: 

It was so funny, because you always took the audience by just shocked them and surprised them when you switch to the other character. And we should let the audience know that you had some specific bits. As you called them, Thurman I didn’t know that is the name of the character Thurman, and still in black leather chaps and jacket and do this perfect gay persona doing material. And after about another 10 minutes, you would revert back and go back to being tree and

Tree: 

being authoritative, but not as not as aggressively butch as the opening part, but still maintaining control which I think people like that

Scott Edwards: 

I was that’s what I was gonna say tres people really love the fact that you were not only funny in both characters, but you presented both characters. Totally separate and yet together. It was it was really a unique and creative act. I always appreciated it.

Tree: 

But one of the one of the most fun aspects of it was controlling the audience’s laughter because as you know, you know, comedians one laughs per minute. That was a big thing. The lpm club owners would sometimes you know, how many how many laughs per minute that you get. And I would not let the audience laugh sometime. They’re sloppy. I go no, settle. No. It’s so funny. They’re sitting there sitting there like a normal we want to and then I would go okay, now. Okay, this, this may sound weird things don’t take this weird. But I remember, you know, growing up my generation, we watched a lot of World War Two stuff. And I remember watching Triumph of the Will Hitler’s big rally, the Leni Riefenstahl? Right, and the idea of crowd control. Because that was that was a thing. That was one of the few things Hitler was really good at,

Scott Edwards: 

oh, he was a salesman

Tree: 

you know, actually, not to fear the silence, to let it make the audience come to you to want to hear what you have to say,

Scott Edwards: 

well, it’s the same ideas if you really want people to pay attention whisper because they will move in and pay more attention. It’s not necessarily screaming at him all the time, which, of course, Hitler did a lot of, but you’re right. He is a great orator. You had the ability to control the audience first from a character point of view his tree, but then you became Thurmond and came back as a softer nicer tree. But I do really remember how the audience would just be howling and you’d point them and almost like a teacher, wave your fingered saddle saddle. It was you it was really fun to experience and audience. I do have a little bit of trees material at the end of this interview. So stay tuned. So tree I don’t recall exactly. How did you come to work at laughs

Tree: 

Well, again, there was, you know, comedy was everywhere on every street corner. You could you know, get a prescription for it at the drugstore. So I you know, I wanted to expand my horizons outside the Bay Area and actually Sacramento was only a couple hours away, somebody said So you should try left and and, you know, you know this upfront, everybody warned me about you. You know, number number one Scott’s cheap. I’m like, you know, I’m like, oh, but I’m getting paid to do comedy. That’s, you know, I’ve done it for beers. I’ve done it for drink tickets. I’ve done it for free. You know if I could actually work in a club. So I came up, and I’m not sure if I sent you a tape. Or if I did a guest set, I’m not sure how it worked?

Scott Edwards: 

Well, I know that you worked for me several times.

Tree: 

And always, well, the audience will see the thing was you were one of the guys who gave me my first big, big breaks to actually work in a legitimate comedy club for a week. To Do you know, it was the thing was, you know, with your club, you always opened the the, the opening act wasn’t really the emcee, the opening act was an opening act, you did 15 minutes, boom, you’re done for the night. Rather than that was the only drawback was not being able to hone the emcee skills. Because when you’re starting out, you’re always going to be the emcee, you’re going to be the guy, you know, everybody, welcome to The Club, blah, blah, blah, tip your servers, you need an ear. But it gave me a chance to actually work a legitimate Comedy Club. I mean, I saw the names you had on your wall. I mean, you you’ve had some of the creme de la creme of comedians go through your clubs, so it wasn’t just like some little craphole one night or someplace. But it gave me the chance to, to, you know, to have that solid 15 or so.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, you developed really quickly, you didn’t stay long.

Tree: 

No, you You brought me along real fast. Well, one of the things that helped me along was, you know, you said when you were blue and happy with another blue act, and I remember your first booking with Jack Marion. And I said, you know, when you get the blue comics, do you lose money said Oh, no, we make more.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it often. But no, Marian was an expert. And it being dirty and yet being entertaining. He wasn’t even really he wasn’t even really dirty, though.

Tree: 

Well, it wasn’t. It was it was the material it was talking about coitus.

Scott Edwards: 

Exactly, you know, did to put it in a nerd term, but his gift was being able to entertain both sexes by talking about sexual relations. From each point of view. He was just genius. But working with him had to have expanded your experience.

Tree: 

I can’t recall if anything, he said really influenced me. But because of the fact that he existed, I was able to have a gig. Can you see you certainly wouldn’t book me like, you know, what Gary Shandling or, you know, anybody like that mill table, you know, any of the more I don’t want to say middle of the road, because that’s usually a derogatory term, but well yeah, there you go. We have clean comedy, which I find abhorrent.

Scott Edwards: 

But, but here’s why because you were such a strong character. It needed somebody strong to follow you. In other words, it’s not Seinfeld or Leno couldn’t follow you. It just because you started off the shows either as a opening act or feature was such a strong character in tree that it would have why put the headliner in that kind of position? Well, I want to do what’s best for the show. And I knew somebody like Jack Marion or somebody high energy like amazing Jonathan or Bruce Baum could follow you.

Tree: 

Yeah. Oh, easily those two guys. Yeah, without question.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, it was about an energy thing because you really brought an energy to the stage. Now you work for me several times any specific memories besides chasing out the two dirtbags from working your years? Laughs, the two clubs, Yeah. But you’re probably from Rio Linda. So yeah. That was your that was your go to white trash place. I remember. Right, right. I remember one night, specifically, and don’t hold this against me. I smoked just a little bit of pot for the first time in my life before I went on stage, not a lot, just a little bit. I went because I was it was a your club was a club in which I was incredibly comfortable. And I wanted to see what would happen I didn’t do it. And it was a night where the universe aligned perfectly. And I was doing this one bit about describing a particular position. You know, the man behind the woman whatever. And for some reason, I took my time describing that position and it just went so so on I could feel the audience going. You know, because it is done in long drawn out central way. And the biggest thing I remember was I went upstairs after the show my walk through the door and I got a standing ovation, spontaneous standing ovation on the bar. That is something you’ll never forget.

Tree: 

Oh, no, the thing was, it also taught me that again, it’s okay to slow down. You don’t have to rush through your material, you can, you can savor it, not just necessarily serve it up.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah. And you’re bringing a good point, anybody that wants to get into stand up comedy that’s listening to these podcasts, that a lot of times out of anxiety and fear of the stage, when you hit it, you tend to rush through your material, and not allow the audience to experience and share in the moment. And I think the secret to being a professional is allowing the audience to take in the moment and share it with the entertainer. And sometimes that takes time. There’s been a lot of examples of famous comics and comedians over the years, that would do a longer than comfortable pregnant pause, after making a statement, and that pause in itself can sometimes be funny. You know, I mean, it’s just, it’s all about, you know, I think it’s interesting, because I’ve been working on a comedy course, for people. And I know that as an emcee, when I was on stage, initially, you would have that fear that if I quit talking, people are going to get up and leave. Right? And, and it’s just the anxiety of the moment. But the reality is, the audience is paid to be there, they’re committed to being entertained, they want you to succeed. And they’re going to give you time, in most cases, to, you know, work with them and relate to them. And I think it’s interesting that you noted that, and that’s a really good thing to learn. But I gotta go back to the standing ovation, we always had the audience’s, we would flow them into an after show bar. And for them to give you a standing ovation after the show, in a separate setting, had to have felt amazing.

Tree: 

Oh, it did it was, but it just reinforced, you know, the theory that I had, that it’s okay to take your time of stuff that validated. So, going forward from that point, I was able to, again, not fear the silence, not fear, praying, slowing down a little bit, so long as I knew, you know, it’s like a piece of music. You know, there’s certain points in a concerto where, you know, it’s slower, maybe it slows down. Maybe it you know, takes us time, but so long as you get something coming with it, and it’s not just one low key thing, you know, you pick your times to, to produce or pull back on the energy. And again, you know, sometimes not allowing the audience to laugh. You know, I mean, forcing silence, which comics, you know, like, why would you do that? Why don’t you want them to laugh? Because they want to, and I’m not going to let them. Yeah. So they’re going to have to, you know, they’re going to have to do my work.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s a good analogy. It is like music and it has to have a flow and a pattern to it. By the way, everybody that’s listening. You might have heard a whistle that’s not Tree hitting on me. He’s got a very nice look.

Tree: 

Parrot name, I’m at all Piper.

Scott Edwards: 

Piper, the bird. Yeah, Piper the birds in the background and is enjoying listening to Michael tell his story. So I know that after several years in Northern California and kind of getting your feet wet. You did make the big move down to Los Angeles. And how long were you in LA? I know it was 1006. But you came back?

Tree: 

Right? Yeah, no, we, we went down there trying to remember when we went down. And I remember that was 911 was in 2000. Right? Or 2001 2001? Yeah, we went down then because I was doing a temp job for Toyota, which just really sucked. But that’s another story. But that was, that’s when we moved down there. You know, Kristen, I said, you know, hey, let’s give it a shot. Her company Sun Microsystems was good enough to say, you know, she was saying, Hey, we’re going to go do this. And they said, We don’t want to lose you. So they left her telecommute from Los Angeles back to the Bay Area. So she worked from home. They had an office set up down by the airport, she could go in there every so often if she needed to. And periodically she got to fly up back up the bay area but so we went down, made the move down to LA and started that process.

Scott Edwards: 

Now as to catch the audience up a lot of comics will start their career out of the big hubs like Sacramento or Boston or Denver and they will Go to either New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles in your case, you’d already made a name for yourself in the Bay Area in San Francisco, when you shifted to LA, how did they accept the tree character?

Tree: 

Actually, they didn’t. And they only did a couple of gigs. And I realized that that was not going to be the path I would need to take in order to be seen by the industry. So I didn’t I what I did was I started getting involved with theater. I took a writing class at Second City used to hang around Second City, too, because I there was no way I could compress what I do on stage into three minutes.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah. And it’s possible at the Store

Tree: 

minutes just to get on stage, right?

Scott Edwards: 

The Comedy Store in the improv a lot of times, especially open mics, you’re only given three to five minutes. And if you’re ever going to showcase for a television spot, the maximum they’ll give you is three minutes. And it’s true that your character tree, and especially with the transition to Thurman, I mean, you needed time to really make that work. I’m not I’m disappointed. It didn’t take in LA, but I’m not I guess that surprised? Oh, no matter my Yeah, knowing how it works down there. Well, that’s a little disappointing, though. It sounds like you didn’t get the shot you deserved.

Tree: 

Well, it wasn’t really disappointing. What it was was the reality of it’s like, okay, so what are you gonna do? So I ended up getting more involved with theatre, naturally going on auditions. I went to some casting workshops, which are some people love them. Some people hate them, you go there, and it’ll be somebody a representative from a casting agency. And sometimes it will actually be a real honest to god casting agents. Sometimes it’ll be some little minor functionary in a casting agency, who goes in to make a few extra bucks. Right? Bring in some old hackneyed scripts and you know, they pair you up with somebody, you go out and rehearse you come back in and do your audition. From that, I got my my famous 10 lines. I’m Malcolm in the Middle, which, believe it or not, but you probably noticed, I still get I still get residual checks. They might, they might, they only might only be for like, eight, nine, sometimes 10 bucks, depending upon the market, which leads me to thinking you wonder how much you know, the rest of them are getting.

Scott Edwards: 

Right, right.

Tree: 

They got me my 10 lines to actually experience what it was like to actually be on a television. But it was out in Canyon Country because they were doing a thing was one of the characters Aris joined the army. So this was an Army thing. I played an army captain. And I hadn’t had my 10 lines, you know, so I can say, Yep, I did it. I was on TV.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s good. I wasn’t aware of that. And I think that that, at least as you said, gave you the opportunity to at least experience a television set and getting on air and getting some small residual checks. Hey, you know, it pays for the bubblegum right?

Unknown: 

At least one Starbucks. Yeah. It was it was I got a week’s worth of work. Because they didn’t film over the weekend. So I had I think it was a Thursday, Friday. And then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. So I got the sag rate for a whole week. Yeah, that’s bad pay. No, no, I think it was like two grand. And that was for 10 line can measly lines.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, but they have to pay you to be on set. And it’s usually about $600 a day. So three grand works out about right.

Tree: 

Plus, plus, what I drive off the Canyon Country, and I get there, of course, you know, I’m like the new guy. I’ve got my script with me and I’m rehearsing my line. And they show me where my trailer is, you know, it’s one of those trailers where it’s a bunch of attached right run large motor, I’ve got my own. I’ve got my own little space. I’m in there and I’m in there and I hear knocking like Okay, now it’s game time. I hope I’m gonna go yes, lunch break. So I go out, and they have this enormous red of food, they’ve got food trucks, you can get sushi, you can get steak and get a burger you can get, you know, vegan that, you know, and there’s a table full of snacks that, you know, I to this day, I wonder how do these people make any money. And that was just for that one day that one day of shooting.

Scott Edwards: 

It’s incredible that a lot of people don’t realize, or maybe they do and they just don’t think about it. But when we watch a TV show, and it’s it’s on the screen for let’s say a 30 minute sitcom, they’ll take a week to rehearse and shoot it. They’re paying transportation in some cases, they have housing in the things of minor green rooms for everybody in their case, a trading room. They have food for everybody drink for everybody. You’re getting paid whether you’re working or not. I mean, just to be able to experience that for a week, actually, Michael, is something that I’m sure you cherish and was a great experience.

Tree: 

And the best part of that whole thing was we went in for the table read beforehand. I didn’t work with any of the kids. I actually I didn’t work with. I worked as a kid and played Reese the older brother. He was, that was the segment, but we didn’t actually, we weren’t actually on set at the same time. He was someplace I was shooting and I would do my little stick. But at the table read Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaz Merrick, the parents went around the table and introduced themselves to everybody and welcomed all of us whether they knew us or not, some of the pros had worked with before, you know, Hey, Bob. Hey, Marilyn, how you doing? But they came up, and there was no showbiz pretense about it. They were just nice people. You know, Hi. What’s your name all over the party playing Okay. Well, you know, welcome. Welcome to the set. Yeah, that’s why to this day, I love Bryan Cranston. Not only is he funny, and he’s a great actor, but just that small kindness that he and James showed everybody, you know, that will last

Scott Edwards: 

forever. And there are some prima donnas in the business. But when you get down to working with them, you become their peer. And you’re a fellow actor, and kind of like in the comedy community, you’re a peer group, and people will normally help and support you. And I think it’s great that you had that experience. How exciting is that? So you spent some time in LA, doing theater and you got this one television shot on Malcolm in the Middle. Now, I know that in about 2006, you came back up to San Jose?

Tree: 

Yes. See, our daughter was having our first grandchild. My wife had always been supportive of me galavanting around the country doing my little comedy stick. She has a real job. She had a real job at Sun Microsystems, right. The job was benefits, right? And I asked her straight up, I said, Look, you want to go back up to Barry to be without lien and we didn’t know the daughter granddaughters name at the time. With Alan and the baby. Right? She goes, yeah. I said, Well, let’s go. She said, Well, what about your career? I should I’ve had my career. I’ve had a career. You know, I, you know, I’ve done I did TV. I’ve done some movies. I’ve done stand up, which was my dream.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah. You’d spent over 10 years doing your art form.

Tree: 

Yeah, exactly. And, and while staying on the same subject, I didn’t have the obsessive nature to follow through at all costs to succeed, quote, unquote. Good example. You know, Patton Oswald, right. Yeah. Okay. Patents booked the gig in Portland where he was the feature but he booked the gig got me as the headliner, Kurt Weitzman, the opener, and the story I tell people as the reason Patton Oswald is where he is today is because after the show, I would hang out with the audience. We have a few cocktails. Bob was just, he was back in the condo wedding bits for MTV. He had the listen, he has this, this obsessive nature, that’s, you know, the drive gotta be? Yeah, you gotta kind of gotta be crazy, too, to really succeed at all costs, you have to put everything aside to be available at a moment’s notice, to go to go to a party to go to a coffee shop someplace that’s going to be any opportunity to be seen or entertained.

Scott Edwards: 

If you were driven to be a success as some of the people that we’ve all heard of Sagat and Coulier. Carvey, any of those guys, you have to jump on every opportunity. And that’s not for everybody. It’s not everybody’s place in life to want to do that. And I totally relate to the fact that you got your time in you, you hit some of your goals, you had some great, memorable experiences, and it was time to move on. I mean, even for me, I ran the clubs, I was on stage almost every night for 21 years. And one of the hardest things to do was to step off that stage and walk away from all that. But I’m never I mean, I’ll always cherish that moment of time, but my life has gone on and I’ve had other great experiences. So

Tree: 

Oh, yeah, without question. The thing too is, I mean, patent had talent. You know, Dana Carvey had talent, cool Bob Saget. They all had they, I mean, because you could be I mean, there was LA is full of people who are obsessed, focused psychotic about making it in the biz. But they just don’t have any talent. They can act they can’t sing, they can dance, but they’re there but they’re still there. They’re, you know, and it’s like having a car without an engine. most to the guys you’re mentioning there a racecar that never stopped and drive, drive drive and have the talent to make it happen.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s a great analogy. Now once you got back into San Jose, and you settled in with your granddaughter, congratulations, best job in the world grandparent

Tree: 

wonderful and she’s perfect. She was straight A students.

Scott Edwards: 

Awesome. Awesome. Did you find yourself back in show business at all?

Tree: 

I gotten my my taste of theater in Los Angeles. So I you know, they told Kristen, I said, Look, we’ll go back to the Bay Area. You know, I’m in the theater now, not comedy anymore. And I said there’s, you know, there was like, close to 300 theater, things in the Bay Area, you know, the whole bay area, including Sacramento. You know, and if I want to get involved again, in movies or TV or commercials, whatever, it’s in the San Francisco, there’s casting agencies out there, they’re not. You know, they’re not as close to the the the pulse of showbiz and such. But, you know, I mean, that’s where I got my first couple of commercials. I got my I did my two episodes of mash bridges up there. You know, out of San Francisco, something, you know, there’s work available if I decided to pursue it.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah. I’m going to sidetrack it’s funny. You mentioned the TV show Nash Bridges. That was a Don Johnson vehicle that actually taped in San Francisco. And if you I can turn on almost any episode and see somebody I’ve worked with, all the comics got shot to do a guest spot or, and they weren’t big playing comics, they were acting on these various NAS bridges shows. So just something I wanted to share with the audience. Because it is true that because there were so many entertainers in the Bay Area, and they were actually taping and shooting in the Bay Area. All those people like you got work, that’s great.

Tree: 

Well, I actually had to separate episodes. And when I played a bartender, and I actually went to the bar beforehand, I have to get the Mickey modified bartender for a few hours just to get the feel of the bar face the bartender back my food and beverage days goes yeah, no problem. So I did that. And but here’s, here’s a sweet little story. We’re doing it the other one where there’s a computer chip seat, but I’m part of the gang. And so we’re in this condo someplace in San Francisco. And so everything is set up and with Don Johnson. He wanted to show up, do his stuff and get the hell out. He never wanted to linger. He wanted to do no exposition nothing. He just wanted to show up. There was stuff Emily, so we get there. And I Okay, Columbia Digi ready because Yeah, I’m ready. Let’s let’s do this thing. So we do the scene. And this poor old guy and he must have been in his 60s or whatever. The sound guy. Because all man I’m sorry, I forgot to turn the sound on.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, geez. No,

Tree: 

Johnson Johnson goes insanely ballistic. Creative profanity. I mean, he was just livid because somebody was taking time away from whatever the hell it was he was doing. He’s walking around, check. Fire. And butt on the table in front of me was a deck of cards laid up playing solitaire. So he’s walking on God’s shop. He picks up the cards. Just pick the cards and shuffle them. Just shuffle them in his hands angrily and he spent the money hasn’t pick a card as far as he chose, but not that one. I pick another card. Because look at it. Remember if you remember it? Yeah. Okay. They put the bug in a shovel and shovel some troubles on the hose off the cradle. Is this your card? And it was? I said, yeah, it was and put the card. Dude, you’re ready. That mean that that he had dissipated the negative energy with that little thing? Doing the magic trick? Yeah. So we, you know, we, we did the we did the same and he left.

Scott Edwards: 

But you had you had your Don Johnson moment?

Tree: 

Oh, yeah. Because he a couple of times. I guess that they worked with him. That’s the way he was. He would show up on set. He never wanted to be bothered beyond what was the matter used to be like that. You know, he would take the movie. He goes that good. Yeah, let’s do another one. No, that’s

Scott Edwards: 

right. Right. That’s a great story. And and again, another great memory that stand up comedy led you to because if you had never gotten on stage on that initial improv group and then developed into a stand up and got all that experience, it wouldn’t have led you to theater and then led you to TV spots and the chance to interact the way you did. I’m jealous. It sounds like a great memory. Congrats. isolations

Tree: 

Oh, there’s, there’s there’s so many good ones. It gave me an opportunity to use the creativity that I’d always had. But that a lot of people especially growing up in Minnesota, a lot of people said, Why are you doing that? That’s stupid. Don’t talk like that. Why you being that way? You know, it’s like, you know, the killer of dreams?

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, yeah. I know. A lot of people don’t like to see other people be happy.

Tree: 

Exactly. Exactly. So. Oh,

Scott Edwards: 

well, thanks so much for sharing these stories. Michael, I gotta tell you I mentioned it before. I’m gonna say it one last time. It was a real joy. To have you be a regular performer at laughs unlimited. And the character tree I’m actually a little saddened that it’s it’s long gone, but it was one wow, that nobody will get

Tree: 

what’s got it has to be because I can’t fit into my chaps anymore.

Scott Edwards: 

You outgrow your leather.

Tree: 

I’ve still got I still got it. I still got the leather jacket. I’ve got the gloves. I got the chaps. But there’s no way in hell I could put them on

Scott Edwards: 

anymore. Well, that’s okay. We had our moment. And ladies and gentlemen. Yeah, we’re gonna share that moment with you. Stay tuned. We have a little stand up comedy from tree coming up in just a minute. But first I want to say thank you Michael for sharing your, your comedic life and stories with my audience. And doing this it’s just been a joy to reconnect and catch up.

Tree: 

Well, and thank you for providing a vehicle for a lot of comedians to to get their chops, you know, to to you know, experience the you know, what it’s like to work in a club, a real club, you know, not not a, you know, crappy little one nighter. But to work in a real club, you know, you know, for a week to know what it’s like, the beauty of it. You know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and go I don’t have to do anything until eight o’clock tonight.

Scott Edwards: 

rough job, right?

Unknown: 

Yeah. And I’m looking for Scott. If I’m the Oprah I just got to go to 15 minutes. Yeah, you know, same day but and that’s that’s my day. I have to work for 15 minutes a day. Oh, poor me.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, it was a unique career and you made the best of it. I’m so happy for how it treated you and that you’ve had a chance to resettle yourself and find yourself in a place that makes you comfortable and happy with terrific memories of this art form bringing you this life. So anyway, let’s let’s get to it. Ladies and gentlemen, here comes some comedy from tree. Thanks, Michael.

Tree: 

Thank you guys like magic you were correct the first time because kiddies magic is illusion magic is a lie. What I propose to do for you now is honest to goodness Merlin’s stuff are you willing to trust me with that? No doubt because I obviously I am the alpha male now. This is an ordinary glass of water. If anyone doesn’t believe me, feel free to come forward and try it darlin want to try it? Don’t worry. This thing’s just about cleared up so you settle. I take the water. I recite the magic incantation. I have Newton toe of frog wool of Baton tang of dog out of full can blind worms sting. These are a few of life it’s no longer water. No, it’s wine. I don’t need all of you to believe me just 12.

Scott Edwards: 

Ladies and gentlemen, that was Michael West doing the character tree live on stage. As you heard he had great control of the audience and was very funny. We want to thank Michael for doing our interview today. Thanks for listening. Be sure to tell your friends and share the podcast we’re growing. See you next Sunday. Bye.

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