Edinburgh is full of strange characters at the best of times, but during the Festival strange almost becomes the norm. Which makes it much more difficult for me to check over my shoulders to make sure I’m not being followed by government spooks, Men In Black or other furtive and strange people as I try to speak to one of the Lone Gunmen. Dean Haglund is in town and he kindly agreed to take some time to swap talking to the FBI to chat with FPI:
FPI: Hi, Dean and welcome to Edinburgh. How are you finding the Festival? Is this your first time at the Fringe?
Dean: I was here for a week last year and I had to say a couple lines in a friend’s play, but that doesn’t really count. So YES this is my first time and I love it.
FPI: Most fans will know you from your portrayal of Langly in the X-Files and the criminally short-lived Lone Gunmen. If they don’t know about your other work they might be wondering just what you’re doing appearing at the Fringe, but I believe you have actually been doing improvisational stand-up for years. Could you tell us a little about how you got into that side of your repertoire? Did the stand-up develop before your acting career, the other way around or have they always complimented one another?
Dean: I did stand-up to put my way through university to get my acting degree. Then I joined a renowned group of improvisers called the Vancouver TheatreSports League where I worked with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mocherie (well known for his appearances in Whose Line Is It Anyway in both the US and UK – Joe). Then any time the acting work was slow I could perform with an improv group or do stand-up so the two have always complimented each other.
FPI: Obviously there has been a pretty large and diverse range of comedians who have appeared on the Fringe over the years, from the late, great Bill Hicks to new talent you may never have heard of and first encounter at a show in some dark venue down a side street. Can I ask which comics have been personal favourites or inspirations to you?
Dean: So many, of course, Eddie Izzard and Lee Evans were my faves in the 90’s when they would come from the Fringe here and arrive in Canada where I was performing in festivals. Then Canadians like Vince Fluke and Tom Stade would come over here and become big on the scene. And today I am lining up to see Frank Boyle, Tara Flynn, and Lee Stewart.
FPI: Did you know you’re not actually the first cast member from the X-Files to appear here? Jerry Hardin, who played Deep Throat in the early X-Files, reprised his Mark Twain role he portrayed for Star Trek the Next Generation to do An Evening With Mark Twain a few years back (and it was terrific). And now you’re here on the Fringe with your own show, The X-Files Improv. From the flyers I can see that you’re going to improvise an X-Files episode at each show – what sort of form does that take? I’m guessing if it is improvised then it will be pretty much something different each night, depending on the audience and suggestions?
Dean: That is right, it is all dependent on them, so if I suck it is THEIR fault. I have a structure that is similar to an episode but the details and the suggestions steer how the show is going to fly, and sometimes that goes into some pretty weird tangents.
(cartoon featuring Dean, borrowed from Jeffrey Rowland’s Over Compensating, (C) Jeff Rowland)
FPI: From the flyers for the show I get the distinct impression that there may be a degree of pastiche involved?
Dean: I never take anything too seriously, so it is fun to make fun of some of the serious aspects of the show, so it may be called pastiche in that way, but it is also a very difficult show to do technically as an improviser but the key is never to show that part of it.
FPI: You don’t don a red wig to play Scully at any point, do you? Because the Lady Boys of Bangkok have the Festival rights on cross-dressing, could upset them!
Dean: Yes, luckily I never cross dress in the show. The closest I get to anything weird is playing a government scientist.
FPI: The shows just opened this week and I know you have most of August to perform so it is early in the run, but how did the first few shows go and how did you find performing in front of an audience at the worlds biggest arts festival? Any performance is special to an artist, but is there a particular vibe to performing in the Edinburgh Fringe?
Dean: There certainly is, and it is kind of a thrill to be among so much talent in one little area, and that everyone from performers to audience has arrived to share in one thing – the thrill of a live experience. The first show was great and it is so fantastic to have the feedback of such a great supportive crowd.
FPI: While we love our SF TV series here there really isn’t any substitute for being in a live audience, is there? Speaking of which, are you going to get any free time to catch any shows yourself and if so is there anyone in particular you’d like to see while you’re here?
Dean: I have been trying to get tickets to see Aeneas Faversham Returns – the Victorian Sketch comedy group… that is my cup of tea.
FPI: May I ask, aside from the show, what else is going on in Dean Haglund’s life right now?
Dean: I have my own production company and we are producing a few films that I can’t talk about yet. And I have invented a laptop cooling product called the Chill Pak that just won a silver medal at the international inventors expo in Geneva.
FPI: I saw that on your website; comedian, actor, speaker and inventor -obviously there is much more to Dean Haglund than meets the eye! And that invention also means that we can legitimately use the fine old British term ‘boffin’ in describing you.
There have been a lot of rumours circulating about a second X-Files movie, especially after David Duchovny recently announced he was expecting to see a script from Chris Carter very soon. Have you heard anything about it and would you like the chance to play Langly again if it came up?
Dean: I would love to play Langly again, though we’re killed off at the end of the run. I had heard from the writers that the movie was to be a horror and nothing to do with the series arc at all, so it is possible that we show up somewhere.
FPI: I have to ask for my own curiosity Langly from the X-Files and Garth from Wayne’s World. Are they twins separated at birth, part of a shadowy conspiracy to clone children or did they just share the same ophthalmologist and hairdresser?
Dean: I had that look first and I was doing stand-up in Toronto when Mike Myers was in Second City there. So that guy might have explaining to do when I see him.
FPI: Mike Myers, if you’re listening, Dean is wondering where his royalties are for Garth’s hair. Dean, you’re obviously very busy trying to perform an improv show during the Fringe, so thanks very much for taking some time out to talk to us. Dean will be performing The X-Files Improv throughout August at The Lot (venue 24) in the Grassmarket. For more details please check The Lot’s site or the official Edinburgh Fringe site; for more on Dean (including his podcast) visit his official site. And I’m delighted to say that Dean is going to take time out of his schedule to appear in person at the Edinburgh Forbidden Planet International, 40-41 South Bridge (just moments from the Royal Mile and within easy walking distance of Dean’s venue) on Friday 17th of August from 3 to 4pm – all are welcome, so please do come along and say hi.