Matt Wisniewski is genuinely confused when I ask, “So WTF is going on with this show?”
The show is, at its most basic core, about a dim-witted talk show host and his monkey sidekick, he sort of explains. Well, yeah. I can see that. The host and the monkey are both inanimate creatures made of wet flour and newspaper, and they seem to be existing in a parallel world from that which we currently know, and I have no idea what they are saying to each other and yet, I can’t stop grinning for 3:37 minutes, which is the running time of the first episode of Night Time with Harvey O’King, released today.
“They get into hijinks, spar with one another, and act in a generally obvious way for the duration of the show,” Wisniewski continues.
While not an homage, per se, the voice of O’King might seem a bit familiar. “The original concept for the Harvey O’King character was just from me doing the shittiest Rodney Dangerfield impression of all time…I made Rodney Dangerfield a mannequin talk show host,” Wisniewski said.
The eight-episode web series, which will release on the 13th of every month from now until December, takes about a month to produce (this includes the making of the puppets from scratch). Eventually we will be introduced to around 10 characters, and things will accelerate to odd town as the series continues.
“As the show develops, they end up shit’s creek without a paddle, essentially. They end up far, far, far from the talk show entirely. By the time the fourth episode comes around, it’s not even a talk show anymore…For the first couple episodes it’s just like, the dumbest talk show you’ve ever seen,” Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski seems to have always had a penchant for the odd, indescribable, and absurd. Those who have spent even a nominal amount of time around the WNY music scene in the last couple years probably caught Wisniewski fronting a psychobilly freakfest known as Well Worn Boot, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the slight, prim daytime Wisniewski. His alter-ego, the Plainsman, thrashed on stage in tattered clothes and wielded a flute like a hatchet. The band’s guitarist and bassist were a Horse and a Baby, respectively (both straight from the nightmare realm, natch). The drummer was a dead guy named Billy Klubb.
Wisniewski attributes a delightful interest in costumes and characters to films like that of irreverent director Tim Burton during his formative years. “I was conscious that I was drawing off that style a little bit,” he said.
After shuttering the band in 2014, Wisniewski knew he wanted to keep developing creative content but wanted to move away from music for a while. He mulled on the idea of sketch comedy, which eventually developed into the Harvey O’King web series.
Collaboration is king in Wisniewski’s various projects. Upon first meeting in graduate school at SUNY Fredonia, Wisniewski and Don Boody (who eventually morphed into “Baby”) began collaborating on a still-unfinished short story compilation. They continued collaborating with Boot and now on Harvey O’King, where Boody is one of the writers.
Wisniewski also heavily credits his videographer, Pat DuPuy, and sound engineer Steve Zaionz for their talents on the project. He’s known both for several years and has produced other film projects with them for the Buffalo music scene. Local bands such as Mr. Boneless, Crontab U-John, and Green Jelly will be featured on the season one soundtrack.
“They help me look not as stupid; they help me pull off the stuff that I’m trying to do…Collaborate with other talented people because it ultimately makes the stuff you’re doing better,” Wisniewski said.
The Syracuse native has now been in Buffalo proper for a couple years now, and the city has been treating him well.
When asked if a move might be in his near future, Wisniewski spoke fondly of those he’s met and worked with in the city.
“The artist community and references and contacts I’ve developed are in the Buffalo area, and those people are tremendously talented. I’d like to continue working with those people, and if I were to up and move somewhere else I’d lose a lot of those contacts, or at least, accessibility to those contacts. At this point it seems like, why would I move out of Buffalo?”