Norwich: Make some noise for Playhouse bound Police Academy star Michael Winslow

Michael Winslow, coming to Norwich Playhouse this wee. Photo: Joss Foley

Michael Winslow, coming to Norwich Playhouse this wee. Photo: Joss Foley - Credit: Archant

Michael Winslow is the master of 1001 voices. Ironically, I’m losing mine due to a bad cold when I call the stand-up comic and actor.

Steve Guttenberg and Michael Winslow in Police Academy 4 Citizens on Patrol.

Steve Guttenberg and Michael Winslow in Police Academy 4 Citizens on Patrol. - Credit: Archant

Best known for playing Sgt Motor Mouth Jones in the Police Academy films, he’s bringing his latest show Noizeyman to Norwich Playhouse Wednesday and Thursday, having just finished shooting some commercials for a chain of parks.

“I’m doing the sound of a park and all the things in it including the wind. I had to think about it for a minute and looked at videos of the all the parks, all the animals... people love watersports so I can do a water nozzle,” says Winslow, imitating the drip, drip of water until his grows into a gush.

He would imitate the airplane noises and jet engines taking off and landing at Fairchild Air Force Base where he grew up. Moving around a lot, he didn’t have a lot of friends so ended up inventing some via he saw on TV.

“Stuff like Doctor Who would come on, The Young Ones, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, all those things had a profound effect on me.”

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“Oh sure, Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Supercar I mean come on - I want to put noises to that man, that was so cool. I used to do really strange stuff as a kid. I used to put sound to Charlie Chaplin movies, which is really wrong. I don’t care if it’s the Hobbit or... if the sound is off and I see it somewhere I’m going to see what I can do - and (I imitate) the horses too.”

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I grew up watching the Police Academy Movies and the part of Jones was written especially for him after the film’s producers Hugh Wilson and Paul Manslanski saw him perform at the renowned New York Improvisation Comedy Club. They must have been crazy sets to be on?

“They really were a lot of fun and it was one of those things where you get this job and you think ‘okay, this will last the summer and it’ll be good because I’ll actually get a place to live this time, but I don’t know what’ll happen after this’. It’s been now 30 something years since.”

He began honing his skills in an unlikely place, living homeless in Venice Beach, California.

“There were a lot of street musicians, performers, folks that were kind of homeless. The street culture would come to life when the sun would come up... for me the safest place was to sleep on top of the lifeguard tower because that way the gangs couldn’t see you, it just seemed a little safer because you had safety in numbers, you know?

“It was one of those things, but it was quite an adventure. I learned quite a lot of things from street stuff. You learned stand-up comedy and from that you learned other things like politics...”

It led to arguably his biggest break, auditioning for the Gong Show hosted by the infamous Chuck Barris.

“You remember that,” he laughs. “That show, was regulated chaos and Chuck was out of his mind with the hat down over his eyes where he couldn’t even look at the camera while he was talking to it. There was always that gong, people were scared to death of getting hit with it. It was a great competition, just so insane.”

He soon moved to LA to perform in the comedy clubs and was discovered by the aforementioned improv club’s founder Bud Friedman who helped launched the careers of the likes of Bette Midler, Andy Kaufman and Jay Leno.

Winslow, whose other roles include the voice of Stripe in Stephen Spielberg’s Gremlins, is taking a kitchen sink approach to new show Noizeyman.

“Everyone keeps wanting the classics along with all the stuff I can come up... so we’re going to make sure everyone has a chance to forget about the rent for an hour... it’s kind of like baking a cake, there’ll be a little bit of stand-up a little bit of theatre, a little bit of sound, a heavy dash of music.”

It must be tempting to use his talents to play practical jokes when not on stage.

“Oh I don’t do that any more,” he laughs, “I really don’t. No more talking food in the Chinese restaurant. I’ve been made to promise not to do that anymore.”

See for yourself when Winslow comes to the Norwich Playhouse from 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday.

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