A chat with Zane Lamprey, Zane Lamprey interview, Three Sheets, Have Fork, Will Travel
Zane Lamprey

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The funny thing about Zane Lamprey is…well, he’s a comedian by trade, so there are actually a lot of funny things about him. But what’s arguably funniest is that, although he might not be instantly recognizable to a huge segment of the population, if you put him in a bar, he suddenly turns into the real-life equivalent of Norm from “Cheers.” Of course, that’s the sort of thing that’s likely to happen when you’re the host of “Three Sheets,” a series which finds Lamprey taking a drinking tour of the world at large.

We’ll understand if you’ve never seen “Three Sheets,” since it spent its first three seasons on a network that precious few people were able to watch (MOJO HD), but now that the series is airing on the Fine Living Network and has been made available on DVD, you really should check it out. Be forewarned, however: it’s a participatory show. In other words, if you don’t have a drink in your hand while you’re watching, you won’t be getting as much out of it. And, believe us, we know what we’re talking about: the alcohol intake here at Bullz-Eye has skyrocketed since we picked up copies of “Three Sheets: Season 1 -3” and the newly-released “Three Sheets: Season 4.” As such, when we were offered the chance to chat with Lamprey, we jumped at it, if only because wanted to make sure he knew that he was directly responsible for making us feel like we’re turning into alcoholics.

Zane Lamprey: Hey, this is Zane, calling for Will…?

Bullz-Eye: You’ve got him. Thanks for calling. Good to talk to you!

ZL: Same here. Look, I’m in my car. Can you hear me okay?

BE: At the moment, anyway.

ZL: Well, good.

BE: Well, I’ve been absolutely devouring “Three Sheets.” I’ve got all four seasons of the show on DVD now.

ZL: You know, I just found out that Season 4 is out on DVD. I didn’t realize it was out yet!

BE: Well, at the very least, my copy’s here.

ZL: And that’s all that matters, really.

BE: I have to tell you, though, that I feel like I’m going to turn into an alcoholic just from watching the show.

ZL: Try hosting the show and see how you feel! (Laughs)

BE: So this is obviously one of those dream gigs, but how did it come about? Did they come to you and pitch the idea?

"I went in to audition for a Food Network show…well, it was more of an interview than an audition...and afterwards the executives were sort of laughing about it and saying, 'Uh, yeah, you’re not right for this show.' And I’m, like, 'Uh, okay, I don’t know how funny that is.' 'No, no, it’s funny because we’ve got this other show called ‘Three Sheets,’ and you’re perfect for it.'"

ZL: Well, actually, I went in to audition for a Food Network show, and what was funny was…well, it was more of an interview than an audition, and afterwards the executives were sort of laughing about it and saying, “Uh, yeah, you’re not right for this show.” And I’m, like, “Uh, okay, I don’t know how funny that is.” “No, no, it’s funny because we’ve got this other show called ‘Three Sheets,’ and you’re perfect for it.” So it was basically that conversation, then shooting the pilot a month later, and then about two months after that doing to Ireland and shooting the first episode. It was pretty quick.

BE: So where did you shoot the pilot? Was that in Belgium?

ZL: No, the pilot was done in Seattle, where the production company’s based. We took over a Polish social club, basically a club where all the Polish speaking people belong, so they have everything there from their birthdays to their weddings. Basically, it was a gymnasium that converted into a bar, but it was great because everything they were drinking was Polish, all the food was Polish, and half the people there didn’t even speak English. So it was a very authentic representation of what we were going to experience in the future.

BE: I love the intros to the episode, but I think my favorite by far is the one for the Hawaii episode, where you do the parody of the “Magnum, P.I.” opening credits.

ZL: You know, it’s funny, because whenever there’s something weird, you can bet that I’m basically driving that. The whole show is organic as we get out there, but when we were talking about Hawaii, I was, like, “Okay, I’m gonna open it as Magnum, and we’ll do a fake ‘Magnum, P.I.’ opening.” So I went and got a mustache and all that kind of shit, but then before we get there, I say, “Did you guys get the Ferrari?” And they’re, like, “Oh, it’s fine, we’ll get it when we get there, whatever.” But, y’know, Hawaii’s a small place, and to get a red Ferrari 308 GTS would require some work. So they called me and they’re, like, “We’re ready, come downstairs.” And I came out…and it was a Corvette. I was crushed. “No! It had to be a red Ferrari! That would’ve been so much funnier!” But, no, I looked like a porn star. Whatever.

BE: I have to say that the fact that you’re not afraid to get drunk on camera, but what’s more important, you’re not afraid to show the price that you often pay for it the next morning.

ZL: You know, I think a lot of the charm of the show is in its honesty and its candor. I do my best to never try to be cool or look good, because I think that endears me to the fans of the show, so if by making myself vulnerable or self-deprecating or whatever, then…I just feel like it makes the show more enjoyable and more relatable. So therefore I’m going to be myself. If I don’t know what something is or if it tastes like crap, I’m going to say it. If I drink too much, you’re going to know about it, and if I pay the price the next morning, I’m going to be honest about it.

BE: What’s been the best of the hangover remedies that you’ve been handed?

ZL: Probably the marijuana tea in Jamaica. I mean, without a doubt, it was the marijuana tea. I couldn’t function for two days, but my hangover was gone, so that’s a good thing.

BE: It seemed at first that Steve McKenna was going to be a mythical entity, like Norm’s wife on “Cheers,” but then one day he finally showed up. Was there any hesitation about actually making him become a real figure to viewers?

Zane LampreyZL: That’s a good question, and I’ve never had it before. That was not by my design. Originally, we were doing the show for a channel called In HD. It wasn’t even MOJO at the time. In fact, we might’ve even been on In HD 2. It was a channel I’d never heard of and nobody I knew had ever heard of, so I was, like, “Oh, I’m gonna end up doing something that I end up having DVDs for but no one will ever watch it.” That’s sort of when I started just being myself and being a goofball, because it didn’t matter. Thankfully, it worked. But one of the things I was going to do was do a shout-out to a different friend in every episode, except that I started telling stories about Steve, and the crew was just, like, “You’ve got to just stick with this guy. This guy is amazing!” Not a lot of the stories actually make it into the episodes, but the references to Steve do. So I said, “We’ve got to go ahead and get him in a show!” And MOJO believed what you were saying: that maybe it’s better that he’s heard about and not actually seen. But I was, like, “No, c’mon, we’ve gotta get this guy! I mean, this guy’s becoming sort of a punching bag who’s never even had an opportunity to get his face out there…and he is one of my best friends. So I convinced them to come out there, and he rocked it. He’s hilarious. And when you see the London episode…well, he’s in two episodes: the New Year’s Eve episode from New York, and then the London episode. He’s in both of those – they’re one-hour specials – and he’s awesome! He’s hilarious. He’s still Steve, you know, so he still gets Steve McKenna’ed and screws up, but now FLN loves him, and they’re, like, “We would love any opportunity to make Steve part of the show.” Not to mention that, when you meet him in person, he’s such a cool guy…

BE: On a related note, I know you’re actually going to be in San Francisco for New Year’s this year. Is that being filmed for FLN as well?

ZL: No, that’s part of our “Three Sheets” fan event. I’m usually traveling, and I do a lot of my social networking, like Twitter and Facebook and stuff, but it’s basically an opportunity to get out there and meet people and hang out with them. I’m doing my stand-up tour right now, and it’s a two-hour performance with a lot of technical stuff, so I don’t really have a lot of time to meet people before and after the show. So something like Zane Year’s Eve is when people actually get to come and hang out. It’s not being filmed, it’s just a fun event. People can film it if they want. I mean, I don’t care if they shoot at the party.

BE: Who’s the coolest person you’ve had tell you that they’re a fan of the show?

ZL: You.

BE: Awesome!

ZL: You want the second coolest person?

BE: Sure.

ZL: Jesus. He told me in a dream. He told me he appreciated what I was doing. (Laughs) Well, I’ll take that as meaning the biggest celebrity who’s a fan, but…I don’t know! It’s always a surprise when you hear, like, when we were someplace and…I forget the venue, but they’ve since called us and said that a bunch of people have come in to make the pilgrimage and do the same tour that we did on “Three Sheets,” and they said Bryan Adams and Meatloaf came in there – at separate times – and were big fans of the show. It’s always funny, and it’s interesting because, y’know, even now, we’re on FLN, a network that isn’t one of the most popular networks, by which I mean there are a great number of people that don’t get it. So when I go out, usually every day someone will stop me, but a lot of times I’ll be at a restaurant and someone will say, “Excuse me,” and I don’t know if they know me or not. I’ll be, like, “Oh, you watch ‘Three Sheets’?” And they’ll say, “No, can you pass the salt, please?” So it’s still always a surprise because it’s a crap-shoot. If the show was on NBC, I would assume that someone who’s staring at me watches the show. Now, though, they might just be staring at me.

On being recognized: "When I go out, usually every day someone will stop me, but a lot of times I’ll be at a restaurant and someone will say, 'Excuse me,' and I don’t know if they know me or not. I’ll be, like, 'Oh, you watch ‘Three Sheets’?' And they’ll say, 'No, can you pass the salt, please?' So it’s still always a surprise because it’s a crap-shoot.”

BE: Well, I was wondering about that, because while I realize you’re usually overseas when this happens, but when you run across someone during an episode who says, “Hey, you’re the guy from ‘Three Sheets,’” you always look legitimately shocked that they’ve recognized you.

ZL: Well, it’s like…I’m driving back from San Diego, heading up to L.A.. I did a stand-up show down there, and we’re doing it up here tonight. And we sold out our show…like, 500 people…and they had to turn people away at the door. I think I’m the last person who’s surprised by it, but I think other people are surprised by it. My friends are often surprised when I’m out with them and someone comes up and says, “Hey, I love ‘Three Sheets’!” And my friends are, like, “Wow, that’s cool! Has that ever happened before?” “Uh, yeah, it happens all the time!” It’s been so gradual for me, starting off on a small network and growing and growing and growing, but I like it. I like to know that people appreciate what I’m doing.

BE: What’s the worst case of “ski patrol” you’ve had to endure? (Writer’s note: “ski patrol” is the phrase Zane uses to describe someone who’s a little too interested in getting on camera while a “Three Sheets” episode is filming.)

ZL: Okay, here’s the thing: the show appeals to a lot of travelers, so now we’re starting to get a lot of fans even when we’re in other countries. I was actually in Tanzania and someone stopped me in the middle of nowhere, which is just weird. But when I was in South Africa, in Capetown, we went in and set up in a restaurant, this little place called Khaya Nyama. It was where we ate all of the game…?

BE: Oh, the ostrich and everything?

Zane LampreyZL: Yeah! So we’re about ready to set the scene, and there’s a table to my left and a table to my right, and usually the people we talk with are from that country, so I’ll engage them and say stuff like, “So this is really what you guys eat?” Stuff like that. So we pick two tables, and at one of the tables, the guy says, “I just have to tell you that I’m a big fan.” And I’m, like, “Oh, that’s odd.” And when he got up to go to the bathroom or whatever, his wife says, “No, you don’t understand: he’s a huge, huge fan!” And I’m, like, “Okay, whatever, that’s cool, it’s fine.” So we’re shooting this scene, and I’m talking to the camera and interviewing this guy I’m supposed to be interviewing, and the ski patrol kept interrupting. I’m, like, “I love this,” and he’s, like, “Yeah, when you were in Kentucky, you had that!” And it’s, like, “How do you think you’re adding to the show right now?” So we literally had to…I whispered into my mike, like I did in Belgium, and told the producer, “Uh, we’ve got to change.” So they came up and said, “Oh, the lighting’s really bad, Zane, we need to move you over to that table.” And the guy wouldn’t take a hint. Every time we’d start talking, he’d interrupt us and start talking about one of the episodes that he liked. So…it was funny. It’s harmless, you know? “Three Sheets” fans are very respectful people. Even the crowds we have at these stand-up shows. It’s amazing. People are respectful, but they want to have fun. They’re there to have a good time. And I think that’s what this show attracts. It’s funny when people start getting all hoity-toity when they’re talking about their wine or their scotch or whatever. I’m, like, “It’s alcohol! It’s a social inhibitor! It’s there for having fun, and that’s it!”

BE: You mentioned Tanzania a minute ago. I actually thought that was the sweetest episode, because everybody just seemed so nice, and you were all sitting around drinking that honey-based beverage. They were just…nice. Is that pretty commonplace when you visit other countries?

ZL: Well, I want to give everyone credit, and I don’t know if everyone’s just on their best behavior, but we really do meet some of the most wonderful people while doing the show. It’s a really, really great experience. Tanzania was interesting because, like you said, it was so genuine and so amazing that I was really having a hard time finding the comedy in it. It was just so damned interesting, and everyone was so amazing and so kind, that it was probably the least funny episode, and yet it’s one of the most interesting and most endearing episodes.

BE: Of the beverages you’ve tried over the four seasons, I know the Brussels sprout derived stuff was repellant, but was there anything that could complete with that for sheer awfulness?

ZL: Oh, yeah. I mean, rum infused with a snake penis…? That could compete with it. I’ll drink Brussels sprout booze any day over anything that has a dead creature in it. Now that’s repellant! (Laughs) Now, you know, if you take something that has an exoskeleton, you’re not really going to get that much of the flavor in it. It’s not really adding much. The centipede, the scorpion, those didn’t really affect the taste of it. It looked gross, but the alcohol killed all of that off. But when it’s something that has an endoskeleton and is soft and fleshy…? It’s a lot different.

BE: Now, for awhile, you were doing both “Three Sheets” and “Have Fork, Will Travel” (on Food Network). Were you surprised when the latter show didn’t last, or was it just a case of an oversaturated market on the network?

On the "Saving 'Three Sheets'" campaign: "We all had something that bound us together, so we were now all fighting for something that was silly. But it was something that we loved and appreciated and didn’t want to see go away, so we fought for it. Personally, I was less surprised than my friends and the people who work on the show were about how many people showed up, because I kind of expected it. I knew. I knew how passionate the fan base was."

ZL: No, what they said…I mean, now we’re back again in the Scripps family, so there’s love again, but what they say is that it was too soon for people. The Food Network hadn’t gotten really edgy yet, with, like, Guy Fieri and stuff like that. They said that if it came out now, they’re pretty sure it’d be a hit. But if you watch those shows, they were good shows, and we got really good reviews from, like, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, E! and US Weekly and all those. People thought it was going to be a great show, and so did I. I just said, “All right, that’s fine, I’ll just never be home. I’ll be out shooting both of these shows, and I’ll be the food and drink guy. Fine with me!” Yeah, it didn’t go, but it’s funny, because there are murmurs of that show coming back. I have to say that it was a good show. It was fun. It was the title that always bothered me, especially when you’re going somewhere foreign. They ask, “What’s the name of the show?” “It’s called ‘Have Fork, Will Travel.’” “Have what? Will who go where?” So it was all weird.

BE: I understand that Anthony Bourdain was somewhat critical of the show.

ZL: You know, I was very surprised, because all I’m trying to do, really, is do my best. I enjoy his show. I’m not really sure where he was coming from with that.

(Writer’s note: Okay, I have to admit that, when I first made my comment about Anthony Bourdain’s thoughts on “Have Fork, Will Travel,” Zane offered a very frank and very funny response. Unfortunately, on the heels of that response, he mused, “You know, it’s funny that Scripps has now bought the Travel Channel, because Anthony Bourdain is on that channel. Maybe I need to start being nice to him.” He laughed. Then he went silent. Then, with the voice of a man who has just replayed the previous few seconds in his head and realized their possible implications, he said, “Uh, hey, re-ask me that question, would you?” So I did. If you want to know what he said the first time, you’ll have to ask him. I doubt if he’ll tell you, but, man, was it funny.)

BE: The whole “Saving ‘Three Sheets’” campaign brought the fans out in force. Did it do your heart good to see them come out like that?

ZL: Yeah, it did. It’d be interesting to see what would’ve happened without social media sites and a lot of the web campaigns have enhanced “Three Sheets” as a brand, as opposed to just being a show. It’s letting us reach a lot of people, whereas ten years ago it just would’ve been a show where you would’ve been lucky if it was something that people talked about here and there. But now we sort of get to steer the ship a little bit. It allows me an outlet where I can interact with people and answer questions and let people know where I’m going to be. It was different with MySpace, because with MySpace, people could just post whatever they wanted, whereas with Facebook, they have to sort of respond. On MySpace, it was a little bit better for us at the time…before it became uncool, of course…because people were just sending in stuff like, “Your show is awesome,” so it was only that kind of positive feedback that I was getting for awhile. Also, I was traveling and shooting all the time. But then I would start responding to them, and we had some of our parties and pub crawls and stuff like that, so that was the first place I went when “Three Sheets” wasn’t picked up by another network. I was, like, “I need your help!”And it was really one of the better times for us, because the show was literally not on the air anywhere. You couldn’t watch it on TV. And, yet, we all had something that bound us together. So we were now all fighting for something that was silly. But it was something that we loved and appreciated and didn’t want to see go away, so we fought for it. And it was really more camaraderie there than even exists now that everything is working. But it was great. Personally, I was less surprised than my friends and the people who work on the show were about how many people showed up, because I kind of expected it. I knew. I knew how passionate the fan base was.

Zane Lamprey

BE: So what’s the status of Season 5? Is that officially in the cards now?

ZL: It is not. It is not in the cards. It is in purgatory. I haven’t shot anything since January. The good part of that is that it’s allowed me time to finish my book, which will come out in the spring, and to write this stand-up and start touring with that, which I’m having an incredibly fun time doing. I’m with another comedian who you might’ve heard of: Marc Ryan. He opens the show, and we have a great time. He was in the Vegas episode of “Three Sheets.” He was at the poker table. It’s funny, because I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, and then we became friends, and now we’re doing the show together, and it’s amazing.

BE: I know you’re touring the west coast right now. Do you have plans to hit the east coast?

ZL: Absolutely! Yeah, I think we’re going to head out probably in March, or April at the latest.

BE: Well, I’m in Hampton Roads, VA, the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area.

ZL: You know what? We’re gonna blanket this country. Thanks to web statistics and stuff like that, we have a good idea of where the major markets are.

BE: I’m sure everyone tells you this, but I can recommend several good watering holes in the area, should you need them.

ZL: Oh, yeah? Does the next part of this sentence involve you telling me how we need to film an episode of “Three Sheets” there? (Laughs)

BE: Well, not now it doesn’t. (Laughs) Well, it’s been awesome talking to you, Zane.

ZL: You, too!

BE: Like I said, I’ve been devouring the show. My wife loves it, too, though she thinks you abuse the members of your team too much.

ZL: Uh, I believe that’s what they’re there for. Right? (Laughs)

BE: I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on this coast, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Season 5 of “Three Sheets.”

ZL: Thanks, man. Cheers!

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