FILM / Nerd from the 'burbs: 'We are nor worthy.' 'Not]' Waynes World gave expression to a whole new generation of desperately unhip suburban youths. Mike Myers, its creator, tells Jim White why Wayne and Garth had to party on

Jim White
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:54

In Adelaide over the weekend, Australian cricket fans could be seen bowing, scraping and chanting 'We are not worthy' whenever the leg-spinner Shane Warne headed in their direction. In Norwich on Sunday, followers of Manchester United did the same in close proximity to Ryan Giggs. During the US elections in 1992, the Democrats handed out lapel badges saying 'Vote Republican. Not'. The language of Wayne's World, it seems, is now global, the Esperanto of the nerd. But no one is more surprised at its growing ubiquity than Mike Myers, the Canadian comedian who invented Wayne and his universe.

'The moment George Bush said 'Not' like Wayne was surreal,' Myers explained. 'And Clinton and Quayle, they all said it. I never cease to be astonished at this thing. 'Not' was something my brother used to say to me, to torment me. And suddenly Bush is saying it to torment the whole of the free world.'

Wayne's World was the surprise box office blockbuster movie of 1992. It tells the tale of two suburban teenagers from Aurora, Illinois: Wayne (Myers, in a heavy metal wig) and Garth (played by Dana Garvey, who left his own teenage years behind more than 20 years ago). Far from satirising youthful life in the burbs - the Saturday nights in the donut store, the weekend jobs in factory carpet outlets, the belief that Frampton Comes Alive is the apex of artistic achievement - the film made it look fun.

'Wayne is a happy guy,' said Myers. 'Suburban kids, like Nature, abhor a vacuum. They will always find a way to have a fun time.'

As millions of burbanites across the globe discovered a hero, Myers was catapulted from a struggling stand-up comedian into an international film star, of the kind who, on a short trip to England, stays at the Dorchester Hotel, where they are attended during interview by a make-up artist. And he looks as cheerfully comfortable with his sudden elevation in life as Wayne would be: 'Excellent, party on.'

'It was not always like this,' he said, rifling through reams of literature on the side-board of his hotel room. 'Not always did I have a map of London's horse-riding routes at my disposal. And frankly I'm not sure how I survived without one.'

Myers is no stranger to Britain. He came here first in the early Eighties, after spending a year with Second City, the improvisation company in Chicago, Alma Mater of, among others, Bill Murray, John Belushi and Mike McShane. 'I came here because when you grow up in North America, England is seen as comedy Valhalla, the land of Python, Beyond The Fringe, Benny Hill, The Goodies.'

The Goodies?

'You mean it's not cool to like The Goodies?' he said. 'Oh. Well I did. Anyhow, I was lucky. I was walking through Notting Hill Tube station the first week I was here when I saw this poster for the Cambridge Footlights. I knew they were the top outfit, so I went along and introduced myself.'

Myers spent a winter helping the Footlights, organising their box office, painting sets, getting, which is odd for a Canadian, fed up with the cold. When the show ended, he teamed up with one of the stalwarts of the student troupe, Neil Mullarkey, to try his luck on the London comedy circuit. 'It was called alternative comedy, which I thought was bizarre, as that implies it wasn't comic. Actually I saw some of the funniest acts I had ever seen before: Paul Merton, Alexei Sayle and most particularly a man who used to carve 27 different animals out of a block of ice. A man who I have never seen since.'

After a short apprenticeship in the upstairs rooms of pubs, the pair landed a residency on TV-am's Saturday morning children's show The Wide Awake Club, where their act went several yards over the heads of its audience. According to a former colleague, Myers used to be paralysed by stage fright. 'Well, it was early in the morning,' he remembered. 'Actually, about then we started to enjoy ourselves as a double act; it was a complete adventure. But I began to miss Canada. I only did about six of those shows before I went back home.'

On his return, he landed a job on a Canadian television sketch show, where, desperate for material, he resurrected a character he invented when he was growing up in the suburbs of Toronto: Wayne, the happy- go-lucky party enthusiast.

'What you see on the screen is just what I was doing years ago,' he said. 'Hiking my underwear up the crack of my ass, rolling my stomach, all that intellectual stuff, that came from the kitchen at parties, impressing the girls. And wanna know something that'll real surprise you? It worked.' From Canadian television, it was a short step for Wayne to Saturday Night Live and thence Hollywood. Now comes Wayne's World 2, and the story of the boy from Aurora has been taken forward a notch or two.

Well, perhaps not that far. Despite more than its fair share of eye- dampeningly funny moments, the film is not much more than Wayne's World with a bigger budget: when Wayne and Garth bow down and chant 'We are not worthy' it is not to Alice Cooper this time, but to the much more expensive Aerosmith.

'I was reluctant to do a follow- up,' Myers admitted. 'What persuaded me was that we had over- written the first movie by two hours. We felt there were a lot of other tunes in the piano.'

Fans will love it, but more objective critics have suggested that the film's most interesting aspect is the string of cameo appearances by serious stars - Charlton Heston and his hairpiece, Kim Basinger and her wardrobe of contour-friendly items. This presumably is yet another testimony to Wayne's World's growing influence: everyone wanted to get involved. Myers has a somewhat less romantic reading of the big names' involvement, though. 'Well actually, the way it came about was this,' he said. 'The casting agent rang their agents, who checked their diaries to discover whether they were available and when it was found they were, a fee was agreed. As the ghost of Jim Morrison tells Wayne in the film, 'If you book them, they will come.' '

Which could well turn out to be the new catch-phrase of suburbs everywhere. Perhaps not everywhere. It seems that there are parts of the world where the linguistic complexities of Wayne's World were not entirely grasped. 'I got some merchandise from Hong Kong,' Myers recalled. 'Lapel badges, they were, which were alleged to carry some of the sayings of Wayne. But there had obviously been a bit of a breakdown in communications, because they all came out wrong. 'Party on' was 'party in', 'schwing' came out as 'schlung' and 'I think I've blown chunks' was 'half-blown clinks'. They were my favourite bit of merchandising as it happens.'

Wayne's World 2 opens on Friday

(Photograph omitted)

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