Yesterday I went to have lunch with Bob Boze Bell and Wonderful Russ. We have been having Lunch together about once every three or four months for the past five years. Bob and Russ were directly responsible for my shot at television. They asked me to do a guest appearance on the pilot for a comedy show called “The Zane Brothers”. I say “They” but it was Bob; Russ didn’t know me, and what he knew he wasn’t sure he liked. I think the quote was, “Who the fuck is Mad Coyote Joe and why is he on our pilot.”
The idea of the show was a “Letterman” like talk show, which was shot at a desk in the desert in Bob’s front yard amidst the cholla and saguaros. Bob asked me to be a guest. To Bob this meant show up and sit in a chair and chat for a few minutes. I had a different thought.
I showed up with an old pick-up, an upright smoker that was 12 feet tall complete with chrome headers and giant rusty iron face welded to the door. Add to this, three tables filled with burners, cutting boards, various knives, spatulas, whisks and other kitchen tools, and everything necessary to do a live cooking/grilling segment.
My idea was to do a spoof on television cooking shows. I called it “Cooking for Rednecks!” I hired my good friend and mechanic Bill Payne to show up in a torn tee shirt and dirty jeans after crawling around in the dirt while working on a transmission. Bill looked like someone out of, a combination of a coal mine, and the movie “Deliverance.”
The story line went like this; you are at home having your old truck worked on (truck and dirty mechanic in the back of the shot) and you ask the mechanic if he would like lunch.
CAMREA TO MECHANIC’S DIRTY FACE; sure, what’s for lunch?
Joe; What would you like?
Mechanic; Got any varmint?
CAMERA TO JOE; I don’t have any varmint.
At this point I we move to the meat counter at Bashas’ with me asking the butcher for three pounds of their finest varmint, ‘The domestic will be fine!’
The butcher says, “We don’t have any varmint!’
Back to the set where I explained how to make “Mock Varmint.” I started out by hacking a whole chicken into indistinguishable chunks. In the next shot I drop the pieces on the ground and kind of get most of the dirt off. And I toss the chunks on the grill and pour cayenne pepper and habanero sauce liberally over the mock varmint. Next looking directly into the camera I say at this point delectably roast the varmint to golden brown, while the varmint is going up in flames in the back of the shot. We conclude the segment with Bill our redneck mechanic, biting into the charred black, while still very raw chicken, which he is holding with grease-covered hands. He smiles a dirty smile and says; “Now that’s good varmint!”
It has been said that a finished pilot cost around $1000 per minute. After several days of shooting we had lunch with Don McClure and Paul Hallowell the tech and producer from ABC15. At lunch they basically explained that we were not only not funny, we were also not talented. And we thought that our future in television was finished.
On the day that I did the “Cooking for Rednecks” segment I cooked lunch for the executives from ABC15. A year later they were trying to think of an idea for a local program. A guy named Bruce Jones mentioned tat he had been doing a barbecue segment with the weather guy back at a station in Spokane Washington. It was a one camera, quick, easy segment. Don McClure said, “Remember that fat guy with the big barbecue. He was the one that thought he was funny… He was a good cook and I sure we can get him for nothing.”
A few days later I got the call; we shot the pilot, found the sponsors and I signed a 13-episode contract. That turned into 131 episodes and a four-book deal. I’ve been on camera in Mexico, Africa and several states. I’ve done radio and given numerous speeches; all of which I owe to my Amigos Bob and Russ. Thanks boys!