MIKE MYERS

17 September 2011

[Picture of Mike Myers]On the face of it Mike Myers is a comedian who has done a lot of TV, voice-overs and movies. But saying just that would be doing the man an injustice; Mike Myers is one of the most culturally significant people I can imagine.

It is staggering how much of a cultural influence Myers has had on my life — and all our lives (like it or not). Wayne’s World was the start here in the UK, although he was a TV star in the states on the extremely cool and very famous Saturday Night Live (SNL).  How can one film have so many “catchphrases”? Because of Wayne’s World, people suddenly were “blowing chunks” instead of being sick, girls were “Foxes” and “Babes”, and described as “Hot”. People still say: “Oh yes, it will be mine” in a silly voice — as well as “exsqueeze me!”.  The most infamous linguistic feature was certainly adding “Not” to the end of an assertion to negate it — “She’s a babe (not)”.

[Picture of Wayne from Wayne's World]Wayne’s World changed the world, the everyday world of the early 1990s.  People started speaking that silly Wayne’s speak —  and it remains. Wayne and Garth are archetypes now for middle class teenagers. This rock-loving age group speak in strange ways, repeating in-jokes, memes, catchphrases, stock-phrasing, triggered responses and the like. “Shwing”, and “We’re not worthy!” are context-dependent AND are accompanied with specific gestures and actions.  It is a rich and complex form of social comment and comedy.

Myers’ characters used contrived rituals and language, and referred to a lot of contemporary TV shows and films. These cultural references actually make the characters and the strange world in which they live.  There kids were good with girls, confident, and in an affluent, safe world.

These teenagers were not body-conscious, filled with fear of failure, in poverty, or at odds with authority.  There are no references to acne, masturbation, drugs, drink, bullying, careers, huffy hormonal imbalances, nocturnality, and all the other things that real teenagers are about.

Nevertheless Myers managed to get Wayne & co to come across as genuine, authentic, naïve, likeable, and even aspirational at times.

The film doesn’t date because it taps into time-honoured classic cultural memes and themes, such as Alice Cooper, Stairway To Heaven, Bohemian Rhapsody, Fender Stratocasters, Hockey, Burgers, TV, records and all the things that have targeted teenagers for decades.  Even the fashion is the same — Mackinaws, tee-shorts, jeans, converse shoes, baseball hats.

But Myers did not stop there. He came up with the deliciously mental “So I Married an Axe Murderer” — which is the greatest Scottish movie ever.

His crowning glory might be the voice of Shrek in the Pixar cartoon movies, but for me, it would probably be “Austin Powers“, “Dr Evil” and “Fat Bastard”.

[Pictures of Mike Myers in various guises]

What an influence on our every day culture — “Get out of my swamp!” (in Shrek’s voice), or “Ooo Baby” (in Austin Powers’s voice).

He’s Canadian, but seems to have cornered the market in Britishness (Charlie from So I Married an Axe Murderer, the cartoon ogre, Shrek, and Fat Bastard are all Scottish , Austin Powers and Dr Evil are English).

[Picture of Myers as Fat Bastard]People today impersonate Austin Powers, Dr Evil, Shrek, Fat Bastard, Wayne, Garth routinely — from doing the phrases, and the voices to full costume.

I cannot think of another comedian, or another human being who has had such an influence on popular culture as Mike Myers, and this is my recognition for that and personal tribute to him.

As a footnote, when I was younger, The Bangles were around the charts, and every young lad of my age fancied the pants off Susanna Hoffs. Myers plays in a band with Hoffs called Ming Tea. Myers sings as Austin Powers, Hoffs  is Jillian Shagwell, lead guitar and backing vocals. How cool is THAT?

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