Michael Winslow to perform at Funny Bone at Fat Fish BlueWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a challenge to writing a story about Michael Winslow. Half of what he says — or rather, the sounds he makes — can’t be captured in print in quite the same way they are delivered in conversation.
An example. The future “Man of 10,000 Sound Effects” grew up a military brat, his father in the Air Force. His family led a nomadic existence, roaming from one area of the country to another. In an interview with Toledo Free Press Star, Winslow explained how his childhood helped hone his gift for noise-making.
“In my formative years, for me, when you’re on an Air Force base, you’re gonna hear a lot of things, in terms of sounds. Because, you know, part of the time you grow up next to an active runway. So, of course, you’re gonna hear certain things. So, for me, according to my mom, the first thing she heard out of me was … ”
He then proceeds to perform a perfect imitation of a fighter jet taking off, engines roaring at full speed. See? How, exactly, can one capture the hilarity and awe induced by such a sound being summoned from one voice box? The best that can be done is to say, you gotta hear it yourself. Which Toledo-area fans can soon do — Winslow will appear at the Funny Bone at Fat Fish Blue in Perrysburg Sept. 15-16.
“I used to live in Ohio back in the day. I used to live in Columbus,” Winslow said. “When I can get up there, you know, I like being up there to see everybody again. Because Ohio’s been great.”
Winslow’s career in comedy spans more than 30 years — he first began performing stand-up in 1980. He claimed that even with decades of experience under his belt, “I’m always nervous. Some things never change.” But he said the years of being on the road have given him a greater ability to read the crowd as a performer.
“You start to understand the timing, and how to judge an audience. Each one is different, each one’s a personality, you know? So, it’s every night — obviously everyone’s coming to see it because they’re attuned to the humor and what your performance is. So, for me, it’s the sound, and also, I’ve got a slightly strange sense of humor and folks seem to appreciate that.”
Though the sound effects have been his bread-and-butter from the beginning, Winslow’s act has grown to include more straightforward, classic comedy elements — a change, he said, that was guided by an unexpected conversation.
“I actually got a phone call from Bill Cosby on my cellphone. And I wasn’t expecting that. He actually calls my cellphone because he had seen the Geico commercial. So, he calls my cellphone, and I was at the supermarket, taking care of something, and my wife answers the phone. And, of course, she immediately hangs up on him. Twice,” Winslow said.
Once Cosby was able to convince Winslow’s wife of his identity, Michael found himself talking to the comedy legend. “And then he told me, ‘Why don’t you take these sounds, the sounds that you do, and tell classic stories with them? You could tell stories from anywhere in the world. Any of the classic stories — old jokes, but you put sound to ’em, it’s a whole different thing again.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why you’re Dr. Cosby,’” Winslow said.
Winslow also has an advantage in drawing in new, younger fans — many get exposed to his older work as it gets replayed ad nauseam on cable. “The best part is how this stuff just keeps being re-showed to brand-new markets and brand-new audiences, because kids grow up and see “Police Academy” for the first time. And the kids are like, ‘Wow, what is this?’”
The mention of his most famous work brings to mind his “Academy” co-star Bubba Smith, who recently passed away. “He was a really good friend,” Winslow said. “When people ask, I’m sad at the loss, of course, but to me, I was just glad to have him in the first place. This was a wonderful adventure that I got to meet and be part of.”
Winslow said Smith’s passing is especially sad since “Police Academy 8” is inching ever closer to being a reality. “Hopefully, if things are on time, they should — maybe they’ll start in January, I’m hoping. There’s a script, and I know they’re trying to replace the director right now, so keep your fingers crossed.”
And for Toledo audiences, Winslow promised a night of hilarious distraction from a difficult world. “It’s been quite a wild ride the last few years, so I kinda figure people come to a show to relax and enjoy, get their laugh on and have a good time.”