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Q&A With the Great Luke Ski

Like I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of material that just didn't fit into the Vita.mn article. That includes pretty much everything this guy had to say. The Great Luke Ski is one of the names Dr. Demento checked when I asked who he saw as most promising among the newest generation of comedy musicians. He's also one of the guys behind the MarsCon Dementia Track.

How did it all come together ten years ago: What happened in 2004 that made the time right for a Dementia Track at Marscon and when did you first realize that you had a programming track on your hands that would be this successful?

I was contacted by Brian LaBounty about performing on the main stage as a Guest Of Honor at MarsCon 2004, to go along with their booking of Dr. Demento as a Guest Of Honor. However, Brain had contacted me so early that MarsCon 2003 had not happened yet. I asked Brian if I could also participate in MarsCon 2003, and he said I could, but that the main stage schedule was full, so we arranged to have me do a performance in their Karaoke Room on their Room Party floor. I performed in there, and by the end of my show it was packed, standing room only, with people in the hallway trying to make their way in to see what was going on. I also performed my Futurama song "Bender Roboto" dressed in a full head-to-foot Bender the robot costume at their masquerade contest, which they all went nuts for. I walked into MarsCon 2003 an unknown to the patrons to MarsCon, and I walked out of there a rock star in their eyes. On top of that, my wife and I had a great time there, in particular enjoying a concert by local fandom comedy band "The Nick Atoms", and their hotel floor full of themed room parties along with their Karaoke Room. She and I both immediately started telling all our friends in the world of Dr. Demento fandom all about just how awesome MarsCon was.

Between Dr. Demento being a booked Guest Of Honor and all the positive buzz about MarsCon from myself and my wife, a great number of people in our community showed up for MarsCon 2004, and a handful of my fellow comedy musician colleagues also featured regularly on "The Dr. Demento Show" showed up to perform at MarsCon as well. Dr. Demento did his Festival of Dementia presentation, my friends all did concerts, and I got to do my big Guest Of Honor show on the main stage. As a part of it all, we did a set featuring all of the funny music acts performing comedy song covers together, calling it the "Dementia Smackdown" concert. It was an amazing, legendary weekend which we didn't want to end.

A few months before MarsCon 2005, I contacted Brian LaBounty and asked him if it would be possible, despite Dr. Demento not being there, for me to arrange a block of Main Stage concerts on Saturday afternoon featuring acts from "The Dr. Demento Show". Brian and the concom agreed, and with the help of Earl Luckes, we had 7 acts perform in the 'Dementia Block'. With the success of that, the following year we had 8 acts. The year after that, 14. By 2010, we had 3 blocks of main stage time, one for each day of the convention, and 21 different acts performing in the track in some way. By then, I definitely considered the MarsCon Dementia Track to be a success. Each year as we gained more acts, we also gained more comedy music fans coming from all across the country to celebrate their love of funny music. We've been fortunate enough to book such names as Paul & Storm, MC Lars, Wally Pleasant, Schaffer The Darklord, and last year with the help of our sponsor Dementia Radio.org, we were able to book our first act from England, the trio Flat 29. This year we are very honored and excited to have as our Music Guest Of Honor comedian and funny music legend, Henry Phillips.

Whose idea was it to invite Dr. Demento back in 2014?

Myself and the folks at the internet streaming audio station Dementia Radio.org had talked to members of the MarsCon concom on Sunday evening of MarsCon 2013 about trying to book Dr. Demento for 2014 to mark the 10th anniversary of his Guest of Honor appearance in 2004. Long story short, with the continued sponsorship assistance of Dementia Radio.org , we were able to coordinate with Meep Morp Studio to have their planned trip to the Twin Cities to film interviews with Dr. Demento's family for the "Under The Smogberry Trees" documentary coincide with the same weekend as MarsCon 2014, to facilitate Dr. Demento's special appearance at the convention. Dr. Demento will be doing an autograph session on Saturday at Noon, and we will be conducting a main stage Q&A session with the folks from Meep Morp Studio on Saturday with Dr. Demento joining them on stage as well. We're all very excited to not only have Dr. Demento attending MarsCon again, but also for the folks at Meep Morp Studio being there filming the funny music concerts, talking to the fans, checking out the room parties, and experiencing the fun of the MarsCon Dementia Track.

How did you get in contact with Meep Morp, and what role did you play in securing their participation at Marscon this year?

I first heard of Meep Morp Studio when I saw them posting about their idea to make a documentary about Dr. Demento on his Facebook fan page. They soon emailed me asking if I would be interested in participating in their documentary, and I enthusiastically said I would. When their Kickstarter launched, I was one of the listed participants for the film. Myself and my fellow acts from the Funny Music Project, a.k.a. The FuMP.com, assisted in the online campaign to help them raise the funds to make this movie happen. Once they hit their goal, I began talking with them about coming to MarsCon, which has been the biggest annual gathering of "Dr. Demento Show" fans of the past decade.

Any other really big news you want to share concerning the Dementia Track this year?

Well, Henry Phillips / Dr. Demento / Meep Morp Studios pretty much is the 'big news' this year. Our other main stage acts will consist of many of the track's most popular regular performers, including myself, and we will be ending the weekend with the "Dementia Smackdown" covers concert which has become a tradition. Something I do hope you'd be willing to mention is our annual Fund Raiser for the Dementia Track. As wonderful as the MarsCon concom is to us, the fact is that we don't have a budget beyond the convention covering the hotel & travel costs of our main Music Guest Of Honor, and Dementia Radio can only sponsor so much. That's why each year I release a 3-CD and/or MP3 album collection of 4 hours of excerpts from all the comedy music concerts from last year's convention. All the funds raised by the sale of the album goes towards covering the hotel room costs of all of the non-Guest-Of-Honor, out-of-town performers of the MarsCon Dementia Track. These acts are all traveling out to Minnesota in the winter on their own dime to entertain the MarsCon crowd, so to make things easier on them, I do the fund raiser to cover one of their main costs. We also have a t-shirt for sale as a part of the Fund Raiser this year, and we have all the previous year's live music collections available as well dating back to 2007. They can all be found at the Fundraiser Shop at http://marscondementia.com.

You're a performer as well as the head organizer for the Dementia Track. How do you find the time?

Fortunately for me, my 'day job' is as a freelance cartoonist, illustrator, and caricature artist. Therefore, I have a lot of time to work on MarsCon when I am not creating artwork for people or out drawing at parties. Last year, on top of my usual duties and my main stage concert, I also was the chair of the 3rd Annual Logan Awards for Excellence In Comedy Music whose ceremony was held at MarsCon, for which I M.C.ed and coordinated an opening number which was a medley of songs by the late Logan Whitehurst. Last year I also wrote, directed, and edited the Opening Ceremonies sketch which was a 20 minute video parody of the Muppet Show done on the theme of MarsCon and convention life (you can see it on my YouTube page). I only wish a documentary film crew had been there to capture all of that. So this year, by comparison, I am 'taking it easy'.

Prior to the establishment of the track in 2004, what was the scene like for comedy music at Marscon?

I can't really speak on what it was like at MarsCon, but I do know "The Nick Atoms" started performing there in 2001, so the seed of comedy music at MarsCon was planted with them and their hilarious multimedia live rock and roll covers of TV and movie theme songs stage show. Sadly, they are no longer together, but their members are still involved at MarsCon in other bands and on the staff.

What I can speak to is what the scene was like for comedy music at other conventions in the Midwest. Many conventions back then had (and many still do have) an established music scene whose roots are in the folk music of the 60's. Imagine if all the bands from the movie "A Mighty Wind" were all sitting in a circle in a hotel conference room singing about "The Hobbit". That was the established music scene. And then in the late 90's I came walking into those rooms, with a boom box and a hip-hop backing track so I can perform my latest hit from "The Dr. Demento Show", a Cypress Hill parody about the cartoon "Pinky and the Brain". As you can guess, the great majority of them didn't like my act, and didn't like me. These are the people who got to control what acts did or did not get to perform concerts at conventions in major cities in the Great Lakes area and beyond. So when I brought them my modern comedy music act featuring rap and alternative music spoofs about current TV shows, cartoons, and movies as a potential act for their conventions stages, I got a lot of grief and resistance from many of them, some of it not very polite to put it nicely. Admittedly, I made mistakes and rubbed people the wrong way, but still there was a prevalent feeling that any music act who didn't fit in with their old guard acoustic music aesthetic wasn't welcome. Through my sheer audacity, I kept showing up at conventions trying to find my audience anyway, and little by little, I found them. By the early 2000's, after years of swimming upstream against the cultural-gap-current trying to get gigs at these conventions, I had a voice in my head saying repeatedly "I wish there was just ONE CONVENTION that welcomed and supported contemporary-sounding current comedy music acts like me and all my friends from "The Dr. Demento Show" who have no place they can perform." Enter MarsCon. With the help of Brain LaBounty, Earl Luckes, and many other supportive people over the years, I crafted the MarsCon Dementia Track to become the utopia I always dreamed of. It's because of their support that MarsCon is my favorite convention to participate in and perform at every year.

It should be noted that other conventions have tried to foster tracks that were heavily comedy music based, to varying levels of success. PenguiCon in the Detroit area used to have large comedy music presence. Con on the Cob in the Akron area has had significant involvement but has struggled over the years. Last year I threw a weekend long party for my Kickstarter donors in Chicago which I called 'LukeSkiCon 2013', and building off of that, Devo Spice of the Funny Music Project (aka The FuMP .com) is launching FuMPFeST 2014 in June in the Chicagoland area, with 15 acts from the FuMP.com, and Guest Of Honor Dr. Demento.

Our success grew gradually over the past 11 years, but one of my favorite memories of MarsCon was in 2005, when I can specifically remember my best friend Stephanie watching the main stage Dementia Track shows happening, turning to me and saying, "You did it. You actually pulled it off."