This month, Lloyd O’Bannon and Harvey Rosenkranz are celebrating the one year anniversary of the run of their eponymous Wowie Zowie Show at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square. The elderly entertainers are likely too tired and cantankerous to do any actual celebrating or even sit down to an interview with a dame like me, but I was able to spend some time with one of the throwback variety show’s hosts and creators Isaac Landfert.
The Indiana native performs up to five characters he’s invented including Harvey every month in various Indianapolis shows and more than half of them are well past his age of 33. The Lloyd and Harvey characters are rumored to be in their eighties.
“I’m not sure what that means,” Landfert said. “The older the character, the more history they have and the more interesting they can be. Maybe that’s it. Being a dirty old man has a lot of easy jokes to work with too.”
There are some racier jokes in Lloyd & Harvey’s Wowie Zowie Show, but they’re very Johnny Carson-esque. When one comedian finished his set during the August performance Harvey told him he should have had more jokes about his wife being a bad cook or uninterested in sex. You can just hear the drum sting now. Harvey and Lloyd, played by White Rabbit regular Andrew McGaha, have the old man thing nailed down.
“Lloyd and Harvey are murder on our backs,” Landfert said. “Staying hunched over for two hours is not as easy as it may seem. It is also a bit challenging to come up with showbiz references that work for the characters but that the audience will still recognize. As far as the show goes, trying to present the proper blend of acts for each show takes some effort.”
The August show featured comedian Nathan Gropp, Wowie Zowie regular Walter who played drums on a bucket duct taped to his body, Indyprov improvisers, Jason Adams is a God Damn Mind Reader, guitarist Christian Taylor who sang a very cool ode he’d written to Fountain Square, a video from the Muncie Brothers about their trip to the Indiana State Fair, and Eleanor Stackhouse from Hasenpfeffer. Her unique poi performance, which is essentially a dance with props that included weighted balls and sticks that glow in the dark, ended up winning the coveted “YOWSA!” That’s the prize at the end of the night for the best act determined by a panel of guest judges.
“Lloyd and Harvey’s intern Chandler Germaine was a judge once and had some audience members hating her on a very genuine level for the way she criticized acts. That’s real emotion created by performance and I love it,” Landfert said.
Coyote Chris from Silly Safaris brought a reindeer once. Indy puppeteers, Lazy Knights of Felt, often bring “Reggie, The Boy Who Lives behind the Wowie Zowie Show.” There is plenty of variety in the show, which was the basis for the show’s conception, or as Landfert put it, “the choice to incorporate so many characters and blur the lines of fantasy and reality.”
While the diversity of acts keeps the audience guessing, it’s really Lloyd and Harvey who keep people coming back every month. Landfert said he believes it’s their commitment to the characters that sets the show apart from other local productions because once Wowie Zowie starts, Lloyd and Harvey are “driving the bus.”
“Seeing the way the audience reacts to Harvey falling down is always great,” he said. “They worry about him even though they know he’s not really an old man. The audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief and take the characters and the acts as they are presented can be pretty special and make for a really good time.”
Landfert said he and McGaha have some ideas swirling around in their heads to evolve the show. If Lloyd and Harvey get enough nap time this fall, they may even have the energy to do a holiday special.
Friday, Sept. 25
Doors at 8 p.m.
Show at 10 p.m.