14 Jul 2019

Michael McKean: 'This is Spinal Tap' celebrates 35 years

From Sunday Morning, 10:04 am on 14 July 2019

Michael McKean’s career is notable for not just its longevity but its breadth.

A writer, comedian, musician and actor, he won a Theatre World Award for Rupert Holmes's Accomplice; a Grammy Award for the title song of the film ‘A Mighty Wind’, an Oscar nomination for Best Song for ‘A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow’; and he's the only million-dollar Celebrity Jeopardy champion.

McKean’s been in many movies, playing a plethora of roles - most famously perhaps This Is Spinal Tap, the mockumentary that followed the career of a fake heavy rock band Spinal Tap in which he played David St Hubbins, the band’s lead singer.

Michael McKean

Michael McKean Photo: © 2015, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

It's been 35 years since cult classic This Is Spinal Tap first screened and McKean recently reunited with original cast members to perform a rare accoustic gig at the Tribeca Film Festival. He's about to hit New Zealand screens with his Food: Fact or Fiction? show for the first time next month. 

McKean told Jim Mora that at the time of its release Spinal Tap baffled many cinema goers.

“There were a lot of people who thought it was a real band, thought it was a real film maker who looked a little bit like the guy from All in The Family which was Rob’s [Reiner] first TV job, people were a little confused, but where they liked it, they really liked it.

“In Boston it played for a year in one theatre. It was just not a mainstream film, this is 1984 and indie wasn’t really a thing, it made a lot of top ten lists - pretty much all of them, but it didn’t make the top ten of the box office, in home video it really came to life,” McKean says.

McKean, who spoke to Jim Mora from his native Los Angeles, says the band recently played at the Beacon Theatre in LA to celebrate the band’s 35th anniversary but the last time they played in “full war paint, wigs and spandex” was 2009.

“We played at Glastonbury and then a few days later we played at Wembley Arena that was kind of like the best swan song we could’ve had. I think we just really went for it and of course our opening act The Folksmen, they really warmed things up for us – it was a good gig, a really fun gig.”

McKean says he has rule for keeping his career varied.

“I can’t do two bearded parts in a row, I gotta draw the line somewhere; so I’ll grow a big beard for a stage thing and then I’ll go into a film and I’ll do that barefaced I just like to be a different guy each time, that’s what made some of my favourite actors – Fredric March or Alec Guinness people who would go out of their way to look unlike the last thing they did.”

Spinal Tap contained numerous classic moments:

"These go to 11"

Spinal Tap famously had a lot of bad luck with its drummers:

"You can't dust for vomit"

 Food: Fact or Fiction? is showing on Sky’s Food Channel from next August.