In Mike Myers’ new six-part Netflix series, “The Pentaverate,” the Canadian comedy legend plays eight new characters. Add them to a repertoire that includes such beloved weirdos as Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers, Dieter, Dr. Evil and Shrek, and the streamer seems eager to tout their partnership with the actor, pairing him with director David O. Russell for an hour-long mutual-appreciation session at the Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival.
Asked by Russell to describe the idea that inspired the new show, Myers — who showed up, despite having lost his voice to seasonal allergies — flashed back to his 1993 feature “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” in which he played both main character Charlie Mackenzie and his dad, a cuckoo conspiracy nut who ranted about a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world who run everything.
“In the last six years, just seeing the rise of all the weird conspiracy theories and the devaluation of fact, the rise of alternative fact, I thought, ‘What if there was a secret society of five people that ran the world, but what if they were nice?’” Myers told the crowd. “Things can be shitty, but what if they had been way shittier if this group of…” and here he lowered his voice, “white men had not been there since the Black Plague?”
As pitches for TV series go, that hardly sounds like a winner (Netflix barred the press from the fans-only premiere of “The Pentaverate” that followed), but hey, Netflix gets to work with Mike Myers, and Myers’ fans get a gaggle of new characters to amuse them, ranging from a fuddy-duddy Canadian TV reporter (loosely based on local Toronto legend Glen Cochrane) to Shep Gordon, the legendary talent agent about whom Myers made the 2013 doc “Supermensch.”
“In Canada, we know our TV isn’t as good. We know in many ways we’re America’s hat,” Myers joked, before explaining, “I really wanted to dedicate this show to local journalists, because right now in this global war between fascism and democracy, you know, the first casualty of war is truth. Getting rid of local news is just the beginning of a slippery slope of all unfalsifiable fact.”
Russell, who directed Myers in the upcoming feature “Amsterdam,” retraced Myers entire career, starting from his rough upbringing in Toronto’s Scarborough neighborhood to the Wrigley’s Gum commercial he shot at age 8 (tagline: “It looks like you’ve graduated to the Big Stick”) to his time under Second City mentor Del Close (whose “Villains are the hero of their own story” advice has served him well all these years). The conversation spanned all the way through “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which allowed him to pay homage to the band that helped make “Wayne’s World” the top-grossing “Saturday Night Live” spinoff, before touching on “The Pentaverate” (but never “Amsterdam” or rumors of another “Austin Powers” sequel).
Myers remembered being intimidated during his time on the sketch-comedy series, which he joined midway through its 14th season: “I thought I was going to get fired every week,” he said. Myers felt intimidated working alongside such comic talents as Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Al Franken and Ben Stiller. (“The one I always want to talk about is Jan Hooks,” he volunteered.) Fear nearly cratered his career before it began. “I’ve had several nervous breakdowns in my life,” but it was trying to prove himself worthy on “SNL” that led Myers to write the “Wayne’s World” sketch.
The rest is history, as they say — though Myers spilled the beans on a little-known detail: the movie Lorne Michaels really wanted him to make. The “SNL” producer (and fellow Canadian) Michaels invited him out to his house in the Hamptons, where Myers wanted to run the idea of doing a “Wayne’s World” movie by his boss — whose voice, it should be said, is the basis of Myers’ Dr. Evil character.
“So he pitched me a movie,” Myers recalled. ”He said, ‘I want you to do a remake of “The Graduate.”’ And I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ He said, ‘I just offered you a fucking movie!’” to which Myers claimed he responded, “‘The Graduate’ doesn’t need to be remade. A little man should not stand in a great man’s shoes. It’s a perfect film.”
Somehow, he convinced the Michaels to make “Wayne’s World” instead, and though the producer didn’t initially buy the idea that the head-banging song should be “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (the studio wanted Guns N’ Roses), Myers claims he took a firm stand: “Then I won’t do the movie,” Myers said he said. “It’s been reported that Lorne was against it. He was initially, but then he became my greatest champion on the movie.”