Fringe top 20—#20: Empty S Productions


by Matthew A. Everett • July 16, 2008 • Honestly, who isn’t enticed by a show with the promise of Muppet sex?

Who’s promising? That would be Michael Shaeffer of Empty S Productions and his show Roofies In the Mochaccino. Back from Alaska with a vengeance. More slam poetry from the guy who brought us…

2005 – Tantrums, Testicles and Trojans

…a late night show that Mom and I both attended, with amusing results.

Single White Fringe Geek (and Mom) is the blog of Matthew A. Everett, one of five bloggers covering the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the Daily Planet.

One of many things the Fringe has opened my mind (and heart) to over the last several years is the whole spoken word/slam poetry/storytelling world of performance. It’s a vast range of performers and styles, all tied together by a love of words and language. And as guy who loves words and language, I am constantly transported by the daredevil feats some of these folks pull off, things I could only dream about. The way their minds work fascinates me. And its also incredibly engaging and entertaining. Michael’s no exception.

And since I’ve seen him now both at this year’s first Fringe For All, and as part of the playwrights panel at the St. Paul library I did the other night, I’m sold all over again.

So I figured I’d just jump to the other end of the Top 20 list and close in on the middle, try and help get the word out about…

Roofies in the Mochaccino

“Hey, kids–only six F bombs!

National Poetry Slammer Michael Shaeffer delivers irreverent rants and turbid tantrums, tackling Transformers, 2Pac, Chewbacca, Elvis Presley, randy mammoths, Hunter S. Thompson, the Beatles, The Little Mermaid, the Incredible Hulk, Charleton Heston, Guitar Hero III, The Wizard of Oz, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, and muppet sex!

Michael Shaeffer has been hailed by MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL magazine as “inexplicable but totally hilarious.” His 2005 Fringe show–Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans–was praised by the Star Tribune as “brilliantly funny, unpretentious, and engaging.”

The other night, Michael passed along a note entitled “Roofies in the Mochaccino explained for the hip, older women in our lives,” so the same guideposts he gave his mom I could also share with mine. It was so fun, I thought I’d pirate it here, too. If you need further convincing whether this is for you or not, this should do it…

“Here’s a forwarded letter I sent to my mom about my upcoming Fringe show, Roofies in the Mochaccino. There are a lot of pop culture references, some strange and obscure. I wanted to give my parents a heads up on what to expect; I thought I’d pass on the tidbits to my Fringe friends as well.

Mom, here’s a guideline to (more completely) enjoying, understanding, and appreciating my show.

The opener, “Cry Havoc!” stems from my semesters teaching Julius Caesar to sophomores. We discussed patriotism, loyalty, and friendship as we read the play in preparation for the movie adaptation. It always bothered me the way Charleton Heston delivered his monologues. I would have been much more outwardly upset (Brutus was the Stoic, not Marc Antony) if a mob of senators had betrayed and assassinated my best friend. This show opener allows me to get angry and brandish a Stentorian voice while still trying to bring the funny. While I’m against continued U.S. occupation in Iraq, this poem is a pro-war/anti-forgiveness piece. Sometimes, it’s best to put on the size thirteen work boots and kick some ass.

The next bit, “Moments Before Episode IV: Chewbacca’s Folly and the Quantum Leap to Kansas” was largely inspired by the day in 1977 when you and Dad took me to see Star Wars. It also makes not-so-obscure references to The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings.

Followed by “New Songs for the Narrow Bottomed Girl.” In Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans, I had a poem called “The O’Donovan’s Damsel.” It was all about a real-life waitress at O’Donovan’s called Brooke. In a nutshell, it explained why I thought that “off the hook” was such a stupid expression, and Brooke was so much more than off it.

In that tradition, I’ve written a poem about another real life barmaid, Erin, who also works as a social worker in Fairbanks. There’s a song she likes by Queen called “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The lead singer, Freddy Mercury, sang pretty convincingly about his passion for fat-bottomed girls, even though he was very partial to men and male bottoms.

Cousin Dan turned me on to what has become one of my favorite novels, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In the novel, the central character is driving to Vegas with his attorney and a trunk full of drugs. When I wrote my version (replacing the drugs with assorted candy), it was easy to put myself as the central character and Dad as the attorney. Dad actually sat front-row at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert when he came to help me move out of Vegas, so there’s a brief mention of that, and—when it came to selecting the candy bar that is intended for you—I was confident that a Mounds bar would do the trick. I threw in my friend Tyler Waxdahl only because he, like Hunter, enjoys calling people “pigfucker.” This is one of six derivations of the F word in my show.

Then comes “Saxes ‘n’ Horns for the Capricorn.” It combines a love of Jesus and jazz, organized by the archangel, Michael. I’ve tried my best to capture a “jazz” rhythm in its composition and delivery. Syncopation rules. (This is the bit I did at the St. Paul Library the other night.)

“A Letter to Michael Bay” is my rant against a Hollywood director for all the mindless junk he’s churned out, most recently the Transformers movie.

“Truth for his Tomorrows” was inspired by a Fringe performance involving a woman who played a marionette. I imagined Gepetto improving upon Pinocchio, and this poem came to light.

“The Night Fozzie Bear got Jiggy with Miss Piggy” was written for an erotic slam, but it was first used to help me land a spot on the slam national’s team. This is Eric Herr’s current Mike Shaeffer fave.

“Number One with a Bullet” was one of two poems inspired by the novel Kill Your Idols. The book is a collection of essays by rock ‘n’ roll critics slamming some of the most regarded performers and albums in contemporary music. I worked in a Johnny Cash reference just for kicks. The poem’s central figure is 2Pac Shakur, a controversial rapper who was shot and killed less than a block from where I used to deal in Vegas. In this tantrum, I claim that he faked his death and will soon re-emerge to re-start his recording career. Several musicians show up to stop him.

TCB was Elvis Presley’s way of making sure he and his gang were “taking care o’ business.” One of his favorite snacks was a fried peanut butter ‘n’ banana sandwich. I channel The King’s spirit in an effort to make nice with the ladies.

“When I’m 64”—revisited is about the sadness brought about by divorce. Paul McCartney is losing 50 million in his divorce. This poem is my heartfelt advice to him. And, like Marc Antony to Julius Caesar, I comment on how important friendship must be to Paul during a trying time like this. Paul once did a few duets with Michael Jackson and became good friends with him. Then Michael bought the legal rights to most of the Beatles tracks for some ridiculous figure (close to a billion dollars, I think). Now Paul doesn’t talk to him anymore. My hope is that, one day, they can sit down together, listen to the music they made, and put their grievances behind them.

“Foghat” is the name of a 70s rock group that had a hit with “Slow Ride.” This song and many others have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to a game called Guitar Hero III. This song will refer to many songs and groups you’ve never heard of before, but you may enjoy it anyway if you imagine a man making his impatient lover wait in the bedroom until he finishes pretending to be a rock star in front of the TV.

Then there’s the other poem inspired by Kill Your Idols. This one is “Bedlam on the Bedrock (with apologies to Stevie Nicks).” A fellow poet reacted to this as perhaps the strangest poem I’ve ever performed. It was also inspired by the movie trailer to 10,000 BC. This surreal narrative is about a wooly mammoth encountering the members of the music group Fleetwood Mac and trampling them. I loved toying around with the anachronisms. I really hope the audience enjoys the strangeness. I’ve drawn a cartoon mastodon for the program. He hovers over the title Roofies in the Mochaccino. This image won’t make much sense at the beginning of the show, but this bizarre clash will help the audience connect the dots.

The final piece is about how Dad came to the rescue when I broke my leg at the Johnston’s house back in 1977. It’s one of the longest poems I’ve written (clocking in at seven minutes) and I’m still struggling with the memorization, but it’ll be ready by July 31st.

The structure of the play does have some connectivity. There are several topics mentioned in more than one poem: Elvis, Pinocchio, Satan, Freddy Mercury, reuniting rock bands, Jimi Hendrix, people in their sixties who are still cool, and implied, consensual pig sex.

Hope this helps. Please share the guide with Dad. I’m going to forward this to a few friends in the hopes that this will draw them to the Interact Center like fire ants to chipotle honey.


Personally, this fire ant is ready.

He, too, is in that very first slot in the Fringe – Thursday, 7/31 at 5:30pm – and just like Rampleseed, a fine way to start off your Fringe-going adventures. Adult language and sexual situations, so not for the kiddies, but those of us adult enough to appreciate it should have a great time.

Very Highly Recommended.

Roofies in the Mochaccino

Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
212 – 3rd Avenue North #140, Minneapolis

Thursday, July 31, 5:30pm
Tuesday, August 5, 7pm
Friday, August 8, 5:30pm
Saturday, August 9, 10pm
Sunday, August 10, 5:30pm

Entering his sixth year of blogging about the Minnesota Fringe Festival (and bringing Mom along for the ride as a guest reviewer), Matthew A. Everett is also a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at