Idle Interview: Mary Roach
Mary Roach was the psychodiva who was featured on the American Idol Season 4 premiere. She was billed as "the next William Hung," and even though she didn't gain Hung-like status, her audition is easily one of the most memorable. Two years later, Mary Roach has revived her website at maryroachweb.com and is looking to relive her 15 minutes of fame.
Novac from Idle Idols: For the record: What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favourite colour?
Mary Roach: My name is Mary Roach, spelled exactly like that. My quest is to become a more famous actress and stand-up comic — I would really like to play both comedic and dramatic roles in movies one day… or maybe just appear in more reality shows. My favorite colors are hot pink, black, and purple. I couldn't just pick one.
Novac: Are you an American Idol fan?
Mary: I'm a huge fan of the auditions, though I honestly get bored watching the main show. Seeing all these cookie-cutter (though usually decent) singers try to be original with overdone, overplayed songs generally bores me. Still, it's kind of like a guilty pleasure. I'll watch it when nothing else is on. I'll watch it when other people are watching it… I admit there are times I'll even get sucked in, though it's not usually on my top priorities of TV shows to watch.
Novac: How did you decide that you were going to audition for American Idol?
Mary: I found out that American Idol auditions were going to be in DC, where I lived at the time. I understand that American Idol is one of the most watched reality TV shows in the nation, so I figured I'd give it a shot. There had been some crazy acts (as well as some generally crazy people) before me on that show, and also on The X Factor who made a name for themselves afterwards, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
Novac: How did the American Idol audition compare with your expectations?
Mary: I didn't know it was a 3-step process, because you're only presented with one audition. From my experiences of attending casting calls in the past, I figured I'd have to wait in line, though I had no idea it would last 3 days. The judges were pretty much how I expected them to be. The post-interview process with the reporters was pretty fun, too.
Novac: Most contestants have qualms with the editing. Did the editors cut out anything that you had hoped would air?
Mary: Well, in the end, I said, "I'm not really like this, you know. I'm just doing this for show, because I want to be on TV." That was in the exit interview in the "confessional" room. I also cracked a bunch of jokes that didn't get aired, but that's understandable, since I actually talked for a good half hour.
Novac: You were lucky to be billed as "The next William Hung" throughout your episode. How do you feel about that?
Mary: I'd feel better if I got more exposure from it. That little ………. got a million dollars and what do I GET?! Suicide rumors! (Remember when William Hung had suicide rumors online? There were a couple that were spread about me, too, only not quite as elaborate.) I put the "……." because I don't know what to call him.
Mary: He seems like a sweet and humble guy, though… and I'm sure he's enjoying every minute of it. And is quite grateful for what has happened to him… but I wonder… does he know he's bad? I'm sure he does by now… but he makes people smile, so he keeps going. I think all other A.I. rejects are envious of him.
Novac: This is why William Hung will always be THE American Idol audition of all time. He seems so genuine, you just can't tell if he's acting or just plain ignorant of his awful singing.
Mary: It's true… when people think of American Idol, his face comes up!
Novac: In your audition, you sang Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move. How did you end up with that particular song?
Mary: Actually, I was hanging out with a few friends at this little ice cream place that plays old songs. I Feel the Earth Move came on, and we started dancing like dorks, being the shameless hams we are. I decided that would be a fun song to sing/dance to. I'm not sure if Carole King is flattered or offended… but I'd definitely like to know!
Novac: Next time I see her, I'll be sure to ask.
Mary: Rock on. I'd love to meet her, though, seriously. I think she's an incredibly talented songwriter.
Novac: Post-audition, we saw you sing a song as you were on your way out of the building. What song was that?
Mary: It's a song I wrote, called Empty Shell. I'm not sure if you noticed (some did, some didn't), but I nearly broke character while singing that. I just about started laughing, though I quickly stopped myself. I've had quite a few people ask me what song it was and where to find it. Infact, DC 101 (DC's rock station) even played that post-audition song on the radio for a little bit.
Novac: Yes, I was going to mention the smirk and near-laughter during that one. It's a shame you didn't sing that one for the audition — you gave quite a bit of emotion and . . . character during that song.
Mary: Hahaha. I actually didn't think to sing that song until afterwards. The reporter asked me to sing her something else, and I decided to sing my own. I was debating between that and uhh… Got Some Teeth by Obie Trice. But hip-hop isn't "Mary Guilbeaux". I've thought about auditioning for A.I. again with a more hip-hop character. Perhaps then the American public will fully know I was acting… or else, they'll just assume I'm even MORE nuts – because then, not only would I hear voices in my head, but I'd have multiple personalities to boot!;)
Novac: Yes, I've found that most of the humorous auditions are acts, but America just tends to take them at face value. What kind of publicity or attention did you receive after your audition aired?
Mary: I got several offers from TV shows the morning after it aired, and I accepted as many as I could. Going on Extra was pretty fun… if you aren't familiar with Extra, it's hosted by Mark McGrath. I got to briefly meet him and talk to him for a few minutes out of character. On the set of Extra, I did interviews for both In Touch and US Weekly. My grandmother saw the picture of Mark and I in US Weekly and asked if we were dating! But I digress… the publicity I received was generally positive when the journalists actually got a chance to speak with me. Otherwise, it was a mixed bag – some people took my act at face value, others questioned it, and others knew it was a joke all along. I got compared to Molly Shannon's "Mary Catherine Gallagher" character a few times, which is pretty flattering. She was also quite off-the-wall and peculiar with her social mishaps and flailing dance moves. Oh, and people recognized me the next day. Some even asked for my autograph. It was unreal.
Novac: Is it true that you also did a "Spring Break Fantasy" for MTV?
Mary: Indeed it is. I sang American Idiot. I actually have a story about this, though I'm not sure how appropriate it is. Ah well… here it goes: My boobs actually popped out during the first take (I was wearing a loosely tied halter top with a badly built in bra), and there was an audience of literally thousands watching. I said I felt like Janet Jackson. So, MTV was memorable enough.
Novac: Unfortunately, this is par for the course on MTV's Spring Break, so it probably didn't help you stand out too much.
Mary: Most likely not. It was all in good fun, though. In this day and age, boobs aren't a big deal anyway… but it was still slightly embarrassing for me.
Novac: What kind of reaction did you get from friends and family over your American Idol audition?
Mary: I had a huge viewing party at my house. All my friends and family knew about my audition, and they couldn't wait to see. The reaction was generally an abundance of laughter mixed with, "whoa… you said that? You did THAT?! GIRL, you have BALLS!" A slight bit of shock, I suppose.
Novac: I'm guessing those comments came during your interview segment.
Mary: HAHA, I already warned my mother about the f-bomb. She's really Catholic and easily offended by profanity, so I made sure she was prepared. I'm not afraid to be a little offensive while performing stand-up, so that last bit was no surprise to my friends. I've found that often in stand-up, the more offensive you are, the more laughs you get. That's the nice thing about stand-up — one can go on stage and say things they'd never DREAM of saying in everyday life.
Novac: Since we're on the topic of stand-up: What is a Mary Roach stand-up performance like? Do you have material, or is it mostly improvised? How often do you get out to perform?
Mary: My stand-up performances often open up with a little humor on the subject of American Idol, since that's where people know me from. Because my audition was aired around two years ago, I like to remind them a little bit of who I am. I usually do have a rough outline of material, and the subject varies, depending on the venue. I do quite a bit of improv, too, though how much depends on the crowd. If I notice they really dig me, then that keeps me going. If they're an unusually dry crowd, then I'll stick to my canned jokes.
Mary: Lately, I only perform every few months… I used to perform much more frequently. Right after my A.I. stunt, I performed weekly and sometimes more. I've been solicited for a few offers, though… it's crazy how my 15 minutes are starting to slowly creep back. Crazy but lovely.
Novac: Do you intend on auditioning for American Idol again? Earlier, you mentioned the desire to get on more reality shows. Did you have any in mind?
Mary: I definitely intend to audition for American Idol again, with a completely different character. As for reality shows, I would love to be on something like The Real World. Or The Amazing Race, or even Fear Factor. Oh! Last Comic Standing would also be amazing. I'll go on any reality show, though, quite frankly. Once you get a taste of the Hollywood life, you'll do anything within reason to experience it again. It's too divine to pass up.
Novac: Since you said *any* reality show, I'm trying to picture you on Super Nanny or Nanny 911.
Mary: HAHA… Um, sure, why not? I'd be a standout for sure.
Novac: So, for the record, we've established that you're not a crazy loon — at least not the crazy loon we saw on American Idol.
Mary: Of course not. I'm clinically sane according to my last psych examination.
Novac: A lot can happen in 4 years
Novac: You've said elsewhere that you do not consider yourself a singer. You have been in a band in the past, though. What kind of band was it? Were you the lead singer?
Mary: I've been in several bands, actually. I was the lead singer in a joke band called Rubber Buns & Liquor. We sucked, and that was the point. People saw us perform for the entertainment value, not the music. Also: you don't need to be vocally talented to lead a punk band. It's all talking, yelling, and screaming anyway, with minimal singing. Most punk singers can't sing and don't care. I also play guitar and bass… I'm crappy at both, though again, it's all for fun. I do have to say I'm a legitimately talented songwriter, though.
Novac: Where did "Guilbeaux" come from?
Mary: I heard the name Mary Guilbeaux on TV and thought it sounded… funny. Quite frankly, Guilbeaux rhymes with something else. Something that starts with "dil…" It's one of those names that's trying to be classy and not quite cutting it. I thought it fit my character… she's trying to be cool, classy, and sophisticated, but it's just not working out.
Novac: What is your name for the character? Just Mary Guilbeaux?
Mary: yeah I had to say my real name on TV though
Novac: Speaking of names: You share your name with the author of "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" . . . are you a fan?
Mary: To be honest, I've never read any of her stuff. I've heard of it before… she [the other Mary Roach] also writes for Reader's Digest. After my A.I. audition, people actually asked me if I wrote any books, or if that was someone else. I wish I could take credit for it… she seems incredibly popular. ha!
Novac: I'm sure people were asking her if she was on American Idol as well.
Mary: HA, most likely!
Novac: One last question, and then I'll let you go . . .
Novac: Tell me about "Hey, wanna throw stuffed animals at the celing?"
Mary: HAAA… The other part is, "You know it's just an excuse to get you in my room, right?" It's just a corny pick-up line, but it's so zany that it's worked. Talking to attractive strangers can be difficult.
Novac: Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to chat, Mary. I thank you, the readers thank you, and Abe Vigoda thanks you.