The One Who Mocks

Impressionist Miles Allen's One Man Breaking Bad condenses all sixty episodes of the revered series into an explosive comedy juggernaut

How would you describe One Man Breaking Bad?

It’s a farcical love letter to all the people who went through the bloodbath and tears of Breaking Bad and who are wanting to kind of go on a nostalgia trip and laugh at all the different things that made it so special to them.

It follows roughly the same timeline and the same plot points, condensed into a much shorter time frame. There are jokes I play on different scenes, including the more serious moments where we have an interesting take on them that leaves the audience in stitches.

Along the way there are other pop culture references. It’s like a fusion of solo theatre and stand-up. Sometimes I’ll make comments about the series and my own experience with it, plus there a bunch of other different impressions in the show like Family Guy, Back To The Future and Lord Of The Rings.

Why did you feel Breaking Bad was so ripe for parody?

When the show ended, as I’m sure like many others, I felt there was this huge hole in my heart. It was like "What am I gonna watch now Breaking Bad, the greatest television show on earth, just ended?"

I realised there was this huge love and desire to see the characters re-enacted through the YouTube video of mine that went viral and the nostalgia trip just developed from there.

Which characters from the show are featured in your parody?

All the main characters. There a few secondary characters but mostly it’s the main ones: Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Walt Jr, Hank, Mike, Gustavo Fring, Marie, Todd, Uncle Jack, the Salamanca twins, and Saul of course.

Which character was the hardest to nail?

The most challenging – not in terms of doing the voice but more because of the social nature of it – was Walt Jr. He’s a character with cerebral palsy so it could be perceived that I am making fun of or being insensitive towards someone with that condition.

My argument is that to not impersonate Walt Jr just because he’s a character with cerebral palsy and not treat him like any other character would be a greater act of discrimination.

While it does have its humour, Breaking Bad is a predominantly dark drama. In what ways have you made it comedic?

That’s what’s so interesting. If I was to do a comedy about a comedic show I’m not sure it would be that funny. Because Breaking Bad was so serious in its nature they had to have comic relief on in order to let the audience breathe – and it’s because of this that they were more willing and ready to laugh to release the tension the show constantly built up. That's why it was easier making a comedy out of a serious show.

Was there anything that surprised you about the audience reaction when you performed in Melbourne and Edinburgh?

I was entirely shocked because it’s the first one-man show I’ve ever done. I’ve been an actor and a comedian but it was my first attempt at doing an hour-long-format and I was surprised by how much fun they had.

Doing voices and impressions is something I did in middle school because I didn’t have any other friends and I had to make up my own, so to go on stage and basically do what I’ve done since then – namely being in my room and entertaining myself – and have people enjoy it as well is amazing.

I love making people laugh. I think it’s a very noble cause because when you laugh you can’t feel any negative emotion. It’s cool that I can bring people to a heavenly state for even like a brief moment. I’m humbled by it.

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Are you looking forward to taking the show around the UK?

I’m really excited about that. I did it in Scotland but I’ve not been to other parts of the UK. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to go around all the various regions of the UK and perform. Hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as everyone else has.

Did you expect the original YouTube clip to blow up like it did?

No, not at all. Everyone says "Oh what if this goes viral?" but no-one expects it to happen. That video clip was made really at my friends’ beckoning when they heard me doing impressions. I’d been growing my beard out for a time and they said I looked homeless and that they should shoot a video of me pretending to do impressions for food and upload it.

It was like "friends might find it amusing" but apparently many more found it and did too. It was a big surprise. We had like 20 views when I uploaded it, then the next morning I’m getting calls from The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and I’m like "Oh! OK! I just went viral. That’s cool". The irony is that now I'm going on tour I am going to be homeless!

When did you first get hooked on Breaking Bad?

I had a couple of friends recommend the show to me. I think it was when series four was on that I got hooked on it. I’d just graduated college and I didn’t have to do homework anymore so I was thinking ‘What am I going to fill my time with?’ So I started on Breaking Bad and was hooked by the pilot episode – I thought it was one of the greatest openings to a show I’d ever seen.

That would have been in the May or June and by August when series five rolled around I was all caught up. There was a lot of time sitting on the coach enjoying Breaking Bad.

Why do feel it's the 'greatest TV show of all time'?

I think it’s the greatest television show ever made because with every aspect of it everything is at 110%. The writing, the acting – and not just a single actor but the ensemble of actors – the music, the editing… Everybody seemed to be on their game and I think better than any other story I’ve ever seen put on screen it looks at the concept of the slippery slope.

It’s a very philosophical piece. In the first episode the question is posed: Is a morally compromising decision based on good intentions justified? I believe the rest of the series is an answer to that question and I think the answer is complex but also there’s a clear end result they show that comes from it.

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Have you met any of the cast?

I haven’t, but there was a guy with a fedora and sunglasses in one of my audiences once and after the show he just looked at me and gave me a nod. I’m not saying it was Heisenberg but who can know for sure? My goal is one day to be able to perform the show for cast and crew just because it really is a thank-you for everything they gave to it.

How do you prepare for a performance that is so full-on?

I do over 40 different impressions throughout the show and it’s an hour long, and it looks like we’re going to be extending it for the UK run to possibly 80 minutes. It is very tolling on the voice so there are a lot of vocal warm-ups and hot tea with honey and lemon before a show.

I have to make sure my my voice is ready because if that thing goes it’s not good. The show is reliant on it so I take a lot of care of my voice when I’m on the road.

What originally lead you into acting and performing?

I studied acting in college and once I graduated I moved out to Los Angeles to live the dream, as people would say. I started out like any other person, a struggling actor trying to pick up auditions for as many gigs as possible.

I had this idea that any career opportunity that happened would happen in LA because that’s where I was. Then lo and behold to my surprise my first big break comes from Australia, where I performed this show. I never saw it coming but I can't complain about it. It’s been awesome.

When did you discover you had a flair for impersonations?

I kind of say it jokingly but I was bullied a lot growing up and I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t really have any skills that set me apart either so I kind of felt lost in the shuffle. Some might say I was slipping through the cracks and my parents were concerned too.

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Then one day I just impersonated Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants on the school bus and everyone was like "Wow Miles, that was really good". For me it was like "Affirmation!" So I bought a Spongebob DVD, watched the behind-the-scene feature about all the various voice actors and I was hooked. I thought it was so sool that they did it for a living.

I started to copy them and what they did, did more and more eventually built up a repertoire. I lost count of how many I could do but in high school I think it was around 200.

What are the keys to a great parody? And the common pitfalls?

You have to walk the line of respecting the integrity of the show whilst picking out the nuances that the audience members really enjoyed about the characters. It’s picking up on those whilst always being ready to be adaptable. I remember in Scotland this guy who was interviewing me asked "Do you have anything in there about Irn-Bru?" I didn’t know what it was, he told me and I ended up putting it in the show.

When you have a show that’s a parody and also has cultural references in it you need to be ready to change those references as the show goes on.

Miles Allen performs One Man Breaking Bad at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on November 28. Tickets are available via the Belfast Waterfront box office and website.