Arts & Culture

What bloody man is that?

Rick Miller puts on an animated performance in his ‘MacHomer’ show.
Rick Miller puts on an animated performance in his ‘MacHomer’ show.

In Rick Miller’s version of “Macbeth,” the murderous Scotsman munches doughnuts, guzzles beer and sounds a lot like Homer Simpson. Miller’s one-man show, “MacHomer,” brings together two pop-culture paragons on stage: legendary playwright William Shakespeare and Emmy Award-winning animated series “The Simpsons.” Think of it as “Bart meets the Bard.”

“It’s one guy doing one dysfunctional family playing another dysfunctional family,” explained Miller, a Toronto-based actor, comedian and playwright. “It’s a fun, rowdy show.”

Something clicked

Born and raised in Montreal, Miller’s early theater education was limited to French-speaking playwrights such as Moliere. His first exposure to the Bard came at age 18, when he picked up his mother’s collection of Shakespeare plays and flipped to “Hamlet.”

“Something clicked in me,” Miller said.

After attaining a master’s degree in architecture, he hit upon the idea of blending Shakespeare and “The Simpsons” while appearing in a Montreal production of “Macbeth” in 1994. (Miller played a relatively minor role, Murderer No. 2.)

“MacHomer” debuted a year later at the Montreal Fringe Festival.

Over the years, Miller said, the one-man show has evolved from a barebones monologue to afull-blown theatrical production complete with animated backdrops and original songs.

“It’s a bit like a ‘Simpsons’ Halloween special, where the characters are allowed to slip out of Springfield and into another world where they can kill each other,” Miller said.

Audiences can expect to see Marge Simpson muttering “Out, out damned spot,” and Homer hallucinating “Is this a dagger which I see before me or apizza? Mmmm, pizzaaa.”

Several series favorites, including scheming billionaire Mr. Burns, good-natured neighbor Ned Flanders and barfly Barney Gumble, also make appearances.

“Homer is an interesting Macbeth,” said Miller, who plays a total of 50 characters in “MacHomer.” “Yes, he’s dumb, but people love him even when he kills people.”

“There’s a bit of Homer in all of us,” he added.

So far, Miller has introduced “MacHomer” to half a million people on four continents, and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada, and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in Australia.

He’s even shared his show with the cast and crew of “The Simpsons,” who he met at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

Miller walked up to actor Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer, Krusty the Clown, Groundskeeper Willie and other characters, and introduced himself as “the ‘MacHomer’ guy.”

“He pointed at me and went ‘To be or not to be,’ ” Miller recalled, imitating Homer.

“Next thing I knew, I was being passed around the room like the party trick I am.”

Creator Matt Groening invited Miller to send him a recording of “MacHomer” and pledged to “make sure you can keep doing what you’re doing,” the actor recalled.

Solo and screen fame

“MacHomer” isn’t Miller’s only success story.

He’s also found fame with two solo shows he created with director Daniel Brooks: “Bigger Than Jesus,” in which Miller comes to terms with his religious upbringing, and “HARDSELL,” a satirical exploration of “the dark side of marketing.” In addition, Miller collaborates frequently with influential director Robert LePage.

Miller’s onscreen credits include the animated shows “Atomic Betty,” “Magi-Nation” and “My Big, Big Friend,” as well as a stint hosting ABC’s hidden camera comedy show “Just for Laughs.”

Although he’s got plenty on his plate, Miller said he still enjoys introducing audiences to “MacHomer.”

“‘MacHomer’ is the ‘idiot full of sound and fury.’ He really likes to make people laugh,” Miller said, quoting “Macbeth.”

“That’s why Shakespeare was successful,” the actor added. “Not only could he plumb the depths of human emotion, but he loved to make people laugh.”

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