Nine weeks ago, I interviewed Mike Miclon to cover his “Early Evening Show” which was live streaming the following Saturday. Fast forward to the end of this month and I was curious as to how things are progressing with this digital/live-action experiment but I really wanted to get another person’s perspective so, at Miclon’s suggestion, I contacted Fritz Grobe — one-half of the team (the other half being Stephen Voltz) — who, Mike explained was the co-writer of the EES. It was a good call in my opinion seeing I was a fan of their Diet Coke and Mentos videos … he was reached at his Buckfield home.

Q: So, my opening question is probably one you get a lot, and I usually try to avoid such queries, but I just have to know: where does the name of your company, EepyBird come from?

Grobe: (Laughter) Well, it was the unofficial mascot of the Odd Fellow Theater that Mike ran for quite a few years here in Buckfield. It was a little bird that goes, “Eep, eep!” and, surprisingly enough, was the inspiration.

Q: Well, knowing the backstory now it makes a lot of sense, simple and rather obvious, truth be told. Now, in the email that Mike sent me, he mentioned that you are a co-writer of this Early Evening Show?

Grobe: Yeah, Mike and I have known each other for almost 30 years and we’ve been working together extensively for just over 20 years; and we have one of the most joyful, collaborative writing processes I’ve ever had with anyone. It’s too much fun to put these shows together and come up with new surprises for everyone every month.

Q: And this has been going on for some time now, right, it’s not just a COVID-19 project?

Grobe: Yeah, we’ve been creating the Early Evening Show since — oh, my gosh — 1997 or 1998 and doing them almost every month for over 20 years; but they’ve always been a live experience. With the coronavirus the challenge was, “Okay, we can’t do them live right now but what can we do, how can we translate the fun of this in-person experience to an online, streaming show?” And it’s proven to be an awful lot of fun to do it this way, as well.

Q: That’s so neat, and now you’ve got a backup plan in case you have to shut down live performances in the future — hopefully, that won’t be an issue ever again.

Grobe: Yeah, well, and it provides us with all kinds of opportunities to do things we couldn’t do otherwise.

Q: Like what?

Grobe: We can bring in people from all over the country, from all over the world … both performers and audience members. We’re now working on bringing in guests from all over the place and they don’t have to make the trip to Maine, they can perform from their own living rooms or from their own local theaters and we get the chance to share those extraordinary performers with our audience.

Q: At 71, I’ve witnessed such a profound series of advances in technology in a relatively short period of time, honestly, it’s amazing … period!

Grobe: It’s been great to experiment with: How do you do audience participation on-line, how do you do magic, how do you show juggling? What are the best ways that you can bring people the kind of entertainment and diversion, what are the best ways you can do that online?

Q: How have these monthly shows been going over?

Grobe: I haven’t followed the viewing numbers but in talking with people in the live chat that goes on next to the video stream, people have just been so happy to have some fun in amongst all this stress and in amongst all this craziness. It’s fun to see old friends — characters, people and performers who audience members have gotten to know over the years of the Early Evening Show — and to have new people come and experience it, and have new performers. The Early Evening Show has a feeling of welcoming you to a small town experience with performers who are absolute world-class, so you have the sense that you’re getting to hang out together and getting to know people. It’s not just the experience of seeing a world-class musician or a phenomenal juggler or magician, it’s getting a sense of what they are and getting to have a real up-close, personal experience.

Q: Now, as far as EepyBird goes, a lot of people have seen you and Stephen’s videos of Diet Coke and Mentos and I believe you did something with Post-It notes, as well?

Grobe: Yeah. So EepyBird is best known for dropping Mentos mints into bottles of Diet Coke, but we’ve made videos with a quarter-of-a-million sticky notes, we built a Coke & Mentos-powered rocket car … so we’ve had all kinds of adventures; and it’s fun to be combining the live performances that Mike and I have been working on with the Early Evening Show now with the video side of things that has been the world of EepyBird.

Q: Are you and Stephen working on something new?

Grobe: We are! It’s been, as you might imagine, slowed down by the coronavirus. Stephen lives down in Massachusetts so we haven’t been able to get together in person these last four months, but we’re doing as much as we can remotely and continuing to work on some crazy new projects.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Grobe: Well, I hope people will join us for this on-line fun as we experiment with new ways to create community. I hope that we will be able to all get together in-person soon, even with masks on, but until then it’s been an absolute joy to be able to connect with people online.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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