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25 Groovy Facts About Austin Powers

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After two Wayne’s World movies and a six-season run on Saturday Night Live, Mike Myers took a break from show business. Almost two years after he left SNL, Myers reemerged on May 2, 1997—20 years ago today—with a feature comedy he had conceived of and written about a time-traveling secret agent with terrible teeth titled Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Its positive reviews and robust home video sales led to the popular sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which made more than $312 million worldwide at the box office, making more money in its opening weekend than the original film did throughout its entire theatrical run. 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember received weaker reviews, but was nearly as huge a moneymaker.

1. MIKE MYERS STARTED THINKING UP THE AUSTIN POWERS CHARACTER DRIVING HOME ONE DAY.

Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” was playing on the car radio, leading Mike Myers to think about where the “swingers” of the world went off to. This inevitably led to the comedian asking his then-wife Robin Ruzan if she “swung” and if he was "making her horny." Told to stop and to just write this new character down somewhere, Myers wrote the first draft of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in three weeks.

2. IT’S WIDELY BELIEVED THAT DR. EVIL IS BASED ON LORNE MICHAELS.

Anonymous former writers and actors from the legendary sketch show claimed that Dr. Evil did an excellent job of mimicking SNL's head honcho, from his overall control-freak behavior to the physical mannerisms, including the famous upturned pinkie. It was even rumored that Dana Carvey was angry with Myers for more than a decade because he felt that Myers stole his Lorne Michaels impression for Dr. Evil. A few months after The Spy Who Shagged Me came out, Myers appeared in an SNL sketch insisting to Michaels that Dr. Evil was not based on him.

3. MICHAEL CAINE BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1965 CHARACTER OF HIS.

Caine portrayed bespectacled government agent Harry Palmer in the British espionage movie The Ipcress File. When he first saw Austin Powers, the actor thought that he was Palmer—but with poor teeth (of which Caine was not a fan). Years later, Caine would play Austin’s father, Nigel, in Goldmember.

4. ELIZABETH HURLEY BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1960s BRITISH TALK SHOW HOST.

Simon Dee was the host of the hip and popular BBC celebrity chat show called Dee Time that ran in the late 1960s. It aired twice a week and episodes concluded with Dee driving off in a Jaguar with a blonde model. When he passed away in 2009 of bone cancer, obituaries quoted Hurley—who played International Man of Mystery’s Vanessa Kensington—as saying that Dee’s “sixties grooviness” made him the inspiration for the Powers character. One international news service even used the headline “Original Austin Powers Simon Dee Dies.”

5. OTHERS BELIEVE THE PLOT WAS INFLUENCED BY ANOTHER ENGLISH '60s SHOW.

The BBC's Adam Adamant Lives!, which ran from 1966 to 1967, was about a British man who is frozen by a villain in 1867 and reawakens in 1966 to fight said villain.

6. COLIN QUINN WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF SCOTT EVIL, BUT TURNED IT DOWN.

The former SNL cast member has said he regrets the decision, but doesn’t begrudge the movie franchise’s success.

7. A ONE-HOUR MTV SPECIAL STARRING AUSTIN POWERS AIRED BEFORE THE MOVIE PREMIERED.

Austin Powers' Electric Pussycat Swingers Club was a Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In-inspired extravaganza which featured some clips from the movie, a Powers-curated “Fab Birds of the ‘90’s” list, and cameos from Julianna Margulies, Bill Bellamy, Kurt Loder, Rosie O’Donnell, Robert Wagner, Steven Weber, and Michael York, who were credited collectively in the closing credits as part of “The Swingers Club.”

8. MUCH OF THE FIRST FILM WAS IMPROVISED.

According to Myers' estimation, "about 30 to 40 percent" of the first movie was improvised. But there are examples of non-scripted scenes running throughout the series, including Basil telling the audience to not think so hard about all of the time travel logistics; Austin pointing out the differences between the English countryside and Southern California; and the shushing scene.

9. A REFERENCE TO PRINCESS DIANA WAS EDITED OUT OF THE THEATRICAL RELEASE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

One of Dr. Evil’s nefarious plans was to make it look like Prince Charles was having an affair to create a shocking royal divorce, without knowing that Charles and Di were no longer married. International Man of Mystery was released in the U.K. on September 5, 1997, five days after Princess Diana’s death, so that part was taken out. It was restored by the time it came out on home video.

10. DR. EVIL’S LINE ABOUT HIPSTERS IS A LENNY BRUCE QUOTE.

The famous comic once said: “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster.” Dr. Evil attempted to insult Austin with saying, “Really, there's nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.” Myers has referenced Bruce in various interviews over the years.

11. MR. BIGGLESWORTH’S REAL NAME IS TED NUDE-GENT.

Thanks to Ted, the popularity of sphinx cats skyrocketed after International Man of Mystery came out.

12. IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT, AUSTIN DRINKS A ZIMA, NOT A TAB.

Either way, Powers looked out of touch in the scene at the Las Vegas bar when he got laughed at for flashing a peace sign.

13. STARBUCKS PAID NOTHING FOR BEING IN THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME.

The company agreed to take part after producers showed them the script and storyboards.

14. THE WORD "SHAG" IN THE SEQUEL'S SUBTITLE MADE SOME COUNTRIES UNCOMFORTABLE.

Singapore came up with The Spy Who Shioked Me; in English, “shiok” means “treat nicely.” Malaysian censors changed it to The Spy Who Dot-Dot-Dot Me. Some British theater owners simply put Austin Powers II on their marquees.

15. ROB LOWE GOT THE ROLE OF YOUNG NUMBER TWO BY DOING A SPOT-ON ROBERT WAGNER IMPRESSION.

He did the impersonation for Myers one day while the two were golfing. A couple of months later, he was presented with a script with him already cast in the role. Lowe actually appeared in, but was cut out of, the first movie; he played a friend of John Smith, one of Dr. Evil's henchman, who gets "decapitated by an ill-tempered mutated sea bass." Lowe is forced to deliver that news at Smith's bachelor party.

16. 1970s DANCE MUSIC PLAYED BETWEEN TAKES ON THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME SET.

Rob Lowe wrote that to this day, the opening claps of Rose Royce's “Car Wash” remind him of the shoot. He also wrote that he in fact did the Wagner voice, and there were no overdubs by Wagner involved.

17. IT TOOK MYERS SEVEN HOURS TO PUT ON THE FAT BASTARD SUIT.

According to Myers, it smelled like a “sewer filtration plant.”

18. HIS CHAIR ON SET HAD A STRANGE NAME WRITTEN ON IT.

It said: "Sir Stinky Bottom, Viscount of Stinkvania in the Bottom-ic Empire."

19. A BONUS TRACK ON A 1999 ALAN PARSONS SOLO ALBUM FEATURES DR. EVIL.

The title track from The Time Machine received a “Dr. Evil edit.”

20. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT FOR THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME FEATURED ALTERNATE SUBTITLES THAT PURPOSELY COMMITTED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.

Co-written by Myers and former SNL writer Michael McCullers (who collaborated again on Goldmember), the first draft began with a joke that the film was titled Austin Powers 2: The Wrath of Khan, before pressure from lawyers forced them to change it to Austinpussy.

21. MGM ALMOST FORCED THE THIRD MOVIE TO BE TITLED SOMETHING ELSE.

In January 2002, New Line began recalling all promotional materials for Goldmember after MGM sent a cease-and-desist order stating that New Line was attempting to make money off of their James Bond franchise. The lawsuit was settled in April, just three months ahead of the film’s release, with New Line telling CNN that “as part of the agreement to allow use of the ‘Goldmember’ title, all future titles that may be construed as parodies of James Bond will be subject to MGM's approval.”

22. THE FIRST CUT OF GOLDMEMBER CLOCKED IN AT OVER THREE HOURS.

It was actually three-and-a-half hours. In order to trim the running time down to a more manageable 95 minutes, several scenes were left on the cutting room floor, including the return of both Heather Graham’s Felicity Shagwell and Will Ferrell’s Mustafa.

23. NIGEL POWERS’ RANDOM HATRED OF THE DUTCH WAS INSPIRED BY MYERS’ FATHER.

"That idea came from my actual father, who was English, and who had an ax to grind with the Hawaiians because 'they bloody murdered Captain Cook in his sleep,'" Myers told USA Today in 2002. "We couldn't even have a pineapple in the house. So I thought it would be funny if Austin's father, Nigel, had a problem with the Dutch—who nobody has a grudge with."

24. THE GOLDMEMBER CHARACTER CAME ABOUT THANKS TO HBO’S REAL SEX.

A gentleman with a Dutch accent appeared on the late-night program Myers was watching while writing one night, talking about his sex farm near Rotterdam.

25. HBO ORDERED 13 EPISODES OF AN ANIMATED AUSTIN POWERS SERIES IN 1999.

New Line Television shopped it as having less of a Saturday morning cartoon feel and more of a King of the Hill sensibility. But it mysteriously never came to be.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Tina Fey
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Tina Fey has transformed modern comedy more than just about anyone else. From the main stage of Second City to the writer’s room of SNL to extremely fetch comedy blockbusters, Elizabeth Stamatina Fey has built a national stage with a dry, eye-popping sarcasm and political satire where no one is safe. She has a slew of Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, and WGA awards to prove it—plus a recent Tony nomination (her first). But, more importantly, she’s the closest thing we have to a national comic laureate.

Here are 10 facts about a fantastically blorft American icon.

1. SHE DID A BOOK REPORT ON COMEDY WHEN SHE WAS 11.

Fey got a very early start in comedy, watching a lot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, and Norman Lear shows as a kid. Her father and mother sneaked her in to see Young Frankenstein and would let her stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. So it’s no surprise that she chose comedy as the subject of a middle school project. The only book she could get her hands on was Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians, but at least she made a friend. "I remember me and one other girl in my 8th grade class got to do an independent study because we finished the regular material early, and she chose to do hers on communism, and I chose to do mine on comedy," Fey told The A.V. Club. "We kept bumping into each other at the card catalog."

2. THE SCAR ON HER FACE CAME FROM A BIZARRE ATTACK THAT OCCURRED WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

Fey’s facial scar had been recognizable but unexplained for years until a profile in Vanity Fair revealed that the mark on her left cheek came from being slashed by a strange man when she was five years old. “She just thought somebody marked her with a pen,” her husband Jeff Richmond said. Fey wrote in Bossypants that it happened in an alleyway behind her Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, home when she was in kindergarten.

3. HER FIRST TV APPEARANCE WAS IN A BANK COMMERCIAL.

Saturday Night Live hired Fey as a writer in 1997. In 1995 she had the slightly more glamorous job of pitching Mutual Savings Bank with a radical floral applique vest and a handful of puns on the word “Hi.” In a bit of life imitating art, just as Liz Lemon’s 1-900-OKFACE commercial was unearthed and mocked on 30 Rock, the internet discovered Fey’s stint awkwardly cheering on high interest rates a few years ago and had a lot to say about her '90s hair.

4. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE NAMED HEAD WRITER OF SNL.

Four years after that commercial and two after she joined Saturday Night Live’s writing staff, Fey earned a promotion to head writer. Up until that point, the head writers were named Michael, Herb, Bob, Jim, Steve. You get the picture. She acted as head writer for six seasons until moving on to write and executive produce 30 Rock. Since her departure, two more women (Paula Pell and Sara Schneider) have been head writers for the iconic show.

5. SHE’S THE YOUNGEST MARK TWAIN PRIZE WINNER.

Established in 1998, the Kennedy Center’s hilarious honor has mostly been awarded to funny people in the twilight of their careers. Richard Pryor was the first recipient, and comedians who made their marks decades prior like Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and George Carlin followed. Fey earned the award in 2010 when she was 40 years old, and the age of her successors (Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, David Letterman ...) signals that she may hold the title of youngest recipient for some time.

6. SHE WROTE SATIRE FOR HER HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Fey was an outstanding student who was involved in choir, drama, and tennis, and co-edited the school’s newspaper, The Acorn. She also wrote a satirical column addressing “school policy and teachers” under the pun-tastic pseudonym “The Colonel.” Fey also recalled getting in trouble because she tried to make a pun on the phrase “annals of history.” Cheeky.

7. SHE MADE HER RAP DEBUT WITH CHILDISH GAMBINO ON "REAL ESTATE."

Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) first gained notice as a member of Derrick Comedy in college, and Fey hired him at the age of 23 to write for 30 Rock. Before jumping from that show to Community, Glover put out his first mixtape under his stage name. After releasing his debut album, Camp, in 2011, Gambino dropped a sixth mixtape called Royalty that featured Fey rapping on a song called “Real Estate.” “My president is black, and my Prius is blue!"

8. SHE VOICED PRINCESSES IN A BELOVED PINBALL GAME.

Between the bank commercial and Saturday Night Live, Fey has an intriguing credit on her resume: the arcade pinball machine “Medieval Madness.” Most of the game’s Arthurian dialogue was written by Second City members Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock) and Kevin Dorff, who pulled in fellow Second City castmate Fey to voice for an “Opera Singer” princess, Cockney-speaking princesses, and a character with a southern drawl. (You can hear some of the outtakes here.)

9. SHE USED MEAN GIRLS TO PUSH BACK AGAINST STEREOTYPES OF WOMEN IN MATH.

Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan in 'Mean Girls' (2004)
Paramount Home Entertainment

There’s a ton of interesting trivia about Mean Girls, Fey’s first foray into feature film screenwriting. She bid on the rights to Rosalind Wiseman’s book that inspired the movie without realizing it didn’t have a plot. She initially wrote a large part for herself but kept whittling it down to focus on the teenagers, and her first draft was “for sure R-rated.” Fey also chose to play a math teacher to fight prejudice. “It was an attempt on my part to counteract the stereotype that girls can’t do math. Even though I did not understand a word I was saying.” Fey used a friend’s calculus teacher boyfriend’s lesson plans in the script.

10. SHE SET UP A SCHOLARSHIP IN HER FATHER’S NAME TO HELP VETERANS.

Fey’s father Donald was a Korean War veteran who also studied journalism at Temple University. When he died in 2015, Fey and her brother Peter founded a memorial scholarship in his name that seeks to aid veterans who want to study journalism at Temple.

"He was really inspiring," Fey said. "A lot of kids grow up with dreams of doing those things and their parents are fearful and want them to get a law degree and have things to fall back on, but he and our mom always encouraged us to pursue whatever truly interested us." Fey also supports Autism Speaks, Mercy Corps, Love Our Children USA, and other charities.

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