Interview with Blue Man Pete Simpson
by Waverly W., 8 years old, Manhattan
The Mom here! If you’ve read our recent review of Blue Man Group, or if you’ve seen them live (and if you haven’t, you’re missing out, just saying…) then you surely know that Blue Men do not speak. It’s just not their thing. The whole show says a lot without any of those guys ever saying one tiny little word. That’s why I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and “we’re not worthy-ness” as I sit here typing out this interview as it played out when Blue Man (and really nice guy!) Pete Simpson joined us for a Skype interview. I have no words.
Luckily, he does, and of course, so does our little Kiditor, who along with co-reviewer Reporter Peri R., thought up some questions that kids (and parents!) would want to know after seeing the show.
After some completely mortifying technical difficulties on our end (We’re not fancy here at KN – just a mom and a kid, keeping it real), we finally got it together and Pete was still there patiently waiting and being a great sport. Now I know, on top of the other info I learned, this Blue Man is not just an incredible performer, but he’s also an incredible human as well.
How did Blue Man Group start?
It started with three friends, and gathered other friends, throughout the years, who basically got together and said, hey, the world, society, New York City, could use something new – a show that could bring people and the arts together, bringing together great music, great acting, great light design…
How long has it been running?
It’s been running 25 years, in fact, this past November we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We’re always updating the show, but the original Blue Man production opened in November of 1991 in New York. (Wow. That says a lot…)
Does the blue paint smell bad and is it itchy?
That’s a pretty good question, it is not often asked by interviewers – they skip that question…I’ve always thought that grease paint, which is what it’s called, smells like melted crayons. I know it’s a pretty strange thing to say but if melted crayons don’t smell good to you then I would say it’s pretty stinky. If they smell good to you then it smells pretty good! I only put it on my face and so far it’s not itchy, I don’t put it on my hands or anywhere else. So far so good, no itchies. (There you have it, a Kids’ News NYC exclusive!)
What’s it like making such a huge mess and not having to clean it up? Wait…do you have to clean it up?
Well, we do help out, at least we clean up ourselves. When we are done we are covered in paint, food, everything! And the stage is a big mess, there’s all kinds of stuff all over it, like a child’s playroom and some sort of explosion in there with about a thousand kids and lots of paper. The Blue Man doesn’t see a mess like most people do. They see a lot of colors and textures all mixed together – they see something that’s beautiful. So The Blue Man sees a mess there but also some beauty there and wants to leave some of the mess behind. But when I’m walking back from meeting the audience going to take my makeup off and I see that cleaning crew so busy cleaning paper and Captain Crunch and bananas…I’m like, “Hey guys, sorry, that was a big mess we made.” It’s kind of like walking through my room and my mom cleaning it up and just saying, “Hey mom, good luck with that!” The cleaning crew is so amazing to watch, they’re like a show of their own – sometimes we do four shows a day, and they have to clean up really fast. They’re super skilled at what they do!
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Well, my mom and my dad always loved performance. My dad went into education and my mom was a Social Worker but it never left their blood and they were always singing and always dancing, putting on little acts for each other and for the neighborhood. So even though I didn’t think I wanted to be an actor back then, I always thought that acting involved something called “Life Force”—acting is filled with sharing life energy with people. If theater works, that’s what it does. So I knew that whatever I did it would have to involve connection, it would have to involve joy and the emotion of life. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to be…acting was an idea that didn’t come to me until I was in college.
Do you have any kids and do they think it’s really cool to have a dad who’s a Blue Man?
I do have kids and they do know that I am a Blue Man! When I brought them to the show, they fell asleep. But they are still impressed! (We’re guessing they’re just a little too young but someday they will have the coolest birthday party EVER).
What is your favorite part of the show?
Well, we have little terms for parts of the show, “Blue Man Speak,” if you will, like when we bring the guest up onto the stage and we eat twinkies with her, we call that “The Feast” and another one we call “Rock and Roll Lights.” Do you remember that part in the show where the lights get really low and the band is playing music that’s sort of suspenseful…and then suddenly the lights explode and lights up the whole audience? That’s “Rock and Roll Lights“ and I’ve always loved it because it’s the first time we can really see the audience. We can go out there and be part of the audience.
If you could describe the show in one word, Pete, what would it be?
Oh boy, that’s a tough one! You guys really have me painted into a corner here because nobody can describe the show in one word. Hmm, but you know what word came to my mind today when I was thinking about this? The word is ‘giddy.’ Why is that? Well, when you feel ‘giddy’ you feel sort of dizzy, right? The definition also has ‘euphoric’ in it. It has joy in there and you feel sort of disoriented, and I think you get all that when you come see Blue Man Group so it’s sort of a “giddy” experience. (Good one…our word would be GENIUS).
What do you think a kid can learn by going to see Blue Man Group?
I think one of the cool things you can learn is that rules are things that are made up by people, and kids can make up their own rules and make something. It’s really pretty simple, it’s the decision to sit down and go, “Well, what rules do we have, and do they work? If they don’t work, what can we change? Especially when it involves art. It’s especially fun to break the rules in art – and make your own.
What does it take to become a Blue Man?
There is a height requirement. They want Blue Men to all sort of look the same – so that’s genetic. You also have to be able to drum and to act, but we have people come from all walks of life, we have drummers who have to learn how to act and actors who’ve had to learn how to drum, we’ve had people right in the middle. Sometimes people who have a lot of experience on stage, they don’t necessarily make it. Sometimes it’s more about people who have a lot to say, a lot they want to convey, they’re passionate about something, and that comes out in the character.
How long do you need to get ready before a show?
If we are being dutiful, we are sitting down to get ready a half hour before the show (That’s it? Wow.) I’ve gotten ready in about 12 minutes, that’s because I’ve put myself in emergency situations that we won’t talk about! But I do know that it can be done in twelve minutes!
What advice do you have for kids who feel like they don’t fit in?
I would say, “Enjoy being YOU and wait it out.” It’s like a rainforest in Brazil. You take away one little thing, one plant, one little river, and it changes everything, and sometimes not for the better. So the “rainforest of humanity” needs everybody. Every color, every type, every stripe. And we change as we go through life, so sometimes that little tiny bud that isn’t anything yet, becomes the big giant canopy flower that protects, so who knows what the little buds can become? So just be the bud and wait. Love your life, because it’s all meant to be. (Quite possibly the best answer to an interview question, ever.)
What’s your favorite color?
I’m going to answer that by taking a drink from by favorite thermos!
(Hmm….in case you can’t guess, take a look at this picture:)
Mom here again. That’s our favorite color, too. And if it’s not yours after reading this amazing, thoughtful interview, you just need to go see it for yourself. Like us, you’ll probably still have questions after seeing it…but after all, sometimes life doesn’t give us all the answers, you know? But you can sure have fun trying to figure it all out. Thank you to Blue Man Group, Blue Man Productions, and of course, to Pete Simpson. We may not be worthy but for now we are happy to just be the bud and wait.