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Hooch Your Daddy 

Magic Smoking Monkey fulfills celluloid dreams, '80s-cop-show-style

An actor with too much downtime on his hands can be a dangerous thing (see Robert Downey Jr.'s complimentary house-sitting service, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.). Put a pen in a thespian's idle hand, and the stakes soar higher still. You either wind up with the literary career of Ethan Hawke, or you get lucky, and a bit of comic hilarity ensues.

We're banking on the latter with the mockumentary Hooch & Daddy-O, the first feature-length film produced by local stage-spoof troupe Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre. First hatched about five years ago during rehearsals for a St. Louis Shakespeare production of Richard III, Hooch & Daddy-O is also the made-up name of a fictitious, boilerplate cop-buddy series from the 1980s. The fake documentary of the same name tells the behind-the-scenes back-story of the show's cast, reveals the in-fighting and back-biting, and explores the series' cult appeal. In other words, the film is something like This Is Spinal Tap for the Jake and the Fatman set. Or maybe more like Adaptation meets Simon & Simon, because the actors who play Hooch & Daddy-O's cast members use their real names. Hence, real-life St. Louisans Jim Ousley and Oscar Madrid -- also the mockumentary's writers -- play "Jim Ousley" and "Oscar Madrid," the washed-up former TV actors who played Detective David "Daddy-O" Mandlebaum and Officer Ace Delvecchio, respectively, on the erstwhile, ersatz TV show (Detective Jerome "Hooch" Hendrickson is played by "Chris Anich"). Got that?

"The amount of detail we put into this is pretty ridiculous," admits Ousley, the one responsible for birthing this comedic beast back during Richard III. It was then that a couple of innocent leather jackets, which looked kinda like detective garb, led him and other cast members to start making up alter-ego cop-drama characters just for fun. Two years passed before St. Louis Shakespeare and Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre founder (and Hooch & Daddy-O director) Donna Northcott asked Ousley to expand the idea into a screenplay. He and Madrid spent eighteen months developing Hooch & Daddy-O's folklore -- thinking up the show's TV-movie reunion, its cartoon spinoff, even naming each of the series' ninety-four episodes from its five-year run -- and weaving it all into a script.

For research Ousley says he and Madrid watched tons of old Hunter and Miami Vice episodes. The pair even attended Archon, St. Louis' annual sci-fi convention/geek bacchanalia, where they saw Battlestar Galactica and A-Team has-been Dirk Benedict (the inspiration for Madrid's Delvecchio character) signing headshots.

"The photo [Benedict was signing] showed him in some Western garb, which was just so out of context because this guy was never known for being on a Western show," says Madrid. "And then he had this big sign, 'Tour the Eastern Caribbean with Dirk Benedict,' like you could go on a fantasy cruise with him. That really inspired us; my character's got his own Western headshot and fantasy-cruise poster in the movie."

Hooch & Daddy-O screens at the Tivoli Theatre (6350 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-995-6270) Thursday, December 9, at 7:30 p.m. Call 314-361-6703 to purchase tickets; they're limited and cost $8 each. For more information visit www.hoochanddaddyo.com.

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