Alton Brown arrived on stage Saturday in a suit jacket and tie, unusually formal for the “Good Eats” host. But he kept to signature sneakers and jeans below the waist.
And he was holding a paper mache chicken.
Brown, for his 10th anniversary “Good Eats” live shows at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, maintained his cerebral, scientific demeanor while throwing around plenty of silly — just like the television program that airs every night on Food Network.
He brought in fellow Food Network star Ted Allen to interview him, like “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” He showed best-of clips from his shows, including him getting bonked in the head many times, Marx Brothers style. (”I was raised on Road Runner and Bugs Bunny. I grew up in a generation where hitting was still fun!”) He did a faux game show facing off against “Good Eats” super fans.
Brown was not allowed to cook anything on the stage, but he showed off his inner McGyver, creating a carbonated fruit shake using a fire extinguisher and a water cooler. It got messy. (He handed out ponchos for the front rows a la Gallagher.)
“Ten years!” he said to the packed house during the 2 p.m. show. [He taped two shows, which will be spliced together for a TV special on the cable network next month.] “Lots of brine under the bridge! And a whole decade of gainful employment!”
Props from old shows were strewn about the stage: an oversized carrot here, a crypt there. He had a live band led by Patrick Belden, who does all the sound effects and music on the show’s 238 episodes (and running.)
Allen, with tongue in cheek, noted: “It’s hard to make a TV show, let alone get a show on the air anywhere to persist. Is that the right word? To belabor is an enormous achievement.”
Brown scripts every show. (I watched him work on one for a feature in 2006.) Each episode is artfully and carefully constructed. “Do you have control issues?” Allen asked.
“No,” Brown said. “I just like to be handy and do everything myself!”
Brown told the crowd he came up with the concept of “Good Eats” years before it started. He found most food shows boring. So he wanted to combine Julia Child, Mr. Wizard and Monty Python. With “Good Eats,” mission accomplished.
“Laughing brains are more absorbent,” Brown explained. “You can teach people who are laughing and enjoying themselves and not drooling at their desk. If they laugh, they learn more.”
A sampling of his favorite dishes he made on the show: monkey bread (”No actual monkey is in the bread,” he noted helpfully), parsnip chips, beef jerky, chocolate lava muffins (the audience “oohed” when a photo of those showed up) and sweet potato waffles (with fried chicken. mmm….)
Brown gabbed about his use of pop culture references in the show, be it “Men in Black,” “Star Trek,” “Jaws” or classic fables and nursery rhymes. “It cuts down on writing time,” he joked. More seriously, he noted, “it’s a short cut. It’s a connecting point.”