It’s taken about five years for Delmer and Marta to go from recurring characters on Caution: May Contain Nuts to having their own spin-off show, but Howie Miller always had a sense that these characters might have some endurance to them.
“Delmer and Marta sort of became the Bob and Doug Mckenzie of our show,” Miller explains, of their genesis on Caution. “That’s the one we got the most people commenting on, reacting to.”
Miller plays Marta in Kids in the Hall-style of character-based drag: the loving wife of equally loving Delmer (played by Edmonton theatre regular Sheldon Elter) the duo’s spin-off sitcom finds the characters living off the Rez: Marta’s now a television host in Morningside, Alberta (population: 40 000), as she and Delmer navigate (and instigate) the hijinks that arise at the television station. Kid in the Hall Kevin MacDonald plays the station’s neurotic producer, and a procession of familiar Edmonton faces fill out the cast, plus a scatter of special guests. Three episodes are now online, with the rest slated for a televised run on APTN in 2016.
“The fact that they were indigenous characters already has a certain charm for the APTN audience,” Elter notes in a separate phonecall. “But I think over time, they just became these really sweet people, who have the best interested of everybody before themselves.”
Miller points to shows like The Jeffersons as a reference point for the show’s style.
“I’m from the ’80s—those are the ones that I watched growing up,” he says. “I really like getting back to that sense of humour, and style, because that’s what made me laugh.”
Working with the characters in a longer narrative, rather than one-off sketches, has been fruitful, Elter notes, and not just for the central duo. The on-again, off-again nature of Delmer & Marta’s shooting schedule provided the unexpected boon of allowing the cast to sink further into their roles, which in turn honed the writing.
“We shot three episodes this time last year, and then three episodes in the spring 2015,” Elter says. “So shooting it over two fiscal years, which stretched out our timeline, but gave us time to go back to the last few episodes, and write more directly for the actors who had already informed us who they think the characters are. Once they brought their own stuff to the table, it was like, ‘Oh, we can use that in the writer’s room when we go back to the next set of writing.’ To take what was already there, and heighten it a bit more.”
Delmer & Marta