Questions for Nancy Guppy

The one-time sketch comedian brought Art Zone to the Seattle Channel two years ago. This month, she takes the show to KCTS, where it all began.


Guppy in the Art Zone studio; photo by Kyle Johnson.

You were a cast member of Almost Live. How do you go from sketch comedy to hosting a show about the arts?
Well, in sketch comedy, you say what you have to say, and then you don’t have much to say after a while. So you have to get out and find a new form. Towards the end of my time on Almost Live, in the mid-’90s, I started getting really interested in doing something around supporting the arts.

Were you involved in the arts before you were on Almost Live?
No. Not really. I graduated from the University of Washington in 1982 with a degree in speech communications, just lost out of my mind. I took a lot of classes that would leave me time to lie out in the sun. That was very important to me. [Laughs.] I had no direction at all. I was pretty depressed. Then I started taking some acting classes at Seattle Community College and it was the pivotal moment because of the people I met. I met Joe, whom I ended up marrying. All that eventually ended up landing me on Almost Live. But I like art and I like artists and I like the creative thing. I like the way artists think.

Do you feel like an outsider in the arts community? Are you always asking more questions than you answer?
Oh, yeah. I am very interested, very curious. I am a voyeur. I mean, I could explain to you how I write a script and how I plan out the show, but it doesn’t feel like painting; it doesn’t feel like choreographing a dance piece; it’s different.

Do you find it an advantage to be a little naive in your job?
Absolutely. I always take that role. Even when I am not a dum-dum in that particular moment or situation. I want to be very accessible, for the viewer first of all. I am the idiot and I am happy to say it. I am saying the extreme just to make the point, but it does help; it helps you get into it more. I mean, who cares what I know.

This month your show is going to start airing both on the Seattle Channel and on KCTS. Is that where you thought the show would end up?
Actually, that’s where the idea for the show started. I was doing some short, kind of public service announcements about the arts for them a few years ago. That gave me the idea to do a little, tiny, mini-show that was about five minutes, called City-a-Go-Go. We made the pilot, and Seattle Channel was interested. Eventually it was included in a twelve-hour slot of weekly programming called Art Zone. In the end, though, the money wasn’t there to keep all that programming going. Then, the idea of having a weekly half-hour arts show came about, and that’s where we started, two years ago, with this new version of Art Zone.

What artists stick out in your mind from the last two years?
There is a piece I just saw that is going to be on our first show on KCTS about Jini Dellaccio, who shot all these great photos of the Wailers and the Sonics and all these bands. It’s an interview with a ninety-two-year-old woman, with a bunch of great photos. Now, that could be really, really boring, but the way our freelancer did it was so wonderful. Simple and beautiful. He nailed it. The part that is very important is that we capture the artist; it’s very much about honoring the person. •


Art Zone with Nancy Guppy

Airs Wednesday nights at 7pm on KCTS and Friday nights at 8pm on the Seattle Channel.