To understand what you're getting into when you go see McQueen perhaps it's best to look up the video for "Ginger Corvette." Your screen will fill with Monty-Python-esque animations of Conan O'Brien, Ed Sheeran, Prince Harry, and an adorable tabby cat, all awkwardly lip-synching to a parody of Prince's "Little Red Corvette" aimed at all the redheads in the world. The vocal impersonations, which range from dead-on to deadly surreal, are just as funny, perplexing, and downright odd as the video.
And it's all the creation of Jesse "McQueen" Adams.
A writer, director, stand up comedian, videographer, and voiceover artist (he's the voice of Nickelodeon's "Kappa Mikey"), Adams has crafted his McQueen project as a chaotic, kaleidoscopic collection of songs, stunts, and sketches, with subjects ranging from Daft Punk and Gandalf to Jason Statham and Coldplay. Aided by a high-tech audio-visual assault that Adams co-created with drummer Julian Gross of The Liars, McQueen follows a series of characters stumbling into hilariously absurd situations that compel them to burst into song.
"It's sort of like sampling," Adams says. "I take bits and pieces of movies and celebrities and TV and music and sort of smash them together into scenarios that don't really exist. It's total randomness."
And who nurtured this singular comedic and musical gift of Adams'? The British art-rock band Radiohead, of course. "I spent about three months on the road with Radiohead as a videographer," Adams says. "And being around them and watching them set up and do soundchecks, I had the privilege of being able to ask a lot of questions, and they steered me in the right direction. I started doing impressions of them, and that kind of grew into other singers, which they found amusing, and then that kind of grew into this whole universe I created."
Adams says that a lifetime of perfecting his vocal skills, and of being a music lover, prepared him to create McQueen. "I've done voices for Nickelodeon cartoons, I've always done impressions during stand up, and I've worked with Jim Breuer on Sirius Radio doing voices and characters for his show," he says. "And I just kind of wanted to do my own thing. So I sought out a musician friend Tim Oakley, who was then the drummer for the band Phantogram, and we worked together creating these bits that were almost like songs, these three-minute forms with the idea that it would be like going to a concert, but it would be comedy."
After creating his act, Adams hooked up with the UK division of the Live Nation Entertainment Company and began the task of perfecting the show. "It was trial and error for the first week," Adams says. "It was not a pleasant experience. But then all of a sudden from working 12 hours a day on it, it just clicked. I knew what it could be, I knew what I wanted it to be, and I had to go through the negative reactions to get where I wanted to go."
Adams compares what he does in McQueen to the freedom of imagination that children experience. "When you're a kid in your room by yourself and you have all your toys out, you can create the world the way you want to create it," Adams says. "That's what I'm trying to emulate: Creating this absurd world where anything can exist."