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Mutineer Interview with Zane Lamprey

Three Sheets

Zane Lamprey in Cognac, France

If you haven’t seen Zane Lamprey’s television show Three Sheets and you are reading this magazine, then as your attorney I highly recommend you visit www.zanelamprey.com immediately to see what you’ve been missing. The complete first three seasons are available to view for free, and in addition to being wildly entertained, you’ll receive an outstanding education in all things fine beverage. The show is currently without a network as the result of its previous home Mojo going off the air, though Lamprey is determined to get the show back onto television, and if his die hard fans have anything to say about it, the show won’t be without a home for long.

Alan Kropf: Did you know a lot about fine beverage before doing the show?

Zane Lamprey: The short answer is no. Before I got into it I liked beer; I liked the way it made me feel (laughs). That’s pretty much all I knew.

Are there any specific beverages that changed your perception of the world of fine beverage?

My biggest surprise was that we are still able to do a show in a new place every time and that it really does have its own identity. We went to Panama and they have their own beers and their own drinks. They have this alcohol called Seco, which they sometimes mix with milk…just regular milk. Whereas the countries nearby, you know in Costa Rica, they had Guaro and they had their own beers. Belize, again right nearby, had its own booze, and the Viper Rum and their own beers. Every time you go some place it really is unique to each place that we’ve been. And that is what continues to surprise me when we go to these new places.

Beyond traveling, how do you get your information about fine beverages? Is it magazines, books, blogs?

You know what? I get it all from traveling, every single bit of it. I have the amount of knowledge that I gained, like I said, in over three years of doing the show, but I still like to go in blind. I like to go in not knowing what I’m getting myself into so that it allows the viewer to more easily live vicariously through the stuff that I’m doing. If something happens and something new is introduced, or a new alcohol is introduced, or a new tradition or new custom is shown, I’m surprised and I’ll be asking the same question that the people at home are asking. So if something happens I don’t turn to the camera and say, ‘And here’s what they are doing.’ I say, ‘What the hell did you just do?’ That way every scene is organic, and as organic as it was in the first season. Because right now we’ve done, including the pilot, over 50 episodes.

So how has the show evolved over the seasons?

It’s tightened up a little bit. The crew has remained exactly the same since the beginning. The producers do a lot of the prep work and then they do a lot of the research after they go back, so sometimes the producers will change, but overall it’s the same. Christina is usually the producer; Mike Kelly is always the executive producer; we have had a producer Burt that’s come in; but it’s always Curtis the camera guy; it’s always Eric the sound guy and so at this point we have our flow down and we trust each other. We can go in and we can anticipate each other’s moves. It’s like with a flock of birds that have been flying together for three years, and we just know what the other bird is going to do. I don’t know. Is that an analogy that anyone has ever made? We know each other’s drinking habits. We know what each other like to eat. We know how long it takes to set up, and we know what’s possible and what’s not possible. We know what works from watching all the episodes together. When we’re on the road we’ll sometimes watch old episodes. That’s the only thing. It’s like watching Seinfeld in its fourth season as apposed to its first season. It’s not necessarily better although it is a lot more polished.

How did Three Sheets get started and how did you get involved?

Well, I was called out to audition for a Food Network show, in which a different person each episode would turn their home into a restaurant. I was sent in for the role of the host, which I thought was the person that would be hosting the show. I went in and interviewed rather than auditioned, and they didn’t give me any sides to memorize or anything. Then after they met me, they started laughing and said, “You’re really not right for this part. This is for the host, as in the host that would seat people in the restaurant, not hosting the show. But we have another show that we think you would be great for, it’s called ‘Three Sheets.’ Would you be interested?” Then sure enough, a month and a half later, we’re shooting the pilot. Then, maybe a month and a half to two months later, we’re in Ireland shooting the first episode.

Three Sheets - Saigon

Zane Lamprey and his monkey in Saigon

How involved were you in the creative process once you were brought onto the show?

Before I went in there it was a show about a guy who travels around the world and drinks. When I got there, Mike Kelly, the executive producer, and I just talked briefly about what each other thought the show would be and then we went out and shot it. And what they’ve done from day one, and continue to do to this day is, they will come up and say, ‘Hey we’re going to go to this scene where you’re going to learn about Champagne. There is someone that you can interview. If they don’t work out we’ll find somebody else, just go for it. Curtis will go and set up his lights; Eric will put a microphone on me and possibly mic someone else. Then they sit back and I just do my thing, which is amazing from an entertainer’s point of view because they just let me do what ever I want to do. They trust me. They know their jobs and they do their jobs amazingly, and they trust me to do mine. That is why it feels like it’s something that is close to my heart because it is. I put everything that I have into it and every sort of turn that the show takes sort of has my stamp on it, if that makes sense.

Before the show really established itself, did you feel there was a pressure to make it conform to more traditional approaches to covering fine beverage?

The interesting thing was that when we were told that we’d be on this network, it was called ‘In HD’ at the time then they changed its name to ‘MOJO’, but none of us had it. I had never seen it. I didn’t know anyone else who had it and so I was like, we’ll be making this show for thirty-seven people, so lets just do whatever we want and have fun, which is great that it was the initial approach we took toward it. We don’t even know who’s going to be watching the show, so lets just go out there and be ourselves and goof around. The way the information was delivered was organic, it wasn’t thrown down anyone’s throat. We weren’t really following anyone’s lead. I have ADD so I can only pay attention to things that interest me. And when talking about the drinks gets technical, that’s where I’m going to get lost. We’re an ADD generation, so when TV starts to get too technical, that’s where the viewer seems to get lost. By keeping everything interesting and hitting all the broad points is how we’ve made the show both entertaining and informative. I think the best compliment I’ve gotten is from Shannon Cook, a CNN reporter from an interview I did, who said, ‘You tricked me.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘I went to a Welsh friends house for dinner the other night and I knew more about Welsh drinking customs than they did. It’s all from watching your show. I just thought that I was having a good time and drinking along and laughing. I didn’t know I was learning; that was very sneaky of you.’ That’s it. That’s the perfect formula for a show like this. Whether it’s drinking or whether it’s a show about anything else where you’re learning, that’s the approach that I feel comfortable taking. That’s the approach that I think works.

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