Les Campbell intentionally annoying in 'Bellingham Bean' program for Chuckanut Radio Hour

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 20, 2014 

Les Campbell

Les Campbell performs at the Chuckanut Radio Hour at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 at Whatcom Community College's Heiner Theater. He's part of the ongoing serial, "The Bellingham Bean," humorous slice-of-life vignettes set in a Bellingham coffee shop and bakery.

DAVID COHN — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Man-about-town Les Campbell says he was born and grew up in Seattle, but modifies his statement by saying, "Well, I got older there, anyway - I'm still working on growing up."

He can be seen treading the boards - that is, performing - on the Bellingham Theatre Guild stage, and he has directed shows there too.

Catch him next at the Chuckanut Radio Hour at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Whatcom Community College's Heiner Theater (be there at 6:30 before the live taping begins). He's part of the ongoing serial, "The Bellingham Bean," humorous slice-of-life vignettes set in a Bellingham coffee shop and bakery. Here's more about Les:

Question: What has been your career path?

Answer: I graduated from the U Dub with a degree in communications and a degree in Spanish literature. My first job out of school was working as a reporter and then editor for an English-language daily paper down in Venezuela. Laying out newspaper pages, combined with the illustrations I was doing periodically, led me kind of naturally into the graphic design side of publishing.

I eventually came to work for a magazine group based in Seattle that I stayed with for 16 years. And I was lucky enough to be able to bring that job with me when I moved to Bellingham 12 years ago. But the print industry has slowed down, and like a lot of publications, my magazine's operations shrunk.

So, at age 55, I've launched in a whole new direction and have been studying accounting at Whatcom Community College. I still do freelance graphics job at times - I've designed and formatted a couple of different non-fiction books recently, and I've been designing the posters for the Bellingham Theatre Guild pro bono for the last five seasons. But believe it or not, I'm finding accounting fun!

Q: What's your theatrical and musical experience?

A: I acted - including professionally on a couple of occasions - when I was young, but I put it aside entirely by the time I was in my mid-twenties. But not long after I moved here I saw an audition notice for the Bellingham Theatre Guild, got cast in a small part, and they haven't been able to pry me off the stage since.

I've acted in a whole bunch of plays, directed a couple, and written a few, including one that was a semi-finalist in the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. Semi-finalist means that I'm almost impressive.

I'm also in an acoustic music group called 3-oh - we sing three-part harmony on songs from the 1920s to today, including some originals.

Q: What do you enjoy about performing?

A: Just about all my dearest friends in Whatcom County I've met through theater or playing music. In fact, I met my darling partner, Michelle Kriz, when she was the assistant director for a play I was cast in.

It was through friends at the guild that I got into doing radio drama for KMRE, the radio station for the Spark Museum. And that led to my joining the Chuckanut Radio Hour.

Q: For those who don't know, what's the Chuckanut Radio Hour all about?

A: The Chuckanut Radio Hour is a production of Village Books, and it's hosted by the owners, Chuck and Dee Robinson, one of the most truly wonderful pairs of people you'll ever meet.

The show is usually recorded at Heiner Theater at Whatcom Community College, about once a month. On a typical show there will be a local band or musician who'll play several songs, a humorous essay from Alan Rhoades, and the Poet's Corner with Kevin Murphy. Kevin may have become my favorite poet ever - his poems are often very, very funny, but they also provoke you to think about things you never would otherwise.

And there's always an in-depth author interview. We've been fortunate enough to have some great writers on the show - Garrison Keillor, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and Ruth Ozeki, who's been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize this year. (The guest author Feb. 25 is Willy Vlautin, whose most recent book is "The Free.")

The show airs on KMRE 102.3 radio at 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 p.m. Sundays.

Q: How do you contribute to the show?

A: I appear in a sketch comedy segment called "The Bellingham Bean," about a fictional coffeehouse in town run by brother and sister Michael and Polly Bean, who are played by real-life husband and wife Robert and Shelley Muzzy, and are helped out by their Aunt Suzette, who's played by Dee.

I most often play Chester Ballou, who's known as the Most Annoying Man in Bellingham. He was only supposed to appear one time, but they told me I'm really good at being annoying.

(Margaret's note: It's worth going to the Radio Hour just to listen to the amazingly hilarious voices that Les utters.)

Shelley normally writes our segments, but the Muzzys are basking on the warm beaches of Thailand right now, so she turned the writing chores over to me this month. Dee and I will be getting stuck in an elevator, and a deep secret will be revealed.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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