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By the time audiences see Austin Powers or Pitka the love guru, Mike Myers has spent years tweaking all the nuances to make him as funny as he can be. He'll take characters on the road and perform for small audiences in comedy clubs, noting what goes over poorly and emphasizing what people like.

His journey on The Love Guru began with a personal journey 17 years ago. "In 1991 my father passed away and I went on a spiritual quest," Myers revealed. "It was a light one, not too terribly deep because I'm not terribly deep and neither was my father, which was the source of this spiritual quest. I started reading voraciously. I'm a voracious reader now. I read constantly. I saw Deepak Chopra on the Oprah show. I'm very humble, not terrible lofty. I didn't come to this in any other way than my father's death which was a source of tremendous pain. I saw him on Oprah and I went, 'His philosophy and his writings speak to me.' It's in the way that Carl Sagan was to physics, and he's a scientist in his own right, but he also says, 'Come over here. If you like this you'll like this other stuff.' He's kind of like a great librarian, Deepak is."

From Chopra's basics, Myers discovered many spiritual writers like The Only Way Out is In by Anthony Prem Carlisi. Suddenly, Myers' reading voice took on an Indian accent.

"This voice started happening and I went, 'Huh. What?' So I did a stage show in 1994. Five characters. For the first time I did Austin Powers and for the first time I did the Guru Pitka. Austin Powers was a tribute to my father and all the British comedy that he had introduced me to and the Guru Pitka was an extension of me dealing with my father's death. The one dude that I wanted to see all of my success, the universe had been taken away from me and I didn't understand why. I would talk about intimacy and love without knowledge and knowledge without love and then love with knowledge and all of these things. Friends would call me up and say, 'I'm feeling depressed. Talk to me in the voice.' [So I'd say,] 'You're a beautiful creature. The universe loves you.'"

During the years that Myers was developing Guru Pitka, spiritual philosophy has become even more mainstream. As he's focused more on the comedy, Myers is only nominally aware of works like The Secret and Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now.

"I think it's very interesting. I have read The Power of Now. I read that right out of the gate. I also read Gary Zukav's The Seat of the Soul. That was another thing that I read. I also read the classics. I reintroduced myself to Kurt Vonnegut and all the great stuff he's written. He's probably the only author that I can say I've almost read everything that Kurt Vonnegut Jr. has written. There are a couple of the latter day books that I have yet to read."

For his own character, Myers created an original philosophical teaching. "The fictional philosophy that I created in the movie is called DRAMA which is distraction, regression, adjustment, maturity and action. The underpinnings of it are, and this took a long time creating these fictional teachings, but with distraction you're distracted away from your emotional pain and brought to a place of calm. So you think about regressing to a time when you were a little kid and you were told things about yourself that aren't true anymore. It's the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is, 'I feel bad.' Shame is, 'I am bad.' Shame is something that's given to you by your environment when you're a little kid. So you distract yourself out of your current pain and regress yourself to that time when what was written in your shame core. That's the first A. You are mature. You accept responsibility. Maturity is taking responsibility for your own health and happiness and you put all of it into action which is the second A."

The DRAMA system goes a long way to satirize the self-help industry in the film, but at its heart is an earnest philosophy. "DRAMA is the philosophy that is what I believe, which is that you're responsible for your own health and happiness. You're not a victim which is a vicious and insidious cognition. That's where I want to get to."

Pitka's spiritual greeting is "Mariska Hargitay." In the film, Pitka ends up greeting the actress Mariska Hargitay by saying, "Mariska Hargitay, Mariska Hargitay." Hargitay played along as soon as she saw Myers stage show.

"One of my best friends in New York, his good friend is Mariska Hargitay. Eric Gilliland is his name. He's a writer for Roseanne. He was my main disciple in the stage show that I did in the last five years in New York City. I said, 'I have this mythical teaching. I need a mythical salutation.' He went, 'Mariska Hargitay.' I said, 'That's it. Mariska Hargitay.' He kept saying it to me onstage and on the fifth show that I did, Mariska Hargitay showed up because he's friends with Mariska Hargitay. I'd go, 'There she is. There's Mariska Hargitay.' She came backstage and couldn't have been nicer about it. I called her about being in the movie and she said, 'Tell me and what to wear. I'm so in.' She was hilarious in the movie. About a week and a half ago she saw the film and she loved it which was super awesome. She sent me a t-shirt, an unauthorized t-shirt from the internet that says 'Mariska Hargitay. Mariska Hargitay.' So that's the Mariska Hargitay."

The Love Guru claims to advise many celebrities in the film, from Tom Cruise who appears via stock photo, to Jessica Simpson who shows up in a cameo. "Everyone came to play. Everyone got that this is a silly, silly movie that's just for fun, that is I hope a great delivery system of a nice message and the nice message is that you have to love yourself. If you love yourself then you can invite others to love you. That's basically the message and you're responsible for your own health and happiness."

Only one person seems to have a problem with The Love Guru's silly philosophies. Rajan Zed, a Hindu Chaplain in Reno, Nevada, has mounted online protests of the film, claiming it belittles Hindu philosophy. Myers offers an artistic perspective.

"This is a man who has not seen the film. This is a film about DRAMA. I'll show it to those of the DRAMA community of which there is no one because it's completely fictional. The teachings are like The Force in Star Wars and it's like the country of Freedonia in the Marx Brother's movies. This is a fictional teaching that's so designed. The teaching is designed to be non-denominational and fictional and in a fantasy world. This is the design of it. He has not seen the film. So I can't really comment except that it's about DRAMA."

It took 17 years for Guru Pitka to hit movie screens. Now Myers has to start from square one to find another character he wants to perform. "Could be another three to five years. It's a process. It's been on average three to five years [between movies] because I write it and I develop it. I don't know. I'm making it up as I go along. I didn't go to school for this. My dad sold encyclopedias and my mom worked in the office of the factory. This is not the family business. It's something that I wanted to do as a kid and it's turned out a thousand million times better than I ever thought it would. I don't have a template for it and I don't have a master plan."

He is confirmed to voice Shrek for a fourth time, but even that is a tenuous process of revision. "You're not given a script. It's kind of like driving at night with headlights that are dipped very low. You can only see a little bit of the road ahead of you. So I don't really even know exactly what the story is and they don't either. It changes. It's a completely plastic and transformative process that bends and changes. It's a fascinating process of transformation. Where they think they're going at the beginning of the journey and where they land is never the same place. It's remarkable. I don't know how they do it. It's like Saturday Night Live. I still don't know how Lorne [Michaels] does it. I don't know how they move the cameras around. The studio is tiny. It was a radio studio. I don't know how they do it."

Perhaps Myers could return to another popular character, like Austin Powers, but Myers would not just churn out a sequel. "I have an idea, and again it's one of those things that will emerge or it won't. What's remarkable is not the stuff that I begin to develop which is usually at a ratio of about twenty to one, it's the stuff that gets born. That's what's a miracle to me. It's like, 'Wow. I got to make something again. This is crazy.'"

The Love Guru also stars Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Ben Kingsly, Manu Narayan & Verne Troyer and features many celebrity cameos including Kanye West, Jessica Simpson, & Deepak Chopra. It opens June 20!
 / Issue 83 - September 2018
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