Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Meet Fritzell & Greenbaum
I bet some of your favorite episodes of MASH and the ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW were written by writers you don’t know. Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum. You’ve seen the names I’m sure. But just who were these guys??
First off, they were two of the funniest comedy writers in television. And expert craftsmen. Their scripts always had a flow, the sentences were short, sharp, with never a wasted word. The jokes were on target, fresh, and at least five were from the “where the hell did they come up with that?” category. They had a great ear for dialogue, a love of Americana, and there was always the signature Jim & Ev scatological joke in every script. Klinger would pull out a rectal thermometer and say “It’s 103 in Pittsburgh.” A visiting general would be delighted the latrines were in pairs – “Good. The men can encourage each other.” That same general made the pronouncement: “Prunes – greatest invention since the gatling gun.” Hawkeye once observed that the medical profession has come a long way. "It used to be that proctologists used candles."
They started way back in live television. For two years they produced and wrote every MR. PEEPERS episode. 39 a year, aired LIVE. That fried them and they fled to California.
Over the next thirty years they wrote for THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, GOMER PYLE, REAL MCCOYS, THE ODD COUPLE, and 24 episodes of MASH. They also penned the Jack Lemmon movie, GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM and many of the Don Knotts flicks.
Everett flew planes, wrote jazz, built bizarre sculptures out of pipes and everyday items. (they’re featured in GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM and also an episode of MASH), and after Jim passed away Everett launched a very successful second career as an actor and voice over talent. He appeared on SEINFELD, THIRD ROCK, MATLOCK and numerous other shows and commercials. One of his best friends was Marlon Brando, who he roomed with briefly in New York.
Jim preferred to spend his time at the Tail O’ the Cock restaurant in the Valley.
Ev also went to MIT, and was a Navy fighter pilot. You know – just your typical comedy writer resume. He wrote an autobiography called “The Goldenberg Who Couldn’t Dance”.
Of their many MASH episodes the one that’s best remembered is “Abyssinia Henry”, the one where Henry Blake gets killed.
I’ll leave you with a typical Jim & Ev line. From Klinger in the episode “Bug Out”: “A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League box scores. “
They don’t write ‘em like that anymore. I sure wish they did.