Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum

Voting ends at midnight tonight, West Coast time. Go here to cast your ballot. Thanks to everyone who participated.

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?? From time to time I like to introduce you guys to writers who should never be forgotten.

First off, Jim & Ev 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.

26 comments:

Michael Green said...

Their scripts were terrific. They also wrote one of the great MASH moments, when Radar gave Sophie to Potter and Harry Morgan did a beautiful job of slipping in what Sophie had left behind her--another scatological joke, which Larry Linville's "That's disgusting" put over the top. I also double-checked--they wrote the episodes that introduced B.J., Potter, and Winchester, which says a lot about their writing talent that they could establish those characters so beautifully.

By the way, Ken, I just wanted to say, I have loved your work for a long time and, like you, grew up learning the English language and storytelling from Vinnie.

TCinLA said...

For those who might be interested in learning a whole lot more about Everett Greenbaum, here is a series of interviews that were done with him that's on YouTube:

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=MxwgEuhiLBg

What an interesting guy, and truly a helluva writer - he does a whole 30 minute segment in this series about writing for M.A.S.H.

TCinLA said...

interestingly, in the interview, he says that he didn't like MASH after he left because "everyone got too nice." That's an interesting comment, for a series like that.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Those Andy Griffiths just keep getting better.

With voting almost over, this is shaping up to be the most horrible day of my life.

WV: groothro. London hub for trans-Atlantic erections.

Tim W. said...

If I'm not mistaken, the General who said of the twin latrines "Good. The men can encourage each other.” was Harry Morgan before he became Colonel Potter. I don't think I've seen that episode in nearly 20 years, but the line was hilarious enough that I can still remember his delivery.

Ref said...

The story I heard was that Harry got a one-shot as a deranged general and got along so well with everyone that they asked him to come in as Colonel Potter. Anyone know if that's true?

rob! said...

those guys were great writers--their names are on some of my all-time favorite M*A*S*H episodes.

KEN LEVINE said...

The episode with Harry Morgan as an insane officer is from season three and called THE GENERAL FLIPPED AT DAWN. Jim & Ev wrote it. It comes from an incident that Ev remembers from is own military career. Harry was so hilarious that when an opening for Colonel came along they brought him back to play a new character.

That is my single favorite episode of MASH and for my money they funniest episode of the entire series.

A. Buck Short said...

Every vote counts. (Well hardly ever, but that may be just enough to get America off the couch.)

This is OT, but may be critical to the future of our country. I’m here to turn myself in with a cautionary polling experience. Now I understand the mismatch of the elderly and butterfly ballots in Boca Raton.

It’s been what, like almost a week? I just accidentally noticed that the actual Daffy Definitions post on the 16th has a polldaddy voting mechanism, where you are supposed to check off your choice and then click a “vote” button. Then it updates you on who’s leading. Is this a great country or what? I don’t know how I missed this – since the blog I sporadically contribute to has one of these with every single friggin’ post I submit. Only explanation might be that I think polldaddy also happened to be the nom de porn of the fellow in the video I had been screening online immediately prior.

So if you, like me, may have simply posted back a comment with your preference only, I assume that vote will not count until you scurry back to the 16th and actually engage in the procedure. I hope Ken will correct me if this is wrong, but it’s so important to exercise one’s franchise – which I think is also a polldaddy euphemism relating to a slightly different procedure.

Michael Green said...

I would be hard-pressed to pick a funniest episode, but the Harry Morgan one ranks up there. And when it's rerun now, they cut the ending, which is priceless--they get the news that General Steele (his character), who was last seen walking out of the mess tent singing "Mississippi Mud," has been promoted. Frank is brushing his shoes and says something about how they all thought the guy was nuts and Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry parade out of the Swamp singing "Mississippi Mud." McLean Stevenson does a great little dance and Larry Linville starts brushing in time to the singing. Terrific!

Anonymous said...

The "General Flipped at Dawn" also contains the great Harry Morgan line, "'A radish shall not stand in the way of victory'-Marshall Fuchs."

Wayne said...

I watched Everett Greenbaum on YouTube.
You know what's sad? This guy is a comedy genius. He had 69 views.
He'd have a million views if the video showed him stepping on a rake and racking his nuts!

A. Buck Short said...

Not that anybody asked, and at the risk of double dipping, I’d like to thank Ken, TCinLA, and second Wayne’s Everett Greenbaum Experience. The 69 views is unfortunate but not quite as bad as it seems. The first half hr. (of 6) starts off at 118 views but soon decreases, due, in my experience, to outside forces – to wit, you wife popping in sporadically and strongly encouraging one to make himself useful – especially on a Sunday.

(It may have been the wedding anniversary card this blog inspired yesterday: Cover photo of an unusually assertive Bob Bice (which if, I’m not mistaken is also a lyric from the Banana Fanna Name Game), announcing, “Today, Dec. 21 is a very important Anniversary.” Opening to last spring’s Rolling Stone story and “May 21, 2008 – 7 months to the day David Cook won the American Idol title over David Archuletta” – with link to Ken’s bereft tweenagers. The four hrs. required to manufacture was well worth the $3.95 saved from not purchasing the equivalent from Hallmark.)

The good woman opined the cards have gotten better, to which I explained, “Of course, now I have a writer.” Who could now do me a big favor coming up with an appropriate response to: “So now, where the hell’s my karaoke machine?”

PS: Apart from the man, I also love the name Everett Greenbaum, and his reference in the interview to being a Jew often mistaken for a gentile or visa versa. I once noticed that there was a 5-6 year window around the time of Mr. Greenbaum’s early youth, when an unexpectedly high percentage of Jewish parents decided it would be a swell idea to name their male children either Everett, Monroe, or Sumner. A practice that may have been discontinued as unnecessary, commensurate with actual assimilation.

Hey, the Pats are playing…g’bye.

Kirk Jusko said...

I remember an interview Andy Griffith gave once on Larry King (back when that show was still catering to us ancient pop culture buffs) in which he credited Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum with creating Earnest T. Bass and the Darlings. Those were among the funniest episodes of that series. Let's give Griffith credit for even mentioning writers. How often do actors do that? To quote SUNSET BOULEVARD: "People think the actors make up the dialogue as they go along."

Corinne said...

Also totally OT

We exchanged Christmas presents early and my husband gave me a DVD of "Volunteers." He was inspired when I showed him the clip Ken posted of John Candy as Tom Tuttle.

I look forward to viewing it, probably when my parents insist on watching Bill O'Reilley or Sean Hannity.

Thanks in advance for the laughs, Ken.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

A. Buck Short said...

I just accidentally noticed that the actual Daffy Definitions post on the 16th has a polldaddy voting mechanism, where you are supposed to check off your choice and then click a “vote” button."


Thanks. I feel a little better about having wasted Ken's time asking him when the voting deadline was, which he had already announced in his post (a detail he was too polite to point out when he answered my question anyway).

Informixx said...

Interesting interview. The scripts are good... well said!

SharoneRosen said...

Thanks Ken! Love to learn about the writers whose work I've enjoyed so much. LOVED the movie Good Neighbor Sam. It's one of the craziest, most original comedies out there. Now I know why!

jbryant said...

Wow, thanks, wowgold! You've given us all hours of link-clicking fun! But which one do I click to order the awesome Matrix Madlibs you used for your post? And was Everett Greenbaum a fan of those or something? I'm missing the connection.

Phil said...

Everett once told me that he got such a kick out of Baby Boomers. All the things he and Jim had written, he said, and what got a "Really? That was you guys? I just LOVE that!" reaction was usually THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.

Lee said...

Speaking of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Fritzell and Greenbaum are discussed in the chapter on said film in a new book that's out on the movie career of Don Knotts. Greenbaum remembered that the only argument he and Fritzell had writing that script was over how the "old" murder around which the story is built was to have been committed. Fritzell wanted it to have been done with a gun, but Greenbaum said he insisted that it had to be a stabbing death and absolutely refused to concede on that point.

Greenbaum also noted that Andy Griffith worked with them, uncredited, on the script.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I discovered your blog just today and have been reading through it, wondering if you ever met Jim F. and Everett G. I had forgotten that they wrote for MASH. To me, they will always be remembered for their sheer genius on the Andy Griffith Show (which ran before I was born).

Scott Moon said...

Atta boy, Luther! That gag in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was written and performed by Everett Greenbaum. Scott Moon www.scottmoon.net

Bev B. said...

I just watched my favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show again - Convicts At Large. The writing was absolutely brilliant. A work of art. Just wanted to tell their families how much their work is appreciated!!!

Joy Aroff joya4art@yahoo.com said...

I knew these two fellows and loved them and their work.Gtreenbaum and Fritzell plus John Murrayl and they all hung out at the Valley Inn more often than the Tail of The Cock. We had lots of fun at the bar along with George Gobel and Jim Murray, sports writer for the L.A.Times who wrote many columns there. No relation to John. Fritzell died too soon. He used to love buzzing the valley in his MG. top down of course.
John's sister. Mary (I think) was head honcho fro a long time at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. glad I came to California when i did. Joy Aroff

JonCow said...

Love Fritzell & Greenbaum from Andy Griffith show & others. My all-time favorite line from M*A*S*H is from the General Steel episode with Harry Morgan, when he tells Radar, "That's 'Steele' with three E's. Not all in a row."