Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My favorite Peri Gilpin story

Last week there was some grumbling that I didn't answer enough Friday questions. So this week I'm devoting two days to your questions. More answered manana.

Jeff gets it started.

We are big Frasier fans, but we just watch whatever show comes on cable. I never read about Roz - although we like her character a lot. Any stories there?

First off, Peri Gilpin is the sweetest human being on the planet. That has nothing to do with the story but I wanted to say it anyway. One day during the first season after a runthrough I said she looked very comfortable behind that control board. She said, “Well, my dad was in radio.” Being an old radio guy myself I asked who he was. She was sure I had never heard of him. He died quite a few years ago. Still, I wanted to know.

Jim O’Brien.

I was floored. I did know Jim O’Brien. He was program director of KHJ in 1969 and I did an audio documentary for college on the station and spent a day interviewing him. He was a great guy. After KHJ he moved to Philadelphia where in addition to radio he started doing TV weather. He died tragically young in a sky diving accident saving a fellow diver whose chute didn’t open.

One day on KHJ he filled in on the air and I happened to tape the show. I dug up the tape – it was an old musty reel-to-reel, and gave it to Peri the next day. I knew the sound department could figure a way for her to hear it. She was very touched. A couple of days later at runthrough she thanked me again and said it was the first time she had ever actually heard her father on the radio. She was very little when he died.

I have other Peri stories but that’s my favorite.

Dan Brown asks:

What kind of priority was reality in your scripts? How much emphasis was there in keeping things plausible? My biggest pet peeve now with sitcoms is that even some good shows, such as The Office, defy believability. The other night, Dwight punched out Pam's window and tore up the house with a sledgehammer when asked to retrieve an iPod. Uh, sure.) Even in comedy, shouldn't writers ask themselves: Would this really happen?

I can’t speak for that OFFICE episode but personally I think it’s crucial to keep it real (Jesus, I sound like Randy Jackson). On MASH we had medical advisers, on-set nurses, and military advisers just to make sure everything was plausible. And on CHEERS we drank.

But the best comedy comes from reality. If you can believe or better yet, identify with behavior the better your chances of laughing. Characters can act irrational, crazy, weird – anything you want, as long as it’s justified. We joke about actors always needing to know their “motivation” but they do. Rachel Roberts, a wonderful actress on the old TONY RANDALL SHOW once said to us after a scene in rehearsal: “So what’s my motivation? I’m an out patient?” Yo, dawg, keep it real. Know what I'm sayin'?

What’s your question? I try to get to as many as I can. Honest. Really. No, I mean it.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

my question, how do you reject kids/minors in casting calls?

-jecoup

Anonymous said...

Peri's last name is Gilpin, not Gilpen ;)

The Bouncing Bird said...

If you could elaborate on realism in comedy, was there anyone on 'Frasier's staff who was an expert on wine, the opera or anything Fraiser and Niles could chatter about without a second thought? A joke that comes to mind is when Niles is giggling to Frasier about switching someone's bottle of wine for another, while being very specific about what kind of wines they were. I suppose if you know your drink, it's funny, but Niles seemed like the punchline because it was such a one-percenter, most people weren't supposed to get it.

Sunshine Vitamin said...

I saw Peri Gilpin act in the short-lived, poorly reviewed play, "Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas" here in Los Angeles last fall. She was funny, sexy, and great all the way through a puzzling script. Afterwards, we stayed around and spoke with her as she was leaving. She was very gracious and appreciative of our compliments, and returned them in kind, saying "Oh, thank you for being such a GREAT audience! SO much better than opening night!" It made us laugh and love her even more. So sweet.

gottacook said...

I remember Jim O'Brien well from his Philadelphia TV days (I lived in Center City 1978-82, and Channel 6 Action News was and remains the best local news broadcast I ever watched). He was the most entertaining weather guy I ever encountered on TV. I heard about his death in '83 after I'd moved away - he was well known to be a very frequent skydiver.

However, Peri Gilpin was not "very little when he died"; if the Wikipedia dates are correct (and I don't see how they could be very far off in this case), she was 22. Not trying to take anything away from what must have been a very emotional moment for her hearing that tape - I myself lost a parent when I was 22 - but very little she wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Love Peri and the Roz character.

Always thought Roz was in a similar spot in FRASIER that Frasier was in CHEERS.

A sitcom with single mom Roz moving on to be a producer at an NPR clone could have made a great show.

A. Buck Short said...

Peri Gilpin, Dallas girl, and Pat Richardson from Home Improvement makes two. I went to the WIF-Dallas events where they each recieved the group's Topaz award -- I think maybe in sequential years. Talented, warm, centered, and real. After years in LA. What a concept.

D. McEwan said...

I for got that Rachel Roberts was in THE TONY RANDALL SHOW.

She was a wonderful actress, taken much too young.

E. said...

Don't get me wrong - I love the Roz character, Frazier - I was a Jim O'Brien fan...the whole thing. However, hoe can Peri Gilpin say she's so comfortable around a board because her dad was in radio, and later on say she's never actually heard him?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I've heard a lot of commercials with voice-overs that sound like her. Do you know if she's done that. She has a great, sexy voice.

Tim W. said...

"He died tragically young in a sky diving accident saving a fellow diver whose chute didn’t open."

Geez, if you're going to die young, what a heroic way to go.

And I don't know if that story tells how sweet Peri is, but it does show that you're not too bad a person yourself.

WV: luvinsav - A discount whore house.

A_Homer said...

Maybe it was the way the dialog and actors set up a certain atmosphere, but by Peri's approach I always thought of Roz's character as informed at different points by certain actresses, like the kind of comedy roles actress Rosalind Russell took early in her career and on the other hand, the deadpan delivery for zingers such as by Eve Arden.

Brian Phillips said...

Not really a question, but a heads up to Ken Levine and anyone else interested:

The "T.A.M.I Show", one of the legendary filmed concerts is coming out on DVD. This is the show that James Brown danced and sang with such vigor he lost eleven pounds. Brown and the Rolling Stones argued who should close the show. The Stones won the battle, Brown won the war. Jagger said later it was one of the worst professional decisions the band made, although they did a great job as well.

http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=4049831

And no, I don't make any money from telling anyone this.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to more Peri Gilpin stories. And hoping that some of them will be about Peri Gilpin.

KEN LEVINE said...

Does it seem like I'm attracting more Anonymous dickheads these days? Or is it just one giant dickhead who keeps posting over and over?

Ed Blonski said...

Ken,

I really enjoyed all the shows you worked on (as noted in your profile). And "Volunteers" is a favorite movie of mine. I like the quirky, early roles that Tom Hanks did - Volunteers, Money Pit, and my all-time favorite Joe vs. the Volcano.

I'd like to know your impressions of David Odgen Stiers. CE Winchester III was probably my all-time favorite MASH character.

Ed

Alyson said...

Thanks for the story, Ken. Loved Roz and love Peri Gilpin. She has great comic timing.
She's on a new show now on ABC Familiy, that I have to admit I have become a fan of. The show itself is fairly ridiculous, and definitly a guilty pleasure, but Peri does a good job with the material she's given. And, quite frankly, I'm just glad to see her working.

carol said...

The proper title for the anonymous asshat is 'troll'. I'm willing to bet it is the same person. Especially since he/she knows it is sort of getting to you.

I would like to know, out of curiousity, how often you get people who say 'oh, I have this great idea for a script! You should write it and we'll split the credit!'

Anonymous said...

Fear not. Ken. You'll never be mistake for a black man.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Treat anonymous dickheads like any other immature, attention-seeking dolt. Delete 'em without comment. Don't give them the attention they seek. I hate to think that they're wasting your valuable time when you could be writing about stuff we all would like to read! Right, gang? :)

You're happenin'

Thank you for this fine blog...

David O'Hara said...

The Bouncing Bird,

I know nothing about wines, but the preteniousness that surrounds 'wines' is very funny.

Tim W. said...

My suggestion is to remove the "Anonymous" choice. I mean, if you want to comment, how hard is it to leave some sort of name?

blogward said...

Don't you sometimes feel like Frasier on his phone-in, getting wiseass callers? Except without the wise... I think you've talked about this before(?) but how much was David Ogden Stiers/Winchester a prototype for the Frasier character?

MrPopCulture said...

Ken - Our friend Ron Jacobs left (I believe) KHJ in May of 1969. Jim O'Brien must been the PD right after? I missed this one. Thanks!

Jim O'Brien - not a bad Drake jock and he sounded great on WFIL - a station that smartly borrowed from the best of them - Drake and Rick Sklar. Gary West - www.mrpopculture.com

John said...

A question: do you think it is important for a sitcom writer to reflect the diversity of America?

I wonder this as I have never seen a US sitcom with a Muslim in it.

daniel said...

Does it seem like I'm attracting more Anonymous dickheads these days? Or is it just one giant dickhead who keeps posting over and over?

Its hard to tell, they are anonymous!!!

Paul Duca said...

May we presume that Jim O'Brien and Peii's mother divorced when Peri was little, then the former Mrs, O'Brien moved away--taking Peri out of Jim's life? That would explain why she never heard her dad on the radio (as well as A. Buck's statement that Peri was from Dallas).

Paul Duca said...

And now something somewhat off topic...the ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL has started previewing this week in New York. There is a color picture of Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane and the cast in the Sunday TIMES Arts and Leisure Section.


"Five bucks on Morticia...she's small but wiry"--the words of a wise and witty man, whose name I am trying to remember--oh yes....David Issacs.

Mike Barer said...

I loved the Roz character on Frazier. I understand she took the name Roz Doyle in tribute to a producer at WINGS (her previous TV show) who passed away.

Paul Duca said...

And now something off topic...THE ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL has started previews in New York this week.
There is a color picture of Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane and the cast in the Sunday TIMES Arts and Leisure Section.


"Five bucks on Morticia...she's small but wiry"--the words of a wise and witty man whose name I am trying to remember....oh, yes--David Issacs.

Mike Barer said...

Does it seem like I'm attracting more Anonymous dickheads these days? Or is it just one giant dickhead who keeps posting over and over?

Speaking of dickhead's posting--I can't believe the anti-semitism of some of the posters on "youtube". All anonymous of course. It's very disturbing.
Excuse me for being off the subject.

Paul Duca said...

Sorry for the double posting....the first went through but didn't show up when I expected it to do so.

YEKIMI said...

I wonder this as I have never seen a US sitcom with a Muslim in it.

I believe the shorted lived Whoopi Goldberg show "Whoopi!" had a Muslim character in it, whether he was an actual Muslim I don't know. Omid Djalili is his name.

EDP said...

Ken, did I fabricate the memory of you repeatedly saying at the outset of the blog that anonymous comments would be deleted/ignored/are not welcome and not to bother leaving them? There do seem to be more and bitchier anonymous comments than before, but if you made a habit of deleting them or restating your opposition to anonymous comments (dickhead or otherwise) there'd be fewer. Or if they're disableable, do that, not that someone couldn't type "Anonymous" into the Name field...

Cueburner said...

Back in the primitive rock days of personality radio, Jim O'Brien ranked right up there with the likes of Don Rose and Don MacKinnon. Deejays who were naturally humorous, quick witted and related so well to listeners. I first met Jim in Denver after he left KLIF and his family in Dallas. He spoke of his young daughter and how she showed up at KLIF to sing "Happy Birthday" to him on the air. He lived to be on the air, both radio and television, and didn't much care for managing, which explains his short stay at KHJ. And when WFIL lost Dr. Don Rose, they found a perfect replacement in Jim.

Mark Murphy said...

Ken: Did you have anything to do with the "Cheers" episode that featured the bit with George "Spanky" McFarland? Always loved that scene.

olucy said...

I wonder this as I have never seen a US sitcom with a Muslim in it.

Then, sadly, you missed the wonderful Aliens in America (2007-08) about a young Pakistani boy who lived with a Wisconsin family as an exchange student.

It was a great show on Fox, which explains why it only lasted a year.

EDP said...

Aliens in America was on CW, which explains it even more.

olucy said...

You're right! Thanks for the correction.

Mary Stella said...

Geez, those Channel 6 Action News weather guys were not only loved for themselves, but they gave us some talented offspring. I knew that Dave Roberts, the weather guy is the father of David Boreanaz (Buffy, Angel, Bones). Now we find out that Peri Gilpin's father was Jim O'Brien.

Growing up in South Jersey, we loved Jim O'Brien and the whole Action News team. I can remember when the anchor had to announce Jim's death. Couldn't get through it without welling up.

Thanks for sharing this, Ken.

As far as the Anonymous insulters, I think it's only a couple of the same people but they seem to make it personal. Guess you can't be as well-knowm and talented as Ken without creating some envy.

Sadly, they aren't able to come up with good snark. Just petty, unfunny digs.

I'm not even an amateur sitcom writer and I can come up with funnier insults.

I say let them go on with their little tantrums. The responses from your other commenters are usually pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that there have been at least two anonymous posters recently. I think I kind of opened the floodgates with what I thought was a fairly innocuous (although negative) comment about the list of headlines from the Huffington Post. I did not think it appropriate that a headline about a child being killed by the family dog was lumped in with what seemed to be intended as a list of wacky headlines. My thought was that you either didn't realize you had included it or had a momentary lapse of taste. I don't think I was out of line in raising the question although I did respond in sharp terms to the nitwit who apparently thought he was leaping to your defense. I'm not sure why it brought anonymous readers out of the woodwork, but I didn't post any of the other recent anonymous comments. For what it's worth I enjoy the blog a and read it pretty much every day.

I do have one suggestion about the comments that I think you should at least consider. One of the blogs that I follow religiously is Mark Evanier's. I think I actually first found your blog through a link on his site. One of the very nice things about his site is that there are no comments. If he had posted a similar list of headlines and I desired to communicate to him that I found it tasteless. I would have sent him an email and he would have either ignored it, responded to it privately, or responded to it publicly. All without the nuisance of flamers and nitwits. I really don't think there is much difference between using the anonymous button that is provided and using an obvious alias. Is there any qualitative difference between being praised or criticized by "anonymous" and being praised or criticized by "Sunshine Vitamin"? Not really.

Tim W. said...

Comments are part of the reason I visit some sites. And Ken has commented that he often enjoys them. You just have to sift through the moronic ones.

Sunshine Vitamin said...

Difference: "Sunshine Vitamin" is always the same person, me. And, although you may not know my identity, Ken does.

I can understand why "Anonymous" is so defensive, lumped in with all the other %$*&$# out there.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
I think I kind of opened the floodgates with what I thought was a fairly innocuous (although negative) comment about the list of headlines from the Huffington Post. I did not think it appropriate that a headline about a child being killed by the family dog was lumped in with what seemed to be intended as a list of wacky headlines. My thought was that you either didn't realize you had included it or had a momentary lapse of taste. I don't think I was out of line in raising the question although I did respond in sharp terms to the nitwit who apparently thought he was leaping to your defense."


That "nitwit" would be me. I stand by my stance that kids eaten by dogs is funny.

Groucho MArx, whom I had the pleasure if interviewing on the radio a couple of times, once explained the difference between an amateur comedian and a pro thusly:

"An amateur thinks it's funny to dress up a young man as an old woman, put him in a wheelchair, and send him careening down a path towrads a cliff. A professional knows it has to be a real old lady."

I remain proudly a nitwit, and never anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine Vitamin said...

"I can understand why "Anonymous" is so defensive, lumped in with all the other %$*&$# out there."

Not defensive exactly, but a little confused let's say. Again, I didn't think the original comment I made was offensive or particularly hostile and yet it seemed to inspire what I assume to be( judging from the grammar) at least a couple of different people to make personal attacks on Ken and to belittle his talent. It doesn't make sense to me that the one leads inevitably to the other but that seems pretty obviously to be the case.

Dave Mackey said...

Mary Stella, I was watching the night that Jim Gardner announced Jim O'Brien's death during that night's 11:00 news on WPVI (the station formerly known as WFIL-TV) and he was truly broken up over it. Ken, thanks for sharing the story. I was a little blown away when I learned of the connection too.

pa said...

When you wrote about plausibility, I immediately thought of this little skit by german 70's comedian Loriot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQkx9zBUdno

At the end, it's over the top, but the little steps leading to total destruction are plausible.

Loriot was (still is, but retired) a very accurate observer of the little neurotic things every one uses. I think if you get these small parts right, you can pull of almost every unbelievable act.

John said...

Wow, one program about one Muslim which played for one season on one channel - and he wasn't an American he was an alien in the US as an exchange student

Excuse me, but massively unimpressed: that is *not* representative of the diversity of American.

Look at the breakdown here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

The writers of US sitcoms are failing to representing those Americans who are Muslim.

dougR said...

Here's a Friday question, and I hope you get to see it; the thread's kind of cold now.

I think "Better Off Ted" is one of the smartest, sharpest, funniest (acting AND writing) comedies on, and I wanted to send the Ted writers a note of thanks. Is it room-written, and through whom would I send a note of thanks and good cheer? (I mean a regular LETTER here.)

Speaking of cheer, I assume you came up with the "Cheers" name for the bar and the show. So who owns the "Cheers" logo? Do you have a piece of it? Do you (or DID you) get revenue every time it was reproduced? (I have the germ of an idea for the Veridian Dynamics logo from BOT, you see...)