Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Questions

What better way to spend my birthday than to answer Friday Questions? Oh yeah, Happy Valentine’s Day too. Good luck getting a dinner reservation.  

And in case you missed my last post, I am selling my memoir -- THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s) for only $0.99 today and tomorrow only.  Here's where you go to order yours. 

B Smith has a question from down under:

Ken....the new series of So You Think You Can Dance Australia commences shortly, and a lot of the publicity centers on one of the new judges: Paula Abdul.

Is there anything we should look out for when she's on?

Well, she’s nuts. But that’s the good news. She will often appear drunk or stoned. She will make absurd comments and her critiques will be jaw dropping (even though she does know choreography). If there’s a hot young guy she’ll practically throw herself at him.

AMERICAN IDOL was never as good after she left.

But I fully expect her to say at some point, “How come you people all talk funny?”

Chris asks:

When you go outside with a multi-cam show, does the setup turn into single camera or do you still shoot with 4 cameras? Have you ever directed an episode where you had to shoot outside?

You shoot it single camera. I’ve done many outside shoots. My very first one was for the Al Franken sitcom, LATELINE. We went out to Griffith Park to film a scene of the senator and fellow cast member, Robert Foxworth horseback riding. On the first take Foxworth threw out his back. We had to summon an ambulance and it took three paramedics a half hour to gingerly get him off the horse. "that's a wrap, everybody."

Every studio seems to have a New York street and I’ve filmed on the one at Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and CBS Radford.

I filmed a scene once in a crowded movie theater. But my favorite was a scene from a DHARMA & GREG I directed. We shot it at Ghiradelli Square at night. I had a crane, a tower, and one hundred extras. That was great fun. Then we shot a car speeding through the streets of San Francisco. FAST & FURIOUS ½.

From Dan Bell:

What are some of the most classic, funniest moments in TV history that you've witnessed as they were performed on the set, while the tapes were rolling? Is there a top moment that ranks as the best in your memory?

I was on the stage at CHEERS when Sam and Diane had their first kiss. The audience went nuts, and I still say that was the peak moment of the series, even though they made 200+ more episodes.

Watching our first MASH being filmed was pretty breathtaking. Hearing Alan Alda and Harry Morgan say our words was almost surrealistic.

Same with seeing Johnny Carson do a monologue that we had written getting big laughs from a TONIGHT SHOW audience. That was the filming of the CHEERS episode we wrote where Cliff gets a joke on THE TONIGHT SHOW.

I was there for the first and last episodes of CHEERS, WINGS, and FRASIER.

But if I had to pick one – it would clearly be being in the audience during the filming of the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. From the first scene we knew we were witness to something extraordinary.

Jeff Hysen has a MASH question:

Tell us about how you crafted Lt. Patty Haven. I've always loved her two scenes with Radar. When After-MASH was on, I was hoping that she would be Radar's wife. Was that considered?

We wanted Radar to find love and send him back home with something to look forward to. Also, as originally conceived “Goodbye Radar” was supposed to be the final episode of season 7. CBS asked if we could make two episodes and save it for November sweeps the next season. So that’s what we did. And in expanding the story we added the romantic subplot. (How's that for a Valentine's Day tie-in?)

By the way, a former girlfriend of mine was Patty Haven.

Gary Burghoff did not want to do AfterMASH so there were no discussions, although he did guest in one episode. Can I be honest? David and I wrote that episode and I don’t remember anything about it, except that the great Larry Gelbart directed it.

Again, Happy VD.


Hamid said...

There was a great Cheers double bill on UK TV last night (there's a channel here that screens two episodes of Cheers five nights a week). It was Finally Parts 1 and 2 that you and David wrote. So many great lines!

Woody to Sam: "I always model myself after you. Well, not the way you're always hung up on your looks, that's kind of shallow, really. And not the chasing after women part, 'cause that's kind of silly, but the other part."

Sam: "There is no other part."

And Rebecca's "That's it, sweet baby".

RCP said...

Best Birthday Wishes, Ken.

Charles H. Bryan said...

"Happy VD", indeed. And a Happy Birthday to you, Ken!

Brule Eagan said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

GTJ said...

A little song, a little dance
A little seltzer down his pants.

"Chuckles" really was an amazing episode.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Question: As a fellow alumni of your partner David Isaac's University of Miami, I was curious on your thoughts of the value of a four-year college degree if you want to be a scriptwriter in Hollywood. Or is it better to just write and get in on a low-level industry job as soon as you can. My ship already sailed on that front (I got the B.A. and started later) but for the benefit of the next gen, what are your thoughts?
(A. Wayne Carter)

YEKIMI said...

Happy Birthday! Only memorable event that happened on my birthday is it's the date Nathan Hale was hung. Not that I was born on that day; I'm not over 200 years old, although there are some days I feel like I am.

chicago sox fan said...

Sid Caesar's passing prompted me to visit youtube and watch some of the Show of Show sketches. Sketches seemed absolutely brilliant but I noticed that many of them ran for 10 to 12 minutes. Would that be unheard of on, say, SNL? If sketches were longer back then, I would imagine it gave the writers much more leeway to develop jokes. Any thoughts?

David P said...

But were you also there for the first and last episodes of Big Wave Dave's?

Carson said...

Happy Birthday Ken!

And I'm reading your latest book. Love it!

Mike Schryver said...

It's also Jack Benny's birthday! Does that mean you're only 39, Ken?

D. McEwan said...

"From Dan Bell:
What are some of the most classic, funniest moments in TV history that you've witnessed as they were performed on the set?"

Great question, and some great moments in the awnsers. I've personally witnessed a few myself.

In 1968, while hanging around the Laugh-In set, I snuck into the Tonight Show set when Johnny was shooting a week of shows in Burbank. On this show, a quip of Johnny's got guests Carl Reiner, David Byner and even Ed to walk off the set in mock-outrage, leaving Johnny alone on stage. Johnny began nervuosly taking his tie off. The band struck up "The Stripper," and Johnny got up and did a strip tease dance until he was bare-chested, then, holding his shirt to his exposed chest, retreated back behind his desk. Carl, David and Ed then returned, all of them shirtless. The audience went wild. Johnny said: "Welcome to Rawhide." For years a clip of this incident was aired on Johnny's annual anniversary show. I saw it from the floor, standing beside the audience bleachers. Another man had also slipped in and stood beside me witnessing this memorable moment, the local KNBC News anchor at the time, a guy named Tom Brokaw. I wonder whatever became of him.

(It's not a TV moment, but I was present in the room the one and only time Johnny Carson ever performed on The Comedy Store stage. I was on staff as a doorman at the time, 1980. Johnny was in The Main Room to see Buddy Rich perform. Pat McCormick, who was sitting with Johnny, went to the men's room, which connected through to The Original Room. Pat wandered into The Original Room and saw Jeff Altman onstage, doing his Johnny impression. Pat scurried back to Johnny to tell him he was being done in the other room. Johnny came into the room to watch, then he walked up onstage behind Jeff, still in mid-impression. The audience went insane. Jeff stepped back and Johnny did about 7 minutes, killed, and left. Jeff stepped back to the mike and asked: "How do you like my opening act?")

I was present at the final public appearance by Groucho Marx and was present, and seen on camera, during Cesar Romero's final acting gig ever.

But the most-classic comedy moment I was ever present for was the shooting of the "Puttin' On The Ritz" sequence in Young Frankenstein. They shot it at The Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica in January, 1974. My friend/boss, the late Larry "Seymour" Vincent, was in the shows there in the evenings at the time and he tipped me off that Mel Brooks was shooting there that week. I snuck onto the set and spent the afternoon watching a great classic moment of movie comedy be preserved on film before my very eyes. There are shots in the final film where I'm just off-camera to the right.

D. McEwan said...

John Byner! John Byner! not David Byner. Brain fart on my part.

gottacook said...

D.: When exactly was the final public appearance by Groucho Marx, and what did it consist of? As a teenage fan I was aware of the then-recent Carnegie Hall concert and have the double LP someplace, and he was 82 then - I presume you mean several years later and in Los Angeles.

DrBOP said...

Wow, you and Ice-T, who said "I've got a phone, an answering machine, TV sets, a computer and a couple of hand grenades.....everything you need to run a business in Los Angeles."

Here's to having an explosive night!

Cap'n Bob said...

Doug: You're forgetting Rose Marie, who was the guest of the moment when everyone walked off stage on The Tonight Show. Johnny was trying to compliment Rose Marie on the longevity of her career and it came out sounding like she was exceptionally old. John Byner quipped that Carson said, "He said when they built the first stage, you held the hammer." At which point all the couch sitters left. A great piece of spontaneous business for sure.

Cap'n Bob said...

And happy birthday, Ken.

DrBOP said...

Oh, and here's a wack'o'stuff that happened on your birthday, all the way from MACEO! Parker to R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

GC said...

Happy Birthday, Mr. Levine!

D. McEwan said...

"gottacook said...
D.: When exactly was the final public appearance by Groucho Marx, and what did it consist of? As a teenage fan I was aware of the then-recent Carnegie Hall concert and have the double LP someplace, and he was 82 then."

After the Carnegie Hall appearance, he did the same show in Los Angeles in the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. I was in the audience for that show (As were George Burns, and Zeppo and Gummo. Yes, I was once in a room with three Marx Brothers all at once), but that was not what I was referring to. I was referring to an event in which the Marx Brothers were being "Inducted into The Motion Picture Hall of Fame," a teensy little scam place run briefly (It existed only briefly) by a kind of shady guy whose last name I forget, though I'm not likely to forget that his first name was Douglas, that being my name and all. It was like a one-day fan convention for The Marx Brothers. There were a dealer's room, rooms showing films, and a big celebrity-packed banquet. I sat between Bill Marx (Harpo's son), who knew my radio work, and Ron Fields (WC Field's grandson), who had seen me act on stage with a mutual friend. Present were, among others, Harpo's widow, Susan Fleming Marx, George Fennimin, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Creators of Superman. Why were they there? I have no idea, but it was thrilling to meet them), Fritz Feld and Virgina Christine Feld (I demonstrated to Fritz that I could do his trademark lip-pop. He laughed and said: "Wonderful! You know, only a few of us are able to do zee lip-pop. And do you know why we can? Because our heads are hollow!"), and the Big Get, Groucho. It was January of 1977, and it was the last time Groucho ever made a public appearance of any kind whatever. I had met Groucho a few times before, and even interviewed him on radio, but this was the last time.

"Cap'n Bob said...
Doug: You're forgetting Rose Marie, who was the guest of the moment when everyone walked off stage on The Tonight Show."

I didn't so much forget Rose Marie as omitted her from the story as she, of course, did not return shirtless, though that certainly would have upped the "Memorable" aspect of the evening for those of us in the room. I did forget what it was that triggered the walk-out.

It was sure a fun moment to have been accidentally present for though. I had only snuck in to see Carl Reiner. I was never a big Johnny fan, but I worship Carl Reiner.

Liggie said...

Sox Fan, long sketch length seemed to be common in that area, especially with Ernie Kovacs, and even as late as "The Flip Wilson Show" (now on the Aspire channel, BTW). What I'd like to know is how many minutes were allotted for commercials back then; if there were fewer than today's 15 per hour, that would allow for longer sketches.

I don't think "SNL" would go for this, commercials limitations notwithstanding. The tastes tend to be toward nothing longer than seven minutes, and to be honest, some of those Flip and Ernie sketches dragged and could've used some editing.

Steve said...

Liggie: Generally speaking, there was 8-10 minutes of commercials per hour in the 1950s and '60s. That number has gradually increased since the '70s.

The SNL sketches that I've always hated most are those in which the joke is established early on and simply repeated over and over again.

cadavra said...

"The SNL sketches that I've always hated most are those in which the joke is established early on and simply repeated over and over again."

In other words, almost all of them.

gottacook said...

D.: Thanks for all that detail.

Todd Ayres said...

Friday Question: I was a kid who grew up on Wings reruns on USA, so naturally I'm fascinated with the cast - especially since I can revisit the series on Netflix. A couple of the stars (Steven Weber, Tim Daly, & Thomas Haden Church) are seen now and again. My question is: Whatever happened to Crystal Bernard (Helen)? She was one of the must underrated comedic actresses at the time in my opinion. Rebecca Schull? Amy Yasbeck?