Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Questions

Here they are:

Walter starts us off:

I read that Gary Burghoff was a nightmare on the set of M*A*S*H -- "Love Radar, hate Burghoff" some of the cast have been rumored to say. Is there any truth to that?

I’m glad to get these questions because they give me a chance to set the record straight.

No, he was not a nightmare. And take that from a guy who was there. There were times he might have disagreed with a director or questioned something in a script, but most actors do that. And he did it very infrequently.

But I found Gary to be always pleasant on the set and always prepared. Trust me, I’ve worked with monsters. Gary was farrrrr from one of them.  (And NO, that was a not a dig at Jamie Farr.  He too was a joy to work with.) 

Liz asks:

Have you written a script for a movie or TV series with Hollywood and the people living there as the basis?

I have written a comic novel, that just happens to be available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. It’s called MUST KILL TV. I’m actually very proud of it and it’s gotten great reviews.

You can find it here.

Thanks for asking. I always love excuses to shamelessly plug my stuff.

From Phil:

You have worked on Simpsons.

How was it working with voice actors? I mean it would be really fascinating to work with Hank Azaria - Duffman, Chief Wiggum, Skinner, Chamlers, Moe, Disco Stu.... The way they go about their work of changing voices. Please share your experience.

It was great fun, especially the episode where I did a voice as well. They all have great concentration and can slip in and out of various voices with relative ease. And remember, it’s not just the voices – they all have great comic timing and are good actors.

Besides Hank, I should also mention Harry Shearer and Maggie Roswell.

And finally, Sheila wonders:

I have been reading articles on how writers write a script and send it to all studios and have a bidding war for it by the end of the day or week.

Have you and your partner ever done that? Set a deadline for the executives to give an answer or have them bid against one another?

Yes. To try to pump up interest in the project – since perception is everything in Hollywood – agents will essentially do a roll-out campaign for your script. They’ll alert studios and producers that it’s coming and they only have 48 hours to read it, etc. And that can generate buzz and lead to a bidding war – IF the screenplay delivers. All the hype disappears if the reader doesn’t like the script.

I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve sold two spec screenplays. Neither resulted in bidding wars but I was well compensated. And there have been other specs that didn’t sell. Unless you’re the super hot flavor-of-the-month you probably have three or four or fifteen unsold screenplays to go along with the ones you did sell.

When it doesn’t sell it’s a lot of time and work for nothing. But when it does, you’re an alchemist – spinning straw into gold. You take 100 blank pieces of paper and turn it into a lot of money.

What’s your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks!

30 comments :

Dean Calderwood said...

"Farr(rr) from a nightmare? Maybe some other cast members were a bit closer?

kent said...

Was your first answer a veiled dig at Jamie Farr? (Kidding)

slgc said...

Do you think that Hank Azaria would agree to be a guest on your podcast? You could talk about The Simpsons, Brockmire, baseball (he's a huge Mets fan) and whatever else he's doing.

Gazzoo said...

Another Friday Question regarding Burghoff,...since he missed so many episodes his final few seasons, how much notice did you have of Gary's absence when writing scripts? I assume you sometimes had to rewrite stuff that was supposed to go to him.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently watching a Dick Cavett rerun on the Decades channel and to my delight he has a group of comedy writers, Larry Gelbart David Lloyd and a third I haven't identified. Is anyone else familiar with this episode?

Anonymous said...

Darn!!! I just tuned in to Cavett re-runs just as they were finishing and missed a 1986 show starring Larry Gelbart. Maybe I can catch it on demand. Have you seen it? Janice B.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

There was a cable program several years ago called THE TRUTH BEHIND THE SITCOM SCANDALS that featured M*A*S*H castmembers Wayne Rogers, Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, and Gary Burghoff. At one point, there were discussing Gary's behavior on the set, and pretty much all of them supported the theory that he was a nightmare to work with: Mike, in particular, mentioned how bitchy and whiney he could get; meanwhile, Loretta and Larry talked about how he was always late to work, and would always have some kind of lame excuse for it (held up in traffic, car problems, this, that, whatever). Director Jackie Cooper also described him as being something of a diva, and always wanting things to be done his way . . . but then again, to hear him say it, Cooper hated everybody on that set, especially Gary and Alan Alda.

Gary, on the other hand, while he didn't deny the accusations of poor behavior on his part from his fellow castmembers, said that he never meant to be disrespectful toward anybody on the set, and reiterated what he had said before in the past about how even he didn't understand why he felt and behaved the way he did, because burn-out had not yet been officially diagnosed as an actual condition at that time.

The interesting thing about that special is that the other castmembers also shared stories that I haven't heard in any other capacity from any of them. For example, Wayne said that when he left the show, both Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds sued him for it, so being the legal and business-savvy guy that he was, Wayne counter-sued them, all over the matter of their contract; the judge asked to see the contract, they said they didn't have a contract, so the judge said, "Then what are you doing in my courtroom? Bye-bye." Loretta and Gary also argued over McLean Stevenson's actual reasons for leaving the show: Loretta said it was because Mac didn't like being "number three in an ensemble," that he wanted to be "number one," but Gary said that wasn't it at all, the working conditions and pressure from network execs were too much for a sensitive guy like Mac to handle. It was also suggested the real reason Henry Blake was killed off was because the network wanted to get rid of "Meddlesome McLean" once and for all.

Liz said...


Thanks Ken for answering my question. Will surely buy your book :)

Sheila said...


Thanks Ken.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Would like to throw in my support of Gary Burghoff. In nine years of my time with MASH, he was nothing other than friendly, enthusiastic, caring, mature, respectful, protective, funny, engaging, talented and damn nice. Other than that, meh.

Phil said...


My first Friday question and it has been answered. Just Great! Thanks Ken :)

Yes, Harry Shearer and Maggie Roswell are great actors too.

My favorite was his voice of Arnold-spoof McBain.

Will be great if any of the voice actors were guest of your podcast.


Lisa said...


Ken, I read a post where you said that Ryan O'Neal is your friend. Would you be able to get him as your guest for your podcast?

The post I read was a post which had a pic of you and Ali MacGraw.

Speaking of Ali....my Friday Question:

As someone who knows the inside of the business and someone able to know the real creative people who make the difference in making a great movie. Can it be said that Robert Evans is one the greatest Producers of Hollywood? As per his book, he made significant creative contributions in the making of Godfather and Chinatown - 2 of the greatest movies ever. Also uncredited help in the final version of Godfather Part 2.


Anonymous said...

@Janice B: I suspect we were watching the same program. I used Youtube to ID the guest I didn't know, Pat McCormick.

Dana Gabbard said...

Part of that episode is posted on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/bBX1Vp2-fpo

Ed said...


Today is the last day for nominations voting.

You too are an academy member right Ken?

Mike Bloodworth said...

I know people that worked with Gary Burghoff in the theatre. They tell similar, negative stories to the ones above. They said that it was NOT a pleasant experience. I've never met G.B., yet I have no reason to doubt these people.

Donald Benson said...

On the subject of star behavior: I flipped open a bio of Natalie Wood and found an anecdote about "The Great Race": Dorothy Provine was rehearsing her saloon girl number, and Wood was sitting on the set conspicuously ignoring her. This was being presented as an example of diva arrogance.

In the actual film, Wood is sitting on the set conspicuously ignoring Provine, who does some business flapping her feather boa in Wood's face while flirting with Tony Curtis. It seems pretty reasonable to assume Wood was in place to rehearse that business, and the author never thought to connect the second-hand story with what was in the movie.

Peter said...

Interesting interview with Gary Burghoff in the 90s in which he reveals he regrets turning down the role that eventually went to Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2.

http://www.bestcareanywhere.net/garyburghoff/Empire_interview.htm

Kosmo13 said...

I've met Gary Burghoff and found him to be charming, pleasant, humble and a great raconteur.

Rupert Giles said...

Friday Question: I'm watching Cheers for the umptheenth time. Just started again. Pilot, once the bar is full, near the end. Older lady in a wheelchair, one appearance. Sitting all alone. I love to make my own canon on how the hell she got down those stairs, but is there a a behind the scenes story on her? Thanks for the podcast and blog.

Rupert Giles (Buffy) is a social media ghost,
Nate Lantzy is me.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

For a time, Burghoff was a semi-regular on the seventies version of "Match Game." Once, he missed a Sunday taping because he failed to adjust his clock to Daylight Savings Time.

Johnny Olson, the show's announcer, filled in for Burghoff on the panel.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

That’s very nice of you to add your thoughts Jeff.
Often your character would be the scorn of the others due to the food’s taste in the mess tent or the high price of booze in the officers club.

Hope everyone was nice to you in real life

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Pat McCormick was a piece of work. Wrote for Carson for years. Once streaked across the stage during Carson's monologue. It's on YouTube.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Thank you for the very kind thoughts, Bumble Bee Pendant. Years of scorn on MASH took it's toll, but mostly good in real life. Except for a couple of folks. Maybe six or seven. Certainly no more then eleven.

Callie Ray. said...

Ken,

My question is about the show, Frasier, and it's regarding to the status of Niles Crane's short-lived marriage to Dr. Mel Karnofsky between the events of 'Taking Liberties' and just before he and Daphne got together for good in 'Daphne Returns.' Were they officially divorced or had the marriage annulled? Thanks in advance.

Wally said...

@Kevin FitzMaurice

Ha. Here's that episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQKHjOruSQw

Joseph Scarbrough said...

While on the subject of other roles of Gary Burghoff, the most bizarre thing I've ever seen him in outside of M*A*S*H was for a movie, I forget the title of it, where he played a drug-dealing, lap-dance-loving, homicidal, fortune-telling transvestite.

No, really. There's been a couple of clips on YouTube.

ScarletNumber said...

Hell of a coincidence that in a post about nightmare actors that Harry Shearer is mentioned in an unrelated manner.

@Kevin FitzMaurice

When Gary was on Match Game it was obvious that Brett Somers was annoyed by him.

Patrick said...

Speaking of The Simpsons - what do you think about all the recent controversy over Apu? There was a documentary about the character and how his stereotypical portrayal affected an entire generation of Indian kids growing up in America. Its picked up steam recently and Hank Azaria has commented and apologized for it causing offense and said he doesnt know what will happen to the character now and that its not just up to him to make any changes. It seems as if the only real satisfactory option would be to write off the character but that also seems extreme. What do you think? Does the show address it? Get rid of Apu?

Anonymous said...

Although he was a supporting player, I always thought Gary was the best actor on the series. When I read about other actors on the set referring to "ego problems," I just wrote it off as Gary trying to improve the quality of the show, which would automatically step on a lot of toes during production. I thought they were just trying to get him to shut up. Going to the press is one way to do it. Paranoia can shut a fellow up. Also, Gary was from the theater, did the movie, and TV production is a far more frenetic process. It's always a run to the finish line, and if you can stick in a little artistic conceit, fine, but not essential. As an actor, if you're not down with that, you'll tend to disengage, and if you approach other people in that arena from that angle, it's bound to be unpleasant for everyone.
The attitude changes to, "if I gave a fuck, I'd say what you're doing is a bad idea, but whatever."
Whatever the case was, any negativity never showed up in his performance.