Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Why I can never be in a musical, even one I wrote

These are pictures from the musical I co-wrote with Janet Brenner, THE 60s PROJECT. Just by looking at them you can tell it was a great show, right? Thanks to Janet for the pix.

The show was produced in 2006 at the Goodspeed Theater in Connecticut. It was theater summer camp except they never made us play basketball. Someday I hope there’s another production. It was very well received. Chris Berman from ESPN loved it. Not sure how many of the cast members even knew who Chris Berman is but still.

One night before a show I asked Andrew Rannells (who of course played “Billy”) just what it was like to be performing on stage and feeding off the reaction and energy of the audience? He said, “Well why don’t you just write a part for yourself in the show?” That was a lovely suggestion except for one thing – I have no talent. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, and I can’t act. You sort of need to have at least one of those skills to be in a musical.

I have had cameos in two TV shows I co-wrote with David Isaacs. One was OPEN ALL NIGHT. David and I played two swinging lawyers trying to pick up female mud wrestlers at a mace class. The producers added this stage direction: The two girls get tired of these idiots and flip them over their shoulders.

For a week we were getting tossed around. Finally, right after dress rehearsal on show night, after being bruised and battered, they cut they stunt.

My other appearance was on a very funny series called THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. This time David and I played two gay guys at a Jewish wedding. I had two lines; one I had to deliver while actually walking!

Both of these series were quickly cancelled. You can understand why other producers aren’t checking my availability.

I have, however, made a number of appearances as a voice-over sportscaster. If a character is watching a sporting event on TV they always need an announcer’s voice playing underneath the scene. Observant fans of this blog noticed that recently I did baseball play-by-play on a MODERN FAMILY episode. These are great jobs. Usually they take fifteen minutes. I’ve done this for about twenty shows, most I’ve never seen. And of course, I played the Springfield Isotopes announcer on the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of THE SIMPSONS.

But that’s easy. I’m a play-by-play guy anyway and I can keep doing it over until everyone is happy. Not the same as stepping out on a live stage, having a million cues to remember, complicated dance numbers, jokes to sell, and playing a character that is real and believable even though you’re forced to yell every line and periodically break into song. Yes, this is Nathan Lane in real life but for the rest of us it requires great discipline and talent.

So my hat’s off to theater people. All that skill, all that training, and still sometimes you have to appear in CATS.


Paul Duca said...

Ken, how do you compare acting with your work as a disc jockey, where you didn't have a script or direction to guide you? I would think coming up with everything you say, in real time, off the top of your head would be as much of a challenge.

And speaking of "off the top of your head", is that how you do those play by play voiceovers, or do you watch an actual game clip?

Troy said...

Ken said: "I have no talent."

Dude, you can't even sell that line in a self-deprecating humor blog.

Give it up,


Chris said...

Oddly enough, I have very fond memories of the Marshall Chronicles. I loved the theme music and I remember the episode that involved a tattoo parlor.

"The neck is such a tricky organ."

Unknown said...

"Yes, this is Nathan Lane in real life but for the rest of us it requires great discipline and talent."

I got a pretty good chuckle from that one.

Jose said...

Hey Ken, where in LA do u think most first-year TV writers, and then show runners, tend live?

Mike in SLO said...

Thanks for giving those who do musicals the props they deserve. Your last line proves you've worked on a musical (and is hysterical to boot).

WV = stingeol: When combined with "bastard", a moniker for Producers.

Wendy said...

Thank you for making me laugh at my desk today. I love references to (semi-obscure) movies and your "Camp" reference made my day! Thank you again!

Dan said...

Hi Ken,

My question isn't related to this post, but I couldn't find the 'general questions' bucket around...

I'm getting ready to write a spec, but I've been having some issues deciding which one to choose.

Initially I wanted to write a 'Breaking Bad' episode, but now I'm a bit confused b/c like alot of dramatic series these days, the show is serialized, not episodic. I guess my question is, when writing a spec for a show like 'BB' or 'Mad Men', do I pick up the story where it left off, or just try to write one that fits in somehow but isn't directly related to the storyline...does that make sense?

Or should I just go with something more self-contained?

Thanks, great blog.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog man. Grat stuff. if you get a chance give mine a look. I offer a...well lets say "different" perspective.

Anonymous said...

have no talent. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, and I can’t act.

Dear Ken,

If this is true you should have married a "Beatle"...

Anonymous said...

I am wondering about how characters get replaced in long running sitcoms.
MASH did it fantastically well. The Winchester character was so completely different from Frank Ferret Face that it gave the series a whole new dimension. Col Winchester was not only as smart as Hawkeye and BJ he was better educated and certainly at least their equal in the medical arena.

In cheers when Coach died he left behind a strong bond with Sam, a great back story, an older character for older viewers... and more. The character they chose to replace him made no sense. Woody inherited all of the "dumb" jokes the coach got except there was no logical reason for Woody to be dumb except that the writers were lazy and wanted to keep dumb jokes in the series. Woody had nothing in common with any other cast mate, he was from the Midwest so how did he wind up in Boston anyway? If he wanted to migrate off the farm Chicago, St. Louis even New York made more sense. And if he was so dumb and unsophisticated where did he learn to make all those drinks? He didn't seem to know much about sports.... or anything really. I just though while Harrelson was a fine actor and did what he could with the character it was a poor character to begin with and probably hard to write for... marriage two parter aside (one of Cheer's highlights). It seems to me a better assitant bar tender character could have been developed. Better yet if I was on the staff I would have proposed a new character every season since bar tenders come and go a lot. Each new character with his/her own set of problems and writing opportunities. What do you think?

Kbene Lost In Utah

tb said...

Well, since we're careening off topic, Ken you've talked about your inability to see 3D. Gonna give Avatar a try or what?

dvestv said...

It's impressive, how nice they perform well. I love music too.