Wednesday, October 03, 2018

EP92: The History of Sitcoms

Ken discusses how sitcoms are made and how the process has changed over the last eighty years. The history and evolution of sitcoms all in one podcast.

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B. Alton said...

Friday Question, Ken. Was wondering if writers agonize over the funniest numbers (such as a reference to a certain year in a line of dialogue), that is, a number that sounds funnier than another. An example that comes to mind being in Bob Newhart’s old standup routine where the Codfish’s captain announces to his crew (via intercom) that their submarine holds the record for sunken Japanese tonnage, established in 1954. Would 1953 or 1956 have sounded less funny?

Mike Doran said...

Possible explanation for the "Codfish" joke:

Bob Newhart recorded that monolog in 1959; he tied it in to a recent TV series about submarines and their service, mainly in wartime.
The joke had less to do with the number than it did with the date proximity.
The wording, as I recall:
The Codfish … holds a record for the most Japanese tonnage sunk … a truly enviable record.
Unfortunately, they were sunk in 1954 …
… but it does stand as the record for the largest peacetime tonnage sunk …

It helps if you recall Bob Newhart's extra-calm delivery of this absurdity.
That whole monolog is a masterpiece of understatement.

Craig Gustafson said...

Caesar's Writers on the Funniest Number:

B. Alton said...

Yes, examples abound (Woody Allen has a number of them in his early films) though the Newhart example is the only one I could quote accurately. As disparaged as Gilligan’s Island is they had some really fine writers work on the show. The team of Freeman and Cohen wrote one of these “numbers gags,” delivered beautifully by veteran radio performer Hans Conried playing a take-off on Charles Lindburgh, the character Wrongway Feldman discovered to have crashed his plane “The Spirit of the Bronx” on the island some years before the castaways were marooned there:

Skipper: You’re an amazing man. How did you manage to survive all of these years?
Wrongway Feldman: Physical fitness, iron will, perseverance..and sixty-four bottles of scotch.

Mike Barer said...

That was a good podcast, I like hearing about shows and actors. History of sit coms hit the bullseye for me.