Friday, February 28, 2020

Friday Questions

If you're in New York, my short comedy, THE GERMAN PLAY opens tonight at 7 as part of the ANDTheatre Festival. It runs for two weekends. 

Now for some end of the month Friday Questions:

Unkystan leads off:

During the series finale of The Big Bang Theory last year there was a scene about loading the elevator with luggage (which I found to be ridiculous). Last evening I watched the episode again in syndication and the scene was gone. What I wondering was, do writers insert extraneous scenes like this knowing they’ll be cut for time later on in order to keep the integrity of the episode intact?
If you print this...please edit it ( to keep the integrity)

I obviously can’t speak for why decisions were made on THE BIG BANG THEORY – I wasn’t there. I will say this, most series finales, where the networks want expanded episodes to get additional advertising revenue, usually results in a certain amount of padding.

But when shows get cut for syndication, often filler scenes are left in while necessary scenes are cut. This has always baffled me. Rarely will anyone actually associated with the show be involved in the editing-for-syndication decisions. And most of the time if they have the chance to get them wrong they will.

What shows used to do was have “tags” -- two minute scenes -- between the last commercial break and end titles. Those were usually liftable, should the editors have enough brains to do that.

From Paul Hornstein:

As we approach Spring training, everyone knows how funny Bob Uecker is, but in your baseball travels, who are some of the funny people you met in baseball?

I’ll limit my answers to announcers. There are quite a few who have great senses of humor although most don’t display it on the air.

But here are a few (with apologies to the ones I overlooked):

The best and funniest by far is Jon Miller, now with the Giants. First class wit, can also do impressions, and is the best after-dinner speaker you’ll ever find. What a pleasure it was working with him in Baltimore in ’91.

Joe Buck has a wicked sense of humor but takes so much uncalled-for abuse on social media I think he’s reluctant to display it.

The late Lon Simmons, and the the late Richie Ashburn were hilarious off the air.

Among current announcers -- Ted Leitner of the Padres, Eric Nadel of the Rangers is sneaky funny, Ian Eagle, Jason Benetti of the White Sox is great in every aspect of the job including humor, Dick Stockton, just-retired Marty Brenneman of the Reds, Duane Kuiper and Dave Flemming of the Giants (that team is loaded with great announcers), Rick Monday of the Dodgers (more off than on the air), and Sean McDonough, now back with the Red Sox.

Also the late Jimmy Piersal, and Jack Buck. Some announcers who have passed on but were not intentionally funny were Harry Caray and Jerry Coleman.

More names -- Howie Rose of the Mets, Josh Lewin, Dan Hoard, Joe Angel, and Bob Walk.

I employed humor a lot in my broadcasts and I’d say maybe 75% of the audience loved it and the rest hated me for it. You have to be willing to stick your neck out if you want to add a little fun to your broadcast. I think that’s why most of today’s young broadcasters are all generic and interchangeable and basically boring.

Brother Herbert asks:

Do you consider yourself an extrovert? Being rather reserved myself, I've always envied people who can speak extemporaneously, on cue and for a given amount of time when necessary, like radio personalities and sportscasters. Since you've done both, is being outgoing a prerequisite of the job, or at least having the ability to fake it really, really well?

I am more extroverted than introverted, but I’m hardly “the life of the party” guy.

As former Paramount TV president, John Pike said on my podcast a few weeks ago, you need to develop that skill if you’re a writer because you’ll have to pitch your ideas and the ones that sell are the ones pitched with passion.

And finally Powerhouse Salter has a question based on a former FQ answer when I said we lost out a spec script sale when it was announced that Robin Williams was attached to a similar project.

Regarding the script that was rejected because a similar story was in production with Robin Williams attached, did you and David Isaacs discuss just changing its genre?

The problem was ours was a comedy where rebels take over a Club Med in the Caribbean, and Robin’s was about a guy who starts a Club Med-type resort in the Caribbean. Our whole premise depended on a Club Med resort and its sheltered entitled guests.  And it needed to be a comedy.

May I just say in closing that I saw the Robin Williams movie, CLUB PARADISE and it sucked? Our was way better. Not that that means anything now.

What’s your Friday Question?


Dana King said...

I remember you working with Jon Miller in Baltimore. That team sucked (67-95) but you two made the games worth listening to. I once even turned off the TV and switched to radio during a rain delay in the hope that you'd "interview" Jon doing his Vin Scully impression. By the way, your humor was much appreciated during that long slog of a season.

I'm delighted to see you mention Bob Walk, who does local Pirate broadcasts wick a goofy yet dry sense of humor. I watch a lot of Pirates games on and chose whichever audio feed Walk is working. (The Pirates have some goofy rotation of announcers back and forth from radio to TV that I cannot figure out.)

One announcer I missed on your list who was as funny--and goof--as any I've ever heard was Skip Caray. I lived in Atlanta while in the Army and followed the Braves on TBS for years and Skip was a delight.

Tom Asher said...

My favorite Richie Ashburn story:

He kept plugging a local pizza place during the broadcast, and simply by dropping their name, they'd have pizzas delivered to the booth.

He did it all the time. Higher-ups told him to knock it off... they don't pay to advertise on our broadcasts.

Next game, he wishes a happy birthday to the Celebre twins... Plain and Pepperoni.

Sure enough...

Paul Duca said...

Sio,,,Jimmy Piersal found his sense of humor after his nervous breakdown?

Anonymous said...

Harry Caray,especially in his earlier years, may have been funny intentionally.
He was a smart guy when he was with the Cardinals and for a while with the White sox.
There has never been a better duo than Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall, with the White sox.
in any sport.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: I've been listening to the OFFICE LADIES podcast (Which goes over each episode of the American version of THE OFFICE). Two episodes, so far, In particular discuss the writing of the scripts. One was, "Performance Review" with the episode writer, Larry Wilmore,and the other was, "Booze Cruise" with head writer/series creator, Greg Daniels.
Both talk about writing the episode, the changes made (on and off-set) and things that didn't work and were taken out or vice versa. I'd love to know your thoughts on their process.

PolyWogg said...

Oh, now THERE`S a topic to generate page hits -- rank every Robin Williams work in order of enduring comedy. I`ll support your ranking of Club Paradise.

kent said...

To borrow a line from JFK, the greatest collection of talent ever assembled in a broadcast booth was when Vin Scully worked alone.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The issue with Baseball announcers being funny is that they are live and unedited.
Considering how many games there are, and the pace of the game, it's easy for an announcer/color person to say things that they may find funny or interesting. Especially for a poor planning team in the dog days of august.
The problem is, nowadays, there is always someone who may find something/anything offensive and make that go viral.
No matter how innocent the statement, or how off-the-cuff it is just to fill the time.

So it's safer, and less interesting to just stick with boring topics and statements.

Jeff said...

In the 70s and 80s I watched All in the Family in syndication so often I had episodes memorized, so it was a revelation when the dvds came out and I saw the complete episodes and saw the 2 or 3 minutes of stuff that was cut for reruns. They had tags at the end!

s T e V e said...

with all due respect the Club Paradise soundtrack is really pretty awesome though.

Tom said...

As a White Sox fan, it pains me (just a little...) to say that the Cubs' Len Kasper is very funny in addition to being a great announcer. Also, being paired with Jason Benetti has allowed the whole range of Steve Stone's humor to emerge from the deep freeze of sharing a booth with Ken Harrelson. Benetti/Stone are my favorite broadcasting team since Caray/Piersall 45 years ago.

JazMac Gilroy said...

A number of years ago when the Giants were hosting St. Louis, Jon Miller introduced the Cardinals as "the team that leads the league in Smiths."

James Van Hise said...

Before he died, Robin Williams wife casually remarked that she wished he hadn't made half of the films he did, but she wouldn't say which ones he shouldn't have made. I thought it sad that near the end he made films which weren't just harmless, but which never even got released to theaters.

VP81955 said...

Rich Ashburn and Harry Kalas had terrific chemistry, and often used it for comedic effect (with those mediocre Phillies teams of the late '80s and early '90s, humor was necessary).

And while Harry Caray is best remembered for his time with the Cardinals and Cubs, his 11 years with the White Sox (1971-1981) may have been his most important. He and Dick Allen saved that franchise for the South Side at its nadir, when it appeared headed for Seattle to replace the Pilots.

Elf said...

Ken, why not dust off your Club Med script now? Add something about why the Internet doesn't work at the resort after whatever disaster has befallen it. I think enough time has passed that nobody will compare it to Club Paradise, mostly since few people at this point will even admit to having seen it...

Mike Bloodworth said...

Over the years I've noticed that some shows have two different cuts for syndication. "I Love Lucy" is one example. I can't name a specific episode, but sometimes there's a scene that wasn't there before and other scenes are gone. Then later they return to the familiar version. I had always figured that was to keep people from getting bored with a show.

FRIDAY QUESTION: Regarding your Simpsons episode, "Dancin' Homer." How did you get that gig? Did they come to you and David and say, "We love your work. Please write an episode for us." I can't believe you had to submit a spec script. Or did a third party bring you together?
Follow up question: I'm guessing that you may have already been in AFTRA because of your radio work. But did they make you join SAG for your voice work?

Michael said...

Love the announcer list. I WISH Rick Monday was as funny on the air as he is off the air. And I'll second Kent on his Vin Scully reference.

About the editing, I think of Stan Laurel. In his later years, he wrote to the local LA stations offering to edit his films for them because they had no clue about continuity and where to put the ads, and it drove him nuts. Of course, he never heard back.

Mike Bloodworth said...

P.S. to F.Q. Was he based on or inspired by Los Angeles Lakers "performer" Dancing Barry?

Kevin said...

So cool that you worked with Jon Miller, who I enjoyed on ESPN and even as a Giants (ugh) announcer when I've heard the out of town broadcasts. He's one of the old school guys left that actually know how to do the job and not try and make a comedy show out of it. As a Dodgers fan, nobody comes close to Vin. But, Miller is more than palatable.

Joe Davis & Orel think they're a comedy team or something. I can handle it, because I have to, but I miss the Scullys & Millers doing the job the way I like it.

Happy to her Rick Monday is enjoyable off air. His broadcasting skills are often so bad it's unintentionally hilarious.

Tom said...

@VP81955: Agreed on Harry and Dick Allen, but don't forget the role of Bill Veeck in keeping the Sox in Chicago. They were virtually packing for Seattle in '75 when he bought the team from John Allyn -- who also deserves credit for then buying back a minority interest so as to lower the amount Veeck had to raise.

Johnny Hy said...

Jim Powell with the Braves is great. A few years ago when Evan Gattis(who was a burly catcher nicknamed "The White Bear") was playing for the Braves he was hit by a pitch. Jim Powell without missing a beat said "Braves Trainer Jeff Portis comes out of the dugout to check on the condition of the ball after hitting Gattis"

Was riding in the car with a buddy and we both broke out dying laughing.

benson said...

Favorite Jimmy Piersall line: "I'm crazy and I have the papers to prove it."

Gary said...

For years I watched the syndicated classic 39 episodes of The Honeymooners on a local channel. In several episodes they would cut scenes of Ralph and Norton, but they would keep the scenes with Alice and Trixie. Really?

Charles Bryan said...

I'll throw in a vote for Cubs' play-by-play broadcaster Pat Hughes, although the golden years were when he was paired with Ron Santo. Still fun to listen to, though.

I'll say this for Joe Buck: His appearances on Brockmire showed that he has a pretty good sense of humor about himself and his image. I still wish that he and Smoltz would stay more engaged with the game, rather than drift off into other conversations.

Mike Doran said...

A Point Here, A Point There:

- Remembering a roast-'n'-toast for Harry Caray, toward the end.
Skip Caray's opening remarks:
"I've known Harry Caray for many years.
For much of that time, he was almost like a father to me."

(Said in as offhanded a tone as possible.)

- Here's how I remember Jimmy Piersall's quote:
"Hey, I've got papers that prove I'm sane! How about you?"

- And since we're talking about Robin Williams's movies:
Anybody here recall a 2006 release called Man Of The Year?
That was the one where Robin played a TV comic who runs for the US Presidency - as a joke - and wins through a tech glitch - and finds that he's in over his head …
Geez Loueez, they sure came up with goofy ideas for movies back then, didn't they?

Bob K said...

Some years ago I was listening to a Mariners-Mets game in my car. The Mets pitching was lousy and the Mariners scored a run or two.
Josh Lewin: “It’s an old and tired story. Base hit brings in two runs for Seattle.”
Howie Rose: (not missing a single beat) “And speaking of old and tired, Ichiro Suzuki coming up from the on-deck circle...”
I almost drove off the road because I was laughing so hard.

Al in PDX said...

My favorite line from Lon Simmons was about him doing the voice work on some sort of documentary on Candlestick Park made in its waning days. Simmons, who was semi-retired, figured that he was a natural pick because he and Candlestick had so much in common: "We're both big, old and windy and they don't know what to do with us."

Stu R said...

It would be great if you and Josh Lewin teamed up to call a game.

JoeyH said...

Jack Buck was filling in on Jack Carney's mid morning show on KMOX. Commercial stop set ends and you hear him humming and fumbling around for a few seconds. "Oh, I was just checking my pockets for matchbooks to see where I was last night."

WoodNuts said...

If only this woman would have lived another 5 years, she would have saved Club Paradise

Not for publication

Cap'n Bob said...

No Mariner announcers? Now that I mention it, there are no funny Mariner announcers.

Mike Doran said...

Jimmy Piersall reprise:
The year that the Seattle Kingdome opened -
"This is Jimmy Piersall from The King's Tomb."
On the air.
On the field.
On camera.
The Mariner he was interviewing winced.
And all was right with the world …

Breadbaker said...

Dick Stockton was doing the Red Sox TV when I was in college and he was excellent and, as you say, funny.

It's sad, but today (he's 77) he seems to have lost the ability to follow the action on the field as quickly as a play-by-play announcer needs to. I'll be watching a game he's announcing and he'll just have lost the last play. I'm sorry to say it, but it might be time to hang it up.

Craig Gustafson said...

"What shows used to do was have “tags” -- two minute scenes -- between the last commercial break and end titles. Those were usually liftable, should the editors have enough brains to do that"

First World Problems:

Now that TV series episodes are remastered for home viewing, it drives me nuts that teasers, which typically came before the opening credits, are plopped in after the credits, as they are in syndication. So you get a misplaced two minute scene meant to hook you into staying past the credits, and the flow is different.

I would go into more detail, but I have to go. I just saw kids on my lawn.