Monday, November 23, 2020

RIP Charlie Hauck


So sorry to hear of the passing of comedy writer, Charlie Hauck.  He was 79.  One of the funniest people I knew.  

Here’s how I first met Charlie.  My partner, David Isaacs and I pitched him story ideas when he was the story editor of MAUDE.  He rejected us fifty times.  

In fairness, it was the show runners above him.  We’d bring in ten ideas.  He’d like two, send ‘em upstairs, they’d get rejected, and Charlie would ask us to come in with ten more.  I really liked him.  And if you can like someone who rejected you fifty times he has to be a pretty decent guy.  

We worked together on FRASIER and ENCORE ENCORE (the Nathan Lane sitcom).  Some comedy writers are loud and brash and desperately want to be Mel Brooks.  Charlie was soft-spoken, erudite, laid back, and funny, insightful, and deliciously sarcastic lines would come out of his mouth effortlessly.  If I had to pick one colleague who deserved a seat at the Algonquin Round Table it would be Charlie Hauck.  

And don’t take my word for it.  Charlie wrote a comic novel called ARTISTIC DIFFERENCES that is the best satire on the TV industry ever.  And I say that having also written a satire on the TV industry.  If you only have time to read one, read Charlie’s.  

Worth sharing: On one page of his book he explains how you can tell a bad sitcom.   Simple rules, worth repeating here.

Any show in which any character at any time during the life of the series says the words “Ta da!” is a bad sitcom.

Any show in which one character says to another, “What are friends for?” is a bad sitcom.

Any show in which a character says “Bingo!” in the sense of “Eureka!” is a bad sitcom.

Any show in which an actor or actress under the age of seven says cute things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

Any show in which an actor or actress over the age of seventy-five says vulgar things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

Any show that resorts to the use of Dr. Zarkov dialogue (named for the villain in the FLASH GORGON series, where one character tells another character something they both already know, for the benefit of the audience) is a bad sitcom.

Any show in which a character, in the closing minutes, says, “I guess we’ve all learned a lesson,” and then goes on to explain what that lesson is, is a bad sitcom.  

He’s also helped launch careers, including Michael Keaton’s.  

I will miss him always, but particularly this time of year.  Charlie used to send Christmas cards with his yearly “update.”  They were always spectacularly funny.  The two things I will miss about Christmas are the Andy Williams/Claudine Longet TV specials and Charlie’s annual card.  

If anyone’s reading this from the Great Beyond, do yourself a favor, invite Charlie Hauck to your next dinner party.  You can contact him at the Algonquin Round Table. 


Michael said...

I read that he wrote an episode of MASH (as a favor to Larry Gelbart) using a pseudonym Richard Cogan. Does that make him the only person besides yourself and David who wrote for both MASH and FRASIER?

Brian said...

I am sorry for the loss of your friend and I am sad, because his writing made me laugh for much longer than I knew.

As to his rule: "Any show that resorts to the use of Dr. Zarkov dialogue (named for the villain in the FLASH GORGON series, where one character tells another character something they both already know, for the benefit of the audience) is a bad sitcom.", when I have tried my hand at writing a script, I consciously avoid the phrase, "So, let me get this straight...", which is a Zarkov trigger for me.

estiv said...

I read these rules, they make perfect sense to me...and yet Full House got a reboot.

Mike Barer said...

Sorry for your loss.

Doug McIntyre said...

Dinner at Charlie's house was always delicious and hilarious, concluding with the ceremonial "farewell Dance" performed by Charlie and Logan as each guest drove away at the end of the evening. And he was kind at the molecular level. It was a joy knowing him.

Anonymous said...

I read Artistic Differences after you recommended it on this blog. It was hilarious. I laughed out loud at this:

Generally television critics are forgiving of actors and blame everything on the writers. You can watch an actor absolutely sabotage a good script and then read reviews like “Unfortunately, even the impressive talents of Cheech Marin could not salvage Anton Chekhov’s trite and meandering script.”


Robert Lewis said...

So sad to hear. I always hoped I'd get to meet him to tell him how much Artistic Differences meant to me. I've read it many times.

Some favorite lines:

"But I don't write," said Emil, with about as dumb a look as a face could have and still be a mammal's.

"I'm in the middle of a sex change operation. I've had my breasts done. Now I'm saving up money for a vagina. Vagina's are very Expensive." "Tell me about it," I said.

"You have no concept of the art of acting," said Geneva. "The art of acting? The fucking art of acting?" She caught me on a pet subject. "Children do what you do. Tatum O'Neal was, what, six years old, she wins an Academy award for best actress. The highest honor in your professional went to a fucking six-year-old. No six-year-old ever wrote a half-hour comedy. I'll tell you that – despite what the critics think. The art of acting. "

James Van Hise said...

Dr. Zarkov was the inventor in Flash Gordon. Ming was the villain. But yeah, Dr. Zarkov would have to explain everything to Flash and Dale.

Mike Doran said...

Google is messing around with me, so I apparently have to reregister.
Please stand by.
Now back in.
Thank you for your indulgence.

By the way: Charlie Hauck will be greatly missed.

KB said...

Those last two examples of a bad sitcom from Charlie's book are almost always because of a network note, I'm sure. In some cases, maybe most cases these days, a sitcom is ruined by too many cooks in the kitchen.

Steve Westren said...

Back when I was a young screenwriter just starting out, a friend of a friend gave me Charlie's number. I called him up and ask him to lunch to talk about writing - and to my surprise and delight he happily agreed to meet.

He was so friendly and supportive, and didn't even flinch when I handed him 3 fat scripts I hoped he'd read and critique. (A few weeks later I got a brief letter from him: "Dear Steve. You're a funny writer." I'm still gliding along on that cloud.

Then, several months later, I received one of his legendary, hilarious Christmas cards. I remember he said they had become the bane of his existence; he'd have to start working to come up with an even better idea for next year's card as soon as he'd sent out the latest batch.

RIP Charlie

Mike Bloodworth said...

Sorry for your loss.

I'll have to buy Charlie's book.

I would add any show that has "misadventures" in the title or its description is a bad sitcom.


Cowboy Surfer said...

Any sitcom using the phrase, "cool beans", should immediately be cancelled.

No exceptions.

YEKIMI said...

Was going to check out "Artistic Differences" at my local library but they don't have it. So was going to order it off Amazon but at $55.....used, no's going to remain unread by me....unless someone gets it for me as a Christmas gift.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know how to get a copy of Artistic Differences? You'd think they'd have an electronic version if it's out of print. Looks like it would cost over $50 to order it from the company-whose-name-we-not-speak.

Lorimartian said...

If I recall, Charlie had a deal at Lorimar for a time. After reading your recollections, I regret not having an opportunity to get to know him.

Have you ever talked about working with Nathan Lane? He is so talented, and I remember that series. Was it a good experience?

Kirk said...

A Cleveland boy who made good.

The seasons he produced Maude were easily the best of the series.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Yekimi: You'll likely find a better price at I think I got my copy there.


Matt said...

He looks very familiar to me. Did he also act?

David from the other LA said...