Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

He’s Catching Up to The 2000 Year Old Man: Carl Reiner Turns 90!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

He’s a boy from the Bronx who’s had a hand in some of film and television’s most memorable moments. Carl Reiner turns 90 years young today, and he’s spent over 80 of those years entertaining people in one medium or another, from stage plays, to radio, to the small screen and the large.

Born Carl Reiner on March 20, 1922, Reiner caught the acting bug early in life. After performing in school plays throughout his elementary and high school years, Reiner’s older brother encouraged him to take an acting class sponsored by the Public Works Administration during the Depression years. He enjoyed honing the craft and began acting in off-Broadway plays straight out of high school; performed in summer theater in Rochester, NY; toured with a Shakespeare company; and wrote and performed plays as part of the Special Services Unit during World War II.

After his discharge from the Army in 1946, Reiner performed in the famed Borscht Belt circuit, and began his career in television in 1948 with a spot on Maggi McNellis Crystal Room, and appearances on The Fashion Story and The Fifty-fourth Street Revue. Reiner continued to do stage work, when producer Max Liebman caught one of his performances and approached Reiner about joining the cast of a new sketch variety show he was putting together with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Your Show of Shows. Reiner became a cast member in the 1950-51 season, memorably starring in the recurring “Professor” sketch with Caesar, and often displaying his double talk skills, mimicking foreign languages or delivering Shakespeare-esque dialogue. In his 1998 Archive Interview, Reiner discusses working with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca:

Reiner soon began writing for Your Show of Shows, alongside writers Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Mel Brooks, and stayed on to become a part of Sid Caesar’s next show, Caesar’s Hour, where he won his first Emmy:

Reiner and Brooks struck up an immediate friendship, which in turn led to the creation of some fantastic comedy. The pair dreamed up the now infamous “2000 Year Old Man” (which became both a record/radio and TV hit) in Max Liebman’s office in the early 1950s:

After Caesar’s Hour Reiner hosted the game show Celebrity Game, and secured dramatic parts in several Golden Age dramas including Playhouse 90, and Kraft Television Theatre. He tried his hand at writing novels and penned Enter Laughing, and even took a stab at writing a television series. He wrote what he knew, and in 1958 created thirteen episodes of Head of the Family, a show about a family man who commutes into the big city to write for a television show. Reiner starred in the pilot, which failed to get picked up, until Sheldon Leonard saw it, convinced Reiner to step out of the spotlight, re-cast Dick Van Dyke in the lead and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, and renamed the program The Dick Van Dyke Show:

The Dick Van Dyke Show enjoyed five seasons on air (1961-66), with Reiner as creator, producer, writer, and actor on the show — on-screen he stepped out of the lead role and into that of the star’s boss, “Alan Brady”. Reiner’s movie career revved up in the 1960’s, as he starred in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He soon began directing, too – he directed the film version of Enter Laughing in 1967, and wrote the pilot for and directed several episodes of 1971’s The New Dick Van Dyke Show. He directed Steve Martin in four films, including 1979’s The Jerk and 1984’s All of Me, and also directed 1987’s Summer School.

Reiner won several Emmys for The Dick Van Dyke Show, and added another to his mantle when he revisited his Dick Van Dyke Show character, “Alan Brady”, for a memorable guest appearance on a 1995 episode of Mad About You. Throughout the ’90s and 2000s Reiner continued to stay active in both film and television, with roles on the 1999 series Family Law, 2002’s Life With Bonnie, and as the voice of “Sarmoti” in 2004’s Father of the Pride. He also starred alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon in the 2001 hit film, Ocean’s Eleven, and reprised his role of “Saul Bloom” for 2004’s Ocean’s Twelve and 2007’s Ocean’s Thirteen. He currently has recurring roles on two popular television shows: TVLand’s Hot in Cleveland and FOX’s The Cleveland Show.

A few additional Carl Reiner trivia tidbits: he has appeared on all major versions of The Tonight Show – with hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and even Conan O’Brien; he’s the father of another quite famous actor/writer/producer/director – Rob Reiner; and much like Carol Burnett, when he was starring on a variety show, he used a secret signal to communicate with family members. Son Rob shared what that signal was in his 2004 Archive Interview:

Happy 90th birthday, Carl! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks do their “2000 Year Old Man” sketch:

Reiner was honored by the Television Academy in October of 2011, and several of his colleagues and friends were in attendance to pay tribute to the TV legend. You can watch the webcast of “An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner” here, and check out our full Archive interview with Reiner here.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Toasting a Legend: The Television Academy Presents “An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner”

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Congratulations to Carl Reiner, who will be honored by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood this evening! Panelists paying tribute to the television legend include Mel Brooks, Jon Cryer, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Bonnie Hunt, Rose Marie, Larry Matthews, Bill Persky, Rob Reiner, Paul Reiser, Eva Marie Saint, Garry Shandling, and Dick Van Dyke. The event is sold out, but you can watch the live webcast at 7:30pm PST at emmys.com.

Reiner’s career in television began in the 1940s with appearances on The Fashion Story and The Fifty-fourth Street Review, and continues today with a recurring role on Hot in Cleveland. He’s won multiple Emmys, and in his Archive Interview, Reiner shares a fun fact about how his then-rules for wearing his toupee complicated his first Emmy win for The Dick Van Dyke Show:

“I didn’t wear my hair because if I had worn my hair and sat in the audience, it would be suggesting that I think I’m gonna win. I remember saying, ’should I put my hair on?’ Because my rule of thumb is if it’s national … local shows I never wore it. If I went on an interview show I never wore my hair during the day … If it’s a national show, I’ll wear it. But I decided that night, I said, ‘honey, if I put my rug on, people are gonna think I think I’m gonna win.’ So I said, ‘I’m gonna not wear it. If I win, I’ll go up there.’

In his acceptance speech, Reiner earned a huge laugh with the line, “If I’d known I was going to win, I would have worn my hair.”

He’s a winner with or without the toupee in our book.

Watch below for more memorable moments from Reiner’s career:

On creating The 2000 Year Old Man with Mel Brooks:

On working with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca:

On winning his first Emmy:

On working with the writers of The Dick Van Dyke Show:

Watch Carl Reiner’s Full interview online:
http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/carl-reiner

You Can Own The Fonz’s Motorcycle!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Arthur Fonzarelli’s motorcycle is up for sale!  The famous bike will be sold on November 12 by Bonhams at their annual Classic California Sale at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The late Bud Ekins owned the motorcycle, a 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler that he customized for use on Happy Days by removing the fender, spray painting the tank silver, and replacing the handle bars. The bike is expected to sell for between $60,000 and $80,000.

Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham), Happy Days creator Garry Marshall, and The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, spoke of Fonzie’s motorcycle in their Archive Interviews. Did you know Henry Winkler couldn’t actually ride the motorcycle?

Learn more about Happy Days by visiting our show page:
http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/shows/happy-days

If at First You Don’t Succeed … Recast: “The Dick Van Dyke Show” Celebrates 50 Years

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Back in the summer of 1958, Carl Reiner, already an established writer and supporting actor on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, sought to create a sitcom in which he would star. He followed the adage of “write what you know” and created thirteen scripts of Head of the Family, a largely autobiographical series centered around Rob Petrie, head writer of “The Alan Sturdy Show.” Rob was married to Laura, they had a six-year-old son, Ritchie, and Buddy and Sally were Rob’s cohorts in the writers’ room. Sound familiar?

Reiner’s agent, Harry Kalcheim, shopped the Head of the Family pilot script around, and actor Peter Lawford wanted to front the money to shoot the pilot. Once Reiner sent a script to Lawford’s father-in-law and supplier of the cash, Joseph P. Kennedy, Reiner was given the green light. The pilot was shot in December of 1958 in New York, with Reiner starring as Rob, Barbara Britton as Laura, Gary Morgan as Ritchie, Sylvia Miles as Sally, and Morty Gunty as Buddy. And then … nothing. The pilot failed to sell for the Fall 1959 season, and for the next year, Reiner thought the project was dead. But Kalcheim refused to abandon the show. He presented the pilot episode to another client of his, producer Sheldon Leonard.

Already a successful creator/producer of The Andy Griffith Show, and producer of The Danny Thomas Show, Leonard recognized genius in Head of the Family, but identified one major flaw: Reiner completely miscast himself as Rob Petrie. It’s difficult to see how Reiner could be wrong for a role that he based on himself, but Reiner was a natural sketch performer, not a sitcom actor. Reiner didn’t take the news well, but as he describes in his Archive Interview, Leonard brightened his spirits by telling him that he was a natural producer:

Sheldon Leonard, himself a seasoned writer/performer (he played the robber who famously asked Jack Benny, “Your money or your life?”), convinced Reiner that one makes a much better living as a creator/writer/producer than as an actor. Reiner agreed and so began the hunt for a new Rob Petrie.

Re-enter Harry Kalcheim, candidate for best-agent-ever. A year earlier, at the urging of Kalcheim, Sheldon Leonard attended a musical revue called “The Girls Against the Boys” to check out a performer named Dick Van Dyke. In his Archive Interview, Leonard recalls liking Van Dyke, but not having any material at the time that could showcase his talents. Now, the right project had come along. Leonard convinced Reiner to hop a plane to New York to watch Van Dyke in Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie” and Reiner saw what Leonard now saw: Rob Petrie.

With a new lead, Reiner and Leonard distanced themselves from many elements of the failed Head of the Family pilot. The program assembled in the spring of 1960 was shot in California, in multi-camera format rather than single-camera, filmed in front of a live audience, and had an entirely new cast. The original scripts remained, but Reiner re-tooled them for multi-cam shooting and to play to the actors’ individual strengths, like Van Dyke’s talent for physical comedy:

Assembling the new cast was effortless in some ways, torturous in others. Sheldon Leonard knew he wanted Rose Marie as sassy Sally Rogers, who in turn suggested pal Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell. Reiner took on the part of Rob’s boss, re-named Alan Brady; Richard Deacon portrayed producer Mel Cooley; and little Larry Matthews, who had never professionally acted before, played six-year-old Ritchie. Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert rounded out the cast as neighbors Jerry and Millie Helper. Everyone was set … except Laura Petrie.

After auditioning many actresses for the part and coming up frustratingly empty-handed, Leonard and Reiner paid a visit to Danny Thomas, the largest funder of the newly formed Calvada Productions, which owned the show (Calvada: Ca – Carl Reiner, l – Sheldon Leonard, va – Dick Van Dyke, da – Danny Thomas). Thomas recommended they audition a woman who had tried out for the role of his daughter on Make Room for Daddy. The actress was wonderful, but with her cute nose, Thomas felt that no one would believe she was his daughter! Thomas remembered her as “the girl with three names.” With the help of a casting agent who tracked her down, Mary Tyler Moore auditioned for and won the role of Laura Petrie, as she explains in her Archive Interview:

Throw in advertising agency executives Lee Rich and Grant Tinker of Benton & Bowles, who secured sponsor Procter & Gamble and optioned the series to CBS, and that brings us to Tuesday, October 3, 1961, the premiere of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner suggested the new title, following Sheldon Leonard’s tradition of naming a show after its star. Though no longer the lead in front of the camera, Reiner’s leadership behind the camera resulted in the classic sitcom of the 1960s.

Critics adored The Dick Van Dyke Show, but the program did not enjoy high ratings and was nearly canceled after the first year. Due to Sheldon Leonard’s persistence, four more seasons aired, and the show ended its run on June 1, 1966 with episode “The Last Chapter,” in which Alan Brady is set to star in and produce a television show based on Rob Petrie’s autobiographical novel. Talk about art imitating life!

But art imitating life is what made The Dick Van Dyke Show such a gem. You believed Rob and Laura as a couple. They showed affection, they fought, and she sighed, “Oh, Rob!” sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of happiness. Sally and Buddy teased each other like co-workers really do; all of the characters represented people you felt like you knew or wished you could befriend. Fifty years later, the episodes and characters still remain approachable and real.

So here’s wishing a very Happy 50th Anniversary to The Dick Van Dyke Show. We expect we’ll be watching Rob trip over that ottoman for many years to come.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Ay Caramba! “The Simpsons” start Season 23 and Bart’s still 10

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Though Bart remains 10 years old, The Simpsons begins its 23rd season Sunday, September 25th on FOX. Not just the longest-running animated program in American television history, The Simpsons is also the longest-running American sitcom, and beat out Gunsmoke to become the longest-running primetime, scripted series.

The brainchild of Matt Groening, The Simpsons originally appeared as a series of animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. Executive Producer James L. Brooks liked the popular shorts, which were then developed into a stand-alone, half-hour program and debuted as such on December 17, 1989. Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), Maggie, Marge (Julie Kavner) and Homer (Dan Castellaneta) hit the big-time that night and have reigned on FOX ever since.

The show at times stirs up controversy for its portrayal of a dysfunctional, but loving family, and not only cemented the phrase “D’oh!” into the minds of millions, but also launched dozens of other catchphrases. From “Don’t have a cow, man!”, “Ay Carumba!”, “Eat my shorts!” and “Cowabunga!” The Simpsons has its own vernacular that continues to penetrate pop culture. Nancy Cartwright’s interview (she voices Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum, Nelson Muntz, Todd Flanders, Kearney, and Database) is now available online. As Mr. Burns would say as he craftily twiddles his fingers, “Excellent.”

Cartwright was originally going to audition for the role of Lisa, but when she saw Bart Simpson described as “Ten years old, school-hating underachiever and proud of it”-  she knew that was the role she wanted:

On Bart Simpsons’ memorable catchphrases:

On how she differentiates between similar characters (“Nelson” v. “Kearney” and “Ralph” v “Todd Flanders”):

On how people who criticize the show respond when they find out she plays Bart:

On The Simpsons‘ place in American pop culture:

About this interview:

In her Archive interview, Nancy Cartwright describes how she got her start as a voiceover artist. Active in speech club in high school, she discovered her talent with voices and pursued Communications in college, first at Ohio University, then at UCLA, to be closer to the industry. She recalls training with acclaimed voiceover artist Daws Butler, her first professional job on Richie Rich, and her on-camera work as a guest actor on Cheers and as the lead in the television movie, Marian Rose White. Cartwright then details her work on The Simpsons, originally a series of sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show. She recalls going in to audition for the part of “Lisa Simpson” and walking out with the role of “Bart Simpson.” Cartwright outlines the recording schedule of the show, other characters she voices, expanding the show to a half hour program, her Emmy win for Outstanding Voiceover Actor, and her favorite episodes.  She also comments on other shows to which she’s contributed (Rugrats, Kim Possible) and speaks of her extensive charity work. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on March 17, 2011 in Northridge, CA.

Suzanne Somers Archive Interview Now Online

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Interview Description:

In her Archive interview, Suzanne Somers discusses her early years as a single mother and struggling model/actress. When she landed a small but memorable role in the feature film American Graffiti it led to appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and her casting on Three’s Company.  Somers describes being mentored by Three’s Company producer Michael Ross and star John Ritter and how she came to grasp the essence of comedy acting.  She speaks frankly about the pitfalls of her meteoric rise to stardom, which eventually resulted in her exit from Three’s Company. She then speaks about her subsequent work as a Vegas headliner, author, and star of 1990s sitcom Step By Step. Suzanne Somers was interviewed in Malibu CA on July 15, 2009; Stephen J. Abramson conducted the two-hour interview.

Carroll Pratt, Laugh machine expert, has died

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Carroll Pratt, a protege of laugh machine creator Charley Douglass, has died at the age of 89.

Carroll Pratt’s Archive Interview was conducted on June 12, 2003.

Interview description:

Carroll Pratt was interviewed for over two-and-a-half hours in Philo, CA.  Pratt talked about his start in feature films at MGM in the sound department where his father worked.  He spoke in great detail about the audience reaction (laugh) machine created by engineer Charley Douglass, for whom Pratt worked for after leaving MGM.  Pratt described the device and the types of responses that the machine was capable of doing from whistles to belly laughs. Pratt described the updated version of the laugh machine, which he created with his brother in the 1970s, when he split from Douglass, and started his own company called Sound One.  Pratt talked about providing laugh tracks for numerous television series throughout the years (including the longest laugh he ever recorded, for The Mary Tyler Moore Show), until his retirement from Sound One in the mid-‘90s.  B-roll consisted of a few photos of Pratt at work, and a short video piece in which Pratt shows where he keeps his Emmy Awards.  The interview was conducted by Karen Herman.