Friday, January 30, 2009

You're Soaking In It

In this exciting new world of changiness, where everything is changy if not changetastic, certain things remain the same. Death for one. No getting out of that, I don't care how many black presidents we elect. Birds, too. They simply aren't going away; eating them hasn't made a dent. There are a few other constants that have slipped my mind, but one is never far from my thoughts: "Fridays."

I'm especially inspired today as I've connected with several "Fridays" writers on Facebook. I must seem strange to them, remembering all those bits from long ago. Part of being a comedy nerd is surprising your old idols with concepts and jokes they've forgotten. That's how I became friends with Michael O'Donoghue. I mentioned an SNL sketch of his from 1981, "Nick the Knock," where Joe Piscopo played a carnivorous hand puppet who eats a magic fairy. The piece bombed. Utter silence from the audience, scattered applause when it ended. One of my favorites. "You remember Nick the Knock?" Michael asked me with genuine incredulity. He was both shocked and impressed. That was my ticket in.

The same goes with the "Fridays" crowd. The main thing is to ensure them that I'm not a stalker. My enthusiasm is genuine, sincere, and non-violent. And if there's ever a "Fridays" retrospective, I'm the guy to help put it together. Seriously. I mean, if they did it without me, I would be very disappointed. Extremely disappointed. In a word, vexed. Just thinking about it hurts my head, makes my hands tremble, my mouth go dry . . .

Here are a few clips of Andy Kaufman's first hosting stint, February 20, 1981. The main bit features Kaufman's writing partner Bob Zmuda as The Masked Magician. I had a nice chat with Zmuda at a publishing party years ago in Manhattan. A gentle, soft spoken guy. Not in this sketch. Zmuda played aggressive characters well. After all, he took over the Tony Clifton role with few people noticing. The studio audience is especially rowdy, even by "Fridays" standards. Kaufman had thoroughly whipped them up by this point, another intentional feature of that show's overall premise: Kaufman out of control on live TV. This gives the segment an improvisational feel, something rarely if ever seen today.

The following week, Kaufman returned to apologize for his behavior (primarily for the disrupted pot sketch, which I've posted before), introduced by "Fridays" producer John Moffitt. I love how he gets laughs by playing it perfectly straight. Nobody did that better than Kaufman.

Here's a silly sketch featuring two guys you may recognize, along with Brandis Kemp and Maryedith Burrell.

Wow. Looking around, I see that "The Ronny Horror Show" is back online. I posted this nearly two years ago, and soon after it was pulled from YouTube. This is one of the best pieces "Fridays" ever did, written by Larry Charles and Bruce Kirschbaum, airing on December 12, 1980. Since a lot of you weren't reading me the first time around, here it is again. Enjoy it before it gets yanked.