I love acting troupes—the small bands of “regulars” that perform skits and movies together and make the world smile. From my early childhood, I wanted to be a part of that family.
I watched The Carol Burnett Show every week. If I want a quick laugh, all I have to do is think about Tim Conway interrogating Lyle Waggoner with an Adolf Hitler hand puppet singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I imagine Carol Burnett dressed up in curtains with the rods still attached and a tassel hanging in her face. “I saw it hanging in the window and just… had to have it.” I loved when she spoofed the classic movies! I adored the Momma’s Family skits, and still crack up when I think about the Siamese Elephant improvisation that had multiple cast members in stitches.
I enjoy watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes, too. Most of the skits they strung together had no definitive end, but instead just changed direction and carried on with silliness. “And now for something completely different.” Seeing John Cleese as a cowboy in “Rogue Cheddar” or Terry Jones competing in the World Hide-and-Seek finals gives me the giggles. My whole family tosses Flying Circus quotes around on a daily basis. It’s funny how other people react.
Another favorite growing up was SCTV. Rick Moranis, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Harold Ramis, Gene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and others kept me completely tickled. I recall one late night when I had a friend over, and we were preparing for an End-of-School luau, making paper leis and watching SCTV. The premise of this particular episode was “Preteen Telethon for Preteen World.” All of the actors dressed as eleven and twelve year-olds complete with bad complexions and retainers/ head gear. Their “preteen” band played Chilliwack’s hit “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone).” We laughed so hard that couldn’t string our leis. How many people can say that?
Saturday Night Live has had some amazing talent in their casts as well. Chevy Chase’s President Ford, Steve Martin’s King Tut, Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson, and Dennis Miller’s anchorman make frequent appearances in my home. “That’s the news, and I am outta here.” My boys’ favorites are the “More Cowbell” skit and “I Wish it was Christmas Today.” They watch for Jimmy Fallon’s giggles in every skit he’s in.
Another acting troupe that thrilled me was the constant cast of A&E’s A Nero Wolfe Mystery series. Rex Stout is one of my favorite authors, and Timothy Hutton, Maury Chaykin, Colin Fox, Bill Smitrovich and Kari Matchett did a wonderful job of staying true to Stout’s characters. They charmed me with every novel they adapted.
If you love sketch comedies and seeing the same great actors playing a variety of characters, skip over to youtube.com and search for Tales from the Pub videos. Larry Blamire has assembled a fantastic troupe of players that spoof Twilight Zone-type stories hilariously. Blamire leads Jennifer Blaire, Andrew Parks, Alison Martin, Brian Howe, Fay Masterson, Dan Conroy, Trish Geiger, and Kevin Quinn to create a world of silly spookiness that will bring a smile to your face. Since laughter is the best medicine, just think of it as a prescription for a joyful, healthy week!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!