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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Playing To The Band.

You've got to hand it to David Letterman.
Monday and Tuesday night, in the middle of the hurricane, he did his usual show.
Only without an audience.
Without changing any other elements of his show, which has always been designed for a
live audience.
This takes balls.
But Dave has always been a trailblazer.
And he has always looked for ways to push the envelope.
So he sat in the massive Ed Sullivan Theater, without an audience, reading his usual monologue jokes, off of index cards.
To the band.
He literally played to the band.
Metaphorically, this has always been the hippest thing in show business.
He brought the metaphor to life.
And it was great.

A friend of mine recently sent me a DVD of Saturday Morning kiddie shows that I grew up with, and it displayed interesting variations of the use of form and content.
The first thing I watched was an episode of "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.
This was a show that I had remembered fondly from my early childhood.
Essentially, a puppet show, Kukla appeared to be a clown puppet, Ollie was a dragon,
and Fran, Fran Allison, was a human being.
What "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie" had going for it was its charm, and its artistry.
Burr Tillstrom, the puppeteer, did every puppets voice, and there were a lot of them.
Fran Allison supplied the charm, which she had in abundance.
It was a pleasure to watch.
But about halfway during its thirty minutes, something occurred to me.
They were all completely WINGING IT!
There was no script.
There were no jokes.
There were no attempts at jokes.
Tillstrom couldn't have been working with a script, because he never had a hand free to turn the pages.
The only way to do this show was to wing it.
As a result, along with the charm and artistry, there was an awful lot of yakking.
This made it something less than compelling viewing.
I went to Wikipedia, where they confirmed that the show was completely improvised.
All the time.
It's the only way they could have made it work.
I didn't realize that when I was six.
It didn't have an audience, and didn't need one.

Then I saw an episode of "Howdy Doody"
This was the complete antithesis of "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie"
It was heavily scripted.
It had to be.
Buffalo Bob Smith did the voice of Howdy Doody, and in order to accomplish this,
they could never hold Bob and Howdy in a two-shot while they were conversing.
So the direction was tricky, and Bob had to know his lines and Howdy's lines, and exactly when they came in.
"Howdy Doody", in retrospect, was not a very good show.
It had charm.
Nobody was more charming than Buffalo Bob.
But it had no artistry.
Instead, it had a "Peanut Gallery" of little kids to serve as a live audience.
I can't imagine Buffalo Bob doing a show if Hurricane Sandy showed up and kept the kids home.

Then, there was an episode of "The Soupy Sales Show"
Soupy ONLY played to the band.
The band, in this case, was his crew.
He always managed to make his crew laugh.
This was much of the fun.
He also played directly to the camera, but that didn't prevent the crew from laughing their heads off.
So I guess Soupy was the pioneer in this regard.
But Dave did what he did in a huge empty theatre.
That, to me, was even more impressive.


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."