Thursday, February 23, 2012
Today is Shelly Berman's 86th birthday. When I was a kid, Shelly Berman was my all time favorite comedian. I used to play his records over and over gain and then I would imitate him for friends and relatives. His bits on an imaginary telephone were absolutely priceless pieces of robust comedy. Today some of the phrases he used to use are simply not around any more. Like on an airplane there is no longer a stewardess. It's a flight attendant. And when was the last time you heard one of those guys ask you "Coffee, Tea or Milk". There is one monologue where he is trying to call a department store head office to inform them that "there is a woman hanging from your window ledge." It's hysterical because none of these stoops can find a woman hanging precariously from their very own window ledge. I got to meet Shelly once at the Jewish Home for the Aged in Woodland Hills where we doing a benefit. What a sweet man! Berman started as a straight actor, receiving his training at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, honing his acting skills in stock companies in and around Chicago and New York. In the mid-1950s, he became a member of Chicago's Compass Players which later evolved into The Second City. While performing improvised sketches with Compass, Shelly Berman began developing solo pieces, often employing an imaginary telephone to take the place of an onstage partner. In 1957, Berman landed his first job as a comedian at Mister Kelly's in Chicago, which led to other nightclub bookings, and a recording contract with Verve Records. His comedy albums would earn him three gold records and he'd win the first Grammy Award for a non-musical recording. He was the first standup comedian to play Carnegie Hall. Berman would go on to appear on numerous TV specials, and all of the major variety shows of the day.Berman's success as a comedian enabled him to continue with his first love - acting. He starred on Broadway in A Family Affair and continued to do stage work in productions of The Odd Couple, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, I'm Not Rappaport, La Cage aux Folles, and Guys and Dolls, among many others. He still teaches comedy at USC where Danny Simon did the same. If you want to be really moved (and laugh) listen to the dialogue stand up bit he that he does about talking to his father Nathan sometime. It's an absolute classic. It will move you to tears and also make you laugh like hell. Happy Birthday, sir. Many more years for you!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
ADAM AND EVE SPOOFED
Everyone who knows me knows full well just how much I love spoofs. I adore "The Book of Mormon" now on Broadway and find it to have the very best opening of a musical devised in a long time, but also some of the best songs ever created. So with that in mind, my writing partner and friend John Nugent sat down to write a musical comedy spoof of the "Adam and Eve" story. I am a cradle Catholic, but I firmly believe that Almighty God must have a grand sense of humor. Don't believe that? Think of the poor Platypus. Think of the sow bug. So our spoof asks the question "Wouldn't it be crazy if Eve ate of the tree of Knowledge but was a blond in every aspect that we know blonds today? Suppose that when Eve went to Adam, he was less than over joyed over what she had done and even less thrilled about losing paradise? Suppose that Adam (trying to find a way out of his problem) balks at the fact that he never had any creative input as to what his mate should have looked like. Suppose he said "Maybe, I wanted someone just like me." So John and I set down a title and started working from there. We called it (drum roll please) "Adam and Eve and Steve" (When the Devil Wasn't Enough!) So in this spoof Eden's plum tree becomes Adam's new mate Steve as poor Adam discovers the other side of the sexual coin. We of course make the Snake a real blond charmer and we've added Magnolia, the Peach Tree and Limey, the only lemon tree in the Garden of Eden. Eve is thrown out of the garden with the lemon tree made human (who is a lesbian) and we add God's voice and a couple of heavenly archangels. The result we've just finished and the songs are some of the very best that we've ever written. In other news, our recording date is this Saturday at 1pm at our new studio The California Recording Company in Van Nuys. David Holmes, Lindon Von Warren, Jessica Budha, Jonny Wexler and Travis Hunt will join us at 1pm. WE hope it will really turn out well. We're also re-writin "Little Bit Of Broadway" and we've just finished a new children's musical called "The Box of Robbers" based on the L. Frank Baum fairy tale. Busy. busy always.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
This remarkable man you see on this page is the manager for our company Creative Horizons. This year marks the 20th anniversary of our friendship. We were introduced by another mutual friend at the time and bar none this has been one of the most remarkable friends I have ever had in my life. The other being the amazing and incredible David Holmes. Jimmy has always supported what I was doing whether it was being an agent myself, a songwriter or any kind of writer. I retired four years ago in 2008 and in these four short years, I have never been as creative as I have in these four years. Of course finding my partner, John Nugent was absolutely the best present from Almighty God other than my parents and my eternal soul. And I certainly would have little or nothing accomplished without him. But now Jimmy Chapel has taken the most active role of all times and is representing twenty musicals (you read right) and nine original sit com pilots with additional episodes already created. Jimmy is both a gentleman and a scholar. Not only can he be a great reader on scripts, he's an excellent proofreader to boot. We started with a sit com called "First Mother" which I actually first created in 1992- about the same time that I met him in Orange County. The pitch: "The most eligible bachelor in the world becomes quite suddenly the Jewish president of the United States and his Brooklyn mother moves in the white House, lox, stock and bagel and takes Washington by storm." Back then, the idea of a Jewish president under any circumstances, would have been as impossible as a Mormon becoming president. So last July, Jimmy called me and told me that he had Lanie Kazan interested in portraying the First Mother and could we possibly get it together. Now remember, it had been twenty years since I had touched this material. We had a teleplay, but it was in the wrong format. The wrong format in Hollywood, today is the equivalent of being a bride's maid in jeans and a halter top. So out we went to get FINAL DRAFT an extraordinary software program and re-typed the original. It went to ABC and ABC thought it was too philosophical and not funny enough-- but invited us to submit other stuff. Then a strange man who was a former stunt man had a connection to FOX and with his advice, he said we needed a series bible and at least three additional episodes. We went back and wrote six more episodes. We then started writing more and soon we had SENIOR HIGH DROPOUTS, BREAK A LEG, TAXING LAUGHTER, IRISH LEFTOVERS, PROFESSOR CHUTZPAH, THE GOLDILOCKS BOYS and ZORRO'S DELI. That's what he's amazingly representing today. The funny thing is that the stuntman turned out to be a flake who actually knew no one, but had all this great CORRECT advice. Isn't that crazy?It just goes to show you that a blessing in disguise can hold more benefits than the fraud he represents. Jimmy Chapel is our hero, bar none. God love you, Jim for all your efforts!