Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Letterman Salutes His Old Friend Robin Williams

Last week Letterman was on vacation, airing reruns. Monday night, David Letterman had a nice tribute to his friend , the late Robin Williams. The two had known each other 38 years, since the 1970s when they were struggling comedians in Los Angeles. Dave recalled how he and other comedians were floored by Robin's talent, and it was evident back in the 1970s that he was a cut above the rest. At the legendary Comedy Store in those days, Letterman's contemporaries were comics like Jimmie Walker, Jay Leno, Tom Dreesen, Elaine Boosler and more. Letterman had a nice sequence of clips from Robin's many appearances on the show over the years. Watch a clip from last night's show here.

From working as a TV weatherman in his hometown of Indianapolis to his current CBS late night show, David Letterman has had a varied career, spanning almost 45 years. In the 1970s he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a stand up comic. He landed bit parts "The Gong Show", "Password", "Hollywood Squares", and a variety show starring Mary Tyler Moore. Dave also had a small part on Robin's show "Mork and Mindy". He acknowledged that he was not much of an actor and it he needed a job so Robin helped him out. The second photo above shows Dave on Robin's show (nice leisure suit and medallion)! He became a regular guest host for Johnny Carson starting in 1979. He moved to New York and had many years of success on NBC with his late night show (1982-1993) and his current CBS show which he has hosted since 1993. See 15 of his career highlights in this article from the Hollywood Reporter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Swing and a Miss for Mary

Mary Tyler Moore was incredibly successful with her roles on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She had an outstanding role in the film Ordinary People, directed by Robert Redford. But, in 1978 she launched a variety show on CBS, called simply Mary, that only aired for 3 episodes. Variety shows were all the rage in the 1970s with the successes of programs like Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie and The Carol Burnett Show. The crazy thing is that Mary's show had a cast that included Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and David Letterman. There is a You Tube clip of the cast singing and dancing. From the look on Letterman's face, it makes me think he was embarrassed to be involved in the show. Before having his own TV shows for NBC, (his morning show then his late night show), Dave worked in Los Angeles as a stand up comedian and actor. In 1979 he was in an episode of Mork and Mindy.

Watch the cringe-worthy clip of the variety show here.

* Some information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Tyler_Moore, eyesofageneration.com and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001468/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1#actor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tears of a Clown: Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams ended his own life yesterday. Many people have talked about how he was a caring, generous, giving person. He helped up-and-coming young comedians, performed overseas for the troops and raised millions through the Comic Relief concerts. We all know about his incredible talent to make people laugh, but his dramatic roles are just as impressive. He studied at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. He was classmates with Christopher Reeve. Most first saw him on Happy Days playing the alien Mork from Ork. Then he had his own sitcom, Mork and Mindy (1978-1982). He idolized Jonathan Winters, who appeared on Mork and Mindy many times. The two were cut from the same cloth, masters of the absurd improvisational humor.

The news reports have said that he battled mental illness for years and also struggled with substance abuse. Something like this event shows that people never know what others are battling in their brains. Depression is devastating and those who do not know about it have no way of understanding it. Here's a guy who seemingly had it all, from money, to fame from a successful career, to a wife and kids, but the depression makes it hard to see the good things in life. It is a merciless adversary.

Johnny Carson was known as a master when it came to judging comedic talent. He gave big breaks to Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Drew Carey and many others. When Johnny stepped down in 1992 after 30 years as the king of late night, he could have anyone as his final guests. It would be a supreme honor for anyone in entertainment to be the last guests. Johnny chose Bette Midler and Robin Williams.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Like Father Like Son: The Reiners

Last night on PBS, Tavis Smiley's guests were Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner. Both of these men have been immensely successful in show business and it was nice to see their mutual admiration for one another. They pointed out how the Reiner family didn't even own a TV in the early days of Carl Reiner's groundbreaking program, "Your Show of Shows" (1950-1954). The show featured Sid Caesar and it had a star-studded lineup of writers including Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart ("MASH") and more. The show acted as the blueprint for all comedy TV shows that would follow.

Later, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks teamed up to do their comedy skit "The 2000 Year Old Man" and are close friends still to this day. Carl Reiner would eventually create the iconic show "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-1966). By the way, Johnny Carson was considered for the title role before it was given to Van Dyke. Carl also worked as a film director on such classics as "Oh God" with George Burns and several Steve Martin projects including "The Jerk", "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and "The Man with Two Brains".

Rob Reiner was destined to follow in his dad's footsteps and he had success as an actor and a director. He will always be known for his role as "Meathead" in the classic CBS sitcom "All in the Family" led by the legendary producer Norman Lear. Before that role he had appeared in TV shows such as "That Girl", "Gomer Pyle USMC" and "The Beverly Hillbillies". On the Tavis Smiley interview program, the elder Reiner spoke of his admiration for his son's work, from his TV roles to his film directing jobs on such works as "The Princess Bride" and "This is Spinal Tap". Rob also directed "When Harry Met Sally", "The Bucket List" and "A Few Good Men". The younger Reiner was asked about if it was hard to make it in show biz being the son of a legend. He said it made it easier to get a foot-in-the-door, but once you are in, you better do a good job, or else you will be fired.

*Some information from www.imdb.com.