Archive for the ‘Comedians’ Category

That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

March 16, 2019

That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

Back in the day, I was doing community theatre. It was in the early days of Saturday Night Live, and my director was a big fan of John Belushi.

There was a show coming to a local college…as I recall, it was called Stars of Saturday Night Live.

The director asked me if I would bring Belushi a gag gift, knowing that I was comfortable enough to approach a big star like that. It was a coffee can, labeled (unfortunately in hindsight) The John Belushi Memorial Fund.

I hadn’t really watched Saturday Night Live, but I said I’d do it.

People expected that Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner would be there, but it turned out to just be Belushi and one of the writers (that’s how I remember it).

I think people were disappointed by that initially…and Belushi’s performance was not well-received. He yelled at the audience a lot, and one of his bits when heckled was to say, “Do you want to get up here?” He tried to get the audience to sing Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas, but it wasn’t happening.

The tone in the audience was ugly.

I had told a security guard that I had the gag gift. Finally, I think he decided it wouldn’t hurt, so he gave it to him (I was standing by the stage at that point). Belushi said to me, “Do you want to get up here?”…and I hopped up on the stage.

I spoke to the audience a bit…I believe Belushi was making funny faces and such behind me.

I finished, and Belushi said, “You’re a real professional, you know?”

I said, “Well, one of us has to be.”

I was kidding, but there was a big “Ooooh!” in the first few rows. I hopped back down.

Belushi went offstage and got a chainsaw. He broke up the lectern (I assume it was a breakaway) and started to saw it up. A piece spun off and stuck in the video screen behind us. I’ve always thought that must have been expensive damage.

As I mentioned, the college offered people refunds, and I heard that many people asked for them.

The newspaper wrote up the show, mentioned my ad lib, referring to me as “One nervy spectator”.

That experience didn’t bother me for myself, but I felt Belushi had been unfair to the audience. I decided I didn’t want to support what he did. I didn’t watch SNL while he was on it.

I ran into a conflict when The Blues Brothers movie came out. I had been at a small event where John Landis and Rick Baker showed Schlock and talked about it. I liked Landis and wanted to support him…and he directed The Blues Brothers.

What I did was wait to see it in a third-run theatre, or thereabouts…I think I paid a dollar admission. I figured the amount that Belushi would get from that would be negligible.

Years later, I regretted how I felt about Belushi then. I realized that his performance may have been affected by substance abuse. I was proud of being snarky (I’m still proud of the line…but not using it in those circumstances), but it would have been better for Belushi to get treatment, not be trolled.

Anyway, this came up today, and I realized I hadn’t told this story online (or at least for sure, not in this blog), so I thought I’d share it.

Why tell it?

More to preserve the history than anything else, I guess. I’m certainly not trying to criticize John Belushi at this point. I’ve watched SNL now, and Belushi did some amazing work. I loved The Blues Brothers as an act. I should mention, I’m a big fan of Dan Aykroyd. That especially goes for the knowledge of and promotion for things that would fall under Bufo’s Weird World. The line on The Coneheads, “Tell them we are from France,” refers back to the 1896-97 Airship flap, where Americans (especially) reported seeing impossible aircraft. Some of them spoke with pilots and passengers…and some said they were from France. Oh, and Ghostbusters? So brilliant!

So, that’s the story of how I outquipped John Belushi…and lived to regret it.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Robin Williams has reportedly died

August 11, 2014

Robin Williams has reportedly died

We will update this later with more information but it is with great sadness that we report that Robin Williams has reportedly died.

Not only did he have many geek friendly roles himself, including Mork from Ork and the Genie from Aladdin, he promoted Jonathan Winters, one of the great absurdist comedians.


There was nobody like Robin Williams

Robin Williams, on the other hand, was like everybody…even you…at least for a few seconds.

That was part of the genius of Robin Williams…the ability to bounce from personality to personality, at lightning speed.

In fact, the improv artist was so fast that a sibling of mine accidentally played

Reality…What a Concept (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

on the wrong speed for a few minutes without realizing it.

Williams shot to fame with a guest spot on Happy Days as the alien, Mork from Ork. The wacky Mork was such a hit that Williams was given the series Mork & Mindy (and also played the character on Out of the Blue, and voiced a cartoon version).

Recognition as a serious actor would come later, with an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and three other lead nominations (Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; and The Fisher King), but we geeks can proudly count Robin Williams as one of our own.

I was also impressed with how he took steps to further the career of one of his idols, the equally unique Jonathan Winters.

Geek friendly roles include:

  • Popeye (in Robert Altman’s live action movie)
  • Faerie Tale Theatre (as the frog prince)
  • Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (as the King of the Moon)
  • Dead Again (directed and starring Kenneth Branagh)
  • Shakes the Clown (a Bobcat Goldthwait vehicle)
  • Hook (as Peter Pan, opposite Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell)
  • Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
  • Toys
  • Being Human
  • In Search of Dr. Seuss
  • Jumanji
  • Jack
  • Flubber
  • Bicentennial Man
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Insomnia
  • Robots
  • Happy Feet (and sequel)
  • Night at the Museum (playing Teddy Roosevelt…Williams would return to the role in sequels)
  • Wilfred

Post production work on Absolutely Anything, directed and co-written by Terry Jones, and starring Kate Beckinsale, Simon Pegg,  Joanna Lumley, Rob Riggle, Eddie Izzard, and the Monty Python (Gilliam, Cleese, Idle, Palin, and Jones) is in process.

Good-bye, Robin Williams…the world is less frenetic (and less creative) without you.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

A short history of the Lone Ranger

July 2, 2013

A short history of the Lone Ranger

The Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp version of The Lone Ranger opens in the USA on July 3rd.

The character has been around for eighty years, and is a solid part of pop culture.

Before I give you a chronology, let me talk a bit about the Lone Ranger. If you know nothing about the character, it’s possible that you might consider some of this as spoilers, but I think that’s unlikely for most people. I have not seen the movie, so this won’t reveal anything specific to that production (which looks like it is going to take a different approach).

The future Lone Ranger was one of the Texas Rangers, along with his brother. The group rode into an ambush set by the Cavendish gang. All of the rangers except for the one who would become The Lone Ranger (in the original series, his first name was not given, but he is generally now thought of as John Reid) were killed.

The future Lone Ranger was rescued by Tonto. Tonto buried the other rangers (including the future Lone Ranger’s brother), and made an extra grave for the future Lone Ranger, in order to fool the Cavendish gang and give the future Lone Ranger a chance to recover.

After being helped back to health by Tonto, he becomes the Lone (the last left alive) Ranger. He dons a mask, made from the bullet-ridden vest of his brother.

There is a wild stallion that he later names Silver. It may not be appropriate to say that he tames Silver, but they do become a team.

Traditionally, the Lone Ranger doesn’t shoot to kill his opponents. In fact, he avoids gunplay. That’s why he uses silver bullets…it’s because they are rare, expensive, and difficult to get. That means he will always think twice about using one. Obviously, there is also symbolism here, as seen in naming his horse Silver as well.

The Lone Ranger travels around, helping build the West. Tonto travels with him. It’s important to note that the Lone Ranger generally treats him as an equal, and the audience is expected to do the same. While Tonto does encounter a great deal of prejudice, it’s from other characters (townsfolk, bad guys), and the audience believes the prejudice is wrong.

There are other things associated with the Lone Ranger. “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” starts a ride. When the Lone Ranger leaves an area, after having saved someone, they might say, “Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him.”  The William Tell Overture, used in the radio show and the TV show, is also closely linked to him.

The Lone Ranger is someone who has sublimated his own identity for the greater good. He believes in the individual and helps others. He tends to side with the less powerful against those who abuse power and who might dictate the way the West develops.

To quote the show, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

Timeline (click links for information and content, including the original radio shows)

January 31st, 1933: the first Lone Ranger radio show is broadcast (there is some suggestion that it might have played on January 30th as a test, but the 31st was the official debut). It would run for close to 3,000 episodes, and become a national show and sensation

1936: the first Lone Ranger novel is published. Seventeen more in the series will follow through 1956. The Lone Ranger Rides

Late 1930s: a serious silent cartoon version is produced

1938: Parker Brothers released The Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

February 12, 1938: Republic releases the first chapter of a 15 chapter serial, just called The Lone Ranger Watch at YouTube

September, 1938: A Lone Ranger comic strip starts, and will run through 1971. Lone Ranger comic strip

January 7, 1939: The Lone Stranger and Porky, a parody with Porky Pig (and directed by Bob Clampett) is released Watch at YouTube

February 25, 1939: A Republic sequel (again, fifteen chapters) is released: The Lone Ranger Rides Again Watch a restored version at YouTube

1947: As a premium for Kix cereal, kids can get a Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb ring…which reportedly actually contains a radioactive isotope Tracy’s Toys

1948: Dell Comics begins a Lone Ranger comic book, originally reprinting strips, but later including original material. It will run for 145 issues

1948: Cheerios prints special editions of the boxes with 9 different paper card model sets, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the show Board Game Geek listing

September 15, 1949: The Lone Ranger becomes an early hit for TV with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. New episodes run through June 6, 1957 The Renegades episode of The Lone Ranger

1951: Dell publishes a Tonto comic book series…it runs 31 issues

1951: Dell adds a Silver comic book series…it runs 34 issues Silver comic book

January-February, 1953: Mad Magazine does a parody: Lone Stranger!

December 1953 – January 1954: Mad Magazine does a parody…sequel: Lone Stranger Rides Again

1956: Parker Brothers releases The New Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1956: A theatrical release is done with Moore and Silverheels

1956: Lisbeth Wirthing releases The Lone Ranger and the Silver Bullets boardgame. It is reportedly later pulled due to licensing issues Board Game Geek article

1958: Another theatrical release with Moore and Silverheels, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold

September 1964: Gold Key begins a Lone Ranger comic book series

1965: Bill Cosby’s album I Started Out As a Child features a Lone Ranger routine audio clip on YouTube

1966: A Lone Ranger animated series runs, with Michael Rye as the Ranger. It is reportedly a darker tone than might be expected at the time

1966: Milton Bradley releases The Lone Ranger boardgame, apparently based on the cartoon series Board Game Geek listing

1973: Gabriel Toys released a line based on the Lone Ranger Skooldays article

1978: Warren Company releases The Lone Ranger& Tonto boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1980: The Tarzan/Lone Ranger (later Zorro was added) animated series. William Conrad (Cannon) voiced the Ranger. Ran through 1982

1980: Milton Bradley releases a Lone Ranger board game, The Legend of the Lone Ranger Board Game Geek listing

1981: A big budget version is made…with Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish. A controversy at the time is Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, being prohibited from wearing the mask in public appearances (so as not to conflict), and switching to sunglasses

1994: Topps comics does a four-part Joe R. Lansdale miniseries

July, 1991: Konami released a Lone Ranger videogame for the NES

February 26, 2003: A TV movie with Chad Michael Murray as the Lone Ranger IMDb listing

September 6, 2006: Dynamite Entertainment begins another comic book series

2013?: Lego releases a series of figures and sets connected to the new movie Lego

June 6, 2013: Disney releases Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer inspired characters for Disney Infinity L.A. Times article

July 3, 2013:  The Johnny Depp version opens

Lone Ranger collectibles

The Lone Ranger search at Amazon

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Jonathan Winters reported dead

April 12, 2013

Jonathan Winters reported dead

Jonathan Winters was one of a kind…or perhaps, kind of one hundred.

By that I mean that the improv comic had the ability to switch into many different characters at the drop of a hat…and then become the hat as well.


Variety article

does a good job of covering the basics, and includes some video clips. I’d recommend the Jack Paar clip, to see the early Winters…although he oddly does talk about dying in it.

I first think of Jonathan Winters from comedy albums, but also from live TV performances.

There’s no question that we wouldn’t have had Robin Williams without Jonathan Winters…and one of the things I like most about Williams was his support of Winters. Not just in having him on Mork & Mindy (which is how a lot of these obits are being headlined), but I recall some sort of news or magazine show where they did a profile together. Robin Williams was completely showcasing Jonathan Winters in a very generous way.

While movies were not the largest part of his career, they do form part of his geek-friendly credits:

  • The Magic Land of Alakazam (this was a 1960 Japanese animated movie, and they did an American dub with Frankie Avalon, Sterling Holloway, and Jonathan Winters)
  • Shirley Temple’s Storybook (Winters appeared in both The Land of Oz and Babes in Toyland)
  • The Twilight Zone (Winters had a rare dramatic turn portraying a dead pool player…the ep also starred Jack Klugman)
  • It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
  • Linus! The Lion Hearted
  • Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (quite a bizarre movie…)
  • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (an animated sitcom…Winters voiced his Maude Frickert character)
  • Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (he played a talking pumpkin)
  • The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
  • I Go Pogo
  • More Wild Wild West (a follow-on TV movie from 1980)
  • Mork & Mindy (as Robin Williams’ Mork’s son…they age backwards on Ork)
  • Star Fairies
  • The Pound Puppies
  • Alice in Wonderland (as Humpty Dumpty in an all-star TV version…other stars included Donald O’Connor, Sherman Helmsley, Martha Raye, and Carol Channing)
  • The Smurfs (the TV series…Grandpa Smurf in the American version)
  • Alice in Wonderland (unlike the last one, this one was animated…but all-star again. Would you believe Mr. T as the  Jabberwock?)
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Little Troll Prince
  • The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley
  • Rabbit Ears: Paul Bunyan
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (cartoon spin-off)
  • Gravedale High (as Coach Cadaver)
  • Garfield and Friends
  • King Kong! The Living Legend
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
  • Little Dracula
  • The Wish That Changed Christmas
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation (as Superman…and Wade Pig)
  • Fish Police (as Mayor Cod)
  • Frosty Returns
  • The Princess and the Cobbler
  • Animaniacs
  • Yogi the Easter Bear
  • The Flintstones (the live-action movie with John Goodman)
  • The Shadow (Alec Baldwin)
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
  • The Bears Who Saved Christmas
  • Spaced out! (Winters stars, and it includes a visit to the bridge of the Enterprise in a Star Trek bit)
  • The Mouse Factory
  • Daisy-Head Mayze
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers
  • Johnny Bravo
  • Santa vs. the Snowman (as Santa)
  • The New Scooby Doo Movies (in The Frickert Fracas)
  • Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big (directed by Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County fame, and co-starring John Cleese, Harry Shearer, and Catherine O’Hara, among others)
  • The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (the live action movie with Robert De Niro and Jason Alexander…no, no, they didn’t play “Moose and Squirrel”) 😉
  • Swing
  • Squatching (as himself, in a Bigfoot documentary with Loren Coleman)
  • Comic Book: The Movie
  • The Smurfs (the Neil Patrick Harris movie…playing Papa Smurf)
  • The Smurfs 2 (I think his role was probably completed)
  • Big Finish (a comedy movie with Jerry Lewis, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Tim Conway..scheduled for release December 12 of 2014)

Good-bye, Jonathan Winters…the world is less wacky (and daring and clever and funny and yes, sweet…and full) without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Phyllis Diller reported dead

August 20, 2012

Phyllis Diller reported dead

There was nobody else like Phyllis Diller.

She first became famous as a stand-up comedian, at a time when it was an almost exclusively male club. Her routines about her husband “Fang” and her distinctive delivery (and hearty laugh) made her a favorite of television talk shows and as a guest on game shows. She appeared many times with Bob Hope. Her public persona was even parodied on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

Diller boldly used self-deprecating humor, making fun of herself, her looks, and later, her plastic surgery.

Even at the height of her career, she was doing voicework (for some actors, that comes later).  There was no mistaking her voice.

Geek credits include:

  • The Fat Spy (with Sheldon Leonard, Jayne Mansfield, and a fountain of youth plot)
  • Batman (the Adam West series…a cameo)
  • Mad Monster Party (a Rankin/Bass stop motion movie…she was Frankenstein’s monster’s bride)
  • The Adding Machine (one of those 1960s “computers taking over” comedies)
  • Get Smart (she plays Max in disguise)
  • Rod Serling’s Night Gallery
  • Uncle Croc’s Block (Charles Nelson Reilly series parodying kids’ shows)
  • Tales from the Darkside
  • Alice through the Looking Glass (1987 TV animation…with Mr. T as the Jabberwock)
  • Doctor Hackenstein
  • Happily Ever After (1990 animation…she played Mother Nature)
  • The Nutcracker Prince
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers
  • The Boneyard
  • Dream On
  • The Silence of the Hams
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
  • Animaniacs
  • A Bug’s Life (as the queen)
  • The Wild Thornberrys
  • Hey Arnold!
  • The Nuttiest Nutcracker
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (as Grandma Neutron)
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • The Book of Daniel (TV series)
  • Robot Chicken (as Mrs. Claus)
  • Family Guy

Good-bye, Phyllis Diller….the world is less wacky (and less brave) without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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