Ernie Kovacs – The mad genius of TV

I mentioned earlier how Chaplin took on a new technology and carried beyond what anyone had otherwise imagined.  Ernie Kovacs did the same thing in television.

When television was a new medium, local tv stations had airtime to fill.  A Philidelphia station manager found Ernie Kovacs on the local radio, and offered him some time on the TV.  He was given practically no budget and his only expectation was to be entertaining and find an audience.  The bit below may be his most famous, and it looks like it cost about $9.75 to produce.

This is also a good example of surrealism in film.   The imitation mechanical movement is quite intriguing.

Kovacs had very cartoon sensibilities. Like this:

This next video has some great narration by Kovacs, as he both explains, and makes fun of film making. He opens with this line:

There’s a standard formula for success in the entertainment medium, and that is beat it to death if it succeeds.

Inside the Actors Studio with the cast of Family Guy

It’s great to have a serious, in depth interview with creators of animated comedy. Seth MacFarlane shows some of this childhood artwork, and student film from RISD.  Unfortunately, the poster had to cut out the clips from TV.  Still a fun interview.

Sincerity in entertainment

I have another quote from the book Soupy Sez, the autobiography of Soupy Sales.   The book includes quite a few testimonials from friends and coworkers.  This one is from Crispin Cioe, a musician with The Uptown Horns.

Soupy Sales made an indelible impression on me because he was the only TV personality I cared enough to believe in. Other boomer kid show icons – from Buffalo Bob to regional stars like Detroit’s Johnny Ginger or the legions of franchised Bozo’s nationwide – still seemed like grown-ups playing down to us in funny clothes.  Not so with Soupy.  This was a guy with real improv/standup/adlib chops, a guy who could actually write comedy – and chose to do so for kids.

And then he says

I recently acquired some of the Rhino tapes of Soupy’s old shows.  The funny thing is, without any prodding, by seven-year-old daughter wants to watch them constantly.  She finds blacktooth monumentally hilarious, and said to me the other day, “Dad, were all kids shows as funny as Soupy when you were a boy?”  And all I could say to her was, “No, not even close.”

My point in posting these quotes is to remind people that kids can tell the difference between entertainment that is created by skilled people who care about what they are doing, and that which is just product.  I see plenty of television animation that feels mass produced and is clearly just filling time between commercials.  Some shows don’t feel that way.  Some seem to come from a creator, while others from a committee.   While some are truly clever and fun, others have forced “wackiness” the feels transplanted from some other show.

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