Thursday, May 29, 2014

INTERVIEW: Joe Piscopo on The 50th errr...51st Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis film THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963)

Fifty some years ago....Paramount Studios released the 1963 Jerry Lewis film THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. 

 Actor/Musician/Comedian Joe Piscopo talks about his love of Jerry Lewis, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and working with Jerry Lewis on Saturday Night Live.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did Jerry Lewis come to host Saturday Night Live in 1983?

PISCOPO:   Well, they were toying around on Saturday Night Live with having some comedy icons host the show.  It was Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol who were knocking around the idea.   They were suggesting names like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Don Rickles and Jerry Lewis.  I was saying to myself, "You gotta get Jerry.  You gotta get Jerry..." For me, Jerry Lewis is the Charlie Chaplin of our time.   When the idea for Jerry came up to host the show I was hoping and praying.

I'll never forget, word had traveled around the studio that Jerry was on the elevator on his way up.  This was on a Wednesday afternoon.  Usually the guest host comes for a read through rehearsal on Saturday Night Live on Wednesday afternoon at about 3pm.  Once word hit that Jerry was coming up in the elevator someone said, "Hey, why don't you go and meet him at the elevator."  So I rounded the corner and as soon as I heard the elevator door open I said, [In Jerry's voice] "Jerry...Jerry."   Then I heard back from Jerry, "Joe... Oh Joe where are you?"  (Laughing)   It was like working with Charlie Chaplin for me.   I adored working with him, and at that time I was also working with Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live and Eddie adored Jerry as well.  Working with Jerry on the show was a total lovefest.

TV STORE ONLINE:   You were a fan of Jerry growing up as a kid?

PISCOPO:  Of course.  It was the only thing to do when you were a kid.  You would go and see the new Jerry Lewis movie when it would come out.   I loved THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963).   I went to see that over-and-over.   I loved THE GEISHA BOY (1959) too.   What was funny about Jerry to me, was that I had no idea that Jerry had been part of Martin & Lewis.  I had no clue about that for a long time when I was a kid, and I loved Dean Martin.   I couldn't believe it when I found out that they used to be partners.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you have a favorite scene in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963)?

PISCOPO:  It's got to be the end speech in the gym.  When he turns back from 'Buddy Love' to 'Julius Kelp'.   That is one of the truly great cinematic moments.   That transformation, and it's all done with hair and make-up.  That transformation is incredible.  Jerry directed the film and the way he shot that was just totally perfect.   Then Jerry cuts to that close-up of Stella Stevens in the crowd.  I think that scene in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR is the perfect example of how you can define Jerry Lewis.  There is a serious message in that film.  It really represents everything that is great about film.  He's one of the truly great directors.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Are you fan of Jerry's film CINDERFELLA (1960)?

PISCOPO:   I am.  All of Jerry's films are perfect.  I also loved VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET (1960) too.  I love that scene where the car elevates and goes over the traffic.  In CINDERFELLA, that scene with Jerry coming down the stairs is incredible.  It's such a smart film, and Jerry's so vulnerable.  The reveal of The Count Basie Orchestra was incredible.   CINDERFELLA has the great Ed Wynn in it.  It's just such a smart film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How do you think Jerry Lewis influenced you in your comedy?

PISCOPO:  I think it's the execution of the comedy that has influenced me.   It's all about presence on the stage.  Jerry did that brilliantly.  Then the vulnerability factor.   I learned the patience required to take a beat.   To allow the audience to soak in that pathos.  That's what I learned from Jerry Lewis.  You can see Jerry Lewis in all of us, from Eddie Murphy to Billy Crystal.   There is a bit of Jerry Lewis is all of us.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about Jerry's films THE ERRAND BOY (1961) and THE PATSY (1964)?  Both of those films sort of satirize the Hollywood studio system of that era...

PISCOPO:  You're right.  I think he was ahead of time in that respect.   Those were intelligent parodies I think.   Look at someone like Pee Wee Herman for example and how he did the same thing years later in PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985).   

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are your thoughts on THE LADIES' MAN (1961)?

PISCOPO:  That's one of his most brilliant films.  That set was genius.   As a kid, seeing that for the first time you only noticed how vulnerable he was.   Years later, you return to THE LADIES' MAN over and over and you realize how extraordinary that film is and the concept of it.  I mean, it's like he built a studio inside of a studio.  He built a stage show on a film stage.   It satirizes Edward R. Murrow.  It is a completely brilliant film.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Jerry has done some wonderful dramatic roles over the course of his career....How difficult is it for a comedian to segway into dramatic performance?

PISCOPO:   It's easier actually.  Drama is easier than comedy I think.  I consider myself more of an entertainer on the stage than a comedian.   When Jerry did THE KING OF COMEDY (1982)  all of just went crazy for it. That was a brilliant performance by Jerry. The fact that drama is easier than comedy...That needs to be psycho analyzed.   For some reason it just feels easier to take the beats in drama.   

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more with Joe Piscopo please visit his official website HERE:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

William Atherton on Steven Spielberg and 1974's SUGARLAND EXPRESS

William Atherton looks back with TV STORE ONLINE about his work with Steven Spielberg in the 1974 film, SUGARLAND EXPRESS.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So I'm a huge admirer of your work in SUGARLAND EXPRESS [1974], but also what you did in Richard Fleischer's THE NEW CENTURIONS (1972)....Do you think that Steven [Spielberg] saw what you did in CENTURIONS and that had anything to do with him wanting to cast you in SUGARLAND EXPRESS as 'Clovis'?

ATHERTON:  You know...I'm not too sure.   What had happened was that I was out in California doing THE NEW CENTURIONS, but then I ended up going back to New York.   When I got back I did a couple things on the stage and then about a year after that is when I first met Steven.   He was going back and forth to New York and meeting with actors for SUGARLAND.   I had done CENTURIONS and I had a fun cameo in CLASS OF '44 [1973], which was the sequel to the SUMMER OF '42 [1971] by then.   I think with SUGARLAND, Steven was specifically looking for theater people for it.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have to audition for Steven?

ATHERTON:   Not really.  I was a New York actor, and if you were a actor in New York you'd go in and meet with the director.  But it was a different time then too.   When I went in to meet with Steven, we just kind of clicked.   We talked for a while, and then I was sent out to California to shoot a screen test.   So I went out to California and we shot that with the new Panaflex camera inside of a car.    One of the reasons why SUGARLAND EXPRESS works so great was because it was the first movie where they used the Panaflex camera.  Vilmos [Zsigmond] brought that to the film.  It was so small that one person could hold it and you could go anywhere with it.  It was mobile, and he could do 180 degrees in the backseat of that car, and that had never been done before.    They didn't need any platforms for the camera, or a camera car to shoot from.  The screen test was more about what they could do with that camera than I think it was about me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Getting that role and then reading Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood's screenplay for the first time....Who did you imagine that Clovis character to be exactly?

ATHERTON:  Well, Steven and I worked on him for about two weeks before we started shooting and we changed quite a bit.     We took the time to rehearse it.   Steven, Michael [Sacks] and I would sit on the floor of a hotel room and just play out the scenes to see what worked and what didn't.   The story was really an interesting one.   It was based on a true story, but it was very loosely based around it.  I've always thought that the most interesting aspect of the entire story was Goldie [Hawn] as 'Lou Jean'.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  The most fascinating aspect of Clovis for me is how he seems to be the only character in the story that realizes the repercussions of his actions.   He understands the cause and effect of perpetrating the chain of events that occur....He's wonderfully awkward too...

ATHERTON:  Absolutely.  My feeling about Clovis was that he had a vision of life that was narrow.  At the same time, he was aware enough that all of it wasn't going to work out, but all he really had in his life was Lou Jean and his kid.  I made the choice, that the character should support a indulgence of his wife.   Because without her he would have been an orphan in the universe.  She was everything to him.

  It's interesting and conflicting as well...Because as the audience we're asked to cheer or even feel empathy for him and his actions...

   I think the audience should feel empathy for him.  Clovis and Lou Jean weren't mean people.  The complexity of the story was what Goldie did with the character Lou Jean.  She really made a 'Lady Macbeth' out of her.   The story, the situation and everything else gets beyond them and they just had to run with it because it was the only thing that they could do.  The only time I felt that Clovis actually gets himself together was during the scene with the Porta Potty out in the field.  It's the only time where he dominates anything and even though he feels that way, he is still very fearful.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   We feel so much empathy for Clovis and Lou Jean, yet at the same time, we feel a great deal of empathy for Ben Johnson's character 'Captain Tanner' as well...

ATHERTON:  Yes, you do.  Ben's performance was so understated.   He understands that Clovis and Lou Jean are just a couple of kids.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about shooting that opening sequence in SUGARLAND EXPRESS that takes place in the prison?

ATHERTON:  That was done at a actual prison.   I did go and walk around the prison while we were there.  I had wanted to stay the night there but they wouldn't let me.   It was a pre-release thing so it wasn't like I was going into somewhere with maximum security.    We shot the film more-or-less in continuity, so those scenes at the prison were done right at the start of the shoot, and then we went on to shoot in the car for two-and-a-half months, and then at the end Steven decided that we should re-shoot the prison scenes so on the last two days of the shoot we went back and re-shot those scenes there and they work so much better because of that decision.    

Vilmos and Steven had a very clear feeling and idea about the look and light and how when we shot it in continuity it would have this look of a graduation.  The film begins in this very dank Texas light rain and then by the time the characters get to Sugarland everything gets very bright.  The seasons would be changing by then and they were very aware of all of that.   We didn't loop anything on SUGARLAND either, except for a couple wild sounds. When you're shooting outside often times something won't come across and then they'll have to plug it in. Steven was very careful and attentive to make sure that we wouldn't have to loop anything.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about shooting the sequence at the car lot with the RV and all of that gunfire?

ATHERTON: God...(laughing)  Everything was blowing up around you.   Steven said, "Bill, there is no improvising here.  You need to start here and end here or you're going to get your ass blown up."  I was scared.   If you watch the film you'll hear Clovis yell as he starts running through the lot, "Maxwell come back!"  That was a very organic yell for me.  I used that to get all of my fear out.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about that incredible finale at the house in SUGARLAND where Clovis is shot by the men with shotguns?     I love the homage to VERTIGO (1958) there in that sequence...

ATHERTON:  Yeah, you know I didn't see any of that while we were shooting it.  I wasn't conscious of any of that on set.   I see it now when I watch the film all of these years later though.  That house that we shot that scene in was actually a funeral home.   It was the only nice or acceptable house in the small town that we were shooting at. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   It's perfect because it induces such a dream like feeling for that moment...

ATHERTON:  Completely. It was perfect for that exact reason.  That house was in the middle of nowhere.   I remember that it was very cold out the day we shot that.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   I re-read an interview with Steven recently that was published at the time of the release of the film where he said that he felt in shooting the film that you were best on later takes and that Goldie was best on early takes....Could you talk about the chemistry that you had with Goldie during the shooting of the film?

ATHERTON:  Well, I guess that was always because I liked to rehearse.  I was pretty unschooled about movies when I got hired for SUGARLAND EXPRESS.   Every scene of SUGARLAND was so dense.  I really took for granted that actors warm up over the course of doing a few takes.   That was what I thought you did.  Goldie, for all of her years of experience of working in television...Film people have a different rhythm.  If Goldie or Steven were upset with me over the course of many takes, they never let me know about it.   I had nothing but a wonderful experience shooting the film.   It was a fabulous time.  I thought Goldie was terrific and I thought Michael Sacks was terrific.   We were all down in Texas and it was a party.  We all got along and we laughed a lot.  The chemistry was terribly important, and that was all created by Steven Spielberg.   Film is a director's medium, not an actors.  Steven created the platform for all of that.  He created this wonderful feeling on the set so that everyone would feel at home and at ease.  He's very singular that way, and very unique.  In every movie that Steven has made, you'll see and feel a  singular warmth that just flows from it.  That was what it was like working with him too.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

INTERVIEW: A Quick Moment with Richard Anderson from The Six Million Dollar Man

 Actor Richard Anderson [The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman] gives TV Store Online a few minutes in a hallway at the 2014 Detroit, Michigan Motor City Comic Con....

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was your first job as an actor?

ANDERSON:  It was in TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH (1949).   I was only in one scene, and that came at the beginning of the picture. They carry me out of a airplane on a gurney.   I didn't get to meet Gregory Peck on the set, but I did eventually meet him years later. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did The Six Million Dollar Man [1974-78] come to you?

ANDERSON:  How did the show come to me?  My agent called me and asked me if I wanted to do it.  I said, "Sure."  So I went in and we shot a couple two hour pilot episodes and from there it went into a weekly series.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I always loved how you were playing the same character [Oscar Goldman] but across two different television series and at the same time no less....

ANDERSON:   That's right.  I was working on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman [1976-78] at the same time.   That caused some problems at times.  


ANDERSON:  There were days when you would be working on two different stories at the same time and you would get the characters names confused with each other across the different stories.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Are you ever surprised all of these years later that there are still fans out there that want your autograph on something related to The Six Million Dollar Man?

I'm so pleased to have been a part of it.    I think there's interest yet in the show because it's still airing in syndication.  Just the other day I discovered that the show and The Bionic Woman air every day on a station called Cozi TV.   They air a episode each day from each series.  It's wonderful.   I'm glad that Oscar Goldman is remembered.  He's been very good to me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TV Store Online Spring Giveaway: Win Five T-shirts

Join this contest and you can win any 5 free items from our website! Step 1: Follow TvstoreOnline on instagram. Step 2: Repost this image Step 3: tag us@tvstoreonline and use hashtags: #TVStoreOnlinecontest #giveaway so we can find you! Winners will be chosen at random. You can repost the picture as many times as you would like. Contest ends 5/23/2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

INTERVIEW: Voice Actor Greg Berg on his days pre Muppet Babies

Voice Actor Greg Berg (The Muppet Babies, The Simpsons, American Dad) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his early days in Akron, Ohio, his love of radio and meeting Jim Henson and Frank Oz

TV STORE ONLINE:  You were born and raised in Akron, Ohio?

BERG:  Well, actually I was born in Brooklyn, New York.   My parents moved us first to Cleveland then to the Akron area later on.

   I know you're a fan of radio....The great radio disc jockeys all got their start in the Akron/Cleveland area...

BERG:  That's right.  Alan Freed got his start in  Akron before moving onto Cleveland.  Growing up I was a paperboy and I ran into a disc jockey one day.  I was delivering papers in the area and he invited into the station to check it out and I got to watch him do all of these different voices on the air.  That gave me an interest in radio, and  from there I started studying it in high school. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was that the catalyst for you eventually joining The Rick Dees Show in Los Angeles years later?

BERG:  That was strange how it worked out.   I think it was destiny or just a matter of luck.  I loved radio so much that  I was working at three different radio stations in the Akron area.    One day, I decided that I wanted to do more and I had to decide whether I should go to New York or Los Angeles.  I decided on Los Angeles because that was where all of the animation was done.    So I went out to Los Angeles and started working at The Comedy Store and I got into an improv group and out of that I decided that I wanted to work in film and television, so I started studying with Harvey Lembeck, who had trained people like Robin Williams and John Ritter.   I could do all of these different voices and I wanted to get into animation so I started scouting all of these different workshops that you could take part in so that you could get into animation.  It was through one of those that I first met Rick Dees.   He told me that he was going on the air in Los Angeles and that he was looking for someone who could do a bunch of funny voices.  So I laid a couple different voices on him, and a couple days later he invited me to do voices on his radio show.

TV STORE ONLINE:    All of that must have tied itself into you getting the job of voicing some of the characters on The Muppet Babies [1984-91] animated series didn't it?    Were you influenced by someone like Mel Blanc for example?

BERG:  Of course.  I listened to a lot of comedy albums when I was working at the radio stations in Akron.  I had the album The Golden Age Of Comedy and I would listen to that over and over.    I used to like to listen to Mel and what he did with all of his voices on The Jack Benny radio show.    I never wanted to have my own radio show.  I never wanted to pursue that.  I liked the players on the shows in the Old Time Radio era. I wanted to be one of those guys.  When I moved to Los Angeles I was lucky to meet some of those guys and that was what sent me on my way.

The Muppet Babies started in 1984.  Prior to that, I went and saw THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN [1984].  In that film we see a scene where The Muppets are children.   Jim Henson was involved with the creation of the animated series.  All of the original Muppet puppeteers were from New York City and they really wanted to hire actors that were in Los Angeles because they didn't want to bring all of these actors out to Los Angeles from New York every week for work.   So I went in to audition and got the job and I worked on The Muppet Babies for nine years.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have much interaction with either Jim Henson or Frank Oz?

BERG:  I met Jim Henson at the time that I was first hired.   He came in to watch us record one of the episodes early on and then I met him again at a party that was thrown to celebrate the success of the show.   Coincidentally, I met Frank Oz before I started working on the show.  I was out running errands one day in Beverly Hills and I was walking down the street and I saw a man that I thought looked like Frank Oz.  I said, "Frank Oz?"  He said, "Hey, Yes."  I went on to tell him how I was just about to start work on the show voicing "Baby Fozzie" and "Baby Scooter".   I just told him that it was a pleasure to meet him and how much of an honor it was for me to be carrying on the legacy of the characters that he created.