Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Unhappy Man With the Confetti

“Laugh-In” vaulted all its early cast—at least, those who lasted a full season—into the national eye, even though many of them had been on TV for a number of years.

In the 1960s, Dave Madden was a stand-up comic who opened for Frank Sinatra in Tahoe, garnered some appearances on Ed Sullivan and then won a role in a sitcom. Did anyone really notice? Not until he was plunked into the cast in the second season of “Laugh-In” in 1969.

But Madden didn’t stay. He had a logical reason for leaving. He gave it up for a role in another sitcom, the role he’s probably most famous for. But by the end of it, he may have wondered why he took it. He felt like his talents weren’t being used and griped about it in the media.

Here are two newspaper stories syndicated by the King Features Syndicate. The first one is from December 31, 1970, at the start of his turn on The Partridge Family, the second from June 27, 1973, as it was about to enter its final season.

From Throwing Confetti To Acting
Diversification Is Key For Madden


TV Key
HOLLYWOOD — The big, blond, sleepy looking fellow who used to toss confetti and give silly weather reports on “Laugh-In,” Dave Madden, has gone semi-straight on Friday night's “The Partridge Family,” pretending to hate kids in the role of agent Reuben Kincaid.
Serving as a counterbalance to offset the sweetness of mother Shirley Partridge and her five, cute musical children, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor Kincaid is supposed to demonstrate distaste for family life.
In TV situation comedy, one must not offend small audience segments: so Kincaid can't be a true child-hater like W.C. Fields. Too bad. Instead, Madden plays safe, and from time to time, lets fans know he really doesn't dislike those Jaunty, vocal little Partridges. They may bug him, but that's to be expected. As a bachelor, he's not a bumbler, just a guy who doesn't know how to cope with children.
Agent Kincaid's musical background has never been established. “I was told I was the son of a big recording man,” Dave explained the other day. “Meaning I just fell into the business, and don't really care” Once saddled with the musical group, Kincaid carries on, growing more attached as the weeks go by. In one segment, the kids try to marry him off, and that doesn't work, though it does form a bond between Reuben and plotters, with the agent expressing his appreciation.
Madden's leap from the established hit “Laugh-In” to the question-mark format of “The Partridge Family” sounds like a gambler's choice, and it stems from Dave's desire to diversify. The man shies away from becoming a stereotype. “‘Laugh-In’ gave me exposure,” he said, “but you reach a saturation point on the show quickly. The aim is to get in and get out. One year of throwing confetti is enough.”
Madden made his television debut on David Swift's disaster “Camp Runamuck,” earning a role without even a reading. It was his first dramatic reading acting job, thanks to an enthusiastic Swift, the newcomer got 26 weeks of experience. After “Runamuck,” Dave branched out into commercials, night clubs, and wrote material for Jerry Van Dyke, Ronnie Schell, along with light patter for singers, and survived very nicely.
Diversification is the key to show business survival in Madden's mind. “I'm depressed by the number of fine actors struggling for parts—people who can act rings around me,” says Dave. “It's sad to see all that talent going to waste with so few jobs available.”
Caught in the squeeze, the comic ventured into night clubs, “a fantastic challenge, if you're out for challenge. But it's dying and I see no hope. To want to be a club performer today is like wanting to become a juggler.”
So it boils down to acting, writing and photography. Madden has turned into a camera nut, picking up the hobby from friend Dave Ketcham on “Camp Runamuck,” snapping pictures wherever he goes. On Interviews, instead of being photographed, Madden shoots the reporter, and says the hobby has given him new insight into human inconsistencies—which is helpful in his acting.
As for a writer's career Madden believes he would be nuts if put on a daily schedule. “I am stifled by trying to create on an organized basis. Schedules inhibit me. My good hours are from 2 to 5:00 a.m., tight after a night club job when my mind is still up. Give me eight hours sleep and I can't even talk. I always feel lousy in the morning and I can't recall ever waking up and feeling great.”
For a sleepy bear type who claims to lack energy, Madden turns out to be a fake, a deceiver, trying everything. He can play a great drunk at 9:00 a.m., and at midnight he turns into a Dick Cavett. That's diversification.

Moving Day for The Partridges Arrives on Saturday

TV Key, Inc.
HOLLYWOOD—(KFS)—Good grief, ABC's No. 1 scries, "The Partridge Family" has received a shocking blow. Starting this Saturday, the Partridges begin competing with "All in the Family" and "Emergency" in the same time slot.
This can be conceived as a kiss-of-death move to show followers, a sudden write-off, since previous network ploys to battle Archie Bunker and NBC's intrepid firemen haven't worked at all.
Dave Madden, the seldom-used series humorist out of Terre Haute, Ind., would like to see "All in the Family" make a fight out of it, and says he's talked to Mr. Bunker about the new competition, but Bunker doesn't seem to care about it.
NBC is doing very well in the time slot with its kids' show, Madden said. "Emergency" managed a 20-rating against No. 1. "All in the Family" this winter; which meant "that nobody on this planet was watching ABC," according to Dave. Yet the comic is unable to feel sorry for actor Larry Hagman in "Here We Go Again," the winter show nobody looked at, saying, "I'd like any role in every fifth picture Larry Hagman makes on Movie of the Week." Riding on Hagman's coattails in network shows would be very lucrative.
What are the reasons for matching "The Partridge Family" against the Bunker clan and "Emergency"? Madden says that he "functions logically," so he can't give an intelligent answer. But "All in the Family" reruns were seen slipping in the ratings against the kids' show, "Emergency," and star David Cassidy has been making noises about leaving the series when his contract is up after this season. This obviously concerns the network which is toying with the idea of introducing another character in several episodes this fall to test the audience response. Madden, however, does not believe the present show success hinges entirely on Cassidy's age-5-to-15-female following. "Perhaps it did during the first two seasons," Madden said the other day, "but now the show has become a group effort."
Even Dave Madden's character, Reuben Kincaid, can take some credit, though his potential is usually ignored — a slight that hurts and brings the response, "At times I feel like being a used people lot."
The comedian finds himself in the strange position of being associated with a hit series which has done nothing for his career as a night club performer. If Madden were in Rob ("All in the Family") Reiner's shoes, he could command good money for a Vegas date, but "The Partridge Family" label scares off the big bookers in Las Vegas.
Instead Madden finds himself classed as a performer for child and teen-ager entertainments. Not long ago he was one of the headliners in a Long Beach, Calif., show which attracted 9,000 youngsters, an assignment that baffled the comic.
"If I were a rock singer there would be no problem as to content," he explained. "But what does a comic do to entertain kids from 5 to 15? What does a 6-year-old laugh at? What amuses a 12-year-old? Are they the same thing? I have no frame of reference at all. I can fall off a stool with my guitar and do those old sight gags, but I don't know what laughs at what. Shows like that are impossible tasks because there are no answers to the problems. Today, the only person who can fit this audience is Bill Cosby as he tells kids' anecdotes, makes funny faces and does weird sounds, but Bill is one in a million."
Madden has a second offer to return, and he's considering it. "I'm a masochist and a sadist I guess," he said, still pondering over the question of whether to write new material based on his guesses, or go in with the old in case of a different audience.
Kids — write in and solve Dave Madden's problems on what you think is funny. Being an intelligent grownup who thinks logically, he needs help.

Something happened on The Partridge Family that Madden didn’t expect. Teenaged girls screamed and cried for David Cassidy. They didn’t want comic byplay between an agent and a ten-year-old. So the agent became tangential to the plot.

What did Madden do after Archie Bunker killed off the Partridges? If you didn’t see him once in a while on the sitcom Alice, you probably didn’t see him. He did a fair chunk of commercial announcing and other voice-over work, then decided to give up Hollywood for Florida and tried to fade from memories.

Judging by this post, it didn’t quite work.

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