Wednesday 18 November 2020

What's My Beef

We wrote the other day about Jack Benny and laugh tracks, and quoted from an article.

Here is that article, from the Associated Press wire of February 28, 1960.

Frankly, the writer’s advice is silly. Just taking time off and ignoring a problem doesn’t solve it. I imagine if she proposed that at one of her newspaper guild meetings dealing with a union problem, she’d be hooted down with ridicule.

You’ll note Jack Benny continues to support his former protégé. Benny handed the unknown Paar his summer replacement slot one year on radio to help launch Paar’s career.

Their Gripes Many, Varied
Our Unhappy Funny Men

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most people have known for quite awhile that comics are often very unfunny—sometimes very unhappy—people in private life. But lately new strains have come into the lives of television's funny men. Here's what top comedians themselves say.
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK—Something serious seems to be happening to the men whose job is to make the nation laugh. Off-camera, they aren't doing much smiling. A lot of them, in fact, are unhappy if not hopping mad.
For instance:
Jack Paar stormed off his late show recently. Bob Hope has complained bitterly about his bosses. Jack Benny burned loudly at his network's new rules about announcing the injection of canned laughter to sound tracks. Red Skelton and Danny Thomas are reported unhappy about the same thing. Steve Allen wants a lighter schedule next year.
What's the matter? Why the revolt of the comedians? Three top comedians—Allen, Benny and Jackie Gleason, who has been watching the fireworks as a sympathetic spectator—have some answers. The one thing they all agree on, however, is that the Jack Paar explosion in mid-February is not typical of the average comedian's beef.
"He's a very emotional fellow", is their analysis, "and he feels the pressure of doing a show four times a week."
"I used to have that show," says Allen, "and when I had it, it seemed like a lot of fun. That was my reaction to it, but I think I have an easy-going nervous system. The question, 'Is a nightly show hard?' is a bit like asking, 'How do you like married life?' or, 'How do you like being in the Army?' You can get a lot of different answers, all correct."
Allen does believe, however, that television is a "battlefield for comedians."
"It has increased enormously the pace and evolution of the comedian," he says. "Today he will run through in three or four years material which once could have kept him going at least 25 years. "And it is a medium, too, which lets the public fall violently in love with a performer. Then it cools off just as quickly, and it starts resenting the very ones it most adored."
Gleason, who is happily sitting out this turbulent television season with an occasional special, thinks the comedians with the regular shows are edgy because of the pressures.
"It's the tension of finding suitable material," he says. "With a weekly or even a biweekly show you're faced with finding good material or lowering your standards. And I think it is impossible to do a weekly show with quality."
Four shows a year, insists Gleason, are just about the limit for the star comedian who wants to feel satisfied with his works.
"It's the luxury of time," he amplifies. "It takes a month even to get an idea. It takes another month to write the show. Then there is the production of the show—and the three months are gone."
Jack Benny insists that "comedy is treacherous," and points out that in all other areas of show business the star is removed—in the audience's mind—from his material.
"But in comedy, nobody ever says that the show was rotten but the performer very good," he continues. "However, I think that most comedians work under great tension. I'm lucky because I enjoy working on a show, and rehearsals are fun."
Paar, he says, is a marvelous performer: "He can do everything beautifully. His delivery is great, he's a wonderful straight man, and he listens—how he listens! It must take a lot out of him. I couldn't do it for a million dollars."
Benny is resentful of his network s attitude on canned laughter.
"I was very angry for a day or so," he says, “But I got over it. But I still think telling the audience that you've inserted laughter in your show is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to when you must re-tape a portion of the show that didn't go right, or when the show is made in a corner of the studio where the audience can't see it."
But even so, says Jack, he's not mad enough about the rule to leave his network.
None of the three suggests that some of the widespread unhappiness stems directly from the TV quiz scandals. But the new rules on informing audiences about recording, taping and canned laughter are a result of the uproar.
And so is the networks current and passionate concern with good taste and the elimination of material that might cause more criticism to be heaped upon television's already bloody head.
As a matter of fact, it appears that today network executives are even more touchy than the sensitive talent which works for them.
It is very possible that, in their great apprehension, they have overlooked the necessity of dealing with their stars as tactfully or thoughtfully as in other, less parlous days.
Anyway, what everybody needs is a nice long TV vacation in which to rest up and heal up with reruns, repeat shows and summer replacements.

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