Friday, April 1, 2011

"Warm Up the Snake: A Hollywood Memoir" by John Rich

There are some books that I don't love as much as the ones I use for "First Lines," but I want to quote from them anyway.

"Warm Up the Snake: A Hollywood Memoir" is a career memoir by John Rich, who directed "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "All in the Family" for a good portion of their years, as well as "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," and, with Henry Winkler, executive produced "MacGyver."

This is on page 200, third and final paragraph of the page, and then the sentence at the top of page 201:

"Another basic tenet of comedy: It's easier to get a laugh if the audience is primed a little. Morey Amsterdam would frequently "warm up" our Dick Van Dyke Show audience by suggesting, "Everybody hold hands and the guy on the end stick your finger into the electric socket." Redd Foxx was famous for using "blue" material from his nightclub act to break in studio audiences for Sanford and Son. Aaron Ruben, the producer of the series, would plead with Redd to stay away from the risque stuff, pointing out, correctly, that the huge laughs he was getting would seriously impact the milder material that would be heard during the scripted episode. Redd wouldn't--or couldn't--go along, arguing that it was important for him to get the biggest laugh he could at any time. One night when I attended the taping as Tandem Productions' representative, Redd warmed up the audience by launching into a routine involving heavy petting with his girlfriend while parked in his car. He became very descriptive, with the girl getting so hot she begged Redd "Kiss me. Kiss me where it smells." There was an audible gasp from the crowd, followed by Redd's punchline: "So I took her to El Segundo."

The script didn't stand a chance that night."

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