Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Interview with George Schlatter

Usually I'm the one phoning the old showbiz legends, but in this circumstance I got a phone call out of the blue from legendary television producer George Schlatter. I'd never met him or talked to him and have no idea where he got my phone number. This conversation took place in February 2011 and we've seen each other reguarly ever since. And a friendly reminder that if you enjoy these interviews - hit that yellow donate button in the top right of your computer screen. They take me forever to put together.

Kliph Nesteroff: Hello?

Secretary: Hi, Kliph, I'm calling from George Schlatter Productions.  I have George Schlatter on the line.

Kliph Nesteroff: Okay.

George Schlatter: Hello!

Kliph Nesteroff: George Schlatter?

George Schlatter: Yes, how are you?

Kliph Nesteroff: Uh, well, I'm right in the middle of something you'd appreciate. I'm proof-reading a long article I've written about Shecky Greene...

George Schlatter: Oh my God. You got the story in there of how Frank Sinatra saved his life?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, that's his most famous joke. I've talked to people who tell me Shecky stories and then Shecky tells me all of their stories are bullshit.

George Schlatter: Well, that's Shecky. He's going to say that anyhow. What kind of shape is he in now?

Kliph Nesteroff: He just turned eighty-five and did a week's worth of gigs at the South Point Hotel in Vegas. His head is a hundred percent.

George Schlatter: Hold it, hold it, hold it. One hundred percent of what?

Kliph Nesteroff: In terms of having his scruples.

George Schlatter: Oh! Well, no, there were no scruples. You're a helluva journalist, but you're using the wrong words! Scruples? Shecky, if he couldn't drink it or fuck it he didn't know what to do with it! What kind of scruples is that?

Kliph Nesteroff: He's on a regiment of meds. He seems fine.

George Schlatter: Shecky was always on some kind of medication even if it was just spirits (laughs).

Kliph Nesteroff: He seems to have mellowed out.

George Schlatter: And now he's working again. That's the encouraging part. He couldn't leave the house for a while. He was like Buddy Hackett. Couldn't leave the house for a long time. Did you ever see him work?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, I never got to see him live.

George Schlatter: I walked in one night and he was playing a bass fiddle like a guitar.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, he used to do that when he was doing his Harry Belafonte take-off...

George Schlatter: That's right, yeah. I mean, goddamn, he was funny. He was going to play the father in Curb Your Enthusiasm and eventually it went to Shelley Berman - because Shecky looked too young. Here you have a guy pushing ninety (laughs) and he looks too young! He's still in good shape. He looks like he can bench press a jeep, the son of a bitch.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, he's quite the physical presence.

George Schlatter: Well, I'm glad you're doing a piece on him. He was out there. He was out there long before all of these guys. As was Moms [Mabley]. I read your Moms piece and just had to call you...

Kliph Nesteroff: That's nice...

George Schlatter: Now tell me, how did you get into Moms Mabley?

Kliph Nesteroff: It must have been through all her albums on Chess Records. That piece I wrote - I haven't looked at it in a long time. I'm not really proud of anything I wrote back then.

George Schlatter: Why is that?

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm just much better today than I was back then and the older stuff is just... amateurish. 

George Schlatter: Have you seen this kid [Ben] Shapiro's book? He wrote a hate piece about Hollywood that's just unbelievable. He called all of these guys; Larry Gelbart, me, Leonard Stern, Norman Lear. He called and said, "I'm a young guy, I'm a big fan, and I'm doing a study on the history of Hollywood." So we schmucks said, "Sure! We'll help you. Fine." Never thought to google this son of a bitch. You google him and you find out he goes beyond right-wing. He did this real hate piece on Hollywood and the "Liberal Media" and how we're plotting the violent overthrow of everything that's good and wholesome...

Kliph Nesteroff: Like the Hollywood liberals like Ronald Reagan and John Wayne and Jon Voight...

George Schlatter: And, of course, I get no credit for having helped elect Nixon! But I read this book and I said, "This little shit. He was sent to do this hate piece!" In the end he says the only answer for America is to turn everything over to the conservatives. So, I go, "Who is this fuck?" I finally google him and it's very exciting. He's twenty-nine years old! All of his pieces are about how we're destroying the youth and how we did this and we did that. It said, "by the author of Porn Generation." He did a tremendous amount of research for his piece on Hollywood... and I wonder where he did all of his research on pornography (laughs)! I intend to bring it up with him! Boy, oh, boy that must have been a tough gig, right? It's one thing to talk to me and Norman Lear and Larry Gelbart, but how tough was it to talk to the porno girls? Anyway, that Moms Mabley piece you did... You did a helluva piece on her! You oughta read it!

Kliph Nesteroff: Thank you. You know, I never got in contact with you last year, but I also wrote a big piece about Paul W. Keyes and his relationship with Richard Nixon.

George Schlatter: (laughs) Yeah?

Kliph Nesteroff: I talked to Chris Bearde to get a sense of the dynamic going on in the Laugh-In writers room at the time. I wrote about how Paul Keyes had a bigger part to play in the Nixon administration than most of his contemporaries ever realized. He wrote a memo to Nixon encouraging him to go after The Smothers Brothers.

George Schlatter: Probably. He went after us too. It was Lyndon Johnson that canceled The Smothers Brothers, but it was Nixon who got rid of me. It's an interesting story that has never really been told. We brought Paul in. Most of the stuff that we were criticized for were sex jokes that Paul Keyes wrote for Dick Martin. The whole Dick Martin lifestyle became the subject matter Paul Keyes wrote by the ton. Then he turned around and said that I was in bad taste! Here was Paul trying to shtup one of the secretaries! This moralist, you know?

Richard Nixon sent the top cop from NBC from New York to meet with me. This was right after Nixon had been elected. We did a joke: "Would you buy a used battleship from this man?" That's the joke that Paul Keyes quit over. He said, "I can not allow myself to be a part of jokes about the president." I said, "Well, where the fuck [was this attitude of yours] when Lyndon Johnson was in?" Anyway, the NBC guy came in and said that there could be no more political humor on Laugh-In, no more jokes about the Pentagon or about nuclear energy or Vietnam or any of that stuff. I said, "You must be out of your mind." He said, "It's not even a question of airing it. We won't even let you tape it." 

So, at that point I said, "Well, I'm out of here. " That's when I left the show. That was, of course, when Richard Nixon would call Paul Keyes every Monday night after the show had aired in Washington, and reviewed the whole show with him. "What was on and was it balanced?" Later they ended up doing a section on Laugh-In called "Balanced Viewpoint" where they took news items and showed how they were twisted by liberal writers. It became a real platform for the right and that is, of course, when the show died. People said, "Wait a minute. I don't mind laughing, but I'm not going to be preached to." And that was Paul Keyes.

Kliph Nesteroff: It's just as well. Nobody at all remembers the last years of Laugh-In. It had a completely different cast with people like Stu Gilliam, Willie Tyler and Lester... totally forgotten seasons.

George Schlatter: The last season was when they blackballed anything that was not on-point propaganda wise. You know a lot about it don't you, you son of a...

Kliph Nesteroff: That's such a bizarre dichotomy. You've got Paul Keyes there and you've got Allan Mannings, a left-wing comedy writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s... 

George Schlatter: Yes. How did you know about that? How do you know? You son of a bitch, you're pretty good, aren't you?

Kliph Nesteroff: I'm immersed in comedy history, I don't know why but...

George Schlatter: Well, get this new book by Ben Shapiro... We were too dumb to google him before we talked to him. Here comes this young guy who looks like he just cut class to come over here, right? He says he just wants to talk television as a fan of television. Of course, I fuck around a lot when I talk. So then I got a call from some guy with Variety [asking], "Did you call Ann Coulter a cunt?" I said, "I did not call her a cunt. I said that without Ann Coulter there would be no need for the C word." Anyway, yes, Allan Mannings wrote on Laugh-In and was a fierce liberal. Paul Keyes, everything he wrote had a bent to it. The headwriter who was mostly responsible for Laugh-In's creation was Digby Wolfe. He was a big star in Australia. They came to him in the middle of the night and said, "You have to leave now." Because he had taken on the Prime Minister. So Digby (laughs) left Australia in the middle of the night. Did Chris Bearde tell you any of that stuff?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, I mostly talked to him about working in Canadian television in the early 1960s and how he moved into television comedy in Los Angeles. That's where I am sort of at. I'm in Vancouver working for the CBC and trying to figure out a way to get to Los Angeles legitimately. There's just more work and more interest in what I do down there. At this point I don't have any working papers... you need to have a sponsor and things like that. Chris told me how [comedian] Phil Foster played a big role in helping him get into America legally. That's kind of where I'm at now. But we talked about that and a lot about his work at the CBC where he orchestrated a satirical program that was sorta the Canadian version of That Was the Week That Was.

George Schlatter: Did that wind up in your piece on Paul Keyes?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, but I'll send it to you.

George Schlatter: Chris, before Canada, was in Australia and Digby Wolfe was the one responsible for him coming down and doing Laugh-In.  Later I'd hear Chris in interviews saying he invented Laugh-In - which I always thought was interesting seeing as how we'd been on the air for two years already.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, he didn't say that to me. 

George Schlatter: He didn't? Well, anyhow...

Kliph Nesteroff: That being said, I didn't write a history of Laugh-In so much as the history of the Paul Keyes relationship with Richard Nixon, which started when he was writing for Jack Paar. I talk a lot about that and how after the poor showing in the Nixon-Kennedy debate, he wanted to do everything to avoid anything like that from ever happening again. He hired a group of young image groomers, all adherents of Marshall McLuhan's theories, to help him cultivate a healthy television persona. Paul Keyes was one of them and so was Roger Ailes...

George Schlatter: Roger Ailes was right there. Now responsible for the Fox News talking points every Monday.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah. Back then he and the others applied McLuhan's theories to selling Nixon.

George Schlatter: Paul Keyes was the one that got him to do Laugh-In. Paul did it to get him in the mainstream and make him seem like a good guy. I had... Paul took it... I wish I had it... the tape... the outtakes. It took five or six takes for Nixon to say,"Sock it to me!" "No, no, Mr. President, you've got to sort of smile." "I'm new at this comedy thing. Okay, like a surprise? Okay." "Take two!" "Sock it to me?" "No, no, Mr. President..." It was a hysterical piece of tape, but then Paul copped it.

Kliph Nesteroff: There's a couple of conversations that came to light from the Nixon tapes of Paul Keyes and the president talking on the phone. Paul also recruited Jackie Gleason to do his famous Richard Nixon endorsement commercial.

George Schlatter:  I would love to read the article about Paul. I didn't see it.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'll e-mail it to you. I'm sure there will be parts of it that you will have a different take on it.

George Schlatter: Most of the stories about that whole period put the interviewee in the center of the action, when in reality we were all on the periphery. But it was a wonderful magical time.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

George Schlatter: Now listen, I'm doing this thing with Whoopi about Moms Mabley. I was a big fan of Moms. I was the only white guy that would go to the Apollo. When we did the [American] Comedy Awards, Whoopi did the first one and said, "I would love to do an impression of Moms Mabley." So, Whoopi went on there and she said, "There was this woman I grew up watching and her name was Moms Mabley..." As she was doing this she got into a whole Moms drag ... it was enormously effective and I became friends with Whoopi after that. I kept calling Whoopi, "I want to do the Moms Mabley story." We kept getting close to it and then she said she couldn't, whatever. A few weeks ago she called me, "Let's do it now." We've been talking about it and we're talking about who we should talk to. We've talked to some of the young people that were influenced like Chris Rock, people that were influenced even if they never really knew her or saw her. I certainly was influenced by her. Eventually I booked Pigmeat Markham on Laugh-In through Sammy [Davis Jr]. We were doing these Judge lines and said, "Remember Pigmeat Markahm?" I had seen him in St. Louis where I grew up. So we found him, brought him out and put him on the show. It was great.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, I wrote a big piece on Pigmeat too. Back in November.

George Schlatter: You did? "Piggie, Piggie Piggie." "Seals muh boy, Seals muh boy, Seals muh boy." Everything started out with "Piggie, Piggie, Piggie." "Seals muh boy, Seals muh boy, Seals muh boy." My devotion was to Moms. She went on The Smothers Brothers and I was very close to all these subversives.

Kliph Nesteroff: Of course.

George Schlatter: Of course, right? So I thought with the research you've done on Moms, maybe we oughta talk to you about working on this. I want to take these different interviews - and tape different people with Whoopi talking to them. I have access to that whole time period with the Apollo and what have you. So that's what we're going to build it around. What I hope to do is show the effect of the Black culture on America and on the world. 

I don't know how much of that we're going to get into, but I would like it to capture the culture and how Moms affected it. In your story you wrote about how she was raped and how her father forced her to get married to this old man. "I married this old man. A man older than his mother." (laughs)

Kliph Nesteroff: "He was older than his birthday."

George Schlatter: So now, I don't know what we can do, but I really liked what you did. I'm going to talk to Whoopi and have her read through your stuff so we could involve you in the writing or whatever. Have you written for American television?

Kliph Nesteroff: No, only Canadian. America is what I'm trying to shoot for.

George Schlatter: Well, Allan Mannings was Canadian and the other guy we brought down, of course, was Lorne Michaels. He went right from the airport to Dan and Dick's dressing room and I never saw him again.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

George Schlatter: (laughs) He was into Dan and Dick.

Kliph Nesteroff: His partner Hart Pomerantz disappeared too and went back to practicing law...

George Schlatter: Yes, Hart Pomerantz I knew. Allan Blye. Knew all of those Canadian guys. The need for Laugh-In was so vast that we had political pundits on both sides. We had Paul Keyes - we had Allan Mannings. We had Digby Wolfe - we had Gene Farmer. Gene Farmer was a professor of political science at Bemidji, Minnesotra (laughs). We put them all in a room run by Digby Wolfe and it was quite a heated environment, you know?

Kliph Nesteroff: Canada has always been a good training ground for comedy writers...

George Schlatter: Sure.

Kliph Nesteroff: Our show business culture is so much smaller, it's like a farm team. By the time you get to America, you're more or less ready to be thrown into the mix. Frank Peppiatt was from here too.

George Schlatter: Yes, but I preferred the subversives. People like George Carlin and Tom Lehrer. I booked Tom Lehrer into Ciro's as a nightclub act. We had not one person, not even one reservation by 8:30 that night. I thought, "I'm in deep shit now." But then they started coming out of the woodwork. He sat there in a dark blue suit with brown shoes and I had him on a percentage. End of the first week he says, "Well, how did we do?" I said, "Well, you know we did this, we did that." He was able to correct me exactly - knew what the gross was, what they spent, because he was a mathematics professor! He was a funny son-of-a-bitch.

Kliph Nesteroff: Some of his few television appearances were on That Was the Week That Was, a show that has been buried for all time. There was so much show talent on that show: Tom Leher, Mort Sahl, Nichols and May, Woody Allen, Buck Henry, Henry Morgan...

George Schlatter: I'm trying to buy the rights to it right now.

Kliph Nesteroff: That would be amazing. It's something that needs to be seen again. 

George Schlatter: You're a smart son of a bitch. I don't know where you've been, but I'm glad I finally hooked up with you. I liked the article a lot. I'd love to read the Paul Keyes article and we will talk some more as we get closer now. Where was your research for Moms Mabley done? It's very thorough.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, these days my research is much more thorough. That's one of the reasons I say I'm not totally happy with that Mabley article from 2007 because I don't think I went far enough, really.

George Schlatter: Why did you do it?

Kliph Nesteroff:  The reason I write about anything... There wasn't enough information about her out there. So whenever I look something up and I can't find enough information about it, that means I should write about it.

George Schlatter: There's an act you should look up sometime. Miller and Lyles. You ever hear of them? They were Amos n' Andy before Amos n' Andy. They were the ones that Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll stole the Amos n' Andy idea from. Miller and Lyles worked in minstrel, but they were Black... so they had to put the make-up on when they left the house. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Pigmeat Markham also wore blackface in vaudeville. He was essentially the last Black performer to wear blackface. He was still wearing blackface in the early 1940s and there was a lot of pressure on him from the NAACP to stop it. But just like you say - he had to say those three words before...

George Schlatter: Piggie, Piggie, Piggie...

Kliph Nesteroff: The same way he refused to perform without burnt cork because he felt that he couldn't.

George Schlatter: Well, when we put him on Laugh-In, it was impossible to get him to say anything other than what he had always said. He was not a real bright man.

Kliph Nesteroff: In the late sixties he had his resurgence in popularity doing the exact shtick that had gone out of fashion, during an era of Black Power. That this anachronism would become popular amidst that is really strange.

George Schlatter: It became popular because of Laugh-In. Sammy came in and we had written all these Judge bits. He said, "Do you remember Pigmeat?" We said, "Yeah!" And we found him. it was tough to find him. We brought him out and put him on stage with his sidekick "Seals muh boy!" Sammy did Here Come the Judge and when we walked down the hall that night everybody was saying, "Here come the judge." The next week when the Supreme Court came in, someone in the back hollered, "Here come the judge!" And the whole place cracked up. At that point Laugh-In had a fifty share. Well, then you'd hear, "Here come the judge"all the time and that swept the whole country. That's what brought Pigmeat back.

Kliph Nesteroff: That catchphrase stuck around for a while, but very few realize where it came from.

George Schlatter: When you come out to California I will show you a library of scripts going back to, goddamn, the first Emmys and the first Grammys, my God. I've been doing this for a long ass time.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'll be back in Los Angeles this September. I qualify for a work visa only if I have a job opportunity. You need to have people of stature to vouch, so it's a complicated process. 

George Schlatter: Yes. Yes. Yes. What I want you to do is - send me the letter you want sent - okay? And let me see If I may be able to help you. All of the people you mentioned we helped get their green cards - Chris Bearde, Lorne Michaels and a lot of them.

Send me the Paul Keyes thing and send me a copy of the letter that you would like sent... let me see because Whoopi and I are partners on this project, so let me see if I can't... because I believe you would perform a valuable function. You have done a tremendous amount of research. That's why I enjoyed your article so much because you went back and cited things that... some of the things I was not familiar with. Most of the things I was familiar with because of longevity. I say longevity. You could say old age (laughs). Last night we had a funeral service for Bill Foster. Billy Foster was the guy that did the pilot of Laugh-In and he did everything from Redd Foxx to Smothers Brothers. He was a director. I saw all these guys there and it looked like God's waiting room. Jesus Christ, I can't believe I am a contemporary with some of these people. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, that's the nature of it. I try to talk to as many of the guys, as horrible as it sounds, before they die.

George Schlatter: Yeah, well I'm glad we're chatting.

Kliph Nesteroff:  Yeah, this is great. I do a lot of long interviews with Jack Carter...

George Schlatter: He was at Suzanne Pleshette's funeral. One of the guys saw Jack sitting there and he turned around and he said, "Well, Jack, it's hardly worth going home, is it?" (laughs)

Kliph Nesteroff: I find him fascinating in so many ways. I have a pretty good rapport with him. I haven't been on the receiving end of his scorn. Everyone tells me it's just a matter of time.

George Schlatter: Yes. He's going to turn on you. He just can't resist it.

Kliph Nesteroff: I don't think so. We get along pretty good. [Ed note: April 2013 - Jack Carter turned on me] I mean I probably know as much about his career as anybody. His career is fascinating. He did everything and was everywhere, but nobody knows him today unless they're really into old showbiz.

George Schlatter: You wanna say 'historical' instead of old? Make me feel better, you fuck (laughs). Well, see, Jack Carter does not make a lot of friends. He had a series and so forth but he was always so pissed off that he stepped on his own dick, all the time.

Kliph Nesteroff: But somebody like Red Buttons or Milton Berle - didn't they kind of do the same thing?

George Schlatter: No.

Kliph Nesteroff: No?

George Schlatter: Because Milton was so huge with television just coming in and so forth he got away with it... and Red Buttons was just a cute little guy and he did all of that - Strange Things are Happening with his thumb in his ear... but Red was as tough on writers as anybody...

Kliph Nesteroff: Red Skelton is another guy with terrible stories...

George Schlatter: Well, Red Skelton had that phony God bullshit with, "God Bless," y'know. Then you realize that his dress rehearsal was the filthiest event in town. They did the dirtiest dress rehearsal around and then he would go on and do this, "God Bless" and the country and the flag and all this shit and he was a dirty old man! But he was tough. Red was tough. I did his last television show. Jackie Gleason was tough too. First show I ever did with Gleason we show up with the script. And I had heard all of the stories about him. He sits there with a giant hangover and he looks over the script and says, "This is shit!" He threw the script up in the air and pages went all over the room. He says, "Work on this. It's shit." Everyone was sitting there saying, "Ah, holy shit, how do we even put this all back together?" He walked out and I pulled another script out. I said, "I knew what that fuck was going to do. Here's the script."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

George Schlatter: (laughs) So the next day he looked at it and said, "That's a lot better." Ah, I had fun with him too.

Kliph Nesteroff: I talked to Sherwood Schwartz about writing for Red Skelton...

George Schaltter: Yeah...

Kliph Nesteroff: Schwartz quit Red Skelton at the height of the show's primetime success. He couldn't take anymore abuse.

George Schlatter: Yeah, well, I talk to Skelton's wife all the time. He was not a nice man, you know? Nor was Gleason a nice man. Sinatra loved Gleason. They would hang out a lot together. Red Buttons was murder on writers. So was Bob Hope. Jack Benny was not. At one point Jack Benny had two writers that were in their mid-sixties, the last ones to join his staff. Benny said, "Well, let the new kids do this." They were sixty years old!

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

George Schlatter: The new kids.

Kliph Nesteroff: It was a different era. Some of Benny's writers were with him for thirty years.

George Schlatter: That's right.

Kliph Nesteroff: That would never happen today.

George Schlatter: Woody Allen just did Midnight in Paris and there is a producer credit for Jack Rollins. Jack Rollins has been with him forever.

Kliph Nesteroff: Jack Rollins, I have never interviewed. I would sure love to.

George Schlatter: Call him up! There's a whole history on Jack Rollins. You know, it's interesting to talk to you because a lot of people not only don't know anything - but they have no interest. You're the only guy alive that knows about these people.

Kliph Nesteroff: This morning I phoned Eddie the Old Philosopher Lawrence. He's still alive.

George Schlatter: Yeah, so is Irwin Corey. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Irwin is 97.

George Schlatter: Yeah, I brought him out to do one of the [American] Comedy Awards. The network said, "You can't put that old man on. Who the fuck is he?" I said, "Guys! I'm gonna put him on." They said, "Okay. Put him on in dress [rehearsal]." He comes out there, right? Here's Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor - all of 'em - they become hysterical over Irwin Corey.

Kliph Nesteroff: Gleason loved him.

George Schlatter: Sure, sure. And Baylos.

Kliph Nesteroff: And Al Kelly.

George Schlatter: Al Kelly, yeah. Gene Baylos was the one they took a lot of stuff from. Jerry Lewis took a ton of stuff from Gene Baylos.

Kliph Nesteroff: He adored him, yeah.

George Schlatter: Yes, well, everybody did. He was the cheapest man in the world. I used to do shows at Ciro's and brought Gene Baylos out. He would come through and someone would say, "Gene, how's it going?" Gene would say, "How's it going? Are you kidding? I just closed in Vegas and I'm on my way to Miami. After Miami I go into the Copa in New York and after that I'm going into Reno and then I'm coming out here to do a picture..." While he's telling you how good it's going, he was picking food up off the tables and putting it in his pockets (laughs). You know? So the last thing you wanted to say was "Gene, how's it going?"

So, anyway, listen, it's good to talk to you and send me that stuff and then we'll talk some more. We'll get together when you're out here or something... where do you stay when you're out here?

Kliph Nesteroff: Depends. I haven't put together my trip yet. Last time I was there I was put up at The Roosevelt.

George Schlatter: My star is on the street in front of the Roosevelt. Stars on the Walk of Fame are a little like hemorrhoids. Sooner or later every asshole gets one. Well, listen, you're a delight to talk to and try to get that Shapiro book.

Kliph Nesteroff: The book by the kid who misrepresented himself...

George Schlatter: Well, no, he didn't misrepresent himself - we just never asked! He said he was a big fan of television and he wanted to do a book. I did what I'm doing with you. Told him some pretty funny shit. Okay. Well, listen, I loved talking to you, you're a good guy and let's see what we can do here. You sure did a good job on Moms Mabley, pal.

Kliph Nesteroff: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

George Schlatter: I think this is fate that we got together here somehow. We'll be able to get your Canadian ass down here and import one more Mountie. 

It's interesting to meet someone else who is a fan, y'know.

Kliph Nesteroff: There are probably plenty of Moms Mabley fans out there somewhere.

George Schlatter: Yeah, but not knowledgable. People like the jokes she did, but to understand about the rape, and understand about the husband, and understand about going from the Apollo to Carnegie Hall and Martin Luther King and all of that... not a lot of people know that. You're a rarity. I don't know what the fuck you are. How old are you?

Kliph Nesteroff: Thirty.

George Schlatter: Fuck you (laughs). Fuck you! (laughs) Fuck! Go fuck yourself! No!

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

George Schlatter: Ah, Jesus Christ. Well, you're the same age as this prick that wrote this book on the... You're thirty years old?

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah.

George Schlatter: Fuck, I was born older than that. You're amazing, young man. You're amazing (laughs). To have acquired the knowledge that you have and to have that at your fingertips - if I was still doing Laugh-In I would have your ass down here in a minute.


MontyAlban said...

Another great interview. Schlatter was right: you are a great interviewer and researcher. Your knowledge of your subject is always amazing. While I remember seeing people like Moms on tv, I really knew nothing about them, other than they were funny. Love your articles as well. I can't wait for your book. By the way, is there some way to contribute to your site without going through the internet?

AndrewJ said...

Gee, try drawing George out of his shell next time... :)

John Clark said...

Kliph, I really enjoy your site and appreciate your considerable knowledge about post-World War II showbusiness. How did you come by your skill at researching and writing? I am an historian in academia and you do better work than the majority of my peers. Please keep up the good work!

John Clark said...

Would love to know the inside story that led to Bambi Haggins getting the historical consultant role for the Moms Mabley documentary. She's certainly qualified---has about five degrees from prestigious universities in disciplines ranging from literature to radio/TV and she has gotten a lot of work published.

That said, I think you would have done a better job of contextualizing Mabley's comedy within the larger world of entertainment in the 1940s-1960s.

I look forward to reading more of your work!

Anonymous said...

This blog should be renamed Manna from Heaven.

mackdaddyg said...

I always enjoy interviews with this guy. He's a treasure chest of anecdotes from a truly golden age.

Thanks for sharing the conversation.

Jamesey said...

Who is going to do the definitive book on George Schlatter? He is truly a Hollywood talent around the best talents of a wild and amazing era of greats. I would write for him in a skinny minute. jamesarc-at-g-mail-.-com