Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Interview with William Schallert - Part Two


William Schallert: It was around 1950 when I was sent to MGM along with a bunch of other actors. Leonard Murphy was the guy in casting. I’d worked for MGM in a couple of minor parts, real one-day-wonders, but that's the way I got started in the business. I think my father’s name helped. He was a well-known newspaper columnist and they sort of thought, "Well, it couldn’t hurt to have Edward Schallert’s son in here. His father will be reviewing the picture."


I was called out there along with some other people. And there were about ten of us who were sitting around on an empty sound stage and grey benches. We were hunkered down on those and in came John Huston and his entourage. He had a guy working with him named Albert Band who I worked for later when he was directing at the Ivar. He was the son of a famous German painter.



Albert was like an apprentice with John Huston. The same thing happened with Alan J. Pakula. He was an apprentice with a guy at Paramount. It was the kind of thing that directors would do sometimes. They would take someone under their wing and have them do the gofer stuff, but very often they would also contribute to the script. Anyway, we were all sitting around on these benches when in comes Huston and his entourage. He looked at us and asked a couple of questions and none of us said anything as none of us had read the script. We didn’t know what the film was or anything. He looked us over and then he left. A little while later Leonard came to us and he said "All right boys and girls!" That’s what they used to call people who had small parts...


"All right, boys and girls, you can go now." I didn’t think anything would come of it, but they called a little while later and I was cast. It was called The Red Badge of Courage. I got six weeks of work out of it. That was very handy because my wife and I had just had a baby. Working with Huston - it was marvelous. It was as though Mathew Brady had a motion picture camera and he was shooting the Civil War stuff again. Huston had a wonderful eye for all of that.


The picture did not do well at the box office. They added narration by James Whitmore. He was a hell of a good actor, but he sounded amateurish when he did this narration. I thought the narration finished any chance this picture had. But by that time Huston no longer had any control over it. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Right, yeah he griped about that. In fact it was the basis for a famous book called Picture.


William Schallert: Lillian Ross.

Kliph Nesteroff: Lillian Ross, yeah. 

William Schallert: She also wrote about Charlie Chaplin and The Circle Theatre. She did a piece about Chaplin for the New Yorker. It was based on his stepping in and directing What Every Woman Knows, a J.M. Barrie play. I had started directing it, but Chaplin stepped in and, uh, "fixed it."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

William Schallert: (laughs) He said, "No no no! This is a very gentle comedy you can’t do slapstick!" I had done something of which Chaplin didn’t approve. But anyway, he did a marvelous job with it and it was a very good production. I was in it as an actor too so it was alright.


Kliph Nesteroff: You also were in a T.S. Elliot play around that same time with Vincent Price called The Cocktail Party.

William Schallert: Yeah.

Kliph Nesteroff: It also involved two other people who are still alive - Marsha Hunt and Norman Lloyd.

William Schallert: Right. Well, Norman was the reason I was in that. He had directed a production of it with Patricia Neal. When I was in rehab for my legs two years ago, she was there too.  She remembered me and she wanted to talk to me. She said “Do you remember that fella I was going with at the time?” I said, “Oh yeah. I’ve never forgotten that." It was Gary Cooper. She had an affair with him from when they were working on that picture... Ayn Rand… something...

Kliph Nesteroff: The Fountainhead.


William Schallert: Yeah, that’s it. So she saw me and she said "You remember the fella that I was going with then?" Or she made some reference to it and I said "I’ll never forget it." There's a photo of the two of them and she had a look on her face like, 'God, would you grow up?' And he didn’t. You know, he stayed with his wife while having this affair. In the meanwhile it was heartbreaking for Patricia. She really had a tough time because of that. But at the very end of her life, she and I were in this rehab center together. And then I think she passed away after I left. 


Kliph Nesteroff: And you mention that Norman Lloyd was the reason you were in the play.

William Schallert: Yeah, Norman used to come to The Circle Theater and he encouraged us to do this play. For a while we operated three theaters and in one of them we were doing a production of a play by what's his name. One of the French guys…

Kliph Nesteroff: Moliere?


William Schallert: No, no, it was a modern day French playwright like…  I’m sorry, I’m drawing a blank on it.

Kliph Nesteroff: Genet?

William Schallert: No. In any event, Norman was casting this and he decided that I should be in it. I read for it and I was doing absolutely the wrong thing. I was taking it dead serious and it’s actually quite an elegant comedy with an overtone of mysticism. It works well on the stage. We had a wonderful cast. 



Harry Ellerbe was in it. He had played with Nazimova on Broadway in Ghosts by Ibsen. Rose Hobart was in it. She was blacklisted and wasn’t working much. And Reginald Denny - who was just wonderful to work with. I had a good time with him. He took me under his wing when we were on the road up in San Francisco. 



He was very much like his character. Reginald had been in India with the British troops and like the character in the play he was quite a cook. He taught me how to make Kedgeree, which was a very good Indian dish. And we had a wonderful actress, older actress named Estelle Winwood. She was described as the woman with fried egg eyes. 


It was just the way she looked with these kind of droopy eyes. She was famous for being in the original productions of George Bernard Shaw in England. She was quite well known, a good reputation. And it was a thrill working with somebody like that. She came into the production when we re-did it. They went on the road with it.  We did the original with Patricia Neal at the La Jolla Playhouse. That was when Norman Lloyd directed me and I wasn’t very good. I hadn’t got hold of the part yet. 



The road version was produced by Lewis and Young. They did mainly musical theater up in Sacramento. And they were going to produce this roadshow of The Cocktail Party and they were obligated by Actors Equity to offer it to the La Jolla cast first because they created the parts.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have cast me - I don’t think. But they did because they had to. 


William Schallert: I played it in San Francisco for four weeks. And then in Los Angeles at the Biltmore. We’d been playing in San Francisco at The Curran, which was a lovely red velvet theater that had a permanent orchestra. They'd play before the production each night. It was not a musical, but it had accompaniment. It was lovely stuff. It gave you the feeling of being in a very elegant production. The Biltmore was downtown at Fifth and Hope. It was a very dark theater, and Estelle Winwood said after the opening night, "Oh Darling, it was like playing to an empty swimming pool!"  


That really summed it up because we bombed. We’d been getting a nice response from the audience up in San Francisco but down here on opening night it was a catastrophe. Eventually I got out of it. They went on a tour around the country and Vincent Price went with it.

Kliph Nesteroff: That same year you were in another project with Norman Lloyd. You did the American remake of Fritz Lang’s M with Martin Gabel and Norman Lloyd. It's a real lurid film noir and the last picture made by Joseph Losey before he was blacklisted. 


William Schallert: Yeah, I had a very small part, that’s the main thing I remember. I don’t recall very much about it, I’m sorry. I’m familiar with the original picture, of course, but I don’t know. I played a clerk of some kind in a law office. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Yere in a film directed by Don Weis in 1951 called Banner Line. It starred a guy named Keefe Brasselle. In real life he was connected to the mafia. Do you remember anything about Keefe Brasselle? 

William Schallert: Nope. I worked with Spencer Tracy when I was doing some of these one day parts for MGM, but I don’t really member that. I know I played an ambulance attendant. I had maybe one or two lines. I didn’t actually work with him. 

Kliph Nesteroff: Going through your filmography you are frequently credited as Clerk or Man or Man Behind Desk or Clerk Behind Desk...


William Schallert: Right, right, right, well, those are the anonymous parts that you play when you’re starting out in the business. I did some live television for Buzz Kulik and he liked me and cast me on the Lux Television Theater. And I was very good in the first one. And I was okay in the second one, but I should have been playing the lead. They didn’t think I was leading man material.  So that defined me. I was definitely stuck in the character actor bit. 

Kliph Nesteroff: You were in the remake of the Jazz Singer with Danny Thomas. It was directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz.


William Schallert: Yes, I remember how I got it. My agent was a guy named Leon Lance and he knew all kinds of people in town. Leon was, I don’t know, he was probably not a top-ranked agent or anything like that, but he handled a lot of people including James Arness. He represented people who made it big and then they would leave him. And so he was always being left and finally he gave up representing actors and would only represent writers because they were more faithful. But Leon got me in to see Mike Curtiz. I did a screen test with that wonderful singer - Peggy Lee. She was very fun and thanked me for doing it. I played a stage manager.


All I did was come in and say "Okay, boys and girls, let’s get ready for the play!" You can’t do much with that. You just have to know your lines and show up on time. When I first started I was very bad about being on time and I had some problems with that at Republic Pictures. Eventually I bought my way out of a contract with them. I said, "I know I'm supposed to be under contract here, but I can't live on the money that you’re offering." I wasn't working that much. I decided there was no hope for me at Republic, so I got out of that. 


Kliph Nesteroff: One step down from Republic was Monogram. You did a movie at Monogram called Flat Top with Sterling Hayden. Monogram Studios was the cheapest of them all.

William Schallert:  Yeah, and they changed their name to Allied Artists. Yeah, I don’t know. That was definitely a cheap picture. My wife thought I was terrible in it. I was in a very good picture for Don Siegel at Allied Artists called Riot in Cellblock 11. It was actually pretty good.


Kliph Nesteroff:  Sure, all of Don Siegel's B-movies are excellent.

William Schallert: I played a newsman in that one. I worked for Don a couple of times later on. The best thing I did with him was Charley Varrick.

Kliph Nesteroff: Sure, Walter Matthau. Another great film.


William Schallert: Matthau and I got to be good friends when I did Lonely are the Brave with him. And that was maybe the best part I had in a high quality picture. It didn’t make a lot of money but it was a beautiful picture. It was written by Dalton Trumbo and based on a book by a guy named Edward Abbey. So, anyway…


Kliph Nesteroff: You became a semi-regular on The George Burns and Gracie Allen program, or you did several episodes, anyway. What do you remember about that experience? 

William Schallert: Well, I loved working with Gracie Allen. She was terrific, I did most of my stuff with her. And it was just wonderful. I was glad to go back several times. One of the things about that show - the guy on it later produced and directed me in The Patty Duke Show - Rod Amateau, 

Kliph Nesteroff: He later created Dukes of Hazard. His son is the head chef at Musso and Frank. 




William Schallert: In any event, I loved working with Gracie. I think I was on the show about three or four times. I always loved working with her and she was just wonderful. The other thing I noticed - you would rehearse one day and then you would shoot it the next. So you’d be finished in two days. 



That was the same thing we did on Dobie Gillis. I guess Rod Amateau directed that too. The amazing thing to me was watching George Burns do his monologue. They used to set it up so he was in a corner of the stage. They would set the camera up and he would start doing his monologue - and he would leave spaces after he delivered the punchline.  He’d leave a space for them to insert the laugh. He always knew where the laughs were. I mean, I don’t know anybody else who could do that because in those days it was usually live. 



I worked on stuff with Lucille Ball and they were done in sequence with a live audience. I did a number of things at CBS for Red Skelton and Jack Benny.  They recorded their laugh track from their actual audience, a live audience. But here, we didn’t have an audience. Just George Burns with his knowledge of what was funny and how long the laugh should last and things like that. It was all in his head. It was amazing to see. It was just him and a single camera and there was no way to cut. They did it in one take and he was always right. 


Kliph Nesteroff:  You were supposed to be in the Orson Welles film Touch of Evil and then you weren’t. What happened there?

William Schallert: Well, Albert Zugsmith was the culprit. The first picture in which I had a major part was called The Man From Planet X.

Kliph Nesteroff: I love that weird creature.


William Schallert: I got billing and all that kind of stuff. The two guys that did that were a writing team - Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg. They weren’t famous for anything other than they got pictures made for very little money. And they introduced Albert Zugsmith to the business.



Zugsmith, I think, had been in real estate or something and he’d made money. So he came in and backed a couple of pictures I did with them. He became convinced that I could do anything because I’d played a variety of parts in their pictures. Some of them were villainous, some were comedies. He was convinced I could do anything. He was a producer on Touch of Evil and wanted me in it. The part that was eventually played by Joesph Calleia. The part was of a fifty-year-old Mexican police lieutenant. I’m not like a police lieutenant to begin with and I'm obviously not Mexican. I wasn't anywhere near fifty. Charlton Heston played a Mexican in the film and they darkened him with make-up. They were going to do that with me too.  I got introduced to Orson Welles and he said “What? This kid? No. Get him off the set.” That was the end for me in Touch of Evil.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

An Interview with Sam Bobrick - Part One


Kliph Nesteroff: You wrote an album that I have owned for years called Mad Twists Rock n' Roll.

Sam Bobrick: Oh, Mad, yeah. We did two of them. Mad Twists Rock n' Roll and Fink Along with Mad. I made zero dollars on both. I was a young man then. It was the late 1950s and it was fun. We thought it was going to take off, but it was with a very crooked record company. Big Top Records. And the tent came down...


Kliph Nesteroff: Most record companies seemed to be crooked back then, but what was it about Big Top Records that was specifically crooked?

Sam Bobrick: They didn't pay you. That's crooked enough.

Kliph Nesteroff: The song Nose Job had staying power. It's sort of a novelty classic and it was even covered by a couple of different bands.

Sam Bobrick: Yes, and on the second album we had a thing called It's a Gas. Howard Stern still plays it. It's just music punctuated with a belch. I left the music business because nobody would pay me. I had one hit for Elvis Presley called The Girl of My Best Friend and that was it. I had an agent, George Shaprio, who became the manager of Jerry Seinfeld. He came to New York, he took me to California, and I started writing half-hours. I never went back into the music business. He hired me for my first job in New York as an office boy for the scarecrow - Ray Bolger. He had a show on NBC called Washington Square.


My first job in the business was in the mail room of ABC. There was a guy who had the job before me at the Ray Bolger show. After a few weeks he felt he wasn't going anywhere - because you don't go anywhere. I hated the mail room so much. I applied for this job and George Shapiro hired me. I wrote a lot on spec, sketches and things like that. He always liked my writing and at that time most of the television was moving to the Coast.  I don't know why, but I didn't like New York. It was just okay. George brought me out to Los Angeles in 1962. I left my apartment and everything in New York. I wasn't going back. I just loved it here! But I did have to go back and live in New York for a year because I was doing the Kraft Music Hall.


Kliph Nesteroff: Where else did you submit material prior to the Ray Bolger show?

Sam Bobrick: There were some radio programs. The Robert Q. Lewis radio show, which was the last network show on the air. After my job as an office boy on Ray Bolger, I got another job as an office boy on Make Me Laugh. It lasted thirteen weeks. Robert Q. Lewis was the host. They got a bunch of comics, put a person in a chair and tried to make them laugh. You don't know how hard that is because the comics weren't funny. It was a disastrous show. 


They were paying me a hundred dollars a week to write jokes for the comics, but they would never use them. These were old time comics who never trusted new material. They only trusted the old material, which they had stolen. When the show closed, I was very funny at the closing night party and Robert Q. Lewis hired me for his radio show. That kind of started me in the New York area writing. I wrote Captain Kangaroo


I wrote a bunch of game shows. One was called Music Bingo. I would write the interviews and you would work wherever you could. I started writing, but there was no business left in New York at the time. George said, "You've got to come out here to California and you'll work."

Kliph Nesteroff: Robert Q. Lewis obviously liked you a lot, but a lot of people behind the scenes did not like Robert Q. Lewis.



Sam Bobrick: Well, he wasn't likable! He was convinced that he was destined to replace Jack Paar. It never happened and suddenly his fortunes faded. The show went off the air and I think he moved out here. I saw him once, but he didn't remember who I was.

Kliph Nesteroff: By the late sixties he was mostly doing cigarette commercials.



Sam Bobrick: And on Make Me Laugh, the sponsor was L&M Cigarettes. There was a comic by the name of Lenny Kent on the show and there was a brand at the time called Kent Cigarettes which was a competitor. We got a note, one of those stupid notes that I wish I had kept. It said, "When you introduce Lenny Kent - say the word Kent very fast."


Kliph Nesteroff: I've seen one episode of the Robert Q. Lewis Make Me Laugh where Ernie Kovacs does a walk-on to promote some show.

Sam Bobrick: I don't remember. Those days were fun... maybe. When you're struggling, it's never really fun until you look back at it. I had an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, forty dollars a month and my unemployment check was forty dollars a week. So I lived pretty good struggling. You can't do that anymore. I look back on New York more fondly than I thought I would.


Kliph Nesteroff: Many of your first credits in Los Angeles were with Bill Idelson.

Sam Bobrick: Those are the half-hours that I did. When I came out here they teamed me up with Bill Idelson. He had an assignment and needed a partner for The Andy Griffith Show. Bill Idelson was also an actor and he worked on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He asked Carl Reiner who he would recommend. 


Well, George Shapiro is Carl Reiner's nephew. You know, it's all luck. There were two writers working for Carl named Sam Denoff and Bill Persky. I was Sam Denoff's roommate when I came out here. They recommended me. Bill Idelson and I did our first assignment and Aaron Reuben liked it. Aaron Reuben was the producer of The Andy Griffith Show. The first episode that we wrote won a Writers Guild award. That helped us even more. So we were a team. But my heart really wasn't into writing half-hours, although I loved The Andy Griffith Show. After Don Knotts left the show, it wasn't so good. It wasn't so much fun. I wanted to get away from it so George got me a job on the Smothers Brothers show.


Kliph Nesteroff: The Andy Griffith Show from what I hear was an abnormally blissful set.

Sam Bobrick: Yes. You couldn't find a better show to be on. There were several shows being made at the time, all on the same lot, all produced by Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas. There was a great atmosphere because they appreciated writers and in this town, very few people do.


Kliph Nesteroff: Desilu was a factory.

Sam Bobrick: Yeah, we shot at the Desilu studio but the production company was Leonard-Thomas or Thomas-Leonard. They started with The Danny Thomas Show and then The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Spy and The Andy Griffith Show. It was a nice atmosphere. Most of Hollywood did not treat writers great. Writers are just unimportant. 


Ron Clark was my next writing partner. We wrote four Broadway plays and they all got killed. East of the Mississippi we were playwrights. West of the Mississippi we were gag writers. Writers became more important around the late eighties when they became show runners and started to get paid a lot of money. Making producers out of writers really started with Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas. They really appreciated writers. I think it was because Sheldon Leonard came from the Broadway stage where they do respect writers. Desilu was a great atmosphere and everybody knew everybody else. We worked on several other shows. 


Kliph Nesteroff: Did you write on Joey Bishop's sitcom? That was done at Desilu around the same time.

Sam Bobrick: No, thank God I didn't write on that one. I wrote some Gomer Pyles and whenever Persky and Denoff had a show I would write on those. They didn't last. One was called Good Morning, World. It was a small business. Now it's a huge business with network and cable and the web. It's hard to know everybody, but when I came out here in the early sixties it was not that big of a business.


Kliph Nesteroff: January 1965 - you wrote a special called Allan Sherman's Funnyland.

Sam Bobrick: Oh God, was that a nightmare. Yeah. God, how do you know this? I do not list that on my bio! It was an awful show. Allan was in and out of the hospital and on all kinds of drugs. He was hot after his comedy record. Ronnie Graham and I teamed up to write it. Allan was in the old Cedars-Lebanon Hospital near Los Feliz and he had a suite up there. We wrote this whole show up in his hospital room. But he had doctors giving him pills up the ass. Uppers in the morning and downers at night and he was a total mess. He was all over the place. He was a wreck and thank God we got it over with, but it wasn't fun. 


Kliph Nesteroff: The writers I have listed for that Allan Sherman special are you, Bill Idelson, David Vern and Roger Price.

Sam Bobrick: Oh, yes, you're right. I thought it was Ronnie Graham, but it was actually Roger Price. That's right. I get them mixed up. Roger Price was the guy who did Droodles. Nice guy, very nice guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: The guest stars on that special were Angie Dickinson, Lorne Greene, The Ray Charles Singers and Jack Gilford.



Sam Bobrick: Jack Gilford used to do a lot half-hours too and he was a very nice guy.

Kliph Nesteroff: The special was directed by television veteran Greg Garrison.

Sam Bobrick: Greg Garrison, yes. I knew Greg. He was a nice guy. He was the director of that Ray Bolger show I worked on. He was a ladies man. Great looking. He had the Dean Martin show too. Our paths crossed a little bit and I always found him nice although I never knew him in depth.


Kliph Nesterff: How about the experience of writing a couple episodes of the Flintstones?

Sam Bobrick: Oh, that was fun. Joe Barbera was a great guy. It was the old Jackie Gleason show, basically. Joe called me up one time when I was writing on my own. It was very early in my career. He said, "Let's have lunch." I thought, "Great! My first Hollywood lunch!" When it was time for lunch he called in his secretary and gave her some change. He said, "Get sandwiches." There was a machine that dispensed sandwiches! So disappointing! But he was a nice guy and I wrote a few of them, but I preferred live-action.


Kliph Nesteroff: Same process writing for a cartoon sitcom...

Sam Bobrick: Yeah, actually it is the same process. As a writer you might think a little differently when it's animated. In the old days they would do eighty or ninety percent of what you wrote. That's just the way it was. Now, working on these half hour shows - if ten percent of your script remains, you're very lucky. They tear them apart. Sometimes they make them better. Sometimes they make them worse.


Kliph Nesteroff: You wrote for the Sandy Baron sitcom Hey, Landlord...

Sam Bobrick: That was a Sheldon Leonard show. Garry Marshall was a producer on it and he was fun. He has a theater out here and I wrote a couple plays he put on. Just four years ago one of them won the Edgar Award. Garry has managed to stay on top forever and he loves the business. 


Kliph Nesteroff: He's very funny guy. He has the energy of a stand-up comedian.

Sam Bobrick: There's an old comic named Phil Foster and Garry talks a lot like him. If you were in a room and they were talking you wouldn't know who was who.

Kliph Nesteroff: I still can't believe he isn't Jewish. He has that same cadence and that rhythm.



Sam Bobrick: I know! He broke a lot of hearts by not being Jewish! He's from Brooklyn. I didn't know very much about Sandy Baron, but I know it didn't end well for him. Will Hutchins was on Hey Landlord, but I don't remember what I wrote. I don't even remember the Andy Griffiths I wrote.


Kliph Nesteroff: You wrote for Get Smart...

Sam Bobrick: I wrote a couple, but they would change it so much. I remember hating their rewrites so much. I remember one of my Get Smart scripts won the Writers Guild award - but it was totally different from the actual show they shot! I didn't know Don Adams because most of the time you wouldn't go on the set if you were a writer. 


Kliph Nesteroff: How did you get hired for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour? Everyone talks about its controversial third season, but you were there from the very beginning for season one.

Sam Bobrick: Actually, Ron Clark and I got hired for the second season and we didn't stay for the third. George Shapiro handled the show for the Morris office. Saul Illson and Ernie Chambers were the producers. The third season was when Tommy Smothers took over the show and Illson and Chambers left. Tommy was a terrific talent, but I don't think he was a great producer. We didn't trust him. When the job for the Kraft Music Hall came along for us in New York we took that instead. 


Kliph Nesteroff: Two writers on your season of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour were Hal Goodman and Al Gordon.

Sam Bobrick: My favorite comic in the whole world was Jack Benny. Hal and Al were one of his writing teams. They were just great. Al Gordon was the best joke man I ever met. He would come up with it in a second and Hal was the constructionist. He saw how to make a sketch work. They were a very unusual team. Two totally different guys. Al was very, very nervous. I used to wonder if he was on something. Hal was the calmest man in the word. 


They were great guys and terrific writers. I really, really respected them and they wrote great stuff for the Smothers Brothers. You know when Pat Paulsen would have his monologues? They wrote Pat Paulsen's monologues. I only ever wrote one of them. I stayed friends with Pat Paulsen. I directed him in a couple plays out in Michigan. We had a good time on The Smothers Comedy Hour. It was just fun!


Kliph Nesteroff: How about Gene Farmer?

Sam Bobrick: You know, they first teamed me up with Gene Farmer. I worked one day with him and I said, "It's oil and water." I could not work with him. He had a different style and I was ready to quit the show after the first day. I saw that we weren't a good team. Then they teamed me up with Ron Clark and from the very first hour we were together, it just clicked. Sometimes people have good chemistry and sometimes they don't, just like marriage. Your sense of comedy should really be just like that of your partner. 


Neither of us had much of an ego. If he didn't like my joke I'd come up with another and we could write quickly together. We're still friends. I see Ron about once a week and we have a lot of laughs. It was fun to write with Ron. We started with a summer replacement and I think Eddy Arnold was the host. There was nothing to write because he sang most of the time so we had all this spare time and we said, "Well, let's write a play." We wrote our first play and it was called Norman, Is That You? It bombed in New York.


Kliph Nesteroff: Before we get into that... Allan Blye joined the writing staff of the Smothers Brothers while you were still there...

Sam Bobrick: Yeah, he wrote mostly their musical routines. Later on Bob Einstein and Allan Blye produced a show in Canada called Bizarre with John Byner. It was one of the first cable shows. 


Steve Martin used to hang around the show before he was hired as a writer and I think we maybe even used him as a guest. We used a lot of comics as guests. I remember we used a guy by the name of Gary Mule Deer around that time. Mason Williams was another writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, but I didn't get to know him too well. But I do remember when he called me into the room to hear a song he'd just composed called Classical Gas. He taught himself the guitar. He wrote a book that was just a big fold-out of a bus. That was the whole book. He wrote another song called Saturday Night at the World, which I thought was pretty good. He was a wonderful musician. The fact that he taught himself was amazing. Mason Williams was a real wild thinker. It could been from drugs, I don't know. It was that period in history when psychedelic drugs and stuff like that became common - especially around the Smothers Brothers show.