Monday, December 25, 2006

A Very "CHILD OF TELEVISION" Christmas

As a child I always looked forward to all the Holiday Specials like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, The Little Drummer Boy , Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. These shows were all mandatory family viewing in our house. After the show we as a family discussed what we learned. The Little Drummer Boy taught us that a gift does not have to be a tangible object. The Grinch taught us "Maybe Christmas, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" Charlie Brown taught us what Christmas is all about from a Biblical perspective. And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer taught us not to discriminate against someone who is different, because you may want to exploit that person's abnormality for your own personal gain. Speaking of Santa, did he have an eating disorder? His codependent wife kept saying, "Eat, Poppa, eat. You're gonna disappoint the children. They expect a fat Santa". And when did Mrs. Claus become an Italian mother? According to Rankin & Bass, Santa had a different wife with every story. And not only was Rudolph's father (Donner) ashamed of his son for being different, he was also a chauvinistic pig telling his wife that a woman's place was in the cave. If I was Rudolph when Santa came to me on that foggy Christmas Eve saying, "Rudolph, with your nose so bright, wont you guide my sleigh tonight?" I would have told everyone at the North Pole to go screw themselves and gone to work for PeTA.

As an adult I would hear something about a controversy associated with one of these holiday specials. Usually the controversy would involve some of the things I just joked about. A character was perpetuating a negative stereotype. A negative story line (You kind of need the negative part in order to get to the moral of the story) or that the story was no longer Politically Correct. Strangely enough, I have never heard anyone complain about the religious theme in A Charlie Brown Christmas. I can't help but to think that parents aren’t watching these shows with their kids and talking about them afterwards. Instead they would prefer more low maintenance or watered down stories with no lessons to be learned. These shows were meant to be family viewing not to be used as a babysitter. I understand that things are different now with everyone having a TV in their own room or both parents working, but then again we now also have VCRs and DVD players so you are not limited to network scheduling.

Finally, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The people who grew up with these holiday specials have paid homage to these great shows. Saturday Night Live's Robert Smigel honored A Charlie Brown Christmas on his TV Funhouse. MAD TV honored Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with Raging Rudolph. And last year Office Max honors the Rankin & Bass specials in their commercial featuring the Rubber Band Man.

Thanks to YouTube here is Linus Van Pelt reciting the Gospel according to Luke - Chapter 2:8-14) from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Stay Tuned and Merry Christmas


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Peace on Earth


In that article I mentioned that The Cartoon Network showed Peace on Earth (1939) on the Christmas episode of Toonheads. I described this cartoon as the supporting cast of Bambi (1942) in a scene from All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). The story opens with two baby squirrels asking their grandfather, "What are men?" when he comes in singing "Peace on earth, good will to men". Their Grandpa tells them that there are no men anymore and describes them as violent critters who kept finding new reasons to fight. One example he gave was the vegetarian people fighting with the meat-eating people. Grandpa then tells the kids the story of man's last war with graphic detail.

After the last two men die, all the animals gather in a bombed out church. The wise old owl reads "Thou shalt not kill" from a big book of rules (The Bible).
Then the animals begin to rebuild from their wastes.

This is my new favorite Christmas Cartoon

Peace on Earth & Merry Christmas


Tony Figueroa

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Icons.

My story telling group Story Salon dedicated our last show of 2006 to those who have made an impact on our lives. Looking back at 2006 we have lost many icons, the one that first pops into my CHILD OF TELEVISION brain is actor Don Knotts. Many people consider Barney Fife to be the greatest comedic character in the history of television. Prior to playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show Mr. Knotts played the nervous Mr. Morrison on The Steve Allen Show. Mr. Morrison’s initials were always related to his occupation. For example K.B. Morrison’s job was to place the pins in hand grenades. When Steve Allen asked what the initials K.B. stood for, Mr. Morrison replied, "Kaa Boom!" Steve Allen would ask Mr. Morrison if he was nervous and always got the quick one word reply, "No!!!"

After The Andy Griffith Show Mr. Knotts made movies like The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) and still made guest spots on the The Andy Griffith Show. He earned two of his five Emmys from doing the guests spots. In 1979, Mr. Knotts joined the cast of Three's Company as the new landlord Ralph Furley. I even remember seeing Mr. Knotts as a nervous guy working in a watch repair shop as part of a prank with Allen Funt on Candid Camera but Don Knotts will always be remembered best as Barney Fife.

Why do we love Barney? Even twenty-somethings who were not even alive when Don Knotts was playing Mr. Furley let alone Barney, (the same twenty-somethings who don't care about anything that happened before they were born and don't watch any thing in black & white) love Barney. There have been many great comedic characters on TV, but many of these comedic characters go to a farcical extreme spitting out predictable punch-lines, one liners and zingers. Some even dropped I.Q. points for the sake of a joke. I think there is a lot of Barney in all of us. We may strive to be like Andy Taylor, act like Andy Taylor and may even fool ourselves into thinking that we are Andy Taylor. But we are really Barney Fife, full of good intentions, but with a bullet in our pocket.

Andy Griffith felt that the integrity of Mayberry’s citizens was more important than a punch line. The same integrity of the Barney character allowed Don Knotts to play the serious moments as well thus making Barney a more well rounded character and proving that Don Knotts was a good actor.

While writing this, I realize that I have been more influenced by Andy Griffith than Don Knotts. I guess it’s because the comic relief overshadows the straight man. I, like Andy, work best as a straight man when working with other actors. My pilot Red State has a strong Mayberry’s influence all over it. And as a comedian I, like Andy, told stories.

I never met Andy, I only saw him once from a distance when he was shooting Matlock on the Universal lot. I met Don Knotts once. It was at a local art store where he was having a picture framed. This was on same day that Return to Mayberry was to air. Everyone in the store had to approach Mr. Knotts to tell him how much he or she loved his work and that they would be watching the Mayberry Reunion that night. I’m sure he was in a hurry but he took the time to look people in the eye, shake hands and thank everyone for his or her kind words.

My favorite Andy moment from The Andy Griffith Show was Andy's History Lesson.


My favorite Barney moment from The Andy Griffith Show was the episode Barney and the Choir. When Mayberry choir director announces that they need a new first tenor, Barney volunteers for the job. No one had the heart to tell Barney that his singing was bad. Andy comes up with a face-saving solution by having a Barney’s mic turned off and a baritone sing Barney’s part from back stage.

Don Knotts lip syncing still makes me laugh.

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My thoughts on The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases.

Everytime one of these lists comes out I usually list my ten honorable mentions, but this list featuring The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases fell short. I was very disappointed with the results. You may ask if there are sour grapes because I am never asked to contribute to the show? Damn right there are. Why not invite the CHILD OF TELEVISION to give his two cents, but I promise that my own personal bitterness will not affect my evaluation of this list.

#95 -- "This is the city ..." (Sgt. Joe Friday, "Dragnet") Where is "Just the facts"?

#93 -- "Resistance is futile" (Picard as Borg, "Star Trek: The Next Generation") is there but no Picard saying, "Make it so".

#92 -- "Oh, my nose!" (Marcia Brady, "The Brady Bunch") and #74 – "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" (Jan, "The Brady Bunch") are there but how about "Mom always said, "don’t play ball in the house"" (Bobby Brady, "The Brady Bunch") "Oh, my nose!" should take a back seat to "Pork Chops and applesause" (Peter Brady, "The Brady Bunch")

#81 -- "Now cut that out!" (Jack Benny, "The Jack Benny Program") Where is "Well!"

#75 -- "I know nothing!" (Sgt. Schultz, "Hogan's Heroes") is there. Where is "Hogaaaaaan!" (Col. Klink, "Hogan's Heroes")

#61 -- "Say good night, Gracie" (George Burns, "The Burns & Allen Show") defiantly deserves to be there. My wife Donna and I owe a lot to the quote and Burns & Allen but, it should be mentioned this quote inspired "Say good night, Dick" (Dan Rowan "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In")

#52 -- "What you see is what you get!" (Geraldine, "The Flip Wilson Show"). Where is "The devil made me do it"?

#51 -- "Never assume ..." (Felix Unger, "The Odd Couple") Not nearly as memorable as Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

#49 -- "You rang?" (Lurch, "The Addams Family") should tie with Darn! Darn! Darn! (Herman Munster, "The Munsters")

#40 -- "Stifle!" (Archie Bunker, "All in the Family") That is not the best of Archie Bunker. Where is "Meathead", "Dingbat", "Get out my chair" and some that I won’t quote here.

#39 -- "Would you believe?" (Maxwell Smart, "Get Smart") is list worthy as would be "Missed it by that much"

#38 -- "Sock it to me" ("Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In") helped Nixon get elected, but where is Dan Rowan’s "You bet your sweet bippie"

#34 -- "You've got spunk ..." (Lou Grant, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") Why arn’t there more quotes from this show? Where is Chuckles the Clown quote "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants." Or the Ted Baxter sign off "Good day and may the good news be yours"?

#29 -- "Norm!" ("Cheers") There are several web sites that claim to have the best Norm quotes from Cheers. Here are three:

"What's new Normie?"
"Terrorists, Sam. They've taken over my stomach & they're demanding beer."

"Hey Norm, how's the world been treating you?"
"Like a baby treats a diaper."

"Hey Mr. Peterson, there's a cold one waiting for you."
"I know, if she calls, I'm not here."

#22 -- "Live long and prosper" (Spock, "Star Trek") would be complemented nicely with Dr. McCoy’s "He’s dead Jim".

#11 -- "Aaay" (Fonzie, "Happy Days") but no "Sit on it" or Mrs. C referring to Mr. C as "Frisky"

I think all the commercial quotes #59 -- "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids" (Trix cereal ad), #50 -- "Tastes great! Less filling!" (Miller Lite beer ad), #31 -- "It keeps going and going and going ...", (Energizer Batteries ad)#30 -- "It takes a licking ..." (Timex ad), #25 -- "Whassup?" (Budweiser ad) and #7 -- "Where's the beef?" (Wendy's ad), should be on a separate list.

"Hi Bob" from "The Bob Newhart Show" should be in the list after all it started a popular drinking game. Speaking of Bobs who didn’t make the list here are two quotes, Buffalo Bob Smith would begin every episode of Howdy Doody by saying to the camera, "Hey kids what time is it?" and the Peanut Gallery would shout, "It's Howdy Doody Time".

Finally there are a lot of quotes from Saturday night live:
#99 -- "Yeah, that's the ticket" (Jon Lovitz as the pathological liar, "Saturday Night Live")
#70 -- "Schwing!" (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth, "Saturday Night Live")
#43 -- "You look mahvelous!" (Billy Crystal as Fernando, "Saturday Night Live")
#36 -- "Well, isn't that special?" (Dana Carvey as the Church Lady, "Saturday Night Live")
#23 -- "Jane, you ignorant slut" (Dan Aykroyd to Jane Curtin, "Saturday Night Live")
#13 -- "We are two wild and crazy guys!" (Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd as Czech playboys, "Saturday Night Live")

And they did not include "I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not". I need John Belushi’s help to end this blog entry. They could have had a great list, "But nooooooooooo!"

Stay Tuned or should I say, "Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow"


Tony Figueroa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My take on the Parents Television Council’s Faith in a Box Study.

The Parents Television Council did their seventh study on the treatment of religion in prime-time broadcast entertainment programming titled Faith in a Box - A Study of Entertainment Television and Religion. Here they examine the treatment of religious matters. The study divides religious subject matter into five categories: Faith, Clergy, Laity, Institutions and Doctrine, and Miscellaneous. PTC analysts studied prime-time entertainment programming on the six commercial broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB and UPN) between September 1, 2005 and August 31, 2006. Instances of religious content were entered into their computerized Entertainment Tracking System (ETS) database. The study also notes that depictions of faith (particularly by contestants on reality programs) tended to be positive, while in all other categories (especially on scripted dramas and comedy shows) tended to be negative.

I would not have a problem with the study if was presented in the style of Detective Joe Friday "Just the facts" but this study is peppered with bias commentary. Where I have a problem is the following statement, "Such findings imply that while most Americans enthusiastically endorse religious belief, Hollywood tolerates an indistinct "spirituality" but is deeply negative towards openly religious individuals and organized religion." The PTC’s Christopher Gildemeister states in his conclusion, "This stands in stark contrast to Hollywood’s "creative" elite, which demonstrates its contempt for religion -- and for its own viewing audience -- by deliberately portraying God as subject of ridicule, and followers of organized religion as oppressive, fanatical, hypocritical and hopelessly corrupt". While Mr. Gildemeister lists his findings he likes to generalize Hollywood as the source of all that is negative. In other words he insults my friends, neighbors and me. Why must you generalize Sir? You are basically taking this statistical data and twisting it to say that everyone in Hollywood deliberately portrays God and Religion in general as subject of ridicule, and followers of organized religion as oppressive, fanatical, hypocritical and hopelessly corrupt. Nowhere in this study did I find anything that reveals what is in the hearts and minds of what you call Hollywood’s "creative" elite. I live in Hollywood and I am in walking distance of more than half a dozen churches. There are many Christians in the entertainment industry who contribute their perspective (although it may differ from yours) at philcooke.com Media, Faith, and the Power of Change. Many of my friends and neighbors in Hollywood are people of faith, and even those who are not are hard working, charitable, contributing members of society. They all want what everyone in America wants and that is to house and feed their families. I do have my faith (READ: Must See Sabbath), but whenever I, and others like me, criticize a self appointed respective of our faith we get branded Anti-Religion or Anti-Christian.

Having seen many of the shows listed in the study I want to present a slightly different and hopefully more pragmatic conclusion to this data.

First, I believe that God has a great sense of humor. Depicting him commercially with the long white beard is more mocking of Charlton Heston than it is of God. I also feel that the showing God commercially as a man with the beard and robes is less offensive than committing real atrocities in his name and isn’t it great that we live in a country where an artist can depict God in whatever medium he chooses.

Second, I don’t really see Hollywood’s "creative" elite demonstrating its contempt for religion just those who pervert their religion for their own personal agenda (Kind of like the conclusions to this study). Not all religious people are targets, just a select few like the following:

Those who peach morality and have affairs.
Those who preach against homosexuality and are themselves gay.
Those who make claims that SpongeBob SquarePants and Tinky Winky (The Teletubbies) are gay and are part of a plot to turn children gay.
Those who think that they are above man’s law.
Those who are in a position of leadership who harm children and are transferred to another parish by their superiors.
Those who ban books like Harry Potter, Macbeth and Cinderella because they promote witchcraft instead of being thrilled that their kids are reading.
Those who boycott stores that hang a sign that says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" for moral reasons. These same people have no moral problem with the "Merry Christmas" store’s employees, who may even be Christians, not making a living wage, not having medical insurance while they sell you merchandise made by children in sweatshops for pennies a day.
Those who in times of crisis blame the problem on gays, feminists, the ACLU and Hollywood/The Media for being morally bankrupt.

I do not see Hollywood’s "creative" elite negativity presenting those Americans who live a life of faith and prayer. Nor did I see negative portrayals of the pastor who needs to work part time job because his parish can’t pay him enough to live on. The same pastor who is probably more interested in helping the hungry and homeless in his community than what the people in Hollywood or Washington are doing. Finally, Hollywood’s "creative" writers, actors and directors still need to make a product that is commercially viable. New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story came in 4th place at the box office and made less than $8 million it’s opening weekend. Those numbers will have more of an impact on Hollywood than this study. Those who put this study together should be nominated for a SHATNER AWARD because they need to be told to, "Get a life". They accuse Hollywood, a city in California, of having an agenda while the PTC a publicly funded organization is obviously pushing theirs.

To quote Bill Maher from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, "Hollywood isn't your cesspool America. It's your mirror."

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle 1935 - 2006

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [singing] If you're blue, and you don't know where to go to, why don't you go where fashion sits...

The Monster: 'UTTIN' ON THE 'IIIIITZ.

Good Night Mr. Boyle, you were a man about town.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thoughts on Michael Richards.


On September 30th of this year I celebrated the twentieth anniversary of my very first stand up set. As I said before in CHILD OF TELEVISION: Milestones stand up comedy is my first love as a performer. I describe that love for the art this way; I had to do it. From the first day I stepped foot on that stage at the world famous Laugh Factory, I was hooked. As corny as it may sound to some, I felt alive on stage. There were times when I was really broke and dinner was a twenty-five cent package of generic ramin noodles because I needed to spend what little money I had on gas so I could drive to several different clubs a night. I even lost a day job as a tele-marketer because I kept oversleeping since I was out all night going from club to club. Every night I would hope against hope that I could get five minutes of stage time in front of what usually turned out to be three drunks. The good time slots were given to the actor who used to play the wacky neighbor on a sitcom (NOTE: Michael Richards did Stand Up prior to Seinfeld), or the guy who is in that series of stupid TV commercials. I understand that club owners want a household name on their marquee because they will put butts in seats.

I made sacrifices for my art knowing that some day the sacrifices would pay off. Love, even love of your art, makes you do stupid things. To pay the rent I took many day jobs. Without mentioning any names, there are many companies in town that hire creative people, like comedians and other performers, to use their talents and personalities to do the company's bidding. If any of my coworkers or I got too creative, overzealous or crossed the line we were told, "You are not in a comedy club". Sadly it looks like comedy clubs are less like comedy clubs and more like factories. Some rooms judge if a comedian is funny by listening for a big laugh every twenty seconds and not listening to what the comedian has to say. Some rooms don't want comedians to talk about current events, because although the material might be funny this week it has no shelf life and how do they know you will be funny next week. Some rooms promote as themselves as having "Clean Comedy" meaning no profanity while others have a ban on certain subject matter. I understand that the comedian sees things from the artistic point of view while advocating free speech, however the club owner or the person who books the room sees things from a business point of view. The battle between art and commerce is nothing new, you just have to know how to choose your battles.


Since Michael Richards went off on a raciest rant at on stage at a local comedy club, I have been doing a great deal of thinking about my craft. In the last couple of weeks I have had many conversations with comedians and ex-comedians about the incident and have read articles and blogs on the matter. I have been very hesitant to write about this subject for fear that my perspective, although coming from the heart and with no malice of intent, might not be popular with some people, and may even offend. But isn't that part of free speech? I have no way of knowing what is in Mr. Richards' heart and mind. I can only speculate and speculation alone is useless and may even be harmful. I am not exactly going out on a limb when I say what Michael Richards did was wrong. It was wrong for many reasons including not being funny. Not only was it unprofessional it was socially unacceptable and considering what comedians can get away with on stage that says a lot. That being said I want to look at the big picture, beyond the video we have all seen online or edited on the TV news. The media has dedicated a lot of airtime to this issue, more than it may deserve. What I have been seeing in the media is either talking heads trying to figure out what is in Michael Richard's head or, various parties involved in the incident doing damage control (Mr. Richards making great efforts to prove that he is not a racist or the owner of the club establishing a policy that any comedian using the "N" word will be fined). The issue should not be the use of that word, it is that he called a heckler that word. This is the part where I fear that some people might take offence and that is my problem with presenting the hecklers as victims. This may be my own prejudice as a comedian but I feel that there is something wrong with hecklers needing a victim rights advocate. I fear that a Pandora’s box has been opened. Instead of just dealing with the individual solely responsible for the incident, they censor everyone. They drew a line that represents acceptability and said, "Don't cross it". You don’t do that with comedians because they will see it as a challenge and they will always have the last laugh in the end. Personally I don’t use that word. I have written material where I mock those who do use that word. Then again I don’t own that word but who am I to say who can and can’t use that word. George Carlin used it skillfully on his Parental Advisory Album. I hardly use the words I do own, but that is me. I have a reputation of being a nice guy who works clean (Even though I do use profanity subtly and in context).

We comedians, writers and storytellers paint pictures with words. Saying that a comedian can't use a certain word is like telling an artist who is painting a rose that he can't use red paint because another artist did something very wrong with red paint. The best comedy is based in truth. One of the great things that the art of Comedy can do is shed an honest light on things. We reflect who people are, point out life’s absurdities to people who would otherwise accept the absurdities as normal. We say what people feel but can’t articulate. When people outside the club stop using that word that’s when people inside the club will move on to something new.

To quote George Carlin in his Parental Advisory Album, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those words in and of themselves. They're only words. It's the context that counts. It's the user. It's the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bullshit! It's the context that makes them good or bad. The context. That makes them good or bad. For instance, you take the word "Nigger." There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word "Nigger" in and of itself. It's the racist asshole who's using it that you ought to be concerned about".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Handwritten Theatre Fourteen: "I saw the obituary while I was recycling the newspapers."

A Series of Brief Dramatic Pieces originally Composed in a Small Black Notebook with a Fountain Pen by Joseph Dougherty

A cold, rainy, winter night in Los Angeles and a friend comes over late to see you. There's something she needs to talk about. You give her a glass of wine and sit down with her. She talks, you listen.
Handwritten Theatre Fourteen: "I saw the obituary while I was recycling the newspapers." Performed by Donna Allen-Figueroa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today in TV History

On November 13th Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence.

That request came from his wife.

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Friday, November 10, 2006

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO… StoryFest ‘06

The African/Swedish/Puerto Rican/Americans are coming. There goes the neighborhood!

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO… is an evening of stories from a typical American marriage told by a typical American couple, Los Angeles based storytellers, Tony & Donna Figueroa. One Swedish/Puerto Rican TV aficionado and one African-American Jane Pauley sound alike shopaholic. Follow their adventures in and over America as they stray from the normalcy of their home in Hollywood, CA.

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO… Was performed at Fringe festivals across the country this past summer and will be performed as part of
StoryFest ‘06

(One performance only.)
Friday. November. 10 at 8:30 P.M. At The Actors Group Theater
4378 Lankershim Blvd. (south of Moorpark)North Hollywood
Admission to the Back Theater shows at The Actor’s Group $7.00
Reservations and Information
(818) 754-4354

This year's StoryFest celebrates the publication of the group's first book, "The Story Salon Big Book of Stories," which features more than forty original pieces, highlighting the sometimes funny, sometimes touching blend of observation, memoir, and comment that has made "Story Salon" one of Los Angeles' most eclectic entertainment experiences.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley (Click here to play Best Of Video)

When someone dies, I often imagine how they will be greeted in heaven. This time I picture Saint Peter quickly addressing the angels saying, “That guy from 60 Minutes is coming... the one with the earring. Don’t tell him any thing!”

Good Night Mr. Bradley.

To quote Ed Bradley, "Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck. Recognize that the harder you work and the better prepared you are, the more luck you might have".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

StoryFest ‘06


Get ready for StoryFest ‘06

Wed. Nov. 8 • 8 P.M. At CoffeeFix
The Best of The Book

Thu. Nov. 9 • 8 P.M. At CoffeeFix
Dan Farren’s Let It Ride: An Evening of Fortune and Luck

Fri. Nov. 10 At The Actors Group Theater
7:30 P.M. Bowl of Doom
8:30 P.M. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO…
Donna Allen Figueroa and Tony Figueroa

9:30 P.M. Beverly Mickins’ Atomic Lounge Version 2.0

Sat. Nov. 11At The Actors Group Theater
7:30 P.M. 90 Second Stories
8:30 P.M. Beverly Mickins’ Atomic Lounge Version 2.0.1
9:30 P.M. Lance Anderson and the L.A. Podcasters
10:30 P.M. Tell No One: An After Hours Evening of Dark Secrets

CoffeeFix12508 Moorpark St. (west of Whitsett)Studio City

The Actor’s Group4378 Lankershim Blvd. (south of Moorpark)North Hollywood
Admission to the Back Theater shows at The Actor’s Group $7.00

Reservations and Information
(818) 754-4354

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Handwritten Theatre Twelve: "Note the relationship between the two seated figures in the booth."

A Series of Brief Dramatic Pieces originally Composed in a Small Black Notebook with a Fountain Pen by Joseph Dougherty




Handwritten Theatre returns with a cycle of brand-spanking new plays, fresh from the kitchens of L.A. Podcasters' Studio 101 at The Brewery in Los Angeles.
Handwritten Theatre Twelve: "Note the relationship between the two seated figures in the booth." Performed by Donna Allen Figueroa, Tony Figueroa, and David Clennon
Running Time: 11:23
All Audiences

The Story Zone

Story Salon presents
Sunday, Oct. 29
6:00 P.M. Sharp
The Write Act Repertory Company
6128 Yucca Street
(Tickets and info 323-469-3113)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: 30 Rock

I feel that before I watch the pilot episode of 30 Rock I must purge some things from my mind. First is going be the obvious comparison to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This half-hour sitcom should be judged on it's own merits and not be compared my favorite new hour-long drama. Second, and not so obvious is my own frustration after attending various networking functions and constantly being told by many network comedy development heads all saying they do not want "Behind the scenes" shows (Please don't ask me to name names.), but every fall I still see new "Behind the scenes" shows. Some feel that this is because Hollywood's new young writers have never worked outside the entertainment industry so they write what they know. Others feel that those who work in Hollywood think that their lives and jobs are just so interesting that everyone in America will find their lives and jobs just as interesting (Again please don't ask me to name names.). Finally, I like Tina Fey. I think that she is an incredibly talented writer and performer, but I can't let those feelings influence my evaluation of the show.

I watched the show. I would describe the show as Dilbert meets backstage Saturday Night Live, but in a good way. I really like the fact that the show is set in a real place (NBC Studios) and the characters work for a real company (NBC). Tina Fey writes, executive-produces and stars as Liz Lemon the head writer of The Girlie Show. Fey told USATODAY.com, "It's not meant to be Saturday Night Live. None of the actual events are real, just sort of the vibe of the place. And the people are amalgams of people." The people include Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, the new VP of development for NBC GE Universal K-Mart. Donaghy is the Peter Principle, "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", realized. He was successful in GE's microwave oven division and was put in charge of Lemon's show. His first decision is to have Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), an unstable movie star, to join the cast. The idea of someone moving from microwaves to TV development seems plausible to me in this world or corporate owned media. The part I did not find plausible is the NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) who seems somewhat slow and unambitious for someone in this entry-level position with the network, then again he might be running the network in five years. This workplace sitcom has great possibilities when you have the corporate people thinking that the creative people are crazy and the creative people thinking that the corporate people are stupid. This pilot is very funny but it is a premise pilot (I've heard that Network people don't want to see premise pilots either, again please don't ask me to name names.), but I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

The next episode has the same style and pace as the pilot. The important thing is that the show is funny. I am also glad that this is a single camera sitcom. I don’t think that the show would be nearly as good if shot with three or four cameras in front of a live audience. This show is the exception of rule that "Behind the scenes" would only have appeal to people who live in New York or Los Angeles. Tina Fey created a show that should be appealing to anyone who has worked for a big corporation and has used the words "Management" and "Idiots" in the same sentence.

To quote
Jack: I'm Jack Donaghy. New VP of development for NBC/GE/Universal/Kmart.
Pete (Scott Adsit): Oh, we own Kmart now?
Jack: No. So why are you dressed like we do?

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Veggies.

With all due respect to Emily Post, I believe polite company should discuss politics and religion. In my family once we reached a certain age it was no longer acceptable to discuss the lives of the fictional characters on a television show at the dinner table. Current events were always discussed at our dinner table, and it's hard to discuss current events with out touching on politics and religion. Not everyone in my family shares the same political or religious point of view so whoever was speaking was not exactly preaching to the choir. The same can be said about TV today. It's hard to discuss television these days with out touching on politics and religion. Recently I wrote in Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip , "My hope is that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip becomes the next great water cooler show. Unlike other water cooler shows where people just talk about what the characters did, here we can shift the topic of conversation to the issues discussed on the show." I don't think that we can afford not to have these discussions and my patience runs thin whenever people use Emily Post's advice to hide their ignorance or apathy.

Now I want to be respectful with my next comments towards those with opposing religious or political points of view. Recently I was watching the Saturday morning news on the local NBC affiliate. When the news was over the animated series Veggie Tales came on. I knew that the Veggie Tales were a series of Christian cartoons featuring talking vegetables. I was surprised to see this show on network TV. Within a few minutes I had to watch the show, I did not notice any religious message. I assumed that the show was altered to meet network standards and practices. I promptly forgot about the Veggie Tales broadcast until a few days later when I heard that the American Family Association accused NBC of anti-Christian bigotry. Stating in their AFA Action Alert that, "NBC: Bible Verses In Veggie Tales Offensive, But Not Madonna's Mockery Of The Crucifixion Of Christ". The Action Alert uses my favorite new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to illustrate a recent pattern of anti-Christian programming on NBC. "NBC says using Bible verses or referring to God is offensive to some non-Christians. But NBC doesn't hesitate to offend Christians by showing Madonna mocking the crucifixion of Christ. Neither do not mind offending Christians in their new program Studio 60 with a segment called Crazy Christians. (Please read the review.)". The Action Alert also provided readers with a template for a letter that you can send to NBC Chairman Bob Wright.

I fail to see how this group can compare a children's Saturday morning cartoon to a yet to be aired Madonna concert that will be on during prime time. I also don't want to pass judgement on any group or individual or group with out doing research first. I started with their review of Studio 60 written by Bill Johnson, President of the American Decency Association. I did not expect this review to be totally objective but I also did not expect it to be as slanted as it was either. I also noticed that there were factual errors and some of the comments made by characters on the show were taken out of context. The part that bothered me the most was the following statement, "One of the characters is supposedly a born-again Christian – a Christian who swears regularly and writes comedy for this fictional show that mocks Christianity. She also prays before each show and is shown praying with the cast stating:“We say this prayer in the name of your son Jesus Christ, who had to have been funny to get so many people to listen to him."" I find it inappropriate to question someone’s faith. I realize that Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is a fictional character but she is based on a real person actress Kristin Chenoweth who used to date Aaron Sorkin (Kristin Chenoweth - Celebrity News at filmsandtv.com) I am sure that the Harriet and Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) story line is greatly inspired by Sorkin’s relationship with Chenoweth. (Sault Ste. Marie Arts and Entertainment Pages on SooToday.com) As a resident of Hollywood, I know Christians like Harriet who have a sense of humor and can laugh at themselves. I think Harriet presents a more positive portrayal of Christians than Ned Flanders (The Simpsons), Bree Van De Kamp (Desperate Housewives) or Angela Martins (The Office). I do have a hunch that sometime soon (maybe November Sweeps), there will be a backlash to Crazy Christians story line.

I then researched Veggie Tales. The creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer is quoted in the Action Alert but the action alert but does not mention that he lost his company in bankruptcy and no longer controls anything about Veggie Tales. The new owners Classic Media bought Veggie Tales out of bankruptcy and formed a new company to make more Veggie Tales videos called Big Idea, Inc (The old company was Big Idea Productions, Inc.). Classic Media made the deal with NBC to do values based (not religion based) children's programming. Classic hired Vischer to create new opening and closing segments for the NBC version of the show. Big Idea says on their web site BigIdea.com - News: VeggieTales & NBC, "When we were presented with the opportunity to reach a mass television audience, we knew that certain religious references would not be allowed on a children's block under current TV network guidelines. And we recognized that we were not going to change the rules of network television overnight."

I watched a Veggie Tales DVD (Larryboy and the Bad Apple). My fist thought was that the production values were really good, superior to most Christian programming I've seen. I know that some people involved in Christian programming agree with me in that in that the show quality of most Christian shows are bad while others feel that the production values should take a back seat to the message (The Latest Poll Results philcooke.com & Opening a New Channel to God - 7/29/2006 - Broadcasting & Cable). I can't help but wonder if the quality of Christian programming was better would groups like the AFA keep trying to instill Christian values on mainstream television programming especially shows with high ratings.

As for the religious content in the Veggie Tales cartoon, I thought there was less of a religious message than were in the Davey and Goliath cartoons I watched as a child. The following Saturday I watched a Veggie Tales episode on NBC and I still understand why the network made the changes that they did. I think if they aired the episode without any changes there would be complaints from parents who don't want their children exposed to this particular religious point of view. Perhaps NBC might not get as many complaints as they did from the people in the "Don't change the show camp", then again they have an organization to write their letters for them. I also think that if the network aired the show unedited they would have to open with a disclaimer, "The views expressed by these talking vegetables do not necessarily express the views of the National Broadcasting Company". Ultimately I don't think the values presented in the edited version of Veggie Tales do not loose their overall impact just because they lost their Christian brand. These values are universal and are not the exclusive domain of any one ideology.

As to the Madonna concert it is hard to comment since NBC has not decided whether to include the crucifixion scene. The Action Alert mentions that a spokeswoman for Madonna said that the singer considered the scene crucial to the performance and could withdraw the rights for NBC to televise the concert if the scene were cut. I have to ask, if NBC cuts the crucifixion scene will Madonna’s fans watch the concert? I'm sure some will and some won’t. Will AFA members watch the concert if NBC cuts the crucifixion scene? I think not, and I'm sure NBC will factor that into their decision whether or not to air the crucifixion scene.

Finally to subject of what considered offensive by broadcasting standards. Just because some material may offend you that material may not be offensive. For example Dr. Laura Schlessinger has said things that have offended people (i.e. her homophobic comments). Howard Stern says things that are offensive (sex, sexual organs, bodily functions etc). One way or another people will be offended whether NBC airs an edited or unedited version of Veggie Tales while neither version is offensive by broadcasting standards. Airing Madonna on a cross will offend and censoring Madonna on a cross will offend others. Some people are offended some by an organization calling themselves the "American" Family Association yet they represent a specific religious point of view that is not shared by all Americans. The airwaves belong to all of us. We have to learn to play nice and share. Personally I’m most offended by thing that are stupid on TV. Where’s my support group.

To quote former NBC Censor Ted Cordes, "We are broadcasters after all, That's a real term. We're not narrowcasters. It's a big country out there, with a lot of diverse tastes, and they don't seem to like extremes."
After going from 'Bonanza' to 'Queer Eye,' TV censor retires
By Los Angeles Times Feb 01, 2004


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Milestones.

Dallas Episode Number: 223 Season Number: 10
First Aired: Friday September 26, 1986
Title: Return to Camelot
As Bobby emerges from the shower in Pam's house, she discovers how long her dream was and she can't believe he's not dead.


As a young man I discovered that that I loved making audiences laugh. I wanted to have a career as a standup comedian. I was inspired by TV’s Laugh–In, Tim Conway on The Carol Burnet Show and then later comedians Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy and Steve Martin on SNL. Of course, I did not want to tell anyone that because, oddly enough, I was afraid of being laughed at. Especially when my older sister is an attorney and my older brother is an accountant, you are reluctant to say that you want a career in the performing arts. So I told people that I wanted to be a writer, thinking that it would make my goals more legitimate. The first time I went on was on stage was Tuesday, September 30th 1986. I performed my set at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood on open mike night. TV inspired my first set. I did a routine about Bobby Ewing returning from the dead on Dallas, and mocked some local commercials. It wasn’t that great but at least it was material that I wrote. Lots of the guys were stealing from Eddie Murphy or Jerry Seinfeld. But I played it safe. I was detached from my material. I was still finding myself. Not so easy, remember this was the 1980’s, where you were defined by your car, your cloths, and your job. Over time I would become friends with other comics. Around two a.m. several of us comics would go to a local Denny’s and talk about where we came from, our lives and family. I told stories of my childhood, my parent’s divorce, living with my grandparents in Defiance Ohio, and as a defense mechanism I kept adding punch lines to the stories if I thought they got to depressing. I liked getting into a nosedive then pull up at the last second with a punch line. My colleagues told me that was my act right there, tell my story. In the past twenty years I have had many opportunities as a writer and a performer but you never forget your first love.

To quote Sir Donald Wolfit on his deathbed, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: JERICHO.

I've heard that the new series Jericho is CBS's version of Lost set in a small Kansas town named Jericho following a nuclear holocaust. I don't see that this show is any more Lost than it is Gilligan's Island. Here we have a microcosm of people from different walks of life who have to work together in order to survive. Strange that while I am writing this I seem to remember that there were plans for another Gilligan's Island reunion movie where the seven castaways are the only known survivors of a nuclear holocaust. This was a common theme during the cold war. I have also heard Jericho compared to the 1983 controversial ABC TV movie The Day After staring Jason Robards. I think Jericho in actually more comparable to the BBC TV movie Testament staring Jane Alexander because the town is not at ground zero, but isolated from the rest of the world as a result of global events.

Since I used Gilligan's Island as a model let me continue with that model. The "Gilligan" is Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) the prodigal son returning home for a short visit after a five year mysterious absence. Jake's absence and life choices have been disappointing to "The Skipper" his father Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) the town's mayor. "The Millionaire" is Gray Anderson (Michael Gaston) the owner of the local salt mine and political adversary to Mayor Green. It's nice to know that local politics like cockroaches can survive a nuclear war. This closest thing the show has to a "Mrs. Howell" is Mayor Johnston's wife, Gail (Pamela Reed). Gail takes her role as first lady of the town seriously and has to play peacemaker between her husband and her son. The "Mary Ann" is Heather Lisinski (Sprague Grayden), a pretty young schoolteacher and the "Ginger" is Emily Sullivan (Ashley Scott), Jake's high school sweetheart. The "Professor" is Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), a new arrival who claims to be a former cop from St. Louis. Robert knows everything there is to know about surviving a nuclear war claiming that after 9-11 the St. Louis Police Department were trained for all attack scenarios. I think that this show has potential to tell some great human stories. What do they do when the provisions run out? How will they survive a nuclear winter? Will the people who dropped the bombs invade? Just the fear of invasion is good for several episodes. I only hope that the show stays grounded in reality, meaning that I don't want to see the town attacked by giant radioactive spiders. I look forward to the next episode because I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

The next episode was very well laid out. A storm is coming and with the rain comes radiation. The problem is how to shelter the town’s population when the town’s only circa 1950s fallout shelters can only hold a few hundred people. We also learn that Robert Hawkins has secretly received a Morse code message on the police radio and knows what other cities were bombed. My concerns are that the show may be to slow paced for anyone under thirty years of age. I remember the cold war. I wonder how those who have no recollection of a time when we feared that someone was going to "push the button" and "drop the big one" will see the show.

To quote Jake, "I go away for five years and the town goes to hell".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

I watched the pilot of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with my wife and when it was over she said, "He's back". He being Aaron Sorkin the Emmy Award-winning executive producer-writer of The West Wing. Sorkin along with Emmy Award-winning executive producer-director of The West Wing Thomas Schlamme brings us an intelligent look at the television industry. To call Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip a "backstage look at a late night comedy show" is not doing the show justice. This show examines Television's creative talent, decision-making executives, arbiters of standards & practices, the audience and that’s in the first five minutes. We open with Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsch) having an argument with Jerry Jones (Michael Stuhlbarg) the network censor over a smartly written sketch that could potentially offend religious people. After the censer pulls rank the controversial sketch is pulled and replaced something unfunny and lame. When the show goes on live, Wes walks on camera dismisses the cast and delivers a controversial rant similar to the "I'm as mad as hell" speech delivered by Peter Finch in the 1976 movie Network about the television industry.

"Ah, it’s not going to be a very good show tonight and I think you should change the channel. Change the channel. Right, right now. Turn off the TV ok. No, no, I know it sounds like this is supposed to be funny but tomorrow you’re going to find out it wasn’t and by that time I’ll be fired. Now, this is not, this is not, this is not a sketch. This show used to be cutting edge political and social satire, but it’s gotten lobotomized by a candy ass broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience. We were about to do a sketch that you’ve seen already about 500 times. Yeah, I know. Now no one is about to confuse George Bush with George Plimpton. Now we get it. We’re all being lobotomized by this country’s most influential industry. It’s just throwing in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn’t include the courting of 12-year-old boys. Not even the smart 12-year-olds, the stupid ones, the idiots. Which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network. So why don’t you just, change the channel, turn off the TV. Do it right now, go ahead. Oh, I get it. There is a struggle between art and commerce. Well there has always been a struggle between art and commerce. Now, I’m telling you, art is getting its ass kicked. And it’s making us mean. And it’s making us bitchy. It’s making us cheap punks, that’s not who we are! People are having contests to see how much they can be like Donald Trump. We’re eating worms for money. Who wants to screw my sister! Guys are getting killed in a war that’s got theme music and a logo. That remote in your hand is a crack pipe. Oh yea, every once in a while we pretend to be appalled in some way. Pornographers, its not even good pornography, it’s just this side of snuff films. And friends, that’s what’s next because that’s all that’s left. And the two things that make them scared gutless are the FCC and every psycho religious cult that gets positively horny at the very mention at a boycott. These are the people that they’re afraid of. It’s prissy, feckless, off the charts, greed-filled whorehouse of a network. And you are watching this thoroughly unpatriotic..."

Then the show’s director (Timothy Busfield), under pressure from the censer cuts to the show’s opening titles.

I have three thoughts,
1. I have been saying a lot of this stuff on my blog for the past two years.
2. If you don’t like what you see, like the man said, "Turn off the TV". Why is this so hard to understand?
3. When people say that Hollywood is out of touch with America, I know they mean the creative people in front of and behind the camera. My question is, are network’s Standards and Practices people any more in touch with America?

Back to the show. Wes’s tirade gets him fired by the network chairman Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber) and the recently-promoted network president Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) rehires Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) who left the show four years prior over disagreements with network executives. To make things more complicated Danny has a history of drug problems and Matt has recently ended a relationship with on of the show’s performer Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) who is also a devout Christian, but stood by the controversial sketch (Titled: Crazy Christians) because it was funny. The episode ends with Jordan telling Matt to air the sketch next week.

The pilot struck a perfect balance between the premise and the introducing the main characters. I liked what I saw and feel that more shows should be like this, not a copy of this show but something that goes along with the spirit of the above rant. Still with all I just said I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

In the next episode we see the first day at work for Jordan, Matt and Danny. The Crazy Christians sketch is going to air. There are protests from Christian groups and some network affiliates are refusing to air the episode. We also get to meet the supporting cast including hack writers Ron Oswald (Evan Handler) and Ricky Beck (Carlos Jacott). The show (within the show) opens with a musical version of the shows recent problems sung to Gilbert and Sullivan’s I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General that proves to be a great closing to the show (that we are watching).

The question has to be asked, "Why should I care about people who work on a late night comedy show?" It's true they don't save lives like the characters on E.R., run the country like the characters on The West Wing or keep the streets safe like the characters do on countless crime dramas. Instead the late night comedy shows make us laugh at the end of a long hard day. Through satire they show elected officials how the public sees them. Sadly, they are some people’s only source of news and in times of crisis they remind us that it is okay to laugh. I also have to ask those who are accusing the show as being Anti-Christen to count all the Christian characters you see on TV. Then with your other hand count how many Christian characters are presented in a positive light on TV. My hope is that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip becomes the next great water cooler show. Unlike other water cooler shows where people just talk about what the characters did, here we can shift topic of conversation to the issues discussed on the show. This show could be bigger than The West Wing, if Aaron Sorkin is kept in charge and left alone to do his job,

To quote Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), "Well, there are gonna be some horny psycho-religious cults tonight".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Monday, September 25, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: THE CLASS.

Here is the premise. We have a group of twenty-somethings that are linked because they were in the same third grade class together. Twenty years later one of the class members Ethan Haas (Jason Ritter) falls in love and gets engaged with another classmate. He invites several more classmates to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the day they all met. The classmates range from cynical to suicidal. Things go wrong when Ethan’s fiancĂ© dumps him at the party.

The Pilot for The Class has some good elements. Talented actors (Jason Ritter, Lizzy Caplan, Heather Goldenhersh, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jon Bernthal, Sean Maguire, Lucy Punch and Andrea Anders) a good creative team David Crane (Friends) & Jeffrey Klarik (Mad About You) and was directed by James Burrows.

So why do I have doubts that this show will last past Christmas?

First, the show is about a bunch of twenty-somethings and the only people who care about twenty-somethings are other twenty-somethings. Those 20-somethings who do watch TV watch MTV or the new CW (By the way CBS, MTV & the new CW are owned by Viacom).

Second, when you promote the show by saying, "From the producers of Friends and Mad About You" people expect to see Friends and Mad About You. When you say that the show stars the son of the late John Ritter, people will expect to see Jack Tripper Jr. pratfalling left and right. Jason Ritter has his dad's looks, like his dad gives a hundred and ten percent to his performance and is a good anchor for the rest of cast, but the similarities end there. Please, let him be his own man. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that TV Land (Also owned by Viacom) had a Three’s Company marathon the weekend before the pilot aired.

Third, the pilot was more dedicated to the premise than the characters. A good pilot should tell us everything we need to know about the characters. The show has continuing story lines, but we need to know more before the cliffhanger. To no fault of the actors, I thought that characters were incomplete. Is the Yonk character (David Keith) an abusive husband? Is the Perry character (Sam Harris) in the closet or is he a cured homosexual? I need to know more in order to care about these characters. I also saw good chemistry between a couple of the characters but I don’t really see an ensemble. Lets see what happens in the next episode because I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

I did not see any improvement in the second episode. I think that an audience may fall in love with the characters over time, but don’t see the network giving them that time. I really liked the actors and can see their work on this show as a launching pad for bigger and better things.

To quote my favorite characters Kat(Lizzy Caplan)and Ethan(Jason Ritter),

Kat: Just so I know, um... how long are you gonna wallow?

Ethan: She left me an hour ago, I was thinking maybe an hour and ten minutes!

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

West Hollywood Book Fair 2006


Visit
Story Salon
at
West Hollywood Book Fair
(Booth 41)
Sunday, September 17, 2006
10 am to 6 pm
with a specialStory Salon performance
at The Robertson Scene at 2 pm
West Hollywood Park
647 North San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069


“Gemstones of narrative. Something new, funny, astonishing.”
–Los Angeles Daily News

Autographed Books, a Live Show, and More!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The people from Iowa.

We call it Middle America, The Bible Belt, "Iowa", Red States, Fly-Over States or as Donna likes to call it Oklabama. This grouping of people was always empowered with setting the standard for what is acceptable in our creative pursuits and our dayjobs. Even though I know that there is absolutely no difference between catering to the mainstream and selling out to the lowest common denominator I want to have a marketable product.

In the thirteen plus years that we have been married we have always known that there will be people in this great land of ours that would not accept us as a couple. That's okay, we live in Hollywood where we are considered mainstream, but whenever we left the protective bubble of Hollywood we were cautious.

Two weeks ago we were in Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Theater Fringe Festival and having drinks with another married couple who did a Mind Reading/Magic act. They were fascinated with the whole idea of storytelling, but wanted to know if we had story about an encounter with racism. I gave my standard response, "The bad news is that we don't have that story about overcoming adversity the good news is that we don't have that story about overcoming adversity". The conversation shifted to business and marketing. Then we were asked, "Do we ever work together outside of Story Telling?" We mentioned developing a morning talk show that we tried out on cable access. Everyone liked our chemistry but while some people wanted to exploit the "Black White Thing" like (it was a novelty) others felt that the interracial element should be downplayed saying that, "the people from Iowa are not ready for that". We also mentioned that since we both have the same commercial agent we would go out on calls together for McDonalds, Sears or some other American Institution. We’re there to read for the same spot. However when we arrive we’re split. Donna gets paired up with the Danzel clone and If I am seen as white I may be paired off with a Caucasian wife or if am seen as Latino I will be matched up with someone of color but there's a lot of cream in the coffee. The fine line between JLo and Beyonce. In the America of McDonalds & Sears, nobody marries outside of their own race. Why? Because someone on Madison Ave. feels that Middle America is not ready for us.

It became very sobering that after performing throughout middle America and being totally accepted as husband and wife, I mean people liked us best when we were onstage together telling stories, we realized that the only time we seem to encounter prejudice is in Hollywood. But Hollywood is really acting on what they believe to be the intolerance of the people from Iowa. People at home aren’t really like that. Then while in Cincinnati I read in the paper an article from New York Times Reporter JENNIFER STEINHAUER

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying in a closed-door meeting in March that Cubans and Puerto Ricans were naturally passionate because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood."The comments were captured on tapes during a speechwriting session between Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican seeking re-election, and his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, when they spoke of their shared affection for Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s legislative style. "I mean Cuban, Puerto Rican, they are all very hot," the governor says on the recording. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

When I first read that I admit that I wanted to make a comment about Austrians being historically known for making generalizations based on race, but that’s beneath me.

I forwarded the article to my sister in Puerto Rico who E-mailed me back saying, "The news item came out in both English and Spanish here. The reaction? Ho-hum.At school we are taught that Puertoricans are a mix of Spanish, black (from slaves) and Taino (the indigenous people of the island) blood. The best sample we have right now is Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Universe 2006."

My point here is that we have come a lone way and still have a long way to go. It might help us get there if the creative people on both coasts spend some time in the Fly-Over States instead of just pandering to them or who we think they might be.

To quote Mark Twain, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because things always happen there 20 years later."

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Monday, September 11, 2006

My first laugh post 9/11.

I am a child of television. I represent the first generation whom, when we were born, the television was now a permanent fixture in our homes. Sadly the worst day in American history was captured on TV for all the world to see, unless you lived in Afghanistan where if you owned a television the Taliban sentenced you to death.

9/11 was a bad time for comedians, but let’s face it, it was much worse for a lot of other people. 3000 people dead and we're wondering when is it okay to be funny again. I felt that what I do is so unimportant compared to the police and firefighters.

Of course like most of us on the West Coast, I was asleep in bed. About 10 minutes to 7:00 the phone rings my wife Donna answers, it’s our friend Susan. Then Donna grabs the remote to turn on the TV, but turns off the cable box instead. She forgot how to operate the remotes. I get out of bed cranky and manually turn on the cable box and the TV. We’re watching Matt and Katie as all hell is breaking loose. I ran to the living room, got on the cell phone and called my mom while channel surfing between the all cable stations. Now I don’t like using the "F" word in front of my mom, but on this day I made an exception. What the F? Who the F? How the F?

Somehow I forgot that I was a liberal and a pacifist and I think I know why. In 2000 and 2001 I lost three close family members. In my mind I was getting through the grief process then someone else would die and I had a setback, then someone else would die and I had another set back. I described in my comedy routine, "I felt like I failed the grieving process and had to repeat it in summer school." For the rest of that day I’d was glued to the TV news. That night we went to church not our regular church, but the Hollywood Methodist Church. It was open and within walking distance. You know Billy Joel's New York State of mind sounds really cool as a hymn.

I wanted to write about what had happened but had the worst writer’s block I’d ever had. I’ve dealt with grief before through comedy. I wrote about having to go to a funeral in Orlando Florida.

Where do you go for a funeral in Orlando Florida? The Snow White Funeral Home? Just look for the sign with the 7 little pallbearers. "Hi Ho! Hi Ho! it’s in the ground you go!" That joking made me realize something. I can never remember the 5 stages of grief. You know, denial, anger… then I’m lost. But I found that the 7 dwarfs work well. The shock from the news made me Dopey. When the reality set in, I became Grumpy. Then I had to meet all these people at the funeral. When you’re not in the mood to meet new people, you become Bashful. Grieving messes with your immune system and I got Sneezey. Got help from Doc. He gave me something that made me Sleepy. But you’re supposed to be Happy because your loved ones are in a better place.

Now remember David Letterman had not come back on TV yet, giving comedians the green light to be funny again. Jay Moore did a special show at the now reopened Laugh Factory. He told the press, "Everyone’s ignoring the Big Pink Elephant in the room and we decided to talk about it". He was right. I tried to get some stage time. I was not sure what I was going to say, I just needed to be on stage, but only the Big Names were getting stage time. Still where was that line that nobody wanted to cross? Comedy is a business where either you kill or bomb and can you even joke about that now. I ranted, "Singers had it easy... you know the words to God Bless America and you're good to go."

I kept hearing all these great singers sing God Bless America Then something in my Child of Television mind clicked while watching the memorial service at the national cathedral in Washington D.C. Remember prior to the attacks, Carroll O'Connor had died and in all the tributes they showed the same scene from All in the Family where Archie sings God Bless America. So while this mezzo-soprano sang her beautiful rendition of God Bless America, in the back of my head I heard Archie Bunker sing, "God bless America you dumb Pollack!"

And I had my first laugh. It started as a snicker. Then I actually looked around my living room to make sure no one saw me laugh in church. The absurdity of the situation caused me to laugh louder. All of a sudden, during a very solemn occasion I became Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown’s funeral. Now I was finally able to write. I wrote of my fears, of my anger, I wrote about everything. Some of the material made my routine, some of the material I told at STORY SALON, some of the material was just for me as a release. But being able to laugh was important. For me it starts with the laughter then I can move on. I learned that what I do was important.

To quote David Letterman on September 17, 2001, "We're told that they were zealots fueled by religious fervor... religious fervor... and if you live to be a thousand years old will that make any sense to you? Will that make any goddamn sense?"

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Some Random Thoughts

Donna and I are done with Fringing for this year but we are not back in Hollywood yet. We are visiting Donna’s family in Cincinnati.

Note to self: Suggest that TV Land erect a statue of WKRP’s Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) dodging live turkeys.

Here are some random thoughts.

I don’t care that Katie Couric wore white after Labor Day. Anyone on the Style Channel will tell you that this rule is no longer valid. Yes, I’ve seen the Style Channel… Hello, I’m married to Donna. I just want to see more hard news on a news program. My feeling is that as long as we are at war there is no such thing as a "slow news day". I do like the Free Speech segment on the broadcast.

Note to self: Contact The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric about doing one of the Free Speech segments.

Rosie O’Donnell needs to be more of a team player on The View. Yes, I’ve seen The View… Hello, I’m married. By the way their new set looks like it’s from a local TV station in a very small market.

Keith Olbermann is at the top of his game with his commentaries on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Finally I am looking forward to the new Fox Sitcom Til Death staring Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher. I find it refreshing to see a married couple that looks like they could really be married not a dopey looking fat guy who is married to a size zero ten to fifteen years younger than him.

To Quote WKRP in Cincinnati’s Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, September 04, 2006

Before the jokes start flying

Steve Irwin
1962 - 2006
To Quote his producer and closest friend, John Stainton said on Croc One today,“The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet. He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. Steve would have said, ‘Crocs Rule!’”

Good Night Steve

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, August 25, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To... IndyFringe (Click PODCAST)

An evening of stories told by a typical American couple, the Figueroas. He is a Swedish-Puerto Rican television aficionado. She is an African-American Jane Pauley sound-alike shopaholic. The audience will follow their adventures in and over America as they stray from the normalcy of their home, Hollywood, CA.

http://www.indyfringe.org/
THEATRE ON THE SQUARE
627 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204-1606
Map of 627 Massachusetts Ave Indianapolis, IN by MapQuest
Fri, Aug 25 - 9:00 pm
Sun, Aug 27 - 2:30 pm
Tues, Aug 29 - 8:00 pm
Sat, Sept 02 - 1:00 pm
Sun, Sept 03 - 8:30 pm
Tickets available at
www.indyfringe.org/tickets.php
$11.00 advance via PayPal
$10.00 at the door

Monday, August 14, 2006

Somewhere over the Reading Rainbow

Since Donna and I are traveling through the mid-west performing at Fringe Festivals,
I thought that this story was appropriate.

One of the stereotypes that we children of television face is that we don’t read. Not true. I read books, and not just the ones that Oprah tells me to. I like to read biographies and humor especially. When it comes to fiction I like to get book’s on tape and listen to them when I go on a long drive or on a flight. Listening to these adventures read by talented actors really makes the time go by quickly.

One day I was planing for a long flight and I decided to get a couple of the Star Trek novels on tape. When I was at the counter of the book store, who do I see but none other than Star Trek: The Next Generation's very own Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, LeVar Burton. One of the tapes I was buying was narrated by Mr. Burton. Should I go over to him and have him sign the tape’s box? I don’t want him to think that I was one of those Trekker geeks. Oh, what the hell I thought, go over there. I then notice that Mr. Burton is buying several thick Tom Clancy/John Grisham type books. Then I remember, he’s also Mr. Reading Rainbow. He has dedicated more than two decades on his PBS series to teaching kids the importance of reading. If he sees me with these books on tape, he’s not going to think that I’m one of those Trekker geeks, worse, he’s going to think that I’m illiterate, stupid or just to damn lazy to read a book. Please God, don’t let LeVar Burton see me buying these books on tape. When the sales lady asked if I wanted a bag for my tapes, I said, please, yes. And I sneaked out of the store with my books on tape wrapped in brown paper. You would have thought I was hiding porn.

To quote Levar Burton on Reading Rainbow, "But you don't have to take my word for it".

Speaking of reading, Tony & Donna both have a story in:

Guess Who's Coming to...

THEATRE ON THE SQUARE
627 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204-1606
Fri, Aug 25 - 9:00 pm
Sun, Aug 27 - 2:30 pm
Tues, Aug 29 - 8:00 pm
Sat, Aug 02 - 1:00 pm
Sun, Aug 03 - 8:30 pm
Tickets available at
www.indyfringe.org/tickets.php
$11.00 advance via PayPal
$10.00 at the door

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To... Minnesota Fringe

An evening of stories told by a typical American couple, the Figueroas. He is a Swedish-Puerto Rican television aficionado. She is an African-American Jane Pauley sound-alike shopaholic. The audience will follow their adventures in and over America as they stray from the normalcy of their home, Hollywood, CA.

http://www.fringefestival.org/
INTERACT CENTER FOR THE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS
212 Third Ave. N. Ste.140
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Map of 212 N 3rd St Minneapolis, MN by MapQuest
Sat, Aug 5 - 10:00 pm
Sun, Aug 6 - 2:30 pm
Mon, Aug 7 - 8:30 pm
Fri, Aug 11 - 5:30 pm
Sun, Aug 13 - 7:00 pm
Tickets available at
http://www.uptowntix.com/
(615) 209-6799

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To... Amazon.com?

If they weren't busy enough at their Fringe Festivals!
Tony & Donna both have a story in:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To... KC Fringe Festival

An evening of stories told by a typical American couple, the Figueroas. He is a Swedish-Puerto Rican television aficionado. She is an African-American Jane Pauley sound-alike shopaholic. The audience will follow their adventures in and over America as they stray from the normalcy of their home, Hollywood, CA.


http://www.kcfringe.org/
THE NEXT SPACE
512 E. 18th St.,
Kansas City, MO, 64108
Map of 512 E 18th St Kansas City, MO by MapQuest
Thurs, July 27 - 8:00pm
Fri, July 28 - 6:30pm
Sat, July 29 -3:30pm & 8:00pm
Tickets available at
http://www.kcfringe.org/
Crown Center starting Wednesday July 26th
and at the door

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: Psych.

How can I describe the new series Psych? Imagine a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Instead of foggy London town the setting is beautiful Santa Barbara CA. The Holmes character is an underachiever who has held fifty-seven different jobs since high school but feels that he has finally found his calling as a psychic detective. Only he's not really psychic. Shawn Spencer (James Roday) was trained by his police officer father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) to have incredible observation skills. After Shawn gives the police a tip on a crime, the police don't believe that Shawn has the talent to see things that the average person can't. They believe that he only knows what he knows because he is somehow involved in the crime. To avoid being arrested Shawn tells the police detectives (Timothy Omundson & Maggie Lawson) that he knows what he knows because he's psychic. When you can't explain things logically, LIE! The acting Chief of police (Kirsten Nelson) hires Shawn pro bono to assist in a kidnapping case. Now our Holmes needs a Watson. Shawn goes to his childhood friend Gus (Dulé Hill). Instead of being a doctor he's a pharmaceutical rep, but the Gus character is a perfect straight man to Shawn's fake psychic episodes. Where Holmes is sophisticated and goes into elaborate detail explaining what he sees. Shawn is less than sophisticated but instead of explaining what he sees, you the TV viewer get to see everything through Shawn's eyes.

We currently have dramatic shows on TV where people use their special gifts to help solve crimes or assist the dead in crossing over. I am a fan of these shows. TV also brings us real people who claim to have special abilities and use their gifts to help ordinary people communicate with everyone from a dead relative to their pet. I'd like to believe that this is all true, but my skepticism tells me better. When I saw the promos for a show about a fake pshyic detective, I knew I wanted to see this show. Over all I liked what I saw in the pilot, especially the Shawn, Gus and Henry characters. I can't imagine that every case that Shawn and Gus take on will involve the police department so will the remaining characters be needed in every episode? These are just my first impressions but I never judge a show by it's pilot.

So, its a week later and I watched the second episode The Spellingg Bee (Deliberately missed spelled) and overall I liked what I saw. I still can't imagine that every case that Shawn and Gus take on will involve the police department. I like the Police characters but will they be needed in every episode? If they are featured in every episode, will thier I.Q. points have to drop in order for them to buy in to some of Shawn’s over the top fake pshyic episodes? On the plus side I like the Henry character even more. He reminds me of The Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi when he teaches his son to finish what he starts by having Shawn finish building a dog house that Shawn started in 1989. Finally the show is a nice companion to Monk on USA’s Friday night lineup. Can we say crossover?

To quote Shawn & Gus

Gus: You're dating a murderer!
Shawn: Not exclusively.

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Good Night Red.

To quote Red Buttons, "Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Monday, July 10, 2006

Waiting for the fall 2006.

While the network's show are on their summer hiatus, I have been enjoying new episodes of Monk, and the new shows Psych and Saved (Note: Saved writer and producer Joseph Dougherty is the same Joseph Dougherty who created Handwritten Theatre). I have also been watching classic TV shows on DVD like F Troop, Hogan's Heroes, and am ready to break into Sgt. Bilko. But that does not explain why my columns have been a little less frequent lately. Donna and I have been dedicating all of our time to our Two-person show.

Guess Who's Coming To...
An evening of stories told by a typical American couple, the Figueroas. He is a Swedish-Puerto Rican television aficionado. She is an African-American Jane Pauley sound-alike shopaholic. The audience will follow their adventures in and over America as they stray from the normalcy of their home, Hollywood, CA.
We will be performing the show at the following Fringe Festivals.

http://www.kcfringe.org/
THE NEXT SPACE
512 E. 18th St.,
Kansas City, MO, 64108
Thurs, July 27 - 8:00pm
Fri, July 28 - 6:30pm
Sat, July 29 -3:30pm & 8:00pm
Tickets available at
http://www.kcfringe.org/
Crown Center starting Wednesday July 26th
and at the door


http://www.fringefestival.org/
INTERACT CENTER FOR THE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS
212 Third Ave. N. Ste.140
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Sat, Aug 5 - 10:00 pm
Sun, Aug 6 - 2:30 pm
Mon, Aug 7 - 8:30 pm
Fri, Aug 11 - 5:30 pm
Sun, Aug 13 - 7:00 pm
Tickets available at
http://www.uptowntix.com/
(615) 209-6799


http://www.indyfringe.org/
THEATRE ON THE SQUARE
627 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204-1606
Fri, Aug 25 - 9:00 pm
Sun, Aug 27 - 2:30 pm
Tues, Aug 29 - 8:00 pm
Sat, Aug 02 - 1:00 pm
Sun, Aug 03 - 8:30 pm
Tickets available at
www.indyfringe.org/tickets.php
$11.00 advance via PayPal
$10.00 at the door



If you are going to be in the area please come and see us.

To quote Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, "On with the show this is it"

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa