Monday, December 25, 2006


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


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 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...


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