(some cool stuff I did on the radio and on the television)

 

"Funny Stuff" Interview Shows:

DOUGLAS ADAMS

DANNY ARNOLD

JOHN CLEESE

JOHN CLEESE + MICHAEL PALIN

BILLY CONNOLLY

PETER COOK

QUENTIN CRISP

JONATHAN & DARLENE EDWARDS
(Jo Stafford & Paul Weston)

STAN FREBERG

TERRY JONES

TOM LEHRER

EMO PHILIPS

ROCKY & BULLWINKLE

MORT SAHL

BROTHER THEODORE
 


"Funny Stuff" Theme Shows


Television:

CAESAR'S WRITERS

CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST


Music & Miscellany:

VAN DYKE PARKS

LEONARD WIBBERLEY

DJ SHOWS

 


If you like what you hear, you can buy me a drink or a meal or even a vintage Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar by using the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar:

Thanks to ML-J and FB for leading the charge.  Now, although the honor of being among the first two donors is no longer available, you can always shoot for being the largest donor.  But all expressions of support are warmly appreciated.

I know you're out there.  Many thousands of you.  If you don't want to, or can't support this site with the donation button, you can use this site to buy some of the items discussed in the programs via the Amazon links thoughtfully provided.  (If you don't see these links, it is probably because you have AdBlocker enabled for this site.  Go ahead, disable it for this site.  It won't kill you.)  But since most of the stuff you get through Amazon isn't listed here, if you get into the habit of accessing Amazon through this site, by pressing this button:

This will help defray the costs of the site.  My percentage is small, but have you considered the benefits of owning a truly large and impressive flat screen TV like this one?

Thank you.

 

Michael Palin and me, KCRW studios, 1988

For most of the 1980s, I produced and hosted a radio program on KCRW called "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff."  It was a Friday evening half-hour through most of its existence, but for a while was a full hour on Sunday nights.  Most of the time I'd play recorded comedy, usually from albums, but occasionally I would also do interviews.  It was a wonderful luxury to be able to dispense with the introductory stuff they get asked all the time and go right to the grad-level essay questions.

(I've started to digitize and add some of these non-interview shows to this site.  They're more representative of the average show as the series aired, but obviously not as special.  To go directly there, click here.)

The best luxury of all, of course, was the freedom I was given at KCRW.  I produced and edited the shows alone in a small studio, and when I was finished, I put the reel of tape in a box on a shelf in a closet.  Just before airtime, the engineer would take the tape out of the box and put it on the air.  It was that simple.  No notes, no critiques, no alterations asked for.  That sort of trust is so rare, and was precious to me.  I never took it for granted, and tried hard to deserve it.  Though it's not the same station now, supporting KCRW isn't a bad idea, and you can find them at 89.9 on your FM dial in Los Angeles, or here on the web. 

Because I put the show together alone in that small room, and rarely listened to it when it was being broadcast, it always surprised me when I'd meet listeners who'd mention something they'd heard in it.  I always felt like saying, "Where were you, hiding under the desk?"

Here are MP3 files of some of my KCRW radio shows, digitized from cassette copies that were made directly from the 15ips reel-to-reel master tapes.  To stream any of these shows, just click on the link below each descriptions.  If you want to download them, you should right-click on the link. 

(A handy tip for you iPod users: after you add the show to your iTunes library, right-click on the title, select "Get Info," and then "Options," and make sure you check the box marked "Remember Playback Position."  That way, if your listening experience is interrupted, you'll be able to pick up where you left off.)

If you're overwhelmed by the bounty of what's offered here, and are looking for a good place to start, I think the best of the interview shows is probably the Cleese + Palin one.  As for the music shows, the El Queso Grande March '87 one is a lot of fun.  And don't overlook The Wibberley Stories.  But your mileage may vary.  I wouldn't have put anything up here if I didn't think it was worth your time.

I hope you enjoy this stuff.  Better than it gathering dust around here.  Note: writing to me at the KCRW mailing address I gave at the end of each show is highly likely to be a waste of time.  I don't work there anymore.  You can contact me by clicking on my name at the bottom of this page.  Or here.  It's weird... the stats show that each of these shows has been downloaded by thousands of people, and yet I've heard from very few of you.  If you like what you hear, drop me a line and say hi, okay?  And if you REALLY like what you hear, swivel your head slightly to the left and take advantage of the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar in that other frame, or buy something from Amazon through this link.

A NOTE ABOUT LINKING: It's perfectly all right with me if you link to this home page (www.bobclaster.com), but please don't link directly to the files themselves.  If you do that, then people don't get to see the whole list, where they might possibly find something else of interest.  Or the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar, or the Amazon links.

In the absurdly unlikely event that you are a listener who happened to record something I did on the radio that doesn't appear here, and you still have the tape, please contact me!

A NOTE ABOUT THE AMAZON LINKS: The products I've linked to in the listings were personally chosen by me, and I vouch for each and every one.  In some cases, essential parts of the stories are, sadly, out of print, but for the most part, the stuff I've listed is the stuff you should have.  Especially that big TV.  Seriously, if you have questions about the books or DVDs or whatever, ask me and I'll tell you.  This stuff is important to me, and I love talking about it.

 

DOUGLAS ADAMS
Part One (55:48)
Part Two (35:52)
Douglas Adams was the brilliant author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" which, in its original incarnation as a BBC radio series, was phenomenally successful for the station.  At the conclusion of the umpteenth run of the series, we were able to get Adams to come down to the station for a chat.  This was a golden opportunity to conduct a grad-level interview, without having to explain who he was and what he was about.  We were able to ask all the picky little nerdy questions of interest only to the true fans, for whom the show was still fresh in their minds.  The station's Production Director, Tom Strother, conducted this interview with me.  Years later, when "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" was published, Adams came back for another visit.  Since he wasn't a comedian per se, these shows aired on the station during the day, rather than as part of the "Funny Stuff" series.  When, at one point, I tried to get a book of transcripts of these interviews published, Adams was particularly supportive and generous.  He was a lovely and very funny man, and his sudden early death in 2001 at age 49 came as quite a blow, especially to those of us who were lucky enough to meet him.  I don't have an airdate for the first one, but it had to be in the early '80s, as I clearly remember that it took place in the station's old studios on the campus of John Adams Junior High School.  The original airdate for the second show was June 29, 1987.



 

DANNY ARNOLD (30:17)
Danny Arnold is not a household name.  However, another name, “Barney Miller,” is.  And there’d be no “Barney Miller” without Danny Arnold.  Television is a very collaborative medium, and while there were many people who contributed to the success, both artistic and commercial, of “Barney Miller,” the show (like “Fawlty Towers” and only a handful of others) owes its flavor, its consistent excellence, and its very existence to the stubborn vision of one man: Danny Arnold.  Danny Arnold wasn’t shy about speaking his mind, and there was a lot in it about the state of television in the late '80s and how it got that way.

I originally contacted Danny Arnold in order to try and locate copies of the six episodes of his short-lived series, “Joe Bash,” to pass along to John Cleese.  However, upon speaking with him, I had a hunch that he had much to say that would interest my listeners, and I was right.  Danny looked like an old boxer, stocky with very pink skin and very red hair, and was one of those men who seems incomplete without a cigar.  He was one of the last of a dying breed.  Danny Arnold passed away in the summer of 1995.


 

JOHN CLEESE
Part One (29:12)
Part Two (29:52)

Partly because I was curious, and partly just because I like getting mail, I once asked the listeners to write to me and tell me who they thought was the funniest human alive.  The winner, hands down, was John Cleese.  I took that as a sign that my listeners had very, very good taste, or that I had trained them well.  So it was only natural that I’d want to interview Cleese, if at all possible.  I spotted a listing in TV Guide to the effect that he was scheduled to appear on a show that I knew was taped here in Los Angeles, promoting his first book about psychology (Families, and How To Survive Them, written with his psychiatrist, Robin Skinner), and so called the publisher to see if I could be squeezed into his schedule.  Arrangements were made, but at the last minute, he was able to get a coveted spot on a local afternoon TV show, something along the lines of “Good Afternoon, Hello, How Are You, Los Angeles.”  The TV show was aired live, and so since TV always seems to take precedence over radio, my interview was canceled.  Heartsick, I watched the broadcast from the station only to see one of the great figures in the history of comedy interrupted every few sentences by a live remote interview with Michael Jackson’s gardener on the late-breaking news of The Gloved One’s whereabouts.  Serves you right, I thought.

But my bitterness didn’t last long, and when Universal begged me to interview him to promote his film “Clockwise,” I relented.  I guess I’m easy.  I brought portable equipment to L’Hermitage, a lovely posh yet intimate hotel in Beverly Hills, to record the interview.  John was (and is) a total joy.  This was the end of his publicity tour, and it was obvious that he had answered the same six questions a hundred times.  When I started in about the Footlights Club and Cambridge and “At Last the 1948 Show,” he was clearly delighted.  He gave me much more time than we’d originally scheduled, and although the Universal press person seemed anxious throughout, wondering if we’d ever get around to mentioning the film it was her job to promote, he seemed as happy to discuss this stuff as I was.  Making John Cleese laugh was, and is, one of the great pleasures of my life, and doesn’t begin to repay for the many laughs he’s given me.  Then again, who ever said that life was fair?  Of all the interviews I ever did, this one required the least editing.

The only notes that may require a bit of clarification at the outset are these.  The movie Terry Jones was directing was “Personal Services,” the Harvey Korman / Betty White version of “Fawlty Towers” aired as an unsold pilot and was called “Snavely," the “Prue” he refers to is actress Prunella Scales, who played his wife in “Fawlty Towers,” and the reference to Terry Gilliam and Universal refers to the well-publicized battle he had with them over his film, “Brazil."  The film with Charlie Crichton, Kevin Kline, et. al. did get made and should be well known to most of you under the name of "A Fish Called Wanda," and is discussed at length in the episode with Michael Palin. “Clockwise” did only moderate business here in the States, but is a lovely little film, well worth seeing.


 

JOHN CLEESE AND MICHAEL PALIN (30:22)
I think John must have been pleased by our first interview, as it led to a correspondence that continued for many years.  It started with my sending him a copy of the show as broadcast, and then I managed to locate tapes of “Joe Bash” for him, which led to my being able to interview Danny Arnold, but that’s another story.  Anyway, when “A Fish Called Wanda” was released, John and Michael Palin did most if not all of the publicity together, and since two was the limit to the number of voices I could reliably record using the remote equipment, they came down to the KCRW studios to record this interview.  Luckily, I had the foresight to record this one in wide stereo, with each of them in one channel and me in the middle, since many of the funniest moments were spoken softly by one while the other was trying to make a point.  Again it was in the middle of a grueling publicity tour, and again I think they enjoyed the ability to go into other topics, reminisce about the Python days, and just be silly on the radio.  What was obvious to all in the studio when this took place, and to all who heard the broadcast is the obvious love and respect shared by these two guys.  This was certainly the easiest interview I ever did, as you’ll be able to tell by how few actual questions I had to ask.  Original airdate: August 5, 1988.

NEWSFLASH!  Those of you who have been religiously checking this page for years now, in hopes that someday, miraculously, something new will appear, are finally in luck!  All these years later, in January of 2013, a wonderful and long sought-after piece of tape has surfaced, which I now take great pleasure in making available to you.  At the conclusion of the Cleese & Palin session, I asked John for a favor.  I asked him if he would read for my audience a lovely little monologue that he'd written at Cambridge in 1962.  It was later used on David Frost's show, "The Frost Report," but on the LP of material from that show, it's performed by Frost rather than Cleese.  He most graciously agreed, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the only recording of Cleese himself performing this material.  The reel of tape that I found this on was unboxed, unlabeled, hideously filthy, and it's a miracle that it's audible at all.  And I never, ever, thought I'd find it.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

John Cleese: REGELLA (aka Startistics) (2:26)

 

BILLY CONNOLLY (56:44)
From time to time, I liked to ask the listeners to write to me for various reasons, mainly to reassure myself that there were listeners.  One such shameless ploy was an alleged poll, to ask my audience who they thought was the funniest person alive.  I believe that Mr. Cleese won the contest, but one listener wrote to nominate one Billy Connolly.  At the time, I hadn't a clue who or what a Billy Connolly was.  The listener went on to explain that Billy was a Scottish comedian, highly successful in the UK, but virtually unknown in the US.  He sent me some material which I found equally hilarious and unbroadcastable.  Connolly seemed almost perversely unwilling to appeal to an American audience.  The performance I saw the evening after this interview took place lasted at least three hours, and was absolutely brilliant, though it seemed to be specifically tailored to an expatriate crowd.  Billy couldn't have been nicer or more generous to me, as we talked in a motel room for about an hour.  Although this moment was edited out of the program, we had a nice little chat about country music, and I will never forget the way, with his brilliant Scottish accent, Billy pronounced the name, "Merle Haggard."  Originally aired October 8, 1989.


 

PETER COOK
Part One (38:44)
Part Two (34:38)
Part Three (36:31)

This is another one I'd wanted for a long time.  Unfortunately, by the time "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff" came to be, the "Peter Cook's Funny Stuff" industry had pretty much run its course.  So he had nothing much to promote, and didn't come to Los Angeles all that often.  But John Cleese managed to pull some strings for me, and I was able to spend a very enjoyable evening in the company of the man Stephen Fry would describe as "The funniest man who ever drew breath."  His legendary drinking problem was nowhere in evidence, as he nursed a single Champagne cocktail through the entire evening.  When we were finished, I asked him to autograph a few choice items from my collection.  One of my prized possessions, therefore, is the copy of the "Derek and Clive Live" album on which he scrawled, "Fuck Off, Peter Cook."  When these shows originally aired, they were each about a half hour long, and the only way to make them fit was to edit the comedy selections down to highlights.  For this website, I've re-edited them and replaced those shortened versions of the comedy samples with the complete pieces,  which explains the odd lengths.  Original airdate: September 1988.

Peter Cook died in 1995 at the age of 57.


 

A VISIT WITH QUENTIN CRISP (59:52)
While visiting New York in June of 1989, I took advantage of the opportunity to record interviews with two fascinating, brilliant and funny performers, though technically, neither qualified as a "comedian."  (The other was Brother Theodore.)  Quentin Crisp was a flamboyant effeminate homosexual in Britain at a time when it simply wasn't done.  However, there was no closet large enough for him.  He worked as an artist's model, and wrote a memoir of his early years called The Naked Civil Servant which was very successful, and was made into a television movie starring John Hurt.  The movie made stars of both of them.  Crisp wrote many books on many topics, and they're all witty, elegant, and wise, just as he was.  His one-man show was charming and delightful, and an excerpt from one of them is included in this program.  I met him at his apartment in Chelsea on one of the hottest New York nights I've ever experienced.  His apartment was cramped, filthy, and stuffy.  The one window looked out into the window of another apartment, and that person was running a fan.  Closing that one window was inconceivable, so there's a very audible hum throughout the interview portions of this show.  Still, if I could put up with it, so can you.

Before we commenced the interview, we went out for a light supper.  Quentin was all dolled up in his slight drag, with a little bit of eye makeup, a frilly scarf, and as I recall, a velvet jacket.  Most of the conversation centered on old movies, a topic on which he spoke (and wrote) with great insight and wit.  As the hot sweaty evening wore on, the makeup disappeared, revealing a very dear sweet old man.  He had a small black and white television set which only received one channel.  He claimed to like this, as it relieved him of the responsibility of deciding what program to watch.  However, I arranged for him to get a more functional little color set that my brother no longer needed.  He was that sort of person... you just wanted to take care of him and do things for him.  I'm so glad I had the chance to spend some time with him, and I think you'll enjoy the time you spend listening to this as well.  Quentin Crisp passed away 10 years later, in 1999 at the age of 90.  This program originally aired September 3, 1989.


 

JONATHAN AND DARLENE EDWARDS (Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) (30:08)
Here, from 1983, is my interview with the legendary Jonathan and Darlene Edwards.  For those who haven't yet been exposed to the extraordinary music of the Edwardses, you're in for a treat.  Jonathan and Darlene were the alter egos of Paul Weston and Jo Stafford.  Jo was a big band singer, who sang in a vocal group called the Pied Pipers which backed the likes of Johnny Mercer and Frank Sinatra, and later had a distinguished career as a solo singer.  Paul Weston was an arranger and pianist, one of the best in the business from the '40s through the '70s.  The Jonathan-and-Darlene act was something they used to do at parties to entertain friends, and when they finally recorded an album, "Jo Stafford and Paul Weston Present: The Original Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards, Vocals by Darlene Edwards," it was a big hit.  A later album, "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris," went on to win a Grammy Award in 1961.  In all, there were five albums and one single.

When I contacted them, they were both retired, living in a lovely apartment in Century City, operating their mostly mail-order record label, Corinthian Records.  They were kind enough to invite me to drop by with some recording equipment, and there we recorded this show.  I found them charming, delightful, and generous.  Jonathan (Paul) did most of the talking, but whenever Darlene (Jo) chimed in, it was always wonderful.  Paul Weston passed away in 1996, and Jo Stafford died in 2008.

This was one of the first shows I put together, and some of the edits are a bit clunky, but I think you'll enjoy it nevertheless.


 

STAN FREBERG
Part One (28:24)
Part Two (29:53)
Part Three (29:44)
Part Four (29:48)
Part Five (31:25)

Since Stan Freberg’s records were among the first and most successful of comedy records, he was obviously someone I’d want to interview.  His company was listed in the Los Angeles phone book, and I figured it wouldn’t turn out to be much of a problem getting him.  Silly me.  I was shunted off to his agent, who was also his brother-in-law, and after explaining who I was and what I wanted, he told me he’d discuss it with Stan and get back to me.  When I didn’t hear back, I’d call him again and have to remind him all over again about who I was and what I wanted.  This process was repeated any number of times, until I finally gave up on that route.  Still, I wanted to get Stan, and thought of another way to get his attention.  I contacted June Foray, whom I had interviewed previously, and June and I were able to get ahold of all of the surviving members of Stan’s repertory company, and they all agreed to reunite in the KCRW studios if Stan would show up.  Billy May, his musical director, was even going to come in from Palm Springs, where he retired to.  I figured all I’d have to do was open the mikes and sit back and enjoy.  I assumed that something like this would be irresistible to Stan.  However, when I told the agent/brother-in-law about this plan, he said that Stan was annoyed that I had contacted all these people without contacting him first, and wanted nothing to do with it.  Finally, I gave up.

Imagine my surprise, then, when upon publication of Stan’s book, It Only Hurts When I Laugh, I got a call from the publicist for the book asking if I’d be willing to have Stan Freberg on the show.  And then imagine my further surprise to find that he was charming, generous with his time and rare tapes, and utterly oblivious to what had gone on with his by then late brother-in-law.

This interview was recorded with the knowledge that I’d be cutting it up into four separate half-hour shows to air on consecutive weeks, with the records we discussed edited into it.  When a listener contacted me with the good news that he actually had a copy of the wonderful Arthur Godfrey parody that Stan thought was lost, that was added in as well (and, of course, given to Stan), and four became five.

Stan Freberg has a wonderful, inventive, mischievous mind, and it’s a real shame that it hasn’t been exploited more often recently.

Original airdate: March, 1989


 

And just for the hell of it, because I have it lying around, here's a wonderful radio show I had nothing to do with. From the CBS Radio Network, here's the August 31, 1956 episode of CBS Radio Workshop featuring Stan Freberg, entitled "Colloquy #3: An Analysis of Satire."  This probably served as something of a pilot for Freberg's legendary CBS Radio series which debuted the following year.

CBS Radio Workshop: Freberg (28:54)

 

TERRY JONES (28:34)
My interview with Terry Jones is something I’ll never forget, and I just hope it’s something he’ll someday forgive.  Terry, it turns out, was a friend of a friend of my next-door neighbors, and they happened to mention that he’d be coming over for dinner.  I asked them to see if he’d be willing to come by and let me interview him, and the word came back that he’d be delighted.  At that time, I had a wonderful old dog named Daisy, who was a Briard, which is a big, floppy sheepdoggy sort of creature.  Daisy was very ancient at that point, and the aroma emanating from the dear old soul was a bit intense.  Since I lived there, I had gotten used to it, and it was only when people came to visit and mentioned it that I became aware of it.  There was nothing that could be done about it; she was always kept clean, but she was just very old and smelly.  And you can’t put out a beloved member of the family just because she’s beginning to stink.  Anyway, it seems that Terry Jones is allergic to dogs, and his eyes began to water almost as soon as he came in the front door.  So I put him next to an open window and hoped for the best.  He was a very good sport about it, however, which is just one example of what a very nice man he is.

Chronologically, this came between my interview with John Cleese, and my Cleese + Palin interview.  As a result, you'll hear me ask Terry a few questions that I later posed to his Monty Python colleagues, and it's interesting to compare the answers.  Original Airdate: May 1987


 

TOM LEHRER
1983 Interview (58:58)
1989 Follow-up Interview (9:49)
Tom Lehrer Bonus Goodie (4:58)
One of the wonderful things about my time at KCRW was the fact that I could Learn By Doing.  However, I've always felt it's even more instructive to Learn By Doing Wrong.  I'm not saying that I'm the greatest interviewer ever (though I dearly would have loved to take over the "Later" gig when Bob Costas left), but much of what I learned about interviewing came as a result of this show.  The most important thing about interviewing, boys and girls, is listening.  Sure, research is important, and carefully choosing questions is good too, but the best questions are always follow-ups, and they come from listening.  This was, essentially, my very first interview.  I was scheduled to do a "Funny Stuff" show on Lehrer, and had planned to do as I usually had done, crafting a half-hour from his records.  Someone at the station suggested I try and get him on the phone.  This struck me as an absurd notion.  After all, who gets to talk with Tom Lehrer?  But they told me he was a teacher at UC Santa Cruz, so I called UCSC and asked for Professor Lehrer's office.  Thirty seconds later, he answered the phone, and a minute or two later than that, he agreed to the interview.

This was one of the most popular shows I ever did, and as a result of constant requests, I repeated it a number of times.  Every time I hear it, though, I'm embarrassed by it.  Don't get me wrong, he's gracious, brilliant, and very funny; and I think the show serves as a fine introduction to his work.  But I always hear myself Learning By Doing Wrong.  Thinking about the next question rather than listening to the answers.

This originally aired as a half-hour in February of 1983, and then was expanded to an hour for afternoon rebroadcast.  Listen, by the way, for the original guitar-and-bass version of the theme music.  Just about all of the Lehrer tracks in the program that were rare at the time have since surfaced in the essential boxed set on Rhino.  I called Lehrer back in November of 1989 for an update, and that's here too.  A wonderful full-length performance of Lehrer has surfaced on video, and is available under the name of "The Tom Lehrer Collection," by clicking on the first link below. It's wonderful!  Lastly, if you listen to the update show, there's something you'll be curious to hear that you probably have never heard, and that's the mystery bonus file above.


 

EMO PHILIPS (28:08)
I had been a big fan of Emo's first album, "E=mo2" and so made arrangements to interview him.  He was going to be performing in Los Angeles at the Improv, which is about 2 blocks from where I live.  So the deal was, I'd pick him up at the airport, bring him back here, we'd record the interview here, and then I'd drop him off at the Improv.  I'll never forget the sight of Emo at the airport, waving frantically at me and shouting "Hey there, home boy!"  As I mention at the end of this show, we all instantly fell in love with Emo, including my then-two-year-old son, who never warmed up to people quickly.   Original airdate: March 1988.


 

ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (JUNE FORAY AND BILL SCOTT) (29:52)
Everybody has heard someone do Bullwinkle, some better than others.  “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.”  But it wasn’t until I sat across from this kindly looking older gentleman and heard The Voice of Bullwinkle come out of his mouth that I knew how far off everyone else is.  The Rocky and Bullwinkle canon has since been taken out of mothballs and been reissued on DVD, and it’s been hugely and justifiably successful.  Bill Scott passed away shortly after this interview aired, ending once and for all any hopes that there’d be new Rocky and Bullwinkle adventures for kids of all ages to enjoy.  But he left behind a marvelous legacy of delightful cartoons, and a standard of children’s humor for all to measure up against.  June Foray is a wonderful lady, and here’s a story to illustrate that.  My son, Max, was about 5 and just starting to enjoy the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, and I called June and asked if she’d be willing to talk to him as Rocky.  Max was so awestruck he could barely speak, but June was ever the trouper, getting Natasha and Nell to come on and say hi as well.  This experience made the later lessons about the difference between cartoons and reality a bit more difficult (“Dad, I know that Bugs Bunny isn’t real, but Rocky is, because I talk to him on the phone.”)  Good thing I never knew Mel Blanc.

I thought it was lost forever, but I have recently (May 2013) unearthed this wonderful addition to the collection: a Funny Stuff Promo starring Rocky and Bullwinkle!  I should have done this sort of thing more often.

The lovely and gracious Ms. Foray, with the capable assistance of my pal, Mark Evanier, has written her autobiography, and it's highly recommended and available by clicking on the link below.  Mark is nowhere near as lovely as June, but he is gracious, so you should go and read his blog as I do, every day.


 

MORT SAHL (27:31)
Mort Sahl has been the foremost political satirist in this country for the last 40 years.  He simply walks out on a stage with his trademark sweater, a folded newspaper under his arm, and talks about the world as he knows it.  This, by the way, was the one interview I did not solicit, but which was assigned to me by the station.  It’s not that I wasn’t a fan of his, but I was afraid that my ignorance of the world of politics would be painfully obvious if I ever sat down with him on the air.  My worries about this were compounded by the fact that this particular broadcast was live.  So, when Mort showed up at the station that afternoon, I chatted with him for a few minutes before we went on the air, and told him that if he saw my eyes glaze over at times, to try to ignore it.  I hope this doesn’t destroy his carefully-cultivated image, but he really couldn’t have been sweeter.  He said, “Hey, no problem, Bob.  We can talk about women, or movies, or anything you like.”  And we did.  To set the scene, the Iran-Contra scandal was the headline story at the time, Reagan was President, and Mario Cuomo had just announced that he wouldn’t seek the Democratic nomination.


 

BROTHER THEODORE (Theodore Gottlieb) (59:53)
There has never been another performer like Brother Theodore, nor will there ever be.  When I was very young, around 8 or so, someone gave my mother a copy of a very peculiar album, called "Coral Presents Theodore."  On it, this madman with a thick German accent read classic tales of the macabre on side one, but the heart of the matter was found on side two.  There he presented a brilliant 25-minute monologue called "Quadrupedism."  In it, he makes the case that humans would be much better off if they'd just get down and walk on all fours.  It's impassioned, logical, hysterical, deadpan, and totally unlike anything I've ever heard before, or anything I've heard since.  It is amazing to me that I "got it" at such a young age, but I absolutely did.  Theodore used to perform a Saturday midnight show in Greenwich Village in New York, and when I became old enough, I went to see him and adored him.  Some friends and I ran a little student non-profit coffee house in New Rochelle, and we asked him if he'd come and perform.  He had no problem doing it without pay, but wanted us to guarantee that there'd be no small children in the audience who might be frightened by his performance.

Many years later, after Merv Griffin had dubbed him "Brother Theodore," when he was primarily known for brief unsettling appearances on the Letterman show, I was going to be spending a week back in NY and so asked him if I could record an interview with him.  He agreed and was a gracious host.  This was recorded in his lovely apartment in the Upper West Side, the day after (or the day before, I don't recall) I recorded my interview with Quentin Crisp in his apartment.  Interesting contrast.

Theodore passed away in 2001 at the age of 94.  A man by the name of Jeff Sumerel has made a wonderful documentary about him called "To My Great Chagrin: The Unbelievable Story of Brother Theodore," which has been seen at the occasional film festival.  This interview was given to him for research purposes, and and a lot of it is used in the final film. The film is as brilliant as its subject, and is every bit the movie that Theodore deserved.  More info about the film, and a wonderful trailer for it, can be seen here.  Do whatever you have to do to see this brilliant film.

This show originally aired on September 24, 1989.


For most of its run, "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff" worked like this.  I introduced the material, which was based around a theme.  Usually it was one artist, but sometimes the theme was more conceptual.  I'd talk a little about the theme (a brief summary of Woody Allen's standup career, for instance, or Mother's Day or comedy about flying), then play the best stuff from the records, then say goodnight, begging for mail and plugging next week.  Sweet little show, mainly.  I had a great record collection, and knew a lot about this stuff.  I'm finding more and more of these tapes, so I'll stick 'em up here.  If you're the copyright holder of any of this material, and you really want to complain... really?  You kiddin' me?  Well, if you really do, let me know and I'll laugh at you and then eventually honor your request. 

Here are a few such shows, mostly dates unknown, in random order.  In response to the almost imperceptible demand for more, more will appear.  Check back from time to time.  Bug me if you want more sooner.

FUNNY STUFF: AN INTRODUCTION (28:37)
For a brief time, at the end of its life, the show was moved to Friday afternoon, so this 1990 show was designed to introduce a new audience to an old show.  Some really classic stuff here featuring Bob Newhart, Shelley Berman, Bill Cosby, David Steinberg, Woody Allen... you get the idea.  April 16, 1990.

FUNNY STUFF: SHRINK RAP (30:17)
From 1984, this is a collection of comedy having to do with psychiatry.

FUNNY STUFF: DANNY KAYE (28:11)
From near the end of the series, this aired at the end of February 1989.  The plug at the end is for the Freberg series.

FUNNY STUFF: UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY (29:58)
A weird collection of weird records.  Records made by witches, magicians, and Mr. Blackwell.

FUNNY STUFF: CLASSICAL MUSIC (29:20)
Parodies of the Classics, mostly.

FUNNY STUFF: BACK TO SCHOOL (29:37)
Originally aired on October 9, 1988, a visit (in order) to pre-school, middle school, high school, and college!

FUNNY STUFF: MEDICAL (31:10)
A nice selection of things medical including Doctors, Dentists, and Joan Rivers' gynecologist.

FUNNY STUFF: HOLLYWOOD (29:37)
Movies and movie-making.  Aired March 29, 1985

FUNNY STUFF: BRITISH RARITIES (27:41)
Ridiculously obscure early work by various Pythons, Peter Cook, et. al.  From 4/25/86


These radio interviews on the subject of comedy led to my receiving, in 1995, a wonderful phone call from the late Aron Abrams.  Aron was the chairman of a Writers Guild committee that was, with Larry Gelbart's help, assembling a reunion of the legendary Sid Caesar writers' room.  He asked if I wanted to produce and host the evening, which I readily agreed to do.  Larry was enormously helpful, arranging for me to visit the homes of many of the panelists in order to do all the necessary research.  The panel consisted of Mel Tolkin, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Aaron Ruben, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Sheldon Keller, and Gary Belkin.  It was shot for a PBS pledge break special, though what aired on PBS was drastically edited down.  The home video version, though, for all intents and purposes, is the entire evening, running just under two hours (not including the largely fictitious credits).  Sid Caesar has written of this evening, "The energy of the reunion simulated what actually went on in the writers' room years before, The chemistry, respect and affection were still there."  Many of the panelists (Tolkin, Ruben, Belkin, Keller, Gelbart, and D. Simon) are no longer with us, so I'm glad this was captured.  I'm quite proud of it.

"Caesar's Writers" is now, at last, available on DVD, and no self-respecting home is complete without one. Go get one here.

The "Caesar's Writers" project led to something else I did that I'm also rather proud of, which was to help the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with their Archive of American Television.  It's a lovely ongoing project, in which the pioneers of television are interviewed on camera for posterity.  These are exhaustive interviews, usually lasting at least 4 hours, and the goal is to cover as much ground as is possible.  They're all available on Google Video now, but they don't permit embedding.  The two interviews I conducted for them were with Mel Tolkin, Sid Caesar's head writer; and Paul Henning, creator and Executive Producer of "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," and EP of "Green Acres." 

You can find the Henning interview here, and the Tolkin interview here.  And at this link, you'll find more information about the whole project.


One of the most fun gigs I ever had was writing song segments for the CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST cartoon series produced by Universal for Fox Kids.  Here's one such segment, for which I wrote script, music, and lyrics.  It's called "Three Little Letters."


A VISIT WITH VAN DYKE PARKS (1:21:43)
"Bob Claster's Funny Stuff" was a show of and about comedy, yes, but oddly enough, my background was in music.  However, when I fell in love with KCRW and wanted to become a part of it, the only niche I could think of that wasn't already being served was comedy.  Still, every now and then, I got to strut my musical stuff.  One of the best perks I ever got from my association with the station came in 1984, when Van Dyke Parks, a musician I'd long admired, released a long-awaited new album ("Jump!").  I asked the late Deirdre O'Donoghue, then a nighttime music programmer for the station, if she'd be willing to lend me an hour or so of her airtime for an interview with Van Dyke.  As a Parks fan herself, she readily agreed.  So I contacted Parks, and he invited me over to his lovely home to spend a few afternoons recording this interview.  Van Dyke is as gracious a man as he is brilliant, and that's saying something.  I love Van Dyke Parks.  Still do.  If the Macarthur Grant people had a lick of sense, they'd have honored him long ago.  This show originally aired on February 13, 1984.


 

THE WIBBERLEY STORIES (56:30)
Leonard Wibberley is best known as the author of The Mouse That Roared, but he was a prolific writer of all sorts of fiction and non-fiction.  During 1983, the last year of his life, he came to KCRW once a week and told a short (3-5 minutes) story he'd written.  These stories were delightful, and so was Leonard.  All of us at KCRW adored him.  A few years after he passed away, I found the master tapes of the stories in the archives, and decided to make a one-hour show of the best of them in tribute to Leonard.  I wrote some original piano noodlings to bridge them, and put the show together.  It was very well-received, and was rebroadcast a number of times after its initial airing in 1986.

For some reason, the only copy of this show I can find is missing the very beginning.  The show started with the main theme music (heard again at the end), and my introduction, which said pretty much everything I said above.  However, the first story is intact, and that's not a bad way to start it either.  I'm really proud of this program, and I hope you enjoy it.


 


As I said above, though my main bailiwick at KCRW was comedy, my background was music.  I wrote and performed the theme song to "Funny Stuff," for instance.  Anyway, periodically, I'd get a call to come in and substitute for one of the music programmers.  I loved doing it.  I'm not saying these are deathless works of art or anything, but if you have a long car trip to make, or a prison term to serve, they might be just the thing.  I was largely inspired by the great after-midnight programming I grew up listening to on WBAI-FM in New York by the likes of Steve Post and Bob Fass.  The key difference, however, is that while WBAI had a substantial audience at that time of night, KCRW really didn't in those days.  New York in the '60s was more of a late-night town than L.A. in the '80s, I guess.  The phones, the best measure of audience during live shows, were invariably dead.  Ironically, it's possible that, based on the stats I'm seeing for this site, more people are hearing these shows 20 years after the fact than heard them live.  Here are some examples that I found lying around.

(Note to those under 35: occasionally, in some of this music, you will hear bizarre pops and crackles which may be unfamiliar to you.  This is a result of the fact that, back in the days before music was a matter of ones and zeroes, sound was reproduced using an antiquated system of grooves pressed into large, fragile slices of vinyl.  I have replaced some of the more egregious selections with their newer digital counterparts, when available, but in case you're puzzled by some of these occurrences and are contemplating replacing or repairing your equipment as a result, that's the explanation.  I have, however, left most of the station announcements in, for those who may be nostalgic for the Golden Age of KCRW.)

EVENING BECOMES ECLECTIC (2:09:07)
Back before KCRW became dedicated to the pursuit of all things Cutting Edge, they had a lovely music format that was, essentially, the brainchild of one Isabel Holt, who created the program, "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which exists to this day.  Of all the excellent music programmers I knew at the station, I felt that Isabel's knowledge was the most wide-ranging, and her love for the music she played was the most genuine.  After three years of morning shows, family obligations made it necessary for her to move to the evenings, and so "Evening Becomes Eclectic" was born.  I have no idea what has happened to Isabel, but I certainly hope she's enjoying it.

There was no date on this tape, so I have no idea when it was broadcast, but I don't remember Isabel being at the station during the latter part of my stint there, so I'm guessing this is from the early '80s sometime.  If anyone can nail it down a bit more accurately, please let me know.  This one is about ballads, fire, bananas, and need.

EL QUESO GRANDE - March 1987 (2:00:28)
Here's another two-hour Saturday midnight dose of silliness, substituting for Jack Cheeseborough on his show, "El Queso Grande."  I think I had just found some weird instructional records, and had some fun with them.  You'll learn about your new dentures, get some tips on better sleep, and of course, there's Jack LaLanne with "Glamour Stretcher Time."  As if that weren't enough, Vin Scully answers the question, "What is a Dodger?"  Surprisingly, he does so without ever using the words "overpaid" and "steroids."  Original airdate: March 1987


 

EL QUESO GRANDE - 9/12/87 ("The Pope Show") (1:54:42)
i was invited back to host this same program on September 12, 1987, and the bulk of it is a Salute to the Pope John Paul II, Bringer of Traffic Jams.  His Holiness was visiting Los Angeles, and it was all anybody was talking about, mainly to complain about the inconvenience his visit caused.  There's also a fascinating bit of very early (1960) Beatles, and a salute to Joseph Spence.


 

ARCHIVES ALIVE (and the Baby Love shows)
Archives Alive 10-10-87 (2:02:19)
Archives Alive 10-17-87 (Baby Love I) (1:57:20)
SNAP 6-24-88 (Baby Love II) (1:56:31)

For a while, Michael Ochs, of the famous Rock and Roll photo archive, had a two-hour show at 7 PM on Saturday nights, playing cool and obscure music on KCRW, but in October of 1987, I filled in for him.  In these shows, I did what I usually did when doing music shows, stringing together clusters of songs I like that all, more or less, have to do with a theme.  The first part of the first show is a musical salute to the Northridge Quake, which we'd just experienced.  There's also a section in which the titles of various songs come together to tell a little story.  At least, that was the idea.

The second Archives Alive show is all one theme, having to do with babies.  I found an old instructional record of a pediatrician giving advice to young parents, and used it to good effect here in stringing together a lot of songs on the subject.  About 9 months later, when filling in for Deirdre O'Donoghue on her show, SNAP, I took another crack at it.  Some of it is the same, and some of it is different.  You decide which one you prefer, and then give it as a gift to someone with a new baby.  You're welcome.

NEW ROCHELLE HIGH SCHOOL FIRE SHOW (1:59:37)
In May of 1988, I had just gotten a call from a High School friend (hello, Robin!) who pointed out to me that we were approaching the 20th anniversary of a major fire in our High School.  So, from midnight until 2:00 AM, I spent two hours of airtime playing the music I would have played twenty years earlier.  Now, of course, as I write this, it's another twenty years down the line.  Twenty years ain't what it used to be.  So, if you're curious about what sort of music I might have been listening to forty years ago (ouch!), you might enjoy this two-hour dollop of it.

EIGHT HOURS TO HARRY (8/6/88 - Salute to 1988 WGA Strike) (1:45:15)
One of the miscellaneous music shows on the station was hosted by Kristine McKenna, and was whimsically called "Eight Hours to Harry," simply because it ended eight hours before Harry Shearer's show started.  Apparently, judging by what I said at the beginning of this show, I filled in as host of this show for four consecutive Saturday nights.  This was the first, and the bulk of it is a musical salute to the 1988 Writers Guild Strike, which had just ended.  Also: "You Are So Pretty."

SATURDAY BECOMES ECLECTIC (12/28/85) (1:57:10)
Back when eclectic music was the trademark of the station, in addition to the original "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and the spin-off "Evening Becomes Eclectic," there was, for a while, a "Saturday Becomes Eclectic," which at this time was hosted by Bob Darby between 10am and noon.  (There was also a "Christmas Becomes Eclectic" that I traditionally hosted, and as we get closer to the holiday season, I may post one or two of them here.)  Anyway, this was a two-hour show that aired on Saturday mornings.  In this edition, I presented "Variations on the Theme of 'Variations on the Theme of "I Got Rhythm"'" featuring a rare recording of George Gershwin himself, explaining and performing one of his most famous pieces.  Then, once we get rhythm, there's an exploration of dance craze tunes, with everything from "The Continental" to "The Brontosaurus."  After that, the show goes to the dogs, and the rest is simply a tragedy.  This show was originally broadcast on December 28, 1985.


Another of my sidelights is the fact that I'm the Musical Director for Vito's Pizza, home of the best slice of NY Pizza this side of the Rockies.  Great pizza AND great music!  What's not to like?  Vito's is at 846 N. La Cienega, between Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd.  Tell them "Bobby iPod" sent you.  Ask for the special spicy pepperoni (it's not on the menu, and it's wonderful)!  To see a clip of Vito in action on "Extra," check this out:

Other unrelated websites I've written include "The Great Games of Sid Sackson," a comprehensive tribute to the greatest American inventor of board games, and a collection of unreleased recordings by the legendary yet obscure '70s singer-songwriter, Judee Sill.

Thanks for your interest!

Bob Claster

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