Today is the 99th birthday of Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who won a Tony Award for Fiddler on the Roof, a Tony and Pulitzer Price for Fiorello!, and such other musicals with Jerry Bock as She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, The Rothschilds, Rex (with Richard Richard Rodgers), and the opera Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines -- and much more. Yes, 99.
I interviewed Sheldon years ago when I was a student at Northwestern, and he returned to campus as Homecoming Grand Marshal. I then made a radio documentary from it for the school radio station, WNUR, and two decades later finally tracked down his address through a mutual friend to send him a copy. And when I told my mother after all that time that I finally found someone who knew where Harnick lived, she said, "Oh, you mean, Aunt Joan?" I was floored. I never had any idea that they grew up together and even went to college together. Though. no, she didn't have her address. When I sent him the radio documentary though and explained my further connection, he sent a handwritten note back, and the first line was, "OH, MY GOD!!! JOAN SERED!!! (which was her maiden name. And yes, this is the Aunt Joan who I wrote about here a few Januarys ago for her surprise 90th birthday party.) Though they've periodically crossed paths over the many decades, I was able to get them together 14 years ago when we all saw a production of his show She Loves Me at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. (And yes, this was the production I've written about several times that starred Jessie Mueller before she left for Broadway and won a Tony Award for starring in the musical Beautiful.)
But enough of all that. On with the show. Here's a wonderful, hour-long interview with Sheldon Harnick at the Kennedy Center when he was 90, and you'll see he's vibrant and entertaining. Know too that this isn't just an interview, but includes several of his songs from wonderful performers.
And here's one of my favorite of his lesser-known songs, "In My Own Lifetime," from The Rothschilds, which starred Hal Linden who won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Harnick writes poetically and richly with the simplicity of almost everyday language, which is his hallmark. Years ago, when I made that aforementioned radio documentary for the college station, I ended it with this song -- which I preceded with a clip of Harnick talking about how he'd like people to listen to his songs and say, "Yeah. Yeah, that's true."
And we'll end our celebration with this video from when Harnick was 94. singing absolutely wonderfully one of his classics (in fact, I think one of the best interpretations I've heard of the song), "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof with Judy Blazer. And I suspect Ms. Blazer is thrilled to be performing this with the song's lyricist. All the more so since it was promoting the opening of a revival of the show.
On this week’s Naked Lunch podcast, hosts Phil Rosenthal and David Wild celebrate the release this week of Ray Romano's new movie Somewhere In Queens -- which Ray directed, co-wrote and co-stars in. As a result, as the site writes, “we are reheating this early Lunch in which Phil -- who famously created Everybody Loves Raymond -- reunites with Ray and Brad Garrett for a wild ride of a funny conversation over delicious sandwiches. Ray discusses his new movie, while Brad Garrett discusses some of his recent projects -- and just about everything else you can imagine. And some things you cannot imagine. The group also shares hysterical stories about their collective hero, Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles.”
Why I haven’t seen this posted on the Naked Lunch website and haven’t embedded it myself, I have no idea, so I’m glad that they’re repeating it.
I can’t embed the audio, but if you click on the link here, it will take you to the website, where you just click on the “Play” arrow underneath the photo.
Today, we're making an Al Franken Twofer Day. That's because tonight is the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, for which the main speaker will be Roy Wood Jr. of The Daily Show. And in honor of the occasion, Al Franken posted a few highlights from when he was the speaker in 1966, after having also done it in 1964.
The clips were very funny, but I remember his entire speech being extremely funny -- for . So, I figured why not post the whole thing. After all, why laugh for four minutes when you can do so for 43 minutes! (Yes, his speech was 43 minutes!)
But then, I figured, why only post his 1996 speech just because those are the only clips he showed, when I can embed his 1994 speech, which was a mere 36 minutes.
So, 79 minutes in all of Al Franken, at his best.
The guest on this week’s Al Franken podcast is Harry Littlman, who Al says talks here about “A panorama of Trump’s massive legal problems.” They discuss Manhattan, Georgia, the Mar-a-Lago documents, Jan. 6, & the Civil cases!"
Because the podcast is now on Apple Podcasts, I can longer embed it on the website, but if you click on the link here, it will take you to their page, where you just click on the “Play” arrow underneath the photo.
Following up on yesterday, this is another standout parody song from season two of Schmigadoon! on Apple TV+, which is known as Schmicago.
The song is "Bells and Whistles" performed by Jane Krakowski, as a Billy Flynn-like lawyer, doing her stuff to get Keegan-Michael Key off, after he's wrongly arrested for murder. The song is a parody of "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago. But what makes this so special, is that it's actually about four parodies in the one song -- not just of "Razzle Dazzle," but also "I'm Not Getting Married" (from Stephen Sondheim's Company), "He Reached for the Gun" (also from Chicago) and a choreography parody of "Hot Honey Rag" from Chicago. All that, and an hilarious extravaganza production number that's it's almost circus-like.
As before, I suggest making the video full screen, because there's a lot going on in the number...
I was asked the other day what I thought would happen with the Writers Guild, if they would go on strike.
I haven't paid close attention, but the WGA just got the biggest strike authorization vote they've ever had -- 97.85%, so it seems near-certain they'll go on strike. The only reason they won't is if the companies are scared of that huge, united vote and agree to terms, which is very unlikely given their history. Whether the strike will be long or short is the bigger question. Most tend to be long, though none have had that strong an authorization vote.
The DGA has only gone on strike once -- for about 15 minutes. They generally wait to see what the WGA gets after going on strike, and then settle with the producers for that. Their contract date, though, has moved up a bit from the past, I think, and expires at the end of June, so that only leaves two months for the WGA to settle its contract before the DGA can "know" what it's supposed to do. And two months would be a fairly short strike.
My pure guess is that the DGA won't strike, but I don't know enough about the issues.
The issues have changed a bit from what they generally have been in the past, now that the Internet and streaming are settled as foundations of the Industry. And when I think of that, I can only shake my head and laugh, because the last time there was a long, protracted strike was 2007-8 – and that was because the studios insisted it was too early to know if there would be any money from the Internet…when it was abundantly, blatantly clear even then, indeed studios were already making money from the Internet. The point being that whatever the AMPTP insists about streaming, you can rest assured it is not true and that even they don’t believe it.
The core to most basic issues, of course, is money. And even if “residuals” aren’t the factor they once were, they’re nonetheless related to all money issues. I’ve explained what residuals are to people who wonder why writers should be paid more and continually after they’ve been paid (I remember being contacted by a morning radio show on the East Coast back in 2007 and asked if I would call in to talk with the hosts, which I did, made memorable because it meant I had to get up at 4 AM…). The short version is that residuals are delayed compensation that is built into the original contract when signed. You get paid less upfront so the producer can afford to proceed, on the agreement that you’ll get paid more later on when (and if) money comes in.
But my pal Mark Evanier re-posted his own much better and much more detailed – and very interesting – description of what residuals are and how they work (and why) that’s well-worth reading, not just as a matter related to strikes, but how the film and TV industry work, period.
You can find it here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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