Here's a bit that had a real brief shelf life. It was the Halloween after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Then we had the anthrax scare, as envelopes tainted with anthrax were mailed to people and organizations around the country. Everyone in comedy was trying to figure it out, Prairie Home Companion included. I submitted a couple of things. One piece did get on air. One of my efforts that didn't make it to air was this piece, a horror parody about the various mailroom precautions that were being put in place. Re-reading it, I'm surprised that it actually plays out as a long, plotted parody piece, far longer than most of the stuff I submitted. Also, how quickly I was kinda blocking out the real horror and going all-in into the comedy. It's very much of its time, and yet, removed from it as well.
And don't forget, Halloweenies is on sale at Amazon! Order your copy today!
Again, when trying to tie the Prairie Home Companion pieces into my desire to write Halloween-themed sketches, the Ketchup Advisory Board would seem to be a natural, right? Who doesn't think of ketchup blood for Halloween? Apparently, a lot of people, because PHC passed on this bit. Some of these things I didn't even bother to re-work and submit elsewhere. Granted, I had some success writing bits for their various Councils and Boards, but a lot missed. In my mind certain bits were so married to the style and pace of PHC, changing them would simply reduce them. Hey, I can think that; it's my mind. Anyway, that really qualifies them as "Skit Happens" subjects. This one is from October 2000...
And don't forget, Halloweenies is on sale at Amazon! Order your copy today!
Ketchup Advisory Board - Halloween
Continuing along yesterday's post, in 2000, I was trying to both use the various existing & long-running frame works that Prairie Home Companion had AND inject my own style of humor into them. Case in point; Duct Tape Costumes. The Duct Tape Association was a major bit, so doing a bit about duct tape costumes seemed like it should fly. But It was more a real sketch than a true promo. And in these type of things, I really clung to the idea of Keillor as the bemused straight man. It never struck me that Keillor was after the big laughs on the show for himself. But maybe that was just the way he was playing it. It's never like I ever got any feedback on this stuff. It always, I MEAN ALWAYS, comes down to me writing what I what and hoping for the best. Sure, you watch/listen to the show to get their rhythms and such but never once did I script get returned for a rewrite or a punch-up. It was used or wasn't. It was used in whole, or cut to bits. But that's a rant for another day.
And don't forget, Halloweenies is available at Amazon! Order your copy today!
American Duct Tape Council
Oct. 2005; one of the things I tried to do when I was submitting material to Prairie Home Companion was to mimic what they already were doing and mash it up with a holiday or current event. PHC had the Duct Tape people and they had the Ketchup people, so I would create something, like, say, The Candy Corn Council when Halloween approached. Granted it's got a slight more edge to it then the Buttermilk Biscuit promos, but I thought it worked. PHC disagreed. As did the proceeding radio companies I sent it to. Oh, well.
Candy Corn Council
Oct. 2014 brought this bit of silliness. It's a quick one-off I wrote for the radio people. Their bits had to be short, no longer than 90 seconds, as a rule, which made the commercial format so perfect. If you could squeeze your idea into a commercial send-up, it was the way to go. And the radio people did enjoy music parodies, so I thought this would be a perfect Halloween Mash-up (see what I did there?). It's a great fun song and with all the oldie-shows around (including PBS) if seemed to be the perfect time to see what this novelty one-hit wonder would be doing...
Bobby “Boris” Pickett Sings!
October 2004. This was a weird bit. It was a prose bit, the kind I was churning out for no particular reason-a "listicle" as they are called now. An amusing or punny title with a brief gag to follow. I'd done them for the Staten Island Advance, the NY Post, Cracked; come up with a parody theme (movies, TV shows, candy) and riff on them until I had 9-12 items to type up. Even my sketch "Abbott & Othello" begat a list of "Lesser-Known" Shakespeare plays. Anyway, I got it into my head to extract some and turn them into a radio bit for Prairie Home Companion. They passed, but the bit never died. Some titles went off to become actual sketches, some were just folded into other bits, just comic Flotsam and jetsam washing up on humor's shore.
Oct 2017; CBS was pushing prequels to Star Trek and Big Bang Theory, and with Young Sheldon and the Star Trek: Discovery being hits, what else could they try? How about a sit-com about a young, nerdy vampire?
The mash-ups of genres is fun because it lets you play one against the other and putting a horror tale as a family comedy allows you to follow the rhythms and beats of the show while still goofing on it.
So, to remind people that Halloween is coming and I have a Halloween book to sell, here is...
One of the things about Halloween and Election Day coming so close together is that there's a lot of cross over that can happen (See: "You're NOT Elected, Charlie Brown"). Halloween 2016 was like that (this year too, based on some of the sketches I'm in the process of putting together for TMI: Hollywood). Frankly, I've forgotten what triggered the idea, but I liked the twist on the Frankenstein movies that maybe somebody could make some bucks off of it and how much "dark money" goes into a good horror tale. Needless to say, the troupe passed on it, but I was well in my stride now, the sketches were longer, the cast larger and the effort to give each actor a moment was helping the writing a lot.
Anyway, thanks for reading! And if you like Halloween comedy, check out my book, Halloweenies, available at Amazon! It's all treat and no trick!
In the Pocket of Big Pitchfork
So, "Halloweenies"; how'd that come about? This was a just a work of love that I pieced together from many sources, much like the Frankenstein monster. And I kinda came at it backwards. As you'll note on this blog, I have A LOT of Halloween/monster/horror sketches. I'm a comedy writer that writes what he knows; and what I know and love is Halloween. Any time a show did a Halloween episode, I got excited. It was pretty big of a TV deal back in the 1980s. Anyway, I had a bunch of homeless Halloween sketches. I wanted to use them somehow. I had written a film script called "Christmas Carol" about a family dealing with holiday projects. And there was a similar situation with Christmas--I had a ton of Christmas-themed skits. So what I did was worked some of my skits into the script, mostly as stuff they were watching on TV for one reason or another. I decided to take a similar tact with my Halloween material.
I wrote a story about a kid who is really into Halloween. And I drew on a lot of my memories of growing up on Staten Island, boat yards, scary old ladies in the neighborhood, trick-or-treating well after sunset. And always looking for the perfect costume. The sketches worked there way in as promos on TV for various movie releases and shows "coming soon" or being featured on a cable channels "Fright Fest." It was really a cute story, with a lot of goofy, fun elements.
Then came the era of Amazon self-publishing. I started taking some of my scripts and adapting them into novellas. "Halloweenies" was one of them. Of course, changes were made. For one, I converted the family into the same family from my "Christmas Carol" script, figuring I'd create a book trilogy, since Amazon authors seem to like doing that so much. So, I reverse-engineered the story to be a prequel to my Christmas tale (thinking I'd adapt that later. Still waiting). I also changed the delivery method for the Halloween skits. I feel it's more organic to the story, plus it set up one of the characters for the next two stories (if there was a need for the next two stories). The whole thing came together pretty well, in my estimation. You can see for yourself by buying Halloweenies at Amazon.com. I've gotten very nice reactions to it.
As a sneak preview, I've come upon one of the sketches I had written that wound up in the book. I really liked this premise. It started as a radio bit. I thought I really nailed the voice of the movie. And it was done as a commercial parody because, again, I had to work within the 2 minute maximum limit. I loved the title mash-up with the Abbott & Costello movie. After radio passed on it, I redid it for a comedy troupe, but it didn't pass their muster, for stage or video. It was too tricky, choppy and short for stage and too costly for video. So, I bumped an older bit from the book to make room for our next presentation:
When Harry Met Frankenstein
Oct. 2014, another week, another zombie sketch (but, hey, zombies were really, really hot back then). Again, barely a sketch; a black out bit in the form of yet another commercial parody. I really thought this was a great original idea, until I was Googling something later on and discover quite a number of Walken Dead YouTube videos out there. While I thought my approached of the Walken Dead zombie was better, the other guys did it longer. Maybe it only deserves to be a blackout sketch.
But again, I remind my readers that my Halloween tale, Halloweenies, is available now at Amazon.com. It's a funny tale of a boy and his quest for the perfect Halloween costume and all the trouble it causes. It's all treat and no trick! Get your copy today!
Now, back to the blog...
Freelance writer, still hacking away.