Having spent this semester cloistered in the relative luxury of the campus TV Studio and having just read a chapter in Television Production Handbook on Field Production (2), I finally realize just how spoiled we are by the sameness and reliability of our studio shoots. We walk into class, turn the equipment on, assume our assigned positions for the day, prepare the video and audio equipment for recording and off we go on our newest video adventure.
As far back as the “I Love Lucy” days, spurts of canned laughter or “Laugh Tracks” have been used to “sweeten” audience reaction to comic presentations. While every viewer who ever watched a sit com and every artist who ever created one all say they hate canned laughter, the addition of laugh tracks in all forms of comedy, when done well, usually enhances the funniness of any script or performance. Laughter is, after all, contagious.
While I was pursuing a theater career, I did quite a bit of directing. No matter what kind of theater I worked in—NYC or regional, professional or amateur—one thing seemed universally true throughout: If anything goes wrong, bad performances, ill-fitting costumes, ugly sets, power outages, even if the guy on the pin rail falls asleep and misses a fly cue, the blame will always be attributed to the director.
Back in Studio Production class, when asked for final project ideas, I suggested a comedy skit, one akin to SNL’s Weekend Update. Upon receiving the go-ahead from my professor, I embarked on an epic journey that took me from a vague idea reflecting a worst case scenario future, to a written script, to a story board, then to a full-class video production of my little five-minute skit.
I often lament my substandard public school education when confronted with those occasional usage problems that spell-check does not detect. “Slight” and “Sleight” for example; or “poll” and “pole;”or “canvas” and “canvass.” Generally, once I publish the mistake, I manage to catch and correct. But, as a professional writer, I have always had to guard against this propensity.
Tags like “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Crazy Bernie” and “Little Marco” poured out of Candidate Trump’s mouth every day during the endless 2016 presidential campaign. Trump voters dutifully chanted these puerile, two-word brands–none of them particularly clever–like the crowds in the Mummy movie chanting “Imhotep.”
Looking at the headlines this week, I realized that America the Beautiful has been repealed and replaced by some lesser, cheesier knock-off that I shall call REPUBLANICA. The blind, thoughtless, partisan legislation being passed by the 115th Congress will ultimately destroy the country we know (and sometimes love), replacing it with a dictatorship run by thugs and school yard bullies.