COLIN QUINN — A short respite in the East End of Long Island turned out to be even more interesting when I was gifted tickets to see comedian Colin Quinn at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Quinn, who was on SNL (anchor of Weekend Update) was a neighbor of mine in midtown Manhattan. Though I’d see him at many events, the conversations we had in midtown were just great. I found him to be a great humorist, and like his pal, some guy named Jerry Seinfeld, a rare observer of everyday interactions.
After a rough opening by another comic … bringing with him notes that he seemed to constantly refer too, Quinn appeared … also with notes! His humor is sharp, abrasive at times, yet exceeding honest. He also did a series of observations on Trump and showed a great facility for impersonating Trump. In fact, he’s a natural. Note to Lorne Michals: If Alec Baldwin isn’t available for Trump, please call Colin.
Talking about human evolution; digital devices; and, his heart attack which he suffered last year, he was a delight. I wondered if his close pal Jerry would show (as he has in the past), as his house was nearby, but he never did.
It’s always a strange crowd in Sag Harbor. Fans for sure, but there were some empty seats, which surprised me. Quinn is as good and tough as ever.
BROTHERS SMOTHERS HONORED — Getting fired from work isn’t usually a cause to celebrate. But the Smothers Brothers aren’t your run-of-the-mill comedians.
The duo has stepped out of retirement to commemorate the day 50 years ago when CBS canceled their show over their political impudence.
Tom and Dick Smothers — aged 80 and 82 respectively — reunited this Monday for several appearances at the Chautauqua Institution and the nearby National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York.
“It’s really an honor to be honored in this way,” Tom Smothers told AP on the eve of the events. “At least we’re both alive and not having someone speak for us. We can mumble our own way through.”
The two discussed their firing in an onstage discussion and later unveiled a display of archival material they donated to the center, including their iconic red suit jackets, Tom’s guitar and Dick’s bass, scripts and creative papers, and legal documents.
“People come up to us and say, ‘We love you guys. I wish you were on television now,’” Tom Smothers recalled. “It’s a different world today.”
CBS abruptly yanked The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in April 1969 because of their persistent and humorous opposition to the Vietnam War, support of civil rights and tweaking authority. They welcomed controversial anti-war guests and resisted efforts to censor the show. The brothers weren’t allowed to use the phrase “sex education” or joke that someone was “a known heterosexual.”
“Don’t tell a comedian not to say a certain word. For sure they’ll do it,” Dick Smothers said. “The funny thing is, I look back at those things. They’re so benign, but at the time they were volatile.”
The brothers responded to their firing by filing a breach of contract lawsuit, in which CBS lost and ultimately had to pay. “We had such a minor payment dollar-wise, but that wasn’t the point,” said Tom Smothers. “We had to do it.”
Journey Gunderson, the executive director of the National Comedy Center, called The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour ″an inflection point for comedy — influencing generations of comedy creators. We look forward to sharing the Smothers Brothers’ important story and preserving it for future generations.”
Tom and Dick Smothers continued to perform up to 200 club and concert dates each year after the firing. They took their comedy show to ABC in 1970, to NBC in 1975, and back to CBS in 1988-89, but they never caught on again.
Many comedians see their influence in such envelope-pushing performers as George Carlin and Bill Maher. Tom Smothers is proud of that legacy but points out that wasn’t the plan.
“We didn’t do it intentionally. No guy goes to war and takes a bullet on purpose,” he said. “You have a mission to do.”
PR MOVES — From colleague Roger Friedman in his Showbiz 411 column: The superstars of Hollywood PR are joining forces. PMK and Rogers & Cowan, separate agencies that are owned by InterPublic, have announced they will operate as one.
This is like the Yankees and the Red Sox becoming one team, or DC and Marvel partnering up. Together they have a collective client roster that covers more than 30 corporate brands and 500 individual clients including Denzel Washington, Brie Larson, Robert Redford, Felicity Jones, Elton John, Sly Stallone, Stephen Curry, Robert Zemeckis, Trisha Yearwood, Michael B. Jordan, The Rolling Stones, Sean Combs, Vince Vaughn, Miles Teller, Ray Romano, Katy Perry and NASCAR driver Jimmy Johnson.
The new combined agency will be run by a lot of my old pals, Cindi Berger (PMK) and Alan Nierob (RC) along with CEO Mark Owens and Shirley Hughes will be President of its Brand Marketing division, Fran Curtis and Brad Cafarelli will be Vice-Chairman of the Entertainment Division and Bill Rosenthal its COO/CFO.
For all of my life in the biz, these two firms were the top tier companies, and friendly rivals. They spun off literally dozens of new, smaller companies. Almost everyone in the best Hollywood PR agencies came from these places. Leslee Dart’s powerhouse 42West came from Leslee spreading her PMK wings years ago, and almost everyone from ID-PR, the other big deal in town, assembled from the mother ships. So makes sense now for these two companies to merge their resources– and their superpowers!
What will they be called? I hear that a new name will be created to describe the entity. But please I hope it’s not one of these names some of the others have taken– they are very confusing! Mendacity PR! Insurgency PR! Persnickety PR!
But just imagine all those PMK actors and singers turning up R&C’s Elton John and Rolling Stones events! The mind boggles. I want selfies with everyone!
SHORT TAKES — Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam performs tomorrow, Thursday at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA with Earth Wind & Fire. We’ll have an interview with Miller shortly … SIGHTING: Social-doyenne Wendy Stuart Kaplan, with husband Alan, and PR-man David Salidor at Coco Pazzo in Soho; dining after the Will Grega art exhibition at the Kartell Gallery … Listened to Johnathan Larson’s terrific RENTsoundtrack on the back to NYC and was just dazzled again. Sure, it was 1994, but the music and performances (Anthony Rapp; Jesse L. Martin, Adam Pascal) were just sensational. Brilliant. That’s the only word for it … Singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop back at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room on August 20 … And, guitarist Pat Metheny is at Sony Hall in September.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Barry Zelman; Andrew Tobin; Mark Bego; Jane Berk; Van Dean; Leesa Csolak; Keith F. Girard; James Edstrom; Evan Levy; Steve Leeds; Dennis Scott; Creed Taylor; Jerry Love; Irwin Robinson; Chloe and Cody; and, CHIP.