GIF You’re Happy and You Know It

The fourth annual Gatlinburg Improv Fest will be held on March 6 and 7 at Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre and I can hardly wait. There will be five returning groups and four new participants.

Festival organizers created posters that fans can print or share online. As you will see, Einstein Simplified will perform in the 8:00 p.m. show on Friday, March 6 and in the 10:00 p.m. show on Saturday, March 7.

The newcomers are Underhanded Improv from Chicago, The Middle Child from Cincinnati, The Improv-ables from Knoxville, and The Maybe Pile from Chattanooga. In addition to Einstein Simplified, the returning groups are Reasonably Priced Babies from Asheville, Shenanigans from Lee University, Nashville Improv Company from Nashville, and the New Fangles from Gatlinburg.

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Franklin, My Dear

In episode one of the web series State of Franklin, the main character fights with his estranged wife and her new boyfriend. He ends up getting hit on the head. When he returns home, he sees a flash of lightning and hears a crash of thunder that appear to come from his living room. Inside his locked house, he discovers a naked man who claims to be Benjamin Franklin. We don’t know if the new arrival is crazy or honest or a figment of the main character’s imagination.

I have always enjoyed the idea of historical figures experiencing the present day. Nine years ago, I wrote a blog post about Benjamin Franklin. I wrote that if he could time-travel to the present, I would love to be his tour guide and that I would show him the musical 1776.

I learned about the Mitch Moore’s new web series over the weekend when I read an article about it in Go Knoxville. I was happy to see that Franklin is played by local actor Randy Thompson, an acquaintance of mine who often attends Einstein Simplified shows.

Episode two picks up immediately after episode one. Franklin has just appeared in the living room. I used some of my unplanned vacation time this week to binge watch all five episodes that have been produced so far. Each episode is about ten minutes long.

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Ice Isn’t Nice

The ice storm that started on Monday gave me two unexpected vacation days in a row. For my wife, it meant she didn’t have to use a sick day.

The precipitation began while I was taking my wife to the drug store for some medicine. She was scheduled to be off for President’s Day. I was supposed to go to work that afternoon but the roads were already slick by the time I would have gone in.

On Tuesday, her office was closed due to the road conditions. The radio station was open but I stayed home rather than attempt driving on an ice-covered hill.

I briefly ventured outside to sprinkle some ice melting pellets on the driveway. Here’s a picture of the latch to the gate in my fence.

 Later, I took a picture of the late afternoon sun from an upstairs window in the house. The trees had a different look than usual because of their ice-coated twigs.

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Make Yourself at Home

A few of the members of Einstein Simplified normally record the troupe’s podcast after our Tuesday night show. Aaron Littleton records and edits the audio on his laptop computer.

Aaron missed last Tuesday’s show due to illness. I thought it would be fun if Megan Jones and I recorded an Einstein Simplified “Alternative Podcast”, which in any other context would be considered mainstream.

Here’s what Aaron wrote about this week’s episode:

While the nerds are away, Frank and Megan will play! This basic cable-obsessed duo discuss the intricacies of Lifetime movies and more! Nary a foul word escapes their angelic lips so gather the whole family around for the strangest Einstein Simplified Podcast ever!

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Singer, Nerds, Lobsters

Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary show brought back a flood of great memories. I got hooked on the show while in high school and I have watched it regularly since. I was lucky enough to attend a dress rehearsal of the show in January, 1978. That episode included Bill Murray’s famous rendition of “Star Wars (Main Theme)” as Nick the Lounge Singer.

A tweet from Tom Morris reminded me of a 2009 blog post I wrote about my visit to Studio 8H. Coincidentally, I told the same story in an Einstein Simplified podcast that was recorded last week and will be posted tomorrow.

In honor of SNL40, here is a reprint of my 2009 post:

“Saturday Night Live” was a favorite of mine while I was in high school. I still watch it today, thanks to the invention of the TiVo. There were many years in the middle that I missed. Back then, it seemed that everyone knew the latest catchphrase by the time school started on Monday morning.

One such phrase was “cheeburger, cheeburger” from a skit set in the Olympia Restaurant. John Belushi would tell his customers that they had “no Coke, Pepsi” and “no fries, chips” before shouting out their cheeseburger order to Dan Aykroyd on the grill. The burgers and the grill were real. I know because I smelled them.

My father used to play tennis with NBC announcer Bill Wendell. Mr. Wendell arranged for my wife and me to attend a taping of “Late Night with David Letterman” during our honeymoon. Years earlier, I had asked Mr. Wendell for tickets to “Saturday Night Live.”

A couple of factors came into play. I was only in high school and there may have been an age limit for attending the show. Plus, at the time, SNL was a hot ticket. Mr. Wendell said he couldn’t get me any tickets to the show but he could get me into the next best thing, the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal was held about three hours or so before the live show. It would be recorded and could be used all or in part if something went terribly awry later that night. Also, skits that didn’t get a good enough reaction could be cut or rewritten before 11:30 p.m.

I just barely got up the nerve to ask a cute girl from a neighboring all-girls high school to go with me to the dress rehearsal. I figured that the hot ticket and the earlier showtime would guarantee a “yes” from her. They didn’t. Instead of just saying no, Margaret Finneran turned me down because she planned to go to a father-daughter communion breakfast the next day. I ended up calling Ed Gough, my friend from seventh and eighth grades, who met me at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. By the way Margaret, I was home in time to watch the 11:30 telecast. And I made it to church in time the next morning.

That week’s
host was comedian Robert Klein. The musical guest was a newcomer named Bonnie Raitt. In that episode, they introduced some new skits and characters that would turn up again in later shows. Bill Murray and Gilda Radner played nerds Todd and Lisa for the first time that night and the Olympia Restaurant opened for business with its real “cheeburgers” on the grill.

During “Weekend Update,” there was a joke about giant lobsters headed toward Manhattan. The show concluded with the lobsters attacking 30 Rock. Comedy writer Al Franken came up into the audience during a break and sat next to Ed and me. He informed our section that we would need to react in terror to the news of the lobster attack. The director was going to superimpose an image of a giant lobster coming toward us. Franken said that if we got it right, they would repeat the process with the live audience. If we messed it up, the bit would get dropped from the show. We must have done well enough because the shot stayed in the actual broadcast.

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Carmen Declaration

The priest in one of the later scenes of Knoxville Opera’s production of Carmen looked especially authentic. There’s a reason for that. The supernumerary part was played by Fr. Rich Andre of St. John XXIII University Parish.

The music was wonderfully familiar, especially the “March Of The Toreadors.” One of the singers I interviewed, Ryan Kuster, played the toreador Escamillo. The other singer I interviewed, Zulimar López-Hernández, was radiant as Micaëla. It was fun to see Leon Duquella, a classmate from the FBI Citizens Academy, playing the part of Lillas Pastia.

The main roles of Carmen and Don José were played perfectly by Audrey Babcock and Brian Cheney. Emily Hagens and Briana Hunter were standouts as Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercédès.

My only disappointment was that my wife came down with the flu and had to miss our Valentine’s eve date. She insisted that I go to the show while she got some rest.

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Dixie Win

 Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede held a media preview to show off its new set and some of its new show. Those of us who attended were treated to a free lunch that included a tasty rotisserie chicken and their famous creamy soup.

My favorite parts of the show were the ring of fire, the herd of bison, and the patriotic finale. Roman rider Dusti Crain stood on the backs of two horses as she led them around flaming torches and through the fire ring.

 After the show, riders and horses took positions around the arena. They posed for photos. I took advantage of the opportunity to pat a few of the horses on their heads and to scratch their ears. One of the riders told me that ringmaster Jay Teter’s horse is a descendent of Silver from The Lone Ranger TV series.

 I recognized Jay from his winning performance in Star 102.1’s Dancing with the Knoxville Stars in 2012. He introduced me to Dusti Crain and Ashley Cutshaw before the show. Naturally, we took pictures and tweeted about it.

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Gram of Tweet

Twitter is still my favorite social media site. I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends are now using Instagram. I get frustrated when I see them tweet an Instagram link, rather post their photo to both sites.

Valley Fig Growers recently invited their Twitter followers to also follow them on Instagram. I did so, but I also asked them not to ignore their Twitter fans. They quickly reassured me, which I thought was an excellent example of how companies should use social media.

The very next day, the fig folks kept their promise. They posted a photo of some great-looking fig lollipops to both Twitter and Instagram.

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The Beard Board

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee asked me to interview Fr. Eric Andrews, who will be the guest speaker at their upcoming Emerald O’Ccasion fundraising dinner. The catch is that Fr. Eric won’t be in Knoxville until the day before the event.

I am considering using Google Hangouts On Air to record my interview with Fr. Eric. I decided to test it out by “interviewing” my son, Frank Jr. first. The quality is not as good as I had hoped but it might be good enough to post on various social media sites.

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Bangor Galore

Maestro Lucas Richman is in his final season as music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. He will conduct performances of Stabat Mater on February 19 and 20. His final concerts will be on May 14 and 15.

Since 2010, Maestro Richman has been also serving as music director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. He commuted to Bangor until last summer when he and his family moved to Maine. He commuted to Knoxville for select concerts in the 2014-15 season.

The people in Bangor were delighted to welcome the Richmans to town. The Maestro is happy to be there too. He recently posted a link on Facebook to a story that was on NBC Nightly News. The story explained the proper pronunciation of Bangor and featured a marketing video that starred Maestro Richman himself.

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Fitness Likes a Glove

The East Tennessee locations of Koko FitClub recently joined Twitter. I’ve been a member of Koko since I started doing radio commercials for them in November, 2013. I’m also a big fan of Twitter. I thought it was great that they used the service to inform me that I earned a prize in one of their recent fitness challenges.

My prize was a pair of running gloves. They were, in fact, waiting for me on the counter. I almost chose the orange gloves but then realized that the black gloves would hide dirt better.

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Hello, Folly!

The 2015 Front Page Follies are over five months away but David Lauver has been hard at work developing concepts for parody songs that poke fun at local events. He invited last year’s cast members to a meeting to discuss his ideas and to bring some of their own.

I mentioned two or three recent news stories that might still be topical by July. David asked those of us present if we wanted to take a stab at writing lyrics for some of the songs on his list. My homework is to try writing parody lyrics to the tune of “All About that Bass,” “Blank Space” and a few others.

The assignment reminded me of the parody songs my friend Bruce and I wrote for our own amusement while working at Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts in the summer of 1980. Most of our compositions were about people or events at Wolf Trap that summer.

I had another reminder of Wolf Trap a few days ago. It happened to be Bruce’s birthday too. I heard a few minutes of Aida on WUOT. One of the spoofs Bruce and I wrote that summer had to do with shows that were canceled, including Aida after a thunderstorm knocked out the power. I didn’t remember that the cancellation of Aida resulted in a lawsuit between the Opera Company of Boston and the Wolf Trap Foundation.

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Without a Paddle

Eugene Levy has a recognizable voice, especially to those of us who watched him pn SCTV and in movies like American Pie. I heard his voice on NPR as I was flipping around the dial and I stopped to listen to the interview.

As a radio guy, I was frustrated that interviewer Scott Simon didn’t mention Levy’s name while I was listening. I later looked up the interview online and realized that Simon only said the name of his guests during the introduction and the close. There was no reset during the six and a half minute conversation.

Many radio hosts fall into the trap of addressing their guests in the second person, thereby forgetting about the listeners. One helpful technique is to think of the listeners in the second person and the guest in the third person. For example, Simon could have said, “You’re listening to Eugene Levy and his son Daniel talk about their new show.” Or better yet, “We’re talking with Eugene Levy and his son Daniel about their new show.”

If the host thinks of his or her radio show as a cocktail party with new people arriving, it’s easy to remember to introduce the new arrivals to the guest of honor. Instead, NPR interviews often sound like a private conversation that leaves the radio listener excluded.

Despite my complaints, I was thrilled to learn about the Levys’ new show. I found the first episode online in advance of its U.S. broadcast premiere on February 11.

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Yo Quiero Yogurt

The local Menchie’s franchise didn’t let me forget that it was National Frozen Yogurt Day. They contacted me with a tweet, so it only makes sense that the remainder of the afternoon and evening played out via Twitter.

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