Sunday, February 5, 2017

‘Lightning’ to strike at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center this Thursday!


‘Lightning’ to strike Cultural Arts Center

Lit Live mounts play based on ‘Frankenstein’ creation

By Michael Aushenker

A creation story about the ultimate creation story marks the latest Lit Live production at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.
“And Lightning Struck: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Creation,” which runs Feb. 9 through 12, tells the story of how Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sparked the idea for her novel, “Frankenstein,” one of literature’s great archetypal stories.
Playwright Robert Weibezahl wrote the original script for “Lightning,” to be helmed by Simi resident Austin Robert Miller, a 21-year-old actor making his directorial debut.

‘It’s alive!’

The year is 1831, and Matthews, a visitor from the West, drops by Shelley with a request: to write the introduction for a new printing of her best-selling 1818 novel, “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.” Matthews tells the widow that he is interested “not the story of the creature itself but the story of how you came to create it.”
Shelley shares with the visitor her memories of the strange, stormy night in 1817 when a group of friends—Shelley, then-husband Percey Shelley, Lord George Byron and John Polidori—tucked inside an English mansion, engaged in a contest to come up with the best ghost story. Not a spoiler, but as suggested by the play’s title (not to mention history!), Mary Shelley won the gambit by a longshot.
Shelley’s now nearly 200-year-old masterwork surely ranks among the most influential pieces of literature of all time—having anticipated a roster of Gothic tales from Polidori’s “The Vampyre” to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
In the pop culture, Shelley’s central themes of man playing God, science gone amuck, and reanimating the dead have inspired everything from the 1930s Boris Karloff “Frankenstein” movies and Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy “Young Frankenstein” to “The Munsters,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Robocop.”

Preview of things to come

On Jan. 11, in the basement of the Cultural Arts Center, Miller led his cast through an intimate reading. The dry run commenced following an introduction by Simi Valley Arts Commissioner Steven Hayes. 
A Simi resident of 53 years, Hayes formed Lit Live in 2014. Including “Lightning,” the company has mounted five works to date, beginning with “The Dark Heart of Poe,” based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, in Miller portrayed a young Poe.
“And Lightning Struck” stars Kay Capasso as Shelley, Evan Smith as Byron, Jennifer Ridgway as Younger Mary, Alyssa Villaire as Shelley’s half-sister Claire, Schafer Bourne as Victor Frankenstein and Tom Mesmer as Frankenstein’s creature.
“It’s one of the more eloquent scripts that I have read,” said Cole Wagner, who portrays both Matthews and Polidori. “Robert beautifully tackles the intellectual (spirit) of the era.”
Following the reading, Mesmer, who relocated to Simi four years ago after 20 years in Hollywood, expressed his excitement for Miller as director. As actors, Mesmer and Miller had played older and younger versions of Hank Williams respectively for a jukebox musical.
“He has that confidence already,” Mesmer said. “This is right up his alley.”
Mesmer is no stranger to playing iconic characters, having portrayed everyone from the titular messiah in the Art Center’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” to the monstrous half of “Beauty and the Beast.”
For “Lightning,” Mesmer turned to Shelley’s novel for inspiration on how to portray Frankenstein’s creation, eschewing the more pop-culture interpretations as a slurring, inarticulate brute with neck electrodes lumbering around on platform boots. Come Feb. 9, Mesmer’s creature will appear zombie-ish, possessing cloudy eyes, long hair, bare feet and a cloak.
“He’s a like a sponge,” Mesmer said. “He becomes hyper-intellectual. So much that it hurts him.”

Literary liberties taken

“I’ve always been more fascinated with the back story,” said Weibezahl, who described these personages as wealthy, intellectual “19th-century hippies.”  
“Byron was like a rock star,” Weibezahl continued, while Shelley was only 19 when she hatched the “Frankenstein” idea and 21 when she wrote it. 
Shelley proves quite quotable in Weibezahl’s play. At one point, she describes Victor to Matthews as “a visionary and a coward.” At another, Capasso as Shelley says, “I prefer the reality of today over the possibilities of tomorrow.”
“I created the structure. Some of the dialogue was quoted from letters,” said Weibezahl.
That structure includes intercutting between Capasso’s older version of Mary Shelley, circa 1831, and Ridgway’s Younger Mary, circa 1817. More scenes with Frankenstein and his creature appear in the play’s second act, when creator and creation philosophically go mano-a-mano.
After Miller’s mother, executive producer Brenda Miller, approached Weibezahl with the play idea in summer 2015, the playwright, a Thousand Oaks resident of nearly 17 years, embarked on writing it.
“He took that idea and he made something very beautiful,” Hayes said.
Weibezahl fine-tuned the script after an initial reading last summer. By October 2016, the production held auditions at Thousand Oaks’ Bridge Academy and North Hollywood’s Madeline Clark Studio.
Long before snagging the lead, Capasso, who kept a dossier on Shelley during rehearsals, held a fascination for the author, having seen a National Theater Live production of “Frankenstein” (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) eight times.
“Her mother was a huge feminist before it was really a thing,’ Capasso said.
Weibezahl did employ artistic license writing “Lightning.” While Shelley wrote a preface to her 1831 second edition, Matthews is made up.
“He is what I would imagine an educated, middle-class publisher (and Shelley fan) of the era would be,” said Weibezahl, who also parallels in his play the inextricable link between Victor and monster with that of Shelley and “Frankenstein,” “bound together forever,” as Matthews states.
Cole Wagner, who portrays both Matthews and Polidori, feels that, two centuries later, Shelley’s source material remains timeless.
“Every year, the fan base gets stronger,” Wagner said. “One-hundred years from now, people will still be talking about it.”

“And Lightning Struck: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Creation,” runs Feb. 9-12 at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 E. Los Angeles Ave. For information/tickets, visit simi-arts.org

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Competing for Your Kids: Simi Valley Unified School District holds 2nd annual Career Pathways Expo

About 623 Simi-area parents and students attended Simi Valley Unified School District's Jan. 18 Career Pathways Expo at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley.

Competing for your kids

At its annual Career Pathways Expo, SVUSD implores parents to tour its specialized schools before Feb. 28

by Michael Aushenker

Simi Valley Unified School District is competing to get parents to tour its schools before the Feb. 28 cut-off for school of choice applications.
When the SVUSD held its annual Career Pathways Expo Jan. 18 at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, the district showcased its Pathways-enhanced secondary and elementary schools as some 600 attendees came inside from the rain to take in
what the SVUSD has to offer under the monumental aeronautic wonders of the Air Force One Pavilion.
As Career Pathways was only installed across some of SVUSD’s 28 campuses last year, the Pathways Expo is a relatively new concept for the district, having debuted at the Reagan Library’s Annenberg Presidential Learning Center last year.
Executive Director of Career Education Tiffany Morse at Ventura County Office of Education said last week’s expo was the first of its kind in the county.
“(The expo) showcases our ongoing work countywide to help parents and students see the value of Career Pathways,” Morse said. “Participation in a pathway can help students make informed decisions about what to do after high school. Giving families the chance to see all of the options at once can broaden their horizons of what’s possible in terms of future careers.”
This second annual Pathways Expo was the first to include all grades.
“We’ve brought in our elementary schools as well as our middle and high schools this year,” said event organizer Wendy Mayea, SVUSD’s assistant director of student support.
Also new this time around—the opportunity to deliver on-the-spot Naviance college readiness account access to students.
“We have started (utilizing Naviance) as early as in the fifth grade,” she said.
At the event, SVUSD Superintendent Jason Peplinski said that this year’s expo is the first year where the schools were embracing Pathways in full force.
Echoing Morse, Peplinksi said the purpose of SVUSD’s 28 Pathways concentrations is to provide parents and their children with choices while the expo’s goal is to flesh out what those choices entail.
“It’s option-based, it’s college and career,” the superintendent said. “The goal is not just college (preparation), it’s (the option) to work in the industry straight out of high school.”
The specializations serve as further edification for students passionate about the subjects.
“It’s not to say that if you don’t go (into a science Pathway), you don’t get (a) science (education) at your school,” he said.
Adult school Simi Institute for Careers and Education and independent study academy Monte Vista School Independent Learning Studies also tabled at the expo, as did Community Emergency Response Team (a.k.a. CERT), Ventura County Office of Education and Ventura County Innovates, providers of Ventura’s Pathways grant money.

Raising SVUSD’s game

Overall, SVUSD administrators and faculty are pleased with the feeder program set up by Pathways, with Katherine Elementary feeding into Valley View and Simi Valley High School, with its health science and medical technology focus; Arroyo Elementary, Sinaloa Middle School and Royal High coordinating on foreign language, academic and global studies pathway; and Crestview Elementary, Hillside Middle School and Santa Susana High School concentrating on creative arts, technology, and science.
 “The inclusion of elementary (via Pathways) is extremely unique,” Mayea said. “I don’t know of any other district doing that right now.”
Hillside definitely made an impression on attendees with members of its Culinary Arts department doling out class-made apple tarts with lemon curd to demonstrate the possibilities at its food service and hospitality focus.
“It used to be home ec, now it’s culinary arts,” said Royal history teacher Brian Dennert, who noted how Pathways has reinvigorated his high school’s curriculum across the board.
Indeed, the sophistication and savvy of netting parents was on display via Royal’s Food Service & Hospitality brochures, which touted its Food & Nutrition classes and its specialization of food science and service, dietetics, hospitality and tourism.
Allison Morr and Maria Baro teach junior kindergarten and third and fourth grade, respectively, at Crestview Elementary School.
The instructors were on-hand to discuss Crestview’s Creative Arts, Technology and Science Academy (CATS), which feeds into Hillside Middle School and Santa Susana High School via Pathways. Morr, who has been with Crestview for four years, and Baro, on her sixth year, said that it wasn’t difficult for them to adapt as teachers when Crestview transitioned into a Pathways school.
“We were already teaching multiple subjects so we’re kind of used to it,” said Morr, with her son, Crestview kindergarten student James, 5, assisting her at the table.

Crestview Elementary teachers Allison Morr and Maria Baro
For a decade, Robert Rennie has taught woodwork at Simi Valley High School.
“It isn’t just a general education class,” Rennie said.
Students interested in his class may choose to continue in the furniture-making or construction industry, he said. Even if they don’t pursue such trades, his kids will be well prepared to the kinds of 3-D thinking that goes into white-collar professions such as engineering, he observed.
“They added wood to (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo),” he said.
Rennie said he is good friends with David Sorenson, his wood shop counterpart at Royal High. However, he did point out that there are no wood shops at Hillside Middle School and Simi Valley High.
Flanked by his top students, Santa Susana High School instructor Luke Golden, from the middle of the expo floor, explained his Filmstock festival and other components of his filmmaking program to curious Simi parents such as Jocelyn Oriondo.
“We’ve seen it just grow these past couple of years,” he said of his program.
It’s well known throughout the SVUSD circles that Santa Su’s filmmaking curriculum is very popular and difficult to get into, so it begs the question if teachers such as Golden even need to attend the expo.
“You never know,” Golden said. “It’s popping right now but it hasn’t always been that way.”
In truth, Oriondo didn’t have to be there, she said, as her son Oscar is very happy attending his neighborhood school, Valley View Middle School. However, the sixth-grader, who is very interested in the arts, wanted to attend the expo and see what else was out there, as well as survey potential choices for high school down the line.
“It’s very helpful,” Oriondo said of the expo. “They can see earlier which schools will be best to provide extra enrichment.”

Pathways a better path

Aldo Calcagno, the principal at Arroyo Elementary School’s Foreign Language Academics Global Studies (FLAGS) Academy, manned the Arroyo booth with linguistics teacher Catherine Crowley. He and Dennert explained that when VC Innovates began enlisting schools to participate in Pathways, they requested that SVUSD high school teachers take a thorough survey.
“What staff do you have that have (special) skills?” Dennert said teachers were asked.
Based on the survey’s feedback, VC Innovates designated the high schools with a concentration, then worked their way down the chain to middle and elementary schools, linking them on academic pathways.
Amy Burns, who has taught math and science at Royal for 17 years, said she had to adapt to her school’s pathway and begin teaching her robotics class, which was quickly twinned to two classes of 36 kids because of its instant popularity. Two semesters into her pathway curriculum, she credited Royal’s Dan Schuster for helping make the Pathways transition.
“He really helped me decide what I should teach and how I should teach it,” Burns said. “His computer class kids are mentoring my kids.”
She added that the addition of classes taught by Brett Knizek and the recent import of Chromebooks to Royal have also helped round out this curriculum.
“The robots is pretty cool,” said Burns, who added that her class last semester staged a tug of war between the robots they had built.
Standing a few feet away from Burns, Royal media teacher Alicia de la Torre offered different nuances at her program than Golden’s filmmaking classes at Santa Su.
“Not all of our students are looking to get into the entertainment industry,” de la Torre said of Royal’s slant, which is more digital, broadcasting and media arts than cinema.
As part of Pathways, her colleague, Royal graphic arts instructor Adam Lev, started a game design class, which found instant success with two classes enrolling 38 students each.
De la Torre and Lev are grateful to be on the Pathway path. Until last year, it had been six years since the department had its hardware updated. Thanks to Pathways funds, Royal’s digital arts department recently received 38 brand new iMacs.
“It’s been fantastic,’ Lev said. “We’ve been kind of on our own little island. Recently, (administrators have) come on board.”


Good attendance, great promise

Perhaps dampened by some hard rain during rush hour, attendance, at 623 people, seemed slightly off from projections after last year’s event took organizers by surprise and attracted 1,000 people to the smaller Annenberg Room at the Reagan Library.
Nevertheless, Peplinski appreciated the robust turn-out and he commended his SVUSD faculty and teachers for “being here on their own time.
“I’m thrilled. We thought last year might have been an anomaly. We’re really grateful.”
The takeaway for Mayea and SVUSD from this year’s expo is that the Simi families appreciated the added energy of having “more student participation this year,” Mayea said. “I was conscientious about (making that a priority).
“Overall, the organization went great. People really enjoyed being able to go from school to school and connect with the programs a bit more strongly.”
Burns, who finds the expo an excellent vehicle “to let our community know what our schools are doing,” fell into a conversation with Simi father Rick Patterson while son Ryan, 11, stood at his side.
“Is this like a project-based experience?” Patterson asked Burns.
Ryan, who attends Wood Ranch Elementary, talked about a project at his school where he had to build a tower out of newspapers.
Patterson explained that his boy wants to make his own videos and work on animation. Burns informed them about the possibilities toward that end at Royal.
Following the conversation with Burns, Patterson said that he thinks the expo, which has schools competing for students, is a great idea.
“The competition makes them up their game,” said Patterson, whose family has already found the Pathways Expo useful — last year, his wife attended with his daughter, now 15. Based on this 2016 visit, his daughter decided to pursue filmmaking at Santa Su High, where she is also delving into areas that he never thought he’d see her strive toward.
“She’s loving ballet and I’m very proud of her,” Patterson said. “She’s on stage. She’s thriving at it.”
Patterson added that researching the schools online is just not the same as attending the Pathways Expo.
“You’re not seeing the enthusiasm and the competition,” he said.

Monday, January 4, 2016

PROFESSOR MRS. MINIVER ~ The Second Sequel That Nobody Really Needed!

DEBUTING AT SAN DIEGO COMIC FEST 2016 at Sheraton Town & Country, Hotel Circle!    PROFESSOR MRS. MINIVER

In 1942, William Wyler's cinematic masterpiece MRS. MINIVER was released and won six Academy Awards in major categories including Best Picture.

                                          
Then in 1950, THE MINIVER STORY reunited stars Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon for the not-so-hot sequel...which bombed. And that, many people thought, takes care of that!

                                     

BULLSHIT!

It's 2016, people, and we live in an age when Hollywood has run out of ideas and is operating on the fumes of past glories; where the sequel-slash-prequel is king!

And so, Michael Aushenker presents to you the yet-another-unneccessary sequel PROFESSOR MRS. MINIVER, in which Kay Miniver gets her education, becomes a professor at a distinguished university, and witnesses as all kinds of things in her past comes back to haunt her. Trust us, you won't want to miss out on PROFESSOR MRS. MINIVER, a full-color 20-page comic book!

So swing by San Diego Comic Fest, gethca signed copy of TROLLS and also take a gander at PROFESSOR MRS. MINIVER, Aushenker's side project to his side project book initialed TWOD, which is already on the side of completing GO, GENIUS, GO! (That's what happens when you're a rambling artist: crazy detours!)

For more information on this and other Cartoon Flophouse books, please visit CartoonFlophouseComics.com and the Cartoon Flophouse Facebook page.


Friday, December 11, 2015

THOSE UNSTOPPABLE ROGUES are on a full-color "McDonald's Mission" in the back pages of TROLLS!



TROLLS is easily the hottest book to roll off the presses at Cartoon Flophouse since THE NINE LIVES OF EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER 20 years ago (yes, 1995! 25 years ago if you count the original version Michael Aushenker created back in 1990!)
Another popular ongoing Cartoon Flophouse creation is THOSE UNSTOPPABLE ROGUES, also celebrating 20 years this year.
The latest adventures of those crazy Rogues Clucky and Brett - working the McDonald's in Quartzite, Arizona (yes, that's an actual dump...um, town, just off the 10 Freeway) can be read right here or in full color in the back pages of TROLLS, featuring a foreword by legendary Circle Jerks percussionist Lucky Lehrer!
To find out how to order your copy of TROLLS via Paypal or by snail mail, hit this link!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Michael Aushenker Proudly Presents....Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN HORSE


Mash-ups are soooo blowing up! (especially if you live in the year 2004!) So what happens when you take the majesty, the intensity, the pageantry, the poetry and the subtlety of Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" and cross it with the sheer Lincoln-ry of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln"? 

Why, you get......LINCOLN HORSE!


I recently found a nearly completed strip sitting round from July 2013 so I quickly finished it up and here it is. Enjoy! -- Michael Aushenker




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Hilarious Afterlife of "Get A Life!"




Chris Elliott, as 30-year-old paperboy Chris Peterson, lived with his parents and annoyed his neighbors on the short-lived, surreal and cartoony Fox TV show “Get a Life!” in the early 1990s.
Image: Fox Television

The Hilarious Afterlife of "Get A Life!"
Producer David Latt Gets the Last Laugh as the Cult and Legacy of Chris Elliott’s Doomed Sitcom Rolls On

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER
   
Fifteen years ago, the unconventional situation comedy "Get A Life!" hit Fox Television like a plate of spaghetti hurled across the room at the wall: It made a crazy, messy splash but didn’t stick.
Starring Chris Elliott as a 30-year-old ne'er-do-well Chris Peterson, who rode his bike on a paper route and still lived at home with his sardonic, put-upon parents (played by Elliott’s real-life father Bob Elliott of the radio comedy team Bob & Ray; and Elinor Donahue), the absurdist, often surreal show arrived like a tonic in 1990 amid a sea of generic family sitcoms and 
promptly failed.
In the center of it all stood longtime Pacific Palisades, California resident David J. Latt, a veteran producer of TV dramas.
Producer David Latt.                                       Photo: Rich Schmitt

Elliott, who throughout the 1980s had created memorable running gag-characters on “Late Night With David Letterman” —Fugitive Guy, The Man Under The Stands, “Marlon Brando” — co-created “Get A Life!” with David Mirkin, a first-year writer on “The Simpsons,” and Adam Resnick, a former Letterman writer. Taped at the CBS Radford Avenue studios in Studio City (where earnestly cartoony stuff such as “Gilligan’s Island” had been filmed decades earlier), “Get A Life!,” totally absurdist and unhinged like a flesh-and-blood Looney Tunes cartoon, confounded the vast majority of its viewership while ultimately cultivating a cult audience among  college students and other hip folk. In fact, "Get A Life!" stymied its own network. Fox executives simultaneously supported it and were baffled by it. Ratings-wise, it ranked low, even for then-fledgling network Fox. The wacky show struggled through two seasons, surviving an executive transition at Fox and a conceptual overhaul, only to be rewarded with cancellation by 1992.
After all, what to make of episodes such as "Zoo Animals on Wheels," in which Peterson stars in a ridiculous community play that resembled the bad version of “Cats”; or "Wallet Boy," in which Peterson becomes a cause célèbre after believing he has lost his wallet while visiting “the Big City.”
Another episode, “The Prettiest Week of My Life,” saw Peterson up for a modeling job at Handsome Boy Modeling School while “Paperboy 2000” saw Peterson locking horns with a futuristic and robotic job-threatening paper-delivering vehicle and “Neptune 2000” had father and son building a submarine in their bathtub.
Really, why watch this goofball stuff when you can turn the channel and get cozy with the Huxtables on “The Cosby Show” or enjoy the macho humor and titillations of "Home Improvement,” thought millions of Americans to themselves. No, with its crackpot premise and Peterson antagonizing his neighbors or joining a street gang,  "Get A Life!" was veritable broadcasting poison
Yet creatively, the series arrived at the peak of Elliott's powers, in the wake of his career-making, scene-stealing appearances on David Letterman 's original NBC run and three short years before his third-wheel cameraman role opposite Bill Murray and Andie McDowell in "Groundhog Day" (the film that ultimately ushered in Murray's formidable late-career second act).

From Serious Drama to Cartoony Comedy

Producer Latt crossed joined “Get a Life!” after establishing himself with “Hill Street Blues” and “Twin Peaks.”
“My focus was really on drama and then the bottom fell out on drama,” Latt said. “It was one of those cyclical things [in television].”
At the time, Robb Rothman, now partner at the Rothman-Brecher Agency, represented Latt. Rothman ran into comedian Richard Rosenstock while picking up an order of chicken soup at Judi’s Deli in Beverly Hills and talked Rosenstock into hiring Latt, who had come from single-camera shows, as a producer on a TV vehicle based on Rosenstock’s teen years that wasn’t picked up. After all, years before, Latt had also served as a writer’s assistant on Norman Lear’s classic “All in the Family,” so he had experience doing comedy.
Mirkin’s experience, meanwhile, came from conventional sitcoms such as “Three’s Company” and “Newhart,” and having failed to adapt the cult British show “The Young Ones,” was itching to do something unorthodox.
“He really wanted to be in movies,” Latt said. “He really had a feature imagination.”
Rothman, who represented many writers working on “The Simpsons,” knew Mirkin was starting up on a three-camera show co-conceived by Elliott and Resnick, and pitched Latt to him. As Mirkin was eager to experiment with single-camera footage, he brought Latt on because he had that single-camera experience from dramatic fare.
“Virtually everything that’s on TV today (drama-wise) comes from those two shows,” Latt explained, whether it’s ensemble (“Hill Street Blues”) or weird (“Twin Peaks).
The story that’s been repeated online over the years is that Fox executives hated “Get a Life!” and were eager to rework its premise.
“It was more complicated than that,” Latt said.

Veteran radio comedian Bob Elliott (left) and real-life son Chris Elliott played bickering father and son on the younger Elliott’s Fox sitcom.
Image: Fox Television 
Too Ahead of Its Time?

In fact, “the Fox guys loved [Elliott],” Latt continued. “Chris had never run a show before and he had a deal with Fox. Adam was Chris’s buddy.”
What sabotaged the show were a series of internal tensions.
“The show was designed as a three camera show and there was pressure [driven by Mirkin] to add elements of a single-camera show,” Latt recalled. “Chris was happy with an audience, David less so. You can feel the pressure visually [when you watch an episode].”
Latt is referring to various cutaways done for comedic effect. For example, in “Driver’s License,” in which Peterson, having just learned to drive to impress a waitress, takes his date on a joyride that quickly devolves into a police pursuit. Peterson tries to bribe the policeman. Cut to a close-up of Peterson’s hand cupping a handful of change, buttons and lint, etc.
As season two approached, “Bob didn’t want to do the show anymore,” Latt recalled.
The weekly grind of doing a sitcom, exacerbated by the additional filming of single-camera sequences, was too much for Elliott’s father, then in his 70s (Bob Elliott is now 95). The veteran comedian was also still mourning the recent loss of his longtime friend and professional partner, Ray Goulding.
With Bob Elliott’s exit, out went a crucial comedic cornerstone of the show—Chris Peterson’s parents — and in came Brian Doyle-Murray as gruff ex-cop Gus Borden, in whose garage Peterson lived as a border. Producers also upped the ante on Peterson’s rivalry with his neighbor Sharon (deliciously and venomously portrayed by Robin Riker).
“He was fun, he made Chris look normal,” Latt said of Doyle-Murray, older brother of “Saturday Night Live”-minted movie star Bill Murrary. They were looking for a pairing that would give someone for Chris to work off of,” Latt said.
The second season included Spewey the power-vomiting alien.
“We had to give them all ponchos,” Latt said of audience members during the taping of the “E.T.”-spoofing “Spewey and Me” episode.
Still nobody really watched it. It was canceled in 1992.
“It was getting too weird [for Fox],” Latt said. “The problem was the audience didn’t hold, the network wants to change things, Mirkin tries to hold, Chris wants to stay on television.”
Right after “Get A Life!” crumbled, Latt worked on another short-lived Mirkin show, “The Edge,” a sketch comedy show on which the showrunner got to push his absurdist tendencies even further.
“Mirkin was always pushing the envelope,” Latt recalled.
The show only lasted one season, but it’s notable for including in its cast a pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston and Wayne Knight just prior to his “Seinfeld” run as Newman. From there, Mirkin joined “The Simpsons”; a perfect fit, Latt said, because the edgy animated cartoon was the ultimate outlet for Mirkin’s unbridled imagination.
Get a Career
In hindsight, the creative legacy of “Get a Life!” is impressive as the writers’ room was a who’s who of big breaks.
Recently an Emmy-nominated star of “Better Call Saul,” Bob Odenkirk wrote three episodes that aired in the 1991-92 season before going on to write on “The Ben Stiller Show” and forge his HBO sketch comedy show with fellow comedian David Cross, “Mr. Show” (currently being revived by Netflix). Charlie Kaufman, the revered screenwriter who wrote a pair of structure-bending Spike Jonze feature films, “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” wrote a pair of episodes (“Prisoners of Love,” “1977 2000”) during that same season as well. Edd Hall, a former Letterman writer who went on to become Jay Leno’s announcer on “The Tonight Show,” wrote the 1991 Indian curse-incurred, body-switching installment “The One Where Chris and Larry Switch Lives.” In 2007, Mirkin wrote “The Simpsons Movie” in 2007 while Resnick went on to direct “Death to Smoochy,” “Lucky Numbers” and the 1994 Tim Burton and Denise DeNovi-produced Elliott feature film vehicle, “Cabin Boy” (in which Bob Elliott, Doyle-Murray and Letterman all had parts).
Latt sincerely believes that “Get a Life!” was ahead of its time
“It was atypical in 1990,” Latt said, explaining that while the idea of a 30-year-old living with his parents was alien and socially unacceptable back then, it’s become a mundane reality post-Great Recession.
Latt has no doubt that “Get a Life!” has influenced Millennial comedians and feels the show would have succeeded in today’s entertainment marketplace, characterized by niche corners on cable with the surreal likes of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and “The Eric Andre Show” thriving on Adult Swim, not to mention a generation digging daft random stuff on YouTube.
Most triumphantly of all, in 2012 —years after a perfunctory pair of VHS tapes missing many of the show’s best episodes was released—fans of the cult comedy were rewarded the ultimate present: a DVD box set of the complete series.
Not bad for a derelict 30-year-old paperboy living with his ‘rents!