Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Guy with the Hardest Job at The Ticket

No, it's not the grossly underpaid but highly talented guys like Michael Gruber, Danny Balis, and some of the other guys who put in astounding hours for low-five-figure revenues.

It's Craig "Junior" Miller.

Junior is blessed with high intelligence but cursed by not being a good mimic or comedy writer.  He is further cursed by sharing his program with two guys that are good mimics, and one of those (Gordon) is both an excellent and prolific writer, and the other (George) has unexpectedly good timing and even weaves some improv around what I expect are some fairly skeletal Gordon scripts.

When you have to come up with a couple of sketches per show, some will inevitably hit and others will miss.  I'm constantly impressed at how good this work is, and how consistent it is. 

But this is comedy that is played to one listener at a time, over the radio.  Comedy is impossible to perform convincingly without feedback. 

The feedback is Junior's gift.

He is charged with keeping these sketches going by reacting with laughter.  This must be incredibly difficult.  He has to provide enough audible yuks to bring the individual listener into the fun as a participant in the hugely dispersed audience, but not overlaugh and draw attention to himself, or sound like an idiot by exhibiting a degree of hilarity that is not justified by the yuk-value of the material.  And it has to sound sincere, not merely polite.  How often do you laugh out loud when sitting in your home alone watching a comedy on TV, or reading a humor piece?  Like, almost never?  And how often have you been buttonholed by someone telling you something they think is hilarious, and you feel compelled not to give offense by offering up a few ha-has?  And you feel that same dilemma -- show appreciation for the story, be nice to the speaker, but don't overdo it.

I have been listening carefully to Junior's laughing, and I do believe the man is a master.  Now the fact is that Gordon is a pretty good comedy writer both for bits and his newspaper column.  With all the material he terns out, there is going to be some repetition of motifs and the rhythms and style have become identifiable.  But it's still pretty good, and both he and George have become accomplished radio performers.  So it's not like it's a terrible burden for Junior to show amusement.  But it must be difficult to pitch it correctly gag after gag, bit after bit.  He starts out with a gentle chuckle, and as Gordon back-loads the better gags as his scripts careen toward the punch line, Junior's laughing increases in volume and rises in register and concludes with a hearty belly-laugh as the dial-tone clicks on. 

It is a performance in itself, and I think it's time he got some credit for it.


P1 Steven said...

Sometimes I wonder how truly scripted the show is. Do they go over the bits in pre-show, or during breaks. I use to really love the Hardline, but the Musers have won me over for one major reason. SHOW PREP... i know it is two differant animals, but how often does it seem Corby is reading/telling a story for the first time when he is leading a segment. This rarely happens with the Musers.... I still think Danny makes mid 50K....

Phil K. said...

If I had to venture a guess it would be that Junior is "kept in the dark" on skits and guests that he is not involved in. This way, his reactions are genuine as they almost always are. I've never heard him and thought: he's just doing some courtesy laughter.

My favorite times are when the bit is funny enough that Junior's giggling will get Gordo to crack a bit. The best example is the Sports Panty schtick.

studio said...

The perfect example of this is the Deep Throat Informant talking about George missing a show back in 2000 or 2001, somewhere around there. Junior's comments like "That's something surprising," and "That doesn't sound like George....that REALLY doesn't sound like George," helped make that bit IMO.

The Plainsman said...

Thanks for all comments and I agree with all.

I think the bits are mostly scripted, probably more than it sounds like. Most of the humor is gag-based, and gags have to be written. Since Gordon writes them he doesn't need to rehearse but I'm sure George gets them (probably only slightly) in advance, and more than likely during breaks on the asme show he performs them. He already does most of the characters so he probably reads it through once before it's performed.

Danny? He has the Orphanage so he may make a bit more, but most of the producer/board guys are in the low fives, I'm betting. Supply greatly exceeds demand in that area (although Danny and Grubes have perforing gifts of their own).

Show prep: I noted this when I was doing my five-parter on The Hardline back a few months ago (where I urged them to give Bacsik a look as a Hardline host -- no crystal ball here, obviously). The Hardline is pretty loose in the socket but I detect greater interest on Mike's part in the last six months or so. Mike's increased participation has made the show better than it was for a large part of 2009, when I thought The Hardline took a nose-dive. The Musers consistenly turn out a professional-sounding showgram.

Gypo Nolan said...

Producers start at 32-35K. (And stay there)
Gordo writes mostly everything, and gives it to George in the breaks right before the segment begins. Craig is hearing just about all the comedy for the first time when it airs.