Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Joke is on Me

One of my very best friends is Harry Anderson.  We share a rather gothic sense of humor with a taste for mystery and the dramatic. To Harry, April Fools day is a religious occasion. For the years he lived here in LA we annually performed an April Fools show at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.  It was one of those special event shows where this story takes place.
Magicians are tricksters so it is only natural that a good magician, like Harry, would love a practical joke. Early in our friendship when I was opening act at Harrah's Reno it dawned on me that Harry would be occupying the same dressing room several weeks later when he was opening act for Kenny Rogers. One evening between shows I decided to leave him a note to say "hi" when he came later.  
I looked around the huge dressing room for some places to hide the note and I found several good ones.  In fact there were so many great hiding places I decided to leave several notes and turn it into a puzzle/scavenger hunt.  Each hand written note was a clue to the hiding place of the next note, and the next until the last one just said "This is how I passed the time between shows...what do you do?" I hid the first note behind the clock in the sitting room/bar, the note implied there would be a surprise at the end of the trail. 
A few weeks later I waited until I knew he would be in that dressing room between shows and called the number.  Harry answered and I said.... "Time is running out... look behind the clock." and hung up. He knew it was me and for a couple of hours followed the clues looking for the "treasure" at the end of the hunt. But, indeed there was no treasure, nor was there a surprise other than a lame time consuming exercise. When Harry realized he had been tricked into a game of hide and seek with no reward... he vowed revenge. 
That is not the story.. that is just back ground. 
A few years later it was one of the April Fools shows with Harry and in the audience was then talent coordinator and Johnny Carson Tonight Show gate keeper Jim Mcally.  I had met Jim several times. He  watched me perform on many occasions and although he seemed to like me and my act, he would never book me on the Tonight Show.  There was a rumor that the Tonight Show did not want "novelty acts" on the show and ventriloquism was in that category. I had come to realization that I probably would never do the Tonight Show.
So... it was a surprise when after my set one of the waitresses said that a guy named Jim Mcally wanted to talk to me in the office. There he was and he was all business. He said,  "I have been watching you for a while now and I believe it is time for you to do the Tonight Show."
Wow, just like in the movies. I was immediately thrilled at the prospect. But my next thought was more sobering.  Jim worked for NBC.. I was working with Harry who was now a star on NBC... Jim and Harry knew each other...... it was April Fools day... Harry vowed he would "get me back"... I smelled a rat. I began to add my own twist to this April Fools trick. I basically said that the Tonight Show was getting a little tired... "How long has that Carson Guy been hosting? Decades right". I shined him on and told him that I was probably too busy to do a show for AFTRA/SAG minimum. He was stunned, only mega stars turned down a chance to do the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He gave me his card and said... "I would like to book you...here is my card...think about it... call me tomorrow." I left with a dismissive sort of attitude.
I walked straight into the dressing room and right up to Harry.  I said, "Nice try... nice touch with Jim Mcally."  Harry played the part and said he didn't know what I was talking about. I told him the story and how I had basically flipped off Mcally, but it was a nice joke.  Harry said he didn't set up Mcally.  I could see it in his eyes.... he didn't have anything to do with this.  I had pretty much told Jim Mcally to go F- himself and his Tonight Show and Harry had nothing to do with it. Mcally was gone and I spent a rather tortured evening waiting to call him the next day.
Fortunately, he realized that something was going on at the club and that is why he had me call. I explained the entire saga of Harry getting revenge and we had a big laugh.  It became the first of a dozen shots I would do on the Tonight Show, and friendship with Jim Mcally.
Harry has yet to get me back for the Reno prank.... but he will.  I will probably spend the rest of my life waiting for that next shoe to drop.
As you were,


The Y NOT AWARDS said...

Love your blog. Would you like to run it on a big Broadway Site? Would love to have it on my site broadwayshowbiz.com. Let me know. I can promote your shows as well. Give my best to Darwin.

I can pay him in Bananas, Monkey joke.

P. Grecian said...

Another laugh out loud. Thanks, Jay.

Hire a Magician said...

very nice post and I enjoyed your story. Best of luck for the new show.