Remember, On Television, We Can't Hear You Smile

Those of you who have attended the taping or filming of a television show have been part of an “audience warm-up” before the show begins. No one questions the necessity for these “warm-ups,” since we’ve recently seen how pathetic things can get when an actor comes on without being preceded by a warm-up artiste.

David Letterman’s “warm-up man,” Eddie Brill, at left, performs the difficult task of warming up an audience truly in need of warming up… since The Ed Sullivan Theater is cooled to 50 degrees by two 120-ton Multistack Modular chillers by the time the audience is seated. Things warm up a bit when the stage lighting comes on, but the temperature at a Letterman taping never exceeds 60 degrees.

Warm-ups seek to build a base of excitement and enthusiasm by convincing the audience that they are, in a very real sense, performers on the program. In the words of the great Hank Kingsley, “… the better you are, the better Larry is.” This is exciting, isn’t it?

Blogger Connie Wilson wrote an interesting piece about Letterman’s pre-warm-up warm-up, delivered to her group as they waited to enter the theater:

“I’m going to say a punch line and I want you to laugh. The punch line is ‘Donald Trump’s hair.’” We all bellowed like idiots on cue. He said to try again, only louder this time…

…The young man continued, “Now, if Dave makes a joke, I want you to think, ‘Oh, boy, this is hilarious!’ Laugh in the theater; think about it on the way home. …We want you to really give back raw enthusiasm… Dave feeds on your energy…”

The better you are, the better Larry is.

What made me start thinking about audience warm-ups was the viewing of a great sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Most episodes of the team’s TV series Not Only… But Also are missing, believed “wiped” by the BBC. This sketch somehow survived, but for some reason did not make it into The Best Of What’s Left Of Not Only But Also. It’s interesting because the casting is counterintuitive – usually Peter Cook is the strong, take-charge character, but here, Dudley’s in charge… as both stage manager and warm-up man.

And, like all of their work, it’s very, very funny.

  • Share/Bookmark

Pete and Dud

Bedazzled (1967) is one of the hundred or so movies in my top ten.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are my favorite comedy team of all time, right up there with Bob and Ray, Laurel and Hardy, and the others who also my favorite comedy team of all time.

For a great sampling of Pete, alone and with Dud, along with Cook’s commentary on his career in his own words, click here, then click on the first little speaker icon to stream the program, or download it for later listening.

  • Share/Bookmark