Mike Nichols and Elaine May – Part 4

This final part of Nichols and May’s Monitor sketches includes: Fern Escapes, White House Laundress, Keep It Under Your Hat, Successful Director, The New Baby, I Love Lucy, Labor and Management, You’re Snoring, Tallest Man In The World, Happy Birthday, Where’s My Sheet, Your New Beaver, Bringing Home People For Dinner, About That Mustache, The Sick Mouse, Christmas Gift, Bad Cough, Selective Hearing, 1200 Frogs, American Legionnaire, David Ben Gurion (outtake), It’s Not Nancy, My Chosen Career, Taxi To Rockefeller Center, and an extra: Mike and Elaine Interviewed on Person To Person.


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Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Part 3

This is the third installment of unreleased – notice I didn’t say “lost” – sketches Mike Nichols and Elaine May recorded for Monitor radio in the early 1960’s.

Topics this time out include Anna May Wong, an RCA Building window washer (Monitor Radio was headquartered in the RCA Building), a man who tries to drown his wife in the bathroom, and a woman who wants to get a tattoo.

Don’t worry – track three seems to be missing – I’ll add it to the final posting of Nichols and May on Monitor, due in a few days.

Here’s the link.

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Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Part 2

Here’s the second of four installments of Monitor radio sketches by Mike Nichols and Elaine May, “The King and Queen of Sophisticated Comedy.”

This brief history of the team comes from The New York Times: “Nichols and May first did improvisational theater with the Chicago-based Compass Players troupe, which evolved into the Second City company. They began performing their own act in 1957, arrived on Broadway in 1960 and broke up in 1962 after feuding over a play that Ms. May wrote and Mr. Nichols starred in, “A Matter of Position,” which closed in Philadelphia.

The last track isn’t a sketch – it’s Mike and Elaine as part of a round table discussion with Irv Kupcinet (or is it Mitch Miller? It’s hard to tell those two guys apart from their voices). Favorite tracks from this second bunch: “The Air Conditioning Repairman” and “Edith and Osbert,” which was written about international long distance calls, but works well today as a cell phone sketch.

Link to Folder

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Stan & Ollie, Bud & Lou, George & Gracie, Bob & Ray, Pete & Dud... Mike and Elaine!

Mike Nichols and Elaine May were a comedy team for a short time – from 1957 through 1962. Their recorded output was tiny – just three LP’s: Improvisations To Music (1959), which, powered by the team’s television appearances, became a ‘top forty’ LP; An Evening With Nichols and May, which contained excerpts from their hit Broadway show of 1960, and their final record, Nichols and May Examine Doctors, from 1961.

Nichols and May were improvisational situation comedians: sophisticated, funny, and cool. They appealed not only to adults, but also to kids. Steve Martin says that each routine was “…like a song – you could listen to it over and over. I used to go to sleep to them at night.”

The ten sketches on the final album, …Examine Doctors, were originally recorded for “the greatest show in network radio history” – Monitor, an NBC extravaganza that ran pretty much the entire weekend, pretty much across the country, from 1955 through 1975. At its peak, the monitor beacon could be heard for forty hours, from 8 a.m. Saturday morning through midnight Sunday. If you’d like to listen to excerpts from Monitor, you’ll need Real Player and Dennis Hart’s Monitor site.

Nichols and May were Monitor regulars for a couple of years. The ten tracks on the …Examine Doctors LP are but a small fraction of their work for Monitor. The rest remains unreleased, which is a shame, because it may well be some of their very best work. See if you agree.

Mike Nichols and Elaine May Unreleased Monitor Sketches, Part 1

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Mike Nichols on Down Time

A couple of years ago, Mike Nichols appeared on Inside The Actors Studio, the show hosted by what’s-his-name… you know, the guy married to Kedakai Turner Lipton?

When Mike Nichols said the following, I grabbed a pencil and paper, backed up the Tivo, and copied it down word for word. It may well be the best advice ever offered to to anyone working on a creative project.

The most unacknowledged factor in our work is down time. Time not “working on it.” You’ll find that – over and over and over – you can’t solve something… and you leave it alone, and you go away, and you come back… and you can.

That’s your unconscious. Once you’ve acknowledged that it exists and that it works in this strange way, you can begin to cater to it more, by “putting things away.”

This is really a very fancy name that I’ve given my own laziness. It’s literally true. All my working life, I’ve thought, “I really am very lazy.”

And indeed I am, in some ways. But we all feel lazy; there’s always more work that we know we should be doing. And everybody says, “Lazy?! Are you nuts?! You’ve made us work now 48 hours in a row! And you say you’re lazy?” Yes.

Put it away. So that you can rediscover it, or discover something else next time.

You know how, in rehearsal, almost invariably a very good day is followed by a lousy day. That’s the unconscious. The lousy day is as important as the very good day.

My only remaining battle with the studios is that since they are not creative people, and they live their life in meetings, they think that things you say in meetings are work. ‘Cause that’s their only work! Therefore they can’t be expected to love, as we do, process.

The whole point of process is that you can only have one or two good ideas a day. That’s all you can do! And then, with God’s help, you’ll have another one tomorrow, and another one the day after… and then maybe none for days.

If our process can include that reality, then we are encouraging the unconscious, and we are able to keep having good ideas, which is the only thing that makes us happy when we’re working.

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