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Another fine mess

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SCTV: Behind the Scenes

SCTV: Behind the Scenes - Dave  Thomas, Robert David Crane, Susan Carney, Jonathan Webb While reading this I first laughed out loud as Thomas describes John Candy's character Mayor Tommy Shanks, stroking his stuffed dog while "feeding" it biscuits. In a delightful flash I recalled Candy playing Babe Ruth, who appears to Toulouse-Lautrec in a dream, trying to inspire the diminutive painter (played, on deeply-bended knee, by Joe Flaherty, who is actually doing his Jose Ferrer impersonation). Part of the inspiration involves Ruth grabbing and wildly swinging T-L about, tossing the painter roughly on to the floor. Then I thought about Eugene Levy as a pitch-perfect, dead-eyed Floyd the Barber, coming to the Godfather to ask for help with Howard Sprague.

In some ways, this book is best considered as madeleine, stray details about process and production sparking the most intense memories of my own youthful embrace of this show. I started watching SCTV after a furious, passionate pitch to my parents about why I should be allowed to stay up to see it. I think I was 11, maybe 12. (I believe this came a few months after a furious, passionate pitch that I should be allowed to stay up so that I could win something from the radio, and--victory!--at 3-ish a.m. I won--defeat!--a 45-rpm single of the Pointer Sisters singing "Fire.") I got maybe 23% of the references, but I was 100% in tune with the deeply sober embrace of silliness, the potent rigor of comedy as deconstruction. (Around this time I was also suddenly in love with my Steve Martin and Albert Brooks comedy albums. And speaking of Brooks, there is still nothing more conceptually perfect than his parody of the "Mr. Jaws" mock-interview singles all the rage at this time. Remember those? A journalist would be supposedly asking people questions about some pop-culturally-resonant (and ephemeral) fad, and the answers would be snippets from current pop hits. Brooks' version is mad. Mad, I tell you, mad!)

And there you go.

What this book doesn't, alas, tell you much about: the deep influences of Second City, particularities of the various cast members' approaches to comedy, much context beyond the general rivalry with SNL and the uneasy (and eventually destructive) oversight of network/corporate bigwigs. Instead, lots of anecdotes (from Thomas as well as snippets from others involved, but not the whole cast) about this sketch or that season or this blah di blah. I enjoyed it greatly. But mostly it reminds me that I must buy SCTV and begin plotting how to inflict it upon my child.