(some cool stuff I did on the radio and on the television)
49 high-larious half hours!
Check back often: more coming!
Dozens newly added in 2016!
If you like what you hear, you can buy me a drink or a meal or even a vintage Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar by using the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar:
Thanks to ML-J and FB for leading the charge. Now, although the honor of being among the first two donors is no longer available, you can always shoot for being the largest donor. PayPal also conveniently makes it possible for you to set up recurring monthly donations! All expressions of support are warmly appreciated, and come as a very pleasant surprise.
I know you're out there. Many thousands of you. If you don't want to, or can't support this site with the donation button, you can use this site to buy some of the items discussed in the programs via the Amazon links thoughtfully provided. (If you don't see these links, it is probably because you have AdBlocker enabled for this site. Go ahead, disable it for this site. It won't kill you.) But since most of the stuff you get through Amazon isn't listed here, if you get into the habit of accessing Amazon through this site, by pressing this button:
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Michael Palin and me, KCRW studios, 1988
For most of the 1980s, I produced and hosted a radio program on KCRW called "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff." It was a Friday evening half-hour through most of its existence, but for a while was a full hour on Sunday nights. Most of the time I'd play recorded comedy, usually from albums. Often I'd feature a single artist or team, but some of the best shows, I feel, are the ones in which a wide variety of sources are united by a single topic. Occasionally I would also do interviews, when someone I admired was available. It was a wonderful luxury to be able to dispense with the introductory stuff they get asked all the time and go right to the grad-level essay questions.
The best luxury of all, of course, was the freedom I was given at KCRW. I produced and edited the shows alone in a small studio, and when I was finished, I put the reel of tape in a box on a shelf in a closet. Just before airtime, the engineer would take the tape out of the box and put it on the air. It was that simple. No notes, no critiques, no alterations asked for. That sort of trust is so rare, and was precious to me. I never took it for granted, and tried hard to deserve it. Though it's not the same station now, supporting KCRW isn't a bad idea, and you can find them at 89.9 on your FM dial in Los Angeles, or here on the web.
A fairly typical KCRW "Funny Stuff" tape box. Ampex 406, which did not age at all well.
Because I put the show together alone in that small room, and rarely listened to it when it was being broadcast, it always surprised me when I'd meet listeners who'd mention something they'd heard in it. I always felt like saying, "Where were you, hiding under the desk?"
Here are MP3 files of some of my KCRW radio shows. To stream any of these shows, just click on the link below each descriptions. If you want to download them, you should right-click on the link.
If you're overwhelmed by the bounty of what's offered here, and are looking for a good place to start, I think the best of the interview shows is probably the Cleese + Palin one. As for the music shows, the El Queso Grande March '87 one is a lot of fun. And don't overlook The Wibberley Stories. But your mileage may vary. I wouldn't have put anything up here if I didn't think it was worth your time.
I hope you enjoy this stuff. Better than it gathering dust around here. Note: writing to me at the KCRW mailing address I gave at the end of each show is highly likely to be a waste of time. I don't work there anymore. You can contact me by clicking on my name at the bottom of this page. Or here. It's weird... the stats show that each of these shows has been downloaded by thousands of people, and yet I've heard from very few of you. If you like what you hear, drop me a line and say hi, okay? And if you REALLY like what you hear, swivel your head slightly to the left and take advantage of the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar in that other frame, or buy something from Amazon through this link.
A NOTE ABOUT LINKING: It's perfectly all right with me if you link to this home page (www.bobclaster.com), but please don't link directly to the files themselves. If you do that, then people don't get to see the whole list, where they might possibly find something else of interest. Or the Completely Optional PayPal Tip Jar, or the Amazon links.
In the absurdly unlikely event that you are a listener who happened to record something I did on the radio that doesn't appear here (especially if you have any of the one-hour Funny Stuff shows), and you still have the tape, please contact me!
A NOTE ABOUT THE AMAZON LINKS: The products I've linked to in the listings were personally chosen by me, and I vouch for each and every one. In some cases, essential parts of the stories are, sadly, out of print, but for the most part, the stuff I've listed is the stuff you should have. Especially that big TV. Seriously, if you have questions about the books or DVDs or whatever, ask me and I'll tell you. This stuff is important to me, and I love talking about it.
Part One (55:48)
Part Two (35:52)
Douglas Adams was the brilliant author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" which, in its original incarnation as a BBC radio series, was phenomenally successful for the station. At the conclusion of the umpteenth run of the series, we were able to get Adams to come down to the station for a chat. This was a golden opportunity to conduct a grad-level interview, without having to explain who he was and what he was about. We were able to ask all the picky little nerdy questions of interest only to the true fans, for whom the show was still fresh in their minds. The station's Production Director, Tom Strother, conducted this interview with me. Years later, when "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" was published, Adams came back for another visit. Since he wasn't a comedian per se, these shows aired on the station during the day, rather than as part of the "Funny Stuff" series. When, at one point, I tried to get a book of transcripts of these interviews published, Adams was particularly supportive and generous. He was a lovely and very funny man, and his sudden early death in 2001 at age 49 came as quite a blow, especially to those of us who were lucky enough to meet him. I don't have an airdate for the first one, but it had to be in the early '80s, as I clearly remember that it took place in the station's old studios on the campus of John Adams Junior High School. The original airdate for the second show was June 29, 1987.
Danny Arnold is not a household name. However, another name, “Barney Miller,” is. And there’d be no “Barney Miller” without Danny Arnold. Television is a very collaborative medium, and while there were many people who contributed to the success, both artistic and commercial, of “Barney Miller,” the show (like “Fawlty Towers” and only a handful of others) owes its flavor, its consistent excellence, and its very existence to the stubborn vision of one man: Danny Arnold. Danny Arnold wasn’t shy about speaking his mind, and there was a lot in it about the state of television in the late '80s and how it got that way.
I originally contacted Danny Arnold in order to try and locate copies of the six episodes of his short-lived
series, “Joe Bash,” to pass along to John Cleese. However, upon speaking with
him, I had a hunch that he had much to say that would interest my listeners, and
I was right. Danny looked like an old boxer, stocky with very pink skin and
very red hair, and was one of those men who seems incomplete without a cigar.
He was one of the last of a dying breed. Danny Arnold passed away in the summer of 1995.
But my bitterness didn’t
last long, and when Universal begged me to interview him to promote his film
relented. I guess I’m easy. I brought portable equipment to L’Hermitage, a
lovely posh yet intimate hotel in Beverly Hills, to record the interview. John
was (and is) a total joy. This was the end of his publicity tour, and it was
obvious that he had answered the same six questions a hundred times. When I
started in about the Footlights Club and Cambridge and “At Last the 1948 Show,” he was clearly
delighted. He gave me much more time than we’d originally scheduled, and
although the Universal press person seemed anxious throughout, wondering if we’d
ever get around to mentioning the film it was her job to promote, he seemed as
happy to discuss this stuff as I was. Making John Cleese. laugh was, and is, one
of the great pleasures of my life, and doesn’t begin to repay for the many
laughs he’s given me. Then again, who ever said that life was fair? Of all the
interviews I ever did, this one required the least editing.
The only notes that may
require a bit of clarification at the outset are these. The movie Terry
Jones was directing was “Personal Services,” the Harvey Korman / Betty White version of
“Fawlty Towers” aired as an unsold pilot and was called “Snavely,"
the “Prue” he refers to is actress Prunella Scales, who played his wife in
“Fawlty Towers,” and the reference to Terry Gilliam and Universal refers to the
well-publicized battle he had with them over his film, “Brazil."
The film with Charlie
Kline, et. al. did get made and should be well known to most of you under the
name of "A Fish Called Wanda," and is discussed at length in the episode with
Michael Palin. “Clockwise” did only moderate business here in the States, but is a lovely
little film, well worth seeing.
JOHN CLEESE AND MICHAEL PALIN
At the conclusion of the Cleese & Palin session, I asked John for a favor.
I asked him if he would read for my audience a lovely little monologue that he'd
written at Cambridge in 1962. It was later used on David Frost's show, "The Frost Report,"
but on the LP of material from that show, it's performed by Frost rather than
Cleese. He most
graciously agreed, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the only recording
of Cleese himself performing this material. The reel of tape that I found this on
was unboxed, unlabeled, hideously filthy, and it's a miracle that it's audible at all. And I
never, ever, thought I'd find it. Here it is. Enjoy!
Part One (29:12)
Part Two (29:52)
Partly because I was curious, and partly just because I like getting mail, I once asked the listeners to write to me and tell me who they thought was the funniest human alive. The winner, hands down, was John Cleese. I took that as a sign that my listeners had very, very good taste, or that I had trained them well. So it was only natural that I’d want to interview Cleese, if at all possible. I spotted a listing in TV Guide to the effect that he was scheduled to appear on a show that I knew was taped here in Los Angeles, promoting his first book about psychology (Families, and How To Survive Them, written with his psychiatrist, Robin Skinner), and so called the publisher to see if I could be squeezed into his schedule. Arrangements were made, but at the last minute, he was able to get a coveted spot on a local afternoon TV show, something along the lines of “Good Afternoon, Hello, How Are You, Los Angeles.” The TV show was aired live, and so since TV always seems to take precedence over radio, my interview was canceled. Heartsick, I watched the broadcast from the station only to see one of the great figures in the history of comedy interrupted every few sentences by a live remote interview with Michael Jackson’s gardener on the late-breaking news of The Gloved One’s whereabouts. Serves you right, I thought.
I think John must have been pleased by our first interview, as it led to a correspondence that continued for many years. It started with my sending him a copy of the show as broadcast, and then I managed to locate tapes of “Joe Bash” for him, which led to my being able to interview Danny Arnold, but that’s another story. Anyway, when “A Fish Called Wanda” was released, John and Michael Palin did most if not all of the publicity together, and since two was the limit to the number of voices I could reliably record using the remote equipment, they came down to the KCRW studios to record this interview. Luckily, I had the foresight to record this one in wide stereo, with each of them in one channel and me in the middle, since many of the funniest moments were spoken softly by one while the other was trying to make a point. Again it was in the middle of a grueling publicity tour, and again I think they enjoyed the ability to go into other topics, reminisce about the Python days, and just be silly on the radio. What was obvious to all in the studio when this took place, and to all who heard the broadcast is the obvious love and respect shared by these two guys. This was certainly the easiest interview I ever did, as you’ll be able to tell by how few actual questions I had to ask. Original airdate: August 5, 1988.
But my bitterness didn’t last long, and when Universal begged me to interview him to promote his film “Clockwise,” I relented. I guess I’m easy. I brought portable equipment to L’Hermitage, a lovely posh yet intimate hotel in Beverly Hills, to record the interview. John was (and is) a total joy. This was the end of his publicity tour, and it was obvious that he had answered the same six questions a hundred times. When I started in about the Footlights Club and Cambridge and “At Last the 1948 Show,” he was clearly delighted. He gave me much more time than we’d originally scheduled, and although the Universal press person seemed anxious throughout, wondering if we’d ever get around to mentioning the film it was her job to promote, he seemed as happy to discuss this stuff as I was. Making John Cleese. laugh was, and is, one of the great pleasures of my life, and doesn’t begin to repay for the many laughs he’s given me. Then again, who ever said that life was fair? Of all the interviews I ever did, this one required the least editing.
The only notes that may require a bit of clarification at the outset are these. The movie Terry Jones was directing was “Personal Services,” the Harvey Korman / Betty White version of “Fawlty Towers” aired as an unsold pilot and was called “Snavely," the “Prue” he refers to is actress Prunella Scales, who played his wife in “Fawlty Towers,” and the reference to Terry Gilliam and Universal refers to the well-publicized battle he had with them over his film, “Brazil." The film with Charlie Crichton, Kevin Kline, et. al. did get made and should be well known to most of you under the name of "A Fish Called Wanda," and is discussed at length in the episode with Michael Palin. “Clockwise” did only moderate business here in the States, but is a lovely little film, well worth seeing.
JOHN CLEESE AND MICHAEL PALIN
At the conclusion of the Cleese & Palin session, I asked John for a favor. I asked him if he would read for my audience a lovely little monologue that he'd written at Cambridge in 1962. It was later used on David Frost's show, "The Frost Report," but on the LP of material from that show, it's performed by Frost rather than Cleese. He most graciously agreed, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the only recording of Cleese himself performing this material. The reel of tape that I found this on was unboxed, unlabeled, hideously filthy, and it's a miracle that it's audible at all. And I never, ever, thought I'd find it. Here it is. Enjoy!
Part One (38:44)
Part Two (34:38)
Part Three (36:31)
This is another one I'd wanted for a long time. Unfortunately, by the time "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff" came to be, the "Peter Cook's Funny Stuff" industry had pretty much run its course. So he had nothing much to promote, and didn't come to Los Angeles all that often. But John Cleese managed to pull some strings for me, and I was able to spend a very enjoyable evening in the company of the man Stephen Fry would describe as "The funniest man who ever drew breath." His legendary drinking problem was nowhere in evidence, as he nursed a single Champagne cocktail through the entire evening. When we were finished, I asked him to autograph a few choice items from my collection. One of my prized possessions, therefore, is the copy of the "Derek and Clive Live" album on which he scrawled, "Fuck Off, Peter Cook." When these shows originally aired, they were each about a half hour long, and the only way to make them fit was to edit the comedy selections down to highlights. For this website, I've re-edited them and replaced those shortened versions of the comedy samples with the complete pieces, which explains the odd lengths. Original airdate: September 1988.
Peter Cook died in 1995 at the age of 57.
A VISIT WITH QUENTIN CRISP (59:52)
Before we commenced the interview, we went out for a light supper. Quentin was all dolled up in his slight drag, with a little bit of eye makeup, a frilly scarf, and as I recall, a velvet jacket. Most of the conversation centered on old movies, a topic on which he spoke (and wrote) with great insight and wit. As the hot sweaty evening wore on, the makeup disappeared, revealing a very dear sweet old man. He had a small black and white television set which only received one channel. He claimed to like this, as it relieved him of the responsibility of deciding what program to watch. However, I arranged for him to get a more functional little color set that my brother no longer needed. He was that sort of person... you just wanted to take care of him and do things for him. I'm so glad I had the chance to spend some time with him, and I think you'll enjoy the time you spend listening to this as well. Quentin Crisp passed away 10 years later, in 1999 at the age of 90. This program originally aired September 3, 1989.
JONATHAN AND DARLENE EDWARDS (Paul Weston and
Jo Stafford) (30:52)
When I contacted them, they were both retired, living in a lovely apartment in Century City, operating their mostly mail-order record label, Corinthian Records. They were kind enough to invite me to drop by with some recording equipment, and there we recorded this show. I found them charming, delightful, and generous. Jonathan (Paul) did most of the talking, but whenever Darlene (Jo) chimed in, it was always wonderful. Until someone tells me otherwise, I'm going to claim that this is the only radio interview Jonathan and Darlene ever gave in character.Paul Weston passed away in 1996, and Jo Stafford died in 2008.
This was one of the first shows I put together, and some of the edits are a bit clunky, but I think you'll enjoy it nevertheless.
2016 Update: I found another copy of this show which wasn't as clean, but it did contain the last bit including a wonderful coda which was cut out before, and is now restored.
Since Stan Freberg’s records were among the first and most successful of comedy records, he was obviously someone I’d want to interview. His company was listed in the Los Angeles phone book, and I figured it wouldn’t turn out to be much of a problem getting him. Silly me. I was shunted off to his agent, who was also his brother-in-law, and after explaining who I was and what I wanted, he told me he’d discuss it with Stan and get back to me. When I didn’t hear back, I’d call him again and have to remind him all over again about who I was and what I wanted. This process was repeated any number of times, until I finally gave up on that route. Still, I wanted to get Stan, and thought of another way to get his attention. I contacted June Foray, whom I had interviewed previously, and June and I were able to get ahold of all of the surviving members of Stan’s repertory company, and they all agreed to reunite in the KCRW studios if Stan would show up. Billy May, his musical director, was even going to come in from Palm Springs, where he retired to. I figured all I’d have to do was open the mikes and sit back and enjoy. I assumed that something like this would be irresistible to Stan. However, when I told the agent/brother-in-law about this plan, he said that Stan was annoyed that I had contacted all these people without contacting him first, and wanted nothing to do with it. Finally, I gave up.
Imagine my surprise, then, when upon publication of Stan’s book, It Only Hurts When I Laugh, I got a call from the publicist for the book asking if I’d be willing to have Stan Freberg on the show. And then imagine my further surprise to find that he was charming, generous with his time and rare tapes, and utterly oblivious to what had gone on with his by then late brother-in-law.
This interview was recorded with the knowledge that I’d be cutting it up into four separate half-hour shows to air on consecutive weeks, with the records we discussed edited into it. When a listener contacted me with the good news that he actually had a copy of the wonderful Arthur Godfrey parody that Stan thought was lost, that was added in as well (and, of course, given to Stan), and four became five. (The Billy Crystal show I had scheduled for 3/31/89 can be found below in the "Funny Stuff Theme Shows" section.)
Stan Freberg had a wonderful, inventive, mischievous mind. He passed away on April 7, 2015, at the age of 88.
And just for the hell of it, because I have it lying around, here's a wonderful radio show I had nothing to do with. From the CBS Radio Network, here's the August 31, 1956 episode of CBS Radio Workshop featuring Stan Freberg, entitled "Colloquy #3: An Analysis of Satire." This probably served as something of a pilot for Freberg's legendary CBS Radio series which debuted the following year.
CBS Radio Workshop: Freberg (28:54)
My interview with Terry Jones is something I’ll never forget, and I just hope it’s something he’ll someday forgive. Terry, it turns out, was a friend of a friend of my next-door neighbors, and they happened to mention that he’d be coming over for dinner. I asked them to see if he’d be willing to come by and let me interview him, and the word came back that he’d be delighted. At that time, I had a wonderful old dog named Daisy, who was a Briard, which is a big, floppy sheepdoggy sort of creature. Daisy was very ancient at that point, and the aroma emanating from the dear old soul was a bit intense. Since I lived there, I had gotten used to it, and it was only when people came to visit and mentioned it that I became aware of it. There was nothing that could be done about it; she was always kept clean, but she was just very old and smelly. And you can’t put out a beloved member of the family just because she’s beginning to stink. Anyway, it seems that Terry Jones is allergic to dogs, and his eyes began to water almost as soon as he came in the front door. So I put him next to an open window and hoped for the best. He was a very good sport about it, however, which is just one example of what a very nice man he is.
Chronologically, this came between my interview with John Cleese, and my Cleese + Palin interview. As a result, you'll hear me ask Terry a few questions that I later posed to his Monty Python colleagues, and it's interesting to compare the answers. Original Airdate: April 17, 1987
August 2016 update: Original master tape was located and baked and as a result, the sound quality is much upgraded.
This was one of the most popular shows I ever did, and as a result of constant requests, I repeated it a number of times. Every time I hear it, though, I'm embarrassed by it. Don't get me wrong, he's gracious, brilliant, and very funny; and I think the show serves as a fine introduction to his work. But I always hear myself Learning By Doing Wrong. Thinking about the next question rather than listening to the answers.
This originally aired as a half-hour on March 4, 1983, and then was expanded to an hour for afternoon rebroadcast. Listen, by the way, for the original guitar-and-bass version of the theme music. Just about all of the Lehrer tracks in the program that were rare at the time have since surfaced in the essential boxed set on Rhino. I called Lehrer back in November of 1989 for an update, and that's here too. A wonderful full-length performance of Lehrer has surfaced on video, and is available under the name of "The Tom Lehrer Collection," by clicking on the first link below. It's wonderful! Lastly, if you listen to the update show, there's something you'll be curious to hear that you probably have never heard, and that's the mystery bonus file above.
Jackie Mason, in 1987, after a lifetime of working the mid-level trenches of comedy, suddenly became a huge hit. His one-man show on Broadway, "The World According to Me," which was basically just his stand-up act, became the hottest ticket in town, and ran for a solid year. The record and book spinoffs all did quite well, too. I was able to get a brief interview with Mason over the phone, from his dressing room, which you can hear here, along with a heaping helping of his material. Original airdate: October 23, 1987.
I had been a big fan of Emo's first album, "E=mo2" and so made arrangements to interview him. He was going to be performing in Los Angeles at the Improv, which is about a block and a half from where I lived. So the deal was, I'd pick him up at the airport, bring him back there where we'd record the interview, and then I'd drop him off at the Improv. I'll never forget the sight of Emo at the airport, waving frantically at me and shouting "Hey there, home boy!" As I mention at the end of this show, we all instantly fell in love with Emo, including my then-two-year-old son, who never warmed up to people quickly. Original airdate: March 1988.
The Firesign Theater was... well, there was nothing remotely like them. They were a four-man comedy troupe starting in the late-'60s who used the medium of the phonograph record in ways that no one else had ever dreamed of. And they were so smart, and so funny. Phil Proctor, one of the four, was doing stuff at KCRW at this time, and graciously agreed to come in and chat. So interesting, and if you love The Firesign Theater, as you should, you'll learn some stuff about how they formed and how they worked that you probably don't know. Here's what a nice guy Phil Proctor is: at one point, I was set to play one of the longer Firesign bits in its entirety on "Funny Stuff." As a way to find out if anybody was listening, I got permission from Phil to send a xerox of the script to the piece as taken from their book of published scripts to any listeners who'd write in for it. One day, I was preparing this mailing at the station, and Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman happened to be there and see me. When I told them what I was doing, they insisted on hanging around and autographing every one. Nice surprise for those listeners! Original airdate: April 13, 1990.
ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (JUNE FORAY
AND BILL SCOTT) (29:21)
(significantly upgraded August 2016)
I thought it was lost forever, but I have recently (May 2013) unearthed this wonderful addition to the collection: a Funny Stuff Promo starring Rocky and Bullwinkle! I should have done this sort of thing more often.
The lovely and gracious Ms. Foray, with the capable assistance of my pal, Mark Evanier, has written her autobiography, and it's highly recommended and available by clicking on the link below. Mark is nowhere near as lovely as June, but he is gracious, so you should go and read his blog as I do, every day.
MORT SAHL (27:31)
BROTHER THEODORE (Theodore Gottlieb)
Many years later, after Merv Griffin had dubbed him "Brother Theodore," when he
was primarily known for brief unsettling appearances on the Letterman show, I was going to be spending a week back in NY and
so asked him if I could record an interview with him. He agreed and was a
gracious host. This was recorded in his lovely apartment in the Upper West
Side, the day after (or the day before, I don't recall) I recorded my interview
with Quentin Crisp in his apartment. Interesting contrast.
Theodore passed away in 2001 at the age of 94. A man by the name of Jeff
Sumerel has made a wonderful documentary about him called "To My Great Chagrin: The
Unbelievable Story of Brother Theodore," which has been seen at the occasional
film festival. This interview was given to him for research purposes, and
and a lot of it is used in the final film. The film is as brilliant as its
subject, and is every bit the movie that Theodore deserved. More info about the
film, and a wonderful trailer for it, can be seen
Do whatever you have to do to see this brilliant film.
This show originally aired on September 24, 1989.
You may not know the name, and you might not ever recognize his face, but you know the voice from hundreds of radio commercials in your lifetime, and a fair amount of TV commercials too. Mal Sharpe and his late partner, Jim Coyle, were known as Coyle and Sharpe, and pioneered the comedic man in the street interview. They did it on radio, and on records, and of course, in all those commercials. When Coyle passed away in 1992, Sharpe pressed on alone. It's a lot like the prank comedy you see so much of today, but much gentler. Give this one a try. Who else would ask Walter Cronkite if his underwear was bunching up? t's a delightful show. Originally broadcast January 1985.
BROTHER THEODORE (Theodore Gottlieb)
Many years later, after Merv Griffin had dubbed him "Brother Theodore," when he was primarily known for brief unsettling appearances on the Letterman show, I was going to be spending a week back in NY and so asked him if I could record an interview with him. He agreed and was a gracious host. This was recorded in his lovely apartment in the Upper West Side, the day after (or the day before, I don't recall) I recorded my interview with Quentin Crisp in his apartment. Interesting contrast.
Theodore passed away in 2001 at the age of 94. A man by the name of Jeff Sumerel has made a wonderful documentary about him called "To My Great Chagrin: The Unbelievable Story of Brother Theodore," which has been seen at the occasional film festival. This interview was given to him for research purposes, and and a lot of it is used in the final film. The film is as brilliant as its subject, and is every bit the movie that Theodore deserved. More info about the film, and a wonderful trailer for it, can be seen here. Do whatever you have to do to see this brilliant film.
This show originally aired on September 24, 1989.
For most of its run, "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff" worked like this. I introduced the material, which was based around a theme. Usually it was one artist, but sometimes the theme was more conceptual. I'd talk a little about the theme (a brief summary of Woody Allen's standup career, for instance, or Mother's Day or comedy about flying), then play the best stuff from the records, then say goodnight, begging for mail and plugging next week. Sweet little show, mainly. I had a great record collection, and knew a lot about this stuff. I'm finding more and more of these tapes, so I'll stick 'em up here. If you're the copyright holder of any of this material, and you really want to complain... really? You kiddin' me? Well, if you really do, let me know and I'll laugh at you and then eventually honor your request.
Here's a bunch of such shows, mostly dates unknown, in random order. In response to the almost imperceptible demand for more, more will appear. Check back from time to time. Bug me if you want more sooner. And if anyone out there is actually enjoying this stuff, please take a moment and let me know. Restoring and digitizing these old tapes is a not insignificant task, and it would be nice to know someone's getting something out of it. Thanks.
I recently discovered two reels of tape that I had made for my mother, which were 3.75 ips copies of my first 12 shows, so even though the quality isn't perfect, they still sound pretty good, and I can make them available here. I'd be a lot happier if I'd discovered almost any other 12 shows, since I certainly got a lot more relaxed on the air as the show progressed, but what the hell. Here, from January 7, 1983, is the very first edition of "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff," featuring Woody Allen. In the early days of the show, KCRW Production Manager Tom Strother and I did a running gag at the top of every show, in which he'd be the incompetent engineer playing the wrong theme music every week. Pretty incredible how long it took us to realize it didn't really work.
PETER COOK & DUDLEY MOORE
Show #2, from 1/21/83. If you've never heard this stuff, I envy you. I had always planned to end the show with a different incomprehensible quote that had something to do with a sense of humor, like "If your sense of humor is in your wallet, you'll never be short changed," but when, here in show #2, I stumbled upon "Always keep that sense of humor well exercised, because you never know when you're going to need it," it seemed surprisingly apt, and I just stuck with it. You never know when you'll be struck with an unexpected attack of actual sincerity. It's also worth noting here that already, in show #2, I had started running over time.
FUNNY STUFF: NICHOLS & MAY
Show #3, from 1/28/83.
CLASSIC CLOWNS OF RADIO
Show #4, from 2/4/83. I was going to be co-hosting a series of old-time radio comedies during the upcoming pledge drive, and so this show, featuring Laurel & Hardy, Fibber McGee & Molly, Abbott & Costello, Groucho Marx, Fred Allen (with Oscar Levant and Tallulah Bankhead), and Jack Benny. This reminds me of a story I find amusing. When I originally pitched the idea for "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff," I put together a list of the various artists I would feature. You know, Woody, Newhart, Freberg, Cook & Moore, Lehrer, Nichols & May, etc. There was a man who was a consultant to the station, and he had the final say, since our then-station manager admittedly knew absolutely nothing about comedy. He looked over the list, and said he didn't understand why Jimmy Durante wasn't included. Happily, he gave his thumb's up despite the glaring omission of the Great Schnozzola.
MORE WOODY ALLEN
There was an error in the program guide, and it wasn't supposed to say "Woody Allen," but since there was another great half hour of Woody Allen material, I figured, why the hell not. 2/25/83.
This is the original edition of this show, which was later expanded to the full hour you find above. I know, it's confusing. For my money, you should skip this file altogether and just listen to the one-hour version above, but it's here for the obsessive-compulsives. I am embarrassed to admit that this particular half-hour program clocked in at 38:33. Luckily, everyone at the station was so excited about this interview, no one gave me a hard time about it. 3/4/83.
PETER SELLERS (30:08)
Okay, so you love his movies, but if you haven't heard his comedy records, mostly produced by George Martin, you're in for a treat. This is from very early in the FS series, in 1983.
SIXTIES IMPROV GROUPS (31:11)
Another from that early batch. The Committee, The Premise, Second City. Some great stuff here.
EARLY BRITISH RARITIES (30:31)
More 1983. One of my favorite corners of my comedy collection is the one with the rare British stuff, featuring early work of the Pythons, Beyond the Fringe, etc. This is a theme I'd revisit again and again (there's another later one below with some of the same stuff, but not all).
From 1984, this is a collection of comedy having to do with psychiatry.
KIDS & BABIES (27:40)
Here's a sweet show that I put together when my wife and I found out we were going to become parents for the first time. And then, I scheduled the repeat for the arrival date of young Maxwell Samuel Claster, but he showed up a few weeks early. If you or someone you know is expecting a visit from the stork, you might particularly enjoy this. Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, John Cleese, Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, Shelley Berman. Originally produced in 3/85, this is the tape of the 11/15/85 rebroadcast.
A SALUTE TO RADIO (29:10)
This is a nice batch of lesser-known comedy material about radio. Bill Murray pitching in a public radio pledge drive, Jean Shepherd's classic piece about the Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin, Stan Freberg, George Carlin, Robert Klein. Originally aired 4/18/86, this is the tape of the 11/25/88 rebroadcast.
CONTEMPORARY COMICS (Part 2 of 2) (28:23)
This is the second part of a 2 part show saluting the then-current crop of comedians. The ground rule was that they had to have been fairly unknown five years earlier. And I'm happy to say that I chose wisely. Part one, which I still haven't located, was Howie Mandel, Garry Shandling, and Emo Philips. In this part, it's Bobcat Goldthwait, Judy Tenuta, and Stephen Wright, and then close with a brief tribute to Jackie Vernon who had just passed away. Originally aired 11/13/87.
FUNNY STUFF IN SPACE (28:02)
A selection of comedy having to do with the space program, including a nice little interview with Bill Dana making the case that his Jose Jimenez character was not an unflattering stereotype. Originally heard on 11/20/87.
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY Part One
A sampler, or maybe a "Greatest Hits" collection? January of 1988.
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY Part Two
Like half an hour could possibly suffice! 1/88
FUNNY STUFF: DANNY KAYE
From near the end of the series, this aired at the end of February 1989. The plug at the end is for a rebroadcast of the Freberg series.
FUNNY STUFF: UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY
A weird collection of weird records. Records made by witches, magicians, and Mr. Blackwell. I love this stuff, but there's no evidence that there's anyone else who does.
FUNNY STUFF: CLASSICAL MUSIC
Parodies of the Classics, mostly.
BACK TO SCHOOL
Originally aired on October 9, 1988, a visit (in order) to pre-school, middle school, high school, and college!
A nice selection of things medical including Doctors, Dentists, and Joan Rivers' gynecologist.
A specially hand-picked assortment of choice morsels dealing with those below us on the food chain. Robert Klein, Bob Newhart, Garrison Keillor, Soupy Sales, and so many more. This is my favorite sort of FS show.
FEAR OF FLYING
The perfect gift for your favorite white knuckle passenger, or perhaps a pilot or flight attendant. Some truly classic stuff here.
Movies and movie-making. Aired March 29, 1985
ALBERT BROOKS (29:18)
Again, you know his movie work, and he's funny when he turns up on TV, but you probably don't know his albums. This is a situation that can and should be rectified.
GEORGE BURNS (31:44)
Edited highlights of the legendary comedian in concert. Originally aired 4/19/85, but this tape is from a rebrodcast with new intros and outros from 1/13/89.
STUFF: ROLLIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY (26:55)
Selected bits of comedy on the subject of our automotive lifestyle. As Al Franken as Stuart Smalley used to say, "Well, this isn't my best show..." but hey, it includes Newhart's brilliant "Driving Instructor" bit. Sadly, at the end of this show, I tease an upcoming show highlighting the work of Fred Allen, and I wish that one still existed.
I think I did a baseball special almost every year the show was on the air, either to celebrate Opening Day, or the World Series. This was the first one, from 1983.
MOTHERS' DAY (29:08)
A strong collection of stuff about Mom. David Brenner, Bill Cosby, Robert Klein, Nichols & May, Tom Lehrer... what more universal topic could there be? I think this first aired on 5/8/87, and again on 5/6/88, and again on 5/14/89. and this tape was from the 1990 rebroadcast.
A MUSICAL MEANDER, Part 1 (31:40)
This is a leisurely tiptoe through the world of music. Classical, Jazz, country, Rock 'n' Roll, it's all there. And where else can you enjoy the comedy stylings of Benny Goodman? By the way, a few decades-late corrections: it is June Foray on that record. Jo Stafford sang on a different earlier record by the same group. And I now believe that the arranger on the Piscopo record is satirizing many different Sinatra arrangers, not just Riddle. Some very cool and very obscure stuff here.
A MUSICAL MEANDER, Part 2 (34:14)
Picking up where we left off. Part 1 is mostly classical and jazz, and this part is mostly country and rock 'n' roll. There's some really great stuff here, including a savage send-up of "I Am Woman" featuring my very favorite Gilda Radner performance in a great bit with Bill Murray and Chris Guest
FATHERS' DAY (29:08)
Equal time for the Dads. This is a wonderfully varied collection, encompassing Howie Mandel, Billy Connolly, Bob Newhart, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, WC Fields and Edgar Bergen, Groucho Marx, and Shelley Berman. How's that for a dinner party?
CHRISTMAS 1984 (29:38)
And, of course, every year I did at least one Christmas special. Usually in December, as I recall. Because you have to. And because there's a lot of great Xmas material that you can't play at any other time of the year.
CHRISTMAS 1987 - Part One (29:38)
And here's the first part of the 1987 edition. Will Part two surface? You never know.
Comedy for Charity: COMIC RELIEF 1 (28:20)
This was a great era for comedy charity shows. Bob Zmuda, previously best known as Andy Kaufman's manager, organized a charity for the homeless, and got HBO to give him many hours of prime airtime and all the infrastructure necessary to raise a ton of money for the homeless. Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal, all at the height of their careers, hosted what seemed like an endless procession of everybody who mattered in comedy, interspersed by heartbreaking fundraising taped pieces. This program focuses on the comedy from the very first one.
Comedy for Charity: COMIC RELIEF 2 (30:28)
Handpicked highlights from the second such spectactular.
Comedy for Charity: BACKSTAGE AT COMIC RELIEF '87
This is edited highlights from the backstage press conference at Comic Relief '87. You'll hear Elayne Boosler, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Bobcat Goldthwait, Louie Anderson, Andrea Martin & Catharine O’Hara, Harry Anderson, Michael J. Fox, Bob Zmuda, Judy Tenuta, Arsenio Hall, Richard Belzer, Steve Allen, and Marsha Warfield. Unless you decide to skip the whole thing, in which case you'll hear none of them. January 22, 1988.
Comedy for Charity: SECRET POLICEMEN (29:22)
Comedy for Charity was hardly an exclusively American phenomenon. Over across the pond, there was a glorious series of comedy benefits for Amnesty International, now known as the Secret Policeman's Balls. The creme de la creme of British Comedy participated, which means most of Beyond the Fringe, Monty Python, etc., etc. Great great stuff, much of which is very hard to find.
JOAN RIVERS (29:31)
Joan wasn't all that well-represented on records, but there's at least half an hour of good stuff, going back to the mid-'60s and up through her last album from 1983, and it's all here. Can we talk? You will find here some beautifully crafted jokes. "I think my husband is having an affair with the Queen of England. He came home the other night with tiara marks all over his stomach." From 3/11/88.
RODNEY DANGERFIELD (29:09)
A carefully assembled collection of the best moments from all the albums he made over his career. Originally aired 4/15/88.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF - A SALUTE TO THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY (28:28)
This is a grab bag of material, aired just ahead of the Dukakis - Bush election of 1988, having to do with the occupants of the Oval Office, from Washington up through Carter. Not all receive equal time, however. There is no Franklin Pierce comedy here at all.
ELECTION SPECIAL (1988) - Featuring Will Durst (29:39)
The election under discussion here is the 1988 Bush - Dukakis election. Any election is a good excuse to listen to the classic Python election bit, and then we turn to Will Durst. Obviously, topical humor from decades ago is interesting in a different way. In many ways, it's a little depressing how little has changed. Then again, great jokes are great jokes, and Will Durst is one of the best. After we listen to a sample of his work, we talk to him on the phone for ten minutes or so. Great guy.
BILLY CRYSTAL (28:58)
This show, with highlights from Crystal's one and only comedy album, was preempted for the unexpected 5th episode of the 4-episode Freberg series, which puts it at 1989.
BETTE MIDLER (27:06)
The history of entertainment is full of actors trying to be singers, or singers trying to be actors, or comedians trying to be serious actors, etc., but it's much less common when a singer tries stand-up comedy. Bette Midler attempted this considerable feat back in 1985 with a comedy album entitled "Mud Will Be Flung Tonight." It's obviously not that big of a stretch, considering her outsized personality and stage persona. The record is now out of print and pretty obscure, but here's as much of it as I could play on the radio.
MARTY FELDMAN (29:18)
If you only know of Marty from his film work, you're in for a treat. He did some wonderful sketch comedy work on television in the UK, with some classic bits, many of which were written by then- and future-Pythons. He also made some really delightful and unsurprisingly odd records. Not sure this was the original broadcast, but this tape came from April 20, 1990.
Ridiculously obscure early work by various Pythons, Peter Cook, et. al. From 4/25/86.
For a brief time, at the end of its life, the show was moved to Friday afternoon, so this 1990 show was designed to introduce a new audience to an old show. Some really classic stuff here featuring Bob Newhart, Shelley Berman, Bill Cosby, David Steinberg, Woody Allen... you get the idea. However, since the show didn't last much past that point, it's more a retrospective than an introduction. April 16, 1990.
These radio interviews on the subject of comedy led to my receiving, in 1995, a wonderful phone call from the late Aron Abrams. Aron was the chairman of a Writers Guild committee that was, with Larry Gelbart's help, assembling a reunion of the legendary Sid Caesar writers' room. He asked if I wanted to produce and host the evening, which I readily agreed to do. Larry was enormously helpful, arranging for me to visit the homes of many of the panelists in order to do all the necessary research. The panel consisted of Mel Tolkin, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Aaron Ruben, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Sheldon Keller, and Gary Belkin. It was shot for a PBS pledge break special, though what aired on PBS was drastically edited down. The home video version, though, for all intents and purposes, is the entire evening, running just under two hours (not including the largely fictitious credits). Sid Caesar has written of this evening, "The energy of the reunion simulated what actually went on in the writers' room years before, The chemistry, respect and affection were still there." Many of the panelists (Tolkin, Ruben, Belkin, Keller, Gelbart, and D. Simon) are no longer with us, so I'm glad this was captured. I'm quite proud of it.
"Caesar's Writers" is now, at last, available on DVD,
and no self-respecting home is complete without one. Go get one here.
The "Caesar's Writers" project led to something else I did that I'm also rather proud of, which was to help the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with their Archive of American Television. It's a lovely ongoing project, in which the pioneers of television are interviewed on camera for posterity. These are exhaustive interviews, usually lasting at least 4 hours, and the goal is to cover as much ground as is possible. They're all available on Google Video now, but they don't permit embedding. The two interviews I conducted for them were with Mel Tolkin, Sid Caesar's head writer; and Paul Henning, creator and Executive Producer of "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," and EP of "Green Acres."
A VISIT WITH VAN DYKE PARKS
THE WIBBERLEY STORIES
For some reason, the only copy of this show I can find is missing the very beginning. The show started with the main theme music (heard again at the end), and my introduction, which said pretty much everything I said above. However, the first story is intact, and that's not a bad way to start it either. I'm really proud of this program, and I hope you enjoy it.
As I said above, though my main bailiwick at KCRW was comedy, my background was music. I wrote and performed the theme song to "Funny Stuff," for instance. Anyway, periodically, I'd get a call to come in and substitute for one of the music programmers. I loved doing it. I'm not saying these are deathless works of art or anything, but if you have a long car trip to make, or a prison term to serve, they might be just the thing. I was largely inspired by the great after-midnight programming I grew up listening to on WBAI-FM in New York by the likes of Steve Post and Bob Fass. The key difference, however, is that while WBAI had a substantial audience at that time of night, KCRW really didn't in those days. New York in the '60s was more of a late-night town than L.A. in the '80s, I guess. The phones, the best measure of audience during live shows, were invariably dead. Ironically, it's possible that, based on the stats I'm seeing for this site, more people are hearing these shows 20 years after the fact than heard them live. Here are some examples that I found lying around.
(Note to those under 35: occasionally, in some of this music, you will hear bizarre pops and crackles which may be unfamiliar to you. This is a result of the fact that, back in the days before music was a matter of ones and zeroes, sound was reproduced using an antiquated system of grooves pressed into large, fragile slices of vinyl. I have replaced some of the more egregious selections with their newer digital counterparts, when available, but in case you're puzzled by some of these occurrences and are contemplating replacing or repairing your equipment as a result, that's the explanation. I have, however, left most of the station announcements in, for those who may be nostalgic for the Golden Age of KCRW.)
RIOT IN ROOM 3C (1962)- BC the DJ
Before we get to the KCRW stuff, here's something I ran across that I found so adorable, I couldn't help but share it. Contrary to what you may think, I did not emerge from the womb fully formed as the slick and polished radio professional you hear on these programs. Way back in approximately 1962, I was a precocious (some might say "obnoxious") ten year old kid living with my widowed mother and 6-year-old brother in an apartment in Manhattan. The tape recorder, the record player, and the piano were my favorite toys as well as my best friends. This recording is from that time, with me at age 10 playing the role of "BC the DJ" hosting "Riot In Room 3C." I've restored the music selections, and evened out the levels, but other than that, I've left it the way BC the DJ created it. After a few too many Chubby Checker records, it settles down to a pretty great selection of R&B and jazz records, which undoubtedly came from the collection of whatever Black nanny we had working for us at the time. I think that little 10-year-old Bobby Claster would probably get a big kick out of the fact that, 54 years later, you might hear it. I just wish it were longer. For me, it ends way too soon. (By the way, "Riot in Room 3C" was the name of the flipside of a doo-wop single by The Knockouts, which is where I got the show's title from, since "3C" was also the number of our apartment. Melvyn Douglas lived across the hall, and never had candy on Halloween.)
EVENING BECOMES ECLECTIC
Back before KCRW became dedicated to the pursuit of all things Cutting Edge, they had a lovely music format that was, essentially, the brainchild of one Isabel Holt, who created the program, "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which exists to this day. Of all the excellent music programmers I knew at the station, I felt that Isabel's knowledge was the most wide-ranging, and her love for the music she played was the most genuine. After three years of morning shows, family obligations made it necessary for her to move to the evenings, and so "Evening Becomes Eclectic" was born. I have no idea what has happened to Isabel, but I certainly hope she's enjoying it.
There was no date on this tape, so I have no idea when it was broadcast, but I don't remember Isabel being at the station during the latter part of my stint there, so I'm guessing this is from the early '80s sometime. If anyone can nail it down a bit more accurately, please let me know. This one is about ballads, fire, bananas, and need.
EL QUESO GRANDE -
March 1987 (2:00:28)
Here's another two-hour Saturday midnight dose of silliness, substituting for Jack Cheeseborough on his show, "El Queso Grande." I think I had just found some weird instructional records, and had some fun with them. You'll learn about your new dentures, get some tips on better sleep, and of course, there's Jack LaLanne with "Glamour Stretcher Time." As if that weren't enough, Vin Scully answers the question, "What is a Dodger?" Surprisingly, he does so without ever using the words "overpaid" and "steroids." Original airdate: March 1987
EL QUESO GRANDE
- 9/12/87 ("The Pope Show") (1:54:42)
i was invited back to host this same program on September 12, 1987, and the bulk of it is a Salute to the Pope John Paul II, Bringer of Traffic Jams. His Holiness was visiting Los Angeles, and it was all anybody was talking about, mainly to complain about the inconvenience his visit caused. There's also a fascinating bit of very early (1960) Beatles, and a salute to Joseph Spence.
For a while, Michael Ochs, of the famous Rock and Roll photo archive, had a two-hour show at 7 PM on Saturday nights, playing cool and obscure music on KCRW, but in October of 1987, I filled in for him. In these shows, I did what I usually did when doing music shows, stringing together clusters of songs I like that all, more or less, have to do with a theme. The first part of the first show is a musical salute to the Northridge Quake, which we'd just experienced. There's also a section in which the titles of various songs come together to tell a little story. At least, that was the idea.
The second Archives Alive show is all one theme, having to do with babies. I found an old instructional record of a pediatrician giving advice to young parents, and used it to good effect here in stringing together a lot of songs on the subject. About 9 months later, when filling in for Deirdre O'Donoghue on her show, SNAP, I took another crack at it. Some of it is the same, and some of it is different. You decide which one you prefer, and then give it as a gift to someone with a new baby. You're welcome.
NEW ROCHELLE HIGH SCHOOL FIRE SHOW
EIGHT HOURS TO HARRY (8/6/88
- Salute to 1988 WGA Strike) (1:45:15)
One of the miscellaneous music shows on the station was hosted by Kristine McKenna, and was whimsically called "Eight Hours to Harry," simply because it ended eight hours before Harry Shearer's show started. Apparently, judging by what I said at the beginning of this show, I filled in as host of this show for four consecutive Saturday nights. This was the first, and the bulk of it is a musical salute to the 1988 Writers Guild Strike, which had just ended. Also: "You Are So Pretty."
SATURDAY BECOMES ECLECTIC
Back when eclectic music was the trademark of the station, in addition to the original "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and the spin-off "Evening Becomes Eclectic," there was, for a while, a "Saturday Becomes Eclectic," which at this time was hosted by Bob Darby between 10am and noon. (There was also a "Christmas Becomes Eclectic" that I traditionally hosted, and as we get closer to the holiday season, I may post one or two of them here.) Anyway, this was a two-hour show that aired on Saturday mornings. In this edition, I presented "Variations on the Theme of 'Variations on the Theme of "I Got Rhythm"'" featuring a rare recording of George Gershwin himself, explaining and performing one of his most famous pieces. Then, once we get rhythm, there's an exploration of dance craze tunes, with everything from "The Continental" to "The Brontosaurus." After that, the show goes to the dogs, and the rest is simply a tragedy. This show was originally broadcast on December 28, 1985.
Another of my sidelights is the fact that I'm the Musical Director for Vito's Pizza, home of the best slice of NY Pizza this side of the Rockies. Great pizza AND great music! What's not to like? Vito's is at 846 N. La Cienega, between Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd. Tell them "Bobby iPod" sent you. Ask for the special spicy pepperoni (it's not on the menu, and it's wonderful)! To see a clip of Vito in action on "Extra," check this out:
Other unrelated websites I've written include "The Great Games of Sid Sackson," a comprehensive tribute to the greatest American inventor of board games, and a collection of unreleased recordings by the legendary yet obscure '70s singer-songwriter, Judee Sill.
Thanks for your interest!