Sunday, December 04, 2005

Almost Live is Almost Jive

Re-runs of Embarassing Seattle Sketch Comedy Show Still Pollute Local Airwaves

An alarming trend has awakened the need for the Seattle Tattler to speak out against unfunny sketch comedy show Almost Live. Why? Because KONG-TV now plays re-runs of the show (which ran from 1984-1999) every weeknight at 11:30 and that makes me wonder why something new and fresh is not in that same time slot. The show that was never really alive to begin with comedically now refuses to die.

According to the imdb Almost Live "had a short run on the Ha! network (which eventually evolved into Comedy Central). Despite their producing some non-Seattle-centric skits, it never caught on with a national audience." That's because the show never represented the real Northwest, just the uninspired, timid, undaring "spirit" of a dozen or so bland, corporate white people.

John Keister - falls short in the laugh department even with local material that would seem to write itself

The Almost Live Reunion Special on September 12th was a failure. It was mostly a re-run of skits from old episodes, with a few new bits thrown in - recyling their themes of mocking Seattle's poor. As part of the "where are the cast members now" opening skit host John Keister is seen working at Dick's burger joint. Flipping burgers is not a joke for literally millions of Americans. The "Folk Songs of South King County" infomercial and the "Studs of South King County" skit make fun of the poor, with their trucker hats and their chewing tobacco and their bad hair. I'm not sure that such material is funny to many of the residents of South King County, a place with a Wal-Mart and lots of people walking around looking like they bought their clothes there and then ate at Wendy's. Almost Live's ongoing joke of mocking non-yuppies was played to death and then some, and then ressurected for the special.

Rare appearance of black people on Almost Live, playing stereotypical burly thugs.

John Keister, Pat Cashman, Tracey Conway, Nancy Guppy, Bob Nelson, Bill Stainton, Steve Wilson, Joel McHale and Ed Wyatt appeared on the reunion special, and frequent guest Bill Nye did an uninspired bit with Keister. Nye achieved international fame as his 'science guy" character with Disney. Bob Nelson, Keister's less unfunny counterpart and writer of some of AL's more passable skits, just wrote the screenplay for a movie called Nebraska, to be directed by Alexander Payne of "About Schmidt" fame. Perky, petite and persistent oddball Nancy Guppy remains a local media personality as the host of City A Go Go on the Seattle Channel. Tracey Conway suffered a near fatal heart attack because of an undiagnosed genetic defect, and then did a deadpan serious tv commercial for a local health clinic. Pat Cashman is a popular local media personality on radio and tv. He has an uncanny resemblance to Bryan Cranston, who plays the dad on Fox TV's Malcom in The Middle and has been appearing regularly in TV roles since the days of CHiPs.

Almost Live cast (with Pat Cashman look-alike Bryan Cranston in inset)

It is tragic that the resources of an entire tv studio, a large crew, and the broadcast time which Almost Live has managed to soak up over ten years could be squandered on a show that is unfunny and unreflective of the true northwest comic spirit. The folks behind Almost Live, particularly the host John Keister (Keister means "ass" in Yiddish) were given a golden opportunity to do something funny that would put Seattle comedy on the map. The point is not that the Almost Live folks were overseen by a corporate parent and perhaps unable to do anything remotely daring, political or funny because of this, the point is that the goddman show is still running Monday through Saturday (King/Kong has a long tradition of running late nite Almost Live re-runs after Saturday Night Live) which is an embarassment to our city and an insult to our multiethnic history and culture, and is also blocking the opportunity for some new group of comedians who are passionate to do a locally based show. I know they are out there.

John Keister and Bill Nye - can you guess which one has aged terribly?

Almost Live host John Keister and the five other caucasian cast members played to an exclusively white audience in their homespun ripoff of Saturday Night Live. There are no minorites in the studio audience at all, to the best of our knowledge. (TATTLER CONTEST! Videotape a re-run of Almost Live and find us a non-white audience member. WIN $5!)

Stay tuned for future Almost Live updates from the Seattle Tattler!