Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chuck McCann's Let's Have Fun Scrapbook by Chuck McCann

Chuck McCann. Chuck McCann’s Let’s Have Fun Scrapbook: My Life in the Wacky World of Live Kids’ Television. Tuluca Lake, Ca., 2012.

McCann knew from childhood he wanted to perform. He did impressions as a child for those around him. His grandfather juggled and rode a unicycle in Bill Cody’s West Show His father was a musician who toured with orchestras.

After high school, McCann appeared in the Pasadena Playhouse. He enjoyed being a character actor. He worked as a comedian in New York clubs and on variety shows. He then apprenticed in the “Rootie Kazotte Show” with puppeteer Paul Ashley. Ashley and McCann traveled with thier puppet acts. Their New York TV show was often picked up live in mid-broadcast in other cities in other time zones such as Chicago.

Sandy Becker of WNEW-TV asked McCann to take over his comedy show while he was on vacation. McCann was asked this on a Friday to begin the next Monday McCann wrote a show with Dick Gautier.

Live television for McCann included drinking buttermilk in a commercial that made him sick, animals that bit him and drew blood, and a commercial with a talking doll that broke and wouldn’t stop talking.

McCann and Dick Van Dyke did impressions of Laurel and Hardy on WPIX-TV. They also did impressions of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton.

WPIX expanded the hours McCann was on TV. In 1960, his “Let’s Have Fun” was a live four hour show.

McCann’s show was profitable for WPIX. Yet the show was not given a budget, McCann had to pay for whatever he needed for the show, Costumes were found from the Salvation Army store. The show was filmed in a small space no intended to be used as a TV studio. The lights were two feet about McCann. His hair once caught fire.

McCann was once fired from a cannon It shot his clothes out yet left him inside.

During a newspaper strike, McCann, a la Fiorello LaGuadia reading comics on the radio during an earlier strike, acted out the comics.

There was no live live audience in most of McCann’s shows. He fed off the crew’s laughter, When a program manager insisted children appear in a Kookie Fortune Cooke Contest, he had a child open and read a fortune cooke from a local fortune cooke company who sent over the wrong batch. The fortune read “Sex will be risky tonight.” The contest was quickly cancelled.

Leon the Lion, the MGM lion, appeared on McCann’s show. The lion escaped, went into an elevator, exited into the lobby and swiped a fur coat off a woman, The station put the woman and a friend up at the Waldorf Astoria and got them show tickets and a fancy dinner.

Bert Draeturrous, an engineer on McCann’s show, invented showing film backwards. McCann invented a character Mr. Backwards. The signal from the backwards film, though, failed to meet FCC broadcast standards so they had to stop using it. McCann showed the technique to Steve Allen. Allen could afford the preamplifier that made the process work according to FCC standards.

McCann and Earl Doud created the CBS show “Far Out Space Nut” which starred Bob Denver.

The first MdDonald’s TV ad in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area was on McCann’s show. He had to eat and pretend to enjoy a sandwich which had gone cold.

McCann once ate what he thought was ice cream with chocolate syrup only to discover it was a potato underneath the syrup as ice cream melts He had to talk while being unable to swallow it,

The Federal Communications Commission in 197 required fewer product endorsements by children’s show hosts. In 1968, sensing the changing directions of children’s TV programming, left children’s TV. He was in the movie “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. McCann later did comedy tours with Tim Conway. 

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