Vera Loves Lucy

January16/ 2000

A Visit To Redneck Starbucks ….. Having breakfast Wednesday AM at (duh!) a WAFFLE HOUSE on I-85 in Anderson SC; I was apondering over a show I had put on Tuesday night in Toccoa GA ….  The show had gone over well but several stories sorta fizzled as I overestimated my audience’s “pop-culture quotient”. …. The term Generational Touchstones was turning over in my sinus-congested head when I heard a dead ringer for “Vera” reference “Lucy and the chocolate factory”.  …. Now you’re saying “who is Vera”?  Which goes to my point.

I was appearing at a corporate function for Coats & Clark in Toccoa GA.  Toccoa is “a Mayberry” in North Ga just over the line from SC.  A “Dear Hearts & Gentle People” kinda town!  The audience was decidedly baby boomer and all were well aware of the late Georgia legend Lewis Grizzard.  That I do Lewis Grizzard type stuff made it a good fit.  Nice folks.

I tried two “darn good stories” that I had not showcased before.  One involves my home town hottie Jaime Pressley and her role in My Name Is Earl.  The Second involved the show The Office.  Both TV shows have been around 3-4 years and are considered “hits” by their major networks.  By a show of hands, less than 10% of the audience had ever seen either show.  Uh oh!

As a raconteur …. Having to do a full set-up of a story pretty well dooms the story’s impact.   The audience understanding the premise and anticipating the punch line is pretty critical.

   There is a term that raconteurs use ….. “inside baseball” …. which means the story requires too much insider knowledge of a subject.  For instance if one would make an Ernest T. Bass reference to an audience in Mt Airy during Mayberry Days you would have 110% synchronization.  Walk out wearing a goofy ball cap and holding a rock and they would all be ready for whatever came next.  Do the very same story in a ballroom at The Waldorf Astoria to the Manhatten League of Thimble Collectors and the silence would be deafening.

   Yes, most of us shuffle our index cards to fit an audience but you have a core foundation that you build your routine around.  What foundation base works the best for the most folks?  My Name Is Earl and The Office don’t qualify.

   So I’m having breakfast at the aforementioned WH in Anderson.  My head is approaching critical mass from sinus congestion and I’m thinking about what I learned the night before.  I was also still pondering why I was listed on the program as BobLee Swaney (???!!!).  Even Sharon my host was confused about that one.   After all these years, every show is its own adventure.

   This was an All-Girl WAFFLE HOUSE.  Four ladies with even the grill master being of the feminine persuasion.  It was one of the newer WHs as the Atlanta-based roadside diner giant updates their units.

   OK, have you figured out yet that “Vera” is from ALICE.  The mousey little waitress with Alice (Linda Lavin) and Flo “kiss my grits” that worked for Mel.  This gal was a dead ringer for “Vera”.  She was somewhere from 25-35, had at least one, probably 2 “knee babies” and her husband/boy friend works at “the plant”.   She had that WH pleasantness that keeps me returning to that familiar yellow/black sign.

   Vera was putting silverware in the dishwasher as I sat at the counter throwing down OJ to combat the clogged sinus monster.  I was semi-listening to the waitress chatter when Vera said “….. like Lucy and the chocolates on the conveyor belt”.  

   Lucille Ball died in 1989.  The series I Love Lucy stopped production in 1960.  “Vera” was not even born before 1980-ish but she casually used “Lucy and the chocolates” as an analogy to her co-workers and they all seemed to totally get her reference.  I was fascinated.  

   I asked her “I bet you remember “stompin’ grapes” and “Vita-meata-vegaman” too.”  She said “oh yes sir, sure”.  Obviously Lucy reruns are still on obscure cable channels and certainly those three episodes are TV classics …. But it set me to wondering.

   With technology spiraling beyond anyone’s ability to keep up and with “generations” now reduced to 3-5 years rather than 10-20 …. What current pop-culture elements will have stickability?  Not nearly as many as you think.

   Just staying with TV ….. what “classics” would get a knowing smile from general audiences and/or demographically specific audiences?  I believe that Seinfeld was the last of the mainstream TV classics.  Kramer and Soup Nazi don’t require footnotes.  What characters and/or episodes trigger immediate recognition from “most people”.

   MASH …. Mary Tyler Moore …. WKRP …. Bonanza …. Cheers …. Gunsmoke …. Leave It To Beaver …. Happy Days.   Sure you have your personal cult favorites as do I.  I once hummed the Have Gun Will Travel theme to an audience of blank faces.  Don’t tell Richard Boone.  The 1,200+ trivia questions that have appeared on this site over the past decade are tributes to your personal archives of pop-culture.

   I have made random references on stage to Les Nessman or Chester or Eddie Haskell or Ted Baxter and not lost anyone in an audience.  Dwight or Michael w/ Duffin Mifflin does not pass that test.

   In their heyday there were only 4-5 channel choices and no Internet, Ipods, or Nintendo competitors.

   I don’t think it was necessarily that “the writing was better”.  As “boomers” we like to think “we were better” at whatever the discipline but there is lots of good stuff around ….. and lots of alternatives to ever seeing any of it.  The Office is a terrific ensemble show with characters every bit as over-the-top memorable as WJM or WKRP or Dodge City.  The difference is that using Andy Warhol’s standard for fame …. The current crowded market gives only a few seconds instead of 15 minutes.

   Last week USA Today had a cover story in its Life Section about the current TV Fall season.  It listed the current Top Ten.  I was vaguely familiar with one of the shows – Dancing With The Stars.  I have no curiosity about the others.  I watch MAYBE four weekly TV shows and I DVR all of those.

   A LOT of shows have debuted over the past decade, enjoyed several strong seasons and disappeared and I never saw an episode.  I try to stay sorta up-to-date on pop culture just for column fodder but my “trying” leaves much to be desired.

   I do NOT have a Facebook or MySpace page …. Have never been to one of either nor have a clue what one does on them.  I’ve been hanging around Dr Danny and Prince Albert waaay too long.  Of the three of us, I have THE cell phone …. and THE I-pod. …. Bless their hearts!

    At my next show I may slip on a pair of aviator Ray-Bans and say “Miami never sleeps …” just to see the reaction.  Do you think Horatio’s ego could stand rejection?

   Sorta related …. Today Lord Cocoa Puff Came To Raleigh.  While miraculously feeding the  adoring multitudes with just three hush puppies and half a pound of ‘cue, the “sorta-black not-a-muslim, not-a-socialist because I’d be crazy to admit I am” bungled a key pop-culture reference.  

   TRUE STORY:  Referring to Fred Sanford’s junk yard Lord Puff mentioned “Weezie”.    Fred’s junkyard was in South Central LA and “Weezie” was in a “dee-luxe apartment in the skiiee … on the NYC East Side” with hubby George.   This ethno-centric error was on the level of confusing Jackie Childs with Jackie Robinson.  (MONEY LINE ALERT!)

   Not to worry ….. Hollywood writers immediately rewrote all the Sanford & Sons scripts to change Aunt Esther to Aunt Weezie.  Rewriting history being not uncommon for Mr. C. Puff don’t’chaknow!  

   Although Puff had watched Sanford & Son for over 25 years he had never heard Red Foxx’s imitation of Uncle Jeremiah’s Love Thy Neighbor sermon series.  Puff says he doesn’t watch the show any more! ….. Unconfirmed reports have Joe Biden telling a TV info-babe in Scranton that “all the junk yards in Delaware are owned by Japs, Spics, Hymies or “retards”.   Obama campaign officials are eliminating that TV station too.  Thats 3 in 3 days for Joe.


Since 1950, “music” has been available thru 6 storage methods   

Can you name the six?


   I thought Tom Coughlin immediately preceded TO’B at BC.  Wrong.  It was Dan Hennings.  Hennings was only there a short time before a gambling scandal sent him to the NFL and the Panther OC job. 

   Ty Willingham got “Buntinged” this week.  He will lame duck the rest of the season as UW joins Clemson in the “buy-a-rock star” game.   The Family Fullmer is sleeping with one eye open and Tommy Tubbs has to stomp Bama to even have a prayer.

   WOW ….. the 2008 World Series is over.   It edged out the 2002 WNBA Draft Lottery for #326 on the Neilsen sports event watched list.  I don’t know the guy at all but Bud Selig just looks like the kind of guy that would HAVE to tip a hooker A LOT ….. a whole lot!

   Our earlier accurate report that the plans for Kenan West End Zone Bling Bling have been put on “the back shelf” “until further notice” sent Board Monkey World into hysteria.   Two Al Bundys offered to sell their daughters into white slavery if it would help.   A Sudanese arms dealer offered $7.50 for the pair of’em.  Only $149,999,992.50 to go.

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