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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » George and Gracie

   
Author Topic: George and Gracie
MattLeo
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When I was teaching myself how to write a comic scene, I studied some old Burns and Allen radio show scripts. I learned a great deal about comic writing, but I also discovered that as my wife and I get older, *we're turning into George and Gracie*.

Recently we were going through the camping gear to help my son prepare for a winter camping trip, and I came across a pair of small black gloves.

Me: These look too small for Greg.
She: They're one size fits all.
Me: Oh, I see.
She: Yeah, I bought a whole bunch of them in assorted sizes.
Me: ?!?!

(You have to imagine me taking my cigar out of my mouth and turning to the audience with a raised eyebrow.)

Actually what she meant to say was that she bought several pairs *all the same color* to make it easier to match odd gloves.

Just today we had this exchange:

She (out of the blue): My mom and I went to this thing... or was it you?
Me: What are you talking about?
She: Whether it was you or mom who went with me.
Me: I still have no idea what you're talking about.
She: Must have been mom then.
Me: ?!?!

I still have no idea what she was talking about.

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History
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LOL!
Great stuff.
And yet, how many of our fellow viewers recall "George and Gracie"?

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Robert Nowall
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Remember the closet full of hats? Left behind by those who wanted to avoid verbally tangling with Gracie one more time...
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Crystal Stevens
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Personally the first thing that came to my mind (and yes, I'm old enough to remember watching "Burns and Allen" when I was a small child) was the movie "Star Trek; The Voyage Home".
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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George Burns was in a tv series with Connie Stevens, I think, and at the end, they'd do a short dialogue that my parents told me was reminiscent of "George and Gracie" acts. I later saw some archive clips of a few of their dialogues, so I know what you're talking about. But I don't think I saw them first time round.
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Robert Nowall
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"Wendy and Me," wasn't it?
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Pyre Dynasty
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That's the great thing about the new broadcast tv system. The stations have these extra channels that they don't know what to do with so many of them are dedicated re-run machines. I remember Burns and Allen from a few hours ago. I need to see if there are any good dvd collections floating around. Gracie Allen was made of pure funny, all George had to do was stand there and point.

My favorite bit from them: George comes in and finds Gracie futzing with a vase full of flowers.

George: Nice flowers.
Gracie: It's because of you I have these flowers.
George: How's that? I didn't send you any flowers.
Gracie: Remember when I told you that Gladys was sick and you said it would be nice if I took her flowers.
George: Yeah . . .
Gracie: Well when I went over there she was asleep so I made my move.

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Robert Nowall
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Sidebar thought: Crystal Stevens's comments about George and Gracie of "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" reminds me of one thing that's been on my mind on-and-off of late---when something like that is stuck in a recent movie, how many who watch it will actually "get it" without needing an explanation?

George Burns and Gracie Allen last practiced their verbal jousting about fifty years ago...haven't seen the show on anywhere lately, so I don't know if somebody under the age of twenty would've seen or heard it.

(Example: I've seen a couple of shows where a character refers to another character as someone who's "a little light in the piazza." I wonder just who gets that reference?)

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Crystal Stevens
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Actually, Robert, the Burns and Allen Show is telecast at least once a week from Fort Wayne on a station known as Antenna TV, along with a line up of shows from the 50s, 60s, & 70s. Some of the much older ones include Jack Benny among others.
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MattLeo
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Well my 17 year-old daughter is a huge fan of George and Gracie. She also likes to say that "old people are cool," so take that as you will.

In the Internet age kids aren't restricted to what is currently on first-run broadcast TV. Whether it is obscure Japanese manga or kinescopes of 50 year-old live TV broadcasts, people are free now to explore far off the beaten pop-culture track.

I think there's no harm in going over readers' heads, as long as the people who don't get it don't get that they don't get it. That is to say, a scene has to work for a reader, but he doesn't necessarily have to be aware of everything in it. I do think that it is possible to harm a scene by trying to ensure that every reader gets everything. Every reader should get something, but some can get more.

My daughter and I are drawn to Burns and Allen because so much of their humor is based on logic and wordplay. One of the things I learned about a comic scene by studying George's writing is that you can't build a funny scene just by slapping together funny gags. A good comic scene is about building then maintaining tension. At the peak of his funniest scenes the gags aren't even that funny; a really funny joke would actually spoil the scene by dissipating the tension he'd built too quickly. You don't swing for the fences on every joke; it's the scene that matters.

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LDWriter2
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I keep putting commenting here But I do recall George and Gracie but not live. I watched them--forget exactly when but Middle School and/or college. I say and/or because I did watch a couple when I was younger and later watched more.

I think Matt has a point there in his last paragraph. They knew how to do a scene.

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Robert Nowall
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Antenna TV doesn't seem to be on my cable system, or at least I can't spot it---we've got something called MeTV (which also broadcasts over the air), which has a lot of older shows, but not "Burns and Allen." A couple of oddities pop up here and there---for instance, there's a channel devoted to Jewish concerns (religious and secular) that broadcasts "The Jack Benny Program," "The Goldbergs," "Soupy Sales," and "Dinah Shore," all mixed in with assorted news and religious programming. (There's a bunch of free and not-so-free stuff on the pay-per-view feature---I don't use it that much, and tend to neglect it---but something like that could easily be there, available for use.)

You guys are right about how they build and time a scene...a lot of shows today just can't do it as well, just going for the jokes. I think the way Burns and Allen (and their writers and directors) built their stuff is attributable to their careers in vaudeville---the younger crowd just doesn't get that kind of training.

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Crystal Stevens
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Robert; Antenna TV is a local Ft. Wayne, IN station, though I've heard some cable companies are carrying it. But that might be local too. I don't know.

I also don't know much about TV you must pay for to view it. Our TV is free through an indoor digital antenna. Just a side note, but even with our setup we still can view around 25 different channels, and all for free.

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Robert Nowall
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I remember Antenna TV now...it used to be on my cable on WGN out of Chicago...I say "used to" because I haven't looked in awhile. and they might have discontinued it, at least on their cable channel version. I remember it because I used to catch episodes of "Barney Miller" on it---my need to do so negated by buying a Complete Episode DVD set. And it was only Sunday nights, I think.
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kmsf
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I say to my wife constantly, "Noun antecedant, noun antecedant. Help me, here."
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