In the first episode of the M*A*S*H Matters Podcast … otherwise known as the pilot … Jeff Maxwell and Ryan Patrick discuss why M*A*S*H matters to them. Jeff shares the story of his (miserable) first day on the job at the Fox Ranch, and Ryan blubbers over his personal connection to the TV show. Plus, bees!
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TRANSCRIPT: MASH Matters #001 – Our Pilot Episode
RYAN: We’ll just count this down then. You ready to go?
RYAN: This is your last chance to back out.
RYAN: Okay, here we go. In three, two, one.
Attention all personnel. Incoming podcast. This is MASH Matters.
RYAN: Well, here we go. Episode number one. I guess this would be considered the pilot episode of MASH Matters. I am Ryan Patrick and I am joined by Private Igor Straminsky himself, Jeff Maxwell. Hello, Jeff.
JEFF: And I am the Jeff Maxwell that he just mentioned. Yes, I am. And the Private Igor that he just mentioned. Hey, Ryan, this is pretty cool, isn’t it? We’re doing our own little pilot. I’m very excited about this.
RYAN: Does that mean we have to wait and see if it gets picked up?
JEFF: You know, yeah, it’s going to be, it’s going to be a nail biting couple of months. We’re going to need to know whether we can buy the Maserati or not. And, um, you know, hey, but we got, we got some clout. We got a good thing to talk about. MASH is a fascinating subject and I’m certain that we’ll be picked up and we can buy the house in Rome.
RYAN: Absolutely. Together? Just move in together?
JEFF: Well. I don’t know. It depends on how this goes.
RYAN: Well, this is exciting. MASH Matters is a new podcast that we are launching here where we talk about the show MASH and not just MASH, but things that were happening in the world of Hollywood and acting and just a little bit of a hodgepodge of everything. But MASH is kind of the central focus. And you know, this kind of began when I, cause I listen to a lot of podcasts and I know, Jeff, you’re not a huge podcast listener.
JEFF: I’m not a huge podcast. It took me a long time to figure out what a podcast was.
RYAN: So you are not alone. And so I listen to a lot of podcasts and there are other MASH podcasts out there, but what those podcasts do are basically go episode by episode and just kind of break down the episode and comment and critique the episode. That’s already covered.
What I was interested in is just telling the MASH story and kind of almost an oral history of MASH and behind-the-scenes stories. And so that’s when I reached out to Jeff and asked if he would be interested in being a part of this in some way. And for reasons passing all understanding, you said yes.
JEFF: It was a slip of the tongue really, but I have committed myself. And so… I have a lot of integrity about that, so even if I accidentally said yes, I will show up for it.
RYAN: Well, I am so thankful that you did say yes. This is really exciting for a diehard MASH fan like myself.
JEFF: Which brings up an interesting comment and an interesting idea, and we’ve talked about this. Of course, the name of the podcast is MASH Matters. And for me, I have certain reasons why MASH matters to me, and you have certain reasons why MASH matters to you, and the four people listening to this probably have reasons that MASH matters to them. So as we’ve talked about, we would love to hear everybody’s comments, thoughts about why MASH matters to them. But as we discussed, it would probably be fun to talk to each other about why MASH matters to us.
JEFF: I know you are a long-time diehard fan of the show. I was not necessarily a long-time diehard fan of the show. It was a living. It was a job. So as much as I enjoyed the job, I don’t have that, you know, part of my head that is the diehard fan. So for me, I’d be interested in hearing why the heck MASH matters to you from that point of view and what it really did to you, you know, emotionally or whatever. Why was it so, uh, so much a part of you and where does that come from?
RYAN: Well, you know, this is a familiar story for you, which is I began watching MASH with my mom back when it was originally airing on the air and also in reruns, my mom watched it a lot and so she always had it on. Now I will tell you, five-year-old me was watching the show with utter disgust because I thought it was boring, I didn’t understand it, why are these people talking all the time, they’re not falling down, that’s not funny. But as I watched it more and more, I began to really, truly appreciate it. So much so that I really got into it during the final season and bawled my eyes out after the final episode wrapped up. And so there’s that connection of, it was something my mom and I watched together. And I know that that’s something, Jeff, that you’ve heard a lot from fans, isn’t it?
JEFF: Mm hmm, It is. I’ve heard a lot of people talk that, and tell me that one of the emotional parts of it is that they got to share something with a parent, whether it be a mother or a father. So the bond was kind of, wow, I’m having this experience with a parent who I love and experiencing it with them. So it was kind of a love between the parent and it just happened to be that the show MASH was there. I’m always curious as to whether or not if it had been, you know, Bozo the Clown, would that interest you? Would you have been a huge fan of Bozo instead of Hawkeye? I don’t know, but probably the bond that you feel with the parent along with something that is pretty good to watch that probably kind of sets the hook, I would imagine. Although I don’t know because you were very young when you were watching it.
RYAN: I was very young when it was on the air. I was born in 1975. So I was, you know, the show was already on the air when I was born. And so I was eight years old when it went off the air. But I remember it vividly. So when it went off the air, I was sad, but I continued to watch it in reruns. And I really got back into it in high school and something just clicked, connected. Now I’ve always enjoyed, had a true appreciation for comedy, people who do comedy very well, and this is a cast that did comedy very well. And I include you, Jeff, in that equation. There was something magical about this cast and the way it clicked and how you were able to balance comedy and drama at the same time. And as somebody who is both an aficionado of comedy, but also I’ve always had a fascination with acting and theater and the fundamentals of acting, I was drawn to it because of that. It wasn’t necessarily the military setting because I don’t really come from a military family. So that wasn’t necessarily the draw. I think it was just the way that everybody clicked and we all know a Hawkeye, we all know a Frank Burns, we all know a Henry Blake and the familiarity of that really connected and really resonated with me. Then after I started getting into it in high school again through reruns, I really got into the theme of the show, which in my opinion, I mean, everybody has their own opinion of what MASH is and what it means to them. But I think it’s trying to find the good in people in a situation where there’s not a lot of good.
JEFF: Well, that’s very interesting, but why did you like MASH? I’m just curious.
RYAN: [laughs] I loved the way you creamed weenies.
JEFF: Oh, now, now we’re talking! All this Hawkeye foolishness. I mean, the show was about a guy who served food, right? That’s what the show is really, its essence of the show was about a guy who served food. We all think, oh, those guys – ohh phooey!
RYAN: It was finding the good in food when there was not much about the food that was good. How about that? Does that work?
JEFF: I like that. I like that a lot. I wish I had said that. Yeah, that was really good. No, well, that’s really interesting because I do hear a lot of people comment, again, as I say that relationship between a parent and then the step that goes beyond that is really fascinating to me because why then is it MASH and not something else? Now, of course, you had things that interested you about it and other people I assume would be kind of drawn to the fact that it was a military show and it had overtones and underpinnings and all the other things about the Vietnam War, death and about looking at all those very difficult subjects. I know that Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart went to Korea and they interviewed a bunch of soldiers and a bunch of doctors to hear the real true story so that they could bring all that information back to Los Angeles and sort of integrate it into the scripts as best they could. So all those very serious subjects resonated on some level with everybody and we could, through the comedy, it allowed us all to watch those serious subjects, but still be able to laugh a little bit.
JEFF: Otherwise those serious subjects are very serious, which and that’s on the news every night. So it wasn’t a news program, it was a comedy show, but it still had a lot of the depth about really terrible things that were going on, like you said.
RYAN: And I think it teaches you the importance of humor too, in those kind of situations. I think it’s important for people to be able to laugh and laugh at themselves when they’re in the middle of difficult situations, to still be able to find the humor in something like the Korean conflict and meatball surgery when you’re, when you’re still able to do that and it not come off as tacky, it not come off as insulting. What a wonderful balance. These characters weren’t doing it to say, “Hey, we’re funny. Look at us”. They were using humor to cope with what they were going through. And to me, that was really fascinating because I like to use humor in everyday situations, I like, you know, to be able to find. the humor in situations even when there’s not a lot of humor to be found. Um, and I think a lot of that comes from my fascination with MASH.
JEFF: So you feel that MASH actually helped give you the idea of dealing with things in a humorous way, even though there wasn’t too much to be laughing at.
RYAN: Yeah, I think so. I really do.
JEFF: It really, it really taught you that lesson. Well, that’s interesting. Yeah, cause they were, I mean, a wacky bunch of people doing wacky things in a terrible, in a terrible moment. So, interesting stuff.
RYAN: Well, I’m interested in hearing your take on it because as you said, this was your living. You didn’t necessarily see MASH as everybody else saw it in 23 minute episodes. You saw it from take to take and you saw it standing around the ranch or the soundstage a lot because you were also I know Alan Alda’s stand-in. So you watched MASH as it was created. You didn’t necessarily always watch it when it was on the air. So I’m curious to hear your take of what you think truly makes MASH resonate.
JEFF: Well, that’s the show everybody. Thanks for coming and tune in next week for the second episode of MASH Matters. Good night. Well, yes. Okay, why did it matter to me? Well, first of all, it was a cheque. It was a decent cheque. And the cheques did get more and more decent. But I came out of nightclubs as a nightclub comic with a partner. We had a comedy team called Garrett and Maxwell. And we were together for quite a number of years and did quite well. We were quite popular. We were discovered by a bunch of really famous people. And we were, it was told to us that we were going to be the next great comedy team of the century. That didn’t work out. My partner and I ended up going our separate ways. I was pretty depressed. And a friend of mine happened to be a casting director at 20th Century Fox. And I would go over there to sob and be depressed about my life and about my partner quit and I quit and we were separated and I don’t know what I’m going to do. And he said, well, I got this show called MASH and it’s going to be canceled. I think I could get you on it. And this is the truth. And I said, well, okay, it’s going to be canceled. Yeah, it’s not doing very well in the ratings. And I think that’s going to be the end of the show and so they’re probably going to take anybody. Not that you’re anybody, Jeff, but, you know, they’ll take anybody. So I said, well, OK. And that was my first day, I was sent out as an extra to the ranch. And I had to drive out from Encino, California to actually, it was North Hollywood, California, I drove out to the set of MASH out at the Malibu Creek Ranch.
RYAN: How long a drive was that?
JEFF: You know, it seemed like about three or four hours. It was long. It was at least an hour. Um, so I had to get up really early cause they had to be there at like 6:30, so I had to leave pretty early. And, uh, I got there and I was loaded onto a bus with a bunch of other people and we were all staggering around cause we were all tired and exhausted. And they drove us to a compound area which is right within the set. And I got out and looked around and it was this really dirty, funky place. And it was really early in the morning and really, really cold. And they herded us into a kind of an airplane hangar type place and said, alright, put your clothes on. Here’s your clothes. What’s your waist size? What’s your boot size? And there was a lot of commotion and a lot of people taking their clothes off and putting on these really dirty army greens and big funky boots which were really hard to walk around in. And so I put them on and then they shoved us out into the, you know, the MASH compound area. And, uh, they sprayed a thing for bees. They were always spraying this really horrible smelly stuff around because there was a lot of bees. So this smoke would keep the bees away or kill the bees or something. I don’t know, it probably killed everything. But there was a lot of smoke and that kept the bee population down. And so it smelled really awful and it looked kind of funky. And I hated it! I just hated every second of it. We used to be in nightclubs, we were drinking, we were having a good time. Here I am at 6 o’clock in the morning with all these people and they’re spraying smoke in my face. I hate this. And they started shooting, various things went on and people were yelling at each other. It was very chaotic, really. It wasn’t a smooth, wonderful experience. It was quite chaotic and people were confused a little bit and staggering around. And I really, really didn’t like it. But I was in a couple of scenes. But finally they cut. And by the way, by the time it gets to about 12 o’clock noon, it was hot, really hot. So you go from really cold to really, really, really, really hot and miserable. And then all the bees came back alive and would try and eat you and eat your food. So it was quite an unpleasant day. Anyway, I decided and I told my friend I didn’t wanna do that anymore. So I said, I don’t wanna come back. And he said, well, you have to cause you have to match a shot and they called me and you gotta do this, you gotta go back and do this and whatever. So I did and a few things happened. I decided that I wouldn’t be a pout and be depressed. I would start fooling around and playing with everybody that was around me and talking and being a little bit more sociable than I was. And I started kind of being funny and everybody was laughing and it was fun for me because I got a chance to have some humor in a really miserable place. So back to your point, I was living that reality which MASH in itself was actually recreating in a much bigger way. But we were all in a miserable place, but we all had to kind of live with ourselves and be funny in order to get through the day. And that’s what I did. After that, I ended up making a face in a funny scene and everybody said, what’s your name? Who are you? You’re kind of funny and you might work on this. And they kept, suddenly they were much nicer to me and the cheques got bigger. And I decided it was more appealing. And then eventually I became, you know, they started naming me Igor and put me into the show.
RYAN: So you didn’t really know the show when you went out there that first day?
JEFF: I did not, no, I did not know the show.
RYAN: And it wasn’t a good first impression?
JEFF: It was not a good first impression. And I wasn’t, I did not know Alan Alda. I knew none of the characters, none of them. I was really not very tuned to television. My whole approach to life was how do I make the guy in the front row in the nightclub laugh? And that’s all I thought about. So I wasn’t a trained actor. I wasn’t looking to be a trained actor. I wanted to be Jerry Lewis. I wanted my partner and I to be Dean Martin and Jerry. We wanted to be the next Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. And for those who are 14 years old, Google him. He was a funny guy. So I wasn’t, uh, familiar with the show. And then I went and I watched it and I didn’t like it. I was not a fan. That’s why I’m fascinated about people who really identified heavily with the show. I did not. And through all my years, my nine years connected with the show, I love everybody to this day. It was an amazing experience. It gave me a lot of stuff to think about and to experience. And I met presidents and I met wonderful people and I got to act with great actors and I get to, you know, talk with incredibly talented and gifted writers. But through all of that, I loved the people. I loved the experience. I loved the job. I loved the show in terms of being an actor and a participant, but I wasn’t ever a big fan. Is that weird or not? I’m not sure.
RYAN: No, well, I think that there are probably some people who are listening who probably do think that’s weird, but-
JEFF: You think they’re still listening, actually, after that whole thing?
RYAN: No, I think we lost them about five, seven, eight minutes ago. So, it’s just you and me now. So we can talk about anything we wanna talk about.
JEFF: Anything you want, yeah.
RYAN: I kind of get it because I have, again, I have a theater background and I also have a radio background. And when I worked in radio, I loved the concept of radio, but I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of working in radio, which I think kind of makes sense in the same way because it’s almost like you see behind the curtain and you see how the sausage is made and it becomes more of an obligation. It becomes a task. It becomes your job. You have to do it. You have to do it well. You enjoy it while you’re doing it. But at the same time, I don’t listen to a lot of radio now.
JEFF: Mm hmm, mm hmm, right.
RYAN: I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I understand, you know, and, but at the same time, people were fascinated with radio and so I kind of understand where you’re coming from in that it was your job.
RYAN: It was a job you did well and you had some fantastic experiences with it and met some wonderful people. But it didn’t resonate with you the same way that it resonates with people watching it. I understand that. So when was it then, in the process of you being on this show, when did you suddenly realize, hey, this is actually kind of a big deal?
JEFF: Well, I started to really enjoy it one day. And I did, as you said, I was Alan Alda’s stand-in for a while. And I was Alan Alda’s stand-in because I was kind of the same size and skin coloring and hair and so it worked for me to stand in front of the camera because the stand-in is there for them to set the camera moves and to set the lights up. So the stand-in just stands there while they do all that so that the star can go off and sit around a table and eat donuts or rehearse or whatever they’re going to do. So that’s what a stand-in basically does. I got really bored doing that. I hated it with a passion. So every time I was standing in front of the camera, I was acting like a goofball and entertaining the Director of Photography who just basically had to sit there and go, yeah, put the light over there and turn it this way. I didn’t, I just thought this needed more funny stuff. So that’s what I would do. And I did seemingly entertain the Director of Photography and those around me while I was standing there. But because I was Alan Alda’s stand-in and I got that job, I was asked to do that because his original stand-in started falling asleep while he was standing there. And so we don’t know whether it was a neurological problem or he drank heavy or what he was doing, but he would stand there and kind of pass out and either fall over or just go to sleep. So the Director of Photography said, hey, I can’t do this anymore, you know, you can do crazy stuff, but you can’t fall asleep. So they dragged me over and said, oh, this guy, let’s use this guy. So then I became Alan Alda’’s stand-in that meant that I had to be there basically every single day, which I was also not that happy with. I had other stuff to do and I was enjoying kind of going intermittently in and out of the show, but when I got Alan Alda’s stand-in position, I had to be there every single day because he was there every single day. And in doing so, I began to really watch him. And I’d never paid that much attention to him. I didn’t really know who he was. And the more I watched him do what he did and rehearse and talk about what he was doing and interact with the actors and interact with the actors during the scene and during the shooting, I really started to go wow! And you said, when did you realize it was a big deal? What I realized was how good he was and it fascinated me. I went, how does he do that? And I got really, really eager to know how he did that and I wanted to do it. So at one point I asked him, and I had been in plays and I, you know, in high school and stuff. So I was not totally unfamiliar with being an actor and plays, but high school is a little different. So I asked him, I said, hey, Alan, can you recommend an acting teacher? I, I want to do what you do. And he did, he recommended a woman named Viola Spolin.
JEFF: And he said, I would only go to Viola Spolin. And I said, Oh, well, great. Okay. And he said, well, I think she’s in New York, but if you ever get an opportunity to go to her, I would, I would do that. So I forgot about it because I wasn’t gonna go to New York. Suddenly I read in Variety: “Viola Spolin coming to Los Angeles”. And I said, hey, great. And I went to meet Viola Spolin and she was a fascinating woman and then I spent three and a half years with her and the rest of the people doing theater games and having a wonderful time.
JEFF: So I go back to this, I’m babbling again, but the reality is about when did I realize it was a big deal was when I kind of got a sense about what Alan Alda was doing. It also allowed me a more intelligent perspective of what everybody was doing. It suddenly opened my eyes to what the show is about, the writing, Larry Gelbart’s genius, all the other actors and how they were interacting and what they brought to the show in terms of their characters and what they were all doing really. So at that point, I didn’t know the show was necessarily a big deal, but I realized what a neat big deal moment this was in this small little tiny community. And I kind of got a sense that that’s not gonna come around every day. So I better kind of take care of it and treat it nicely, which is what I tried to do.
RYAN: That’s great. Well, hey, we have lots of stories to share and we want to hear your questions. If you have a suggestion, an idea, a question, anything that you would like to share with us, there are several ways that you can get in touch with us. You can go to our webpage, which is mashmatterspodcast.com. You can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call and leave a voicemail at 513-436-4077.
JEFF: What was that number again?
RYAN: That number again, 513-436-4077. Call, leave a voicemail. We may play your voicemail on the air. And if you have some great questions, we want to hear them. We want you to be the third co-host of this podcast because we want listener interaction. Fans, we want to hear from you. What are your stories about MASH? How did you get connected with the show? What does MASH mean to you? Email us, leave us a voicemail. We would love to hear from you. And also we would ask you if you could, subscribe to us on Apple podcasts and leave a five-star review that will really help us out as well.
JEFF: And eventually I will explain how I became Igor.
RYAN: Yes, that’s a good story. I can’t wait to hear it. So we are going to wrap this episode up, our first episode and we’ll just sit back and wait for the phone to ring to see if we’ve been picked up. But I have a feeling that we will. I think we’ve got something here, Jeff, and I think that this is something that MASH fans are really going to enjoy. So thank you again for being a part of this.
JEFF: Thank you indeed. This is a wonderful experience. It’s really fun. I’m glad we got through this without being too embarrassed by anything we said, and I hope to do that in the future. You were great. I was very interested hearing your story about how you were kind of really bonded with MASH and why you did it. And again, I would love to hear a lot of people talk about that because it still really is a fascinating story to me, why and how that all happened. And just before we shut this off, at one point I did talk to Alan Alda about it, and he actually brought up that he thought it was a parental bonding experience because kids were able to watch the show with their parents. So we’re all in good company. That was a fine, wise thing for him to say. And we said it too. So, doggone, good for us.
RYAN: So we’re just as smart as Alan Alda is what you’re saying.
JEFF: Oh, just as, probably, just as. Yeah, but no, thank you, Ryan. This has been fun. I hope the next one will be as much fun. And I’m sure the other, the four people who are listening will continue to listen. Was it two or four?
RYAN: Well, it started as four and it went to two and now it’s probably down to one and a half.
JEFF: I’m going to get a martini now.
RYAN: Alright, my friend, we will touch base here soon and we’ll be back for episode 2. Don’t forget, contact us, subscribe, leave a review and we want to hear from you. Please leave a voicemail 513-436-4077
JEFF: Or just come by the house
RYAN: And we’ll see you next time.
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