Jeff & Ryan welcome writer Marc Freeman (no relation to Sidney) to M*A*S*H Matters. Marc wrote the excellent oral history of M*A*S*H for The Hollywood Reporter that went viral in early 2018. Topics include practical jokes on the set, Jeff’s crossed eyes, a visit from President Ford, and being welcomed into the M*A*S*H family. Plus, you’ll never guess which Hollywood icon gave Marc his first swimming lesson…
Jamie Farr will narrate ’Twas The Night Before Christmas at a big holiday concert in, where else, Ohio.
Alan Alda lends his voice to a new HBO musical, The Emperor’s Newest Clothes.
See the cast of M*A*S*H in their first ever screen roles!
Follow Marc Freeman on Twitter.
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TRANSCRIPT: MASH Matters #004 – A Visit With Marc Freeman
Attention all personnel, incoming podcast, this is MASH Matters.
JEFF: And welcome to MASH Matters. This is the fourth episode of this monumental podcast that is all about your favorite television show, MASH. And it’s certainly, well, it was kind of my favorite television show. It was certainly a job, but we’ll get into that in just a minute. I’d like to introduce certainly my partner in crime here. My name is Jeff Maxwell. I did play the role of Private Igor on the show MASH. I used the “roll” lightly. It was more like a biscuit. But anyway.
RYAN: Yes [laughs]
JEFF: Thank you. Anyway, my partner here is Mr. Ryan Patrick. Ryan Patrick is an esteemed broadcaster, a marketing genius, an actor, a director, a bon vivant, and man about town. Mr. Ryan Patrick. How are you today?
RYAN: Oh, are you talking about me?
JEFF: Yeah, that Ryan Patrick, yeah, you, the other guy.
RYAN: That description, I was listening to it, and I thought, wow, that sounds like a really cool guy. I’d like to meet him.
JEFF: Show business legend.
RYAN: [laughs] This means I’ve been to a lot of movies.
JEFF: You are an accomplished actor. You might as well let people know you are an actor, and you’re in plays, and you direct plays, and you are on the radio, and now you’re doing this podcast. We are lucky that we are all here and doing this.
RYAN: It’s true. That’s true, yes. And hey, and guess what? We actually found somebody who wanted to be on the podcast with us this time.
JEFF: Agreed to do it, surprisingly. Surprisingly. This is our first guest, Ryan Patrick. This is exciting.
RYAN: Yes, it is exciting.
JEFF: This is very exciting.
RYAN: And we don’t even owe him money.
JEFF: We will after this is over.
RYAN: Well, let’s introduce our guest. This is Marc Freeman. Hello, Marc.
MARC: Hello. How are you? And you?
JEFF: We appreciate you being here. We appreciate us being here. We appreciate you being anywhere, really. It’s very nice of you to have agreed to be our first guest. We don’t know exactly whether we’ll have a second guest. But if things go well, maybe we will. But thank you for being here.
MARC: Well, thank you for having me. And I hope for all the other guests that come after me – well, if they come after me based on how I do today, will have as good a time as I anticipate having with both of you.
JEFF: I suppose it would be helpful to introduce why you’re on the show. Not only are you a very nice guy, but you happen to be an accomplished writer and you wrote a wonderful article which I’m sure some of our listeners read, if not all of them read, that appeared in… Where did it appear? Where? Appeared in the Hollywood Reporter.
MARC: Hollywood Reporter
JEFF: I’m kidding. It appeared in the Hollywood Reporter and it was a great in-depth article about the wonderful show MASH and it had great interviews from all of the cast members, the writers, producers and everybody that you could get your hands on, including yours truly. I got in there a couple of licks, so I thank you very much. But you did a terrific look at a show that people had not done in a while and so I think it was a wonderful journey that everybody who was a fan of MASH could take and learn something new, not only about the show but about the people who are actually talking to you so that was really cool. Can I ask you what – well, I’m going to ask you. I don’t have to ask permission. I’m just going to ask you. How did that come about? How did you get that idea to do an article about MASH?
MARC: Well, it kind of came out of, and it’ll make sense in a minute, but it came out through – I did an oral history of the Smothers Brothers because I was exploring political satire on television based on the times that we live in and I wanted to look at the birth of it and how it developed. From that and based on the reaction from that, I was told what other shows would you want to do. And also, in my mind, I had already been thinking of the journey through All in the Family, MASH, SNL, other shows that had touched on very salient, important issues, but also could bring the laughs. And so MASH came up right away because I just grew up on MASH. I was like everyone else apparently listening to the show. And I knew that it was the anniversary of the last episode, which was from ‘83. So that made it – was that 35th anniversary of that episode airing. And so I just thought I’d test the waters, put my little feet in the water, stick a toe in the water and see if I got a response from the MASH people. And quite the response I got, I have to say.
JEFF: Who did you contact first?
MARC: Well, that’s interesting because there’s two ways you can go with these stories. You can go bottom up or top down. And if you go bottom up, you go to the “star star” and you say, I have everybody who has ever been associated with this show. And it, but it won’t have any depth unless you’re there. But on this one, for whatever reason, I started with Alan Alda. And I think in my head, I was thinking, well, if he doesn’t do it, what’s the point? Um, I’ll jump off a bridge, but he said, he said yes right away. And that, then that just surprised me. And then, but, but from that, I could then start going to other people and say, Alan Alda agreed, and then people would jump on obviously. And the MASH family is, is that. It’s pretty amazing actually. I’ve only witnessed that maybe on one other show, but it’s like this family. And so I got adopted into the family and passed around and everyone was just amazing.
JEFF: When you say family, what was it that gave you the sense that this was a family? What happened?
MARC: Well, sometimes it was small things, you know. It would be like people mentioning other people that they had just spoken to the other day or that they see all the time, and “I was just on the phone with”. And so on that level is just, oh, they keep in contact with each other and that’s kind of nice. But then it would go to depths of stories I would hear the of things people would do for each other when people were going through rough times, more emotionally in life stuff, not like financially. And then just the way that people talked about the experience kind of being a defining experience, not just in their professional career, but in a sense, in their life. Loretta Swit and Mike Farrell are somewhat the parents of this thing. They’re very protective of MASH and its people and they talk about it and I don’t want to say control it, but they keep the family together. It’s kind of the Mama and the Papa, at least from my perspective, what I see. And that came across when I talked to them. I called Mike Farrell’s agent, I think it was, and figured, well, I’ll hear from him in a couple days and set this all up. Five minutes later, he called me. I think we talked for like two hours. I was taping it. I was smart enough to do that. He was just so enthusiastic about the show and everything about it. He’s such a great guy. We picked up several more times about that. I taught him a couple things on the computer, I was trying to send him the tape of our interview, I think it was, and he was trying to send me a poem that he had written about the show, kind of a more freeform thing. And so, I don’t know, did I answer your question or was that just like battling away?
JEFF: [laughs] No, I’m always interested and we started out this podcast kind of talking about that. Because starting from the idea that Ryan is a great fan of the show and I necessarily wasn’t a great fan of the show. I became part of the family and it became a very significant part of my life, but I didn’t start out being a fan of the show because I wasn’t watching it that way. I was watching it and like Ryan has said, I was looking at it in segments. So you go in and you do something for 20 minutes and you sit around and get a sandwich and go back and do it again. And that didn’t create that kind of a bond that I think everybody else got when you watched the half hour from beginning to end. So hearing how you got the feeling that this was a family, which it definitely became, is an interesting thing. And I’m hearing certainly Loretta is kind of the Mama Bear of the show. And it’s interesting that Mike took on that role because he came in about four years after the show started, but it was a significant enough thing to him that he really bonded with it and kind of became the Papa Bear of the show as well.
MARC: Yeah, yeah, you know, what was interesting in his story or journey to the show was he recognized the level and quality of the writing prior to when he was on the show. And he had told me some story about, I think he was going – I don’t remember if it was a double date or they were out, going somewhere, and he went to this guy’s house and MASH was playing there and he kind of, out of the corner of his eye, was watching some of it and I believe asking about it and basically got to the point that when he’d be presented scripts he’d say “well you know it’s an okay script but it’s not MASH” even though he wasn’t on the show and he wasn’t even up for the role. Wayne Rogers was firmly entrenched but, you know, it was kind of a dream I guess of his to suddenly out of the blue get called and told that what they’re thinking that Wayne might not be coming back. We don’t know for sure, but we want to have all of our ducks in a row. And would you be interested in testing for this and so on? He just seems so grateful, respectful of the show before he was on, grateful for being on and protective after having been on the show.
RYAN: So this article – the title of the article by the way is called: MASH Finale: 35 Years Later, Untold Stories of One of TV’s Most Important Shows and it was in the Hollywood Reporter and I believe it was shared and read by just about every MASH fan in the world on social media. And we will share a link to the article in the show notes as well in case you’re the one MASH fan who did not read it. I’m fascinated by these kind of articles, these oral histories, because it’s written in such a way that you have little snippets under different themes. And what I’m hearing you say is these interviews that you were doing with cast and crew and the writers and everybody, some of these interviews may have lasted a couple of hours. How do you go through then and decide what to take and what to leave out?
JEFF: That’s where the line comes in. I have to do the transcript. So, you know, it’s like the master files of everybody’s conversation. Then I pull from each of their conversations, what I think are the best things they’re saying, which I know will be cleaned up. And I put that into a file and then I don’t want to lose that file. So then I take that file and I break it down. And what I’m doing as I’m going from file to file is I start to categorize things that are, oh, here are all the people talking about favorite episodes or here are all the people talking about practical jokes or censorship, I mean, areas of conversation that I had brought up. And then you get to that point where you realize part of the unfortunate thing in articles like these is you’re often given a word count. So it’s not the life of the piece deciding how long it is. It’s the life of being told how long it’s going to be. And so you have to start whittling down. And then the killer part is if I’m going to randomly say, if it’s a 5,000 word article, and you’re at 7,000 words and you realize, I really like it at seven, but I know I gotta cut it down to five, which means I basically gotta cut almost 30% of where I’m at now. And that’s where the hard cuts are because there’s a lot of great stories that never make it or see the light of day, such as with MASH. There’s so many stories that are there and more that I could have delved into if I had gone even deeper and had the time.
RYAN: So was there any story in particular that you wish you could have included that you weren’t able to?
JEFF: It was all about me, wasn’t it? Something about me?
MARC: Yes. Yes
JEFF: Something about me and I don’t know, there were animals involved or I don’t know.
RYAN: The oral history of Private Igor is the next article [laughs]
JEFF: I was, I pretty, you know, I splayed my guts open to you. I did. I told you the truth from everything and I don’t, you know, some of it I didn’t see in there. That’s okay..
MARC: That’s for the oral history of Jeff. That’s a different article. So a couple come to mind and the simple reason became length because there was no way to give a truncated version of the story. There’s the – what was referred to until Mike Farrell gave me the whole thing. It was called the Attenborough story, as in director Richard Attenborough. There was a practical joke played on all of them by David Ogden Stiers who apparently liked to play a lot of jokes. This is prolonged in the sense, if you want I can tell you the story now.
RYAN: Please, yes, please do.
MARC: All right, settle in, kick up your feet. It was lunchtime in the commissary and Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, Mike, I think one of the cameramen and a crew member, they were sitting at a booth shooting the bull as Mike called it. And he said, the end of the meal, when they’re finishing up, this line of waiters comes over with this fancy new dessert in this soft serve – It’s a soft serve yogurt in these fancy goblets. And they kind of make a big deal and a big presentation about it. And when they’re done, they say “compliments of Sir Richard Attenborough”, who was shooting a movie at the time on the Fox lot. So it just happened to be at that moment that they notice at another table, Sir Richard Attenborough. And he’s eating with a group of people probably from whatever movie it was he was working on. And so everybody at the MASH table booth turns and they wave to him. And they say, you know, “thank you, Sir Richard” and so on. And they don’t get any kind of response. And he’s on – he’s across the room. So then they kind of do it again, a little louder. “Thank you, sir, Richard. Thank you, sir”. And he again ignores them. And then Harry Morgan stands up and he yells and he says, “thank you, Dickie”, in a big voice, bigger than what I just did. He was like, “thank you, Dickie”. And then again, like no response, maybe a weird glance. And then Mike kind of is looking around the room and he sees in a corner David Ogden Stiers is just laughing, just laughing and laughing. And he realized in that moment what exactly had happened and that they’d all been had. And so he said, he was telling everyone at the table, okay, you know, we got to – let’s bring this down. But he wanted to get him back. So – in the moment, he wanted to get him back – so he then tells the waiter to take the cheque for everything and give it to David. So they bring the cheque over to him. And David, a few minutes later, he’s leaving the commissary and Michael kind of runs up to him and says, you know, I didn’t really mean for you to pay for the meal. I just wanted, you know, to get back at you in some small way for humiliating us. And he says, “Oh, oh, it’s okay. I signed Gary Burghoff’s name to it”. And–
RYAN and JEFF: [laughs]
MARC: So and then of course, you’re gonna think the story’s over. But no, there’s more to the story and you can see how long the story is, which is why it never made it in. So Gary’s not working that day. So Mike kind of realizes that he’ll have to explain to Gary what happened with the bill and the next morning they’re shooting some scene, I believe it was in the OR. And he talks to Gary and he arranges this thing to get back at David with Gary. And he says, I want you to come in really angry about the bill, and I want you to have death in your eyes, and you’re gonna kill me. And we’ll do all this, and David, he’ll have to come in and chime in and confess and so on. And so Gary is totally up for it, and they’re doing the scene, and I think Loretta and Jamie are in the scene, and he just bursts in, and he starts yelling. Then he’s like, “you son of a bitch, you had no right, how could you?” And he’s chewing right and left, everybody out. And then one of the two of them said, “let’s take this outside”. And so they said, “sure!” And they storm off the set and they go off and they’re like kind of gesticulating off to the side so nobody can really hear what they were saying. And I guess David comes running around the corner at this tough point when he realizes what’s going on. At that point, Mike has Gary by the collar and he’s lifting him off the ground and Gary’s like shaking his arms and legs. And then of course they reveal, you know, he gets paler and paler and he sinks to his knees and then they just start cracking up and then he realizes what happens and he said something like, “never again, never, never again.”
RYAN and JEFF: [laughs]
RYAN: Oh man, that’s great. That had to inspire one of the episodes of the series. There was an episode, I believe it’s season seven, An Eye for a Tooth, where Winchester orchestrates a series of practical jokes between Hawkeye and BJ and Margaret. One of the jokes is that a pie is sent to Margaret on behalf of a handsome chopper pilot and suddenly there’s a big to-do about it. It sounds to me like this whole ordeal inspired that plotline
MARC: You know, that’s a very interesting point and even put that together there was no the episode i was thinking of if i have my episodes right was Preventative – I think it’s Preventative Medicine, it’s the one where BJ and Hawkeye are trying to see who can best each other in terms of practical jokes because – and Jeff you would know this more than anybody, like I was told there were a lot of practical jokes on set which is what inspired that episode and that was making me think that’s what came to mind first when I was thinking about this, but I hadn’t even thought about that. You’re a very wise man.
JEFF: Yeah, there are a lot of things on the set that inspired and I’m sure you could talk to some of the writers. I know you talked to Ken Levine and so forth, but a lot of things that happened with individuals and with people and certainly even the writers would throw in their own stuff that happened to them into the plot lines, but a lot of things that happened on the set kind of wound themselves into some of the stories as well. It never stopped.
MARC: I have to make one correction too. It’s the Joker is Wild. It wasn’t Preventative Medicine. It was the Joker is Wild, which grew out of the jokes on the set. Some MASH fan would want to kill me.
JEFF: Yeah, and speaking of being a MASH fan and being on the set, you reminded me of a story you told me originally that I’d forgotten, that we met a long time ago when you were just a wee boy.
MARC: This is very true. So my dad – we moved to California, my dad worked in marketing for film. And so he was on the 20th Century Fox lot at the time. And occasionally I would have the opportunity to bump into somebody or get in to watch something being done. I got to watch an Irwin Allen movie being filmed, not Poseidon Adventure, Beyond Poseidon Adventure, the sequel that nobody ever saw.
RYAN: Oooh [laughs]
MARC: In which I remember Sally Field improvising holding a handlebar and then shaking her hand because it was hot. So that’s acting,
JEFF: Wow. That’s big.
MARC: That is big. But what happens is, and David Isaacs, one of the writers on MASH, I wrote to him when I was a kid because I wanted to be a writer. And he wrote back and I always thought if I ever meet that man, I’m gonna tell him that. And when I realized, everyone was saying, oh, you talked to Jeff. And I was like, I get to talk to Jeff, this will be great. And I knew that’s the first thing I’m gonna have to tell him because on the set in between shots, I got to go to the MASH and watch MASH being filmed. It was the Nurses episode. I didn’t get to see the nurse throw the chocolate against the door, big vat of chocolate sauce in the helmet.
RYAN: Mmm hmm
MARC: But I was just watching set-up in different things. And Jeff was in his OR gear, all in whites. And he looked at me and he did cross-eyes, you know, all kids laugh at cross-eyes. So I remembered that and I’ve carried that with me for decades. And then I was like, I have the chance to tell Jeff that his cross-eyes impacted me and the rest of my life.
RYAN: It all comes full circle today, yes.
JEFF: Full circle! Warms my heart to hear that my eye problem really kind of bonded us.
MARC: Funny accident.
JEFF: You know, it was when I was there waiting for shots to be set up or whatever, I was really attracted to the guests because they were kind of standing there waiting for something to happen and usually it wasn’t terribly exciting when they were setting up a shot or doing something. So anything that a guest could see that was a little apart from the norm might be somewhat interesting to them, at least I thought. And so I would try and goof around and any audience that I found, I was on top of them immediately. So anybody that walked into the set, I tried to have fun with and tried to help them have fun because normally it was a little dull if something wasn’t going on really. So that was what, you know, I see a young kid over there and so I thought I could, you know, make a funny face and it worked. I’m glad.
MARC: But you ignored my brother because you did nothing to him.
JEFF: I didn’t like him very much. I, you know, you could tell right away. Nothing, we had nothing in common. Forget about him.
MARC: I actually have one follow-up question on that, which you could elaborate on, because one of the things that came across in talking to people was on the Fox lot anyway, Math – MASH – Math.. that’s a different show. MASH became a destination point where a lot of people who were working on the lot would come visit. Occasionally, you’d have a Prince Charles come and visit, but that a lot of people would wander onto the set, invited or not. I know in certain instances, I was told one of Harry Morgan’s good friends was Ralph Bellamy and he would show up from time to time and that was somebody who was a buddy. But I think I was also told Jane Fonda was hanging around once. Not invited, just because she’s Jane Fonda.
JEFF: She adored me. She just adored me. I couldn’t keep her away from me. It was just hard. She’s a sweet girl.
MARC: Did you give her the cross-eyes?
JEFF: Well, exactly. That’s what happened. She just flipped. You know, I was able to meet President Ford because he was a board member. I think he was on the board of 20th Century Fox, but he came on and I was thrilled. I’d never met a president. And, you know, he was a very, very, very charming guy, as a matter of fact. And when you meet him in person, you could see why he was a good politician and why he was so appealing because he was a very friendly, appealing guy. He didn’t come across that way on television [laughs]. But boy, in person, he was a very engaging guy. And they took a bunch of pictures, and I have a friend who took a polaroid of President Ford and myself. And I took the picture into the dressing room, and I changed clothes, and I had something – I ran out or something, and then I came back in, and my outfit had been taken away, and so had the picture.
RYAN: Oh no.
JEFF: Yeah, somebody lifted my picture with me and President Ford, and I have no idea why they would want it, but they took it. If anybody’s out there and has that picture, I will give you a reward.
RYAN: I saw it for sale on eBay the other day.
JEFF: Oh yeah. All right. I’m bidding. I’m bidding.
MARC: Am I allowed to use – to be a potty mouth on there?
RYAN: Sure. We’ll bleep it out if we have to. Yeah.
MARC: Okay. Uh, because I have a story. It’s not just that I want to swear randomly. It’s a, it was the Gerald Ford visit. Uh, I was told that, you know, you had to get permission to approach him and he’d only kind of see one person at a time and that everyone was really quiet and the story is told to me, they said it was like a funeral and no one was speaking out. And they did the scenes but that after he left, Harry Morgan said in this loud booming voice, how come nobody yelled f*** in the last two hours?
RYAN: [laughs] Oh my.
JEFF: I don’t f***in’ remember it that way actually. I kind of, I thought, you know, I, I think he was that was quiet. I think he was a really friendly guy. I remember it being quite, you know, raucous almost, I don’t know. Huh, interesting. Well, years go by and things are very different.
MARC: Friendly I was told. Yeah, I was definitely told friendly.
JEFF: Yeah, very friendly, very friendly. Interesting. I have to understand a little bit about your attraction to MASH. So when you were nine years old, were you attracted to the show at that point or was it just something to go see?
MARC: I – I was faithful. I wasn’t there the first year because I would have been a little too young at the time, but I think by about year three, I started watching and I was a devout Mashalik by the end. I told Loretta that in the TV Times of the LA Times for the last episode, MASH was on the cover and I had taken tracing paper and taken hours to trace every single person from that episode onto this one sheet of paper because that was the level of obsession. I remember Monday at 9:30 the most, but you’re doing school, you want to escape to a world. I don’t know why I chose to escape to the Korean War, but it was the people. I wanted to escape to the characters and I felt this kinship with them. And what you tend to find, at least for me personally, with shows that really mean something to you, you retain more of the show than you even realize. And when I’m interviewing people, when I was interviewing people for MASH, they’d start to say something and say, you know, “I think it was this episode where…”, and I complete the sentence. Not that I had researched that or even thought of it. It just, the episode popped into my head, very natural, because I had stored it away for decades. And, you know. It was, it was huge. It was one of the – it was, it was definitely a go-to and it was there all the time, in the awkward years as I was going. And, and on a sad note too, I mean, MASH was coming on – I was having my mom click channels from Monday Night Football, because my dad had just left the room and we were changing the channel. And in changing the channel and watching MASH come on, my brother came running in to say that John Lennon had been shot. And I, and I remember like, the whole thing going down, thinking, well, maybe he’ll make it, maybe he won’t. There were no details. I was not there when Howard Cosell, I think, announced that he had indeed passed away. But I remember MASH being associated with that. There’s my one sad MASH memory, I guess.
MARC: But when you really like a show and syndication isn’t necessarily in your world as prevalent as it is now or instant on demand, the next week’s episode couldn’t come fast enough, you know?
RYAN: So you were a big MASH fan and we need to find a good name for MASH fans by the way. You know, like Star Trek has the Trekkies or Trekkers. We need a good – MASHers or I don’t know, something. Listeners, let us know what you think that should be. But you were a big MASH fan. So were there any particular episodes that stood out that resonated with you or maybe characters that resonated with you from your many years of watching?
MARC: I think. I wouldn’t say there’s any particular episode. The cast all kept going back to The Interview. You ask them their favorite episodes and you don’t lead the witness but a lot of them eventually I honed in on two or three shows for them because I would hear it over and over again. For me, I could go wherever the show went so in the later years when they did the POV episode or the Dreams episode which are either interesting cinematically or kind of pushing dark envelopes. That fascinated me, but they weren’t necessarily my favorite episodes. I think the relationships, the relationship of Hawkeye and BJ, the relationship of Frank and Margaret or them getting theirs, the evolution of Margaret, I think there’s – in the psychology, I’m not going to go all Freud on you. There was an element of like, you see the way Hawkeye and BJ connect and you kind of wish you have somebody like that in your life. I’m not saying I did or didn’t at the time, but you know, just somebody who really gets you, that you connect with, that is empathetic and supportive of a crazy situation that you’re in and that you have this bond and kinship which would go beyond or whatever. So the jokes they would play. Probably as a kid, I wasn’t as much into the flirting with the nurses thing until, you know, I got to around 12 and strange feelings started to come into my body. When Harry Morgan came on, it was a very different vibe than McLean Stevenson, similar to Mike Farrell, to Wayne Rogers. That was pretty amazing because then it opened up a whole new envelope to the show and different emotions because you’re responding to a different character and how they see the world. So I think the Old Soldiers episode that I do mention in the article,
RYAN: Mmm hmm
MARC: I think there’s an element of that where off-screen Harry Morgan is kind of summarizing his relationship with the actors while playing that role. I think that kind of connection – viewers to a large extent, the faithful viewers had with a lot of the MASH crew and felt that. So I don’t know if there’s – Guys supposedly love top 10 lists and everything. They always post articles about that online. I don’t think I could pull a favorite. I think there’s a lot of great episodes and there’s probably a couple in there that weren’t my favorite, but that’s okay. They were exploring and they were doing.
JEFF: Do you think that your appreciation of MASH and these relationships as you discuss helped motivate you to become a writer?
MARC: I think… I think it taught me certain things, which were – I learned in time that when I was writing in my voice, some more fictional stuff, I had a very good ear for dialogue. And it was because I gravitated towards watching intelligent TV sitcoms: Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, MASH, All in the Family, where it was very natural dialogue. I don’t want to call it intellectual humor, that’s why I was saying intelligent humor. But hearing that all the time, you start to pick up rhythms of conversation, rhythms of jokes, a set of punchlines and rim shots and how to tell a joke without a punchline. I told Ken Levine and David Isaacs I was so excited to talk to them because growing up, there were two sets of writers that were pairs in cinema. It was Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel who did Splash and movies like that. But I used to always notice them in the credit run. And similarly in MASH, I noticed for the time they were there and in part because they were a pair, I noticed Ken Levine and David Isaacs. And then I’d see them on Cheers and then I would see them on AfterMASH and Frasier. So they meant a lot to me without their ever even knowing it just on a credit roll, because I watched those things. I saw who was writing and it just was, and that’s why in general, it’s always exciting to me in these articles to talk to the writers because they’re the ones who put it out there, you know, they find the story, they write the story, and then they work with – everybody works together to put it out, but the writing process fascinates me and I’ve always loved talking to them and the MASH writers were and are great people like Dan Wilcox. I love Dan Wilcox, by the way and if Dan’s listening. I love you Dan Wilcox.
JEFF: He’s a great guy. Great guy.
MARC: And I love David Isaacs too. And I talked to David Pollock and Elias Davis and Ken Levine. I got to talk to Gene Reynolds which was amazing. And Alan too, talking to him and Mike about episodes they wrote. So there’s just so much there on that side of it.
JEFF: Well, it must be great fun certainly from being a fan of MASH and I’m sure you’re a fan of the other shows. I know you did a great piece on Cheers as well. So it must be really fun after all these years to be able to talk to all these people. I mean, that must be kind of a pinch yourself sort of moment, isn’t it?
MARC: Yeah. I mean, there are certain times where, and I know you won’t believe this, but it’s like, I get excited to talk to you. It’s like, I know, I know you, I grew up with you, and I’m going to get to call you and talk to you. And it’s that way – it truly is that way for everybody. And then there are certain times where the level is so high, I’m wondering if when I get on the phone, either I’ll sound like a first soprano or I won’t be able to utter words. I had a call with Steve Martin.
JEFF: I felt that way since we started this conversation, but anyway, go ahead. I’m sorry.
MARC: No, they’re just – And like I said, Steve Martin, for example, I was like, oh my God, and he was going to call me, so then I have to sit there and I’m waiting.
RYAN & JEFF: [laughs]
MARC: He’s going to call me in a three minutes. Steve Martin is going to pick up the phone and call me and say my name. And I would tell my wife these stories afterwards, because there’d be all these off the record stories and so on, but this one knack that I don’t know what it was in my line of questioning, but through all the different interviews I’ve done, I always seem to get people wanting to sing. And I got Rob Reiner to sing, I believe I got Steve Martin to sing, I can’t remember who else I got. I got some people on the MASH crew to sing and I was like, I don’t know why, what is it that I say that makes them wanna break out into song? I don’t know.
JEFF: Hey Ryan, do you wanna do the Jolson medley now or should we wait?
RYAN: We’ll save it, we’ll save it for the end, a big finish.
JEFF: Okay, all right. You know, I think what you’re talking about, I think that excitement is part of the magic of show business. It’s part of the magic that brought me into the world of show business and wanting to be a performer. Without that moment, that just explodes in your head and gets you excited that somebody’s gonna call you, you’re gonna talk to somebody, it wouldn’t exist because that’s what gives us the spark and the fun of this whole entertainment concept. Otherwise it’d just be kind of dull. Because I felt that as a kid, my big favorite guy was Jerry Lewis. And so as a kid, I grew up thinking, oh my God, Jerry Lewis is the greatest creature on Earth. And I went, I got to go to the set to meet him and I almost passed out. I mean, I just couldn’t breathe. It was like *gasping* “It’s Mr. Lewis”. It was very, very difficult to do. I’m glad I didn’t pass out. And he was very kind and he invited me back to the set and I used to go a lot and take my friends and they all go, wow, you know, Jerry Lewis. But without that excitement, I wouldn’t have done it and I don’t think anybody else would have either, I don’t think. I don’t think there’s an actor or a comic or a singer or anybody alive that hasn’t experienced that spark because without it, I mean, why do it? That’s the kind of the fun of it. As a human being, that’s what’s so enjoyable about it.
MARC: So let me ask you a question then.
MARC: So they say in general, it’s very important because of the time we put into our careers on a weekly basis to love what you’re doing and it makes the time pass and it fulfills you and so on and so forth. Clearly, you’ve loved what you’re doing, but when you were on MASH or say when you were on the Young Frankenstein set and so on, did you have those moments where – going back to the pinching – you pinch yourself and you’re like, I can’t believe I’m on the number one television show or the most highly acclaimed television – one of the most highly acclaimed in television history and I’m on a Mel Brooks set. I can’t, I’m on a Mel Brooks set. You know, what was that like? Did you get those moments?
JEFF: Yes, and Ryan and I have talked about this in terms of MASH. I did not get those moments on MASH. MASH to me was a job and I loved the job and I loved the people, but it was pretty much of a career and a job. Actually not necessarily a career because I was doing other things as well. So it was basically a job and again, I loved the people, but I didn’t get that pinch yourself moment there. I did, however, seeing Mel Brooks. That one – I grew up watching him. I didn’t grow up watching MASH. So he was a huge attraction to me because I was so enamored with what he did and his humor and how he did it. So he was magical to me. MASH was not magical. MASH was – I knew how they did the trick, so it wasn’t magic to me like seeing Mel Brooks was or seeing Jerry Lewis. So, yeah, and I keep saying it and I don’t want anybody to think that I didn’t love the show or love being there. I am grateful every single day that I had the opportunity to do it. And I am grateful every single day that I had the opportunity to work with such incredibly talented people. They influenced me a great deal and taught me a great deal. So that certainly is the truth. I loved everything about it, but it wasn’t that magical moment like seeing Mel Brooks. So when I was on the Frankenstein set, I was going, oh my God, it’s Mel Brooks! And I was pinching myself.
MARC: Which you remind me because I was on the Fox lot, I don’t think it was the same day as MASH, but I was on the Fox lot and in the commissary. Carl Reiner was in a corner, but Mel Brooks was at the head of a table and my dad had done the marketing – worked on the marketing for Silent Movie and he went over to introduce us and I had the same moment that you had with Jerry Lewis. Because I remember I couldn’t even really lift my hand. He takes my hand and he starts shaking it and he goes, “that’s right, that’s right, shake the hand, shake the hand”
JEFF: Yeah, it’s that magical moment and it’s just something that I love. It’s just a – It’s life, you know, it just feels like life. Now, Ryan Patrick, you have met a lot of people, I know, and who gave you that? Did somebody give you that moment?
RYAN: For me, I had the opportunity several years back when I was still working in radio, I had the opportunity to meet Bill Murray.
RYAN: And Bill Murray to me, I mean, I grew up on Bill Murray movies, and Ghostbusters to this day remains my all-time favorite movie. And so I had the opportunity to go to a dinner where he was being honored. And when he walked in the room, I just about fell over.
JEFF: [laughs] That’s great.
RYAN: Well, the thing about Bill Murray is even though he’s invited, you never know if he’s actually going to show up or not. So when he actually walked in the room, there was like a big sigh of relief that he was actually there. But he was just kind of working the room and he walked over to me and I – I really honestly, it was one of those moments where I could not formulate any words whatsoever.
RYAN: So I think I came out with like, “you’re Bill Murray, you’re funny” is what I think I said. But he was very gracious and very kind and took the picture and signed the autograph and everything. It’s a picture that I have framed on the wall here in my office. So that was the one for me.
JEFF: That’s cool. I love that. That’s what I think that’s the really cool part. That happened to me on the set of MASH actually. Once Sid Caesar came on it.
RYAN: Oh wow.
JEFF: He was just standing there watching some scene be shot and I started to fall apart because Sid Caesar is to me, you know, was the ultimate. Him and Jerry Lewis were like, wow. So I thought, and he was just standing there against, you know, leaning against the set just watching. Nobody was around him. So I thought, okay, I got to do this. And I was terrified. absolutely terrified and I walked over and I said “Mr. Caesar” [gibberish] and he looked at me like he’d seen me a thousand times. He knew who I was – you know this guy was kind of you know, impressed with Sid Caesar so he was very kind and he shook my hand and then I went away but it was that kind of moment. I just think that’s – I love that about show business, I think that’s so much fun to have that magic
MARC: There is one more story I have to add to it. It’s not a MASH story, but it kind of goes in with what we’re talking about. Although I didn’t know what was going on, which was my swimming lesson with Steve McQueen.
RYAN: Oh, wow!
JEFF: It’s always a conversation grabber if I don’t know what to say in a group of people. We had just moved to California. and they had put us up at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a couple weeks while we were looking for a house somewhere. This is – “they” being 20th Century Fox. We were all around the pool and I was told Steve McQueen is out here. Steve McQueen is out here. And the Steve McQueen that I knew was from The Great Escape. So short hair, kind of like maybe slightly graying sideburns, machismo kind of guy. And I saw someone like that who was sitting on one of the lounge chairs. And I walk by as anyone would do, walk by, don’t look, walk by, don’t look. And that was fine. And then later on, I wasn’t really swimming at the time. I hadn’t learned yet. And I’m sitting there with my feet in the water and this really cool hippie guy starts talking to me, long scraggly hair, mustache and beard. And he’s asking me questions: do I swim and do I this and what am I doing there? And so on. As friendly as can be, probably, you know, every uncle you could hope to have. I’m having the greatest time and I go back to when we’re having lunch, we had a little table with an umbrella. I say to my mom and my sister and brother, I was like, you know, that guy over there, he’s so cool. He just started talking to me, me! Little me. They go, you know that Steve McQueen, don’t you?
RYAN & JEFF: [laughs]
MARC: I said, what? I said, no, isn’t that guy? They said, no, no. He had offered to give me a swimming lesson. So then, after lunch, now I’m thinking, oh my God, I’m having a swimming lesson with Steve McQueen. He held me in his arms and took me out to the deep end and I was swimming, being held tightly and sweetly by Steve McQueen.
JEFF: Wow. Say that again slowly.
MARC: Yes, slowly and tightly and sweetly. If you go to IMDB or somewhere else, if you look up the movie, Enemy of the People, which is what I believe is shooting at the time. He was staying at the Beverly Wilshire because he, as told to me later, I think was separated from his wife. His son, who I believe is Chad, was around my age, who he was missing. And he was all scraggly for this Enemy of the People role, exactly as I described. And as a nine-year-old kid, I’m not going to recognize Steve McQueen unless he looks like Steve McQueen. So yeah, that was my brush with greatness.
JEFF: You know… You were nine and Steve McQueen gave you swimming lessons. You were nine when I crossed my eyes at you. You must have been an adorable little boy. For gosh sakes. Wow.
MARC: Nine was a seminal moment in my life.
MARC: But I was a cute kid and then puberty hit and then it was all downhill..
RYAN: You peaked at nine years old, huh?
RYAN: Well, Marc, this has been amazing. I just want to start to land this plane here. I have a question for you. You know, this podcast, we call it MASH Matters, which by the way, the title was the brainchild of Mr. Jeff Maxwell, and I like it because it works on two levels. You know, we talk about matters that relate to MASH, but also we talk about why MASH matters. So I’ll kind of pose that question to you. And do you think that MASH still matters? And if so, why?
MARC: I would say that iconic television series and MASH is definitely that, will always matter because of the contribution that they made, not just on the simple level of entertaining us or making us laugh or taking us out of the horrors of the world around us for a moment, but that they impacted us on a pop cultural level, be it phrases that you remember, times in your life when you look back retrospectively or nostalgically. they stay with you and as I said, iconic shows do that. Some of the other small ones like Manimal probably don’t stay with you. But uh –
RYAN: [laughs] Our first Manimal reference. Yes.
JEFF: Well, Manimal matters too, you know, for gosh sake.
MARC: I’m going to do their podcast next week, by the way.
JEFF: Oh, yeah?
MARC: It’s just me talking to myself, actually. That’s what that podcast ends up being.
JEFF: It’s just a pod, actually. There’s no…
MARC: The shows that I’ve had the fortune of working on, Cheers and Frasier and Newhart Show, Smothers Brothers, All in the Family. They’re all important in their own way. MASH, some MASH people like the term, some don’t, but it did invent the “dramedy”, that term that Larry Gelbart really wanted of laughter and drama side-by-side, sometimes running right after each other or within the same scene or within the same joke and so on. So you could say on a very simple level, oh, MASH created the dramedy or the term that applies to that, the feeling of that. But like I said, I think on a cultural level, certain shows moved us in certain ways. And I know MASH was incredibly important to my childhood. I don’t know if I could wrap it up in a particular word or thought, but it was something that I had an emotional connection to, that I was crushed when it ended to, that I looked forward to week to week, that I reflected on afterwards, that I wanted to watch the repeats again to see if I got something else out of it. And in some ways, I’m sure that’s an escape, and in some ways it was entertainment, and in some ways it was provocative, but that’s kind of what important cultural things do to you. They think you do all the above and you retain them and you know where you were when and you remember what you felt like in those awkward years if you were a teenager or whatever. You’re going through a divorce or whatever. Wherever you are in your life, you can usually associate TV shows with that. MASH is one of those shows that generationally it can transcend. It doesn’t have to just be, well, those are the people who grew up at that time. The messages, the themes of the show, the deeper themes and the humor remain universal, which is why people say, and I was told time and time again, that people will come up to people such as Jeff and they will say, I love the show and now I watch it with my child or I watch it with my children, however that is. And so it just crosses generations because of the universality of the message and the hope and the humor I think is built in there.
JEFF: Very well put. You ought to be a writer.
MARC: I’m thinking about it.
JEFF: You might investigate that. You know, what can we expect to see coming next from you?
JEFF: All right, well thank you and that’ll be the end of the show. We appreciate you being here.
MARC: Good night!
JEFF: Good night everybody. No, I mean have you got something, are you cooking something up that we should be excited about?
MARC: I’m cooking some stuff up. I have stuff coming up for Vanity Fair and Hollywood Reporter. Next year, I plan to dive into another show or two whose name shall remain silent to protect the innocent and guilty.
MARC: But yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I will say not just because I’m on MASH Matters, but I will say that in terms of experiences that I’ve had in gathering information from people and getting to know people, MASH is definitely one of the, one or two best, if not the best. And I’m still in contact with many people who took the time, their time to give to me just because they’re such wonderful people. I didn’t wanna lose connection with them. Such as you, dear Jeff.
MARC: And I’m just so grateful to get that chance to share their story with the world and to get to know some of these people personally and to get to pursue writing to do that.
JEFF: Yeah, great.
RYAN: So when you do have new articles coming out, how can people stay in touch with you, connect with you? Are you on social media?
MARC: I am on social media. I’m not like a popular social media person, but I am on social media. Typically I’ll say on Twitter when I have stuff coming out and in my little Facebook network, I will release stuff. You can also just from time to time pop my name in and stick it with Vanity Fair or Hollywood Reporter or any publication and my name will pop up with whatever is recent, current. But I like to keep moving, meaning I don’t like to be redundant in what I write or produce or the ideas I have, but I like to constantly be working on something and be percolating about how to present that to people. And in instances such as MASH, even though I’m going to take a little less credit in the end for this, to have the opportunity to present to the world things told in the voice by the people who were there and as they remember it, which also allows inaccuracies if they do exist because it’s memory. I think it’s so much more powerful than me saying, “and then Jeff felt this”. It’s like, I’d rather just hear Jeff saying this. And so to have people open up their lives and feel comfortable enough with me to do that, and then me to capture their words and be able to share that, I think It’s great that at any time you can go onto the Archive of the Academy of Television and you can listen to interviews from Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds and different MASH creators and so on. But for people who aren’t into necessarily visual stimuli, you can go online now and you can read a story about the history of MASH, which is very in-depth. Like I said, I have more stories anyway, but still it’s like it’s an in-depth look at, and I think it does a good job of capturing from the people who were there some of their thoughts and memories, which is so wonderful as a fan and a writer.
JEFF: Well, you did a really beautiful job with it, if I may say, and thank you for doing it, because it was just a wonderfully received piece of work, and I know you know that, so thank you for doing that. And my golly, you are just as adorable as you were as that nine-year-old kid. I mean, wouldn’t you agree, Ryan?
RYAN: Well, I think so, absolutely, even though I’ve never seen a picture of him in his life. But yes, I would agree with that.
MARC: I still wear the same OP shorts and the IZOD shirts. I still fit into them. No reason to change until they disintegrate I guess off my body, right? I’ll pull them on one time and they’re just like poof.
RYAN: Marc, I just want to let you know as we close up here, and I don’t think I’ve actually shared this with you, Jeff. Your article and the response to it was really the final motivation that I needed to reach out to Jeff and finally pursue the creation of this podcast. Obviously we have the MASH family to thank for inspiring the podcast, but I want to publicly thank you for providing that final push that led to the podcast’s existence.
MARC: Well, that makes me verklempt. I’m happy about that. I think that’s what the purpose of writing is, is to generate responses like that. I love to hear responses. Especially wonderful ones like that. That’s good to know that people feel impacted by and have a reaction to what they read. It’s all really a writer could ask for, I guess, in the end.
RYAN: Well, thank you very much for that. And thank you for spending all this time with us today as our first guest on MASH Matters. How was the experience?
JEFF: Yeah. How did it go?
MARC: Well, it went fine, except you didn’t sing. So the streak is about to be broken unless you break into song.
RYAN & JEFF: Ahem, ahem, mmm.
JEFF: [singing] Mammy, my little Mammy. I walked a million miles for one of the smiles of my ma- Okay, I’m not in voice today. I can’t do it without my lemon and honey.
MARC: You’re on key, though. You are on key. There’s another extra talent of Jeff Maxwell we did not know about. He sings.
RYAN: Hey, Marc, thank you so much. We really do appreciate it, man.
MARC: Well, thank you for having me. Anytime you want me, I’m- I’m probably just sitting here in front of my computer writing and ready to gab.
JEFF: Well, keep doing it because you do it very well.
RYAN: And listeners, you can write and gab to us. You can email us through the website, MashMattersPodcast.com. You can find us on Twitter, @MashMatters. Look for MASH Matters Podcast on Facebook. And you can call or leave a voicemail, 513-436-4077. Jeff, we got our first voicemail this week and we’re going to play that voicemail in episode 5 which will be coming in two weeks.
JEFF: A very exciting thing. Everybody stay tuned for that because that’s going to be a really exciting voicemail. Ryan, thank you.
RYAN: All right. Thanks, MASH guys.
MARC: Thank you.
RYAN: We need a name! MASH guys!
JEFF: Yeah. What’s a MASH guy? Mashies? Moishies? Moishie? How about Moishie? Nah.
RYAN: I don’t know. Let us know. See you next time.