A Reboot of Comedy Classics

Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!


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He's Not Someone's Accountant, He's David Steinberg

He's Not Someone's Accountant, He's David Steinberg

David Steinberg rose to fame using his childhood as inspiration for one of his most popular bits, the sermon. He was a member of Second City for four years, inspired by Lenny Bruce, and was hated by Richard Nixon. He was a part of the Smothers Brothers firing scandal and was the voice of a generation. Listen in as Dave, Tom, and Kelly introduce us to David Steinberg.

We are talking about his 1974 album, Booga Booga, take a listen HERE



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Logan Rishaw

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Kelly Thewlis

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Tom Megalis

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Dave Schwensen:
Two good friends joining me today, Kelly Thewlis.

Kelly Thewlis:
Hello!

Dave Schwensen:
Hi, Kelly.

Kelly Thewlis:
Hi, Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
And Tom Megalis.

Tom Megalis:
Wow. I can't top Kelly's hello.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay then we're going to-

Kelly Thewlis:
I practiced it. I practiced. Thank you. Thank you for noticing.

Tom Megalis:
Do you say hello or hi? How do you guys... When people say, "Hey!" Do you go, "Hey!" Or "Hi", "Hello?"

Dave Schwensen:
Basically, if I see you coming and you say that, I go, "Leave me alone."

Tom Megalis:
Oh see that? There it is.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh no.

Tom Megalis:
Dave doesn't like Greek people. Kelly, is that it?

Dave Schwensen:
It's not all Greeks, Tom. Let's give you a hint here. No, I'm kidding you, I'm kidding you. Come on, it's a comedy show.

Tom Megalis:
That's right.

Dave Schwensen:
We're going to laugh, we're going to have fun. Matter of fact, we're going to laugh and have fun today because we're talking about David Steinberg.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yes. Here we are.

Dave Schwensen:
How many people actually remember David Steinberg, as a standup comedian? He's well known now as a director, but he was doing stand up comedy back in the sixties and seventies and that's what we're going to talk about today.

Tom Megalis:
Pretty cool, man. He's another one of those Canadian guys that came down.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Tom Megalis:
Actually the first. He is the first Canadian comedian to come down and breakthrough. Did you know that?

Dave Schwensen:
No, I didn't know that.

Kelly Thewlis:
I heard he was the first Canadian.

Tom Megalis:
Period.

Dave Schwensen:
The first Canadian ever.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, the first ever. It was pretty impressive.

Tom Megalis:
Ever born.

Kelly Thewlis:
He's a pioneer.

Dave Schwensen:
Here's what I want to do right now, I want to pull out a map of Canada and, Tom, you point out where Winnipeg Manitoba is.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, I'm going to be wrong. Right off the bat, I'm telling you I'm going to be wrong. Because I don't know it yet.

Dave Schwensen:
We were talking about that.

Tom Megalis:
I don't know. Where is it?

Dave Schwensen:
Don't ask me. I mean it's cold.

Tom Megalis:
Kelly?

Kelly Thewlis:
Nope. Couldn't tell ya.

Tom Megalis:
Gees, we stink.

Dave Schwensen:
All right, we're going to get a lot of emails after this show airs, I'm sure.

Kelly Thewlis:
All of our Canadian fans are going to be real angry. I hear it's lovely where you're at.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. I do hear it is beautiful. But, he broke through and then open kind of the Canadian comedian flood gates, after that, with the Second City guys and Martin Short, all those guys. Was Martin Short out of Canada? He was Canadian.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yes he was.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I think the Second City. But, he has a very interesting background, David Steinberg. I really want to talk about that. Because it will also involve as we continue this discussion, the Smothers brothers being fired from the network, David Steinberg had a lot to do with that.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Boy, he did.

Dave Schwensen:
He accepts full responsibility. But, we'll talk about that in a little bit. But I want to get back to how this guy really got started in comedy because, I don't think anyone, with his background, anyone saw this coming. His dad was a rabbi. I think he was born in Eastern Europe before moving to Canada. And I think David Steinberg, originally, was going to become a rabbi. He started theology and he went to Israel.

Tom Megalis:
Makes sense.

Kelly Thewlis:
He went to Chicago. He went to a university in Chicago and that's why he came over here. It wasn't for comedy. He just happened to come out at the same time that Second City was really hitting its stride.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, he transferred to Chicago, University of Chicago because he was studying English literature, I think, at that time. He had given up the rabbi idea. He was studying English. And yeah, somebody took him, oh I wish I could remember, I thought this was someone famous, but I'm not sure-

Tom Megalis:
But he had seen Lenny Bruce first.

Dave Schwensen:
But that's what I'm going to say, he went to see Lenny Bruce.

Tom Megalis:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
And he's like, "Oh my gosh."

Kelly Thewlis:
Everything.

Dave Schwensen:
He loved it.

Tom Megalis:
It's interesting. I think he says, "You know, I didn't laugh much, but I knew that there was something special going on there." I mean, it was a new brand of comedy, way different from that sort of borscht belt or the old comics, what they were doing a generation or a decade before. And now all of a sudden, here's a new type of storytelling comedy, which I think inspired him.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He said it was like attitude and what he was talking about. But I think, I remember this correctly, Lenny Bruce was playing someplace maybe for six nights. And David Steinberg went all six nights or it was six weeks.

Kelly Thewlis:
It was weeks. Yeah, he went every single night, it was five weeks straight and he went every single night. He was just so hooked on his performance.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
But he didn't really, didn't know what he was going to do at that point. But I heard, in his documentary I believe, or in one of the talk shows that he did, one of the many, which are really great to listen to. He was great on talk shows, because he was a storyteller. But he said he'd had no idea what he was going to do. "I just kind of fell into this thing, this sort of improv stuff and this comedy, because I...", and it clicked.

Dave Schwensen:
When he went to see Second city in Chicago, which is really famous, groundbreaking training ground for improvisational comedy. He said, he went to a show at Second City and as he sat there, he kept thinking, "I could do this." And he started taking classes at Second City, and he was there for a few years.

Kelly Thewlis:
About four years, he was performing with them.

Dave Schwensen:
Four years?

Tom Megalis:
But right before that he did a little comedy act called Kodesh and Steinberg. Right? So I think he did a little comedy act himself right before that. And Second City, I think they saw him and invited him to join.

Kelly Thewlis:
To join?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. I think he was out there maybe in the clubs in Chicago, maybe near the University of Chicago and he was doing a little performance and they said, "Hey, we like this guy." And he probably said, "Hey, I've been following you guys. I've watched you for six weeks, I'm obsessed. Yeah, I'd like to join. I'm obsessed."

Dave Schwensen:
Well, and the thing is too, the first couple of years he was in Second City, I don't think he was making that great of progress, like some of the others, as far as performing.

Tom Megalis:
Interesting.

Dave Schwensen:
He was trying to do different characters and doing different things. And I think finally, one of the instructors or whoever pulled him aside and said, "What is it about you?" And this is what I think makes great comedians. What is it about yourself, your personality, what's your comedy voice? What can you share with an audience that you can build a relationship with them? And they said that to him, and he says, "Well, he studied theology in Israel and his father was a rabbi." And he said, "Well, you should touch on that." Because he hadn't at all. He hadn't at all. They said, "You should touch on that." So he started improvising these sermons-

Tom Megalis:
That's where it started, wow.

Dave Schwensen:
...based on these characters in the old Testament. Yeah. He started doing that at Second City.

Kelly Thewlis:
He said he was almost offended when the instructor had told them to do that, because he was like, "I am so removed from that past." And he was like, "I was a beatnik. Like I had this like pride on being this comedian. And you want me to like go back and dig up this past life of his." And then, but once he started doing it changed everything for him. Yeah. It was just wildly successful. I mean, nobody had really been doing anything like that before.

Dave Schwensen:
Well that's when he started getting onstage, I think really at Second City. Because you know, you have to audition to be part of that performing troop to get on stage. Otherwise, your a standby.

Kelly Thewlis:
You stay in the classes over and over.

Dave Schwensen:
Stay in the classrooms. Yeah. And it really started making him a standup comedian. And it wasn't just his sermons. I mean, that was a big part of what he did. But he also did these characters. Now, I don't know. I remember. I went on, I had to watch some David Steinberg because it's been a while since I've seen him. And he did say again, I'm trying to remember a review I saw him. I think one of the reviewers called him almost a Charlie Chaplin type of character. The way he walked off stage said it was very Chaplinesque. The interviewer asked him, said, "Chaplinesque." He goes, "Yeah." He says, But then it really turned into who he was and he was more Grouchoesque" is what he called himself.

Dave Schwensen:
And I'm a big fan of Groucho Marx and the Marx brothers. We should do a show on them sometime, but he was also a huge fan of Groucho Marx, and you can see this in his characters.

Tom Megalis:
And he got to interview him later, do these lunches.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, he had lunch with him every Tuesday for years.

Tom Megalis:
That's amazing. So it was like meeting his idol and-

Kelly Thewlis:
And becoming friends with him.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh yeah. That was I think in the seventies because Groucho was already in his eighties. I think it was Groucho Marx, George Burns, and Jack Benny, and David Steinberg had lunch every Tuesday together in Hollywood.

Tom Megalis:
That's amazing.

Dave Schwensen:
He was the young guy. He was like the baby of the group. He talked about that a lot. And just how these guys, every once in a while, Groucho would sit there with a cigar and everything, was 87 years old. Every once in a while, he'd come up with a real zinger, but he loved it.

Tom Megalis:
I'm not sure exactly who called him Chaplin or Groucho, but he also had that New York Times review after his bitter end work in 1969. And you got a review from the New York Times called him a cross between Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen. Imagine that.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow. Yeah, right. The two biggest heir.

Tom Megalis:
The New York times, yeah, saying that about you, that's had to inflated his head a little bit like, "Wow, I'm really good at this."

Dave Schwensen:
He really took off after that. And again, that baby boomer generation, when they were in college, he did all those shows. I mean, even the rock concerts. They had a show called, I think it was called In Concert. Sorry I don't remember what it's called. Don Kirschner's rock concert.

Dave Schwensen:
And they would have all the bands at the time and David Steinberg. And George Carlin would be on that too. Carlin and Richard Pryor. Those were the young comedians at that time who were really pushing the envelope and doing things. And it would bring David Steinberg on to do his sermons and he would talk about these characters. But yeah-

Tom Megalis:
What was it? The Midnight Express? What was that called?

Dave Schwensen:
Midnight Special.

Tom Megalis:
Midnight Special.

Dave Schwensen:
Midnight Special. That's it.

Tom Megalis:
I saw some clips from that. Pretty interesting. Yeah. Because he was doing the sermons and, that was a signature piece obviously for him. And you're right, it kind of, as you were saying guys, it kind of fused his, brought the past now and his real personality and only he could do that. To your point, Dave, about finding something that's personal about you.

Tom Megalis:
I think that's what I like about David Steinberg a lot. He seems like an every guy in many ways. But he's conversational, is very easy on camera, very conversational and like in every guy, but also, I think accessible. He wasn't screaming comedian or screaming material.

Dave Schwensen:
No.

Tom Megalis:
It felt like he was telling stories.

Dave Schwensen:
He knew this old Testament, he knew it forward and backwards. And he knew all the characters, all the people, personalities in it. And so his act would be to ask the audience to name an old Testament person, character, religious figure.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Moses, Noah.

Dave Schwensen:
Moses.

Tom Megalis:
Toss them out.

Dave Schwensen:
Jonah. Yeah. Noah, all these people. And he would do a sermon based on them. And God,, of course was the almighty. But he really made all this money. And this is what got him and the Smothers brothers into trouble.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Well, back then, if you did anything about religion and comedy, you were going to get letters. And I think that's what Tommy Smothers said. He goes, "Come here. I want to show you. Come in this back room. Look. Look at all these bags. And he was like, "What are those?" He goes, "That's bags of mail." That's all-

Dave Schwensen:
Hate mail.

Kelly Thewlis:
Hate mail from you.

Tom Megalis:
That's all your hate mail buddy.

Kelly Thewlis:
David Sandberg said it in an interview, and he goes, "If you want to make people mad" he goes, "you do something religious and you make it funny." He goes, "If you can be funny about religious topics, you will make people angry." And [crosstalk 00:11:37] he proved that.

Dave Schwensen:
And it was the times too.

Tom Megalis:
That was back then. Now it seems.

Kelly Thewlis:
Well, now. Yeah, now.

Tom Megalis:
Doesn't it seem very tame now? If you listen to the sermons there, there's nothing really, except making a testicle gesture that he did. I mean, other than that, it's tame. It's really not defensive. But you're right, Dave, that it was the times.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Because you look back on the ones who were offensive at the time. I mean, Lenny Bruce, okay. George Carlin, Richard Pryor. It's pretty tame now with, when you compare it to what you've been hearing lately, nowadays, what you can hear on the radio and in comedy clubs and on cable television and everything.

Tom Megalis:
Podcasts.

Dave Schwensen:
Podcasts. I've seen an interview with David Steinberg. He just laughs. He says, "I look back at those old sermons and how tamed they really are." But in the late 1960s, he says, "you did that on television," He said, especially, he said the baptist. And when Tommy Smothers showed him that room, it was just filled with hate mail. Said the most vile things and death threats. And they hate him. You don't talk like that on television. So of course, what did he and Tommy Smothers do?

Kelly Thewlis:
More.

Dave Schwensen:
They did it again.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Have him back again. Now, here's what kind of blows my mind a little bit. You have David Steinberg now on the Smothers brothers, the late sixties. When did they get canceled? '69?

Dave Schwensen:
'69, I think. Yeah. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. A top five show. It was right at the top of the rating.

Tom Megalis:
I thought it was number one.

Dave Schwensen:
It might have been.

Tom Megalis:
Number one, beating Bonanza. Boom. Steinberg comes in with his sermon, kills it. But then 1972, they give him his own show on CBS.

Dave Schwensen:
Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, right.

Tom Megalis:
So what happened with those years? Did the executives leave? Did they forget that Steinberg brought down? Or maybe he was like, "Hey, he did us a favor. We like Steinberg."

Dave Schwensen:
Just like anything else in the entertainment business, it's all about money and it's all about ratings. I'm sorry. The Smothers brothers had great ratings. They even gave the Smothers brothers another show, you know.

Tom Megalis:
CBS?

Dave Schwensen:
CBS brought him back. Yes. While, while Tommy Smothers was suing CBS at the same time. He was suing them.

Tom Megalis:
That's mind boggling. It's mind boggling.

Dave Schwensen:
And they gave him another show because they knew he was newsworthy and he would get viewers. So they're going to put, they don't care. I'm sorry [crosstalk 00:13:52]

Tom Megalis:
They don't care. It's cash.

Dave Schwensen:
It's show business. Tom, you know this. It's show business.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, it's business.

Dave Schwensen:
It is what it is.

Tom Megalis:
It's show business.

Dave Schwensen:
But yeah, CBS after that, David Steinberg's sermon aired on the Smothers brothers show. I think that was in the fall of 1968. The CBS executives called in Tommy Smothers and said, "Look, we'll allow you to have David Steinberg on again as a guest, but he's not allowed to do a sermon again. You can not do that. That just offended too many people." And so that's what they did. They invited David Steinberg back just to be a guest. And he did some wonderful skits. He is very much to me like Groucho Marx. I watched a skit he did with Sonny Bono, from Sonny & Cher when they got their show. He was on all these variety shows at the time. He had this very famous character he played who was a psychiatrist.

Tom Megalis:
Oh yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
But he was crazy. He was crazy.

Tom Megalis:
Totally nuts.

Dave Schwensen:
Totally nuts. And I watched it-

Tom Megalis:
Talking to himself and talk, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
It's hysterical. Just laugh out loud.

Kelly Thewlis:
And coin the phrase, "Booga Booga." That's his catchphrase.

Dave Schwensen:
"Booga Booga"

Kelly Thewlis:
And the name of the album of 1974, "Booga Booga", is all about that psychiatrist character and...

Dave Schwensen:
To me it's so funny. And he's got the tail but like the tuxedo tails on like Groucho Marx. He's got the spats on his shoes like Groucho.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. You're right.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm watching this, I'm going, "This is Groucho Marx is what he's doing." It's a laugh out loud, funny.

Kelly Thewlis:
And you can also really see the Second City method within his work for sure. I mean, he says Second City was just a huge inspiration for him. It was his education on comedy and it really, really influenced him. And you can see that in his styles and in his characters. The Second City method is you don't write anything down. You improv a sketch and then you just do it over and over and over again, until you have it committed to memory and you're doing it in the sketch show. So that's how you do it. You can really see that in his characters and his materials. In his album, he's pulling up audience members, it's just wild. It's so much fun.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it's interesting because it was during a time where that was kind of considered standup comedy too. Now, I feel like we have a total separation between. It's like you're improv or you're standup.

Tom Megalis:
You're right.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
But back then it was like it was all just considered comedy. No matter how you did it, it was very, like we said of the time, storytelling was just such a popular format. They had Lily Tomlin and Richard Pryor, everyone was doing storytelling.

Dave Schwensen:
He developed it onstage too in front of an audience. That is so important because it's not like he's just sitting in a room, typing up a script and going, "I hope this is funny."

Kelly Thewlis:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
He was going on stage every night like these great comeds, like George Carlin, like Richard Pryor. They were testing it out, learning it, doing it in front of an audience, they were failing and succeeding. And so by the time he did that character on television, it was hot. He knew it. He could be that character. He was that crazy psychiatrist.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it's funny that he's really not that well known for his comedy anymore. Because I mean, he appeared on the tonight show with Johnny Carson, 140 times. Bob Hope is the only one who's done more.

Tom Megalis:
That was it.

Dave Schwensen:
And [crosstalk 00:16:59] he was the youngest person to...

Kelly Thewlis:
And then after that, it's George Calin.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He was the youngest person to ever, co I mean, guest host the tonight show for Johnny Carson.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow. I mean, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He said that was also because of his Second City training. He was trained to improvise. And he said Johnny loved to have him on the show because he would set Johnny up for laughs.

Tom Megalis:
Oh yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He even played the straight man to Johnny Carson. So he would set him up and Johnny can get these zingers. And Johnny loved him for that. So really, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
I think his talk show stuff is my favorite. When I watch him on talk shows like Tom Snyder, he did something in '95 on that show. And he's just so storytelling, you could tell that the guy was destined to kind of go on to be a director because he liked scenes and stories and nuances. It's kind of amazing to me that he's had a pretty good career in all those, in kind of the improv, the standup, and then directing, because they're kind of different. As you mentioned, Kelly, some people that are improv people aren't good standups.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Because you're all alone.

Kelly Thewlis:
Right.

Tom Megalis:
In conversely, if you're a great standup, you're a good standup, you might not work well with others, you know? And you might not become a good director because you're not able to work with other people like that. [crosstalk 00:18:21] So it's interesting

Dave Schwensen:
I remember when he first started getting into directing, because he was a hot standup comic. I mean, again, sixties and seventies, and even that Smothers brothers show, I like to keep bringing that up because it's just so amazing they did this. And he said, Tommy Smothers... He felt he was speaking for an entire generation.

Dave Schwensen:
He said it really Tommy admitted that late. We talked about going to that show about the Smothers brothers. And Tommy said he just became not funny. For about three years, he was not funny. And David Steinberg said the same thing. It was all about a battle, was the battle with the network heads. And it was the battle for his generation and stuff. So when they had him, again, CBS said he was allowed to invite David Steinberg back on to just be a guest on the show, do skits and all that stuff. And they did one, I think he might've done the psychiatrist on the Smothers brothers' show. When he finished, Tommy says, "Hey, you want to do another one of those sermons? Because he already told CBS that you weren't allowed to do it." He said, "Sure. I can do that."

Tom Megalis:
Good.

Dave Schwensen:
So they did it on the Smothers brothers show. And that is the episode folks, that has never been aired. Well, I know it's online somewhere, but he did it. And at that time, they were really battling. CBS was battling that show. And they had to deliver the taped show for them to approve of. They had the sensors and everything else and Tommy was delayed in getting that one to them. Because he knew it was in there, I guess, something like that. But when he finally gave it to them and they saw the sermon was in there, they just said, "We're not airing this. You're done. You're fired. That's it. We've had enough."

Tom Megalis:
"We got them." That's what they said. CBS, "We got them finally. We finally get rid of these guys."

Dave Schwensen:
But David Steinberg came out of it just hot as whatever. He was the guy then on everybody's show. And like you said, they gave him his own television show. He's had a few of them. Based studio summer replacement shows. Glen Campbell had one and who else, all these other people I can't think now. Sonny & Cher, I think started out that way.

Tom Megalis:
Tom Jones might've had one. I think even Johnny Cash. Didn't they give shows out to everybody?

Dave Schwensen:
Everybody had a variety show at that time.

Kelly Thewlis:
A variety show.

Dave Schwensen:
Donny and Marie.

Dave Schwensen:
Carol Burnett. And all these were big shows. But a lot of times, they would call it like a summer replacement. They give it like five or six weeks on the air. And if you build a following, then you could really get a real show.

Tom Megalis:
Test. They test them.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. So he had a sketch show. I don't know. A couple summers after the Smothers brothers were canceled.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, because he did the psychiatrist bit in that. He did that. That was part of it when he was doing those bits, that's what I saw. And then he would sit with guests like James Khan and kind of talk to them.

Dave Schwensen:
I think that was the next show. He had another show called the David Steinberg Show. [crosstalk 00:20:56] talk show. Yes.

Tom Megalis:
That was another one. Because I know he did-

Dave Schwensen:
Sit down with David Steinberg. I think that's what that was called.

Tom Megalis:
Holy smokes. [crosstalk 00:21:03] He's had shows man.

Kelly Thewlis:
I remember that one. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. He has had some shows. Yeah, the psychiatrist, I just remember from the whole "booga booga" thing was from the bits that from the first show.

Dave Schwensen:
The guests he brought on the David Steinberg show were like the people from Second City in Canada. Okay.

Tom Megalis:
That makes sense.

Dave Schwensen:
Mark Short, John Candy, those guys. That's what launched them. Then they started the Second City TV. Matter of fact, I think John Candy was a regular on the David Steinberg show and Second City TV at the same time. He was going from studio to studio doing these shows.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Because I saw Joe Flaherty in his...

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. He was one.

Tom Megalis:
And then later Joe Flaherty and Candy were in "Going Berserk", a film that he directed. So, David Steinberg went on to direct those guys in "Going Berserk." So, he was dipping into the Canadian talent pool for sure. His buddies. They were his buddies.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He opened the door. Like you said at the beginning, Tom, about him being like the first Canadian to come down or whatever to do this. But he opened the door for all those Second City guys who then went on to go into Chicago City Limits and then went on to Saturday Night Live and SCTV. They really came down through David Steinberg.

Tom Megalis:
It was a different vibe when you watched Second City, the television with Eugene in Joe Flaherty and John Candy. They had no laugh tracks. There was definitely a style that was developing a little differently than American comedy. I see it. Don't you guys see? Kind of there was this fueling of... Maybe it's because they're sort of the "Oh, sorry" that whole culture of like, "We're apologizing. We're not America. Oh sorry." They say that a lot and-

Dave Schwensen:
Be careful what you say here, Tom.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Well, I think it's true though. It produces some really good comedians. We're talking about guys like in Ohio as well, that where it's kind of like the middle of the United States. It's developed some real good comedic people. And maybe that's same thing as going to Canada where you kind of feel like, "Well, I'm not New York, I'm not Los Angeles. We've got to make ourselves laugh."

Kelly Thewlis:
I think it's the cold. I think that [crosstalk 00:23:19].

Tom Megalis:
The cold. It all comes down to weather.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. It's really what it is.

Dave Schwensen:
They always said it was crazy from the heat. That it was crazy from the heat. They didn't know what it was called. But yeah...

Tom Megalis:
Maybe. I don't know. It's funny. The heat, the cold.

Kelly Thewlis:
I've got the always reliable Wikipedia pulled up on him.

Tom Megalis:
Yes. All right.

Kelly Thewlis:
2005, 2007 is when he did sit down comedy with David Steinberg.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Kelly, can you find on there, when did he start directing?

Kelly Thewlis:
Let me see.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, because he did move away from stand comedy and really into... I mean he directed episodes of what? "Seinfeld" and "Friends", and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He's still directing.

Tom Megalis:
"Mad About You". He did the-

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. He directed it. He played a part.

Kelly Thewlis:
Such as going back to his roots. He did a sermon at a funeral.

Tom Megalis:
In a funeral. Wow. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I would like to see that. I got to look for that.

Kelly Thewlis:
Trinity was his first feature and that was in '81. And then his first TV show was the Twilight zone in '85.

Tom Megalis:
So in the eighties, he probably did standup through the seventies then kind of said, "Well, this isn't really... I've peaked, I've hit..." I think that's probably what happened. And then he had some opportunities to direct and he's done great. He's probably made more money directing than he ever did instead I'm thinking.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh for sure. I mean, gosh. Think about just about every single sitcom or, pretty much every single TV show I'm looking at this list here that is anyone's favorites.

Tom Megalis:
"New Heart". He did New Heart, right?

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. He did it. He directed them. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Friends". He directed Robin Williams standup, the Robin Williams' "Weapons of Destruction", "Weeds", "Law and Order." I mean, so he's done them all. The Academy Awards, the '84 Academy awards. I mean he's really... Actually, I guess that's [inaudible 00:25:06] around that. But yeah, he's done a lot, a lot, a lot of behind the scenes.

Tom Megalis:
And there's one bit he did when he was talking, I think with James Kahn, on one of his shows about how he was going to be up for the, what do they call it? What film was that with Dustin Hoffman?

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, [crosstalk 00:25:24] "The Graduate".

Kelly Thewlis:
"The Graduate". Yes.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, that's a famous story. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
He went to audition where his agent said, "No, they're not using... You're short Jewish guy. They're looking for a tall, good looking guy. I wouldn't go" And his agents said don't go.

Dave Schwensen:
His agent told him he had it. He was on his way to the audition. He was going to the agent. I think it's actually a subagent of his real agent. I don't remember how the story went.

Tom Megalis:
No. A subagent.

Dave Schwensen:
He was on is way to audition with Mike Nichols, for "The Graduate".

Tom Megalis:
Mike Nichols.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. "The Graduate", the classic film of all time of how he was [inaudible 00:25:55]

Tom Megalis:
Imagine that.

Dave Schwensen:
And he was on his way. And the agent says, "Where are you going?" "Audition for the graduate." And like you said, Tom, they're not looking for your type. So then, who do they cast? Dustin Hoffman. Exactly his same type.

Tom Megalis:
The same guy. The same type. The same type. But maybe that would have been, I don't know if his agent was Irving Arthur, he mentions him a lot. But he might've had a couple agents, but yeah. It's like, imagine that going, "Wait a minute. That's the same guy." Years later you're like, "I could have had a whole different career." But he's done just fine. We don't need to worry about David Steinberg.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's good to know. I won't worry about him now.

Kelly Thewlis:
I can rest easy tonight. Good job tonight.

Tom Megalis:
And he is a writer. He still is writing. Kelly, you were talking about how in Second City, they don't write anything. You get up on the stage, work it out, and refine it on the stage so you have feedback, right? You're getting that sort of response, but I think he went on to write and it's interesting to me. We always talk about techniques and how people do their comedy. I always find that kind of interesting like how George Carmen was a writer, Woody Allen wrote the bits. And some guys don't go away from that. They like, "I wrote it. This is it. I might tweak it." But it's interesting. I mean, it's-

Dave Schwensen:
You go back into the history of comedy. Because really it wasn't until, Oh gosh, I can't think of the earlier comics, 1950s, 60s, the comics started writing for themselves. They used to always have joke writers, just like musicians had Tin Pan Alley. They go pick up a song and sing it. And the comedians, the Boris Bell, the Catskills, all these guys. They all did the same acts. They all had the same writers and people were joke writers. But then you got along people like Lenny Bruce and Mort Solves, some of those early groundbreaking comics, and they started writing their own material. So yeah, David Steinberg. Matter of fact, I think David Steinberg wrote his autobiography. And I think he wrote it in, I could be wrong about this, but it's almost like biblical verse.

Tom Megalis:
I think it's called the "Book of David."

Dave Schwensen:
Okay.

Tom Megalis:
That makes sense man. He's got a religious vibe to him.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, yeah. Again, to study theology in Israel and your dad's a rabbi he was brought up. I think I saw an interview with him about the book, not about comedy. They were talking to him about his book.

Tom Megalis:
That's interesting.

Dave Schwensen:
And they were reading segments. It was like out of the Bible kind of. They thought it was funny. It was very funny. It's his life story.

Tom Megalis:
He never changed his name, which is wild, right?

Dave Schwensen:
Oh yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Back then, someone would have said, "Oh Steinberg, you got to lose that.

Kelly Thewlis:
You got to change that.

Tom Megalis:
...Go with David Stenner, David Stenner something."

Dave Schwensen:
That's another thing.

Tom Megalis:
But he didn't. He didn't.

Dave Schwensen:
He said the Jewish comics at that time were all changing their names to like Kingdom Ghetto, like Alan King.

Tom Megalis:
Bishop.

Dave Schwensen:
Bishop. They were using those names.

Tom Megalis:
Hell, man.

Dave Schwensen:
And someone once told him he had to change his name to make it show business. And I think the reason was he didn't want to do this because if he did make it big, he wanted the people to know it was him like his second grade teacher. He wanted them to know it was him. When he would perform in Las Vegas...

Tom Megalis:
Oh yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And he said the name would be on the sign and everyone thought what's somebody accountant?

Kelly Thewlis:
Steinberg.

Dave Schwensen:
Somebody's accountant is doing something here.

Tom Megalis:
And it's singer like Tom Jones with his accountant.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
That's great. That's great.

Dave Schwensen:
That is so important you brought that up Tom. Because yes. Because, the Jewish comedians and things. It was a whole different era back then. So he stayed to it who he was and-

Tom Megalis:
It's great. I think he made one joke once and he said, "I can change my name. These guys change their names, but then they have kids and they have huge Jewish noses. So you can't run from it." And I can say that because I'm Greek. Okay. And I've got a big Greek nose.

Dave Schwensen:
I've noticed in the past because you're Greek, you could pretty much say anything you want. Does it matter?

Tom Megalis:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Seems to be the rules. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
I think it is. Do you guys want to be Greek? Come on be Greek.

Dave Schwensen:
And he just went on to have such a wonderful career. And again, another important comedian, I mean, with his legacy and where he was and what he did and part of that whole Smothers brothers and free speech, and the religious aspect he brought and yeah, David Steinberg.

Kelly Thewlis:
I would say if David Steinberg, I mean obviously his comedy itself is very important in the history of comedy, but really his TV work. I mean, there's not a thing on current TV that isn't somehow influenced by something he has done, just looking at all, all the projects that he has been involved with of the director or writer or producer. So I mean he has really, really shaped television as we know it and also comedy very much so as well.

Tom Megalis:
Matter of fact, I'm going to tell our listeners, if you want to go on YouTube or something, check out David Steinberg, check out his sketch work, if you're into the old like slapstick. And we talk about Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin, but done in an updated well, seventies version. I mean, I really have found it laugh out loud funny. Maybe that's my style. I don't know. Yeah. Check out David Steinberg because it really is entertaining. Very good. He's very good entertaining guy.

Dave Schwensen:
Kids can learn something from him.

Tom Megalis:
Can always learn something. I always hope you can learn something from listening to this wonderful podcast we're doing and-

Kelly Thewlis:
I learned something from all of you today, so...

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, me too. I learned I want to be Greek. Thanks.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yup. That's the main takeaway everyone.

Tom Megalis:
And guys, what did I learn? I learned nothing about Canada. Thank you very much.

Kelly Thewlis:
Nothing about Canada.

Dave Schwensen:
There you go. We're going to send you over a map and you can study and we'll come back and we'll do something on Second City sometime and you can point out everything. All right, we're going to wind this thing up. So I'm going to say goodbye to Kelly Thewlis. Goodbye Kelly.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, goodbye. Goodbye.

Dave Schwensen:
It was always a pleasure. And Tom MacGillis.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Representing the Greeks.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. You represented. That's for sure today, my friend. Okay. And I'm Dave Schwensen. I'm not Greek, but maybe I will be for the next episode. You have to tune in and find out. You've been listening-

Tom Megalis:
I can baptize you.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm staying away. You've been listening to "What's So Funny?" Until we come back again next time. Keep laughing.

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