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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The Rise and Fall of Freddie Prinze

The Rise and Fall of Freddie Prinze

Freddie Prinze was an overnight sensation. He was invited to sit by Johnny Carson during his first appearance on the show which was an instant game-changer. He starred on the show Chico and The Man where he coined the phrase “lookin’ good!” Ultimately his fame led to his demise: a drug problem, depression, and eventually suicide. Listen in as Dave, Tom, and Logan introduce us to the incredible Freddie Prinze.

You can watch his very first performance on the Tonight Show HERE

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Dave Schwensen:
Hi. Welcome to What's So Funny! I'm Dave Schwensen. And today I'm joined by Tom Megalis and Logan Rishaw. Who's out there? Tom? [crosstalk 00:00:08] doing, man?

Tom Megalis:
Oh, man. We get to talk. We get to talk about comedians. But I'm doing art. You know that. That's what I mostly do, is the art stuff.

Dave Schwensen:
That's right.

Tom Megalis:
I'll plug myself. TomMegalis.com.

Dave Schwensen:
Ooh. Hey, you snuck that in there, didn't you?

Tom Megalis:
See that? See how I snuck that in? So, if people want art for their homes... [crosstalk 00:00:24]. You're supposed to promote these days.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm just signing an invoice I'm sending you for advertising. Hang on a second.

Tom Megalis:
Thank you. Yeah. Put that on. Well, there's Logan. I hear him. [crosstalk 00:00:33].

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, I'm here.

Dave Schwensen:
Logan Rishaw is with us. Logan.

Logan Rishaw:
Dave, Tom, good to be with you guys.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, man.

Logan Rishaw:
I'm really glad we have this new format because, Tom, we've talked one time. We did a live thing together for the show. So I'm excited for us to just-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
... go back and forth on comics now, too. And then, Dave, it's always good to talk with you.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm glad somebody feels that way. But Logan, yeah, what've you been doing? And what about the comedy industry? I know you were getting some stage time, and organizing some festivals going there. But [crosstalk 00:01:02]-

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, so we had two festivals planned for this year. Both are kind of postponed. In the meantime, I put together a book of short stories. So you can actually get it on Amazon, while we're plugging things.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
It's called Albert Catmus. It's a really fun pun. And it's just short stories, and essays, and things that I had as weird stand-up bits that didn't quite work that way, put into story form and out there for $10 on Amazon.

Dave Schwensen:
And so you do weird stand-up comedy bits and don't work, put them in a book. [crosstalk 00:01:28]-

Logan Rishaw:
Absolutely.

Tom Megalis:
Why waste anything? You're a good butcher. You don't waste meat.

Logan Rishaw:
I had 10 minutes about how Weezer and Picasso had the exact same career trajectory. And it didn't work on stage all the time.

Tom Megalis:
[crosstalk 00:01:41]. I love that.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I love that.

Tom Megalis:
I love that.

Dave Schwensen:
I do, too. How cool is that?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Weezer and Picasso.

Dave Schwensen:
All right, well, as long as you're doing that, I'm going to plug my new book, coming out soon. It's called Something to Laugh About. And it's 144 humor columns I wrote for various newspapers-

Tom Megalis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
... a number of years ago. I edited some out. That's why we only have 144 in the book. But we're just finishing that up, so I'm sure the next couple of times we talk, I can plug when it'll be on sale somewhere.

Tom Megalis:
That's so [crosstalk 00:02:09].

Logan Rishaw:
Exciting.

Dave Schwensen:
But let's get to the purpose of us talking now, today. And it's the legendary comedian Freddie Prinze.

Tom Megalis:
Wow. It's exciting to talk about this guy.

Dave Schwensen:
It is. But it's also almost heartbreaking, to be honest with you. This is like a Hollywood movie.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
This kid. I mean, the rise and fall [crosstalk 00:02:32]-

Logan Rishaw:
It's just three or four years that everything really happened. So, with Freddie, I didn't know much going into this, just because it's tough find any of his real albums. Even Chico and the Man you can't find on streaming sites. So I didn't know a ton.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, you can't find that. They took that off at some point. Because it was running, I thought, on some of those old TV networks.

Dave Schwensen:
I don't know. I saw an episode recently. When I knew we were going to talk about Freddie Prinze, I dug one out, and I watched it. Early 1970s. It was, what, '74? '73? '74? '75?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. He did three seasons. And he died at the end of the third season.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, it's really a tragic story about him. And I don't want this to be a downer, because we are talking comedy, by the way. I mean, he had a meteoric-

Logan Rishaw:
Growth.

Dave Schwensen:
... what do you call that? Rise. I mean, just fast rise and fall is what it is.

Tom Megalis:
And as we get into this and talk about the guy, one of his good friends, David Brenner, said it was kind of like... And he was a great comedian in his own right. He said, "This kid climbed on the subway in the Bronx and steps into a limo in Beverly Hills."

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Tom Megalis:
He said it wasn't a transition. It was an eruption. And it would screw with anybody's mind. So he attributes that, his quick rise to fame, as being the problem of it all. It's amazing, though, that his buddy, the 18-year-old, didn't skyrocket. Because once you got on Carson, you were kind of a made guy, made comic. I mean, you were booked. You were anointed. "You're ready to work."

Dave Schwensen:
I read this somewhere. If Johnny Carson mentioned your name, if he uttered your name, there you were. You were in the fraternity of made comedians. They were casting that TV show Chico and the Man. They needed a Latino young man actor. And they saw him on Johnny Carson, and they said, "There he is. That's the guy."

Logan Rishaw:
Well, he almost got bumped from Johnny Carson-

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah?

Logan Rishaw:
... is one thing that I had read. One of the producers saw him and just did not like him. They didn't like his style. They were planning on bumping him. And they had Diane Keaton on first, and she did great. And they had Sammy David Jr. as the second guest. They were like, "We're just going to let Sammy talk. We'll bump the kid." [crosstalk 00:04:38]. Which happened a lot. And Sammy ran out of things to talk about after about three minutes, and they were like, "Well, I guess we'll put him up. He'll bomb, and then the casting director'll get fired." And then he killed, and Carson loved him.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's the other thing too. Do you know this? He was the first comedian, for the first time... I mean, the big deal was to be on Carson. Later on, if he pulled you over to the couch to sit next to him, on the chair next to the desk, that was a star-making thing. He never, ever did that with a comedian the first time they were on the show until Freddie Prinze. He was the first one.

Tom Megalis:
You think some of that had to do with the fact, I mean, that he really was a kid?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
This was a young kid. And they called him that. I mean, people who worked with him, like Jimmy Walker, and people that knew him, said, "He was just a kid. He was a kid, and we never forgot that." And that maybe was part of his demise, that he was a young dude.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, you think about it. He was 19 years old-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:05:34] to sit next to Johnny Carson. And Johnny-

Logan Rishaw:
And he looks starstruck when he gets pulled over next to Carson.

Dave Schwensen:
He is. Every comic is. When you finish your set on The Tonight Show, they look at Carson. They just hoped to get that okay sign. Remember Johnny used to do that? Like The Little Rascals. "Okay."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah. You're on. You made it. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And Freddie Prinze looked over at him, and Carson called him over. "Come here and sit down in the chair, next to the desk." No comic had done that the first time on Carson. And I'll tell you what happened. I'll tell you. I mean, Freddie Prinze is more important to the comedy industry than I think a lot of people realize. Because before that, the comedy industry was centered in New York City. Right?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, right.

Dave Schwensen:
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson filmed at 30 Rock, Rockefeller Center. The Improv was in New York City. That's where all the comics performed. They all would go on The Tonight Show. And The Tonight Show moved to Los Angeles. And not long after that, Budd Friedman opened up the LA Improv on Melrose Avenue.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:06:31].

Dave Schwensen:
And Freddie Prinze went out there to perform, and he got on The Tonight Show. So all these New York comics... I'm talking about David Letterman. Well, he was in Indiana, I think, but whatever. And Jay Leno was sitting up in Boston. All these guys had their TV sets on. They knew Freddie Prinze from the New York Improv. All of a sudden, they look up, and he's sitting next to Johnny Carson.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
They all packed their bags and moved to LA.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. What's weird is that a lot of people don't realize, too... And you saw part of that, Dave. Back then, there weren't a lot of clubs, and it wasn't a career choice for a lot of people. You really had to want to do this.

Dave Schwensen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Megalis:
Even Chappelle, I think, once said that they were viewed as just a step above jugglers, and it was a hard... You're just opening for people, and it wasn't a big career where you're going to play arenas. And had Freddie gone on... As you look at him, you go, "Man. For as young as he was, he was really relaxed and smooth, man."

Dave Schwensen:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Tom Megalis:
And you went, "This guy was going to to go..." He was going to play arenas. He was going to be a huge comedian, and just never got out of that sort of first, initial jolt.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, I think, from what I understand... Oh, yeah. Success. It is a story. It's like a movie. It's the rise and fall. A tragedy. You think of this. At 19 years old, there he was. He's on Johnny Carson. Everybody sees him. Also, and he's got his own network television show. He's 19 years old, 20 years old, and they're throwing money at him. And the girls are throwing themselves at him. And he's got cars. It really is that story. I mean, you think about yourself when you're 19 years old.

Tom Megalis:
Forget about it.

Dave Schwensen:
"Here's a million bucks. What you going to do?"

Tom Megalis:
Forget it.

Dave Schwensen:
Well.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I'll get back to you next week.

Tom Megalis:
Lots of drugs. He did lots and lots of drugs, man.

Dave Schwensen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
[crosstalk 00:08:24] quick.

Dave Schwensen:
But-

Logan Rishaw:
I mean, going from nothing to everything.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And that's what happened to him.

Tom Megalis:
Jimmy Walker said that he would go to bookstores, like on [Cahuenga 00:08:37]. He would go sit out there, where they sell the magazines and everything. And he said he knew he was on the cover of one, so he would stand there by the newspaper, and then someone would come up and go, "Wait a minute. Are you?" And he goes, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm Tony Orlando." I think he played that joke because he looked like him. But they went on. And he was just, "Oh, I'm buying a magazine. And I just happened to... Oh, man, yeah, that is my cover. You want me to sign it for you?" And Jimmy Walker said the next year, or shortly after that, John Travolta was on the cover, and Freddie was like, "I'm going to go kill that guy. I'm going to go." And he had this whole thing where he went and bought a bow and arrow. It was just insane. Shot an arrow into Travolta's door. I think he lived on Sunset. He goes, "He wanted to be the biggest thing." He had a massive, massive ego for a young kid.

Logan Rishaw:
And that's going to happen when you pop the way that he did, so quickly. You are going to think you're the best, and anyone who's doing as well is taking it from you.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, just think. When you're that young, too... This is how they think. When he made it big, he went back to New York, and he rented a stretch limousine. Right? He had a stretch limo, had it pull up in front of his old high school, LaGuardia's High School of the Performing Arts, and he got out of the limousine. And he'd been a dropout. And everybody was, "Oh, my God." And he said they were just taking students for rides. Mostly the girls. Rides around the block in this limousine. Because he was living it up. He became a star. Yeah. Chico and the Man was about the guy had a garage-

Tom Megalis:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
... and it was in a Mexicano, Mexican, Latino neighborhood. And Chico was bugging him. And he was like, "Get out of here," would call him all kind of insults and stuff. And they finally became like a father-son kind of thing. But there was a little bit of people kind of against Freddie Prinze having that part, because he wasn't Mexican.

Tom Megalis:
No.

Dave Schwensen:
And they couldn't understand why. And, again, this been going on in Hollywood for years and years. They were like, "Why can't they have a Mexican actor?" Freddie Prinze was Puerto Rican, half Puerto Rican. The rest of him half German.

Tom Megalis:
He was perpetuating the stereotype. I think he was already getting flack from it. Because he was doing like, "Is not my job," that whole thing.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. That was a big part of his act, was really stereotypes, at least in the beginning.

Tom Megalis:
Wasn't it, though, Logan?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
A lot of his stuff that you look at is... And he even says, "I'm poking fun at all kinds of people." And he did, from black, to Chinese, to everybody.

Dave Schwensen:
And, again, you got to remember how young he was. And I kept thinking-

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, yeah. He's 19.

Dave Schwensen:
... if he had lived... Yeah. If he had lived over the age of 22, if he had hit his 40s, 50s, 60s, how would he have matured? And Freddie Prinze was just a kid. He was college age when he died. And so-

Tom Megalis:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
... you look at his early act. It is all stereotypes, okay?

Tom Megalis:
And it wasn't deep. It was just kind of funny little riffs.

Logan Rishaw:
It was similar to watching an impressionist.

Tom Megalis:
Very close.

Logan Rishaw:
When an impressionist is like, "Okay, here's a setup. Here's how Obama would react. Here's how Christopher Walken would react. Yada yada yada." Where he was like, "Here's a setup. Here's what a white guy would say."

Tom Megalis:
He was good.

Logan Rishaw:
"Here's what a Puerto Rican would say."

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's it. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:11:33].

Logan Rishaw:
"Here's what a German would say."

Dave Schwensen:
"Here's what a black guy would say."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, it is that.

Dave Schwensen:
"Here's what Italian guy would say, a Jewish guy would say, a gay guy."

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. He would just go through that. It was-

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:11:39] all of that.

Logan Rishaw:
Watching his first, earlier, sets, it felt like someone who was auditioning, like someone who was putting together a reel, [crosstalk 00:11:47]-

Tom Megalis:
For SNL.

Logan Rishaw:
"Here's my characters."

Tom Megalis:
For SNL or something.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
And it worked, because he got Chico and the Man.

Tom Megalis:
Well, that made me think, guys, that had Freddie continued on, to live, I think he would've become a deeper actor. I think it would've transitioned from that. Because even in Chico and the Man, he does a nice job. I thought he was a pretty good actor.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He didn't leave enough behind for us.

Logan Rishaw:
I think he only did one movie, other than-

Tom Megalis:
Did he do a movie?

Logan Rishaw:
Other than Chico and the Man. He did the TV movie.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, yeah, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
What was that? Do you remember the name of it, Logan? I [crosstalk 00:12:24]-

Tom Megalis:
I don't even remember there was a movie. But he never really went beyond it because, like you said, it was a small serving size of him that we... So what did we really see?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. He did a heist movie called Million Dollar Rip-Off. And that was like-

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, okay.

Logan Rishaw:
... the year before he died.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Well, I brought this up before we started here today. We mentioned before he was good friends with Tony Orlando, if people remember Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

Dave Schwensen:
Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, yeah, man.

Dave Schwensen:
And they looked like brothers. I mean, they kept playing that up. At that time, so early '70s. It was the long, dark hair, the droopy mustache.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And they're both Latino. And they did kind of look like each other. But I saw a clip of this because they had a TV show, Tony Orlando and Dawn. They had their own variety television show, like everybody did in those days, like Sonny and Cher, and the Smothers Brothers, and Glen Campbell. And at one point, when they announce the opening, they come out. Tony Orlando and Dawn would always sing a song to open the show. And they open it. It says, "Ladies and gentlemen, Tony Orlando and Dawn." And they come walking out, and it's Freddie Prinze. It's not Tony Orlando.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Nice.

Dave Schwensen:
And he's with Dawn. And he actually sings. I can't remember the name of the song he sings. He was really good. I mean, he was good. And he sang with Dawn. And then at the end, the girls are like... They think it's Tony Orlando. They didn't know there's any difference. And Tony Orlando is introduced as Freddie Prinze.

Tom Megalis:
I think he really was a good all-around talent. I mean, he was a good mimic. He could sing. It's the drugs and the depression, man. If anybody is listening to this that has depression, or knows somebody, and goes, "Man, why would it happen to him? He was ready to sign a $6 million NBC deal."

Dave Schwensen:
He did sign it. I thought he did-

Tom Megalis:
He did sign it?

Dave Schwensen:
I thought he did sign it. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
That was a ton of money, man. What is that? 40, 30 million in today's dollars? Or 20 million?

Dave Schwensen:
I know.

Tom Megalis:
And that wasn't enough.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
His marriage had broken up, a year-and-a-half marriage, and he had a child. And he was depressed dude.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. But you watch these interviews, you really get into his life story and stuff, I mean, there was a lot of cocaine going on.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, God. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And Quaaludes. I heard he was addicted to Quaaludes. [crosstalk 00:14:39]-

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. That's what his DUI was for, right?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
He had gotten a DUI in the last year of his life. It was for driving on Quaaludes.

Dave Schwensen:
The last year was like in November. He died in January. What'd I say? Was 1970...

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. January of '77.

Dave Schwensen:
'77. So November of '76, he got a DUI. Here he was on television, first of all. Chico and the Man. A star. He was on magazine covers, even on the cover of Rolling Stone. Come on. You're a rock star when that happens. And yeah. And he got married. Just had a baby. Okay? And he had a reputation also for guns and trying to scare people.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, there's a good combo, huh? Drugs and guns.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And he would play Russian roulette. He shot up Jay Leno's apartment one night or something. Shot up the wall. They were good friends. It was ruled a suicide when he died. He shot himself in the head. But he left a suicide note. He left a note that he couldn't do this anymore.

Tom Megalis:
His manager showed up, I guess, and found him there.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, he saw him.

Tom Megalis:
Called him to come by.

Dave Schwensen:
He was standing there when it happened. But Freddie Prinze did an HBO special called Freddie Prinze and Friends. And he filmed it at the Improv, the Hollywood Improv. I think Budd had only been out there seven months or something. This is the club, I think, before it burned down. I've seen it, and I didn't recognize it as the club where I worked. But it was the type of show where Freddie went up, and he... But, of course, Budd Friedman opened the show. He went up and said, "Welcome, everyone," like he would always do Evening at the Improv. Then he introduced Freddie Prinze, who went up, did about 10 minutes of comedy. Then Freddie introduced the people he chose to be on this show.

Tom Megalis:
His buddies.

Logan Rishaw:
It's a great lineup, too. Jay Leno's on it.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, my God, did you see that? Did you-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
It's so good.

Dave Schwensen:
... [crosstalk 00:16:13] Leno, how young he is.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Well, it blows me away whenever I see any of the snippets of stand-up with Leno, because there's just not that much of him doing stand-up that's out there to watch. He's kind of kept it close to the chest. He doesn't put out specials because he doesn't want to burn his material. But-

Dave Schwensen:
In this-

Logan Rishaw:
He's got a lot.

Dave Schwensen:
... he's a little skinny. He's got an Afro haircut. He's wearing a little hat. I don't know what kind of hat. Not a cowboy hat. And a vest. And I'm thinking, "That's Jay Leno?" I think it was his first major television appearance.

Logan Rishaw:
It had to be. And yeah, it's definitely not the Leno that we know.

Dave Schwensen:
No.

Logan Rishaw:
There's no suit.

Dave Schwensen:
No.

Logan Rishaw:
It is the funniest hat that he's wearing.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
I highly recommend everyone look up On Location: Freddie Prinze and Friends just to see Jay Leno's hat.

Dave Schwensen:
That became the format for all those TV shows of the '90s [crosstalk 00:16:56]-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Like the template.

Dave Schwensen:
... Evening at the Improv, all of them. Budd Friedman introduced him. The celebrity guest host does a bit, then he introduces about five comics, all the way through, to come up and do their time, with the emcee, Freddie Prinze, doing stuff in between.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And that was the beginning of that format. Everyone owes him a big credit for that. The album we're supposed to be talking about, which we haven't mentioned yet, is-

Logan Rishaw:
Looking Good.

Dave Schwensen:
Looking Good.

Tom Megalis:
"Looking good!" That was his catchphrase. One of them.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. Yeah. It was the only album, Looking Good. It came out in 1975. It's the only album Freddie Prinze did. That was it. People think there's this whole body of work that he left behind, because he was such a well-known name. But-

Logan Rishaw:
[crosstalk 00:17:36]-

Dave Schwensen:
... not that much.

Logan Rishaw:
... recorded at Mister Kelly's in Chicago, which I think we talked about during Mort Sahl's episode.

Dave Schwensen:
I think so. Yes.

Logan Rishaw:
But that was a huge club in Chicago. They would pair comics with musicians. And it was a major place for Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman, Lenny Bruce, a lot of these kind of jazzier comics.

Tom Megalis:
The riffing comics.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. And there's a lot of great albums that came from there, and it's just cool that Freddie Prinze did one there as well.

Dave Schwensen:
You mentioned Lenny Bruce. I know you guys probably know this about Freddie Prinze. Again, he was depression, and drugs, and alcohol. I mean, he was crashing and burning. But for a while there, he dated Lenny Bruce's daughter.

Tom Megalis:
Kitty. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Kitty. And-

Tom Megalis:
Isn't that wild?

Dave Schwensen:
... he would go on stage and do Lenny Bruce's act.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, man. That's just weird.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:18:24].

Logan Rishaw:
That's so weird.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And he would claim he had permission from Kitty to do it word-for-word.

Logan Rishaw:
Would he do it in an impression of Lenny Bruce?

Dave Schwensen:
Nah, not that I know of. [crosstalk 00:18:35]-

Logan Rishaw:
He was just doing the material.

Dave Schwensen:
I never saw it. I can't find a clip of it or anything-

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:18:39] know in his bios and things-

Logan Rishaw:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
... people have written about him that he would go up, and he would do Lenny Bruce's material, and said he had the rights to do it because Kitty said he could do it.

Logan Rishaw:
He dated a lot of interesting people. He was linked to Pam Grier for a while.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, that's right. Yeah. And Richard Pryor's girlfriend.

Dave Schwensen:
Wasn't she Cleopatra Jones? Was that her big movie? Pam Grier?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah. She was-

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
... beautiful and really cool. I mean, of course, if you're the hottest comic, you're going to, you know. She was kind of a cool star herself.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. It really was living hard and fast. And even his wife was saying how she would call his doctors and say, "Quit giving him these giant prescriptions for Quaaludes. Stop it."

Tom Megalis:
Bottles, bottles of Quaaludes.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And he'd go to [inaudible 00:19:24] yeah, with the big, jumbo size.

Tom Megalis:
But he was mixing everything. Coke, alcohol. He was just this Jim Morrison type who was just devouring drugs and life. He even said to David Brenner once, "All these dudes died young, man, and they became legends."

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah. I know what you're talking about.

Tom Megalis:
And Brenner said, "Wait. I know where you're going with this. And if you think you're going to be a legend if you die now, it's maybe 50/50." He goes, "If you die, you don't enjoy all the success, and you're a schmuck." That's what he said. So-

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:20:01]. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
It's true.

Dave Schwensen:
And if you die and you don't become a legend, what's the point?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. So I think he could see that he had this obsession with... That's a terrible obsession, really, isn't it?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well-

Tom Megalis:
To want to die young.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:20:14]. He had the fast cars, and he was known for carrying around a gun. He was into guns. And I always imagine Elvis shooting out a television.

Tom Megalis:
You talk about Elvis, man. It reminds me of how he had this obsession with martial arts as well, like Elvis did. And he got Bob Wall, the guy that trained... He was in the Dragon movies with Bruce Lee. And he got him to train him. And he said, "I want to be able to fight." And-

Dave Schwensen:
Protect himself.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Did you ever hear that, where he kicked Bob Wall in the head, bloodied his face, put a towel on his head real quick, and then ran out with the towel and had it framed? He's like, "This is Bob Wall's blood!"

Dave Schwensen:
No.

Tom Megalis:
And his wife, I think, still has it.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, geez.

Tom Megalis:
And he wrote on there, like, "Look. This is Bob Wall's blood, and I kicked him in the head." Oh, my gosh. It's just-

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I think the story when he first went to that Bob Wall, he said, "I want to learn karate." He goes, "Why?" Said, "I want to defend myself." He says, "[inaudible 00:21:12] and you're the guy to do it." And he was saying, "I don't have time for this." I think he was getting into a different business. Said, "I'm getting into real estate." And he says, "No, no. I want you." He kept calling. Said, "Freddie Prinze kept calling, calling, calling."

Dave Schwensen:
He said, "Why are you calling me?" He says, "Because I heard your stuff works, man." He said, "I was on the subway with a friend of mine one time in New York. The guy was a fifth degree black belt. And we were jumped by a bunch of guys on the subway, and okay, they're beating me up. That's fine. But I'm waiting for my friend to just knock everybody out, and I looked over, and they were beating the heck out of my friend."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He said, "So I don't want that kind of karate."

Tom Megalis:
It didn't work.

Dave Schwensen:
"I want the kind of karate that works."

Tom Megalis:
It didn't work. But did you guys ever see the fight that he did with his Chico? He fought George Foreman.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yes. Yes.

Tom Megalis:
It's hilarious because he's this skinny, shirtless, bony guy fighting George Foreman. And then he kind of beats him, and George Foreman goes, "I got hit. He hit me. He's pretty good." But they staged it, and it was like Super Dave was the announcer, if you guys remember Super Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, of course.

Tom Megalis:
Super Dave Osborne.

Dave Schwensen:
Albert Brooks' brother.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, man. Albert Brooks' brother.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
And at the end, in the ring, he's talking about fighting George Foreman, and he does an amazing Muhammad Ali. His impression of Ali is like... Billy Crystal did one? This is much better.

Dave Schwensen:
Wow.

Tom Megalis:
It's unbelievable. To Logan's point, I mean, he's an impressionist. He really could. It was just what he could really do.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. He was mimicking voices. At least early on, that's his main routine.

Tom Megalis:
So you wouldn't say the material was really that strong. I mean, if you look at the build in the joke, and the-

Logan Rishaw:
I think it's stronger. The stuff that I saw from '75 and '76 is definitely more topical, and there's some political stuff in there. He's got more of a point of view. But definitely the first couple TV appearances he did, they're lighter jokes. I mean, it's what you're doing on TV when you only have five minutes.

Tom Megalis:
That's hilarious. So, do you think, guys, that a lot of his legacy was built on the fact that he did Chico and the Man? Had he just done the stand-up, do you think we'd be talking about him? If it was just the stand-up?

Logan Rishaw:
If he lived longer, then maybe.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
But I think just because he died so young, and there's not much out there of the stand-up... There's one album, and then some TV appearances that you can find on YouTube. Chico and the Man's definitely what's keeping him in the mindset of the public.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
But it's also what he represented, too, at the time. Like I said, that was taking us into the barrio, if you want to put it that way. That's the first time on television, so that's groundbreaking stuff. And that's really... more than his stand-up... I think that was very important.

Tom Megalis:
I do, too. If you look at it now, it is groundbreaking, and it is good. It was a third-rated show. All in the Family and then Sanford and Son, I think, were the top two.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Top two, and then Chico and the Man [crosstalk 00:24:04] number three.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Chico and the Man. I never saw reruns growing up, so it was a first-time viewing for me this past week. And I watched the first two episodes. It was like, "Oh, I get it. I see why he was a star."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Because he's just so electric in that show.

Tom Megalis:
He is, man. I think that that's [crosstalk 00:24:21]-

Logan Rishaw:
He wasn't known. He wasn't famous at the time. He'd done The Tonight Show, but that's his first big role, and he just stole it.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well, that's what Johnny Carson said when he brought him over to sit next to him. He said, "There was a connection there with the audience. [inaudible 00:24:32] I can tell." He said, "You're going to be a big star." He said-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And Johnny Carson said, "This show has made many big stars." Said, "You are going to be a big star, because I can feel that connection with the audience, the audience really liking you, and you working [inaudible 00:24:44]." Johnny Carson. I mean, go find that clip. It's on there, on YouTube somewhere.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
But Johnny's calling it. [inaudible 00:24:50] "This kid's got something." Well, let's get to the... I hate to bring this part up, but the sad end of Freddie Prinze.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, the sad end. Don't tell us! Don't spoil it!

Dave Schwensen:
And it's just heartbreaking when you hear about what he had going for him. And, really, he tried to reach out for help, from what I understand. His last night alive, he was making calls to his parents, and his managers, and they said he all sounded pretty destitute. They were trying to get over there to him. And all this stuff with the Quaaludes and the depression. His wife was filing for divorce and taking his son away from him.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He had just signed a $6 million contract.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He was signing Chico and the Man. The world was at his fingertips.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, professionally he was doing amazing.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Logan Rishaw:
But his personal life was... He had so many issues. Even though his son was born, he was now going through the divorce, like you said. And then he had that DUI. And it just kind of kept going downhill from there.

Tom Megalis:
Eight days before he kills himself, he did a set for President Carter.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. The Inaugural.

Logan Rishaw:
[crosstalk 00:25:52].

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. The Inaugural. That's huge.

Dave Schwensen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Megalis:
You're at the White House. And eight days later, you're like, "I'm in the worst down I've ever been."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. That was his last performance, at the Inaugural Ball for the president of the United States.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And eight days later, boom. But-

Tom Megalis:
[crosstalk 00:26:09].

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I mean, it's just horrifying. And his business manager... Now, of course, I can't think of his name now, and I apologize for that. I should [inaudible 00:26:17] written that down or something.

Tom Megalis:
It was Jimmy Carter. No, that wasn't his manager. [crosstalk 00:26:22].

Dave Schwensen:
No, that was his manager.

Tom Megalis:
That's way off.

Dave Schwensen:
Freddie was living in a hotel at that time because [crosstalk 00:26:28]-

Tom Megalis:
Is that that guy Dusty?

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Too bad I can't think of his last name.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, well, Dusty. Dusty, his manager.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Anyway, he went over there to try to talk him down. And he was sitting there, and Freddie was all upset, and as they were sitting there talking [inaudible 00:26:43], Freddie reached under the couch cushion, pulled out a gun, and put it in his head, and shot it.

Tom Megalis:
Wow. [inaudible 00:26:48].

Dave Schwensen:
And that was it. And oh, man.

Tom Megalis:
He lived another day. He died the next day. So-

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They [crosstalk 00:26:56].

Tom Megalis:
He could've survived. He could've been a vegetable or worse. Man. It-

Dave Schwensen:
It's a very sad ending. And I hate to end it that way, so sad, but it is true. I mean, what a talent he was. He did some changes. Again, I'll talk about what he did for the format of stand-up comedy on television-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
... breaking the barriers, Latinos on network television.

Logan Rishaw:
Before we end it, I guess we should just, real quick, go over everything he did in just a few short years, just one more time, to sort of recap. Because he's 16 when he starts at the Improv in 1970. Works there for a few years. By 18, in 1973, he's doing Jack Paar's Tonight Show, or his-

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:27:34] Jack Paar show.

Logan Rishaw:
Not The Tonight Show, but Jack Paar Tonight.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Later that year, he's 19, doing Carson for the first time, gets to sit on the couch. 1974, when he turns 20, he gets Chico and the Man.

Dave Schwensen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Logan Rishaw:
1975, he's 21, and he puts out an album and gets married. 22. At 22, it's 1976. He does that On Location that you were talking about, and his son is born.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. HBO.

Logan Rishaw:
And in '77 is when it ends.

Tom Megalis:
What a trajectory.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
The ones I've talked to in the business... Again, I never knew Freddie Prinze. But they all seemed to like him. They all had a special place for him. They all felt bad for him. He was just a kid. And it all became too much for him. And I want to say, and I wish I could say this was definitely, but I'm working off a memory here of Budd Friedman telling me. I'm positive he told me this story, that the night Freddie Prinze died, at the Improv comedy club... Because Budd is given all the credit for discovering Freddie. He's the first one to put him onstage, and they were close. And that's where they filmed that HBO special, too, by the way, at the Improv in Hollywood. When Freddie Prinze died, they put a bouquet of flowers on the stage at the Improv and shined a spotlight on it.

Tom Megalis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
And that was the end of the show. I mean, talk about heartbreaking.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
That's how much they loved this guy.

Tom Megalis:
Well, his son continues, and talks about him, and was on Leno recently. I don't know when. It wasn't that recent. I guess a couple years ago or whatever. But said, "Geez, you're as goofy as your dad. I'm looking at you, going, 'Look at you.'" And then he said to Jay, "My mother said you guys were best friends. You guys, really good friends." He loved Freddie. Everybody did.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. The Leno interviews with Freddie Prinze Jr. are great because you can see how much Leno loved him.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
They were best friends. He taught Freddie how to drive a car. I saw one of the interviews.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, that's right.

Tom Megalis:
He was a terrible car driver.

Dave Schwensen:
That's right.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh. Yeah, well, that's why he had Jay Leno as a first guest on HBO's Freddie Prinze and Friends.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And you see that Jay Leno clip. All right, gentlemen. Well, we did just discuss a comedy legend, Freddie Prinze. I mean, such a short life. It happened fast. But yeah, people need to be aware of him, and what he did, and how important he was in the comedy business. But I guess we're going to be running out of time here, so we're going to shut this comedy fest.

Tom Megalis:
Shut it down, man.

Dave Schwensen:
Shut it. We ended on a sad note, but hey.

Tom Megalis:
It's all right. Well, it's [inaudible 00:29:51]. Comedy and sadness, right? They're very close.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, yeah. Comedy [crosstalk 00:29:55].

Logan Rishaw:
I mean, if you need a laugh, you need to cheer up, go listen to Looking Good.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Logan Rishaw:
Go watch one of his specials.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
You'll find them on YouTube. Laugh a little. He's hilarious.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He really is. Freddie Prinze. All right. I'm going to say goodbye. I'm going to say goodbye to Logan Rishaw.

Logan Rishaw:
All right, Dave. Thanks for having me again.

Dave Schwensen:
All right, man. Thanks for being with us. And Tom Megalis.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, man. It's been great, guys.

Dave Schwensen:
All right. I'm glad you guys had fun. I'm Dave Schwensen. And until we do this again, keep laughing.

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