April 10, 2018

THEY DON'T MAKE KIDS' SHOWS LIKE THEY USED TO:

Chuck McCann, Zany Comic in Early Children's TV, Dies at 83 (SAM ROBERTS, APRIL 9, 2018, NY Times)

He began by doing voice-overs on radio when he was 6 and struck up an enduring cross-country friendship by telephone with Stan Laurel when he was 12 -- leading to roles impersonating Laurel's huskier other half, Oliver Hardy. (He was a founder of the Laurel and Hardy fan club Sons of the Desert.)

He got his big break in his early 20s while performing on "The Sandy Becker Show," a children's TV show on what was then WABD in New York. Without advance notice, Mr. Becker left on a Friday for two weeks in South America and asked Mr. McCann to host his show beginning on Monday.

" 'So long!' " Mr. McCann recalled Mr. Becker saying. "The elevator doors close, and off he went. That was my baptism by fire. The first day was just disastrous."

Mr. McCann survived to become the host of his own children's programs and to voice cartoon characters in "DuckTales," "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers," "Garfield and Friends," "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," "The Powerpuff Girls" and commercials for Cocoa Puffs cereal (as the cuckoo bird, crying, "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!"). He also appeared as a character actor on "Bonanza," "Columbo," "Little House on the Prairie" and other television series.

Along with Soupy Sales, Buffalo Bob Smith, Bob Keeshan (better known as Captain Kangaroo), Fran Allison and his mentor, the puppeteer Paul Ashley, Mr. McCann helped shape zany, impromptu preteen local programming in television's formative years.

In his book "Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from 'I Love Lucy' Through 'South Park' " (2008), Doyle Greene compared "The Chuck McCann Show" on WNEW in the mid-1960s to a blend of "Howdy Doody" and the spontaneous, experimental comedy of Ernie Kovacs.

To Mr. Greene, the McCann show represented a "deconstruction of TV taken to Dada levels (whether driving around the studio smashing into props on a scooter while lip-syncing a song, or doing a lengthy impersonation of Jack Benny playing screeching violin worthy of Stockhausen)."


Posted by at April 10, 2018 3:58 AM

  

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