The Writers Block - with Ron Knight
The Writers Block - with Ron Knight

Episode · 1 year ago

The Writer's Block - Who's on First, for the best Scare take in the business. Abbott & Costello


The versatile and multi-talented Nick Santa Maria joins Ron Knight on the podcast. Nick created the original role of the Genie in Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, starred in Mel Brook's stage shows of The Producers, and is the author of the forthcoming book The Annotated Abbott and Costello published by McFarland Publishing in academic non-fiction. Scheduled street date for the new book release first quarter of 2021, here's an inside look at the multlfaceted performer as writer, who knows who and when would throw in a monster, to get the best scare take in the business. 

Well, hi: Everyone Hits your bestfriend run night and today on the Writers Wolk, I'm very, very happy tohave a man with multiple talents: multiple titles, multiple credits,multiple credentials. As a matter of fact, he has so many it's kind of awhir and a blur, but today we're going to be focusing really on his tyble. Asas an author and as a writer and with me today is Mr Nick Santa Maria Hi. Noware iron good, O good to hear you boy yeah? Likewise, I'm glad you're herethanks for joining us now, just for those of you who are listening and whomay not know you might know of Nick Santa Maria, because Oh boy, here we gonick nick is known by a variety of titles. He is an actor. He has appearedon Broadway a couple of times actually more than once in some prettysignificant brands and well touch on that Heis. A comedian he's done standupcomedy he is a writer and will be touching on that as well. He is also acomposer. He is, of course, the published author, which will befocusing on here and he's also a lyricist and to boot when you put thatall together he's also a film historian. So I guess the running joke back toYounich would be the old budump bump, which is what's wrong. Can't you hold ajob, you know. Interestingly, that's that'sfunny. I always said to myself as I was getting older and I started lookingbehind me, realizing that I'm not where I wanted to be as yet, I think to myself. Maybe I should havefocused on one thing rather than all these things you know yeah, so I h giveit might have led yousuccess. You know. Well I guess yeah, but on some levels you certainly hadsuccess and I thou yeah. I'm not complaining Yeah you've done well, Imean for those of you who may know or no not. No. There was for a number ofyears on Broadway the Disney production of Aladdin, which ran for the longesttime and probably really defined some of the beginning years of the Disneyfora into the Broadway theater circuits like if anybody could do BroadwayDisney felt that they could and they had for numbers many years Aladdin andwho are kind of well known as the character actor or the focused actor,who actually led off and played the genie. Andi was the genie M Aladin, amusical, spectacular directed by Francescazam Bello, who is one of thetop opera directors. She also directed the originalproduction of Little Mermaid for Disney on Broadway, but yeah that W l. Thatprobably is the thing I'm most known for and get the most attention for, which is very nice. You know it's verynice. A Lot F lot of kids tell me and when I say kids, I mean they're intheir late es early es. Now you know credit me with inspiring themto go into theater. I don't know whether they should thank me or not,but that's the truth. Yeah and aside fromyour Disney credential for such the longest time- and I don't know if theywere actually having you sing opera being trained to buy an operaticdirector, but you also have kind of a historywith Mel Brooks with the producers of some sort. Do you not? Yes? I was. Iwas mells boy for about five years with the production of the producers. Iwould in fact, when I auditioned for Stroman and Brooks they offered me a contract that had tobe okayed because it was a first. They wanted me to cover all of the maleleads other than Leo and Carmengea, and all of the unsomble characters forall three companies, two road companies and Broadway. So they would fly mewherever they needed me, and that was very flattering well. I would hopefullythink that it probably paid a few bills at the same time that must ve youryou're telling me yeah yeah, that was a...

...nice that was a nice paycheck and as anactor you seem to- and this is kind of interesting you're, an interestingblend, because you are an actor. You are a comedian, and yet you also boastthis credential as a film Historia, and your Forte really seems to be a studyof the master classic comedies, the Black and whites and Baudville, and howVaudville leapt from shall we save the stages over into the beginning ofcinema? And looking at that, I want to mention that you also have with one ofyour other partners, one of the leading independent comedy productions that arestreaming on Amazon, prime, currently, even as we speak as the adventures or the misadventuresof Bifeland Shuster, so you'reon you're, one of the Biffalan Shuster guys right.I am Biffel, I'm the dumb one. If people remember you know the classiccomedy teams from you know the old ays, the Laurel and Hargies, and the UPPIand Costellos Martin and Lewis they used to make Laurallan hardy andthe three stooges used to make twenty minute films theyused to call tworeelers and a producer in Los Angeles, Michael Easenger, got in touch with me and another of myfriends will Ryan, who you've heard. Speaking of Disney you've heard in manyDisney cartoons as a voice artist, we became bipalenc huster, one thou edS, comedy team in black and white, and the films are just like the films ofthe three stooges and Laurel and Harty and all those. So that's streaming onAmazon, prime or you could get it on dbd through Amazon and, interestinglyenough. Wasn't it either? You or I guess, will who mentioned somethinglike Bifhlan Shuster was the greatest baudvilt team that never existed. Yes,that was part that was part of our Piel Yeah Yeah, and you guys and you guys,actually just for the comic fans out there. You You, gentlemen, actually offof that you've spun off your own comic book series. So now, there's actuallyBiffeland uster comic books as well right and there are five in the seriesand there is actually a compendium that you can get all five and one collectionand that's also on Amazon. We also have a book Bitfulan, Shester's portableguide to proper etiquette, which is very funny. That's through the OXNARTpress. Oh, my God, you guys are just all over in terms of having littered good choice of words yeah. Well, that'sgood nd, as Har as the compendium. I know I visited my doctor last week andthey're saying I don't need to have my conpendium out. That's good! That'sgood! Not yet anyway! So, let's, LET'S OT! Iwant you kiding, my appendix out ar you are so, which is also a book thing. OhYeah, im jus going along that line. Well, you can go alongtline, I'm surethey'll find your appendix somewhere at the bottom of the table. Anyof the soppy Moil. Yes, I remember him Emember Jud a Dr SloppyMoil. He worked for chips yeah. So let me let me because you've got allthis stuff going on and now to boot. You also have a new book which is notyet released, but there's already quite the buzz about it, and I want to touchon the publisher, mcfarlandon company Whos, probably now one of the by nowafter Gosh what fifty years one of the leading publishers of academicnonfiction in the United States. So right, I'm going to assume thatsomewhere they've kept howp. How did you, what do you know about yourrelationship and your feelings about mcfharland, and how did you kind of getover here into this academic? Nonfiction? Publisher? Okay, that's athat's an interesting question nowadays, especially now with thepandemic. FACEBOOK has become. You know...

...the lifeline to a lot of people and I'mone of those people that I do most of my communication through facebook and one of the pages and groups I belong tois called the mark brothers Counsil and they have a wonderful podcast by theway you could get it on Youtube. But anyway, one of the the person whoruns that page is matthew. Conia now Matthew is an author quite noted. Actually, he ca. He cameup with two books about the march brothers themselves, one about Grauchoand his work as a single and the other book is called the anotated MarkBrothers. Now what that means is he took every film talked about them in the chapter andthen towards the end. He would go to certain points in the film where thereis somewhat esoteric material material that modern day readers may not know orrelate Tou, and he explains what those things are. So that book became quite a hit amongstfans, so he decided he wanted to do the same kind of book about Abid andCostelo. He feels the same way I do about, but andl we love them and Abna Costello had three times as manyfilms as the mark broters. So he felt a little overwhelmed about it and he gotin touch with me and he said: Will you write this book with me? We'll split op,the movies and you could write in your style, ill rite in my style and we'lljust put it together and he is the one who had the pre existingrelationship with McFarland and I was sort of grandfather den. So that's howI got with McFarland a company that I have been reading, since I was a little boy, so this isvery exciting for me: Wow! Isn't that amazing? It's! I think we all have thaton some level, where there's some budy, who is like a hero of hours or someiconic brand like when I was a child, I mean this is not as having necessarilyto do with publishing or the arts, or maybe it does, but it is pop culture. Iwas sitting in a home in southern California, and I've always turned acerial box around and I would always say: okay, it's such and such of whiteplanes, New York or I'd be reading a comic book for a a Gum companysomewhere in whatever it was white plans, New York and then I actuallyfound myself living in White Plains New York. I guess it's kind of like the samething. You have this real childhood appreciation for this publisher and nowyou're an author with them mm M. It's happened quite a few times in my life.I often tell people you know, get out of your own way and you're going tofind that a lot of the things you wanted when you were a child are goingto come to you. You know you altract them. You have to get out of your ownway, no touching now on the new book that is coming out, which is again asyou've said, the annatated Abbot and Castello by Isit, bye, Matthew conium.Is it onium, yes, an by matthew, ewconium, Nick Santa Maria, and it hasa forward by John Landis. Now how o? How did the John Landa's connectioncome about? Well, there's two connections, one is Matthews. I believethat John Did afforward for one of his other booksand they forged sort of a relationship. So it's mostly through matthew with me.John Landis, happens to be a bipple in shister fan so and he's actuallywritten about us es he's Rod on blurbs or Abler for DVD. So Johnis a fan and a friend now. Well, that's very, very cool. So I guess this moreor less addresses of all the things. Given yourbackground and appreciation for the black and whites and for the oldVaudeville and now looking at this is...

...educational or film Class CulturalMatter and, of course, wit, bands as well of all of them that you could havepicked and there's so many of those guys going all the way back to the richbrothers, etc Etca, my Gosh Buster Keaton. So why Abbot and Castello well? First of all we love Habin and Costolo,and we are out to convince the reading public andthe people who care about this stuff that Abin and Costello are at leastequal to, if not better than Laurel and Marty- and I don't mean better, like Ohther Etheyre, they have more movies and all this stuff. But I'm talking likethe artistry, Abin and Costello are too often shuntedinto the, and I hate to say it this Ron, but into the three stuges category. Youknow blue collar comics slapping each other around nothing of any anysubstance. You know that kind of thing, whereas you know Laurel and hardy arethe Darling of movie buffs everywhere, and I lovethem too. But the truth of the matter is when I was a kid laurel and hardyseemed like they were going in slow motion, whereas Abanacostello wereright in line with me and what was going on inside of me, I'm a New Yorker.I was born in New York orn in Brooklyn. I was raised on Long Island lived inManhattan for many years. I have that clock inside Wot me and Ilove the pacing of Abodand Costello. I think Lucostello is one of the unsungcomic geniuses of our time. He's he's multilayered where he could carrya film and he had. You know there are some films this. What I noticed as Iwas writing the chapters for this book. You have to watch the film a few timesthat you're writing about and you have to. You know you notice certain things.One of the things I noticed was in certain films, buds part, but abbotspark could have been played by anybody and that's nothing against, but but wasthe greatest sraiht man in the history of show business as far as I'mconcerned, but as a character in the films he often plays a secondary roleto Lou Costello, who is basically carrying the film now Stan Laurel.Couldn't do that curly Howard, couldn't do that, I'm trying to think of allthese starring Comedians that are revered today. Lou is one of the people that actuallycould carry a film on his own and I'm talking a feature film, not even atwenty minute, though, so we wanted to get that out there we wanted to let theworld know that Abadand Costello were worthy of as much study and as muchappreciation as Laurel and hardy interesting, and do you have an opinionjust off hand on what they're I mean, there's so many of their films. But doyou have an opinion on what we're their best? Excuse me: What were their bestfilms? Well, there's there's, of course, any kind of comedy question is entirelysubjective. As you know, what makes you laugh may notnecessarily make me laugh, but as far as their films, there are certain onesthat are considered their best by fans and met myself included. I would gowith hold that ghost definitely Aban Costallo MatFrankenstein is that that may be my favorite to me. It's a near perfectfilm. Keep them flying the time of their lives is a great film.That's the one where they they're playing separate characters. They're,not really a team and loo plays a character from the revolutionary warthat is mistakenly shot and killed, and hecomes back to haunt the house where he was killed and left. You know for dead, it's a very funny film andbut its wonderful in it playing a character wall and he's the one gettinghit by Costello all through this movie.

So it's a lot of fun for a lot ofreasons. So yeah, I would say, hold that ghost the time of their lives andHavben a custol to meet Frankenstyn, it's hard theyr their best, their theirbest films. It's funny how much the spookiness- and you know, we're kind ofhere around the day of the dead Halloween and this spooky thenme, butHollyhoon had a way of really loving to play on the spooky creety stuff for anent of comedy kind of reminds me of the mauntain that was it the more thanMorlan mountain films with Mountain Morelan Films, O Manan, Morelan,manchen morland. Yes, yes, he was the. He was Birmingham Jones in OrburbingganBrown in the Charlie Chan, films, the later Charlie cantils yeah and his eyes you know, could light upthe room. It's amazing but yeah, but Luostello Melbrook saidthat Lucostello had the best scare take in the business. Nobody was better andthat's why they would throw you know a monster or a spooky pouse or whatever,so they could get lose reactions, yeah excellent. So you know it's aninteresting thing: they were a duo and so many of the classic Vaudeville goneto film Duos Werm. In fact, you know that power of two versus say the powerof three and something like a three stooges, but so many of them who are so great onscreen as icons and brought such levity and joy to the masses they really kindof had problemmatic relationships off the camera and in the background Ithink the documentary that was just put out or the the overview on the the filmthat just came out on the history of Laurel Laural, yeah kind of really kindof got into how how you know, dark and and hurtful and painful theirrelationship was in Abit and Castello off the screen. Did they have thesesame situations where they as contentious? Shall we say is, as they say S, people say they wer. That's a good question. I do believethat it was a touchy relationship. They were described as like brothers, andyou know how brothers can can fight. They were Tok together more than theywere with their wives, so kind of put yourself in that place. You're withsomebody constantly this person's not related to you, you have a complete you hove, aseparate personality that the other person has a separate personality. So you know it doesn't always Mesh.They had one instance where this is. This is kind of famous at one point: Loo caught one of hismaids stealing money, so he fired her and she went to bud and but hired her Lou found that very strange and asked,but to let her go because it made him feel uncomfortable and but refused.They did not speak for about thirteen months. They only spoke on stage andyou know they were touring together. They were traveling together, they were,you know they had to do contract stuff together. They did not speak unless they were on stage boy. That waspretty heavy. That mast s very hard. You talk about coming off the stage andsaying: okay, let's go get, let's go get dinner. Let's go get a cup ofcoffee and you're sitting Hereo in the what in the restaurant, in a hotel, Yehexactly Rom Service Yeah, but you have to understand that youknow it's. They were complete. Separate different personalities, Lu was a verygregarious controlling. He was the brains. He was the ambitious one. Much likeStan Laurel was with Laur an hardy or Jerry Lewis, with Martin, a D Lewis Budsuffered from epilepsy and he lived in fear of getting a fit. So he was verytrue himself. He was very quiet. Supposedly E was a very kind guy, but you know they were very different.They were just very, very different, but also drank a lot because of thatbecause of his fear, HMM interesting.

What I noticed when I look at yourmisadventures of Bithell and Shuster, which is really kind of a fun, show I'mgoing to suggest that listeners might want to go to Amazon prime and go havea have a view about five or seven times on that one biis loads of fun. But Inotice- and I'm going to ask the obvious question: If Abbot and Castellokind of rather inspired you and your performances either in any manner or inparticular in the creation of your your character of bithel Benny bipfle. Well,yes, that's an emphatic yes, and when I was a child, the very first person toinspire me was Lucostello. I looked at him and I said that's whatI'm going to be. In fact, let me tell you a funny story. My Mom took me andmy two brothers to our family doctor and while we were waiting in the in thein the waiting room, the doctor came in to talk to my momand my mom asked if he would look at us and predict whatwe were going to look like when we were older. What physical traits did hethink we were going to take on and he looked at my two brothers and hesaid well they're going to be tall and thin nick, I'm sorry, but you're goingto be short and Chubby. I jumped up and down yelling for joy,because I was going to look like Lucosto and he was completely wrong, I'm tallerthan both my brothers, but at that time I wanted nothing more thanto be Lu Ostalla. Well, so yes, I would say that's an inspiration. Yeah, that'sgreat, and you know the funny thing is is he could have said you know, I'msorry, I have a prognosis for you. You have six weeks to live, and here youare you school Li. So anyway, I'm going to go to the otherone. That happens because so many of us are so many people in the arts. Youknow they were legacies, they left such great content behind. Can you touch onreally quickly how abot and Castello how they how they ended up? We all seem to knowabout stories of other comedy acts where their intellectual propertyrights ended up in Gosh Courts, family mine, state battles, etc, etc, at theend of the day and probably poor, because they had to pay so manypenalties as ordered by judges and atturkes. How did ABIT AND CASTELLO endup? Can you touch on that n sure I can? They were both hit by the IRRS which,to me, I'm sorry, to say an almost indecent because of the workthey did during World War Two and the money they raised for the government.They were a record breakers in that respect and Loou almost killed himselfon their main tour across the country. He had rheumatic fever there. Hedeveloped rheumatic fever and it's pretty much what killed him in the end, but no they. The government felt theneed to make them examples and they had an accountant that actuallyabsconded with a lot of their money and had not been paying what he should havebeen paying. Now, that's not excusing them. They should have been moreresponsible. They should have checked out what he was doing, but they werehit very hard. Lou came out better. He was able to pay it off. He lost a lot of stuff. He had to sellhis house in the valley. He still had his ranch. He had to sell his rights toa lot of their films, which was a major source of income, but he was stillworking at the end. After ABCASELLA SPLIT UP, he was still a viablecommodity. He was making a lot of appearances on this Steve Allen Show he had done an episode of wagon trainwhere he played...

...a dramatic role as a drunk, and he isjust wonderful. It gave you a clue as to what could have been had. He notdied of a heart attack at the age of fifty two one thousand nine hundred andfifty nine yeah. His wife followed him like eight monthslater. She and she was even younger. She was in her es, so anyway, Solu was able to pay thingsoff. He did not leave his family in debt, but on the other hand he got hit a little harder and after the team split up and he soldhis rights to most of the films and all of that he was not getting work. He wasolder. He was nine years older than Lu. He had his sickness, his illness isepilipsy. He did one role on the General ElectricTheater, remember, Ronal, Reggatis, to host it o yeah. He appeared in asupporting role with Lee Marvin and one of their plays and he's very goodhe's quite good, but the only other work he was able to do was provide hisvoice for those awful abonacostello cartoons by Hanna Barbara. That was his final work. He spent therest of his days in a modest home in woodland, hills, living off of social security mostly,and he passed away and his ashes werestrewn of into the ocean wow, and that was it yeah wow and it's it's that's amazing. Wrapup O Givin thewhole journey there, it's kind of like well, think about it. Let me let mejust add that during a world war, two and Insu theearly s or lates, they were in the top ten box office draws they were making afortune and they never thought it would end, and that was the problem. Well, Iguess, sooner or later all good things do come to an Ende. So there is yesvery true anyway. So the title of the book again is the annitated AbitanCastello by Matthew Conium, Mr Nick Santa Maria who's, on the writers blockwith us today and the forward by John Landus, and this is being put out bymcfharland publishing, which I guess is due out what next year? Sometimes youknow when the book is coming out in it'll be early next year, it'll be thefirst quarter of next year. Q, One quarter one! Well, that's great! I'mgoing to make sure that everybody knows where to find it do we know where wellbe available it going to be the usual suspects e book. Idivisual suspect youcan go to the mcfel mcfarlan website or I'm sure Amazon will have it a littlecheaper but yeah you it's the usual suspects.Well, that's great n! We look forward to talking with you and following yourjourney as well. Nick and or Gangeerons fans go ahead and check out on Amazon.Prime you'll literally enjoy it. If you love old Vaudville and if you want tosee the greatest Vaudeville team that never existed, go check out the MI, theMisaveng of Bifel and Shuster screaming on Amazon Brid may I suggest also mywebsite it's lower case, Nick Santa Mariacom, you may, and you just did youwant to do it again, no not for the same money all right well. Next, thank you forjoining Estorday and Micele everybody again very, very soon, right here onthe writer's block, thanks for Lakiroun.

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