Monday, December 27, 2010

Quick Q's for a Newhart co-star #2 -- John Voldstad

Above is a photo that actor John Voldstad personalized to me on April 6, 2003, and below is the interview from that same meeting.

Mr. Voldstad was nice as could be (really and truly), so I feel sheepish writing my opinion here that NEWHART's famous trio of backwoodsmen (of which Voldstad played "Darryl #2") unfortunately evolved into a cartoon version of their earlier selves. In their few First Season appearances, these three brothers didn't ham it up. They were still relatively realistic, vaguely menacing (even if slack-jawed) hillbilly characters, and they came off so much funnier that way. In later seasons, the two basic types of jokes involving LD&D had them doing cartoonishly primitive backwoods activities (usually involving roadkill in a greasy burlap sack) or trying to surprise the audience with throwaway gags about some bit of uncharacteristic behavior (e.g. them watching the BRADY BUNCH: BRADY BRIDES tv special).

So let's not forget what great tv characters these three were in their earlier appearances. And regardless of my feelings, they were popular throughout the series' entire run, and they are -- next to NEWHART's series finale -- one of the best-remembered elements of the show.

Larry, Darryl and Darryl were, for a time, the breakout characters of NEWHART. There was audience applause every time you made an appearance.

Yeah, it was funny how that happened. Bob liked us, so he decided to keep us around.

You made your first appearance on NEWHART's second episode….

Right. Yeah.

Was there ever any worry that the brothers were a one-joke character -- that you would eventually run out of gags or become stale?

We weren't worried about that, because the guys -- they were all good writers. [The cast] all worked as an ensemble. It was a whole ensemble. So they weren't worried about coming up with bits for us that often.

What about William Sanderson's famous introduction every time the brothers made an entrance? How did you keep that fresh?

I don't know. Every time we came in, it seemed like the audience reacted that way to, "Hi, my name's Larry. This is my brother…" It's not like we did anything [different]. People just laughed. I don't understand it, really; [I guess] they liked the characters. We were backwoods guys.

I've heard you mention in interviews that you show up now for auditions and casting people are surprised you can speak.

No, they're not surprised. They look forward to hearing you talk. They actually call you in to see … what you sound like. It's like the silent movies, you know.

Is there a "Darryl curse" on your acting career?

No, no curse. Not really. I'm … I'm…. No, no curse. [laughs]

What about cameoing in some of Newhart's later stuff? I know they did that BOB NEWHART SHOW tv special where the brothers were elevator repairmen.

Oh yeah! And then on GEORGE & LEO, when he had that show, he had everyone come back on (ed note--for the GEORGE & LEO episode entitled "The Cameo Show").

Have you maintained friendships with--?

Yeah, all the time. Still call. We're still like brothers. And I call Bob and those guys. Send Christmas cards. We're still like one big family. I took Kristen (sp.?) to see Bob in Cerritos just last year, performing his stand-up. {The show] was like a big family, so it was kind of sad when the show ended, because you felt like you were leaving your family.

But near the end of NEWHART, there were so many changes to the show: Michael and Stephanie got married, had a kid, etc. Did that signal that the end was obviously near?

Not at all, because Bob had intended for the show to go on for another year (ed note--there are many reports to the contrary). So things look like that, and then everything ended up not working out that way.

It was a great show.

Thanks. It was a good group of people. Hard to find anything like that since. Haven't really.

--Mike Malloy

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