понедельник, 12 марта 2012 г.

Comic Boosler goes the way of the game show

LOS ANGELES -- Elayne Boosler likes to think of her new game show,PAX's "Balderdash," as a throwback to the programs that she watchedas a youngster.

Picture Kitty Carlisle and Bennett Cerf elegantly dressed andtossing off witticisms on "I've Got a Secret" or "What's My Line?"and you've got an idea of how Boosler frames her work.

So is there a Boosler dress code for guest celebrities andplayers? Debuting at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Chicago time), "Balderdash" isbased on the board game and tests contestants' ability to discernfibs and facts.

"It's more of a mindset in my head that I think of those shows,"the veteran comedian replies.

"I think, hey, there's probably little kids watching, going,'Wait, is this show business?"' Although, she quickly adds, "Adultsknow game shows aren't show business."

But isn't show biz her career?

"No, I'm in vaudeville. I've said that for 30 years. I've alwayswanted to do standup, period," she said.

Sitcoms are considered the rainbow's end for comedians -- case inpoint is "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Ray Romano's reported $1.8million an episode -- but for Boosler, they mean waiting around allday to deliver "lines that aren't funny."

The "Balderdash" gig, on the other hand, allows her to work in agenre that honors improvisation -- and reminds viewers they mightlike to catch her on stage.

"TV is a commercial for my live act," she said. "People thinkthere's something wrong with you when you don't want a sitcom. Butwhen I started ... the goal wasn't to get a sitcom. The goal was tobe Richard Pryor."

The game show also gives her the chance to give back to fellowcomedians, especially younger ones who could use the exposure.

"Balderdash" calls on comics and actors to present informationthat may or may not be true and asks contestants to figure it out towin.

Among her guests: George Wendt, French Stewart, Shelley Morrison,Tim Meadows, Regan Burns, Loni Love, Bruce Vilanch, Maria Bamford andTodd Glass.

When Boosler, a Brooklyn native, pursued a standup career in the1970s only a handful of launching pads existed. The comedy club boonwouldn't arrive until the 1980s and TV outlets were limited,especially for women, she said.

Although Johnny Carson and "The Tonight Show" are often creditedfor helping fledgling comedians, Boosler contends "it really was Merv[Griffin] who gave everyone their start."

"Carson had a very narrow view of comedy. You never saw women, newwomen other than Joan Rivers, and you didn't see many black people."

Griffin's talk show, on the other hand, "was the United Nations ofcomedy. He put everybody on," Boosler said.

Besides plying her craft with Griffin, she also spent a decadeopening for singers including Lou Rawls, Natalie Cole, Helen Reddyand Melissa Manchester. Then came cable and its fondness for comedy,a boost for all standups including minorities and, eventually, women.

Boosler likes to credit her 1986 Showtime special, "Party of One,"as a personal and gender breakthrough.

After it aired to critical acclaim, Boosler got a deal for moreShowtime specials and HBO announced its own "Women of the Night"comedy series.

The continued wealth of cable opportunities is particularlyimportant given the state of affairs on Jay Leno's "Tonight" andDavid Letterman's "Late Show," according to Boosler.

"They put on almost nobody," Boosler said, adding that Leno"doesn't want there to be a Jay waiting in the wings like he waswaiting for Carson."

Even she's shut out, Boosler said, but she shrugs off the reasonswhy as well as any frustration over lost TV appearances. "Everybodyhas their own agenda," she said.

Instead, she focuses on her passion for comic strips, for PBS'"The NewsHour" (and its host; she has permission from her husband to"run off and marry Jim Lehrer" if the opportunity arises) and animalprotection.

She runs Tails of Joy, a nonprofit rescue organization for dogs,cats and other pets that also promotes animal welfare laws.

And, of course, there's the standup tours, where the satisfactionsare greater than sitcom gold, Boosler contends.

"I don't care if standup isn't burning up the world and you'resupposed to do this or that. This is what I do. If it's 500 people ina club or 3,000 in a nice theater I know what I left them with."


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