OK, here’s what happened: In 1977 I started doing stand-up comedy in clubs around Los Angeles. I was 15 years old. I had become friend with a comedy group my dad was managing called “The Village Idiots”, (I know – one the best comedy group names EVER!). They were a very talented bunch and even got a gig doing sketches every week on a popular TV show of the time, called “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert”. This gang of brilliant idiots helped me write my first stand up act.
Now remember it was the 1970’s…Jimmy Carter was in office. He was the first president in a very long time to have a kid running around the White House – the adorable, blond, precocious, nine year old Amy Carter. Now adorable she was, but she also was also slightly nearsighted, and became famous for wearing very large, round, shall we say, somewhat unflattering, black rimmed glasses. She was clearly quite smart for her age and preferred books to hobnobbing with famous White House visitors. She soon became a heroine to nerdy little girls everywhere. She was ahead of her time, the trailblazer for what we now call girl-geek-chic.
So since I was blond, young and a bit of geek myself, it was agreed that to NOT do some kind of impression or “bit” about little Amy would just be missing too much of a comedic opportunity.
It started small, at the end of my act, I put on a pair of gigantic black rimmed glasses and said, “Goodnight everybody!” in what everyone assumed would be little Amy’s southern twang. (As the real Amy famously did not say much in public, it was just assumed that with the rest of her family all twanging and drawling all over the place, she must be as Southern fried as they were.)
Strangely enough this three second sight gag was a hit. Gradually we added more. The Village Idiots and I came up with a piece called “Amy’s Prayer” in which we imagine what Amy would discuss with God in her bedtime prayers, making lots of cracks about various politicians and White House officials – but all in utter innocence of course – she was only nine, after all.
Now here’s where things got crazy:
My mother was Norma MacMillan, a famous voice over artist known for such things as “Casper the Friendly Ghost”, “Gumby”, “Sweet Polly Purebred”, (Underdog’s girlfriend) and “Davey”, of “Davey & Goliath”. But in 1962, she had recorded an album called. “The First Family”. Yes, “The First Family”, the famous comedy album about the Kennedy family. Very tame by today’s standards, it was considered controversial at the time, (it not only “mocked” a seated president, but even included the wife and kids It went down in history as the “largest and fastest selling record in the history of the record industry” selling at more than a million copies per week for the first six and one-half weeks in distribution.
My mother had done the voices of – you guessed it – the Kennedy kids, Caroline and John-John.
I can still see the gigantic cartoon light bulb popping up over my father’s head as the obvious next move occurred to him: “Hey, why not have the daughter of the woman who played Kennedy’s daughter on a huge hit comedy album 15 years before, play the current president’s daughter on a new comedy album and even have the famous mom guest star!”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there is a comedy album from 1977 called “Heeere’s Amy!” starring Alison Arngrim.
Phones were dialed, meeting were held, arrangements were made, and eventually I was introduced to Mr. Dave Drozen of” Laff Records” who had won many Grammy awards, producing the likes of Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, George Carlin and my personal favorite – La Wanda Page.
Before I knew it, I was in a recording studio with Dave, the Village Idiots, my mom, my dad, my dad’s business partner, Jess Petersen and a sweet, almost shy, young man named Gregg Suddeth who sounded exactly like Jimmy Carter.
The Village Idiots wrote the sketches. We recorded the whole thing in a day. For the “laugh track” we invited a bunch of friend back to the studio for pizza and beer that evening played back the tapes and recorded their reactions.
So, was it a hit? Well, no not really. It was the 70’s and there was no internet – no Twitter, no Facebook. Back then, if you wanted to sell something like this to your fans, you had to go on daytime TV and somehow explain your sense of humor to people like Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore. Perhaps it was ahead of its time.
So is it any good? Well, I asked that myself. But I kept getting letters and e-mails from fans telling me they had found copies of “Heeere’s Amy!” on E-Bay and whatnot and they all seemed to think it was hilarious. They kept asking me where they could get in on CD, could they download it? I was amazed.
Why is this silly thing out on I-Tunes now? Because Dave Drozen of Laff Records is still alive and kicking, and still a friend of mine. And now he has a company called UPROAR Entertainment.
He’s been putting out all sorts of comedy, new comedy, old comedy and yes, bizarre ancient things from the vaults.
Like “Heeere”s Amy!”
I have to say, it IS quite the dusty antique historical monument in a lot of ways. (Jokes about Idi Amin and Jody Powell for the love of God! There’s even a freaking Beulah Bondi joke!!) But Greg Suddeth’s impressions – Nixon, Carter, Cronkite, etc. are hysterical. And yes, it’s still funny when Uncle Billy belches.
Weirdly, many famous people mentioned on the album have resurrected themselves in the public consciousness: Jerry Brown, Roman Polanski,..Charo. Go figure.
And of course, there’s some famous people doing the jokes too. Sadly, many of them are no longer with us. Who’s on it? You won’t believe it:
The Village Idiots – all four of ‘em!
Peter Jurasik – Wait! You mean “Londo” from “Babylon 5″??? Yes. THAT Peter Jurasik. Check out his impression of Henry Kissinger and tell me it isn’t the exact same accent he used on Babylon 5 for the “Centauri”! He’s alive and well and somewhere in North Carolina.
Mark Ganzel – Went on to be a writer/producer on the TV series “Coach” starring Craig T. Nelson. Lost to cancer at the young age of 51.
Jan Fischer – Brilliant, troubled and seriously over educated, Jan went on to write the screenplay for the movie “The Lost Boys”: the infamous 80’s teen vampire flick that launched what we later came to know as “the two Coreys”. Realized she really was too hip and had to go….March 10, 2011.
Robin Hunt – A gorgeous and funny woman – married well and got out of Hollywood, having the last laugh on all of us.
Norma Macmillan – AKA My mother. Pretty much every cartoon you saw as a child. She was Casper for God’s sake! Became a Friendly Ghost herself, on March 16, 2001.
Thor Arngrim – My father & personal manager. Used to work for Liberace. Went to the big red carpet event in the sky, December 16, 2009.
Jess Petersen – My dad’s business partner, my other personal manager and technically third parent. Sought more interesting employment on the other side…May 21, 2008.
Greg Suddeth – The quiet, shy, comedian and presidential impressionist. Went on to be a screenwriter, actor and Dramalogue Award winning playwright. Passed away at 55. I’m told he’d stayed the sweet guy he always was, right to the end.
So as you can imagine this album is quite the trip down memory lane for me, to hear all those voices again: my friends….Mark, Jan, Greg, my parents….and …Jess. Ahhhh gotta love those “Medium Size Dogs and “Bilingual Presidential Yes Men”!
WARNING: Much of the humor, (like most of the Laff Records catalog I would imagine), is quite politically incorrect by today’s standards. Perhaps that’s a selling point, I don’t know. As you listen, try to keep in mind that this is an “archeological specimen of comedy”. (And I was only 15 freakin’ years old.)
But even though appalling things are said and alluded to on this album, no matter what happens, the character of Amy always remains the innocent voice of reason, standing firm against the foolishness and corruption of the adults around her.
No actual children were harmed in the making of this album. (Except possibly me and I’ve been a lost cause for years.)