Darrell Vickers – The Magic Hour 5

Steve White. That’s all we really needed, just Steve White. He’d been air-lifted onto The Magic Hour pilot at the last tumultuous second as our co-host and he knocked it out of the park for us. Steve and Magic had a cool, breezy rapport with one another. Just a couple of guys rappin’ about the events of the day that segued seamlessly into our opening comedy bit. You can search for years and not find that kind of chemistry. Steve was also a dedicated team player and a truly funny guy. So of course, our first assignment on the show was to work with new possible co-hosts to replace him. Huh?

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

Steve White

I queried one of the uber-wise and ever-omniscient Fox execs as to why we were dumping our proven out-of-the-park-knocker. He replied that they didn’t want the show to be too urban. Now, Magic and Steve are about as “street” as 5 o’clock martinis. What he meant was too “black.” There was zero logic to this. Magic had a massive white, brown – you name the color – audience. Over 74 percent of players in the NBA are Africa-American. It had perhaps not occurred to Fox to have a gander at the average pro basketball game to see how many white faces were sitting in the stands.

It made about as much sense as hiring armed guards to protect your Hummel plate collection but a job’s a job, so Andrew and I grudgingly set to work fashioning some comedy pieces that would help evaluate the auditioner’s ability to work with Magic and deliver the rib-ticklers we required.

Let’s call our first oh-so-Caucasian would-be rib-tickler Rick. Right away there was trouble. As duty demanded, I introduced myself and told him what we needed. Rick didn’t want to do that. Oh, great.

There are few of major types of comedians:

– Ones who have a few go-to bits but essentially like to wing it with the crowd.

– Ones who spend years developing, refining and polishing their perfect 45 minutes and stick to it like it’s the last lifeboat on the Titanic.

– Ones who aren’t funny at all without saying “fuck” every third word.

We didn’t want any of these.

Then, there are those far rarer quick-study comics who are able to take a new piece of material and deliver it with a confidence that puts it over. Johnny Carson, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, John Oliver.

Mickey Rourke and His Hair

Rick was basically number 2 (in more ways that one). He told me that this audition was hugely important to him and he intended to do his time tested-hunks of hilarity. I tried to explain to dear Richard that while that would be great if he were doing a guest spot, the co-host’s job had vastly different requirements. As second banana, he was expected to be funny for ten minutes a show. At that rate, he’d be out of his Grade A chuckles in the first week. This audition was to see how he handled new material, which he’d be doing five nights-a-week if he got the gig. Richard thanked me for my input but he knew best. I tried again to explain to him that this wasn’t some ego thing on my part. I wanted to pump out sardonic sallies for him about as much as I wanted to comb Mickey Rourke’s hair but that was my assigned task.

This caused Ricky to start bitching to me about The Magic Hour compared to his own cancelled comedy series. Where were all the writers? On his tiny show he had 20 writers working for him.

Again, Ricardo was working on a faulty premise (and soon wouldn’t be working at all). Co-hosts aren’t the ones who get to inseminate the harem. Everything isn’t geared to making them happy. You’re expected to be a team player (see Steve White) and do whatever you can to support the host – the Star – and make him or her look good.

Asking Rick to think of someone other than himself was apparently the last straw. He excused himself and trotted off to makeup. Jeff ambled over to ask me how things were going with our comical candidate. I let him know that Ricky was about as useful to us as wearing a forehead testicle on a blind date. Jeffrey strode off to have a chinwag with him. Whatever he said must have resonated far more that my mere remonstrations because come show time, Richard did the material. Only Ricky had spent so long not wanting to even look at it, his performance came off as amateurish and unprepared.


Out of the Frying Pan into the Dumpster Fire:

After a couple of further failed funnymen, the powers that be decided to pull out a Musashi cannon and blow their entire foot, calf and shapely thigh off. They couldn’t have hired a worse sidekick – outside of perhaps a drunken camel. Let’s call him Krunk Highheel. Krunk was a fairly popular club comic who’d already failed at television. His act consisted mostly of dick jokes with a little gay caricature thrown in. But oh, blessed heaven, if that were the only thing wrong with him.

Krunk is one of the most selfish people I have ever met and I’ve spent my entire adult life in show business! He was immovably convinced that the entire world revolved around the end of his much-joked-about knob. Krunky was a team player like LaMia Flight 2933.

Krunko the Wonder Mule also had a problem with gambling and booze. And he was a smoker. Highheel was a veritable Whitman Sampler of humankind’s most undesirable traits.

Early on, it became worryingly apparent that the Krunkmeister had no idea how late-night talk shows functioned. Firstly, he also did not want to do original material. This became an endless, pointless and protracted disagreement. The show needed him to provide comedy bits while sitting next to Magic but the recalcitrant Krunk had no desire to provide the sole function he’d been hired for. Mr. Highheel wanted to hang on the couch and just wing it with Magic.

Problem number one: Krunk and Magic had absolutely no chemistry. They were as different as a charismatic sports legend and a mediocre comic who told dick jokes for a living.

Problem number two: Krunk was not a particularly nice person and that radiated out of him like he had his ass packed with Strontium 90.

No matter how many times the execs and Magic performed the Sisyphean task of ordering Krunky to do the comedy given him, he would invariably wind the conversation back to the two of them sitting on set and just farting into the sofa cushions together.

He was so indefatigably boorish and self-centered, Tony DeSena – the marvelous and oh-so-patient head writer – glued a sign to the back of his clipboard that read, “What About Me?” and would hold it up behind Krunk’s head every time he went into one of his never-ending self-serving spiels. 

We bent over backwards to try and appease this malcontented canker sore but it was like trying to reason with a polar bear while sporting a whale blubber toupee. Krunk wanted to take the material out and try it in the clubs at night before he did it on air. Tony had to continually clarify to our loveable dullard that late night shows don’t work that way. The material – to be topical – is almost always written on the same day as it is performed. This scared him more than the thought of being trapped in a hotel room without a complimentary minibar. To meet him halfway, we set it up for Krunk to perform that night’s spot during the technical rehearsal in the afternoon so he could get his timing down. The problem was; if the response from the meager crew to his half-hearted performance wasn’t deafening guffaws, Highheel would panic and not want to do the spot. So now we had executive producers no idea of what they were doing, a star with no experience, a network with no sense and a co-host who made snakes on a plane seem like a dream vacation.

And the train kept a-rollin’.



Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com

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