"I wanted all the time onstage that I could get, all the laughs that I could get. [I was] especially good when the audience was encouraged to shout out a suggestion. And one night they said, 'the morning after the night before.' So I invented all the characters. It was a party and there was the guy who ran the party and then the other characters, and I found that I had the worst hangover ever in anybody's life. Everything that happened on that stage that night was not written, not prepared. It was created as the audience saw it. And I began to feel okay. I began to feel that maybe that's what I want to do."
About This Interview
In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Shelley Berman discusses his long career as a comedian and actor. He speaks of growing up in Chicago and studying acting at the Goodman Theater. He talks about the first routine he performed on The Steve Allen Show and explains how his "phone call" routines originated. He recalls joining the improv group The Compass Players (which later became Second City), and details writing and performing the routine "The Morning After the Night Before." He then describes his 22 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and comments on specific routines. He talks about his method for coming up with material and demonstrates some early telephone comedy routines. Berman recounts his appearances on The Dinah Shore Show, and an infamous appearance on The Jack Paar Show when the host walked off the stage. He recalls appearing in a Twilight Zone episode, where everyone's faces looked like his own, and appearing in Rawhide with Clint Eastwood. He discusses a difficult period in his life when his young son passed away, and how it impacted him and his career. Berman talks about how he came to guest-star as "Nat David" on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and talks of winning an Emmy for the role. He outlines his tenure on Boston Legal and reminisces about meeting/working with Judy Garland, Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, George Gobel, Larry David, William Shatner, and many more. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on December 19, 2012 in Bell Canyon, CA.