Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cloyed Floyd

If an Opiate is a drug that turns its user into Ronny Howard, then what causes Pink Floyd? Well, we can plainly see the symptoms right here: it turns the complexion a bright pink, and gives the afflicted party an increasing resemblance to Howard McNear. In its advanced stages, a sort of cooing takes place: "ooh ooh ooh Annnndy.."

But seriously folks. This hilarious picture was circulating around Facebook over the past few days. It made me laugh right off, and of course I posted it myself. And then it got me thinking. (This is always dangerous..)

These so-called minor characters sometimes being a lot of craft to their roles. In the case of Howard McNear, playing Floyd Lawson the barber, it was a curious mix of excitement and confusion. This was also employed(in a different voice of course, but a similar basic mix)by Alice Ghostley, who played Aunt Clara on Bewitched; and by Bill Daily, who played Major Roger Healey on I Dream of Jeannie and Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show. Daily also brought a certain intensity, and McNear a sweetness to their respective characters, but I did notice a common basic approach. Excitement and confusion.

Interesting to find parallels between the world of acting and that of music--particularly improvised music. An actor, like an improvising musician, has his/her repertoire of expressive devices, their 'bag of tricks'. It doesn't always follow in music--usually if I buy a Bill Evans album it's to hear Bill Evans first--but as far as acting ensembles, be they comedies or dramas, I'm usually more partial to one or two interesting side characters(like Floyd or Aunt Clara or Howard/Roger)than the headliner. My favorite character is usually a 'minor' one who's occasionally featured, particularly in the world of sitcoms.

I Dream of Jeannie: Maj Roger Healey;
Barney Miller: Inspector Luger
Green Acres: Mr Kimball
Cheers: Cliff Clavin
The Bob Newhart Show: Howard Borden
Caddyshack: Judge Smails
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Ted Baxter
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Buddy Sorrell

I gotta admit, though. On the old Andy Griffith Show, Barney stole the show(Don Knotts got at least three Emmy awards for that one), but if not for him, my award would've gone to Floyd the barber. I don't know what kind of haircut he gave, but certainly a crafty performance as Floyd.


Optional trivia: Apparently the character of Floyd the barber is based on a real character back in Mt Airy North Carolina where Andy Griffith grew up. Russell Hiatt, who reportedly still cuts hair at the same spot, right next to the Snappy Lunch Diner.


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