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..Artie Roberts as Uncle Artie, 1966
"Uncle Artie"
Aired on WDCA-TV 20
Mondays through Fridays
Various Showtimes
Thursday 4/21/66 to Friday 9/16/66
Artie Roberts as "Uncle Artie"
Broadcast live in B&W from WDCA-TV River Road studios with
"cartoons, puppets, film features. Gigantor, a robot, is featured."

Tom Buckley recalls: "Kids came on the show down a sliding board. Artie's trademark was sort of a hillbilly hat made from filling a hat with hot water to alter its shape. I remember him showing how to make one on-the-air."
Mark Cohen adds: "After Uncle Artie explained how to make his hillbilly hats, with great excitement I took my father's best hat & proceeded to stretch it out of shape until a gaping hole appeared. Needless to say I was sorely punished.

About a week later, I got what I felt to be poetic justice. One of the child participants told a joke: 'Q: What did Batman find in the Batroom? A: Gomer's pile and Honey's waste.'; (referring to popular shows of that time; "Gomer Pyle, USMC" and "Honey West").
Poor Uncle Artie lost his composure and was totally embarrassed. I was wat- ching the show with a friend and both of us rolled on the floor with laughter. Such a blunder could only happen to Uncle Artie.

Glenn Powell relates; "Born 1957, I grew up in the DC Area (Connecticut Park Elementary, E Brooke Lee Jr. High, Springbrook High) and was a devoted follower of Captain Tugg, Captain Lee, and Uncle Artie on Channel 20.

Much to my delight, Mark Cohen writes of an episode of Uncle Artie where two kids told what was, in those days, a dirty joke!

I too saw that episode. It was actually two kids who seemed a little older than the others. The Batman jokes were in vogue. These two boys had real wise-ass attitudes. When asked their names, they were saying things like 'John John- son', 'William Williamson', 'Robert Robertson', stuff like that. My mom was watching and said 'Those kids are going to get in trouble'. You could see Uncle Artie was getting ticked. Finally, they tell the joke. Artie shakes his head... I remember his quote... 'We don’t tell jokes like that on Uncle Artie.'

Cut to commercial… when they come back, both kids were GONE! But it was ME who got cuffed in the back of the head! My Mom actually nailed ME in the head with a “That’s what you’ll get if YOU EVER ACT LIKE THAT ON A SHOW!”

Stan Levin,  the writer for the Uncle Artie Show, contibutes:  The show was incredibly unsophisticated.  Artie was a comic in strip clubs who was trying to go legit with the kiddie show.  He went on the air with the debut of WDCA-TV.  I came on board in June 1966 and lasted until September 1966 when I started college.  That's right - I was a high school senior and Artie's only writer.

Artie was a kind man.  The Batman/Bathroom story was true.  The show was live; having kids tell jokes at the end of the show when no commercials or cartoons were cued was high risk poker.  I used to tell Artie not to let the kids tell jokes, but if they did and he realized that a joke was inappropriate, to kill it and move on.  One day a kid offered the following joke, "What did Adolph Hitler say when he found out that Eva Braun was pregnant?"  I was out of camera range, but gesticulating wildly to cut away from the kid.  Artie say me and said, "Uncle Artie knows that joke.  Are there any other jokes?"  That started a rebellion among the kids who demanded to hear the punchline.  Artie, blood drained from his face, anticipating that he'd be back doing blue humor between strippers, begrudgingly aimed the microphone back at the kid, mumbling, "What did Hitler say?"  The kid answered: "Hotsy totsy, another nazi."  There was complete silence from the kids.  Finally, one kid said, "That's not funny."  The silence was interrupted by my going into gales of laughter in the studio.

As the writer, I really didn't have to do much: an opening, some intros to the cartoons, and a 3 minute monologue that Artie would do inside a refrigerator box with a tv-screen shaped window cut into it (this was called Milton the Live TV in honor of WDCA's station manager and former teen dance show host Milt Grant).  Three minutes of a static image inside a refrigerator box was deadly, but I did my best with a myriad of characters for Artie such as a cab driver (his idea) or a German inventor.  After Artie proofed the scripts, I would write up the cue cards - no TelePrompTer in those days.

George, our director, killed one of my jokes before we went over the air because it was inappropriate for a children's show.  Since no one ever got to hear it, it is time that it was made available to the public.  Artie was the German inventor in this Milton-the-Live-TV episode, and here's the joke.  "Ze zree blind mice came to me unt gave me $3000 for a giant knife to seek revenge of ze farmer's vife by cutting off her tail as she had done to zem.  Zree zousands dollars - that's an awful lot of money for an old vife's tail."

Our main sponsor was Children's Supermart (now known as Toys R Us).  Artie's hats, as indicated on your website, were his signature, so we had a contest where the kids could make their own Uncle Artie hat and win a gift coupon for Children's Supermart.  I had the distinction of wearing the giraffe costume (the sponsor's corporate logo) thus being the only live Geoffrey Giraffe that I am aware of in Toys R Us history.
Stan Levin,  the writer for the Uncle Artie Show, continues: Artie never missed a performance, so there was never an issue of a substitute host

All shows were live and none was taped, not even for archiving or reruns.  As WDCA broadcast exclusively in black and white in 1966, even then Milt Grant knew there was no value in saving any of these shows.  Besides, videotape cost money.    

Artie shared an office with Kirby Scott the Mad Mod (WDCA's version of the Milt Grant Show), the On-air School Teacher lady (I can't remember her name) - even I had a desk there, although I wrote all the material at home and brought it in.  Every so often when there was a shortage of teens on Kirby's show, I was asked to be one of the dancers.  Frank Zappa and the Mother's of Invention made a live appearance on Kirby's Show.  His drummer was sick; Frank asked me if I knew a drummer and I suggested my best friend's 12-year-old brother.  That was good enough for Frank who picked the kid up and brought him to the studio to play with him.

Other than "Gigantor", I really can't remember what the other cartoons were.  Artie gave the kids as much screen time as possible.  After his intro, the kids would slide onto the side via a sliding board behind a piece of scenery.  For the really small kids, I held them in place right behind the scenery; some of them were too frightened to go down the slide.  He'd run a cartoon, have hand- puppets dance to a popular song of the era, then do a Milton-the-Live-TV bit, kids did the jokes, and the closing.  That was it.

I established a "no parents" policy in the studio.  I noted that if the moms were behind the cameras that their children watched them and not Artie.  I invited the parents to sit in the lounge and watch the show.  Every so often a parent would insist because their child would be upset if they were out of their line of sight; on those occasions I would say to the parent, "Tell you what, please bring your child back when he or she is older."  That seemed to work.

Mini-trivia: Milt Grant's brother-in-law is Charles Strouse, the composer of Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, and many other major Broadway shows.  At the time I was doing the Uncle Artie Show, Strouse's musical, "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman" was playing on Broadway... and not doing well.  Milt's daughter, Andrea (I am pretty sure that was her name) was the receptionist, and we'd talk about Uncle Charlie and the show.

During the run of the show, the movie "A Thousand Clowns" was released.  Artie thought it would be a great idea of he took our sponsor, Joel Gross (manager of Children's Supermart) to see a movie about a TV kiddie show host.  I went with them and sat their cringing - if you've ever seen "A Thousand Clowns," Chuckles the Chipmunk (the kiddie show host) is a thoroughly obnoxious human being; it was hardly a flattering portrayal of TV performers who entertain children.

As I mentioned in my earlier e-mail, Artie was a genuinely kind man.  When he'd make public appearances, he was infinitely patient with the kids and warm with the parents.  After the Uncle Artie went off the air, I lost touch with him.

Many years after I left Uncle Artie, I met Frank Nastase who worked for Soupy Sales.  Frank was White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, and anyone who needed to play straight man to Soupy.  He and I compared notes and none of the foibles associated with Soupy ever happened with Uncle Artie.  Artie's act may have been a bit cornball, but he was a professional.  I never saw him throw a temperamental fit, he accepted the scripts I provided with minimal changes, and the kids' telling inappropriate jokes was very rare.  After the Batman goes to the Batroom joke, I did a warm up with the kids and admonished them only to tell jokes that they could tell their parents or their teachers.
The "Uncle Artie" show was renamed and moved in 9/66
after the departure of host Artie Roberts.
4:00 to 4:30 pm
Mon. 9/19/66 to Fri. 9/30/66
3:30 to 4:00 pm
Mon. 10/3/66 to Fri. 8/27/67
(As of Monday 10/10/66, listed
as “Dick Coughlin, host.”)
Source: TV listings in the Sunday Star TV Magazine. Donated by Jack Maier. 
Thanks also to Stan Levin, Tom Buckley, Mark Cohen, and Glenn Powell.
Fuzzy photo from The Washington Post, Thursday, 8/25/1966, page D22,
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