on WDCA-TV 20
4/21/66 to Friday 9/16/66
Roberts as "Uncle Artie"
live in B&W from WDCA-TV River
puppets, film features. Gigantor, a robot, is featured."
Buckley recalls: "Kids came on the show
a sliding board. Artie's trademark was sort of a hillbilly hat made
filling a hat with hot water to alter its shape. I remember him showing
how to make one on-the-air."
Cohen adds: "After Uncle Artie explained
to make his hillbilly hats, with great excitement I took my father's
hat & proceeded to stretch it out of shape until a gaping hole
Needless to say I was sorely punished.
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:
pile and Honey's waste.'; (referring to popular shows of that time;
Pyle, USMC" and "Honey West").
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
Such a blunder could only happen to Uncle Artie."
Powell relates; "Born 1957, I grew up in
DC Area (Connecticut Park Elementary, E Brooke Lee Jr. High,
High) and was a devoted follower of Captain Tugg, Captain Lee, and
Artie on Channel 20.
to my delight, Mark Cohen writes of an episode of Uncle Artie where two
kids told what was, in those days, a dirty joke!
saw that episode. It was actually two kids who seemed a little older
the others. The Batman jokes were in vogue. These two boys had real
attitudes. When asked their names, they were saying things like 'John
son', 'William Williamson', 'Robert Robertson', stuff like that. My mom
was watching and said 'Those kids are going to get in trouble'. You
see Uncle Artie was getting ticked. Finally, they tell the joke. Artie
shakes his head... I remember his quote... 'We don’t tell jokes
on Uncle Artie.'
commercial… when they come back, both kids were GONE! But it was
got cuffed in the back of the head! My Mom actually nailed ME in the
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
|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.
"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.
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
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.
"Uncle Artie" show was renamed and moved in 9/66
the departure of host Artie Roberts.
to 4:30 pm
9/19/66 to Fri. 9/30/66
to 4:00 pm
10/3/66 to Fri. 8/27/67
of Monday 10/10/66, listed
TV listings in the Sunday Star TV Magazine. Donated by Jack Maier.
also to Stan Levin, Tom Buckley, Mark Cohen, and Glenn Powell.
photo from The Washington Post, Thursday, 8/25/1966, page D22,
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