Show cover of Almost Live!: Still Alive

Almost Live!: Still Alive

“Almost Live!: Still Alive” are interviews with the people who helped make the hometown Seattle sketch comedy show ‘Almost Live!’ a hit for more than 15 years. Hear their personal stories and get insights into one of Seattle’s most loved local TV shows.


Ralph Bevins
  When you talk about the cast and crew of Almost Live!, you're not exactly talking about cookie-cutter versions of personnel. But if you insist on the cookie analogy, we're talking about every kind you can think of: There were ginger snaps, like Nancy Guppy. Sugar cookies, like Tracey Conway. Snickerdoodles, like Steve Wilson, Peanut Butter Keister, Gingerbread men like Bob Nelson, Ed Wyatt, and Joe Guppy - and Animal Crackers with nuts like most of the rest. But one person - Ralph Bevins - is his own kind of cookie... a mix of ingredients - maybe some chocolate chips, butter, eggs, honey, some extracts - and, sometimes, molasses. Ralph was the show's chief videographer, director, and editor during much of its best years. He was also an occasional producer and writer and, like his preceding camera wizard, Darrell Suto (also known as Billy Quan,) Ralph also portrayed an on-camera character you couldn't ignore. As he began his career, he was well-traveled around the U.S. until a bit of fate landed him in Seattle. A life-long fan of all things cinema, Ralph brought a film buff's eye to Almost Live! that helped make it look and feel like a big deal TV show. He's retired now, but he still lives in town with his wife, Beth and two kids - neither of whom is named Ralph. Here's the indomitable, the talented, the beloved, and the incomparable... Ralph Bevins.
68:10 4/1/22
Darrell Suto
  Like any sketch comedy show, part of Almost Live's ability to sustain week after week, came from a reliance on recurring characters and bits. Uncle Fran, Capable Woman, Sluggy, The High-Fivin’ White Guys, A Woman’s Place, Speed-Walker, the Joy of Painting guy, The Lame List, Green River Dance, The Worst Girlfriend in the World, and more. But - and I cannot prove this - if you ask most any show fan who’s their most remembered recurring character, the winner has to be the Mind Your Manners guy, Billy Quan. If Almost Live produced, say, 12 versions of 'The Lame List,' there were perhaps twice as many episodes of 'Mind Your Manners.' I could be wrong. I once thought that gravity was a hoax. But in any case, Billy was a mainstay at least once a month. The guy who played the part never auditioned for it. He was, to say the least, a reluctant thespian. But like it or not, Darrell Suto became one of the most recognized figures on a show in which he was not even a formal cast member. His story is remarkable. Born in Seattle, a third-generation Japanese American, raised as a Buddhist, now a Catholic. He earned Seven national Daytime Emmy awards - not as a performer - but as a production photographer and editor. Hard to believe, but he is a man with no formal martial arts training. And yet, as the otherwise peaceable Billy Quan... he could kick your ass. He now lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Mary. There is certainly no one more beloved among the people who worked with him back in the day, than Darrell Suto.
56:30 2/17/22
Mike Boydstun
When ALMOST LIVE! debuted in 1984, it had several writers, more than a few cast members, a full studio crew - and plenty of critics. But it had only a single field camera guy. But what a guy! A guy gifted enough to carry the load. His name? Mike Boydstun. He's far more than a guy with a camera. He's a director, producer, editor, sound designer, lighting specialist, location planner - but most of all, a storyteller. He was the very first director of photography for Disney's Bill Nye the Science Guy show. And for Biz Kids on PBS. He's been the longtime senior producer for Miramar Productions, and much, much more. He's been nominated for Emmys, Grammys, you name it. Mike is amazing, opinionated, musically-inclined - and one-of-a-kind. And he's extremely fun-loving. He puts the ‘boy' in Boydstun.
45:57 12/29/21
Mike Neun
There's a British cage-fighter named Mike Neun. He hits people in the face. THAT Mike Neun is not the subject of this episode. This one doesn't hit people in the face. He just makes their face smile a lot. The Mike Neun of this podcast has never fought a cage - and would see no reason in doing so. THIS one describes himself as having the mind of an athlete... and the body of an intellectual. He says he's "the funniest comedian you've never heard of." The Mike Neun you're going to meet in this episode has opened for some of the biggest names in show business: From Ann-Margret to Johnny Mathis to Ann-Margret. And many more. He has quite literally traveled the globe making people laugh. It's why he was brought in back in 1984 to bring jokes and fun to a show - "Almost Live!" - that was just beginning to find its footing. Today, Mike lives in Thailand - yes, THAT Thailand. He's a self-confessed comedian, semi-Buddhist, golf junkie. He's retired now, but as you will discover, he's funnier than ever. Meet the exquisitely wonderful: Mike Neun.
75:40 11/10/21
Tom Juvik
One of the reasons we all live where we do is because of the long line of early explorers and frontiersmen who led the way: People like Balboa, Ponce de Leon, and Hernando De Soto - inventor of the Chrysler hard-top coupe. And Almost Live! had its pioneers too; its Lewis and Clark's, Daniel Boone's and Kit Carson's. In fact, it is little remembered today, but the early members of Almost Live! often wore buckskin and coonskin caps - and if their comedy didn't always hit the mark, maybe it's because they were using primitive muskets, not the modern rifles available today. And now that this analogy has run its course, it's time to meet one of those first pathfinders of the show that first began in 1984: Tom Juvik. Tom spent most of his career as a beloved South Kitsap school teacher. He's also the writer of award-winning short stories and newspaper columns. He's a graduate of the University of Washington - and a Vietnam War veteran. He was one of the very first writers for Almost Live! and later, Fox TV's Late Show. His waters run deep - and cool. And he also happens to be one of the finest people you'll ever meet. Creative writer, funny man, teacher and family guy. Tom Juvik.
43:12 9/24/21
Jim Sharp
Even though some members of Almost Live! were pretty good at playing the parts of dumb people - none of them actually were stupid. Well, there was that one guy. Oh man, was he an idiot. He thought the Gates Foundation is a type of girdle. He thought the Kentucky Derby is a hat. He once tripped on a cordless phone. Yea, everybody remembers that guy. But one of the show's pioneering members wasn't just smart. He was sharp. In fact, it's his name: Jim Sharp. It was Sharp in 1984 - along with show host Ross Shafer - that together birthed Almost Live!, even though neither of them is a trained OB-GYN. And for four years, through growing pains, struggles to find an audience - and a paltry budget - they nonetheless created a show that won almost 40 Northwest Emmys. Some people are just plain funny. They think funny, they talk funny. But Jim Sharp knows funny. And that talent has informed his career from Almost Live! on. Through the years, he went from producing The Late Show on Fox, to moving on as an independent writer and producer of numerous TV programs and projects - always in the comedy realm. By the time he crossed the finish line to retirement a couple of years ago, Jim had risen to become Comedy Central's West Coast Executive Vice-President of Original Programming and Development. That's a really long title. It's also a pretty big deal. And the capper to a remarkable career. These days, Jim and his wife divide their time between homes in the Seattle area - and San Diego. Here now is Jim Sharp... in a sharp conversation... with a not so-sharp interviewer.
57:47 9/5/21
Scott Schaefer
There was only one Keister on Almost Live. One Conway, one Nye, one Nelson, Wilson, Wyatt and Stainton. McHale was the only one with a prefix (Mc). There WERE two Guppys - Nancy and Joe - but they were married to one another so that doesn't count. But the show's two different Shafers were unconnected, unrelated and unalike. Scott Schaefer - unlike the show's original host, Ross Shafer - was also a key member of the show nearly from the start. A native of Seattle, Scott came to the program with clever ideas, some sharp writing and actual TV production knowledge. On a start-up local comedy show without a real precedent or blue-print, he was a big part of shaping its viewpoint, attitude and production approach. Today, Scott runs the award-winning local news business - South King Media - covering the happenings in local towns from Sea-Tac to White Center to Burien. He also runs the hyper-local website I Love Kent - the very town that became Almost Live's number one punchline. In 2020, Scott was named Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce's Corporate Citizen of the Year - yet another example of Almost Live being an unlikely springboard to eventual respectability. Living now in Burien with his wife Theresa, her mom, two nearly-grown kids, a couple of chihuahuas, two cats and a lizard... let's snag a conversation with Scott Schaefer...
69:48 6/10/21
Dana Dwinell
The town of Yakima is not only the self-proclaimed "Palm Springs of Washington State" - but it's also the hometown of some remarkable and famous people. A partial list includes the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The great short story writer and poet, Raymond Carver, grew up there. One of the most-admired writers for kids spent time in Yakima - and was the author of Pat Cashman's favorite books about Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy. She was Beverly Cleary… who died in 2021 at the age of 105. Perhaps one of the most underrated pop vocalists of all time is from Yakima: Gary Puckett. He named his band after the nearby town of Union Gap. Remember the big Indian guy from the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? His name was Will Sampson… he grew up in Yakima - and, frankly, could have cashed in on his gum endorsement in that ‘Cuckoo' movie. ("Juicy Fruit") Believe it or not, the great standup comic, Sam Kinison - grew up in Yakima. The legendary movie stuntman and actor, Yakima Canutt, took his first name from the Yakima River Valley where he grew up. The skiiers, Phil and Steve Mahre are from Yakima. So was Pete Rademacher… the one-time heavyweight boxer who got knocked out by Floyd Patterson at Sick's Stadium in Seattle in 1957. And perhaps… most notable of all… Floyd Paxton was from Yakima. Who is Floyd Paxton? Only the inventor of the Kwik Lok Bread Clip. But there's another Yakima native whose name you might not know… but should. She was, after all, the very first executive producer of Almost Live! She's Dana Dwinell. After high school in Yakima, she graduated from the University of Washington… from which other Almost Live! alum like John Keister, Nancy Guppy, Bob Nelson and Joel McHale also graduated. It is considered a super easy college. But after Dana graduated, she soon got her first TV gig at KING in Seattle as a part-time production assistant - eventually working her way up to be the associate producer of KING's longtime morning show, Seattle Today. She got stuck in that gig until a new station program director came along with some new ideas. One idea was a local music video show called REV - an acronym that stood for ‘Rock Entertainment Videos. Dana became the co-producer of that - a show that introduced a new face to TV in a recurring segment called The Rocket Report. That new face? A guy named John Keister. But the new program director had another big idea: Starting up a never-before-tried local comedy show. After a couple of not-so-good pilot shows… it eventually became Almost Live! Dana Dwinell was tapped to be the executive producer. A couple of years later, she moved on. Really moved. To produce a morning show in Philadelphia - staying for three years. Later she went on to San Francisco for another TV opportunity. There were other stops along the way - but she and her husband eventually made the decision to move back… to Yakima. It would be a new career - in advertising. Today, she runs her own very successful company: D2 Communications. D2, see? Because her name starts with two D's? That's a cool idea using the first letter of your first and last name to form a business acronym. Unless your name is Pete Peterson. Find out more about the journey of the remarkable Dana Dwinell - as Pat talks to her from the D2 offices - in the Palm Springs of Washington state - Yakima. Not far from Ellensburg - the Oxnard of Washington state...
61:15 5/1/21
Lauren Weedman
Looking back at all the people who were part of Almost Live!, it’s notable that there are literally none of them that moved onto completely different careers after the show wrapped years ago. None of the cast members went into the clergy - or became an actuary, astronaut, statistician, pipe-fitter, cartographer, or tried their hand at dentistry. Yes, Joe Guppy DID become a psychotherapist for a while, but he also simultaneously taught comedy. The two DO go hand-in-hand after all. But most everyone moved from the show to somewhat related fields: Some on to TV work, writing projects, standup comedy, public speaking, and theater. But one former cast member has pretty much done - and continues to do - ALL of that. And she was already under sail before she ever arrived at Almost Live! Lauren Weedman has a performing career longer that KING KONG’s arms. Both of them. She's acted in countless movies and TV shows, from Arrested Development, to Will and Grace, from Two Broke Girls, to Masters of Sex. She played major roles in the HBO series Hung and Looking. But as you'll discover in this episode, her very first TV experience was on Almost Live! Lauren Weedman official sites Lauren Weedman | IMDb Lauren Weedman | Twitter Lauren Weedman | Instagram After the show ended, she later became a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She’s done a ton of theater, including no less than 11 solo plays she wrote herself. She’s also the host of the Moth Storytelling Slam in Santa Monica. She's a noted painter of original art. As for acting, she’s performed on stage everywhere in the country. She's also the author of two books, and you can see her more recently in HBO’s series Euphoria. Without question one of the most accomplished talents that ever strolled into the studios of Almost Live! Actress, comedian, theater performer, artist, author, playwright, AND the single mom of Leo. They live together in L.A. - at nearby Santa Monica.
93:57 2/5/21
Joel McHale
The guest this time is Joel McHale. Actor, comedian, author, producer, TV host... and had nothing to do with "McHale's Navy." He hosted "The Soup" for 11 years on the E! Network... and starred in the NBC sitcom, "Community" for six. He's been in dozens of movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games. He hosted the ESPY awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, People's Choice, the Webbys - and even the White House Correspondent's Dinner - remember when they used to have those? He's had Netflix shows... and is even the host of the game show reboot of "Card Sharks."   Joel McHale official sites The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale | Neflix Joel McHale | Facebook Joel McHale | Twitter Joel McHale | Instagram Joel Edward McHale was born in Rome... the one in Italy... but grew up in Mercer Island... the one in Lake Washington. His dad is Jack - from America. His mom is Laurie, from Canada. Himself half-Canadian, Joel is 1.93 meters tall and now lives in Hollywood with his wife, Sarah, and two boys Eddie and Isaac. All people in Hollywood are required to have a swimming pool, so we catch up with Joel after he'd just completed a half-lap.
100:26 1/20/21
Brooks McBeth
A warning: Parts of this particular episode may be too… well… too highbrow, too donnish, too erudite… too filled with words you have look up. Nonetheless, if you are at familiar with Shakespeare - and specifically, his great character, MacBeth - you are familiar with his work. But there is another McBeth - the one that’s the subject of this podcast. And this one is much funnier. Certainly funnier than Othello - both the character AND the town in eastern Washington. So as disappointing as it may be for some listeners, expecting to hear a discussion about theater, well, you can forget about that first MacBeth for today. Or for that matter "Tomorrow and tomorrow…" Besides, this McBeth is not nearly as much of a downer as Shakespeare’s guy. Brooks McBeth official sites Brooks McBeth | IMDb Brooks McBeth | Facebook Brooks Mcbeth| Twitter BrooksMcBeth | YouTube Through the years, Almost Live saw many interns come and go. For many of them, the going was the best part. But few were nearly as impressive as Brooks McBeth. By definition, an intern is both a noun... and a verb. The noun says, "An intern is a student or trainee who works at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience." But as a verb, intern means "to incarcerate someone." This seems like the best definition of Brooks McBeth’s time with Almost Live! Except that most prisoners get paid better. Brooks hails from the city of curves, Renton. His mom, Kathy, was a school teacher. His dad, Robert McBeth, was a longtime judge. Surprisingly, Brooks was never up before his father. Except once, when Brooks arose at 5am to go fishing. He snagged a two year degree at Green River Community College, and then immediately came to Almost Live! for another couple of years. Brooks immediately showed that he was more than the kind of intern who was sent out to get coffee and doughnuts for the prima donnas on the regular staff. He made his mark quickly as a writer and performer, receiving an Emmy nomination for one his very first efforts. ("I Love You, Man.") He headed off to Hollywood before the show ended its run, and has become a nationally familiar face and voice on countless TV and radio commercials - you can see him currently in commercials for Bud Light, The Learning Channel, and 'The Office', to name just a handful. Brooks has been a writer on no less than six different series from 'The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn' to the legendary 'MADtv'. But it's as a standup comic that Brooks really shines. He is one of those handful of comedians that can absolutely own a stage. He doesn't just kill. He destroys. If you ever get the chance to see him, please go. But get a babysitter for the kids. Brooks can be… well… edgy. But absolutely charming at the same time. In Pat's opinion, he's perhaps the most talented person that 'Almost Live!' ever produced. Yet, his time with the show was brief, so his name wouldn't necessarily be the first one that comes to mind for fans of the show. That ain't right. Time to change that. Brooks still occasionally does a one-man show called, "This Ain’t Shakespeare." Visit now with the Bard of Renton…from his adopted home of L.A. Brooks McBeth. He ain’t Chaucer either.
71:33 1/6/21
Bill Nye
First of all, this episode must begin with a shocking revelation: Bill Nye believes in crazy conspiracy stuff. Nutty things like Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. Kooky notions like electromagnetism, thermodynamics, relativity. And even, yes, dare he say it: Climate change. Nye ridiculously thinks that ideas not supported by observation and real data, or science if you will, have more rigor than ideas based on pure opinion, somebody’s gut, or religious faith alone. What a whack job, this Bill Nye. Yet, in these days when the science deniers and fabulists are lined up like the supervillains in a Batman comic... William Sanford Nye stands as a stalwart exemplar of the power of intellect, reason and honest, provable fact. What a radical! Bill Nye official sites Bill Nye | YouTube Bill Nye | Facebook Bill Nye | Twitter Bill Nye | Instagram So how did a kid from the tiny hamlet of Washington, D.C. become such a big deal? It’s quite an unlikely story. Nonetheless, he’s become a full-fledged American icon, a genuine institution, and a major brand. Beyond his time on Almost Live! - and we’ll get into that, of course, because that’s what this podcast is supposed to be about, the Nye guy has compiled a resume’ longer than Benjamin Franklin’s. For one thing, Franklin was never on Dancing With the Stars. Beginning in 1993, Bill’s wildly successful Bill Nye the Science Guy show aired simultaneously on both commercial and public TV - the first show ever to do that. It ran for five years... and 19 Emmy awards. That alone might make for a landmark career. But the Science Guy was just getting started. Today, Bill is a continuous TV presence, a best-selling author, comedian, mechanical engineer, actor and indefatigable science advocate. An entire Nye documentary has been produced. What’s it about? An hour and 40 minutes. Bill is also the C.E.O. of The Planetary Society, he’s developed a sundial that is riding on the Mars Exploration Rover right now, and he’s received a number of U.S. patents, including a design for a digital abacus. Yes, even the abacus has gone digital. Currently, among all his other activities, he hosts a terrific podcast called Science Rules! It’s one you can listen to when you’re exercising, to get away either from the travails of daily life, or from the law. Bill’s also a fellow, or perhaps ‘guy’, on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Among other things, the committee investigates extraordinary claims…such as the one Pat Cashman started about how the Almost Live Still Alive podcast is the top-rated one in the world. Bill Nye is a guy who puts his science where his mouth is. He’s passionate, sincere, dedicated and about 5 foot 11 and-a-half. He has residences in both L.A. and New York, and this episode catches up with him in one of them.
95:53 12/9/20
Joe Guppy
The most popular freshwater aquarium fish of them all is the guppy. It is live-bearing - no eggs. It likes flake food, and is generally peaceful. But the guppy is also considered one of the wittiest in the fish kingdom... perhaps second funniest only to the clown fish - and, frankly, the clown fish’s pie-throwing and seltzer-down-the-pants routine is getting a little old. But a JOE Guppy is quite another matter. Some might guess that a Joe Guppy is a small fish that swims around in a cup of black coffee. But the Guppy that’s the subject of this podcast is something else: a storyteller, improviser, comedy writer, actor, team builder, and teacher. And, one of the pioneer members of Almost Live! He is one of the sharpest writers and performers of comedy that I’ve ever known. Yet, he walked away from it for an entirely different direction. We’ll find out why in this episode. Joe Guppy has done a ton of things in his most unconventional career. One of the most personal episodes is detailed in a remarkable memoir published in 2015, called “My Fluorescent God.” It details the severe psychotic depression that engulfed his life, years before ‘Almost Live!’ And how creativity, humor, writing, and performance became a big part of his road back. We don’t explore that much in this interview - it would be worthy of an entire podcast by itself - but that part of his remarkable story is an astonishing and inspiring read. You can find it on Amazon - "My Fluorescent God" by Joe Guppy. Joe Guppy official sites Joe Guppy | YouTube Joe Guppy | IMDb Joe’s contributions to “Almost Live!” came during the show’s infancy - and he left the show in the late 1980’s. As a result, he is perhaps not as well-remembered a cast member as his wife, Nancy. Yet, you might not know her, if not for Joe. His writings and performances on the show are among my personal favorites. He set a tone and style that you can still see in the show’s best moments - even years after he had departed from it. Over the course of his life, Joe may not have as many frequent flyer miles as some of the other members of the show, but perhaps no one has traveled as far. Today, he coaches creative and academic writing, presentation and performance, improvisation, and comedy. Someone once said that "those who cannot do, teach." But Joe Guppy did - and does - both. Here he is from his Seattle residence, where he hangs out with Nancy, and where his work and busy home life are only interrupted by nosey people like Pat Cashman. 
73:52 11/25/20
John Keister
It was probably inevitable, but as a weekly sketch comedy show, Almost Live! was often compared to network television's Saturday Night Live. Why not? Almost Live! aired on Seattle's KING TV every Saturday night, immediately adjacent to the venerated SNL. Both shows had 'live' in their title. Both traded in sketch comedy. Both featured regular ensemble casts of performers and writers satirizing the world around them - the national SNL show more broadly; the local Almost Live, more... locally. But while Saturday Night Live featured a different guest host every week - Almost Live! - from 1988 to 1999 - had the same guest host every time... John Keister. Yes, Keister. Insert your joke here. He’s heard them all. John and Seattle grew up together. His neck of the woods is the Seward Park neighborhood. Abraham Lincoln, who had quite a neck himself, had a secretary of state named William Seward. He's the guy who came up with the idea of buying Alaska in 1867. It was so cheap, he bought it with cash on hand. And some coupons. John Keister grew up in a time when "kids spent more time on bicycles than on their damn phones!" [The preceding sentence was written by a grouchy old man from Covington.] Seward Park is not far from Lake Washington... very near the spot where summertime's Seafair Hydroplane races took place. And John, like lot of other Seattle kids of the time, were so enamored with the sport of hydroplane racing that they would fashion toy versions of the big boats... tie them onto their bikes with long strings... and then drag them behind as they pedaled at top speed down the neighborhood streets. Today, they'd be arrested. John attended Sharples Junior High (now called Casper W. Sharples Alternative Secondary School) which is too much for any kid to remember or spell. Franklin High School was John's next stop - he being just one of many famous Franklin alumni including Fred Hutchinson, baseball star and namesake of Seattle's preeminent cancer research center... There was a student named Ron Santo - who became a Hall of Fame baseball star - another alum was Keye Luke, an actor famous as number one son in the Charlie Chan movies. Cartoonist, Lynda Barry went to Franklin - as did international dancer and choreographer, Mark Morris. Also a Franklin graduate: one-time governor, Gary Locke - Seattle's legendary sports writer, Royal Brougham was a Frankliner. And some of the Nordstroms went there. and Kenny G. - and Johnny K. - John Keister. Everybody went to Franklin. Except, of course, Franklin. John Keister official sites John Keister | YouTube John Keister | Facebook Next, the U-Dub - working with the student newspaper, The Daily. After graduating, he got hired at a Seattle music magazine, The Rocket - which lead to a gig called 'The Rocket Report' on a KING TV show. Not long after, a new show called 'Almost Live!' came along - and through an unlikely happenstance - John began doing stuff for it. When Almost Live! took a dirt nap in 1999, Keister tried a new show across town on KIRO TV along with another Almost Live guy, Bob Nelson - The John Report with Bob. Then John was a writer on 'The Eyes of Nye' - a national show featuring another 'Almost Live' alum, Bill Nye. And his eyes. Today, John Keister is sort of a Seattle icon as much as the Space Needle - although not as tall; as much as grunge music - although without the distorted guitar and angst; and even as native as the geoduck - although Keister himself is not a bivalve mollusk with a shell. Unless he's been holding out on me. He's the dad of three adult kids - Elroy, Riley and Arlo. And just like William Faulkner, Warren Buffet and Eminem - who all stayed in the places they grew up - so has John Keister. Here he is, from the Seattle home he shares with his wife, Mary - still living within blocks of the old neighborhood.
100:49 11/11/20
Bill Stainton
Someone once asked me what a TV producer does. That someone was me. I asked me what a TV producer does. Maybe I should ask Bill Stainton instead. Because he WAS a TV producer - specifically, the TV producer of "Almost Live!" If that show could be compared to a farm operation, then Bill Stainton was the cruel overseer... the guy making sure the crops got in each week. Keeping the farm analogy going here, he was the guy who did the hiring and firing, supervised the operation, sometimes drove the tractor, put together the budgets - and, when necessary, went to the whip. I still have the old scars - and you should see the ones on Steve Wilson's back. You can hardly see his tattoos anymore. Bill Stainton official sites Bill Stainton | YouTube Bill Stainton | Facebook Bill Stainton | Twitter Bill Stainton, as the show producer, had to deal with the various staff sharecroppers, malcontents, agitators, drifters, hard-workers, soft-workers, non-workers - while also nurturing the creativity, while also being a comforter, motivator and prodder. He was technically the boss... without being bossy. And for most of the life of 'Almost Live!', Bill Stainton served as the show's protector. So whenever station management, advertisers, politicians or viewers got pissed off, he was the one who attempted to be the conflict counselor, negotiator and calming front man, walking the line between compromise and defense. In addition to all that, he also did the other stuff: Running the meetings, performing, writing, hiring interns, budgeting and deciding what was going to be in the show each week - and what wasn't. That's all. Since the production of 'Almost Live!' ended abruptly over two decades ago, Bill, like all the rest of us, has moved on to new things. For the last several years, he has found considerable success as a keynote speaker. In fact, in 2019, he was inducted into the National Speaker Hall of Fame. Me? I was recently inducted into the National Listener Hall of Fame. But I'm not gonna brag about that right now. Because we're about to visit with Bill Stainton. Here he is, speaking from his Seattle area house... which is located immediately adjacent to his Seattle area garage.
82:31 10/28/20
Tracey Conway
One of the reasons we decided on the podcast name, "Almost Live!: Still Alive" is because, happily, everybody from that show is still with us. Not necessarily still with IT... me most notably... but everyone otherwise is still breathing and reasonably coherent. However, there's one person who narrowly escaped being the exception - because not only did we nearly lose Tracey Conway some years ago when her heart suddenly decided to stop ticking, it happened in front of a live audience who were still revved up from watching a show taping just moments earlier. I'll just bet that story is gonna come up in the minutes ahead. Tracey Conway official sites Tracey Conway | IMDb Tracey Conway | Facebook Tracey Conway | Twitter From the beginning in 1984, Almost Live! was never a television show with money to burn. Its budget required the hiring of writers - and only writers. It never had the luxury of hiring both writers and actors. Take me for example: When I graduated from high school, I thought about studying acting, but I had a decision to make... should I move to New York City and attend the Juilliard School with an emphasis on drama, music and dance?... or instead, stay in my hometown and go to Community College with an emphasis on puppetry, cartooning and pottery? I decided to skip Juilliard. But on one occasion, Almost Live! hired a person who was both a trained actor AND a writer. She owns a Master of Fine Arts from USC. She was - and is - the whole package. Tracey Conway. To prepare for this episode, I Googled Tracey's name for more information. On her wikipedia page - and I'm not making this up - I read that she is married to cast member, Bob Nelson, and that they have three kids: Alexander, Miriam and Maia. This was news to me - and to Tracey Conway. In fact, the 'Worst Girlfriend in the World' has never been married, and never had kids. Meanwhile, her fictional husband, Bob Nelson, says that because they have never been married, he refuses to pay child support. That figures. Meanwhile, if anyone ever decides to fix that erroneous Tracey Conway page, they should also add this: She is the warmest, most genuine person you'll ever meet; eternally upbeat, sunny and ready to laugh. She is also one of the finest performers this side of Juilliard. I found her at her Seattle home, where she lives with Ella, her beloved Siberian husky, to whom the deadbeat, Bob Nelson, also pays no monthly support.
110:27 10/14/20
Ed Wyatt
Stanford University is one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Some of its alumni include a guy named Larry Page, who’s the founding CEO of Google. It’s true. You can look it up on Bing if you don’t believe me. Other famous graduates are Sigourney Weaver, Reese Witherspoon, Tiger Woods, Rachel Maddow, John Steinbeck, Ken Kesey, Senator Henry Jackson - and the people who founded PayPal and Netflix. But of all Stanford’s distinguished elite, only one of them climbed the lofty ladder to achieve a place of immortality on “Almost Live!” His name? Ed Wyatt. He grew up in Portland (Oregon) and got his Stanford degree in English... which is his first language. He taught that subject at Bellarmine Prep, a Jesuit school in Tacoma, while also doing a bit of coaching in football and basketball for the Bellarmine Lions. As you’ll hear, along the way, Ed started nosing around a fledgling local TV show called ‘Almost Live!’ Perhaps that topic will come up in the coming interview. Ed Wyatt official sites Ed Wyatt | IMDb Ed Wyatt | Twitter Ed Wyatt | Money In Sport How to College in the 90s: Wyatt, Ed, Jeakle, Bill After his time at Almost Live!, for a while, Ed was the host of a Portland TV Magazine show. Then he moved to L.A. helping to start a new sports network: Fox Sports World, which brought him to eventually living in Australia. He’s been there for twenty years since, enjoying the down-under culture, food, people... and music. Australian. AC/DC... INXS (In Excess)... Bee Gees... Olivia Newton-John... and, of course, the immortal Rolf Harris... OK, maybe not that guy so much. Especially since Rolf Harris got into big career-ending trouble a few years ago. You can look it up for yourself on Google. Or Bing. But back to Ed Wyatt - who is one of the finest people you’d ever meet. Today, he does everything - from sports reporting on basketball, soccer to baseball... and more. He is one of the best-known, most-celebrated sports media figures in all of Australia - one of the big deals there... on TV, radio, streaming, and print. He’s married to a native Australian named Michelle, and they have a son named Sam. Living in a place for two decades, Ed long-ago lost his Pacific Northwest accent... if there is one. So note his Aussie brogue, as we catch up with him from his home in the coastal city of five million called Melbourne.
66:51 9/30/20
Bob Nelson
Perhaps one of the reasons ‘Almost Live!’ found a place on TV for so many years was because - at its core - it was a distinctly local show. The jokes were almost entirely focused on Puget Sound towns, neighborhoods and places - and none of those places was a more frequent target than a suburb called Kent. And no member of the ‘Almost Live!’ writing and performing group was more informed about that town than Bob Nelson - the only one of us with an actual Kent pedigree. To be clear, this is not the Bob Nelson who’s a retired NFL linebacker. Nor is it the one who’s a stand-up comedian - that Bob Nelson used to use profanity in his act, but now works clean. And it’s not the Bob Nelson who’s a public accountant in Tigard, Oregon. THAT Bob Nelson, by the way, is certified. And sometimes uses profanity. Bob Nelson official sites The Confirmation (2016) Nebraska (2013) Bob Nelson | IMDb No, THIS is the Bob Nelson from Kent. Grew up there - on the rugged East Hill - went to school there - he is Kent’s native son. Legally. After graduating from the U-Dub - THIS Bob Nelson eventually took work at the Seattle Times, with the dream job of selling classified ads. Because he had a working TV set in the mid-1980’s - he occasionally tuned into the fledgling “Almost Live!” program. To him, that looked like more fun than trying to sell a used Chevy Nova in a two-inch newspaper ad - so, Bob Nelson - THAT one - wrote a bunch of sketches and then trotted them over to KING TV even though he figured nothing would happen. Sure enough. Nothing did. At first. But then, in the summer of ‘89, he got a call from producer Bill Stainton - impressed with Bob’s scripts - and like the computer hackers always say in the movies: “He was in.” In the next ten years, Bob never left the show - except for a while to write for the Magic Johnson talk show in Hollywood. Yea. Magic Johnson had a talk show. But before long, Bob came back home - and stayed with “Almost Live!” until it came to an end in 1999. But the writing career of Bob Nelson was not at an end. Not even close. There were more TV shows, video projects - and along the way, he fashioned a screenplay that became a major motion picture in 2013. It was called “Nebraska” - and it brought the first-time screenwriter Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. As you’d guess, much more has followed, including writing and directing the 2016 film, “The Confirmation.” It’s a good one. Turn the subtitles off - and watch it. As well as anything that has the name Bob Nelson on it. Just as long as it’s THAT Bob Nelson. I talked to him via Zoom, from the Seattle area home he shares with his wife, Valerie. They live on an island, that has electricity and - at least on this day - pretty good internet.
94:56 9/16/20
Steve Wilson
If Almost Live! could be compared to a baseball team, Steve Wilson might have been the groundskeeper. At least on game day. He was the guy in charge of grooming the diamond; preparing the field, cutting the grass, drawing the foul-lines, and raking the infield. He got the field ready - but then, taking managerial duties, he positioned the players and coached them up. He was the show's studio director. Like most of the show's regulars, Steve is a native North Westerner - in his case, Lakewood, Washington -or- Tacoma, if you will. He grew up in a house on the banks of Lake Steilacoom. At the age of six, after seeing his first live TV broadcast at the World's Fair, Steve knew what he wanted to do... be the elevator operator for the Space Needle. No. That's not it. He wanted to get into TV - in any capacity. Performing TV, producing, directing - even repairing them. So he went to Pullman and attended Wazzu, deciding to forgo any thought of being the Coug football team's left tackle - and instead majored in communications. During the summer months, he worked at Disneyland, wearing sweaty costumes as various Disney characters like Pluto and Winnie the Pooh. Indeed, his Disneyland colleagues still say Wilson was the best Poo they ever had. Steve Wilson official sites Steve Wilson | IMDb Steve Wilson | LinkedIn After a six month internship at KING TV, he went to work for the company full-time, becoming a staff director and producer. Talk shows, newscasts, sporting events, concerts and more. And then, in 1985, a different kind of show to direct: Almost Live!. Wilson leapt onto the back of that horse and rode it for 15 years, until it finally keeled over - ready for the glue factory - in 1999. He moved on to other jobs, like directing KOMO TV's 'Northwest Afternoon', which was like 'Almost Live!', but funnier. He even spent 8 months in Hollywood's world of bells and buzzers, directing programs at the Game Show Network in Hollywood. Many years ago, he attended Lakes High School - home of the Lancers. Suitably, Steve has been a free-lancer for some time - and today, he's the go-to director for Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon - you name it. Because if you don't, he will. But it was 'Almost Live!' that he remembers most fondly. And why not? He was, after all, one of the original "High Fivin' White Guys." Well-qualified because he's white, he's a guy… and he's high. Owner of 23 Emmys - both earned and from eBay - I caught up with Steve Wilson from the Magnolia home he shares with his wife, Julie. So here we go. Please forgive the sketchy Zoom internet audio quality. We had fewer than two bars that day.
72:51 9/2/20
Nancy Guppy
In the earliest days of the show, Almost Live! was heavily influenced by a male viewpoint. A few actresses were introduced in those first years - Andy Stein and Lynne McManus - among them. But the show's first more regular female member got aboard largely because she happened to be the girlfriend of one the show's regular cast members - Joe Guppy. We’ll spend some time with him in a future podcast. But this one is about Nancy - and whether she came in the backdoor, the front window or the skylight, once she arrived at ‘Almost Live!’, the show was never the same. She was Nancy Harris when she grew up in Magnolia. She went to the U-Dub majoring in speech and communications. After meeting and marrying Joe Guppy, the two performed and wrote for "Almost Live!" for a couple of years before deciding in 1989 to move on to the bigger stages of Los Angeles. In 1992, they came back home, where Nancy eventually picked up again on "Almost Live" - this time without Joe. And this time, as not the only female on the show. She stayed with 'Almost Live!' for the remaining seven years of its run, riding it to the ground like a drunken rodeo performer. Nancy Guppy official sites Art Zone with Nancy Guppy | Facebook Nancy Guppy | IMDb Art Zone with Nancy Guppy | Nancy Guppy (@nancyguppyART) | Twitter Since then, Nancy has been hanging out at the Seattle Channel, which is a channel in Seattle. She hosts a weekly culture show called 'Art Zone', which is like the old 'Twilight Zone' without the black and white and the twist endings. Today, she and Joe live in a tasteful condo, as quintessential Seattleites. They drive a hybrid - eat organic - work out - and recycle like crazy. The always busy, on-the-go Nancy happened to be at home the other day, when I took the opportunity to chat with her about those increasingly distant days of 'Almost Live!'
61:57 8/19/20
Ross Shafer
In George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, he foresaw a time where Big Brother scrutinizes human actions, and stifles freedom and non-conformity. But while Orwell was busy focusing on Big Brother, he completely overlooked the arrival of Little Brother in 1984. It was a brand-new Seattle TV comedy show named “Almost Live!” And it's very first host was a local guy named Ross Shafer. He was a graduate of Federal Way High School, and then the University of Puget Sound, where he played some football and majored in business. For a while, he owned and managed the country’s only Stereo and Pet Shop in Puyallup. It seemed like a perfect idea - because when people think of stereos, they naturally think of cockatoos. But after three years of that, Ross took a daytime advertising job for the Squire Shop clothing chain, which had 28 stores. But when nighttime came along, he showed up at local comedy clubs, trying out jokes and putting together an act. After some hard years of blood, sweat, tears, and heckling, he won Seattle’s International Comedy competition and hit the road as an opening act for people like Crystal Gayle, Dionne Warwick, and Neil Sedaka. Ross Shafer official sites Ross Shafer | IMDb Ross Shafer | Facebook Ross Shafer | YouTube Ross Shafer | Twitter Then the chance to host a new local TV comedy show called “Almost Live!” came along. He took the gig for five years, but then jumped at a chance to host The Late Show on the Fox network. He did that for a year, and then moved on to other network programs. He hosted game shows, wrote a best-selling book, produced a comedy album, and headlined night clubs and casinos across the country. Then - as they say - he reinvented himself. And today, he's a top business keynote speaker and seminar leader, producing loads of human resource training films and has authored several books including “Nobody Moved Your Cheese”, “The Customer Shouts Back” and “Are You Relevant?” And later, Ross was inducted into the National Speakers Hall of Fame. When he’s not living in that Hall, he can be found at his home in Denver, CO - That’s where I caught up with him.
79:29 8/5/20
Almost Live!: Still Alive is an audio podcast mini-series, featuring the creators, cast and writers of one of Seattle's most iconic TV shows, Almost Live! (1984-1999) It was a show so popular, that it also found a home on Comedy Central - and in worldwide syndication. Pat Cashman hosts this retrospective podcast series - spending time with every key player - through long and intimate conversations. Cashman's a more than appropriate host - himself a former cast member. He worked with everyone for much of the show's fifteen years - and was individually responsible for bits like The Adventures of Sluggy, Roscoe's Rug Emporium, Unsolved Mysteries of Seattle and others. His contributions were just part of the show's memorable menu of favorite sketches and characters: Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan; The Lame List; The Worst Girlfriend in the World; Uncle Fran; Cops (in Mercer Island, Kent, Redmond, Leavenworth, etc.), Green River Dance, The High-Fivin' White Guys and many more. Almost Live!: Still Alive official sites Almost Live!: Still Alive | Facebook Almost Live!: Still Alive | YouTube Almost Live!: Still Alive | Twitter Almost Live!: Still Alive | Instagram Almost Live!: Still Alive | Subscribe And after it was all over, the show had produced a remarkable group of considerable accomplishments and talents - including one of the of the world's best-loved science personalities; an Oscar-nominated screenwriter; a big-time Hollywood star; several top national keynote speakers; one of Australia's best-known TV sports personalities - and a top television director. Not to mention a clinical psychotherapist, emcees, auctioneers - and a stand-up comic or two. Not a bad lineup. Almost Live!: Still Alive features one-on-one discussions with the show's best-remembered players - from Ross Shafer to John Keister; Nancy Guppy to Joel McHale; Tracey Conway to Bill Nye - plus Bob Nelson, Bill Stainton, and all the rest. They'll be sharing the stories of how they got on the show - their best-remembered experiences (including favorite and/or least favorite bits,) tales about other people they worked with through the years - and what they're all up to now. The show's long-running popularity may well have come from its distinctive focus on the very place it was broadcast: Seattle and its neighborhoods. It reflected a remarkable time when the growing city, its surrounding communities, citizens, businesses, music and culture were changing. Newcomers to the region invariably confessed that they learned more about their new home from Almost Live! - than from any travel guide or chamber of commerce pamphlet. Since the show ended production in 1999, Seattle has exploded with the arrival of a massive tech industry, bringing with it thousands of new residents from around the country, and the world - likely blurring the old lines between Redmond and Bellevue, Federal Way and Auburn, Renton and Mercer Island. That's why watching rebroadcasts of Almost Live! today - or on YouTube - offers a witty, funny, and insightful window into how Seattle used to be - while simultaneously previewing where it was headed. We think you'll enjoy the special conversations you'll hear on "Almost Live!: Still Alive" - in hopes they'll bring back fond memories of a remarkable place and time, from some of the people who comically chronicled them. Please share these episodes with anyone and everyone who lived in the Northwest during the original airings of Almost Live! - and through its long, continuing afterlife in reruns. Because as long as people remember it, Almost Live! really IS still alive. "Almost Live!: Still Alive" The podcast.
03:44 7/20/20