[Interview with Studs Terkel about Chicago TV in the ’50s]

Raw footage of an interview with Studs Terkel about Chicago television in the 1950s. He mainly discusses the show Studs' Place, which aired from 1949-1951. The live, improvised show took place in a neighborhood restaurant (called Studs' Place).

00:00Copy video clip URL Opens with small-talk between Studs Terkel and an off-camera interviewer.

01:20Copy video clip URL “Studs’ Place was a dream, it wasn’t real.” Studs talks about the cast, which included himself, Beverly Younger, Win Stracke, and Chet Roble. Younger “revolutionized the role of the waitress.” Stracke played the handy-man, and Roble played a bluesy piano-player. Studs says they represented four aspects of America.

03:30Copy video clip URL Studs talks about the script. The show was improvised from a 1-page script. It was so natural, and the credits said “Dialogue by the cast,” so people thought Studs’ Place was a real place.

04:57Copy video clip URL He describes a radio show he did before Studs’ Place in which he did parody descriptions of opera and played music from operas. The show was called “The Wax Museum.” Studs talks about the challenge of improvising, and says the lesson was always, “Don’t underestimate your friends.” He uses the time Win Stracke sang an aria on the show as an example.

07:17Copy video clip URL “Don’t even mention canned laughter.” Studs talks some about other live or improvised shows that were on at the time.

08:30Copy video clip URL Studs’ Place got knocked off the air because Studs had a run-in with McCarthyism.

09:00Copy video clip URL He talks about doing a show after Studs’ Place where he pulled things out of a briefcase.

11:03Copy video clip URL Studs’ Place was TV Chicago-style. “It was Jazz. It was improvised.” Part of the golden age of Chicago TV.

11:40Copy video clip URL Studs emphasizes the difference between ad lib and improvisation. Studs’ Place had a plot, but the dialogue was entirely improvised throughout the week. During rehearsal they’d get an idea for what they would say. “It was a wonder that we were always on-time.”

13:00Copy video clip URL Studs is asked about any “accidents” or “mistakes” that occurred because the show was live and improvised. He relates the story of Chet Roble doing a live promo for Manner House Coffee and inadvertently saying “Maxwell House Coffee.” Studs says, “Our problem was to keep Chet from jumping out the window” because of his mistake.

14:40Copy video clip URL Studs is asked if any shows stole ideas from Stubs’ Place. Studs doesn’t think so because most shows use canned laughter, which he hates. Studs’ Place was supposed to feel real and offer “some aspect of ordinary things.” He relates the plot of an episode involving a bottle of brandy as an example.

17:20Copy video clip URL Studs gives some background for the show. In 1949, “TV was just beginning.” He describes Chicago as a frontier. Writers, directors, and actors are in charge. He made the switch from radio at Charlie Anderson’s request.

20:00Copy video clip URL TV at the time “was raw food–good food–not processed.” It was characterized by freedom, imagination, daring, and courage. He says, “Then it became money–big money” where everything is aimed a specific demographic and creative people are no longer in charge.

22:42Copy video clip URL Studs talks about his start in radio, playing “the dumb gangster” in radio dramas before he moved on to being a disc jockey.

24:30Copy video clip URL Studs has difficulty remembering the Studs’ Place intro.

26:03Copy video clip URL Studs talks about sharing the civic theater stage with the Super Circus. He used to watch the women performing as part of the Super Circus. “We got a kick out of that.”

27:49Copy video clip URL He talks about some later shows, including Win Stracke’s Animal Playtime.

29:00Copy video clip URL Studs requests a copy of the raw footage of the interview.

30:00Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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