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13 Out-of-This World Facts About Mork & Mindy

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Mork & Mindy only lasted four seasons, but from language (shazbot!) to fashion (those rainbow suspenders), the series certainly left its mark on pop culture—including introducing the world to a comedian named Robin Williams. Had the Orkan alien delivered a report on his own show to Orson, here are 13 things he would have shared.

1. THE SHOW WAS INSPIRED BY AN EPISODE OF THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.

You’ve probably heard that Mork & Mindy was a spinoff of an alien character on Happy Days, and that’s true. But the Happy Days character was inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called “It May Look Like a Walnut,” which featured an alien played by Danny Thomas. When Dick Van Dyke director Jerry Paris was later hired to direct some Happy Days episodes, producer Garry Marshall mentioned that his Star Wars-obsessed young son wanted to see a spaceman on TV. Paris remembered the success of "Walnut," and Mork's extraterrestrial encounter with the Cunningham clan was created. The episode “My Favorite Orkan” was such a hit that it received its own spinoff: Mork & Mindy.

2. DOM DELUISE WAS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL MORKS.

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It's hard to imagine anyone other than Robin Williams playing Mork, but before he made the part his, Dom DeLuise and Roger Rees had both signed on for the Happy Days guest spot. They both backed out of the deal for various reasons, and casting directors were left with a very specific role to fill.

3. WILLIAMS WAS "THE ONLY ALIEN TO AUDITION."

Robin Williams was brought in to audition because the casting agent, one of Marshall's sisters, had noticed him in an acting class another sister, Penny, was taking. Garry Marshall chose Robin Williams because “he was the only alien to audition.” When he was asked to take a seat at the audition, Williams sat in the chair upside down. "It was immediately obvious that he was exactly right for the role: anarchic and a little bit crazy, you could easily believe he was actually an alien," Marshall said.

4. PAM DAWBER DIDN'T REALIZE SHE HAD BEEN CAST.

Pam Dawber had a development deal with ABC where they paid to keep her under contract until they found a project for her or the contract expired. She filmed one pilot called Sister Terri that flopped: "I played a nun who used to be a gang leader but she found God, so she's there to fix up the neighborhood," Dawber explained. It didn't sell, but scenes she filmed for it were later spliced with scenes of Robin Williams from his appearance on Happy Days. The cobbled-together example did the trick, and Mork & Mindy was sold without so much as a pilot. Dawber found out about it when her agent discovered a write-up of the show in Variety. "I hadn't auditioned, I hadn't met, and I knew nothing," Dawber said. "I remember going, 'And who in the hell is Robin Williams?'"

5. BOULDER WAS CHOSEN ON A WHIM.

Much like the rest of the "pilot," the show's location wasn't thought out very well. Garry Marshall had a niece attending school in Boulder, and it was the first place that came to mind when they were writing up a description of the show's plot.

6. CONTRARY TO REPORTS, WILLIAMS DIDN’T AD LIB THE ENTIRE ROLE.

During the height of the show’s popularity, there were rumors and even articles that said the role of Mork was largely unscripted—that the writers would just leave massive blank spots in the scripts that said “Robin does his thing.” As you might imagine, the show's writers didn't take too kindly to that. “We’re up until four in the morning writing Robin’s ad libs,” writer David Misch used to respond.

7. CENSORS WERE OFTEN A PROBLEM.

By today's standards, Mork & Mindy is a pretty wholesome show. In one episode, a character played by Morgan Fairchild tells Mork that she's pregnant. Nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong. Censors wouldn't allow the word "pregnant." The line had to be changed to, "Mork, I'm having a baby." Misch believed the distinction was an important one to the network: "My interpretation of that is: Being pregnant means you’ve had sex, but having a baby is adorable."

8. MORK AND MINDY'S HOUSE IS STILL A POPULAR BOULDER LANDMARK.

Mork and Mindy’s residence was a real house in Boulder, Colorado—in fact, it’s still there, and it’s still a popular tourist destination. After Williams’s death in 2014, fans flocked to the private residence and left memorials on the fence.

9. YOU MAY KNOW THE VOICE OF "ORSON" FROM OTHER PROJECTS.

Mork checked in with his boss, Orson, at the end of every show. Though Orson sounded like a pretty stern fellow, you probably know the voice of actor Ralph James due to some friendlier voiceover work: He was Mr. Turtle in the classic Tootsie Roll Pops commercial.

10. ROBIN WILLIAMS LEARNED ABOUT THE SHOW'S CANCELATION VIA VARIETY.

Much like Pam Dawber found out she was hired, Robin Williams found out they were fired via the media. "I found out the show was canceled by reading it in Variety," he said.

11. THE PITCH FOR SEASON FIVE WAS A LITTLE BIZARRE.

Season four ended with Mork and Mindy stranded in prehistoric times, thanks to a pair of magic, time-traveling shoes. Season five would have added an educational aspect to the show, with the duo using the shoes to meet historical figures such as Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln. It wasn’t picked up.

12. IT WAS VERY BRIEFLY SPUN OFF INTO A CARTOON.

Though season five didn't materialize, Mork & Mindy did carry on—in animated form. Along with a trio of other sitcom favorites, Mork and Mindy were the stars of an hour-long cartoon on ABC called Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour that ran only one season, from 1982 to 1983.

13. WILLIAMS AND DAWBER REUNITED IN 2014 FOR THE CRAZY ONES.

Fans who waited decades to see Mork and Mindy together again were rewarded for their patience in 2014, when Dawber made a guest appearance on Williams's new sitcom, The Crazy Ones. Playing his love interest for an episode was like slipping into "an old shoe," she said. "Fits somewhat more loosely," Williams added.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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Hey Now! 15 Things You Should Know About The Larry Sanders Show
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In the late 1980s, comedian Garry Shandling was a recurring guest host on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. His work didn’t get him Carson’s chair, but NBC was impressed enough with his hosting abilities to offer him David Letterman’s seat when Letterman left Late Night. Ultimately, Shandling—who passed away unexpectedly in 2016—decided against taking NBC’s reported $5 million a year offer, forcing the network to famously go with a "30-year-old unknown comedy writer" named Conan O'Brien instead.

When CBS offered Shandling its own 12:35 a.m. slot soon after, the comedian realized he wasn’t someone that wanted—or needed—to be on TV every night. Instead, Shandling co-created The Larry Sanders Show with Dennis Klein, an HBO series that deftly parodied late night talk shows. Here are 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking series, which debuted 25 years ago.

1. GARRY SHANDLING GOT THE IDEA FOR LARRY SANDERS FROM HIS PREVIOUS SHOW.

Concurrently with his guest hosting of The Tonight Show, Shandling starred in Showtime’s It’s Garry Shandling’s Show from 1986 to 1990, where the comedian played himself, often addressing both the studio audience and the camera directly. In an episode where Garry was a guest on a morning talk show (“Take My Girlfriend, for Example”), he realized that there could be a whole other show told from the television personality’s point of view.

2. JEFFREY TAMBOR MADE A DESPERATE MOVE TO GET THE ROLE OF HANK KINGSLEY.

After having what he felt was a good audition, Jeffrey Tambor found himself uncharacteristically calling Shandling hours later, saying that he really wanted to play his sidekick. Shandling told him that calling after an audition is exactly something Hank Kingsley would do.

3. ALBERT BROOKS'S DEFENDING YOUR LIFE GOT RIP TORN THE ROLE OF ARTIE.

Executive producer Peter Tolan thought lawyer Bob Diamond, the character Torn played in Defending Your Life, was similar to what they were looking for with Larry Sanders’ producer character, Artie. When Torn and Shandling first met, Torn wouldn’t read the script until the two first had some idle chatter.

4. THE "HEY NOW" EPISODE WAS ACTUALLY THE FIRST EPISODE WRITTEN AND PRODUCED.

When The Larry Sanders Show was on Netflix, “Hey Now” was correctly listed first. But when it originally aired on HBO, it was the last episode shown in the first season. Shandling credited Dennis Klein as the person who came up with Hank Kingsley’s classic Ed McMahon-ism.

5. THE CINEMATOGRAPHER SHOT ON ROLLER SKATES.

The talk show-within-the-show scenes were shot on four video cameras, and shown once a month to a studio audience. The scenes outside of the talk show were shot on film with three cameras in operation at once, with cinematographer Peter Smokler backpedaling on roller skates to shoot the walk-and-talks up and down the studio hallways.

6. THE ACTORS GOT TIRED OF CLEANING UP THEIR LANGUAGE.

Up until the halfway point of season two, actors would record a second take of finished scenes without cursing, so someday it could be shown in non-cable syndication. But they eventually grew tired of the extra work, leading to messier edits down the line when it was broadcast on IFC and Bravo.

7. EDDIE MURPHY WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY THE GUEST ON HANK KINGSLEY’S HOSTING EPISODE.

The part in “Hank’s Night In The Sun” ended up being filled by Cheers star George Wendt.

8. JEREMY PIVEN LEFT THE SHOW TO STAR IN P.C.U.

Jeremy Piven, who played Sanders' head writer Jerry, was written off the show in the early season two episode “Larry’s Birthday.” Piven received Shandling’s blessing to leave. When his movie career didn’t get off the ground, he co-starred on the sitcom Ellen.

9. JANEANE GAROFALO LEFT LARRY SANDERS TO JOIN SNL.

Mary Lou Collins (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub) was promoted to the role of booker when Janeane Garofalo's Paula character was written off the show. Garofalo lasted less than one season on SNL, and later admitted that she regretted leaving Larry Sanders.

10. DAVID DUCHOVNY’S ATTRACTION TO LARRY WAS DUCHOVNY’S IDEA.

The X-Files star pitched the idea of his being sexually attracted to Sanders while the two were playing basketball.

11. SHANDLING WROTE THE JOKES MAKING FUN OF HIMSELF.

In the series finale, “Flip,” Sean Penn rips on Garry Shandling to Larry Sanders—which is the only time Shandling is ever referenced in the series. (Penn and Shandling had just worked together on the film version of Hurlyburly.) Shandling told The New York Times that he is the one who wrote the jokes about himself, as ''Nobody can write better jokes putting me down than me ... I know how to destroy myself."

12. DAVID LETTERMAN THOUGHT IT WAS VERY REALISTIC.

Letterman once told Shandling, “This show is like every day of my life.”

13. JOHNNY CARSON WAS SHANDLING'S DREAM GUEST.

While Shandling wasn't able to make a Carson cameo happen, he was told that Carson was a fan of The Larry Sanders Show.

14. BEFORE AGREEING TO PLAY BRIAN, SCOTT THOMPSON MADE SHANDLING AGREE TO THREE CONDITIONS.

The Kids in the Hall star said he wanted Hank Kingsley’s new assistant to actually like his boss (unlike everyone else), to not be flamboyant in his homosexuality, and to be Canadian.

15. IT FEATURED JUDD APATOW’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.

Judd Apatow was a writer and producer on The Larry Sanders Show when he directed the episode “Putting the ‘Gay’ Back in Litigation.”

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