Janet Urquhart: Listen for me on the laugh track
November 21, 2002
Well, I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame. I was a member of a studio audience, sort of.
It wasn’t actually a studio, it was the Wheeler Opera House, and I was sitting too far back to be recognizable. Since I was madly applauding Barry Manilow, this is probably a good thing.
Still, I think my name should appear when the credits roll at the end of the show to acknowledge my many contributions. (These include not shouting “Hi, Mom” or holding up a sign touting a Bible verse.)
Instead, I was cooperatively exuberant for last week’s taping of ABC’s “Christmas in Aspen.” I didn’t even need a teleprompter.
And, it’s just as well I was sitting in the hinterlands. If you had a ticket up front, you were told to wear a dopey red sweater with reindeer on it or something equally festive. You know, the kind of outfit you’ll never live down if your friends spot you wearing it on TV.
I’d have had trouble defending myself anyway, given the star-struck expression on my face when Manilow took the stage or my clapping on cue over incredibly corny banter from the likes of John Ritter. Nonetheless, I did applaud heartily. I don’t know how to explain it, unless it was the three margaritas I had before the show.
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“Ooh, Aspen’s going to put itself on the hip map with this musical lineup,” I snickered to the friend I dragged along. That’s when I realized anyone who still uses the word “hip” fits the profile of the target audience for this show to a middle-age T.
It’s tricky, making fun of Kenny G when you’ve got a Mannheim Steamroller tape stashed somewhere at home.
Needless to say, my companion and I took to amusing ourselves by crooning “Come and knock on our door” from the “Three’s Company” theme song whenever Ritter was front and center. Clearly, we were easily amused, but we weren’t alone.
The eagerness of the audience to participate ? myself included ? surprised the heck out of me. We chortled when something was funny and, frequently, laughed when something was merely supposed to be funny. We clapped gleefully at the producer’s direction.
I personally applauded virtually an entire lineup of ABC “stars” of whom I’d never heard and was prepared to chant “Barry, Barry” after Manilow’s number. I think I was swooning.
When someone introduced Johnny Mathis, the crowd was ecstatic. As it turned out, we were duped into applauding for Mathis. He had been taped a day earlier and wasn’t even present. He’ll no doubt be spliced in when the show airs ? you viewers at home will never know the difference. I, on the other hand, actually knew this in advance and still waited breathlessly for him to take the stage. Duh.
Oddly, we weren’t asked to provide a welcoming reception for Lee Ann Womack, who was also taped earlier. I wonder if she’s headed for the cutting-room floor, as we say in the business.
OK, so the show was kinda hokey, but there were some highlights, like Andy Dick (of whom I’d never heard) feverishly trimming a tree and launching himself off a stepladder to slam dunk the angel on top.
George Lopez (I still don’t know who he is) did a stand-up routine centered on the faulty premise that he was the only Latino in Aspen. He apologized for ruining our “white” Christmas and coined the term “pigment challenged” in reference to Aspenites. Yeah, I had to chuckle at that one.
So, anyway, this hour of holiday cheer is supposed to air on Dec. 8. Scenes shot around Aspen may be interspersed with glimpses of people you know madly cheering Barry Manilow. It should be funny, if you’ve got enough margarita mix on hand.
If Janet Urquhart ever owned a Barry Manilow album, she won’t admit it. Her column appears on Fridays.
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