Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An interview with Stephen Drangula

Imagine a world without the internet and without all the Vic and Sade material we have now - and without all of the Vic and Sade friends that abound.

A couple of months ago, Stephen Drangula (https://twitter.com/Drangula) started following me on Twitter. His quips are always funny - but the best thing is, he is a Vic and Sade fan.

He hasn't delved too far into the series, but I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get to know him a bit better!

Jimbo: Tell us how far into the series you are.

Stephen Drangula: I’ve listened to everything the Internet Archive has from 1937 to 1940. I’ve also listened to the last episode and a smattering of others. 

Jimbo: Do you remember when and how you first heard about Vic and Sade and what you first thought of it?

Stephen Drangula: In the late 1990s, I went to Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications, and took advantage of their archive of old TV and radio shows, which could be watched/listened to in a private booth. In addition to watching the first-ever episode of “Sesame Street,” I chose to listen to four episodes of “Vic and Sade.”

These episodes were from the period when the show had continuing story lines. I remember being struck by how sharply observed the characters, situations and humor were. Just from those four episodes I thought—this is probably the best thing that was ever on radio.

Detailed memories of those four episodes have faded, but I remember one featured boorish house guests, who drive Sade mad while believing themselves to be boisterously hilarious. Sade tries to be polite throughout the episode, until the end, when she angrily bursts out, “Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet!”

For years, I meant to spend more time with the show, but it wasn’t until several months ago that I finally took advantage of the internet’s bounty, and started listening again.

It seems as if I must have known about the show before visiting the museum. Why did I choose to spend my limited time at the place with that show? But if I had heard of, or heard, “Vic and Sade” prior to that visit, I no longer remember. 

Jimbo: Finish this sentence. "When I think about the show, Vic and Sade, the first thing I think about is _____"

Stephen Drangula: Rush. I am very taken with his character. He is among the most fully realized and lifelike teenagers in literature. He’s vastly superior to, say, Henry Aldrich. I’m sure he doesn’t have a peer in radio. You’d have to look at the best in novels and plays, instead. It may not be going too far to compare him to Shakespeare’s boys and girls, particularly Romeo.

I’m disappointed to hear that he simply disappears from the series and then is replaced, without explanation, by Russell.

Of course—unlike Romeo, who is not bound to a particular actor—Bill Idelson deserves part of the credit for the character’s success, just as Art Van Harvey and Bernardine Flynn do for the success of their characters.

Then again, I came across a Vic and Sade script years ago, and the show is awe-inspiring even in script form. In this one, Vic and Rush amuse themselves with electric shocks being delivered by a malfunctioning washing machine. I didn’t need to hear the actors to be charmed and impressed by just Paul Rhymer’s words.

Jimbo: I think it’s pretty obvious that Paul Rhymer's writing had an influence on others' writing and on television (particularly through Bill Idelson). Would you care to comment on this?

Stephen Drangula: I wish he had had more influence. One reason the show is still so fresh and original is that no one has managed to duplicate its success. I’m not sure very many have tried. Certainly the show sounds nothing like the punchline-oriented comedies of then or now. And it’s only recently that some TV comedies have abandoned the laugh track and attempted the more naturalistic humor that is characteristic of “Vic and Sade,” but I don’t know if anyone writing comedies today has been directly influenced by it.

I’m working on a radio series that I scripted, and perform in, called “The Rich and the Filthy,” a parody of soap operas, that I hope will be available on iTunes soon. I’m proud of the show, but I’m sad to report that it’s not influenced much by Paul Rhymer’s work. I’d have to be a much more seasoned writer, and observer of human nature, to attempt anything like Rhymer.

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