"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.
Almost Live!: Still Alive - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Almost Live!: Still Alive - 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.
One interview is missing.
Someone still needs to interview Pat Cashman.
More more more!
This is a wonderful series with incredible stories. I’d love to hear more stories, even if just from peripheral folks around the show. Staff at KING? Or many the generation of northwest comedians who grew up watching the show and were inspired to try it themselves! Lots of meat still on the bone, Pat!
I wish this wasn’t over as I really enjoyed it.