"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.
The town of Yakima is not only the self-proclaimed "Palm Springs of Washington State" - but it's also the hometown of some remarkable and famous people. A partial list includes the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
The great short story writer and poet, Raymond Carver, grew up there.
One of the most-admired writers for kids spent time in Yakima - and was the author of Pat Cashman's favorite books about Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy. She was Beverly Cleary… who died in 2021 at the age of 105.
Perhaps one of the most underrated pop vocalists of all time is from Yakima: Gary Puckett. He named his band after the nearby town of Union Gap.
Remember the big Indian guy from the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? His name was Will Sampson… he grew up in Yakima - and, frankly, could have cashed in on his gum endorsement in that ‘Cuckoo' movie. ("Juicy Fruit")
Believe it or not, the great standup comic, Sam Kinison - grew up in Yakima.
The legendary movie stuntman and actor, Yakima Canutt, took his first name from the Yakima River Valley where he grew up.
The skiiers, Phil and Steve Mahre are from Yakima.
So was Pete Rademacher… the one-time heavyweight boxer who got knocked out by Floyd Patterson at Sick's Stadium in Seattle in 1957.
And perhaps… most notable of all… Floyd Paxton was from Yakima. Who is Floyd Paxton? Only the inventor of the Kwik Lok Bread Clip.
But there's another Yakima native whose name you might not know… but should. She was, after all, the very first executive producer of Almost Live! She's Dana Dwinell.
After high school in Yakima, she graduated from the University of Washington… from which other Almost Live! alum like John Keister, Nancy Guppy, Bob Nelson and Joel McHale also graduated. It is considered a super easy college.
But after Dana graduated, she soon got her first TV gig at KING in Seattle as a part-time production assistant - eventually working her way up to be the associate producer of KING's longtime morning show, Seattle Today.
She got stuck in that gig until a new station program director came along with some new ideas. One idea was a local music video show called REV - an acronym that stood for ‘Rock Entertainment Videos. Dana became the co-producer of that - a show that introduced a new face to TV in a recurring segment called The Rocket Report. That new face? A guy named John Keister.
But the new program director had another big idea: Starting up a never-before-tried local comedy show. After a couple of not-so-good pilot shows… it eventually became Almost Live! Dana Dwinell was tapped to be the executive producer.
A couple of years later, she moved on. Really moved. To produce a morning show in Philadelphia - staying for three years. Later she went on to San Francisco for another TV opportunity.
There were other stops along the way - but she and her husband eventually made the decision to move back… to Yakima. It would be a new career - in advertising. Today, she runs her own very successful company: D2 Communications. D2, see? Because her name starts with two D's? That's a cool idea using the first letter of your first and last name to form a business acronym. Unless your name is Pete Peterson.
Find out more about the journey of the remarkable Dana Dwinell - as Pat talks to her from the D2 offices - in the Palm Springs of Washington state - Yakima.
Not far from Ellensburg - the Oxnard of Washington state...
Looking back at all the people who were part of Almost Live!, it’s notable that there are literally none of them that moved onto completely different careers after the show wrapped years ago. None of the cast members went into the clergy - or became an actuary, astronaut, statistician, pipe-fitter, cartographer, or tried their hand at dentistry. Yes, Joe Guppy DID become a psychotherapist for a while, but he also simultaneously taught comedy. The two DO go hand-in-hand after all. But most everyone moved from the show to somewhat related fields: Some on to TV work, writing projects, standup comedy, public speaking, and theater. But one former cast member has pretty much done - and continues to do - ALL of that. And she was already under sail before she ever arrived at Almost Live!
Lauren Weedman has a performing career longer that KING KONG’s arms. Both of them. She's acted in countless movies and TV shows, from Arrested Development, to Will and Grace, from Two Broke Girls, to Masters of Sex. She played major roles in the HBO series Hung and Looking. But as you'll discover in this episode, her very first TV experience was on Almost Live!
Lauren Weedman official sites
Lauren Weedman | IMDb
Lauren Weedman | Twitter
Lauren Weedman | Instagram
After the show ended, she later became a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She’s done a ton of theater, including no less than 11 solo plays she wrote herself. She’s also the host of the Moth Storytelling Slam in Santa Monica. She's a noted painter of original art. As for acting, she’s performed on stage everywhere in the country. She's also the author of two books, and you can see her more recently in HBO’s series Euphoria.
Without question one of the most accomplished talents that ever strolled into the studios of
Almost Live! Actress, comedian, theater performer, artist, author, playwright, AND the single mom of Leo. They live together in L.A. - at nearby Santa Monica.
The guest this time is Joel McHale. Actor, comedian, author, producer, TV host... and had nothing to do with "McHale's Navy." He hosted "The Soup" for 11 years on the E! Network... and starred in the NBC sitcom, "Community" for six. He's been in dozens of movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games. He hosted the ESPY awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, People's Choice, the Webbys - and even the White House Correspondent's Dinner - remember when they used to have those? He's had Netflix shows... and is even the host of the game show reboot of "Card Sharks."
Joel McHale official sites
The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale | Neflix
Joel McHale | Facebook
Joel McHale | Twitter
Joel McHale | Instagram
Joel Edward McHale was born in Rome... the one in Italy... but grew up in Mercer Island... the one in Lake Washington. His dad is Jack - from America. His mom is Laurie, from Canada. Himself half-Canadian, Joel is 1.93 meters tall and now lives in Hollywood with his wife, Sarah, and two boys Eddie and Isaac. All people in Hollywood are required to have a swimming pool, so we catch up with Joel after he'd just completed a half-lap.
A warning: Parts of this particular episode may be too… well… too highbrow, too donnish, too erudite… too filled with words you have look up. Nonetheless, if you are at familiar with Shakespeare - and specifically, his great character, MacBeth - you are familiar with his work. But there is another McBeth - the one that’s the subject of this podcast. And this one is much funnier. Certainly funnier than Othello - both the character AND the town in eastern Washington.
So as disappointing as it may be for some listeners, expecting to hear a discussion about theater, well, you can forget about that first MacBeth for today. Or for that matter "Tomorrow and tomorrow…" Besides, this McBeth is not nearly as much of a downer as Shakespeare’s guy.
Brooks McBeth official sites
Brooks McBeth | IMDb
Brooks McBeth | Facebook
Brooks Mcbeth| Twitter
BrooksMcBeth | YouTube
Through the years, Almost Live saw many interns come and go. For many of them, the going was the best part. But few were nearly as impressive as Brooks McBeth. By definition, an intern is both a noun... and a verb. The noun says, "An intern is a student or trainee who works at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience." But as a verb, intern means "to incarcerate someone." This seems like the best definition of Brooks McBeth’s time with Almost Live! Except that most prisoners get paid better.
Brooks hails from the city of curves, Renton. His mom, Kathy, was a school teacher. His dad, Robert McBeth, was a longtime judge. Surprisingly, Brooks was never up before his father. Except once, when Brooks arose at 5am to go fishing.
He snagged a two year degree at Green River Community College, and then immediately came to Almost Live! for another couple of years. Brooks immediately showed that he was more than the kind of intern who was sent out to get coffee and doughnuts for the prima donnas on the regular staff. He made his mark quickly as a writer and performer, receiving an Emmy nomination for one his very first efforts. ("I Love You, Man.")
He headed off to Hollywood before the show ended its run, and has become a nationally familiar face and voice on countless TV and radio commercials - you can see him currently in commercials for Bud Light, The Learning Channel, and 'The Office', to name just a handful. Brooks has been a writer on no less than six different series from 'The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn' to the legendary 'MADtv'.
But it's as a standup comic that Brooks really shines. He is one of those handful of comedians that can absolutely own a stage. He doesn't just kill. He destroys. If you ever get the chance to see him, please go. But get a babysitter for the kids. Brooks can be… well… edgy. But absolutely charming at the same time. In Pat's opinion, he's perhaps the most talented person that 'Almost Live!' ever produced.
Yet, his time with the show was brief, so his name wouldn't necessarily be the first one that comes to mind for fans of the show. That ain't right. Time to change that.
Brooks still occasionally does a one-man show called, "This Ain’t Shakespeare."
Visit now with the Bard of Renton…from his adopted home of L.A.
Brooks McBeth. He ain’t Chaucer either.
First of all, this episode must begin with a shocking revelation: Bill Nye believes in crazy conspiracy stuff. Nutty things like Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. Kooky notions like electromagnetism, thermodynamics, relativity. And even, yes, dare he say it: Climate change.
Nye ridiculously thinks that ideas not supported by observation and real data, or science if you will, have more rigor than ideas based on pure opinion, somebody’s gut, or religious faith alone. What a whack job, this Bill Nye.
Yet, in these days when the science deniers and fabulists are lined up like the supervillains in a Batman comic... William Sanford Nye stands as a stalwart exemplar of the power of intellect, reason and honest, provable fact. What a radical!
Bill Nye official sites
Bill Nye | YouTube
Bill Nye | Facebook
Bill Nye | Twitter
Bill Nye | Instagram
So how did a kid from the tiny hamlet of Washington, D.C. become such a big deal? It’s quite an unlikely story. Nonetheless, he’s become a full-fledged American icon, a genuine institution, and a major brand. Beyond his time on Almost Live! - and we’ll get into that, of course, because that’s what this podcast is supposed to be about, the Nye guy has compiled a resume’ longer than Benjamin Franklin’s. For one thing, Franklin was never on Dancing With the Stars.
Beginning in 1993, Bill’s wildly successful Bill Nye the Science Guy show aired simultaneously on both commercial and public TV - the first show ever to do that. It ran for five years... and 19 Emmy awards. That alone might make for a landmark career. But the Science Guy was just getting started.
Today, Bill is a continuous TV presence, a best-selling author, comedian, mechanical engineer, actor and indefatigable science advocate. An entire Nye documentary has been produced. What’s it about? An hour and 40 minutes.
Bill is also the C.E.O. of The Planetary Society, he’s developed a sundial that is riding on the Mars Exploration Rover right now, and he’s received a number of U.S. patents, including a design for a digital abacus. Yes, even the abacus has gone digital.
Currently, among all his other activities, he hosts a terrific podcast called Science Rules! It’s one you can listen to when you’re exercising, to get away either from the travails of daily life, or from the law. Bill’s also a fellow, or perhaps ‘guy’, on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Among other things, the committee investigates extraordinary claims…such as the one Pat Cashman started about how the Almost Live Still Alive podcast is the top-rated one in the world.
Bill Nye is a guy who puts his science where his mouth is. He’s passionate, sincere, dedicated and about 5 foot 11 and-a-half.
He has residences in both L.A. and New York, and this episode catches up with him in one of them.
The most popular freshwater aquarium fish of them all is the guppy. It is live-bearing - no eggs. It likes flake food, and is generally peaceful. But the guppy is also considered one of the wittiest in the fish kingdom... perhaps second funniest only to the clown fish - and, frankly, the clown fish’s pie-throwing and seltzer-down-the-pants routine is getting a little old.
But a JOE Guppy is quite another matter. Some might guess that a Joe Guppy is a small fish that swims around in a cup of black coffee. But the Guppy that’s the subject of this podcast is something else: a storyteller, improviser, comedy writer, actor, team builder, and teacher.
And, one of the pioneer members of Almost Live!
He is one of the sharpest writers and performers of comedy that I’ve ever known. Yet, he walked away from it for an entirely different direction. We’ll find out why in this episode.
Joe Guppy has done a ton of things in his most unconventional career. One of the most personal episodes is detailed in a remarkable memoir published in 2015, called “My Fluorescent God.” It details the severe psychotic depression that engulfed his life, years before ‘Almost Live!’ And how creativity, humor, writing, and performance became a big part of his road back. We don’t explore that much in this interview - it would be worthy of an entire podcast by itself - but that part of his remarkable story is an astonishing and inspiring read. You can find it on Amazon - "My Fluorescent God" by Joe Guppy.
Joe Guppy official sites
Joe Guppy | YouTube
Joe Guppy | IMDb
Joe’s contributions to “Almost Live!” came during the show’s infancy - and he left the show in the late 1980’s. As a result, he is perhaps not as well-remembered a cast member as his wife, Nancy. Yet, you might not know her, if not for Joe. His writings and performances on the show are among my personal favorites. He set a tone and style that you can still see in the show’s best moments - even years after he had departed from it.
Over the course of his life, Joe may not have as many frequent flyer miles as some of the other members of the show, but perhaps no one has traveled as far.
Today, he coaches creative and academic writing, presentation and performance, improvisation, and comedy. Someone once said that "those who cannot do, teach." But Joe Guppy did - and does - both.
Here he is from his Seattle residence, where he hangs out with Nancy, and where his work and busy home life are only interrupted by nosey people like Pat Cashman.
I wish this wasn’t over as I really enjoyed it.
Great Memories, Very Funny Stories etc.
Thanks Pat and crew, well hosted and produced Pod, so fun to listen to the drops, songs, stories and skits. Really enjoyed Stainton’s episode funniest thing I have heard on here in a while. If you make more I will listen. Maybe a video version? I will look for it also.
Love hearing the stars and everyone else!
I watched maybe every Almost Live show that was on. What a great local TV show for a guy from WA that fished in AK we made a point to watch AML every Saturday