Counter Culture

S3 E12 | FULL EPISODE

Counter Culture Home Edition Ep. 2

Grover Silcox talks with Taylor Mason, Ventriloquist, Musician, Author; Dick Boak, Martin Guitar Company (retired); Bobby Collins, Comedian

AIRED: April 27, 2020 | 0:28:00
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

-Welcome to "Counter Culture," a talk show normally in a diner.

This is our Home Edition.

Tonight, I welcome a ventriloquist, musician,

and all-around entertainer Taylor Mason.

-The puppets -- -We're not puppets.

-Okay, fine. What are you? -Mannequin-American.

-Alright, whatever.

♪♪

-An artist, a guitar maker,

a writer, a musician, Dick Boak.

-I don't like to say that I'm an artist.

I like to say that I do art when I'm doing art.

I'm a musician when I'm playing music.

I'm an illustrator when I'm drawing.

-And one of the funniest stand-up comics in the biz,

Bobby Collins.

-You have to look at the whole audience to make them all feel

as if you're talking to them individually.

-All right here on "Counter Culture," the Home Edition.

♪♪

Welcome to "Counter Culture," the Home Edition,

normally held in a diner, but we're going with the flow,

and we're broadcasting from my own home kitchen

only a mile away from Hatboro, PA.

-Oh, stop. Please don't do this. [ Laughter ]

-My first guest is a hilarious comic

who performs solo, but not really.

-Uh-huh. -You meet a beautiful woman.

-You know it. -You want to impress her?

-I already did. -Oh, stop it.

-He's got sidekicks.

They're a bit hardheaded, or maybe wooden-headed

is the better way to describe it.

-They look better this way. -No, they don't.

-He is a triple threat --

a musician, a comedian, a ventriloquist, an author.

He has people rolling in the aisles.

Please welcome the multi-talented multi personality

of Taylor Mason!

Taylor, how are you?

We're practically neighbors, you know.

-Yes, we are. We are.

Thanks for having me on. Love to be -- It's springtime.

I don't care where you are in the world right now,

it's springtime. In fact, the first toilet paper roll

of the season just appeared at our local grocery store.

So you know it's April when that happens.

I do have a bone to pick with you, Grover,

because you mentioned at the beginning,

in your very gracious introduction, and thank you.

But you mentioned that I have wooden-headed sidekicks.

I really don't. I used to,

but I had to stop doing that.

And here's a true story,

which is actually not to be mean,

but it's in my book,

"Irreversible" by me, Taylor Mason.

It can be found online, only $3 at Google Play,

okay, $3.99. So it's great reading material

if you don't have a job. -I already bought it. Yeah.

-Oh, you did? I love you.

I had to stop using the wooden-headed figures

because I walked one time in Chicago

from the train station to this this pizza joint

where I was doing a gig.

And it was raining,

and my wooden-headed puppet was inside this nylon bag.

After the gig, I open the bag,

take the wooden-headed puppet out,

but his jaw had --

The wood had swelled.

His mouth wouldn't open.

So now it's almost illegal.

You know, it's a ventriloquist act doing an act

with a puppet where the mouth doesn't open,

which reminds me, again, I'm going to go into anything

about what we're going through as far as the pandemic.

But there's one great thing about the pandemic.

if you're a ventriloquist, and that is these face masks,

because if you're a bad ventriloquist,

the face mask actually covers your mouth

so you can get away,

if you can't make the letter "B" without moving your lips.

who cares at this point?

You're trying to be safe and protect other people.

I did bring one of my soft figures,

Muppet-like figures.

-Soft-headed figures. -His name is Romeo.

-Oh, Romeo. I love Romeo. Yes.

Hi. How are you, Romeo?

-Let's move over so people can see us, alright?

Okay. -I'm good. I'm good.

-You know, with this act, we can't social distance.

And --

I don't want to be obnoxious.

I was just trying to be positive, okay?

We're on "Counter Culture." -What's that?

-It's Grover's show.

-Hi, Romeo!

-Hey, Grover. Thanks for having us on.

-I don't know which one I'm talking to, but --

-Does it matter?

At this point, does it matter? Really, Grover?

-We are to -- But we're working together.

We're trying to inspire people during this incredible pandemic.

-Really? -Yes.

We want to inspire and motivate people.

And I've been thinking about going into business

as a motivational speaker,

because we all need to work together.

-What? -I've been thinking about

being a motivational speaker. -Really?

-And we are working as a team here today.

-Yeah. -Grover, me,

my buddy Romeo. -We're a team.

-We are a team.

And there is no "I" in "team."

-No, but there is E-A-T.

"E" in team. -Right.

-And there's "me," and there's "tea."

So I say let's go eat. Okay. Thank you and goodbye.

-No, that's not -- -What is that?

-That's our family dog.

The dog's name is Mick.

So he's gonna be here for a while.

And he might start barking at any moment

or might just walk around.

-Yeah, he doesn't talk, too, does he?

You don't make the dog talk?

-Let's see. Hang on, hang on. Hang on.

-Hey, Mick. -Yeah?

-How you doing? -I'm good.

-I guess he talks.

-I assume you're at home, Taylor and Romeo.

-We are. We are --

We are here in New Jersey.

-With the dog. -Right.

Thank God the house is clean. -Okay, whatever.

-And you're married. You have children.

-We are. We are married, and we have two children.

Right now, they're living in -- -Wuhan.

-No, they're not. They're living in New York City.

-Same thing. Wuhan.

-No, it's not. It really isn't.

And we talk to them every day.

And they're both doing great. -Okay.

How does Romeo get along with the family?

-This is a good question. Thank you for asking.

-The puppets -- -We're not puppets.

-Okay, fine. What are you? -Mannequin-American.

-Alright, whatever.

We'll start with this. -Sure

-This is weird.

-First thing is, my kids are actually writing a book

and the book is called -- -This is good, Grover.

-The book is called "The Puppet Wears Gap,

We Wear Target."

And that's pretty much the way -- And my wife used to say.

-Ow. -Sorry. My wife used to say,

when I would buy these clothes for Romeo, you know,

"Oh, that's adorable. I want that for the kid."

But with all ventriloquism, all the clothes, of course,

have to have this in the back.

So there's no way that your kids obviously can wear that.

-What was your first puppet?

-When I was a little boy,

my mother had all these sayings.

She'd always say, "Start every day with a smile."

She would take socks, like, a pair of socks,

do the laundry, pick a sock, lay them out,

roll the socks up into a ball, and twist them.

Every day, she'd turn them into a smile.

So when you would open your sock drawer every morning,

there were 15 smiling little fuzzballs

looking up at you out of your sock drawer, right?

And at the same time, there was a lady on television

named Shari Lewis.

And she does... -Yes.

-...an act with a sock on her hand.

So that's pretty much how I got started.

And thanks for asking,

because I love telling that story.

-I remember when you won "Star Search,"

which was the sort of original "America's Got Talent."

[ Both scatting ]

-It was a great show.

I got a lot of gigs out of it, and people still --

Every once in a while, people will come up to me

and say, "Are you Taylor Mason?"

We won it eight nights in a row.

And Ed McMahon says, "And the winner is Taylor Mason."

-Yep. -And then Romeo said,

Romeo says... -Hey, Ed.

-I'm doing great. -And, you know, Ed McMahon,

of course, he says, "How are you doing?"

He says...

-Thanks for talking to me, man. I'm not real.

[ Laughter ]

And that was another moment that --

Crazy. And then I had staff members

from the show come up to me

and say, "That was the best part of 'Star Search' ever.

Out of everybody we've ever seen,

that was the thing we loved the most."

So, yeah. I had a great time. It was a great show.

-That's fantastic. Taylor, I want to thank you.

You know, I know you've got a lot of company

while you're being sequestered

because, you know, you have the family.

-I'm never alone.

-Your sidekicks. Yeah.

-I'm never alone.

-Taylor Mason, a multi-talented entertainer

who doesn't mind sharing the spotlight

with a bunch of dummies.

♪♪

It's challenging to introduce my next guest.

He's multi-talented,

a guitar maker, an artist in pen and ink,

a musician and singer-songwriter.

He served for more than 40 years in a variety of roles

at Martin Guitar Company in Nazareth, PA.

He is the ultimate creative personality.

And it's a pleasure to welcome Dick Boak to "Counter Culture,"

the Home Edition. Hi, Dick. How are you?

-I'm doing great. Nice to be with you.

It's kind of hard to follow Taylor Mason.

He's such a great performer.

But I have my little puppets here.

I'm not much of a ventriloquist.

But this is [High-pitched] Jane Austen here...

[Normal voice] and this is Frank Lloyd Wright,

two of my heroes.

-I introduced you as being multi-talented.

You have a lot of interests. How would you describe yourself?

-This is a tough one, because I think you you are what you are

whenever you're doing a specific thing.

I don't like to say that I'm an artist.

I like to say that I do art when I'm doing art.

I'm a musician when I'm playing music.

I'm an illustrator when I'm drawing.

I'm a writer when I'm physically writing.

I like to think of art as more of the approach to doing

as opposed to any specific genre.

-In and around the Lehigh Valley and beyond,

really, in the music world, you are best known

for your roles at -- working with Martin Guitar.

-You know, I was interested in music,

in art, and in woodworking,

and I just kind of happened upon Martin.

I've told the story a million times,

but I was teaching art in New Jersey

at a school called Blair Academy.

I had to drive from Bethlehem to Blairstown

right through the town of Nazareth.

I saw the billboard for Martin guitars, and I stopped in,

and I took the tour, and I was really amazed,

flabbergasted by what was going on.

I'd been trying to build guitars at home

but not very successfully.

And, so, I was exposed to woods that I'd never seen before.

And I was just amazed.

So I asked the receptionist at the front desk

whether or not there were any scrap woods.

And she sent me around to the Dumpster

on the side of the building.

And I hit the jackpot that day, that there was --

It was just filled, overflowing.

So I pulled my my Mustang up, and I filled my car up.

And over the course of my teaching career,

I think I went back to that Dumpster

probably 500 times.

And one day -- And this is after I left teaching --

the foreman at the back door said,

"What do you do with all this scrap?"

and I handed up two instruments,

and I said, you know, "I've been trying to make instruments

and also small lathe turnings

and jewelry boxes out of the scraps."

He took the two instruments, and he said, "Is it okay

if I parade them around the shop one'st?"

He was Pennsylvania Dutch.

Everybody at Martin was Pennsylvania Dutch.

And -- -Right. Great craftsmen.

-He ran into Mr. Martin,

and Mr. Martin said, "What do you have there, Harvey?"

And he said, "Well, look what the kid made."

Mr. Martin looked at the instruments

and said, "Tell that kid to apply for a job."

They brought somebody out, interviewed me,

and they said, "Well, could you start tomorrow?"

I said, "No, I have to go to the Bob Dylan concert,

but I can start on Wednesday."

So, I just loved working on instruments,

working on the draftings, learning everything I could

about the ukuleles and mandolins and banjos and guitars

and every size and shape of guitar.

Every aspect of a guitar can be optimized

in order to produce the best tone.

It enabled me to combine my love of woodworking,

art, and music all into one thing.

Plus, I think I just have the right personality for the job.

So I consider myself very fortunate

and very thankful to Martin and to Chris Martin in particular

for giving me such an incredible leash

over my 42-year career.

-Did you have formal training?

-My father was woodworker.

We had a nice shop in the basement.

As far as art goes, I started drawing

when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

I actually went to Gettysburg College and majored in art.

I made it for 2.9 years before I imploded.

But I'd taken just about every art course they offered,

and I felt that I had crossed a threshold

kind of entering into my own life of art.

This is one of my illustrations.

This is from when I was in California.

I was inspired by M.C. Escher

and by the engravers like William Blake

and Hogarth and Aubrey Beardsley.

I'd have to say that if I have a religion,

that it would be deeply rooted

in an appreciation for nature.

-What you were doing toward the end of your career at Martin

as an archivist,

you're doing now for Mario Andretti.

-Well, he lives right across the street from me.

He said, "Would you consider doing that for me?"

And it was just perfect timing.

So I've been really enjoying that,

enjoying working with him.

I've learned so much about racing

and just have found it a fascinating process.

-Now, recently, you had a retirement party.

Tell us a little bit about that. -Yeah, I did.

In the process of working on

signature model guitar collaborations

with each artist, I got to know them pretty well.

And I worked with more than 100 different pretty famous artists,

including Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson

and Joan Baez and John Mayer.

So because of the friendships that I developed,

when I when I did retire, I invited a number of people

to join in on my retirement concert,

which was called Boak's Bash.

It was at the State Theatre in Easton.

-♪ Some people call me the space cowboy ♪

♪ Yeah ♪ [ Cheers and applause ]

-And it raised an unprecedented amount of money.

I think it was $110,000.

Steve Miller of Steve Miller Band

was the host of the show and performed,

along with Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna,

Nick Forster of Hot Rize, Of course, Craig Thatcher,

and last but not least, John Mayer.

A tremendous concert.

As a matter of fact, it was voted the best concert of 2018.

It beat out Elton John and Bob Dylan.

I heard that Elton John was pretty ticked off about it.

[ Both laugh ]

-That's right. I know that you are also a singer-songwriter.

You work a lot with Craig Thatcher

and the Craig Thatcher Band.

-I wouldn't say that I'm a great musician.

I've played autoharp for most of my life.

I gave it up for a number of years until more recently,

I discovered an autoharp maker named George Orthey.

And George had taken the concept of the autoharp

and really improved upon it tremendously.

-So give us a little sample. -So that's that.

-The song that I'd like to play for you is called "My Song."

It's something that I like to do solo,

and I think it goes a long way in showing off the instrument.

♪ This is my song ♪

♪ You can have it if you like ♪

♪ Just a simple tune ♪

♪ I wrote it late one evening ♪

♪ Just couldn't sleep that night ♪

♪♪

♪ It wasn't influenced by Dylan ♪

♪ McCartney or Thoreau ♪

♪ But it takes me back to places ♪

♪ Lived many years ago ♪

♪ It wasn't spurred by Eric's lead guitar ♪

♪ Or Jerry's grateful hand ♪

♪ Just the sweetened sound of this old harp ♪

♪ No need to have ♪

♪ A backup band ♪

♪♪

♪ This is my song ♪

♪♪

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

-That's beautiful.

And on that note, I want to thank you for joining us.

-Thanks, Grover. Really great to be with you.

-Same here. Dick Boak,

a man who seems to have done it all artistically

but isn't done yet.

-Please give it up for my friend Bobby Collins!

-My next guest is not only one of the great comedians,

he's been called one of the most natural comics on-stage.

-It's so good to be back home in New York City, my home.

Ah. [ Cheers and applause ]

-And if you saw him on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show"

or at the State Theatre in Easton

or on any stage in the country,

you know what I'm talking about.

And it is a thrill to have my old buddy

Bobby Collins!

Live from your home! -Aww, listen to you.

How are you, bud-- I know.

I have no work for the next three months.

I've been living with the wife.

-I think you in some ways feel more at home on a stage

than anywhere, and now,

you know, you have to stay in.

-42 years on a stage every week, every weekend.

Now I'm home for four weeks.

[ Screams ]

[ Both laugh ]

-I know in a in a little bio video of yours,

you said, "I hit that stage,

I got the laughs, and I never looked back."

-You know, remember that old saying,

laughter is the best medicine?

It helps me, my inside --

Remember, it's the inside out, not the outside in.

And what I get -- When I stand on the stage

and I feel as if --

Ahh. The connection that you can have with an audience.

Your job is to make them laugh.

New York, a red light is just a suggestion.

[ Laughter ]

So when they're wiping their tears, and you're watching them

and hopefully educating them in some manner,

you know you're not only doing your job,

you know you're feeding yourself and your soul.

-You're a big audience man, in addition to your material.

-You could look behind the curtain,

see 1,200 people, and you can go, "Oh, wow.

These people I don't have to work that hard.

I can go off in different directions."

Or sometimes you look, and you go,

"Ah, they're not the brightest people."

You know, when you're dead, you don't know you're dead.

Other people feel the pain.

Same thing when you're stupid. -[ Laughs ]

-But your job is to make them forget about their lives,

take them into your world, and if they can hold up a mirror

and take a look at themselves through your words

and make them laugh at it,

just some of them might change around

and enjoy what they're seeing and what they're hearing

and walk out that place going, "I had a great night.

That guy was funny."

-You know, you're like a lot of performers

who go on and do television and radio,

but yet the stage is still special.

You refer to the stage as "she,"

as though it was someone you love.

-And respect.

I look at that lady -- Lady Stage, and I look at her,

and I greet her like I would greet my wife.

Now I have to go out there and be a gentleman,

have some fun, make 'em laugh,

and then she lets me come back the next night.

-You've written about and you've said

that you kind of got into comedy from watching your parents

and watching the old TV shows like "Ed Sullivan" and --

-Remember Red Skelton.

[ As Red ] "And may God bless."

And I was a little boy,

and I'd be turning around watching them as they told me,

"Bobby, grab the rabbit ears. Yeah, move it around.

Yeah. Stay right there."

I go, "But I want to watch, too."

"Shut up. Just stay right there."

Yes. I would sit and watch those programs and turn around,

and they were hard-working people, and I'd see them laugh.

And I said, "I could do this."

-Now, do you remember the first time

you got up on a stage venue?

-I remember going to Catch a Rising Star

in New York City on 76th Street.

And I asked them, "Hey, is there a possibility I can go up?"

And they looked at me, and they said,

"Oh, you got to get a number on Tuesday."

But then the guy said, "Well, we have an opening.

Can you go up in about five minutes?"

I said, "Sure."

And I went up, and I thought I did pretty good.

The guy came over to me. He goes, "Okay, you passed.

You can come in here,

and you come in here every Monday night."

I go, "Oh, great." I go, "Can I go on earlier

so I don't just get the guy that cleans the tables

and the dish washer?"

-That builds character, though, doesn't it?

-You know, we --

♪♪

-We had a little technical difficulty

and lost Bobby and then found Bobby,

and there is nothing like finding Bobby.

Welcome back, Robert.

-Thank you, my brother.

-Let's pick it right back up. You've always said

there are three important things in this order, right?

And I think it's in your book, Inside Your Mind,

-"On the Inside: Witisms and Wisdomisms."

-Right, and in that, you say

there are three important things in this order --

God, family, and career.

-It's not that I'm a --

I'm a Catholic guy, but I don't go to church or anything.

I feel God in my heart.

And I use -- I always talk to God

to help me through everything.

And it always works out.

So I always -- God first, family second, career third.

Put one ahead of the other.

You always have to get back on where you got off.

You know, I have a special-needs daughter.

So, we had a big Hawaii vacation planned.

And then about three days beforehand,

I got a call to be a star in a sitcom.

And I looked at my wife, and I said to myself,

"Ugh, honey, we're gonna have to cancel this,

because this thing means a lot."

She goes -- She looked at me, and she goes,

"Do you know what you live by?" I said, "You're right.

And I'm going to lose this sitcom."

And I went on the trip with my family, had a ball.

I came back. They never -- The sitcom never went.

So I knew I was doing the right thing.

-You know, you've always been fast on your feet.

You've had great experiences.

You've opened for some of the biggest people in show business.

Who were some of the folks you -- Frank Sinatra,

did you open for him? -Yeah.

You know, I'm doing a new book.

And one of the chapters

is called "Fun Stories from the Road."

And I've opened for Frank Sinatra, Cher,

Julio Iglesias, Dolly Parton.

And I tell the stories of each one.

Frank Sinatra, I was -- I was on tour with Cher.

And we had three weeks off in an 88-city tour.

We had three weeks off, and they called me up.

Same management. They go, "Bobby,

What's-His-Name got sick. He can't open.

Can we fly -- Can you open for Mr. Frank Sinatra?

I went, "How much?"

Remember, it's show business. We're a business.

And the money was very good. I said yes.

They said, "We're sending you a check.

We're flying you to Salt Lake City.

Okay.

And I went to Salt Lake City. They picked me up.

And there's a big guy named Jilly.

I guess that's his guy. 6'6", 6'8" guy.

He looked at me, he said, "Alright, here's the rules.

Don't call him Frank. It's Mr. Sinatra.

Don't talk unless he speaks to you."

And I remember -- I remember going in there,

sitting, and sitting with guys

that were all named after parts of the body.

"Bobby, this is Tony the Arm. This is Stevie the Leg.

"Hi, Mr. Arm. Hi, Mr. Leg." Unbelievable.

I remember with Cher, I'd go out --

The first time I went out,

32,000 people in an outdoor arena.

I was still playing it like it was a comedy club.

I was holding the mic, looking at the front 30 rows.

But meanwhile -- And I've learned over the years,

you have to look at the whole audience to make them all feel

as if you're talking to them individually.

So that was a big lesson.

-You ever get nervous? You never look nervous.

-I see guys on the Internet or on my phone,

and I see them, just so they can remain visible,

I see them doing stand-up.

It doesn't work without an audience.

A comic needs the feedback.

So I think I would feel very nervous, Grover,

after I go back for the first few times.

But yeah, I'll be back out there.

I miss it. I love it.

But I got to tell you, this was God's way of saying,

"Hey, get to know your family. Take care of them.

Have fun with them. Live, laugh, love."

-On those wonderful words,

I want to thank you for joining us,

even though it's this crazy live-streaming.

-I look forward to seeing you again.

-Same here, my friend.

Bobby Collins,

known by comedians as a comic's comic,

the highest compliment you can get.

♪♪

Well, that's all for this episode.

I want to thank all of my guests,

the hilarious ventriloquist, comic,

and musician Taylor Mason,

the multi-talented Dick Boak, and the uproarious,

take-no-prisoners comic's comic Bobby Collins.

And thank you. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

And see you next week right here

on "Counter-Culture" the Home Edition.

♪♪

♪♪

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