Counter Culture


Counter Culture Season 4 Ep. 15

Tonight's guests: Pat Godwin, Comic and Singer-songwriter; Jeff Jerome, Curator Emeritus, Edgar Allen Poe House Baltimore; and Wil Shriner, Comedian.

AIRED: January 19, 2021 | 0:27:44

Welcome to Counter Culture,

a talk show normally in a diner.

On tonight's show, I welcome comic musician Pat Godwin.

- I go to the very tiny English old hotel gym,

and I walk in there

and there is Sean Connery on the exercise cycle.

- Curator emeritus of the Edgar Allan Poe

house in Baltimore, Jeff Jerome.

- He discovered that on one hand, we,

the public, were shocked, outraged, disgusted

by the subject matter.

But we like reading about it!

- And comedian, actor, producer and director Wil Shriner.

- Humor can help you in life, in business, in everything.

You know, if you're funny, you just get more done.

- All right here, on Counter Culture.

Hi, folks, your host here, Grover Silcox, coming to you

from Lehigh Valley Public Media Studio B

while we wait for the go ahead to return to our original home

at Daddypops Diner, in little old Hatboro, PA.

- I have no idea what the heck I'm saying.

♪ But I'm the bomb ♪

♪ This ain't no joke ♪

♪ It's gangsta folk. ♪

- Our first guest is an old friend.

The guy who makes me laugh, just thinking

of his laugh, his comedy and his own fun-loving

nature are contagious.

He's a regular on the syndicated radio

Bob And Tom Show.

He performs all over the country and has a ton

of road stories, as we comics call them.

He and his guitar and wacky sense of humor

will have you in stitches.

- ♪ Whaaaa....! ♪

- Please welcome Mr Pat Godwin.

Welcome to the Counter, Patrick.

- Hey, Grover, how's my buddy?

- Oh, yeah. We go a long way back, don't we?

- Yeah, we do.

Even before we both worked at WMMR,

we were on the road together doing local stuff.

- Yes.

You sort of started out in Philadelphia.

- Yeah.

- Although you are originally from Wilkes-Barre,

Pennsylvania, am I right?

- Yeah. Yeah. Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I did a lot of a very serious original music in the clubs

there and then went down to Philadelphia,

where I worked at Smokey Joe's at the University

of Pennsylvania, in that area.

And then, boom, I got into comedy, so...

And met you.

One of my first shows was with you.

- And the lights went out in Pottsville

and we knew it was an emergency.

- And that was sort of like the omen for the rest

of our careers.

But your light went back on, because you've had a...

- And so did yours, yeah.

- So you play guitar.

- You wanted to... Did you start out wanting to be

a serious singer songwriter musician?

Yeah. For ten years, I did very serious music

and then in between the songs, to get their attention,

I would kind of...I developed a stage pattern.

And Todd Glass,

the comedian, had seen me perform at Smokey Joe's

in Philly and said, "You know, your songs are good,

"but you're more entertaining in between the songs.

"You should do an open mic, a comedy open mic," and man

that opened up doors. I just sprung a bunch

of impressions together.

And Todd kind of took me over to the Comedy Factor

Outlet where you were a mainstay.

And I had an open mic and Dibella saw a tape of that.

And I didn't have an act.

I just did like five or six impressions

of rock singers.

- You've always had a knack for taking,

you know, these classic rock - and others - and turning them

into something hilarious.

- We did a lot of that WMMR

when you and I worked together. I would take classic

rock songs and kind of rework them and also sneak

in my own originals.

And then after I left that situation, I did

way more originals.

And now I'm back to doing about half and half.

I have a day gig, a morning job where I kind

of still do a couple of parodies every week,

you know, only if they're right, though, you know,

I don't like to force them

or shoehorn the idea into a parody.

But if it works and it's topical and it's a throwaway

kind of thing, I don't mind at all.

- Right. Yeah, I should clarify going back

that we both worked on the Morning Zoo

with John Dibella at 933 WMMR in Philadelphia,

which was like the big classic rock station pretty much

in the country at that point.

- You and I are a part of a very troubled,

crazy time too.

You know, we were we were in the trenches when Stern

had come into our market. That was his first

syndicated market.

- Right. Uh-huh, yeah.

And I came in as a comedy writer and comedian.

Of course, you came in as a comedian and singer

songwriter and musical artist and all that stuff.

You have CDs now and, you know, I remember Reindeer Games.

It was your first... Was that your first CD?

It was because I was able to sneak onto radio

by doing a holiday album.

I knew that stations clamored for that kind of material.

So I thought, what the heck, I'll do a three quarter

original quarter parody kind of satire on Christmas.

And it got huge national airplay.

The big one was Let's Put Christ Back in Christmas

that I sang with my brothers.

It was kind of an Irish folk singer thing, real earnest

sort of a thing about putting Christ back

in the Christmas carols.

But I had a really funny angle to it

and it got played everywhere.

And that got the attention of Bob And Tom.

First time I did Bob And Tom, they just knew me

from that Christmas record that the Morning Zoo inspired.

It was pretty much half of the material

that I was doing on the Morning Zoo, you know.

- Right. Bob And Tom are based in the Midwest.

- Out of Indianapolis, where I live now.

And we're like in over 100 syndicated markets. They've won

like all four Marconi Awards,

best the morning show of the year.

It's a huge show.

It's a great, great opportunity.

And, you know, it couldn't have come along at a better

time because I'm just so grateful to have a job

because I was making a living as a live

performer before that.

And that's been gone since March. So, you know.

- Right. I mean, you've played every club just like all

the comedians from the beginning

to the top tier.

You had a Sean Connery encounter when the Morning Zoo

and MMR were invited over to London to do radio

shows there with some

of the biggest rock stars in the biz.

- Pete Townsend.

It was Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones,

the bass player. Every day was something. We would play

with Mungo Jerry in the summertime,

and it was just a blast.

But we stayed at a place called the Grosvenor House.

Go to the lobby of this place to check in.

And there is Sean Connery seated in a chair

with like a pipe or a cigar and a brown drink,

reading the paper.

And we were all like, "Oh, my gosh, look at that."

And we're checking in and I kind of said

to the other guy that was checking us in, I said, "Hey,

"this must be a great place.

"You got James Bond staying here."

And the guy was irritated.

He says, "Don't say... Please don't talk to him.

"Don't say James Bond, he hates that. Don't say 007.

"Don't interview him for your radio show.

"Do not talk to him."

And we're like, "Man."

And he's sitting right there.

And we all went over and he kind of like grimaces.

And after three days of eating and kind of hanging out late

at night because of our show,

I think we did it at 12 o'clock.

So we were all hanging out more than we ever would.

And about day three or four,

I realized I had to get to workout in.

Man, this is not a good lifestyle.

When we were at MMR's Morning Zoo, we had to get

up so early, none of us were going out.

But now we were. And I go to the very tiny English

old hotel gym, with all this antiquated equipment.

And I walk in there, and there is Sean Connery

on the exercise cycle with a paper and sans the brown

drink and the pipe now, just the paper.

And I look over, I nod - nothing.

I'm really nervous and I go over the weight bench.

So there's already an amount of weight on there.

But it's in stone or I don't know.

It's not it's not an American measurement.

I look at it and I kind of go, "Well." I wasn't really paying

attention, I was just going through the motions.

But I bring the thing up and it crashes on my neck

and I'm like, "Oh!"

And the next thing I know, Sean Connery lifts the

weight off me and puts it on the thing.

And I went, "Thank you, 007."

And he went, "The name's Bond, James Bond."

And I howled.

I thought, what a classic thing to do.

I've never laughed louder.

I didn't tell anybody else because I thought I would get

in trouble because we were not supposed to speak to him.

And I just did.

I couldn't wait to tell everybody

once we got back home, though.

But as we were all leaving to go to the airport

after seven days of frivolity and just a great time,

there he is, as we're walking, he's now on our right.

And I just go as we're leaving, you know,

"Thank you for saving my life, Mr Connery,"

and Sean Connery goes,

"You may want to pick a fight with a smaller dumbbell

"next time, maybe a little more suitable to your size, son."

And then everybody was looking at me like,

"What the heck was that?!" And on the plane,

I told them the story.

- Pat, where can we see you?

Can folks catch you?

- Well, on Bob And Tom every morning,

we're live on YouTube,

on the app.

We're in a hundred markets nationwide.

In the Philadelphia area,

you can grab the app, the Bob And Tom app,

and stream us live every morning.

And there's a lot of content on that.

You know, put that up in your car and plug that in

or Bluetooth it. We're right there.

- And if you're in Philly or in the vicinity, folks

should come out and see you.

- Thank you, yeah.

- Hilarious. - Thank you.

- You're welcome.

Pat Godwin, he sings, he jokes, he muses.

And he's a riot.

You know, the great American mystery writer, Edgar Allan

Poe, lived to age 40, the same number of years that my next

guest spent as the curator of his home in Baltimore.

He also guided the Curious Depos gravesite and leads

his annual birthday celebration

every January 19th.

If you want a primer and so much more on Mr Poe,

Mr Jeff Jerome is one of the people you need to see.

It's an honor to welcome

my old friend Jeff to the Counter.

Jeff, how are you?

Gearing up for the big birthday party?

- Oh, I'm always ready for the birthday party.

This year's a little bit more difficult

because of Covid.

But the show must go on.

- So, first of all, you're curator emeritus

of the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore.

How, first of all, did you get that role?

How did you get the job of curator to begin with?

- My interest in Poe goes way back to the old Vincent Price,

Roger Corman films of the early '60s.

I was just a little kid at that time.

And at that time, you had to be 16 years old

to see those movies.

So I would sneak in the side door to the local neighborhood

theater and watch Vincent Price up on the big screen.

But it wasn't until the 1970s that my interest in Poe was

rekindled as a tour guide at the Westminster graveyard,

where Poe is buried.

At that time, the Poe House was managed by the Poe Society

and they were struggling.

So the city of Baltimore took control of the house,

and I had a reputation in Baltimore as the go-to Poe guy.

- Right.

- So the city approached me and told me to create the site

interpretation and create a job description.

And I applied for it and I was hired.

So in 1979, I became the first curator and I held

that post until 2013.

- Where is the house located?

When did he live there?

Who did he live with? And what happened there?

- Well, Poe lived at what we call now the Poe House

from approximately 1833 to 1835.

And it is in West Baltimore.

When he lived there, it was basically the countryside.

He lived there with his aunt, his grandmother and his two

cousins, Virginia and Henry.

And at that time, he was basically starving.

He was writing poetry, not making any money.

So he thought perhaps short stories, maybe that's

the way to go.

So he didn't know what to write about.

So he opened up the newspaper, got inspired by local events,

and he wrote his first true horror story right

here in Baltimore called Berenice or Bereniche,

depending on how you want to pronounce it.

This story dealt with obsession, premature

burial, grave desecration.

It was a fun story.

I tell you, the public didn't think

it was so much fun and he got into trouble

and he had to censor his own story.

But he discovered that on one hand, we, the public,

were shocked, outraged, disgusted

by the subject matter.

But we liked reading about it!

So he kept writing horror stories, not because he was

insane or obsessed with death and darkness,

but we were!

He continued writing horror stories,

but he also wrote comedies.

He wrote adventure stories, early science fiction.

He was an editor, a literary critic.

So he did many things with his career

besides scaring us.

- Right. Now, you've met an awful lot

of people who were visitors to the house.

You had celebrities come as well.

- That's one of the fun parts of working at the Poe House.

You never knew who was going to knock on that door.

I met Venus Williams, Danny DeVito,

Will Patton, an actor.

He was in No Way Out with Kevin Costner.

Some guy named Stephen King.

The name rings a bell, but I'm not sure.

But the man himself, Vincent Price.

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

He was my idol.

So that was the highlight of all these years

working at the Poe House,

is spending time with Vincent Price.

- Poe actually died in Baltimore, right?

Under mysterious circumstances?

- Currently, there are 22 different theories

surrounding Poe's death.

And every year there's a new one

just as silly,

just as stupid as the previous one.

Now, the number one theory that most Poe scholars

agree upon and this is the one that I think happened,

is that he was a victim of cooping,

that is a political kidnaping.

And cooping was a very popular practice, not only

in Baltimore, but all the major cities.

And the way that would work is if you're running for office

and you were dishonest...

Now, imagine that, a dishonest politician.

- Right.

- You know, so you would hire the police or thugs.

They would go out and kidnap people, usually visitors

passing through the city, drunken sailors, soldiers.

And they would use you as a repeat voter. Now,

to confuse the election judge.

And I put that word confuse in quotes,

they would change your clothing.

So that way the election judge would say,

"I never saw that person before.

"He can vote," knowing full well that he has already voted

20 or 30 times.

- Right.

- When you couldn't vote anymore,

they would dump you out on the street.

When they found Poe, he was wearing someone else's

clothing, mismatched, soiled and ripped and incoherent

because they ply you with opium or alcohol

to keep you quiet.

So relatives were called, he was recognized.

They took him to the nearest hospital, to Washington Medical

College, where he spent several days

in violent delirium.

And he died October 7th at 5am in the morning.

And the doctor said his last words were,

"Lord, help my poor soul."

The truth is, we will never, ever know

what happened to Poe.

And I think that's the way he would like it.

- Right.

Let's go on a more joyous theme and talk

about the birthday.

Do you have anything new this year?

- Because of Covid,

we've had to think outside the box.

We're doing a virtual theatrical performances

of The Black Cat, The Mask Of The Red Death,

Annabel Lee, Alone, El Dorado.

We're having a lively discussion about Poe's death.

And we have a special appearance of Poe's mother.

I know she's dead, but, you know, we sort of dug her up

and she will be talking to us.

And this will be beginning on Saturday, the 23rd, at 12:00

until 4:30. Then at 5pm,

at Westminster graveyard, at the Poe grave,

I will be live where I will have a champagne toast to Poe.

We have a Poe birthday cake.

I'll be reading proclamations from the Mayor of Baltimore

and then conclude with the special appearance

of the Poe toaster.

- He's back!

- The beautiful thing about this is it's all free.

But you have to go to our Facebook page,

And that's where you can view this.

And it's amazing.

Here it is, 2021.

And we're still celebrating Poe. We're still reading Poe.

You know, they're making movies from his stories.

And, you know, every Halloween around the country,

this university, that university, this theater group

is doing something with Poe.

And that is simply amazing since he died in 1849,

that for us he's still alive.

- We still celebrate him in no small way, thanks

to people like yourself.

Thank you, Jeff, for joining us.

- Thank you. I appreciate that.

- Jeff Jerome. If you want to see what enthusiasm looks like,

ask him about the great master of the macabre,

Edgar Allan Poe,

and watch his eyes light up.

My next guest began working in television at the age

of one, doing TV commercials with his twin brother.

He went on to become a stand-up comic, an actor

and wry commentator

on everyday life.

He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,

produced funny films for David Letterman

and appeared in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married,

directed network sitcoms such as Everybody Loves Raymond

and Frasier.

He produced an award winning film with Jimmy Buffet,

and now he's made Counter Culture.

The peak of your career.

- This is where... I'm still continuing upward.

This goes at the top of the resume.

- I like to hear that.

Please welcome Wil Shriner.

Wil, thanks for coming.

I think you're coming all the way from the...

Is it the Sunshine State?

- It is the Sunshine State. If I move to the right,

you can see how beautiful the sun is.

- Oh, it's beautiful. - It's setting behind me.

It's beautiful here in Florida.

I'm in Florida where we have hurricanes and Covid

and people with no state income tax.

So that's the draw.

- You know, you must have a video of yourself

at every stage of your life, starting at one-year-old.

- I do. I did a couple of commercials with my brother

for Linnett. We were on to my dad's TV show

Two For The Money.

I have kinescopes, I have three quarter,

I have one inch, two inch.

I have every format and I have nowhere to play it.

- Your dad was the very well-known comedian

Herb Shriner.

- That's correct, yes.

He was popular in the early '50s on TV and radio.

He was the one that got us down here to Florida

and he loved the airplanes and diving and sailing.

So that's why I'm in Florida now. I kind

of semiretired here.

I'm still working.

I have another movie script out there that I'm still

trying to push up the hill. I still go out and do

stand-up, although with Covid, it's been tough.

Nobody's really going out to see people.

But I have a podcast that I do that's kind of interesting

with Johnny Carson Show - material and guests.

It's called the Johnny Carson Show podcast.

And it's a... We've done 17 of them so far.

I talked to people that worked on the show

about their memories of doing the show

and what it meant in their career.

So that's something we've been doing

with the with Johnny Carson's estate and some of those clips.

- I watched a couple of videos of one of the old shows,

you know, a couple of the old shows where you're a guest.

- Started taking a Lamaze class.

- Are you going to those, too?

- Yeah, it's a terrible class, taught by an asthmatic.

- I think you're easygoing style and your namesake,

Will Rogers, but it's like you actually relaxed

Johnny Carson.

- Johnny really loved comedy and he loved comedians,

particularly monologists, which is what he was

and what I was. I wasn't... I didn't do impressions.

I wasn't a ventriloquist.

So he always liked the writing of good jokes.

And that was the challenge.

You write five, six minutes of jokes and you kill.

And, "We want you back in three months." And then you got to go

buy another, you gotta go out and work and come up

with some new material.

But then as I, as I did it, and I probably did about 14

appearances, I got to where I could actually just come out

and sit on the couch.

I had a movie, Peggy Sue Got Married, coming out.

So I got to just come out and sit, which was for me

more rewarding to make Johnny laugh.

And the talent coordinator on the show...

When you were going through material,

he would say, "No, that would make Johnny laugh.

"That'll make Johnny laugh."

So we were always working for Johnny's approval.

- Now, you did videos for David Letterman

on his original morning show, right?

- That was my first...

Well, I met David at the Comedy Store in 1977.

I had gone to UCLA film school, moved to LA in '75,

and I was showing my little comedy films, they were kind

of funny newsreels, and I was showing them in comedy clubs

and in art house theaters and things like that.

And David said, "Hey, if I get a show,

"I want you to come to New York."

And so I had done The Tonight Show.

I think the first three times I did The Tonight Show

was with David as the host, and I had done

a behind the scenes thing.

So I'd been making these kind of little crazy, funny films.

And then when I got on the morning show,

I had a video crew.

We are still portable two inch machines.

We were going out on the streets talking to people.

I did a lot of stuff out in the field with that stuff.

And then when I came back to the late night show,

I did a film about my dog stealing my car and driving

around the neighborhood and this dog runs in front

and he slams on the brakes.

And a cat comes from the other side and he steps on the gas.

And it got such response.

I mean, it was just one of those silly little things,

it was about a 90 second film.

And it just it had tremendous good luck for me.

And I made a bunch more with my dogs.

And then my kids were born

and I started putting them in it.

And, you know, you got to use everybody around you.

- Right. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

And then you also have, you know, gotten acting roles.

You were in Peggy Sue Got Married.

Peggy Sue was an Academy Award nominated film.

I played Joan Allen's husband, but I wore... I had my hair

all done differently and I wore a big

heavy padded suit and everything else.

The goal was to have us be old and then be young.

So they wanted actors of about 30.

So it Kathleen Turner and Nick Cage, Joan Allen,

myself, Jim Carrey and Catherine Hicks.

And it was a tremendous cast.

Sofia Coppola was in it.

I mean, we're... And Francis directed it.

- That experience must have helped you, at least one

of the things that helped you when you then became

a director, you directed Frasier

and Everybody Loves Raymond and others.

Kelsey Grammer is an old friend of mine, and I went

to see a thing at the TV Academy

about directors - Jimmy Burrows

and Jay Sandrich, two of the great directors.

So Kelsey said, "Come to Frasier and hang out

"and watch and see what happens."

So I came for a year and watched Pam Fryman...

All the great directors came through

and they were very sharing and helpful, you know?

And I said, "Why are you shooting it this way?"

And they said, "Oh, you know, because it gives me better

"eyes," or whatever. So you learn.

And then the end of that year, producer Peter Casey said,

"I assume you've been hanging around

"here all the time, because you want to direct

"one of these." I said, "No, Peter,

"I just I just like to see what you're wearing each week."

And he says, "We're giving you one."

And they gave me a great one that

Jay Cogan had written. It won a Humanitas award,

but it dealt with racism

and Kelsey's inability to fire a black woman.

And it was really sort of ahead of the time in 2000.

But it was an excellent episode.

And from there, I went to a Betty White show called

Ladies Man, and then I went to Raymond

and did their season finale.

And then I went to Becker and my wife and kids

and Norm McDonald, and you just kept snowballing.

- Yeah, right.

- You do one or two, then you do three or four.

Each season you get better at it.

People have more confidence in you.

So I did it for a long time.

And then I ended up... Jimmy Buffett bought the rights

to this Carl Hiaasen book.

Carl Hiaasen is a Florida writer.

- This movie was called Hoot, right?

- Hoot, yes.

It's based on a Newbery Award winning children's book.

- Three kids...

- I've got some little friends

I look after over at this construction site.

- ..who answered the call of the wild...

- It's been in The Smithsonian

as one of the top ten environmental films.

It's in the New York Museum of Art as a family film.

- Well, I got to tell you, even though you are

based now in Florida, I don't see you retiring

with all the other folks down there.

- I still like to go out. I talk now.

I have a little talk that I've worked up about humor

and how humor can help you in life,

in business, in everything.

You know, if you're funny, you just get more done.

You get more people want to be with you.

So I've got that.

If there's ever a time where audiences want to come

back out and see people speak on subjects,

I have that that I do. But, you know, I enjoy...

Hey, listen, plenty to do down here.

If I ever get my handicap to a single digit,

you won't see me again.

- All right.

Well, we'll know what happened if we can't see you anymore.

But until that time...

- I appreciate you having me on.

I wish I could come to the real diner and be part of it.

But this is the time we're living in.

And, you know, it's a beautiful day,

as you can see behind me.

- Oh, yes, I can almost feel that sun just coming through.

- Getting darker as we go along here.

- Wil, thanks so much.

- All right, Grover. Thanks for having me on.

It's been a pleasure. Nice to talk to you.

- Same here.

Wil Shriner, a wry wit who picked up

where his namesake Will Rogers left off.

Well, that's all for this episode.

I want to thank my guests, comic singer songwriter

Pat Godwin, curator emeritus of the Poe House

in Baltimore, Jeff Jerome, and comedian, actor, producer

and director Wil Shriner.

And thank you for joining us tonight.

Don't forget to stop by next week for more amazing guests

and great conversation right here on Counter Culture.


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