"uh un uh un uhhhh...."
May 16, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Morgan Freeman in 1971, [SLYT] wearing bell bottoms and teaching kids to read on “The Electric Company.”
posted by Fizz (62 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I itches, I scratches. And when I'm bored, I read matches.
posted by 256 at 6:57 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been said here by others before, and I'll repeat it here: the 70s were a strange, strange time. FWIW, my favorite bit from The Electric Company were the Spiderman stories.
posted by jquinby at 7:03 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


My brother and I were dedicated Electric Company fans. When Morgan Freeman got his first Oscar nomination a decade later for playing a pimp in Street Smart, we were shocked that Easy Reader would do such things. Not Easy Reader!

For what it's worth, I remember him being the best damn Dracula you ever saw.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:04 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


"...Blue, blue, the sky is blue
Come & see the sky is blue..."
posted by growabrain at 7:08 AM on May 16, 2012


Here's a Spidey story....narrated by Morgan Freeman, of course.
posted by jquinby at 7:14 AM on May 16, 2012


That's ... oddly erotic. I can see why giggling Gladys wants to glow.
posted by chavenet at 7:15 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought Morgan Freeman was born old
posted by MangyCarface at 7:20 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a ton of amazing stuff on The Electric Company. One of my favorites is the Lick a Lolly song. Once it’s in your brain, it’s impossible to get it out.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 7:20 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lawrence Fishburne on Pee Wee's Playhouse to freshen your palate.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:21 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, I thought Morgan Freeman was born old

emerging from the vagina to give a wry smile to the white doctor and say, "you did good, son. you finally made us all proud" and a little half-nod while the music swells
posted by Greg Nog at 7:25 AM on May 16, 2012 [38 favorites]


By all rights, this should have been one of the big pop hits of '73. Joe Raposo was robbed; ROBBED, I tells ya!

Plus, Violet Beauregarde's singing lead, for crying out loud. Every kid I show this to totally digs it.
posted by droplet at 7:25 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's something interesting about Morgan Freeman's voice....
posted by fijiwriter at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Easy Reader.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:30 AM on May 16, 2012


There's something interesting about Morgan Freeman's voice....

Nah, that's Freemanic Paracusia.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on May 16, 2012


That was a great cast and a great show. Not afraid to be smart.
posted by Trochanter at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Someone gave the DVD set to my son when he was around four or five. I had watched them back in the early 70s when I was his age but hadn't seen them since. It was really amazing, watching them all those years later and recognizing faces and voices. Also seeing some of the crazy 1970s stuff that convinced me everyone involved in that show was high on the maryjane.

Joan Rivers (voice), Gene Wilder (voice), Morgan Freeman, Ruth Buzzi. Bill Cosby smoking a big ol' cigar while surrounded by little kids. Good times, good times.
posted by bondcliff at 7:39 AM on May 16, 2012


Vampire Morgan Freeman doesn't sparkle.

Bath

Goes vegetarian

Words fail me ...
posted by maudlin at 7:42 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Electric Company, Sesame Street, Captain Kangaroo, Zoom, The Brady Bunch.

Welcome to my after-school lineup.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think one of the highlights of my grade school years was my father doing a kick-ass rendition of the whole plumber sketch:

"IT'S...THE PLUMBER!" *gasp* "...I'VE COME! TO FIX! THE SINK!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


What, no love for Rita Moreno in here? You people disappoint me, she's great.

Here she is singing Fever with Animal.
posted by mhoye at 7:51 AM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


The plumber sketch is from Sesame Street.

I used to watch and love both shows and on EC the best was LY (Tom Lehrer) and Hole at the Bottom of the Sea (Morgan Freeman), although I can't find the latter now. My own kids used to watch a lot of these on YT a few years ago, but some of it has disappeared now.
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on May 16, 2012


With an outfit like that, there is only one place he is going to end up - prison....and will forever demonize the thought of hope.
posted by lampshade at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2012


The plumber sketch is from Sesame Street.

No, I remember it being from Electric Company. And Slate confirms that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on May 16, 2012


What, no love for Rita Moreno in here?

TONS of love for Rita Moreno. EC was the first place I'd ever seen her. Imagine my surprise when I spotted her in Singing in the Rain. Just a wordless walk on, but still!

"ZELDA! WHOA, ZELDA!!!!"
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2012


Who could forget the lesson from this very special episode?: "It ain't all basketball and diswashers out here"
posted by Renoroc at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2012


By all rights, this should have been one of the big pop hits of '73. Joe Raposo was robbed; ROBBED, I tells ya!

I knew what song it would be before I even clicked on the link. They really had earworms on that show, man
posted by Lucinda at 8:28 AM on May 16, 2012


EC was wonderful. There was some spiderman sketch that I don't remember but for that it was the favorite part of my afternoon. Although the two faces that would say things like "cup" "board" "cupboard" weirded me out in some ineffable way.
posted by angrycat at 8:28 AM on May 16, 2012


Morgan Freeman = age 74
Rita Moreno = age 80
Skip Hinnant = age 71

:( Why do we all have to get old?
posted by crapmatic at 8:30 AM on May 16, 2012


When I was a young teen I had a job babysitting after school. I watched this show every weekday for an entire school year and I thought it was a riot. So many levels of humour. I kept thinking that it must have been a really fun show to work on.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:48 AM on May 16, 2012


the 70s were a strange, strange glorious, wonderful time
posted by mrgrimm at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Damn that man is fine. And what a great performance. But I'm trying to decode the racial stuff here through the lens of 40 years. It feels a bit like jive talking, almost minstrely to me. He's somewhere between American pimp, African prince, and Jimi Hendrix. But OTOH it's totally awesome and loving and entertaining. So confused! I guess it's kind of a straight line from this kind of thing to hip-hop.

Youtube offered up this DJ performance with Morgan Freeman being even more awesome with a huge 'fro. The material he's working with is terrible, but he sure has a lot of fun with his eee-nun-see-ay-shun. Then there's this video that starts with "Blow", Freeman singing a little bluesy number.
posted by Nelson at 8:51 AM on May 16, 2012


Like a lot of other actors from the 1970s who found themselves typecast or unable to find more work because of unshakable TV roles, there was a time when Morgan Freeman was less than gracious to fans if they brought up the subject of "Easy Reader", but he seems to be more at peace with it now.
posted by briank at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


By all rights, this should have been one of the big pop hits of '73. Joe Raposo was robbed; ROBBED, I tells ya!

As the Pointer Sisters were robbed in *google* 1977.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2012


...FWIW, my favorite bit from The Electric Company were the Spiderman stories.
posted by jquinby at 7:03 AM on May 16 [+] [!]


+a gazillion
posted by ssmug at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2012


TONS of love for Rita Moreno. EC was the first place I'd ever seen her. Imagine my surprise when I spotted her in Singing in the Rain. Just a wordless walk on, but still!

She's not a wordless walk-on! Later, Cathy Seldon later plays the part of "Zelda's kid sister" and "practically steals the movie from her." She's going to get a bigger part in the next movie. It is Zelda who tells Lena Lamont that Cathy has been working at the studio. Don Lockwood says, "Thanks a lot, Zelda," or something like that, and Zelda says, "Any time, Don," and flounces away.
posted by not that girl at 9:16 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Righteous, Brighteous, and Outta-sighteous.
posted by prepmonkey at 9:18 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It feels a bit like jive talking, almost minstrely to me.

Look at entertainment from the era produced by black people for a black audience, and you'll see a lot of the same style of self-presentation, diction, etc. My perception (which admittedly is totally limited because I was one of America's whitest white children in that era) is that most of the performers who made those choices were doing so as a way of asserting pride in black culture, not as minstrelsy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:18 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good grief, Stanley's kerning is awful!
posted by benzo8 at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


FWIW, my favorite bit from The Electric Company were the Spiderman stories.

What ssmug said. I think the Spidey skits were instrumental in getting me to learn to read pre-kindergarten, because I NEEDED to know what Spidey was saying in his silent word balloons, and my mom could only run into the room to read them to me so many times an episode.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:21 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


EC, along with the Carol Burnett Show, was one of the last (greatest) gasps of the vaudeville/variety show tradition.

Also, EXACTLY what Harvey Jerkwater said, except that I have a sister and not a brother.
posted by Melismata at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kept thinking that it must have been a really fun show to work on.

The DVDs have an interview with head writer Tom Whedon, who, for six-degrees-of-pop-culture fans, also co-wrote Jim Henson's first Muppet movie and had a son who wrote space Westerns or something.
posted by ormondsacker at 9:31 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey you guys, Morgan was just moving out in a new way.
posted by orme at 9:49 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


As ormondsacker points out, Joss Whedon's dad Tom was head writer for EC--and Tom's dad John wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show.

Not bad.
posted by tzikeh at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


God, I had such a crush on Easy Reader. I don't know how many years it was till I got the Easy Reader/Easy Rider reference. Speaking of which, I specifically remember the pleasure of unraveling two other '70s kid show puns when I was a little older: catching the Electric Company's Fargo North, Decoder reference when we were learning state geography in 3rd or 4th grade, and -- several years beyond that -- finally realizing in a junior high English class why there was a windmill-dwelling character in the Land of Make-Believe on Mr. Rogers called Donkey Hodie.
posted by scody at 9:54 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know how many years it was till I got the Easy Reader/Easy Rider reference.

Mind. Blown.
posted by bondcliff at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


scody: Don't forget Roosevelt Franklin, Placido Flamingo, King Friday the XIIIth, Letterman and the Spellbinder, the Beetles, H. Ross Parrot, Bruce Stringbean and the S Street Band....

(I had exactly the same pleasures!) :)
posted by Melismata at 10:05 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get easy readin'...or get easy dyin'.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:06 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Electric Company" (along with a few other shows) was basically my pacifier and babysitter when I was in primary and elementary school. It was more challenging and chaotic than "Sesame Street," it felt kinda street, it had some really game actors doing some awesome stuff, and it was kind of mesmerizing.

What you have to remember about the Children's Television Workshop and "Electric Company" in the 1970s was that they were trying to reach disadvantaged students in the 7-10-year old range who were having trouble reading and were "turned off" to being reached by teachers, parents, authority figures in general. Thus some of the cheesy stuff that may seem over the top, bizarre, and minstrel-ish to an audience who didn't grow up at the time. I mean, the show had electric switches that were labeled "Off" and "Right On." I loved the show -- not for what it was trying to teach me about reading, but for what it was trying to teach me about the world around me. One of my favorite segments was one that showed all of these street and building signs with occasional glimpses of the city around the signs -- the shots were obviously taken in Manhattan (shots of Jane Street and Jones Street signs) and gave me my first idea of what the Big City looked like.

Holy cow, I don't remember Joan Rivers on "Electric Company," but I guess she narrated all the "Adventures of Letterman" cutaways.

If there's one thing that stayed with me about that show, it was that awesome music. Man, I still have earwigs from that show that pop up 40 years later.

ormondsacker: The DVDs have an interview with head writer Tom Whedon

The original head writer and mastermind behind the show was Paul Dooley, who was later Molly Ringwald's dad in "Sixteen Candles" and Cheryl's dad in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," along with tons of other character roles over the years.

It's too bad that "Electric Company" got canceled after 5 or 6 years -- all because the GOP was raising a fit as far back as the Nixon Administration about giving tax dollars to PBS and the Children's Television Workshop just so their officials and flacks could get screamed at on the air by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (and there was a subtext that spending cash on TV programs for kids who were going to drop out of school anyway was flushing cash down the toilet).

briank: Like a lot of other actors from the 1970s who found themselves typecast or unable to find more work because of unshakable TV roles, there was a time when Morgan Freeman was less than gracious to fans if they brought up the subject of "Easy Reader", but he seems to be more at peace with it now.

Freeman has said that the show basically drove him to alcoholism because every time he walked down the street he got accosted by people wanting him to be "Easy Reader," which was a gig that he had originally figured on doing for only a year or two. Coupled with the grinding racism he encountered in Los Angeles and Hollywood for the better part of three decades, it's kind of hard not to give the man a break for having felt unhappy about being reminded about the role after all that time and all his efforts to put it behind him, no matter how fond his fans' memories of it may be.
posted by blucevalo at 10:23 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Holy cow, I don't remember Joan Rivers on "Electric Company," but I guess she narrated all the "Adventures of Letterman" cutaways.

Yup. And guess who was Letterman: Gene Wilder. Guess who was the Spellbinder: Zero Mostel. *thanks the heavens for having such people as a main part of my childhood*
posted by Melismata at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Then there's this video that starts with "Blow", Freeman singing a little bluesy number.


From the look of it, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of those videos started with blow. Or at least a few puffs.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:34 AM on May 16, 2012


I actually saw Morgan Freeman in "The Gospel at Colonus" at the Guthrie Theater in, um, 1987. Since he was playing a character in a Greek play he wore long robes; he raised his arms up high and declaimed, and MAN what an impact.

I, age 14, attended the show in the company of our Italian exchange student. I think my parents let nerdy me use their second ticket, with the primary aim of using the first ticket on this young man who clearly didn't think much of America culture. That that , snobby foreign dude!

He turned out to be a really nice guy and a government statistician. Hi, Stefano!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know how many years it was till I got the Easy Reader/Easy Rider reference.

I can tell you exactly how many years it was for me: 41. Because I never got it until now. scody, as ever, you are the wind beneath my wings.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Say what you want about the CTW and their shows, but they pretty much educated an entire generation of Gen-X kids (myself included) to count and read before entering kindergarten.

Years ago I talked to a friend who was a first-grade teacher in my local district who said their entire curriculum was thrown into disarray by the waves of kids that showed up for kindergarten already counting to 20 in english and spanish.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ah... The Electric Company. . .

Good memories...
posted by WestChester22 at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2012


The original head writer and mastermind behind the show was Paul Dooley, who was later Molly Ringwald's dad in "Sixteen Candles" and Cheryl's dad in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," along with tons of other character roles over the years.

Okay, now MY MIND is blown. favorite Paul Dooley bit: REFUND?!
posted by scody at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Say what you want about the CTW and their shows, but they pretty much educated an entire generation of Gen-X kids (myself included) to count and read before entering kindergarten.

My parents tell me that thanks to CTW programming, I was able to read at the age of two and a half. Dad says that when he was out running errands and had to bring me along for whatever reason, I'd go wandering around the aisles reading all the signs I saw out loud ("tomato soup, zero-six-nine...ronzoni shell pasta, one-two-nine...hamburger special, two for one-nine-nine....") and he'd get a huge kick out of watching the looks on people's faces when they saw how little I was.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a child of the 70s, I favorited this post hard.

A few weeks ago, I tried for an hour to find Easy Reader on a rocking chair, singing Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay. I'm pretty sure it was on The Electric Company and if anyone can find that video, I'd be much obliged.
posted by Tacodog at 12:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My parents tell me that thanks to CTW programming, I was able to read at the age of two and a half.

Ditto. (My brother claims credit but my mom and I remember the truth) ... more Electric Co. than Sesame Street. EC was way cooler to me.

It would be interesting to see how the programming has changed from that initial goal (teaching underserved pre-school kids) to the more social goals it seems to have now (teaching advantaged (not in daycare) kids social skills).
posted by mrgrimm at 1:24 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


zomg, fijiwriter, that is now my canonical example of the "slow windup followed by a suckerpunch"
posted by whuppy at 2:03 PM on May 16, 2012


After shareholder David Ridenour raises a ruckus, Time Warner warns Morgan Freeman to shut up with anti-Tea Party remarks when he's out promoting "The Dark Knight Rises."
posted by blucevalo at 2:33 PM on May 16, 2012


I loved Letterman. That hand-drawn animation, plus the narrator's breathlessness was a nice touch.
posted by jleisek at 4:22 PM on May 16, 2012


"Easy Reader, that's my name, I say, mmm, mmm,mmm". Grew up on it, loved it. NOTHING will change this mind.
posted by sundrop at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2012


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