The Uncle Floyd FPP!
January 6, 2009 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Deep in the Heart of Jersey you'll find "Uncle Floyd" Vivino, roaming the streets of various towns and cities, kibbitzing with the locals. In Belleville. Nutley. Bloomfield Avenue and Ferry Street in Newark. Kearny. Cliffside Park. Main Street, Paterson. An abandoned lot in Paterson. What, you never heard of Uncle Floyd?

From 1974 to 1998, Floyd Vivino hosted The Uncle Floyd Show, a low-budget mess of a parody/tribute to variety shows and kids' shows, at the same time championing many local and/or outsider musicians, and accumulating a wide underground following via the UHF airwaves--why, David Bowie even wrote a song about Uncle Floyd.

Here's a link to the entire Uncle Floyd Show Album

Floyd currently plays over 300 gigs a year. His booking website gives a few examples of his New Jersified vaudeville stylings (not to mention some great publicity photos): 1 2 3 [music automatically plays when page is loaded] Here's more of UF on the pee-yanner.

The late CM "Mugsy" Calam was a favorite performer on the Uncle Floyd Show; has some footage neatly arranged for you; there's plenty more of Mugsy on YouTube.

Some newspaper articles about Floyd:
NYT 1/10/88
...more by Anthony Buccino, reporter for various NJ newspapers:
3/3/77 visiting the set | 3/17/77, Uncle Floyd Meets the Mayor of Bloomfield | 11/3/77

Web presence? Yeah!
Uncle Floyd on Facebook
Uncle Floyd on Flickr
Photos: Backstage with Uncle Floyd
And, finally, Uncle Floyd's Web Site, with updates on what cast members are doing these days.
posted by not_on_display (47 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, my god. I remember him all too well. Another oddment for Jersey kids to bond over.

He really benefitted from being on TV at a time when there were many fewer channels.

Good callback...

Signed, exit 109.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on January 6, 2009

Another oddment for Jersey kids to bond over.

North Jersey kids. I never heard of him down at Exit 34 on 295.
posted by amro at 2:06 PM on January 6, 2009

this is amazing. he goes to the least scenic spots you can find, but he finds all these smiling people on the sidewalks everywhere he goes, and EVERYONE knows who he is. awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2009

I've never heard of Uncle Floyd, but I'd just like to say that JERSEY RULES!

- Exit 163

p.s. Great post.
posted by exhilaration at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2009

Those shows were really funny.

- exit 9
posted by caddis at 2:22 PM on January 6, 2009

Another oddment for Jersey kids to bond over.

North Jersey kids. I never heard of him down at Exit 34 on 295.

And central Jersey. I lived in Elizabeth and watched him on a local UHF station.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:27 PM on January 6, 2009

"Uncle" as is one of your dad's creepy friends.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:28 PM on January 6, 2009

I remember his show being briefly run in Chicago in the early 80's and thinking it was the craziest thing ever - like a punk rock Soupy Sales.

I didn't know "Slip Away" was about Uncle Floyd until seeing Bowie perform the song on the Heathen tour. He mentioned being very high the first time he saw the show and later feared he might have imagined it.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some of his sketches were on Turkey Television, a Nickelodeon show, if I recall correctly.
posted by bugmuncher at 2:33 PM on January 6, 2009

Whew, another piece of my childhood that I did NOT hallucinate. Thanks, not_on_display!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:07 PM on January 6, 2009

Ah memories. It did make it's way down to exit 2 of the turnpike on NJN.
posted by cmfletcher at 3:09 PM on January 6, 2009

I loved Uncle Floyd as a kid, 'cept I do believe Bon Jovi made their TV debut on Uncle can't all be good.

- Exit 16W
posted by waitingtoderail at 3:22 PM on January 6, 2009

I grew up in Boston and saw UF late one night in the early 80's on one of the local UHF channels. Joey Ramone was on, in some sketch or another. I was 12 or so, and only had just heard of the Ramones, so seeing a Ramone (and Oogie) on this twisted kiddies show was one of the many things to twist my mind. I had no idea what I was watching, I loved it, and I saw the show maybe once more (except in Turkey TV snippets, maybe on Night Flight?) until the internets came along and showed me that, no, I did not manufacture these memories.
posted by not_on_display at 3:32 PM on January 6, 2009

Yay, Uncle Floyd!

-Exit 35 Rt287
posted by octothorpe at 3:43 PM on January 6, 2009

Ah, Uncle Floyd. I can thank my then-babysitter for introducing me to him, whereever she is now, oh corrupter-of-mine.
posted by NikitaNikita at 3:44 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might recognize Floyd's younger brother Jimmy and his brother Jerry if you're up late at night watching tv or something.
posted by mikelieman at 3:45 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yep bugmuncher, Uncle Floyd was a frequent fixture on Turkey Television. That show was ahead of its time.
posted by JHarris at 4:11 PM on January 6, 2009

You didn't have to live in Jersey to catch Uncle Floyd. I watched him in New York.

My buddies were on his show too!
posted by cazoo at 4:16 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by grahams at 5:02 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

So weird ... for no reason whatsoever I thought about Uncle Flloyd last week and googled him. There must be some sort of (former for me) NJ disturbance in the force

exit 157 and founder of Fan Club Solarama
posted by ElvisJesus at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2009

Weren't the Misfits on Uncle Floyd?
posted by Brainy at 5:19 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Brainy, the list of bands that plays is in the Wikipedia link.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

That is a pretty cool list of bands!
posted by vronsky at 5:40 PM on January 6, 2009


When I got the job doing video work for the Edison Documentary, the director would hold grainy VHS screenings of Uncle Floyd. I had totally forgotten about the strange, wonderful genius of North Jersey TeeVee.

-Exit 9, home of confused medical students and Hungarians!
posted by The Whelk at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2009

Weren't the Misfits on Uncle Floyd?

Yeah, in their only TV appearance. The only recording of it was destroyed when the player broke, unless one of the tiny amount of people who had a VCR then taped it and hasn't shared.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2009

Ah, this brings back such great memories of those weekday afternoons. (Leonia, in Bergen County. I was too young to know the exit numbers, but we were near route 4, nestled in with Englewood, Ft Lee, Palisades Park, and Hackensack.)

I've often wondered whether he was the inspiration for Shakes the Clown.
posted by alms at 6:00 PM on January 6, 2009

I helped organize a 100th birthday party for the New Brunswick train station and he was the guest of honor. He's awesome. It was a great experience. My husband and I danced the polka on the train platform while he played accordian and morning commuters clapped along.
posted by tidecat at 6:02 PM on January 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

wow. i grew up with this guy. he's like an uncle to me, even though i've never met him.

but he was in my house, eating dinner with us all the time.

-exit 136
posted by jcterminal at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2009

well ok, he played the piano while we eat, but w/e.
posted by jcterminal at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2009

I helped organize a 100th birthday party for the New Brunswick train station

That's one of the coolest things I've ever heard. I think every train station should get a birthday party.
posted by Miko at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

A letter-writing campaign by fans failed to sway network executives, but pressure and a class-action suit that the [Uncle Floyd Fan] club filed with the Federal Communications Commission did allow a refund of nearly $15,000 in pledges earmarked to keep the show on the air.


- my gramma lived off exit 161
posted by jessamyn at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

omg the paterson episode is hilarious. "There's a lot of turkish here, syrians, arabs...all over the place".

He got his start in my hometown, Oakland, NJ in 1974

My mom told me that Uncle Floyd came to Oakland once and poked around. There was absolutely nothing going on and no one would talk to him, so he got sad and left.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 6:58 PM on January 6, 2009

This is really a great Uncle Floyd post. I have been wanting to do one for a long time, but there has been precious little of him on the internets. That is a shame as he was such a local institution and the shows were funny, riotous pandemonium from a crew of wacky, yet in their own way, quite professional comics. The production values though were far from professional, but the improvisational work, the satire, the cacophony of comedy, they were priceless. I remember when I first heard about him thinking that this person who is so obsessed with a man in an uncoordinated outfit and bow tie is just nuts. Then a few months later I was in Jersey, Floyd was on this little local station and I was hooked. I really miss Looney Skip Rooney. The two of them together made a contentious yet riotous team. The best part of the whole show was how unscripted and contemporaneous it was. It was an excuse to go wild, and they almost always did. Anyway, I always thought that Floyd was bit like Soupy Sales (second clip nsfw). I wish TV Land or something would bring back some of these classic shows. Oh, and yes, he somehow got some of the greatest musical acts for a man on the tiniest of tv stations and local cable access. Floyd Vivino is THE man of comedy. Robin Williams also thought so - see his cameo in Good Morning Vietnam.
posted by caddis at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Greetings from Passaic County: Floyd is a friend of mine and fellow pianist. (though he'd probably say "That's aquaintance to you, ya besh-tid!"), and I've worked with his brother Jerry a lot. Besides the endearing and funny comments above, let it be known that Floyd is a bona-fide badass piano player with an encyclopedic knowledge of old ragtime and almost every 1920s-1940s tune ever written (including some of the dirtier ones too). He's also an avid record collector and has an incredible working knowledge of almost any Italian-American entertainer (he can recite titles of every Lou Monte or Jimmy Roselli track ever recorded, for example).

Mr. Vivino also had a small role in "Good Morning Vietnam" with Robin Williams. I attended a dinner show Floyd did last February with many Italians in the audience, and actually witnessed quite a few people laughing so hard, food was ejecting from their mouths. (not a pretty site). He's simply one of the funniest humans ever and a Jersey legend -- an,d we've had quite a few of those here too, like Sinatra, Springsteen, Count Basie, Meryl Streep, Jerry Lewis, Donald Fagen, Jack Nicholson, Bill Evans and Jon BonJovi for starters.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:12 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, I want him to play at my wedding.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 7:16 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My feeling has always been that Uncle Floyd should write the official New Jersey state song. Not Bruce. posted by lelilo at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2005

This post is awesome (and would be awesome if all it did was link to the show album). That band list is amazing (especially when you consider it's basically people appearing on a puppet show). And the good Uncle hisself is astounding — a warped, twisted satirist who genuinely seems like a sweet guy. How nice to hear that he's, in the words of Rick Derringer (who of course has been on the show), still alive and well.

I think Uncle Floyd's fan club might be the only one I've joined since turning, say, 12 years old. We watched him in the Philadelphia suburbs many nights after dinner, 1983—1986. He was at times either the worst or the best TV I have ever seen (occasionally both); so many memories, like Nostrildamus (the prognosticator with the giant nose). The hardest I think I laughed was at a rant he went into one night about a U.S. map printed somewhere (on an inflatable beach ball?) made someplace like Taiwan, which was so cheap that the designer had combined PA and NJ into one state.

Uncle Floyd does not like people messing with New Jersey.

This quote from the terrific Backstage photo link above also is impressive: "Bowie was a real fan and knew some of the songs and bits and said he watched the show on TV. The cast was flabbergasted and asked him how he found out about the show. The answer was astounding! 'John Lennon turned me on to it'!"
posted by LeLiLo at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good ol' Uncle Floyd.

Thanks, not_on_display, I never knew about the Bowie song and am endlessly fascinated by how these local "personalities" are 99% scary hacks and 1% national treasures like Uncle Floyd.

The dates may be off, but I am nonetheless convinced that this is a tribute to Uncle Floyd. (Sorry, couldn't find Bloodsucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, PA.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:39 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember Uncle Floyd and know exactly where a bunch of those spots are in the first few links.

Exit 148
posted by tehdiplomat at 7:48 PM on January 6, 2009

The sad news about this great post is to learn that Mugsy is now the late Mugsy. This specific page on his site gives much detail about the show. And YouTube, thanks to his fellow cast member Scott Gordon, hosts a wide variety of his gifts, if that's the right word, for low-budget musical satire that, like the show, was both ridiculous and/or sublime: Willie Half Nelson, Bruce Stringbean, Bob Dilly, Neil Yuck, Tom Waste, and, last but certainly not least (from a bathtub, too) Prince S.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:24 PM on January 6, 2009

I went to the same high school as Uncle Floyd, many years later. Each year we'd turn out a valedictorian to send to Yale, but the name "Uncle Floyd" was always floated about as the pinacle of achievement that put our little town on the map, or at least some map somewhere.
posted by Schmucko at 8:33 PM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ex-North Jersey kid representing.

I used to watch Uncle Floyd on our old rec room television. I miss UHF.

Now I'm in Oregon. Uncle who?
posted by codswallop at 1:13 AM on January 7, 2009

I used to watch him on NJN just before the god awful New Jersey state anthem signaled the nightly sign off. Ah, the good old days of insomnia.

exit 4 (tpk), exit 45 (I-295)
posted by crataegus at 4:21 AM on January 7, 2009

Wait, never was Channel 9. It's hell getting old.
posted by crataegus at 4:23 AM on January 7, 2009

Here's the real Uncle Floyd. Sorry, New Jersey.
posted by Goofyy at 9:24 AM on January 7, 2009

I was not a diehard fan, but when I could get it to tune in, it was always gold.

Rock me, Nostradamus!

Exit 142 was the closest parkway exit, and not very close at that, although you could work with 140 too.
posted by plinth at 12:57 PM on January 7, 2009

My feeling has always been that Uncle Floyd should write the official New Jersey state song.

Deep in the Heart of Jersey - our unofficial state song. (thanks Record Robot)
posted by caddis at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2009

Channel 68's signal made it out to Queens - I wasn't a regular watcher of Uncle Floyd's show, but I do remember it.

Does any one else remember that Uncle Floyd was often on before the scrambled adult programming (which I patheticly tried to tune in with various types of rabbit ears) on WHT started?
posted by Calloused_Foot at 3:38 PM on January 7, 2009

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