By Karen A. Brown
As a kid, I sat “Indian style” on the rug in front of a black and white TV and watched a show called Capt. Kangaroo in New York City. It was the 1960’s. This is where I was first introduced to Chuck McCann. His work, his love of children, animals , art and having a good time has spanned decades and genres. He’s a living national treasure!
I chatted with Chuck a few times this past year about writing a bit about him and hadn’t gotten around to it. Honestly, his career is so expansive I was concerned I wouldn’t/couldn’t do him justice. And I’m sure I won’t yet, here it is his 78th birthday and I find myself writing! Yes, Chuck you are not only a comediec giant you are one of the warmest, kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with and I wish you the happiest of birthdays! Thank you for bringing joy to so many of us!
I will attempt to give readers a small taste of who Chuck McCann is, but there is so much more that I will also guide you to youtube and google search, because you will find more brilliant charms like this!
RARE INTERVIEW: Chuck McCann Explains How He Became Friends With Stan Laurel
Chuck’s stories of old Hollywood are not to be missed. His book “Chuck McCann’s Let’s Have Fun Scrapbook” is a carefully crafted creative journey of Old Hollywood with the forward penned by Billy Crystal
(Just to gift you with some background!)
McCann hosted comedy/variety TV puppet shows in the New York area. McCann (with Ashley) did The Puppet Hotel for WNTA-TV, Channel 13; then Laurel & Hardy & Chuck, Let’s Have Fun and The Chuck McCann Show for WPIX, Channel 11; and finally, The Chuck McCann Show, The Great Bombo’s Magic Cartoon Circus Lunchtime Show and Chuck McCann’s Laurel and Hardy Show for WNEW-TV, Channel 5. In addition, Chuck was the comedy sidekick on the WPIX long-running Clay Cole Show.
McCann’s career was burgeoning by the time he left Channel 5. By the end of the 1960s, he had appeared to critical acclaim in the 1968 film The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and performed regularly on CBS’s The Garry Moore Show and Happy Days (not the later sitcom). He also began a successful cartoon voice career, doing everything from Bob Kane’s Cool McCool to Sonny the Cuckoo Bird (“I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”) in commercials for General Mills. He had even been one of the stars of producer George Schlatter’s ill-fated offshoot of Laugh-In, the one-episode Turn-On.
In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent appearances on network television in everything from Bonanza to Columbo to The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made for TV movie The Girl Most Likely to…. He had a steadier job as a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters. In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard anti-perspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore. McCann also impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel), and for a few years he played the holiday-season recurring role of Kris Kringle on the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara.
McCann continued voice work for cartoons, playing Jollo, Bookworm, Bump-On-A-Log, and Woof in 1992’s King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow and speaking as The Thing on the The Fantastic Four and Hulk animated cartoon series. He was also the voice of Leatherneck in the 2nd season of G.I. Joe. Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, he has been in commercials—at Christmas he has played Santa Claus for one product or another—and TV/movie gigs (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). He also voices Navarro, and Buck in Random! Cartoons and Dumptruck,Gibber, and Sadie in Disney’s Talespin.
I asked Chuck about his friendship with Mae West and he shared this classic story:
Chuck: One night she performed for us until the wee hours. She thought I reminded her of her manager Timony.
She told me stories of how she developed her character. She followed this one women who had this very Hoitie gate and she said she walked behind her imitating her walk. When the women felt her presence and turned “Can I help you lady”, she remarked looking down her nose at her with her hands on her hip swaggering in a even more Hoitie attitude. All Mae could say was that she admired her Hat, and orstrige plume and queried if it was for sale??? “This was given to me by a friend. IT WAS A GIFT>>>AND I DON’T SELL GIFTS.” With that she turned and walked off… and “Mae the Character” was born.. and that came from her lips on that couch , one great night siting on that couch…
(PHOTOS from Chuck McCann’s archives)
Chuck McCann is also an accomplished artist and cartoonist!
As, I told you there are so many dimensions to Chuck McCann. He’s just brilliant!
Chuck paints and draws everywhere from his art studio to napkins at restaurants. He calls them his ” Napatoons”
Impersonation scene – The Projectionist (1971) with Chuck McCann
Far Out Space Nuts
In another wondeful kids show Chuck co-starred with funny man Bob Denver ( Gilligan’s Island)
Chuck’s “Dick Tracy” character from WPIX becomes Detective Dump of Bunko Squad on WNEW.
Note that, rather than a wrist radio, Dump sports a Princess phone.
If you love nostalgia and Old Hollywood Chuck’s book is a must have!