CULTURE

80s TV Meets Storytelling w/ A Very Special Episode

0 Comments 07 January 2016

a very special episode

Comedian Jonathan Bradley Welch talks his 80s TV themed monthly storytelling series A Very Special Episode.
By Daniel Barron

 

In a city saturated with open mics and standup comedy it’s ironic that the next live show that should be on your list is devoted to the so-called Decade of Excess.  For two years, comics Jonathan Bradley Welch and Misha D. Fisher have been the hosts of A Very Special Episode, a monthly storytelling series based around the concept of 80s television, from Dallas to Unsolved Mysteries and everything in between. Each night they pick a popular show and a theme which they then proceed to rib and dissect, bookended by an eclectic bill of storytellers.

As A Very Special Episode to prepares to kick off Season Three this coming Sunday at the Hyperion Theater, Welch took a moment to chat with Yay! LA about what audiences can expect, some of his 80s TV favorites, and how the decade served as a sort of adolescence for how we regard the medium today.

Don’t hesitate. Give into peer pressure and just say “yes”!

 

a very special episode

Jonathan Bradley Welch and Misha D. Fisher hosting at the Copper Still Bar.

What is the elevator pitch on A Very Special Episode? How is it a bit different from other storytelling series?
A Very Special Episode is born from my campy and frankly bizarre love of 80s TV and pop culture. Each month, we surprise the audience by paying tribute to/deconstructing/tearing apart a new 80s TV show. We geek out about said show, play games with the audience for prizes, and offer a variety to the show that’s unlike other shows.
Format-wise, we pick a clip from said show, show the clip, and draw our theme from the clip we show. Then an improv team uses the clip as inspiration for a quick set to warm everyone up, and the performers tell their stories based on the theme.

 

Do you tend to spotlight pretty well-known 80s TV staples like Dallas or T.J. Hooker or do you sometimes go dumpster diving for forgotten trash?
Haha, we do our best to find hidden gems that the audience can have fun with. We tend not to go with shows that had a short run unless they’re cult classics. A good example is Bosom Buddies which lasted two seasons in the early 80s. But it launched Tom Hanks and showed mainstream culture what drag was all about so we HAD to do it. Mostly we tend to focus on shows that people knew and loved, or have at least heard of.

 

Does that all involve a lot of spelunking into YouTube?
Oh yes. We’ve had occasions when we have wanted to use a TV show, decided on the show, and then had zero luck when finding an entertaining, meaty, funny clip. Sometimes we will find the clip and just know we need to do something with it.

 

Jonathan Bradley Welch

Jonathan Bradley Welch

Beyond the obvious elements like music or fashion is there something you have come to identify as inherently 80s through all of this? I feel like TV didn’t really begin to aspire to greatness or cultural longevity until the 90s.
I actually respectfully disagree with that. The 80s were the post-Norman Lear era when producers and writers figured out that they could use their platforms to enforce important messages, hence the “very special episode” premise. But they were doing this while still trying to maintain some wholesome aspects of the American family. So you had shows like Diff’rent Strokes, which took a non-traditional family, tackled some heavy issues, but did so in a way that could still appeal to middle America. I think it was the decade that turned television into a message board and had all the elements of the past decades in terms of camp factor, but all the makings to set up the 90s to move TV even further.

 

What have been some of your favorite show themes so far and what still remains fertile ground for ribbing?
Great question. I have a love for shows that feature a strong female lead. Moonlighting was my parents’ favorite show when I was growing up, so that was a show I loved to talk about and would love to again. Prime time giants like Knots Landing or Dallas give us SO much material, but we’ve yet to work with Dynasty or Falcon Crest. So I would like to try my hand at those, too. We have a lot left to uncover and even more that I feel we can revisit. And we do it all in a way that opens people’s eyes to TV they may have missed or forgotten about, so I like to show folks that as well.

 

So there’s no fear of exhausting the 80s.
I don’t think so. I mean, all good projects will have their end date but I could do A Very Special Episode forever and it seems our audience is on board with that, too. Our rule is that the TV show has to touch the 80s so we bleed into the 70s and 90s with that, since so many shows had lengthy runs. Plus, we like to experiment. We featured a TV movie twice, and in February we are doing a total throwback and featuring a 1950s show with a whole 50s themed night. We’re open to a lot of suggestions and ideas from our audience so I think the possibilities are endless.

 

Misha D. Fisher

Misha D. Fisher

What makes Misha the right co-host for this?
I met Misha in New York when I moved there in 2010. He was just moving to LA and we had an instant chemistry so I knew we had to do something together. He loves TV. LOVES. He loves the business of television, the culture of television, everything. But his knowledge is a little more contemporary so I think we make a great team considering that we have very different points of view and different takes on every TV show we talk about. It’s nice to have that balance, too, because we tend to bring very funny things out of each other.

 

A Very Special Episode is every second Sunday evening of the month at the Lyric Theatre in Silverlake. Doors at 7pm, show starts at 7:30pm. Admission is $7 at the door.
Follow A Very Special Episode on Instagram.
“Like” A Very Special Episode on Facebook.
Follow Jonathan Bradley Welch and Misha D. Fisher on Twitter.
Follow Jonathan Bradley Welch and Misha D. Fisher on Instagram.

 

a very special episode

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- who has written 407 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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