The most frustrating thing to write is also the most satisfying.

Speculation Theater. The bane of my existence. But I digress.

One of the things we always tried to do is make sure the bits rang true. There was a SNL skit called ‘What’s the Best Way‘ – Basically it was a vehicle to make fun of New England accents and say the word ‘Wicked’. The premise had me going, ‘this could be very funny’. But here’s why it worked for me.

The directions were correct.

If you’re from New England, you know the roads are set up with the logic of a cow path. So to actually get anywhere, you need to know the shortcuts, or the cutoff for the shortcut if it’s rush hour, or… you name it, it’s not as simple as pulling out the GPS to get there.

The writers knew that, and took the time to give the right directions. They  could have faked it, and only the locals would have known. But they took the time to do it right and it worked for me.

That’s how I feel about Speculation Theater bits. The format has so many layers in such a short time, it’s almost impossible to do and still keep it funny. But when all the pieces fit together, it’s MFM. Take this Spec Theater – Elvis at the Salem Witch Trials. You have the intro concept, then the set up in the court, the Judge, The Barrister, the Defense Attorney, Elvis performing, the crowd, Sarah, and then the swoon and all the rabble hauling the King away with the torches and pitchforks. Then Ronald sums it all up. all in 90 seconds. oh, and we also had to figure out a song for E to sing that was FROM the time period that sounded like something he’d play. And we did it all with just the 2 of us doing all the characters – except for Sarah – kudos to Dianne, who walked in the studio at the right time to do a quick line for us which ended up as the perfect swoon.

{Long technical Ramble you can ignore unless you like learning about early 80’s production techniques}

Technically, it got to be challenging with this one –  we didn’t have multitrack recorders. We had a few cart machines, 2 reel to reels and a record player. I think we started with the crowd, recorded 2 left and right tracks, then dumped that to a reel, did it a second time, and played all of them to a cart. We did that for each crowd reaction section. Then Dianne came in to drop off a spot in the mailboxes, so we asked if she could do a line for us line. Next, we tried to split up the characters so we could run them all together in one take . I think I had to do the Judge and Defense attorney back to back, and Pat was doing Elvis and the Prosecutor… and we both did another live layer of crowd sounds if we didn’t have a speaking role. So, to mix it down live, reading the parts in the right characters, hitting the sfx and crowd sections off the cart machines while trying to keep the levels and Elvis’s live guitar part — it got a little complicated with the 1980’s equipment.

{End Ramble}

This video was done in the same studio we cut this bit – it was the main production room at WHEB-FM in Portsmouth, NH. Most of the Spec Theaters were made there or at EJ’s ProLab studios in Salisbury, MA.

I was also happy with the final result but it’s still like pulling teeth creating them from start to finish. Over the years, we created dozens of them – enough for the ‘Best of Speculation Theater’ cassette in the early 90’s. I’m remastering them and will be releasing it soon. Until then, here’s Elvis. Enjoy.

Pat – Ronald Albacore, Elvis, Crowd, Prosecutor
Tom – Judge, Lawyer, Crowd
Dianne – Sara

This entry was posted in Boffo Yux Dudes, Elvis, Production Techniques, Speculation Theater and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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