https://youtu.be/CljvjBBA2dY?feature=shared

On this week’s episode, television veteran Michael Burger (Family Feud, Price is Right, Mike and Maty, and many many more) talks about his showbiz career. He looks back on memories from working on cruise ships as well as being able to work with some of his idols.

Show Notes

Michael Burger’s IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0121221/

Michael Burger’s Website: https://www.michaelburger.com/

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
So when you shoot a multi-camera sitcom the audience, they bring in an audience and it could take, I dunno, it could easily take five hours to shoot a half hour of television.

Michael Burger:
22 minutes. Five and a half. Yeah. Five hours to shoot. 22.

Michael Jamin:
And so what’s the audience doing while they’re resetting the scenes or the actors are changing?

Michael Burger:
Well, I’ve got a lot of stories. Some. I had a guy die once. What? And I just thought he was taking a nap. Yeah. I kept looking up going, God, I don’t, A comic wants everybody engaged. Right? And he’s just, and at the end, he’s not leaving every, the bus is gone and they card him out and he died on the way to the hospital. I guess they revived him, then he died.

Michael Jamin:
You’re listening to Screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael. Hey everyone, welcome back to Screenwriters. Need to hear this. I’m Michael. I got a cool guest today. So as many of you know, my very first comedy writing job in Hollywood, I was a joke writer on a morning TV show on a b C called the Mike and Maddie Show. And my next guest is Michael Berger, the host of Mike and Mad Mike, thank you so much for joining me here. A are

Michael Burger:
You nice to see and reconnect with you again? It’s been a few

Michael Jamin:
And you are this, I know you’re not quite a screenwriter, but I think have a lot to, I don’t know, just a lot to add to the conversation because you’re a professional talk show host and you posted so much. I’m going to blow through some of your credits real fast just so people, but don’t

Michael Burger:
Blow through ’em. I want you to land on ’em and marinate on ’em for a while.

Michael Jamin:
Let’s linger on them unnecessarily for a long time. So obviously Mike and Maddie, but the Home and Family Feud, the live version as well as the Price is right, the live version, thousand Dollars Pyramid Match Game, iron Chef Personals, the Late Night Dating Show Straight to the Heart, not to mention your long history as a standup comedian on cruise ships, and then later doing warmup. I want for audiences for sitcom audiences, which I know you’ve, we’ve been on any of the same shows, which is, that’s a whole nother level of comedy. I want to talk about that. But first I want to talk about where you began. It was, how did you become a comedian for cruise ships?

Michael Burger:
Well, a lot of these entries into showbiz come in through the side door. And this was certainly the case. I was a big fan of Steve Martin and back in the late seventies, there was a contest where they were looking for a Steve Martin lookalike and the payoff, the winner got a spot on the Tonight Show with Carson. So I figured this is my entry in, so I figured that I win this contest and I get my own show. Well,

Michael Jamin:
And you did

Michael Burger:
Well. You had to submit a cassette tape, audio cassette tape of you doing Steve Martin. No video cameras just a cassette. And they wanted that in theory, in front of a live audience while I had, I hadn’t done any standup. There’s no live audience, but my audience in the day was my classroom. So I went back to my high school and said, can I borrow the classroom and just do Steve Martin’s material and I’ll take my best cut from that. So I went to five teachers. I did five minute sets, and I submitted that tape with the best of the five to the radio station who said, yeah, great. Come on up to the tower records parking lot on Sunset, where there’s 25 of us dressed like Steve Martin doing. You’re a wild and crazy guy. I win that and go to San Francisco and I meet the western Halfie of the United States at the boarding house, and I win that. And the finals are at the Comedy store with the entire country represented. I’m one of six. Steve Martin is there, Carl Reiner is there. And the winner, the payoff is the Tonight Show spot. And I do, my thing and my twist on it was I came out white suit arrow through the head, no pants with boxers that said a B, C news brief.
So I figured I’d add my joke and the guy I was up against that I thought was my competition, played banjo so well and looked like Steve. I thought, there’s no way. Right. He does his bit, I do my bit. It’s a tie between me and this guy from Nashville that looked like Steve. Steve Martin comes on stage and he’s holding our wrists like a ref in a boxing match. And he holds up the other guy’s hand. Okay, that guy wins. I lose, three months later I’m watching The Tonight Show and Johnny goes, oh, we have a guest tonight. And Steve Martin comes out and he’s out for about 30 seconds and you realize it’s not Steve. The real Steve comes out bound and gagged yelling, this guy’s an imposter. That guy goes away. We never hear from him again. And that was my first taste at showbiz.

Michael Jamin:
And you were like, what? 20 something?

Michael Burger:
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe I was 27, 28. But what would you, somebody saw that and said, Hey, can you do that on a cruise ship? Can you do standup on a ship?

Michael Jamin:
But wait, what would’ve you done if you had won this? Because then you would’ve been on the Tonight Show, but you didn’t have an act.

Michael Burger:
Well, I would do kind of what that kid did. The whole bit was to pay Steve Martin’s movie off The Jerk that was coming out. And it was just a sight gag, but I certainly would’ve come up with something. And then, so what I wound up doing initially after that, and this is in the height of all the singing comedy telegrams, remember back in the day, dancing bears and roller skates? Yeah. So I did a Steve Martin lookalike Soundalike Comedy Telegram where Michael would hire me to make fun of somebody, and I would get all the information and I would go wherever they are, a bank, an office. I actually stopped a wedding once as Steve Martin air through the head white suit, hold on, I don’t think this is right. And do a little Steve Martin thing. And there was a guy in the audience at a restaurant who came over after I just did this Rickles kind of riff. And he goes, that’s very funny. Can you do ships? And I said, sure. And that’s how I got on a cruise ship. And then I’d come on as Steve, and then I’d do my whole act after that, which I developed over time.

Michael Jamin:
But your act was basically kind of making fun of Steve, or was it all playing

Michael Burger:
Well, no, you quickly. No, I had some comedy ideas, but what I realized as soon as I got on the ship, 70% of the material comes from being on the ship. Right. I dunno if you’ve ever worked ships, but No. Oh, there’s so much material. It’s such a ripe group. And then

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting, you never even did the comedy clubs. You really came up your own way.

Michael Burger:
I really did. I did a few because of that little bit of notoriety, but the cruise ships were a better paying gig. You got to see the world and you really felt like you were in the business. You had a band behind you generally. There was an opening act. The only downside was if you didn’t do well, you’d have to see these people for the next three days, four days, seven days.

Michael Jamin:
But how

Michael Burger:
Many I loved it.

Michael Jamin:
How many shows would you do on a, so you were like, let’s say it was a seven day tour. How many shows would you do?

Michael Burger:
Two.

Michael Jamin:
That’s it really?

Michael Burger:
Yeah. Yeah. I would do the three and four day cruises down to Ensenada and back. And so I would do welcome aboard show, I would be the headliner. I’d come out and do my hour, and then they said, you can do anything you want on Sunday night. So I’d go in the back lounge and then just try stuff. And that’s really where you kind of learned what’s funny, what’s not. So I got to do, my God, for anybody listening that remembers the Catskills in those old days where you just work well clubs today, you go out and work material, I could go in that back room and I would go on at midnight and the buffet would start at midnight. And my goal as a performer was if I could keep people from getting up and leaving my show to go eat again, then I realized I had some pretty good material. So I would do an hour and a half, two hours in the back room.

Michael Jamin:
But

Michael Burger:
The moment that really, maybe this is where you’re headed, that launched my career was in the middle of the cruise. They had a passenger talent show. And on one of these cruises, the cruise director came up to me and said, Hey, can you fill in and host the Passenger Talent Show? I have other things to do. And he meant that as a verb. I mean, this guy was, he was all over the ship just right,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Going

Michael Burger:
After whatever moved, you know what I mean? And I said, well, what do I do? And he goes, well, these people sign up throughout the week and then we turn ’em loose at midnight and they do whatever they do. Think America’s Got Talent. And I said, well, what would you like me? Wait, introduce ’em, put a little show together, go at 11 o’clock at night, get with the piano player and you figure out maybe an order. I said, well, okay. It sounds like fun. So I did that. And I’m telling you, Michael, I had more fun doing that than any standup really. I had a chance to talk to somebody, where are you from? What do you do? And then you turn ’em loose. But because, and it’s not unlike warmup where someone else is the star where someone else has the focus. You just set ’em up and turn ’em loose. Yeah. I had an 85 year old woman, get up and tap dance to the Lord’s Prayer. You don’t need to top that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. How do you, right.

Michael Burger:
I mean, I had everything. Right. So I started doing this and about at the same time, I was doing warmup for a game show. We’re going to go way back now, a dance show called Dance Fever.

Michael Jamin:
Yes. Which

Michael Burger:
Is again, these dancing shows, but way back, right.

Michael Jamin:
It was solid Gold and Dance Fever, those two shows. That’s

Michael Burger:
It. And they had three celebrity judges and they would judge the dancers. And the Cue card woman comes up to me on a commercial break and she goes, N B C is going to do a morning game show. And they want somebody new, somebody unknown, someone that no one’s heard of. I said, that’s me. I, I’m in the middle of the ocean. No one knows me. She goes, do you have a tape? I said, nah, I got a tape. Sure. I got a tape, I got no tape. So the very next cruise I go back on, I put 2,500 bucks on my credit card and I go buy that two piece video system where you had to buy the base unit, the head unit. And I brought that on the ship. I put it on a tripod, I put it back by the soundboard, and I pushed record and I videotaped every one of these passenger talent shows that I hosted and then cut everybody out.
And it just kept my moment. My first demo tape was six minutes of me doing that. Right. So this woman at Dance Fever says, get me that tape. I’ll get it to N B C. The two people in charge were Jake Talbert and Brian Franz. They were the presidents of daytime television, N B C. So she sends in the tape and I get a call, my agent and I come in, I have an agent at this point, and they go, do you know why you’re here? And I said, yeah, Mary Steck was nice enough. I said, no, it’s the guy at the end. I said, what do you mean the old guy? Yeah. What about him? Well, there’s this charming old man that I’m introducing and playing with, and he grabs the mic out of my hand and goes, you must be saying something very funny, but I don’t get it. Well, it’s a huge laugh. And the N B C exec said the fact that that guy got the laugh and you let him have his moment and you didn’t come back over with one more ad lib of your own tells me you got a sense of how to host. It’s about making someone else shine. He said, we can teach you how to host a game show, but we can’t teach you as the instinct to make someone else look better. Were you

Michael Jamin:
Aware of that though? I mean, we,

Michael Burger:
Not really. Yeah. I mean, I got better at it and I realized the sneaky joy of this is that if you get a laugh and get out of the way, put the onus back on them when you do a talk show. But when they

Michael Jamin:
Said this to you, you’re like, oh my God, I, I’ve been doing this all along and I didn’t realize this. Or were you consciously doing that?

Michael Burger:
I think there was sort of a Midwest polite mentality, kind of how I was raised, don’t interrupt, all that kind of stuff. It kind of goes part and parcel just being, I don’t know, polite iss the perfect word. My dad was from Missouri, my mom was from Minnesota. We kind of raised in a polite family. I just thought that was the right thing. But I also realized that boy, you could use this to your advantage, ’em shine. And that I work at it to this day trying to be a better listener and try to be better at picking my moments. That’s how it started. That’s literally how my career started out at sea. And

Michael Jamin:
Then so then what happened with that audition then?

Michael Burger:
So I got the pilot. I got the pilot for N B C Morning Talk show. My very first time on a lot is at N B C. And I’m parked six spots down from Johnny Carson. It’s got a white Corvette. His license plate said 360 Guy thought that was a clever license plate all around Guy. Yeah. I’m six spots down from Carson. I just got off the boat. I am so far from showbiz. I’m walking on the set. We shoot the pilot at the same time. They’re just about finished with a Tonight Show. We shot across the hall, very little security back in the eighties. I open the door and I walk in and I sit next to Gregory Peck. Colonel Michael going shelf is so easy. Yeah. He goes on, he comes out, I say, hi, Carson walks by, gives me one of these. Everybody walks out and we all go home. Kicker. The story is Pilot did not get picked up, but the production company, reg Grundy, who did all of those shows back in the day, sail of the Century and Scrabble, liked what I did and put me on retainer for a year to develop something else.

Michael Jamin:
But did they, and I never even asked you about Mike and Maddie did like Yeah. Did they coach you at all before you start doing this? Did they rehearse you or is it like, well, this is who we hired, let him do his thing?

Michael Burger:
It’s a good question. In the game show world, when we were getting ready to do a game show, they would remind me that the first half of the game is fun and q and a and get some joy out of these contestants and root for ’em. And then when it shifts to the bonus round, there really needs to be a shift in tone. This money is serious money and this can change someone’s life and this is not the place to go for a joke. Let’s kind of shift the focus and really be there for ’em and root for ’em and console them if they lose and be happy for ’em when they win. So there was a little bit of that. Some of it, it’s, most of it’s just learning where your beats are, getting in and getting out.

Michael Jamin:
What about Mike in the game show world or home family, same kind of thing?

Michael Burger:
Well, Mike and Maddie was a whole nother league that was morning network everywhere in the country. And I was working with someone, which I had never done. So I came in for the audition and did well. And the woman I had auditioned with, they had a deal to put in place to put her on the air. And as I was driving home, my agent called and said, I don’t know what happened in there, but they now want to do the show with you. And they’re letting her go. Said, oh, well don’t give her my address.

Michael Jamin:
And

Michael Burger:
He said, we now have to find a woman to pair up with you for this morning talk show. And I thought, well, how do we do that? I said, well, Disney will set it all up. This is a dizzy production. And I auditioned and I audition’s not even the right word. I sat down with 85 women and just said, how you doing? How you doing? And we just tried to see if there was any chemistry. It’s like dating somebody. Is there there a connection? Maddie?

Michael Jamin:
This I had? No, I, I’m sorry, I have to interrupt. But this I had no idea about because

Michael Burger:
Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It seems like they sell a show to A, B, C, they go, it’s going to be

Michael Burger:
Morning show. We know, actually, let me back up. This show is going to be in syndication for Disney, which they could syndicate across the country and do anything. ABC’s not involved at this

Michael Jamin:
Moment.

Michael Burger:
So they had a development deal with this woman. They passed on, they put me in the spot. Now they got to pair me up. They pair me up, Maddie and I had instant chemistry. And about an hour after her audition, they say, we love you both. Let’s do it. So we shot a pilot right at K H J on Melrose, a $40,000 pilot, right? I mean, that’s about as cheap as you can get. And they took that pilot out and tested it and it tested as high as Oprah tested back in the day, right? A, B, C got wind of this and said, forget syndication, we’ll put you on the air now. And three months later, Maddy and I hit the ground running, not knowing each other really. And what began a two year, 535 episode run with someone I got to know every day. We shot literally every, well, five days a week, Monday through Friday.

Michael Jamin:
So that’s interesting.

Michael Burger:
We got to know each other. Got to learn the whole thing.

Michael Jamin:
I didn’t know that was the origin of, because they’re basically saying, okay, we’re selling a morning TV show. We don’t know who’s in it yet, but if you like the idea of a morning TV show, we’re going to audition this.

Michael Burger:
Back in the day, they were handing out these, they were handing these talk shows out pretty regularly. It was kind of the thing fairly inexpensive to produce, I guess. Although we had quite a budget. This was Morning Network. This was a big official show that we traveled and there was a nice budget for a big beautiful set. And everybody got what they needed to pull this off. And then celebrities would catch on and come on. And we had our favorites. And you got to sit down there with your idols. And yeah, there was a little pushback. The fact, I want to talk to you about this, because A, B, C was adamant that this show was not a comedy show in the morning. That you’re taking people’s time away from them and you got to give them something. They got to feel they haven’t wasted their morning. So there’s always a recipe, there’s always something to learn from. And I came in kind of hot with this idea of comedy and they’re going, no, people don’t want to laugh in the morning. And I went, well, I got to disagree with you there, but Max Mutchnick and Max and who? Max and Dave, right?

Michael Jamin:
David Colleen, yeah.

Michael Burger:
Who created a little show called

Michael Jamin:
Will and Grace.

Michael Burger:
So they were the first writers on Mike and Mad. And it was just overkill. We didn’t need that much horsepower from them. They were so talented. They went on and did what they did. But I think because they brought me on, they certainly liked my sense of humor and thought this would be a nice way to wake up in the morning. So eventually they embraced the humor as long as he balanced it with information.

Michael Jamin:
And that show, it was Tamara Raw, Tamara, she was the producer

Michael Burger:
Started it.

Michael Jamin:
She started it. And I guess her vision was Letterman in the morning. But Letterman had a show in the morning. And so that’s where

Michael Burger:
You don’t want to go down that path. And that kind of scared so, and part of this was wise that you, let’s not waste people’s time in the morning. Let’s find that balance of being entertaining and give them a takeaway. And we realized that, I certainly found that balance. Maddie and I started to feel our own beats there on where we could jump in and we each got our own segments where we could shine. Yeah. Maddie was the greatest at locking in on a guest. And Carol Burnett came on and Maddie just started crying. That was, that’s how she started the interview. It’s because Maddie learned English having come from Cuba on one of the last Freedom Flights out. And now the show that she watched to learn English by the Carol Burnett Show. She’s sitting there and she starts crying. Well, that’s a great host showing her emotion, being interested. So yeah, I love working with

Michael Jamin:
Her. Yeah, she’s delightful. Yeah, I remember, I remember taking, going to your dressing room with index cards versus jokes here, what about this?

Michael Burger:
And I wanted that so much to me that felt like Letterman and that felt like The Tonight Show. I was aching for that. I don’t remember the conversation we had or what I fought for. I wanted Jonathan Winters on the show, and I had done warmup on his sitcom and they said, no, that’s not our audience. And I went, what’s not our audience? Funny. So I pushed, six months later, Jonathan came on and I got to sit with him and I got to do what Johnny Carson did with him, which was give him a hat and then do a character. And I thought, this is, I’m in heaven.

Michael Jamin:
This

Michael Burger:
Is as good as it gets. But it took some pushing because they thought, who wants Johnny in the morning? Yeah. So wait a minute.

Michael Jamin:
Who

Michael Burger:
Doesn’t want to laugh in the morning

Michael Jamin:
And be, but before that, you were still also doing warm before warm up. And then how did, so just so people know, so when you shoot a multi-camera sitcom, the audience, they bring in an audience and it could take, I dunno, it could easily take five hours to shoot a half hour of television.

Michael Burger:
22, 2 minutes, five and a half. Five hours to shoot 22.

Michael Jamin:
And so what’s the audience doing while they’re resetting the scenes or the actors are changing?

Michael Burger:
Well, I’ve got a lot of stories. Some had a guy die once. What? And I just thought he was taking a nap. Yeah. I kept looking up going, God, I, a comic wants everybody

Michael Jamin:
Engaged.

Michael Burger:
And he’s just, and at the end, he’s not leaving every, the bus is gone and they car him out and he died on the way to the hospital. I guess they revived him, then he died. What

Michael Jamin:
Show was this?

Michael Burger:
Women in Prison?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t remember. Don’t remember. Women in Prison. Sure,

Michael Burger:
Sure you do. It was a sitcom with Wendy, Joe Sperber and Peggy Cass, an all star lineup. Blake Clark played the Warden and it was a sitcom about women in prison. I know. And I was the warmup. And then I did all of those types of sit. I mean, I did big ones, I did shows, you’d know. Yeah. Gosh, Mr. Belvedere is where I started.

Michael Jamin:
Remember one. And

Michael Burger:
That’s really where you learn, I don’t know a comic that’s got five hours, unless you’re talking maybe Leno, but you know, do your act. But then you have to figure something else out. And that’s where these hosting chops came in and yeah, you’re like a surgeon on call. The moment the bell stops, then I start talking to the audience and then they’re ready to go again. Could be right in the middle of a joke, you’re telling, it doesn’t matter, I’m here to serve. And they would do, again, for those uninitiated, maybe 15 scenes in a sitcom of 50 pages, 60 pages. They’ll do each scene two or three or four times. The actors want another shot at the scene. Maybe they’ve got another joke laid in, or maybe they want another angle. And each time they do it, that audience has to be geared up, not only reminded, Hey, where were we? Right. And sometimes literally reminded because a lens went down and we have a 30 minute stop between scenes seven and eight. Yeah, that’s happened. So you keep them entertained. And it’s actually, I think that was the greatest training for me anyway.

Michael Jamin:
It must’ve actually a really important job because as a TV writer, we want the audience to have, they need the energy. They got to keep giving it to the audience. And it’s the warmups job to keep them engaged and not wanting to leave and get bored and zoned out. Well, I’m

Michael Burger:
Glad you said that because

Michael Jamin:
Oh, very important.

Michael Burger:
The writers will come to me and say, how’s the audience tonight? Or if the show’s not going well, they’ll going, Hey, can’t you do anything your fault? I’ll certainly try sometimes it just wasn’t that funny. Or the reverse is true. Right. I have a Dick Van Dyke story that is painful. He did a sitcom with his son called Van Dyken Company. And Walter Barnett produced and they brought me in. I had a nice reputation of being the warmup guy. So I came in and did the pilot and it’s like taking candy from baby, I’m killing. And Walter Barnett walks up to the rail about three feet up audience, and without stopping, he says, just pull it back a little bit and then keeps walking. And a couple scenes later, more laughs, he goes Less. Just less. Okay. Now we’re like five seeds in. And he pulls me up and he goes, stop telling jokes.
I’ll tell you why. Later. I went, oh my God. So now I’m just talking to the audience and I happen to get one guy in the audience that was a mortician. I go, what do you do for a living? Mortician big laugh. He looks at me, what are you doing? People are dying to get in. I go, well, it’s not, he’s doing it. At the end of the show. He goes, I got to let you go. Dick is not happy. Dick, Dick van Dyke’s not happy. Yeah. Yeah. Show’s just not coming together. He had hoped, and there’s a lot of laughter when we’re not shooting, so I’ll keep you posted. So the next week they bring somebody else in and it’s awful. So they bring me back. But he said, okay, you can come back, but you can’t do the puppet bit and you can’t do these three jokes. I had some killer bits that I know I could rely on. So I finished the six episodes I did when I did five of them. But

Michael Jamin:
It, it’s, it’s actually, warmup is a pretty high paying job. It’s a pretty desirable job.

Michael Burger:
It was crazy. I’d never seen that kind of money for one night. I’m not doing the clubs. I’m not on tour, and I’m not only in town. I’m getting union money. So now I’m getting my sag guard and I, but that’s a union job. Then they tried try to take it away from us

Michael Jamin:
That that’s a union. That’s a union chop. I

Michael Burger:
Didn’t know that. It was after I fought for it, it was then a bunch of us got together and went to the union and said, Hey, we’re a pretty important part of this production. They agreed, actors stood up for us and spoke on our behalf, and we wound up getting union money, which is how I got vested. But I mean, don’t think I’m speaking out of school. Warmups could range. Back in the day was 800 for the night and five or 6,000 a night was not uncommon at the end. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
I know that for sure. And then,

Michael Burger:
So you knock out a couple of those a week and all of a sudden you’re going, I

Michael Jamin:
I’m rich Show

Michael Burger:
Business. Well, show business is great, but you’re also not on camera. And you’re thinking, I remember having shows on the air and then going back and doing warmup and candidly thinking kind of a step back. And a producer said to me, I wouldn’t look at it that way. He said, do you like doing it? And I said, I love doing it. He goes, you’re good at it. I said, well, okay. And he said, that carries a lot of weight. If people are going to see you work ’em, see you doing what you do. Well. And I kind of reframed that and got back into the warmup and wound up doing a little show with people that you probably, or one actress that was probably everyone’s favorite or has been. And that was Betty White. Yeah, sure. And I came back and did Hot in Cleveland and did 135 episodes. I spent 135 Friday nights with Betty White.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, she’s lovely. Yeah. I worked with her on an animated show. She couldn’t be, she was so lovely.

Michael Burger:
Sweet. Right? Yeah. And gives you everything you’d hope.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, for such a pro. I remember I’ve told this story, I was doing an animated show. So I was directing her and she was, I don’t know, maybe 15 feet in front of me. I’m at a table, I got my script. I’m giving her notes and she’s delivering. She’s great. But after a take, I’d give her a note, can you try like this? Like that? And she was very pleasant. But after a few sec or a minutes, she stops and she goes, I’m sorry, dear, but you’re going to have to yell. My hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. And I said, if you think I’m yelling at Betty White, you’re out of your fucking mind. And she just lost it. She loved that. She was so far, I mean, she’s like, she was so sweet when

Michael Burger:
You would see her on the set, the room changed. Everybody was aware. It was like the Pope walked in and the little ad libs that she would throw off to the side, which having done 135 of ’em, I realized she had a lot to go to. But the first time I heard a couple of these, for instance, cameras rolling, awkward pause. Betty looks up and goes, if no one’s saying anything, it’s probably my turn. Yeah, that kills. Director goes, we have to go back. Betty goes, how far the pilot? So she got about 50 of these ready to go. And there was a scene where they, once a season, they would pair the girls up, Wendy Mallick, Jane leaves, Valerie Tonelli. They’re all single as Betty was. So they would have a date show where all the women got paired up and the girls paired each other up with dates. So they picked Carl Reiner as Betty’s love interest. And there’s a scene where she and Carl Kiss
And crowd goes Nuts. And then we stop. And Carl’s 15 feet from me. And I had worked, interviewed Carl on Mike and Maddie. In fact, I, Carl, I let had him cut my tie, which is an old Johnny Carson thing I’ll get back to in a minute. But I said, Hey Carl, you just kissed Betty. What was that like? And he goes, without missing a beat. Oh, it was unbelievable. She has her original teeth and all and her, she goes all of her own teeth and her original tongue recess. That right at 90 without missing a beat. And you saw these two connecting, right? As the old guards of the business,

Michael Jamin:
Some legends. But how did you get that first warmup job? I mean, walking into that is not, is hard.

Michael Burger:
It was. Or even getting

Michael Jamin:
The opportunity to do it as hard.

Michael Burger:
Yeah, I go back to the cruise ship. I was doing warmup on the ship and a producer for Jeopardy was on who worked for Merck Griffin, and they were doing this dance show. And she goes, can you get me a tape? Then by that time I had, and so the very first warmup I did was Dance Fever. And one of the celebrity judges, it was Christopher Hewitt, who said to me on a break, oh dear Ladd, you should come do our show. And I did, did that show for seven years.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Michael Burger:
And then that kind of mushroomed into other warmups

Michael Jamin:
Because you’ve had a really unconventional path into Hollywood, I would think.

Michael Burger:
Yeah, yeah. But my sights were set early on. I saw that Carson did a game show and then a talk show. And I went, well, that works for me. So lemme see if I can get a game show. Let’s see if I can get a talk show. And I’ve accomplished those. I

Michael Jamin:
Certainly, but you were never a weatherman.

Michael Burger:
No, I never, I never, what happened? Do I look the part,

Michael Jamin:
Was that a slam? It’s a quiet

Michael Burger:
Slam.

Michael Jamin:
Letterman was a Well, weather. He was, yeah. I mean, seems like that’s another, as long as you’re in front of the camera, I’d think. Well,

Michael Burger:
In the LA market, you couldn’t get past Fritz Coleman.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Michael Burger:
Right. Did that for 40 years who also did standup. And I never wanted to do that. And the opportunity to act had come up a number of times. And with all humility, I just said, no, I don’t think I would be good enough. I knew what I liked. I knew I liked talking to people, basically.

Michael Jamin:
But you’ve done some acting

Michael Burger:
And I figured I’d just stay in my lane.

Michael Jamin:
But you’ve done acting. I know you have, in an episode that I wrote, you’re an episode, episode of Lowes and Clark.

Michael Burger:
Yeah. I don’t, that’s not on the resume. I just don’t, those got handed to you because you were on the air doing something else. Right. I got to present at the Emmy’s because we were on the air, and Maddy and I handed Oprah, her Emmy award, and we’re going down the elevator with Oprah, and she’s singing our theme song. And turns out she was a fan of the show, kind of, yeah. Was our godmother. Because when Mike and Maddie went across the country, we aired in Chicago after her. So she was on at nine, we were on at 10:00 AM and we were an instant hit because we followed Oprah. And so much so that Oprah became a fan of the show and invited us to everything. I went to the Oscars with Oprah. I sat at dinner at Spago with Oprah. I mean, she, now, were there any call guests? No, she does not call now.

Michael Jamin:
Were there any, because you had a lot of great guests on Mike and Matt there. Anything that you in touch with that you kind of became friends with?

Michael Burger:
Yeah, George Hamilton, Robert Wagner. Robert Wagner is about as cool as anybody gets. Yeah. And he asked me to mc the charity event that he was doing. It was a Jimmy Stewart Relay race. It was a celebrity race in Griffith Park. I said, I’d be happy to. And he goes, do you want to play golf? And I went, well, I don’t. I can play hack around, but he’s like a member at Bel Air. And I said, well, yeah, maybe that would be nice. And I’m just pushing him off. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. So the next year I do the event again. And he goes, are you still playing golf? And I went, yeah. And he goes, are we going to play? And I went, he goes, do I have to send a car for you? And I went, no. RJ is what he wanted to be called. I said, I just didn’t feel like I could play right when I first met him, this is So Robert Wagner, I, I’m standing there with a buddy of mine and I see him coming, and we have to go to the stage and he comes up and he takes his arm and he puts it through mine and goes, Michael, walk with me. I mean, so old school, right, Michael?

Michael Jamin:
Right,

Michael Burger:
Gloria, my friend. I’m good. Thank you. Rj. Yeah. They were idols. I got a chance to meet. God, I met President Carter, had retired, but I got to do Habitat humanity with him and sit down and build a house and talk to him about life. And every musician you ever heard of. How about the artist? Jewel made her first appearance on Mike and Mad. We put her on there. I did not

Michael Jamin:
Know that. I remember James Brown. I remember walking past James Brown.

Michael Burger:
James the Sure. Leanne Rime made her first appearance with us.

Michael Jamin:
Really? Well, I mean, I wasn’t there for that, or I don’t know. Yeah. That’s so funny. Wow. So that’s amazing.

Michael Burger:
Yeah. James Brown do. So you were there for James?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Burger:
And he sat down and he said something, and that wound up on entertainment tonight. That night he said, the music is funded by drug money.

Michael Jamin:
Everybody

Michael Burger:
Went, did he just say that? And all of a sudden, now we’re hard news reporters. We felt like, I don’t know. I don’t Charlie Rose or something. We got a scoop.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t remember that. We

Michael Burger:
Just stumbled

Michael Jamin:
Into it. And then what was it like? Just rolling? I mean, I know you had must have talking points on when you’re interviewing guests, but

Michael Burger:
Oh boy, you, you’re so right. A celebrity gets interviewed the night before, and then they have bullet points. And the next day you kind of spit out those questions so they could comment on what they were pre-interviewed about. But in conversation, sometimes things go another way. But as you know, the producer’s job is to keep you the host on track. And we had God bless her, Kathy Paulino, Kathy, I think her name was.

Michael Jamin:
Yes. Yes. Is that her name?

Michael Burger:
I

Michael Jamin:
Don’t remember. I Kathy interview. Yeah.

Michael Burger:
She, I interviewed Robert Gole the night before, and she had this list of questions, and she’s just behind camera with this, and she’s doing this, and I see her, and I’m ignoring her because something better is happening. And we get to the, and she goes, Michael, you did not ask any of those questions. What happened? What’s wrong? And I said, did you hear what Robert Gullet was saying? She goes, no. Well, I said, the interview took a path down a different road. He had mentioned his father, and I noticed he’d paused almost if he was going to tear up. And I thought, there’s something more to explore there. And I said, what about your dad? And he said, on his deathbed, his dad said, Robert, come here. And Robert comes in, and he goes, son, you’re meant to sing. Go do that. Well, I mean, I got chill.
I got tills hearing that. Now, that was not on the cards. It was following the arc of a conversation. And sometimes these producers feel, maybe they’re not doing their job. We didn’t ask those questions, but interviewing people is really about a conversation. So we had those moments where we went off the card and I think made some friends there, had some great, some great interviews. I’m very proud of. Patty LaBelle sat down with us and admitted that her three sisters had all died of cancer. And she wasn’t sure she was going to see 50. And she starts to tear up and we’re going, she goes, I must like you guys, we’re six minutes in. Yeah. Talk shows. You get six minutes, seven minutes, maybe two segments, maybe 15 minutes. And I think we did some nice work and met some people in a very finite amount of time.

Michael Jamin:
Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my videos and you want me to email them to you for free, join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos. These are for writers, actors, creative types. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. I’m not going to spam you, and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michaeljammin.com/watchlist.
I remember those morning meetings. We talk about the show, and I remember sitting in the back, because I’m young, it’s my first real writing job, and they call me a producer because that way they wouldn’t have to pay me writer’s skill. So they said, you’re a producer. But I’m like, I’m not a producer. I can write stuff. But I remember thinking, how does everyone here know what to do? I really had no idea was I was in awe of the whole thing. How does everyone here know what to do?

Michael Burger:
But as the more you hung around, it kind of demystifies itself after a while, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But there was also, and to some degree, yes, but it was also like you only get one shot. It wasn’t like you get to rehearse. It was like, you better get this right. We’re on live tv. We’re not live, but we’re on TV and live detect. Yeah. We’re not doing again. We’re not doing it again. So

Michael Burger:
Yeah, that was, if you concentrated on that, it would paralyze you. What I found starting to do this was that how in the world can we talk to somebody for six minutes and get anything out of it that seems too short? Yes. And you learn to ask. There’s a great quote by Blaze Pascal, he’s a French philosopher, and the quote is, if I had more time, I would’ve written a shorter letter.

Michael Jamin:
Right?

Michael Burger:
And it talks about the science of the art of being brief. Then you learn that in the talk show world where you need to be concise and you take away all the stuff in the same way. Jerry Seinfeld would take out a word that doesn’t work in a joke. A good interview is become very, there’s no Sophie’s choice there. You know, start cutting things away, not going to make it. And you stick with what works at that moment. So you be, become careful, you be good editors of yourself as you interview. But I found how it was so, it was so phe and so I compared it to cotton candy. You would do it, and it was gone. And then the next day we had to do it all over again. Yes.

Michael Jamin:
Right, right. Yeah.

Michael Burger:
The sheer volume Yes. Of cranking out an hour a day for two years was mind boggling to me. But yeah, I didn’t have to do it myself. I had help.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And I

Michael Burger:
Had to show up refreshed,

Michael Jamin:
The minute recorded. I remember thinking all the producers, well, you’re screwed. You got to do this. You’re done. All that work you did is over now, and you have to do more. I mean, yeah, it doesn’t end.

Michael Burger:
And we went live to tape. We wouldn’t stop unless there was something drastic happening. And once in a while, we would tape two shows on a Thursday so we could travel on a Friday to go to another town and maybe do something live there. Unlike the show I did with Christina Ferrari, which was two hour, two hours live a day there. There’s no stopping. I mean, what goes wrong? You see? Which was a whole nother level of fun because,

Michael Jamin:
But there’s a

Michael Burger:
Too late,

Michael Jamin:
There’s an art though, to getting people to be vulnerable. Like you’re saying on television right now, you have six minutes, and then sometimes you’ll see it where an interviewer, just like they’re reading the questions, they’re just waiting to get the next question. They’re not really in it.

Michael Burger:
True. Were you there for Charlie Shaneen?

Michael Jamin:
I probably would’ve

Michael Burger:
Remembered. Charlie comes on and he’s nervous, and he’s sitting there and he’s looking around. I go, what’s wrong, Charlie? Because I don’t know, no one’s given me anything to say. So what do you need? A cup of coffee would be nice. So I went over, we had a big set. We had a working kitchen. So I got him a cup of coffee, and we sat down and go, anything else? He goes, well, cream would be nice. I went back and got him.

Michael Jamin:
Great.

Michael Burger:
That was such a fun interview because he really was authentic and he really was nervous. And we just played it where you had some other guests that were, shall we say, just a little more controlled and didn’t want to open up. And they were there to promote something. That’s what a talk show does, is we promote you doing whatever you’re doing.

Michael Jamin:
And what were you thinking when you’re like, oh, I’m just tanking here. This is

Michael Burger:
Going with No, the opposite. Oh no, I’m thinking, let’s do more of this now. I felt, oh, now we’re doing Letterman. Now we’re doing a talk show where things are off the rails and there’s nothing, and the big camera has to whip out of the way. No one had planned that. I lived those moments where something went wrong, but

Michael Jamin:
When someone wasn’t comfortable on care. What about that? Well, where

Michael Burger:
It wasn’t scripted, heavily scripted, where you would get something that wasn’t planned. No, that’s

Michael Jamin:
Fine. I mean, when a guest is clearly not engaging, they’re just, they’re struggling.

Michael Burger:
Well, you’d see the producer going, let’s jump ahead. Jump

Michael Jamin:
Ahead to, what do I

Michael Burger:
Jump to? Well, we could tighten it up and then the next guest can go longer. We had a little bit of an accordion, you know, find a way a to get in there somehow, some way. But they’re not all, some are better talk show guests than others.

Michael Jamin:
And

Michael Burger:
Some come in, we had, comedians had Richard Jenny on who I went to his dressing room and I go, what do you need? And he gave me five setups, hotdog, car, couch, whatever it was. So he knew all the jokes he’d go to when you just laid ’em in there.

Michael Jamin:
Would you write those down or on a card, or you just No,

Michael Burger:
That kind of stuff was just, yeah, they certainly had ’em on a card. But when we got a comic on, I really felt, oh my God, I got to kick up my game here because this is really what I want to be. I mean, this is, I idolize you, you men and women that had come on.

Michael Jamin:
There really is. So

Michael Burger:
Carl Reiner comes on, and there’s a very famous episode of The Tonight Show where Carl Reiner comes on and says to Johnny, I never make the best of the Tonight Show. I never make it. And he goes, I, I’d like to be part of those eclipse at the end of the year. And cars going like, okay. And he goes, you’re a great dresser. Johnny goes, oh, thank you. And he goes, stand up if you don’t mind. And he goes, okay. So Carson’s standing up and he’s looking at his tie, and he goes, the tie’s not right, however, and he pulls out a pair of scissors and he cuts off Johnny’s tie. Right. Johnny didn’t know it. Fred Decoda had said to Johnny, Hey, just don’t wear your best clothes tonight. That’s all I’m missing. Say

Michael Jamin:
God.

Michael Burger:
So he cuts the tie right
At the end of our interview with Carl, I said, Hey, there’s a moment you had with Carson and I would just be thrilled if we could recreate this. And he doesn’t know where I’m, he doesn’t know where I’m going with this. I said, there was a moment where you cut Johnny’s tie. And he goes, yes, I remember that. And I said, can I? And he goes, oh, no, no, no. My wife gave me. And I went, no, no, I don’t want to cut your tie. Right. Would you cut my, he goes, I’d love to cut your tie. And he stands up and makes a production and cuts my tie. Right. And I have that tie cut with an autograph framed in my office. Wow. Wow. It was my moment of, I mean, those are the big moments, right. Meeting your idols. Yeah. Like Jonathan Winters, I assume people listening know Johnny. Remember Johnny the greatest improv artist ever? And Robin Williams was a fan of his. Yep. So I get to do warmup on a sitcom called Davis Rules. Remember that? With Bonnie Hunt? No. Yeah. How do he won an Emmy for that? Okay. Jonathan Winters did. So Jonathan Winters, Bonnie Hunt, the kid Giovanni.

Michael Jamin:
Yep. Wow.

Michael Burger:
So they would have a script, John enters kitchen.dot pop on couch because he, yeah. Whatcha going to do with this maniac? So he would start, he’d go off roars of laughter, but he, Jonathan loved audience. So he comes up to me, maybe we’re a half hour in, I’d never met Jonathan Winters. And he walks by the rail and without stopping, says to me, Bing, how’s your golf swing? And he keeps going. And as he’s about eight feet away, I go, Bing, how’s your golf swing? And he goes, whoa, whoa, whoa. And he does Bing Crosby. Well, at the end of the show, I go up and say, Hey, I can’t believe you’re even here, and I can’t believe I got to meet you. And he goes, Hey. He goes, that was fun. He goes, I love doing that kind of stuff. He goes, anytime you want to throw me something, let’s do it.
So this is taking a pitch from Kershaw. This is the best of the best, the best. So the next week it’s a sitcom, the format, it’s going to be a four hour night, it’s going to be stops and starts. And Jonathan is just sitting there like a little kid waiting to play. He does it, the acting he can do in his sleep, but it’s the improv that he loves. So I’d catch his eye and go, excuse me. Yeah. Did you not invent lettuce? Is that you? Yes. I invented lettuce. God, for 10 minutes. That happened for a year and a half. So I got to play with him for, I don’t know what it was, 52 episodes.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Michael Burger:
That’s meeting your idols and being even more impressed than you could possibly imagine.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But how gracious of him, I mean, that’s very

Michael Burger:
Much fun. But that’s him, him, he loved the audience. And Bonnie Hunt was so great at navigating him back to the script without even seeing it. But the show was funniest when it was off the rails because Jonathan Giovanni eei, the actor would look at him and he had a line, and then there’d be this pause and they’d going, Giovanni, that’s your line. He goes, where? What’s my line? Because it’s so far past what was written in the script. What’s

Michael Jamin:
My line?

Michael Burger:
Yeah. Because Johnny had taken it out to the parking lot and then made a left down Ventura. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
That’s so funny. So

Michael Burger:
Those warmup days I loved. And when I got out of it and then got a chance to come back into it, my ego aside that I’m not on the camera, I’m behind it. Well,

Michael Jamin:
Let’s talk. I end up working that though. I mean about that must have been difficult for you, but I don’t know. You did it anyway.

Michael Burger:
Well, it, yeah, it took about 10 minutes to get over myself, and then I’m standing in front of an audience, getting a laugh, and I went, wow, this is pretty cool. Right.

Michael Jamin:
But did it, I mean, that’s

Michael Burger:
Felt right back in the mix. That’s

Michael Jamin:
The Hollywood rollercoaster. I mean, you’re up, you’re down. You’re up and down. I mean,

Michael Burger:
Yeah, I naively thought one pilot, I’m on my way. I’ve got a TV show. That very first thing I did for N B C didn’t get picked up. And I went, oh, that, that’s show bz. Yeah. I, that’s the up and low. That’s you thought. Right. So you learn to discipline yourself and be grateful for what comes your way, which I think I’ve done. And I also wound up with some side hustles along the way, flipping homes. And I got my real estate license and did that stuff on the side. Right. Not thinking I’d ever want to, boy, here’s something revealing.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Michael Burger:
It’s probably five years ago, Catholic church. Sunday morning, I’m sitting there and there’s a woman in front of me with her husband. The husband looked like he had been beaten down. What’s the old joke? Where they’ve taken the spine out? He’s just been beaten so many years by being to this woman. She’s eight o’clock black dress Pearls, Mrs. Kravitz from Bewi. Does that help you? This is who I’m dealing with and looking around. And she owns the room and it’s church. So the priest says, halfway through, turn to the person next to you or behind you and say, peace be with you. So I’m right behind her. So she turns and goes, what happened to you? And turns around, excuse me, what happened to you? Yeah. You used to be on tv, turn around. This is mess. Listen to Padre there. She couldn’t fathom the fact that I wasn’t on the air and wanted to know how my life not seeing me on Mike and Maddie anymore. And I said, no, I, I’m, I’m fine. Okay. Things are good. Just turn around. But she needed, I didn’t have the time to deep dive into the complexities and the ups and downs of this business in

Michael Jamin:
Church. But did it hurt though when she said that?

Michael Burger:
No, I actually thought it was wildly funny because I’ve told this story now for 20 years or five years. Yeah. But yeah, no, I loved being on the air and certainly miss it. The skillset set is still there. I think it’s gotten better. You learn, hosting is cumulative. Everything you do adds one more layer. But I’ve certainly made peace with it and understand the business that, I mean, I’ve got a wonderful life because of all the ups and downs. Right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. One of the things that people say to me, because I post a lot on social media, and they go, well, you seem so humble. I’m like, because I’ve been in the business for 25 years. That’s why, I mean, do you not, you’re every step of the way you’re getting humbled. I

Michael Burger:
Mean, how about, is there any bitterness in your journey?

Michael Jamin:
Not really, because I never really thought I was going to get this far.

Michael Burger:
Oh, that’s interesting.

Michael Jamin:
I thought it was never my goal to my, it never my goal to have my own show and my own Norman Lee Empire. I just wanted to be as a

Michael Burger:
Writer, showrunner producer, you mean?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. No, I just wanted to write on TV show. I wanted to write on cheers, to be honest. And

Michael Burger:
Oh

Michael Jamin:
Wow. But when I broke into the business, cheers. It was already well done. But I wound up writing with many writers from who wrote on Cheers. And I wound up shooting a show that was shot on the cheer sound stage. And so in my mind, I made it like it. But certainly,

Michael Burger:
Well, what demons do you have as a writer? Or what holds you back as a writer, whether you’re working or not, and is it amplified when you’re not working?

Michael Jamin:
It’s easy to look at other people. Here’s what it is. I had a friend I was writing on King of the Hill and one of the other writers signed a big deal or something, and I was very jealous. And my brother friend, he was older on King of the Hill, and he said, he gave me a great piece of advice. He said, there will always be someone younger than you, less talented than you, making more money than you. Oh. I go, well, there it is. That, there it is. And that really, I hung onto that for a long time. I feel like. Okay, so it’s easy to compare your career to somebody else, but to honest. I’m so far, I’m so lucky that I have what I have. So I’m not bitter at, because you

Michael Burger:
Got this far, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But it hasn’t taken away the desire to do this again and work more, or be where someone else is at this moment?

Michael Jamin:
No, I’m happy. As long as I get to keep working, I’m happy. I really am. Yeah, and it’s really, it’s funny when you’re talking about doing warmup for these multi-camera shows, there are no multi-camera shows anymore. It’s true. If you wanted that job today, good luck getting it. There are no shows. So how do you get that?

Michael Burger:
Good luck in a couple of ways. I have a friend of mine, you probably know Ron Pearson.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, Ron, what about him? Ron’s

Michael Burger:
One of the best out there, hands down, a great comic and a great warmup. But he said the stuff he was doing 3, 4, 5 years ago in front of an audience, he couldn’t do now

Michael Jamin:
Really

Michael Burger:
The sensitivities of what you can and cannot say. Because

Michael Jamin:
He was pretty

Michael Burger:
In front of a crowd.

Michael Jamin:
He was pretty wholesome. I remember I worked with him.

Michael Burger:
Very wholesome. It’s just some things you can’t say. I got another buddy of mine, Ross Schaeffer, who was a corporate keynote speaker who says, even in the corporate world, there’s some things you can’t say. There was some reference to women speak more than men on a daily basis. They, there’s more of verbose. Right. Because I was told by the person hiring me, well, I wouldn’t say that he was using it as a way women really control the marketplace. A woman will decide what you’re ultimately going to buy that flat screen TV you got in your house. Yeah. You got that because your wife said it’s okay. Right. But that’s actually sensitive to say now.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Michael Burger:
Well, didn’t even occur to me.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Michael Burger:
Here’s what some show is up for me. And this happened here in Long Beach, a great little restaurant in Belmont Shore on Thursday nights. They had a jazz piano player. It’s this little French cafe and then go in for a bite to eat, and this guy’s playing in the corner and there’s maybe in a restaurant that seats 80, there’s probably seven. And he would play and it’d be nothing. So I’d give him a little something, something, right. We’re all performers and you’re feeling for this guy, and I know when a song ends. So I gave him a little more and he takes this break and he comes over and sits next to me and he goes, Hey, thanks for trying to make that happen. I said, of course. He said, buy you a drink. Sure. And we get to talk and he goes, lemme tell you my favorite story about supporting another actor or performer. He goes, I’m working a club down in LA and it’s the same thing. Nobody’s there. It’s quiet. And I finish, I don’t know, I’m 30, 40 minutes in and I finish a song and I hear, and he looks up to finally thank this one person that’s acknowledging his talent. And it was a woman taking a cigarette out of a pack.

Michael Jamin:
Oh my God. Oh my

Michael Burger:
God. Try to get the the tobacco into the filter. Yeah. He goes, boy, that if that isn’t showbiz right

Michael Jamin:
There. Yeah. That is Show biz, just what you

Michael Burger:
Think. You made it at any level, you’re going to get humbled one more

Michael Jamin:
Time. Time you’re going to get humbled. Right.

Michael Burger:
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s a humility is a great trait anyway, I think. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Michael Burger:
As an interviewer, as a host, as anything, anybody in the business, gratitude and humility will serve you a long way, I think. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Right. Yeah. You got to enjoy the ride. And I was told that over and over, enjoy the ride. I didn’t really quite what it meant. Yeah. But then when

Michael Burger:
We did Match game, match game 98, and we shot at CCB ss, we shot on the same set that they do. The price is right. They just turned it around for us. And I would go in early and I’d leave late and I’d drive in and I’d see that c b s sign lit up and I said, I don’t want to leave, and I know this is going to be over. I know it’s over because we’re airing against Oprah at 3:00 PM on C B Ss. That’s why I know it’s over. And we did our 135 and it went away. But I never for a moment, took that for granted. I loved every second of that knowing, Hey, you know what? You could worry about it being over, but ultimately, hey, like you said, just enjoy this ride. I had my best friend did the warmup on it. It was the announcer in the warmup, and we laughed ourselves silly, and we shot seven a day. Game shows you shoot a bunch. So we would shoot four, take a lunch break and do three, did 135 episodes.

Michael Jamin:
Have you seen that movie Babylon yet with Brad Pitt?

Michael Burger:
I couldn’t get through it.

Michael Jamin:
Oh really? Oh

Michael Burger:
Yeah, about 20 minutes down. I went, yeah, no.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, you might want to revisit it. I love it. Oh yeah, it was about that. It was about knowing when your time is over and it was so, it was so crushing. I thought it was beautiful. But yeah, I could see, yeah, you need to stick with it a little bit, but I love that.

Michael Burger:
Where do you think you are in the arc of your career?

Michael Jamin:
I think, well, I mean, think all of us. I think you hit a certain age in Hollywood, and if I haven’t already approached it, I’m getting very close.

Michael Burger:
It’s funny, when you leave your demo, you have a birthday and you leave your demo.

Michael Jamin:
There was an article, this is a couple, this is many years ago, probably 10 or 15 years ago, and I was my partner and we were taking over for a show. We’re running a show. It was Michael Eisner’s show, and there’s an article in the trades and in a variety, whatever, and it said veteran TV writers, Michael Jamon, Steve Clare, and it was an article about us. And then I go, wow, I become a veteran. And then, oh wow. One of the writers sitting next to me, he goes, that’s not a good sign. It means your career’s coming to

Michael Burger:
An edge. Yeah. Veteran was not a compliment. He’s

Michael Jamin:
Not a compliment.

Michael Burger:
I remember sitting, I had just turned 40 and I was sitting in an office with an executive at Tele Pictures, I believe it was, and I was sitting there with my agent, Richard Lawrence, who has since retired. I’ve outlasted my agent. That’s not good. And this woman who’s in charge of production says, look, Michael, I know who you are and we’re fans, but here’s the thing. Oh boy. She goes, we’re going to hire the person that looks like the person we want watching us. Yeah. I went, well, okay, that can be a lot of things, but I can’t be an 18 year old woman. Right. Yeah. Whatever the demo was, they were searching. So that stuck with me that there are things, there are times things you just can’t change. I fit a certain demo and a seasoned host would be the category. And if that comes back then great. There’s a show coming up this fall where they’re bringing back the Bachelor, but it’s called the Golden Bachelor. Have you heard about this? No. So it’s the Bachelor produced by the same people, but it’s for 60 and up. So the contestants will be 60 and up,

Michael Jamin:
Right.

Michael Burger:
Called the Golden Bachelor. Right Now the thought is, well, maybe people will value a more seasoned looking picture there, and maybe the host will come along with that. I don’t know.

Michael Jamin:
So what do you know? Probably not. It’s going to be hosted by a 20 year old.

Michael Burger:
It’s going to, no, it’s going to be hosted by the same guy that’s doing the younger version. So I think they’re getting it both ways. Right. They’re going to get a younger host and an older demo. That’s fine. You know, Saja stepping down with Wheel of Fortune that there’s a lot of talk about who might slip in there. And that ranges from his daughter. Pat Sajak has a daughter that could certainly do it. Vanna could do it. Ryan Seacrest is, there’s talk. Yeah, Whoopi said she wants it. Oh wow. Tom Bergson’s name has been tossed around. Right. Mine’s been tossed around, but it’s tossing it. I’m tossing the name around.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right. Hey, what about this guy?

Michael Burger:
I did Wheel of Fortune in Vegas. Harry Friedman, who produced it, right, came up with a live version of Wheel of Fortune. So back in 2000, we went to the M G M, they took over the lounge, which used to be Catch a Rising Star renamed at the Wheel of Fortune lounge, and you got a chance to come in. Oh wow. And play Wheel of Fortune and win prizes. Catch and prizes. So it was just like the TV show, but it was not airing, but it was live. Right. What made the show so fun is that unlike the TV show where you’re screened for intelligence and the ability to play the game, this is a bingo ball that’s pulled, and now you’re on stage. So we have three contestants that could be, well, you name it. In this case, it was a woman who’d had a little bit, a guy who didn’t speak the language, and it was as wild and as funny as you’d hoped it would be, because they didn’t understand the concept and the letters, and some did didn’t. We had this poor gal had the puzzle almost revealed, and the answer was cassette deck. And every letter was turned. Everything was revealed except the C. And she’s staring at it and she goes a set deck. And the woman next to her goes cassette deck, you idiot turned her.
Which you’d never see on tv, right?

Michael Jamin:
No.

Michael Burger:
Oh my God. Gosh, that was fun. We did a half a year of that right now. We did three shows a day for six months.

Michael Jamin:
And so it’s the, it’s interesting. Yeah. So it’s about, I don’t know. Yeah, you’re right. Enjoying and reinventing yourself basically constantly.

Michael Burger:
I think you’re doing it, you’re still writing. I’m out there. I do a lot of corporate work and I speak on these corp on this corporate circuit where a company hires you to come in and motivate their teams, speak to them about the ability to communicate. Salespeople that can speak well, right. Managers that can interpret room are going to be more successful. So that message of really being a good host, active listening, teach them that. So there’s a lot of tools that overlay from our business to the corporate world. When I share in front of a team of salespeople, last year I was the keynote speaker for the National Association of Automobile Dealers, and you have a room full of salespeople whose Life Bread determines on whether they’re going to crush that sale, and they’re talking about the rejection rate. And I said, yeah, I hear you. I said, lemme tell you a little story about SAG aftra. 185,000 members. At any given moment, 85000% or 85% are unemployed, and if the 15% that work, 1% make a hundred grand. So what do you do with the word no?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. What’s the answer?

Michael Burger:
Oh, this, my Amazon package just came. Oh, you know, leverage the rejection. You take an Olympic athlete who loses by a 10th of a second and comes in second, yet they’re gratified by that incremental win. So you focus on these positive gains as a writer, as a performer, and anything that you do, and then you don’t let, whatever success we’ve had, you’ve had anybody has make you complacent. Gary Kasparov, the Grand Master chess player calls it the gravity of past success.

Michael Jamin:
We

Michael Burger:
Can get weighted down by whatever we think we’ve had. And if you’re done and don’t want to work again, well then you can live in that place. But if you want to be relevant and continue to work, then keep trying something, anything. Right. Jonathan Winters actually said to me the number of times he failed so miserably and bombed so horribly meant that he was trying.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Meant that he was still,

Michael Burger:
Because you got to get out there and fail. Huge. And hearing Jonathan say that said, we’ll, stick around. I said, it’s going to be a long night. I just read the script. I’ll be failing here five hours.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. How funny.

Michael Burger:
He said, go for it. Don’t go do it. Don’t worry about it.

Michael Jamin:
And so this takes us to you. I know you have a course that where you teach kind of things, right?

Michael Burger:
Yeah. I’m putting together a masterclass on hosting. Podcasts are pretty popular now. He says to Michael Jamin on the podcast, and you could go to YouTube and set up your studio like I did. There’s camera four. I mean, can a switch

Michael Jamin:
And everything

Michael Burger:
It, it’s just a lot of free time during the lockdown. But I realized, go to YouTube, figure out how to set up your studio. Everybody’s doing a podcast, but no one is teaching anybody how to host a podcast or the art of conversation is dying on our campuses with young folks that have learned to text. God bless you. I’m not an old man on my young yelling, what are you doing? I’m embracing it. I get it. And I went back to my university a couple of months ago and spoke to the dean that I graduated with and from radio TV at Long Beach State and said, I went through your curriculum and there’s nothing there teaching kids how to communicate and interview. He goes, yeah. He said, I agree. So I’m going to go back to Long Beach State in the fall and teach this. Oh, that’d great. Masterclass on how to host.

Michael Jamin:
But it’s also, I can

Michael Burger:
Overlay, say again,

Michael Jamin:
It will be available on your website too at some point now,

Michael Burger:
And we’re kind of fing out what this is going to look like, but I think I will do a version where we can release this. I’ll do it obviously for the university, but another version where people can access it and maybe take something from it. Yeah. I’m not stopping it. I mean, I love the art of this, and for me, again, as I said earlier, it is cumulative. I learned something from every conversation I say to people, ask somebody a question and then do something radical, and that is shut up,
Listen to learn and not respond. What we learned in the television world is that you do have seven questions, and you do have six minutes, and you just want to spit out that to get closure on that segment. But in reality, those never make for good conversations. So regardless of the conversation you’re having, people are aching to be heard. Everybody wants to feel relevant, everybody wants to feel that they’re being paid attention to in any walk of life. So the next time somebody comes up to you, you might ask them something, you might look them in the eye and say, how you doing? And expect an answer, wait for an answer. Yeah. The other thing we learned too is the idea of leaving a little break and a little pause in a conversation because somebody will say something, especially on television, when the cameras are rolling, you might be surprised what you will get if you take one more beat. Right? Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
I think you’re absolutely right about that. Mean sometimes I’ll watch an interviewer and I feel like there’s a genuine lack of curiosity. They’re just trying to get to, they ask me a question, they don’t really care what the answer is. They’re just, you say your part and then I’ll say my part. Then you say your part and my, it’s like, well, are you having a conversation or what is this

Michael Burger:
More difficult than it appears? You know, do have time constraints and you do need to get something accomplished and you, I do need to promote the movie and the book you’re writing, Michael Jamin coming out soon, but you can’t rush that and you can’t get used to the sound of your own voice thinking that you’re making a point here. I did a lot of construction work and a lot of remodeling, and I make a drywall analogy to conversation, see how this plays out. When I started doing construction and I put a piece of drywall up and you had two pieces together, and you have a seam, you take joint compound and you slather on there, and then you let it dry, and then you sand, and now you’ve hidden the seam. Well, if you’re doing it like I am, you’re standing a lot. You want to make sure you cover that seam. You watch a great drywaller, somebody who can mask off a wall, and they use a very thin amount of set and it goes right up that wall. And when it dries, there’s so little compound left. Yeah. It’s the same thing in conversation where you pull everything back to the very minimum and you’re going to have a better finish. It’s going to be, there’s less mud. Yes. There’s less conversational mud. Yeah. It applies to many things, certainly to conversation.

Michael Jamin:
It’s interesting. Yeah. It’s it, it’s clear to me this is what you know, that yes, this is your art and you know how to do it. And so yeah, it’s interesting to hear you talk about it.

Michael Burger:
I love it. I really do. And it was, you know, could say class clown. Really what I mean? That’s the easiest way to describe it in the second, third, and the fourth and the fifth grade, budding in and getting a laugh, but also because I was raised by a family of teachers, my mom, my dad, my aunts and uncles. So yeah, the backstory of that was I was afraid of getting in trouble. So I try to find that balance of making a joke and not getting in trouble. But I clearly remember sitting in college classes thinking, oh boy, you’re losing ’em here teach. I think I need to jump in or take it to commercial or do, so
Why would jump in with some non-sequitur? He’d look at it. I mean, it got so bad to where if we had an assignment, let’s say a term paper, I would take the teacher aside on the break and go, look, I know you want a term paper here, but how about I do an oral presentation on this? And he goes, what do you mean? I said, oh, I’ll get up and perform whatever this thing is. He goes, okay. To me, that was my out right. I figured, oh, I got out of this. It so interesting. And I loved, I love the performing side of it.

Michael Jamin:
I really have a great admiration for what you do. Really, because it’s you. It’s not just, you say it’s class clown, but it’s not really bad. It’s really

Michael Burger:
Way. Well, hopefully at this point it’s refined. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It really is.

Michael Burger:
Yeah. So there is an art to it, and that’s why I still think it’s valuable. I think it’s valuable to teach it to this day more now than ever where we don’t have to communicate as much, where we don’t have to get on the phone, where we don’t see, especially during the lockdown, we didn’t see each other at all.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Burger:
But I think people who speak well and can communicate and be good, great listeners, not only will you improve your work life, but I would venture to say your relationships will probably get better. Yeah. If you take a moment to listen, take

Michael Jamin:
A moment. Yeah. Wow. Michael Berger, thank you so much for doing this and for

Michael Burger:
Michael Jamon. I hope we do this again. I hope I’d like to be on a show that you’re writing on.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I,

Michael Burger:
But I don’t want to act. Can you do something? Give me that. Give me a host kind of role. Yeah. God. Great. Who am I thinking of? The Gary Haning Show, who Broke All Rules. Oh, was that one of the

Michael Jamin:
Greatest? That was fantastic. I mean, fantastic. Yeah. Gary. Yeah. There’s Larry Sanders and Gary Shandling. It’s Gary Sling Show. Both were amazing. That’s right.

Michael Burger:
That’s

Michael Jamin:
Right. Guy. So good. And he started off as a writer on Sanford and Son.

Michael Burger:
When I got Mike and Matt, we were at Naty in Miami promoting the show and went to Joe Stonecraft, and sitting in the corner was Gary Haning, who I idolized hadn’t met him. And my only line was I went up to him and I said, I just want to say hello. I said, you’re the reason I got Showtime. I mean, that’s all I had, but he was literally the reason I got cable and got to know him a little bit. Like anybody who, you’re a fan, you just sit there and you’re in awe of that. Yeah. That kind of mind. So I certainly have my idols.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. He’s amazing. Well, thank you again for

Michael Burger:
Joining. Well, thank you, Michael. I appreciate that. Let’s do, let’s get this strike over with and

Michael Jamin:
Yes.

Michael Burger:
And work together sooner than later.

Michael Jamin:
I hope so. And let’s get people, I wanted to make sure people go find you, Mike Michael berger.com if they want to,

Michael Burger:
Michael berger.com. You’ll see my, you know, and I had a conversation about this just last week about the dread of posting on social media, and I need to get better at it, and I don’t think anybody needs to hear what I have to say, but if this masterclass comes to fruition, then I will post. Yeah. I can be found on the website, on LinkedIn, Facebook, and perhaps we can move the needle a little bit with that, but I’m always happy to hear from people. I’m always thrilled when somebody remembers a show or two, and as I get older, I can picture who’s coming at me and what show they watched. Yes.

Michael Jamin:
That’s hilarious. Yeah. Yeah. Alright.

Michael Burger:
Okay, Michael,

Michael Jamin:
Thank you again so much. All right.

Michael Burger:
See you next time.

Michael Jamin:
Alright, everyone, thank that was another great episode of Screenwriters. Need to hear this. What a wonderful guest. So interesting to hear from. Alright everyone, until next week, more great guests coming up and keep writing.

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar @michaeljamin.com/webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music by Ken Joseph. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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