Anthology Film Archives and the Estate of Ernie Kovacs join forces to celebrate the publication of Ernie in Kovacsland: Writings, Drawings, and Photographs from Television’s Original Genius, with an evening featuring a program of highlights from Kovacs’s TV career.
The influence of Kovacs’s highly visual and often patently surreal and Dada-esque comedic aesthetic can be seen not only in his offbeat sensibility but also in his radical editing and special effects techniques. Kovacs’s mark is apparent in everything from MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER, PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE, KIDS IN THE HALL, and TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB!, to the work of experimental film- and video-makers such as Owen Land, William Wegman, Michael Smith, Trisha Baga, and many, many others. Ernie Kovacs utilized the “vision” in “television” more than any other comedian on TV in the 1950s and early 1960s. Surprisingly, having no nightclub background and having come from radio, his leap to television in 1950 unleashed a uniquely cinematic approach to comedy at a time when all TV was broadcast live. Kovacs was never popular enough to have a hit show but had a loyal following that allowed him to stay on the air, bouncing from network to network throughout his career from 1950-62. His body of work was cut short when he died in a car crash at age 42, but his impact remains immeasurable across the realms of television, comedy, and experimental media.
For the Anthology evening, we’ll be focusing on some of the sketches and “sound-into-sight” music pieces that showcase Kovacs’s cinematic uses of the television medium as a canvas for his uniquely absurdist humor. The program will be hosted by the co-authors/editors/collaborators of Ernie in Kovacsland: Josh Mills, executor of the Kovacs estate and son of Edie Adams; and Ben Model, the archivist of the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collection; and will feature a panel comprising Mills; Model; television writer, author, playwright, and screenwriter Alan Zweibel (Saturday Night Live; It’s Garry Shandling’s Show; Curb Your Enthusiasm); television critic David Bianculli (NPR’s “Fresh Air”); and author, MIT Professor, and media historian Heather Hendershot (When the News Broke: Chicago 1968 and the Polarizing of America).