Lodi's TV personality Jeff Sutherland is known for his SJTV program, "Jeff's Star Talk," but he is now taking on the role of Bud Abbott of Abbott and Costello onstage. With his new acting partner, Dennis Wayne "D.W." Landingham, the comedy duo is reinventing hilarious vaudeville skits including "Who's on First Base" with their new act, "Abbott and Costello Lives."
In his Lodi home filled with John Wayne and old movie collector's items, Sutherland talks about his comedic inspiration and what he plans to do next.
Q: How did "Abbott and Costello Lives" come about?
A: D.W. and I both have Abbott and Costello in our background because we both loved the comedy team. I met Bud Abbott at the motion picture home when I was 17 or 18. I studied these guys all my life and it's a funny thing because D.W. and myself just met at Polardville Ghost Town. He was one of the Showboat performers there from '69 o '92. I just missed him because I started doing that from '93 on up.
Q: How long have you been doing the Abbott and Costello act?
A: With D.W. and myself, we're just getting going. We did the Palace Showboat last Saturday. It was in front of a packed house. It was the very final Showboat show. A wrecking ball is coming in and they're going to tear the whole place down.
We had "Who's on First" down within three practices. Jerry Seinfeld once said that a lot of professional comedians won't even attempt to do "Who's on First" because it is one hard routine to do and you can get lost in it.
Q: What was the reaction of the Polardville audience?
A: They loved it. When we did it Saturday night, we did it flawlessly. D.W. does a fantastic Costello and I studied Abbott. We did it and everybody couldn't believe it. I mean, Abbott and Costello didn't do it better.
Q: Can you give a run down of the act?
A: It's an old Vaudeville skit that goes back to the turn of last century. Abbott and Costello, of course, perfected it. Bud would do the lineup: "Who's on first, what's on second, I don't know is on third." And then, poor old Costello, he is so frustrated because he wants to know who's on first.
Q: How long is your routine?
A: It's 10 minutes.
Abbott and Costello never played baseball in their life, but they are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They put the recording of "Who's on First" in the hall of fame. They gave two 200 78 RPM records to Abbott and 200 78 RPM records to Costello, and Bud Abbott gave me one of his.
Q: Why did you want to perform "Who's on First"?
A: In high school, I had a friend and we kind of loved to do it in our backyard. I loved John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges. People enjoy these people and that's all. I wanted to know more. Why did they do the movie? And how did they get to do the part? And where do they live? I was not satisfied. I wanted to break it down in so many ways.
Q: What's the most interesting information you've ever discovered?
A: This is the thing. I said, what's better than seeing a movie? Getting their autograph. What's better than getting their autograph? Getting to know them. What's better than getting to know them? Well, going to their house and be personal friends with them, (and so on).
I wanted to share that with others.
Q: Is that why you started your celebrity TV show?
A: Right. I did a reel to reel when I was 17 or 19. I went to Hollywood and interviewed Bud Abbott, Larry Fein, Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch of the "Wizard of Oz."
I've been on the air since 1995, every week. It's Channel 26, SJTV. It's "Jeff's Star Talk." With 2,000 interviews under my belt, I've interviewed Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot, Val Kilmer, Debbie Reynolds, all of John Wayne's kids. I did the very last interview with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Q: Do you have any training in TV or media?
A: People always say, "Jeff, you have a voice like you're in broadcasting." My mother would ask questions and she would get answers and she would make you feel comfortable sitting down and talking with her. I think I learned that from her.
Q: Where will you be doing "Abbott and Costello Lives" next?
A: Tower Park. The Military Vehicles Club is having a big party on a Friday night in mid-April. We want to do "Who's on First" and some other Abbott and Costello routines.
We are going to perform in Hutchins Street Square and we want to look into putting on an old vaudeville show in the downtown theater in a couple of months. We want to take it down to Hollywood, too.
Q: Are you going to do some work with the San Francisco Giants?
A: We're going to try to do some thing for their seventh inning stretch type thing. We've got some San Francisco Giants outfits. I was over there at Fan Fest 2007 and interviewed about 20 of the San Francisco Giants for "Jeff's Star Talk."
Q: Is there anything else you would love to do in your lifetime?
A: Yes. Larry King's job. Why not grab for the gusto, right? I think of all the things like acting and being on the stage and making people laugh - all passions of mine - I love to talk. I think having my own nationwide talkshow would be real fun. We're losing all our greats. If I had a show nationwide, I would make sure I interviewed all the elderly stars first. You could take a little bit with you.
Q: Who are some of the people you still want to interview?
A: I would love to sit down with Maureen O'Hara. I really miss Bob Hope, George Burns, Groucho Marx. I'd like to interview some of the people who are from the grand old days of Hollywood.
To contact Jeff Sutherland, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 365-1132.