|Starring||Ross Shafer, John Keister, Pat Cashman, Tracey Conway, Nancy Guppy, Joel McHale, Bob Nelson, Bill Nye, Bill Stainton, Steve Wilson, and Ed Wyatt|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||389|
|Running time||60 minutes (1984-1989), 30 minutes (1989-1999)|
|Original release||September 23, 1984 – May 22, 1999|
|Related shows||The (206)
The John Report with Bob
Almost Live! was a local sketch comedy television show in Seattle, Washington, USA, produced and broadcast by NBC affiliate KING-TV from 1984 to 1999. A re-packaged version of the show also aired on Comedy Central from 1992 to 1993, and episodes aired on WGRZ-TV in the late 1990s. The show was broadcast on Saturday nights at 11:30, pushing Saturday Night Live back to midnight.
Almost Live! began as a weekly half-hour talk and comedy sketch show created by then VP of Programming Bob Jones, and hosted by Ross Shafer and closely patterned after Late Night with David Letterman, airing at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. From the beginning, it featured many spoofs and satires of local television, series such as Star Trek, and unique locales in and around the city such as Ballard, Green Lake, Lynnwood, and Kent. The show became so popular that it was expanded from a half hour to one hour and shown twice a week. After four years and nearly 40 local Emmy Awards and several national awards, Shafer left to host the Fox Network's The Late Show.
John Keister and a change in format
John Keister became the permanent replacement after Shafer left the program. Keister hosted for one season (1988) in the one hour, 6 p.m. Sunday slot, but, following the lead of a "Greatest Hits" special that aired at 11:30 Saturday, the show moved into that slot. Until he became host, Keister was a regular supporting performer. Many of the initial award winning elements of Almost Live were his efforts, so the program quickly changed formats to feature more of his abilities, as well as other cast members, in video sketches. The guest interviews and live band segments were dropped. The focus changed to sketch comedy and the show was shaved back to a half-hour format.
The format of the show during Keister's tenure as host always included an opening monologue. Much of the material had a local flavor to it. In addition to Seattle politicians and celebrities, regular targets of the show’s barbs were various Seattle sports teams, local stereotypes, Seattle neighborhoods such as Ballard (home of elderly Scandinavian Americans who parked their cars halfway onto sidewalks with the seat belts slammed in the doors), Fremont and Wallingford (home of middle-aged hippies and New Agers), and suburbs such as Renton and Kent (perceived by the show’s young, urban viewers as a low-income, "white trash" town) and Bellevue and Mercer Island (which had a snobbish, ultra-rich image). Other targets outside of Seattle proper included Olympia and Bellingham, both of which have hippie/pothead stereotypes. Most, but not all, of the local references were removed for the Comedy Central version. The show also had promos for fake TV shows billed as "new shows on NBC for the upcoming season".
Besides Keister, regular cast members included Mike Neun, Pat Cashman, Tracey Conway, Nancy Guppy, Joe Guppy, Barb Klansnic, Joel McHale, Bob Nelson, Bill Nye, Bill Stainton, Andrea Stein, Darrell Suto, Lauren Weedman, Steve Wilson, and Ed Wyatt. Writers included Scott Schaefer, who later went on to win three National Emmy Awards for writing on Bill Nye the Science Guy, and original Head Writer Jim Sharp, who is now Senior Vice President, Original Programming and Development for Comedy Central in Los Angeles. Later seasons occasionally featured Seattle-area comedian and voice actor David Scully who joined the core cast during the final season.
Almost Live! was canceled by KING-TV in 1999 because it was not making enough profit for Dallas-based Belo Corporation, which acquired the station's owner King Broadcasting Company two years earlier. As of June 2015, KING-TV (now owned by the Gannett Company since 2013) has aired reruns of the show in the time slot following Saturday Night Live. In fall 2000, Keister created a new sketch comedy show for competing station KIRO-TV, titled The John Report with Bob, essentially a carry-over of the news report segment he had done on Almost Live!, with Bob Nelson in tow. The new show was canceled after 2 seasons, again because it was not making a profit.
KING aired a reunion show on September 12, 2005, featuring the cast of the final ten years. KING-TV also aired "Almost Live! Back At Ya", a series of "best of" shows, on Sundays starting September 10, 2006 at 9 p.m. The "best of" shows currently air Saturday nights at 2 a.m. on KING-TV's sister station, KONG-TV. Reruns of normal shows are broadcast on KING-TV in Seattle at 1:35 a.m., following The (206).
In July 2012, clips surfaced on YouTube that appeared to promote a sketch comedy show called The (206), referring to Seattle's area code. These clips featured John Keister and Pat Cashman and hinted strongly that the show would be a successor to Almost Live!. Subsequently, The Seattle Times published a blog article about the sequel which included behind-the-scenes glimpses at one of the sketches being filmed for the new show. Additionally, the new show has a presence on social networking Web sites such as Facebook. The show premiered on Sunday, January 6, 2013 on KING-TV after Saturday Night Live.
Some of the recurring sketches featured on Almost Live included:
- "Bill Nye the Science Guy". Ross Shafer is credited as the creator of Bill Nye the Science Guy, encouraging Boeing aircraft engineer Bill Nye to demonstrate science experiments on the show. Nye later turned it into the Bill Nye the Science Guy show on PBS as well as in first-run syndication.
- "Capable Woman": a super heroine who "rescues" men too "manly" to admit they can't do everything
- "Jet Guy": parody of Republic Pictures' 1950s serial character Commando Cody
- "Me": a talk show hosted by an egotistical woman who acts as if she is smarter than everyone else
- "Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan", a parody of Bruce Lee’s martial arts films, with staff cameraman Darrell Suto in the starring role. This later became a recurring segment on the PBS show, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- "Nature Walk, with Chuck": reckless alcoholic outdoorsman and naïve young assistant, JIMMIE!
- "Cops In...": parody of Cops set in various Seattle neighborhoods
- "Speed Walker": super hero, played by Nye, who fights crime while adhering to the standards of competitive speed-walking
- "High-Fivin' White Guys": a gang of over-the-top exuberant young middle-class white guys hit the town all over Seattle and (once in Vancouver, BC, in the sketch High-Fiving White Guys go to Canada)
- "Ineffectual Middle-Management Suck-ups"
- "A Woman's Place": promos for a weekday talk show with Tracey Conway and Hollyce Phillips.
- "The John Report" [1990-95]/"The Late Report" [1995-end of run]: weekly news-parody by Keister, similar to Weekend Update
- "The Lame List", or "What’s Weak This Week": a parody of Grunge culture, featuring "members of Seattle's heavy metal community" reacting to a list of concepts—e.g. "jobs that start in the morning", "girlfriends who won't give us beer money"—by repeatedly yelling "Lame!". Each list includes one more highbrow item, such as "Eastern European nations shifting to a free market economy", to which the metalheads react with blank bewilderment. Participants included local DJ Jeff Gilbert, Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Matt and Chris Fox of Bitter End, Tony Benjamins and Brad Hull of Forced Entry, Marty Chandler of Panic and other Seattle musicians.
- "Sluggy": a parody of "Lassie" about a little boy and his pet slug
- "The Survivalist": paranoid man with program from his underground bunker
- "This Here Place": a parody of This Old House, featuring poorly done and lazy repair jobs
- "The Worst Girlfriend In The World": dating "horror stories"
- "Uncle Fran's Musical Forest": embittered children's show host. The same character later appeared on Bill Nye The Science Guy.
- "Urban Wildlife"
- "Street Talk": one-word clips from man on the street or local celeb interviews, played back in altered order to give a different question a funny answer. This bit was later used as the basis for a CBS pilot co-created and produced by Scott Schaefer and hosted by Bill Maher.
- "Qwik Fishin'", which featured John Keister and Pat Cashman as red neck fishermen on Lake Washington.
- Pat Cashman writer public speaker
- Is 'Almost Live' returning to Seattle? seattlepi.com, retrieved 11 July 2012
- New 'Almost Live' show filming in Seattle: See photos Seattletimes.com, retrieved 25 August 2012