I am not Geraldo Rivera, but I’ve played him on TV! ---->
Well, video anyway. When you write and perform for corporate videos you operate in a strange entertainment nether land, where you have to hit all the bullet points the client has given you, inject topical material, and very often use employees as actors. And you still have to make an entertaining video that looks professional. You’re doing comedy that only a very small sub-set of people will appreciate. The trick to it, as the real Geraldo well knows, is “ya gotta know yer audience!”
In the early 90’s when we shot this videoSaturday Night Live was in its non-Lorne Michaels phase, but had some great writer/performers like Martin Short, Harry Shearer, Billy Crystal, and Christopher Guest. The format was easy – a cold open (unannounced skit) that ends with “Live from New York – It’s Saturday Night!!!” (or in our case “Live from Richardson - it’s Cyrix Tonight!!!”). We skipped the monologue and went right into our first faux commercial about Cyrix’s customer service call-in center, done in the style of the 1-900 late night call in numbers. (“Hey there, are you lonely tonight? Why don’t you call one of our product specialists? We’re waiting for you!”)
So, you get the idea – try to find fun topical ways to talk about hilarious corporate topics: topics like policy changes, litigation against the company, and product failures/successes. Our Cyrix video featured Hans & Franz, The Church Lady, and even a few appearances by Ross Perot, accompanied by charts and graphs. We also featured as many employees as we could get our hands on, including the President and the CEO/Founder. This was the secret sauce that made these videos work. Getting believable comedic performances out of them was usually a challenge. But they didn’t have to be brilliant, they just had to not stink.
A lot companies had a sense of humor back then and were willing to try something fun and different. I was very lucky to have been working during this golden era, and blessed to have worked with so many great production companies on these shoots. The Geraldo segment (very short clip for you to watch) took advantage of his 1986 special broadcast, “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults”. It was one of the most hyped TV events in history, and one of the biggest busts, since they found nothing in the “vault”. In our video my Geraldo broke into the Cyrix Board Meeting, only to discover the Board was watching cartoons on a little portable TV. Doesn’t sound like comedy gold, but it had the employees howling when we showed the video at their annual party. YA GOTTA KNOW YER AUDIENCE!