The first era of Saturday Night Live that I was exposed to in reruns was the era when Lorne Michaels was not producing the show. That period from 1980 to 1985 really made an impression on me, and one of the cast members from that era who impacted me is my newest interview subject, Gary Kroeger. Gary Kroeger is not just an actor, though. He’s also a committed political activist whose interest in helping people goes all the way back to his show business days. We talked earlier this month about Saturday Night Live, politics and more, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know this great talent.
Say hello to Gary Kroeger!
Johnny: Hello, Gary.
Gary: How are ya, Johnny?
Johnny: I’m doing good. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Gary: Of course, of course. I look forward to it.
Johnny: Alright. I have my questions ready to go…
Johnny: …Starting with this: You were part of the comedy troupe The Practical Theatre alongside Brad Hall and Julia-Louis Dreyfus, all of you later to go on to Saturday Night Live. What characters were you most proud of having created as part of The Practical Theatre?
Gary: That’s a neat question, Johnny, because no one’s actually ever asked that. With The Practical Theatre, our thing wasn’t to create recurring characters at all. We weren’t looking for some little device we could do over and over. We, in fact, wanted each show to be completely unique. In doing The Practical Theatre, the stuff I did really sort of captured a certain part of Chicago comedy lore.
I used to play a ventriloquist that had the worst act in the world because I put on a clown mask and I put a clown mask on my ventriloquist dummy, and then I secretly flipped on a tape recorder so that the dummy could have a conversation with me. In other words, it was just the ultimate cheat of a ventriloquist, but then the dummy actually turned on me, so the audience hated me and the dummy hated me as well. It was this bittersweet sort of pathos, I would say, an electronically Chaplinesque character, but it caught the attention of Bernie Sahlins at Second City in Chicago. It was talked about. It was almost sort of a Dadaesque kind of weirdness.
In the same vein of pathos, I also used to do this old man who would entertain children in the park by putting tangerines on puppet strings and making them dance. The bit came with a narration about this wonderful old man, I think he was called Randall T. Bush, and how he lived to entertain the kids, so it was very bittersweet and then, at the end, he’s hit by a bus. It was pathos meets ridiculous, but those were the kind of things I liked and always have liked, comedy that has a personal…I keep using the word “pathos”, but that’s something that I’m drawn to, the sad, happy side of the human experience. There’s a depth to that, so in answer to your question, it was those kinds of characters that were real human beings with a tragic misunderstanding of how the game is played.
Johnny: Alright. You, Brad and Julia are part of the micro-generation I call the BoomXers, the individuals born from 1957 to 1963 that, as can be inferred from the name, bridged the Baby Boomers and Generation X. How did being a BoomXer influence your style of humor?
Gary: BoomX, that’s new to me. I’ve always considered myself on the baby end of the Baby Boomers because my wife, who’s thirteen years younger than me, is bona fide Gen X. We’re close in age, yet there is a generational difference, so I like this BoomX. BoomX is interesting because our early recollections were define by the Kennedy assassination, for example, where you’re playing in the sandbox and then, suddenly, it’s as if the world blew up and you saw the adults around you in a very different way. I saw my father cry for one of the only times when he came home from work the day Kennedy was assassinated, so that arrested our consciousness at a very early age, and then we had this magical thing a couple of years later called The Beatles.
The Beatles enlivened our fantasies. We were little people on Earth, and then we saw the road to being happy and successful, and eternal youth in a way, with The Beatles. It’s interesting because I’ve never thought of it before, but that generation had to navigate its’ way through Vietnam, and my generation was looking at, “Am I going to have to go? Am I going to have to go to a war I don’t understand? Am I going to be a draft dodger? What am I going to do? Am I going to go to Canada? Am I going to go to Cambodia?”. We were really perplexed in terms of where our lives are going to go, and then it was suddenly over. I’ve had conversations with other BoomXers where we went, “Oh, thank goodness we don’t have to make that decision. We’ll go to college! We’ll get a degree, and get married and have kids.”
It was an interesting confluence of world events going through our lives at a very vulnerable, but influential, time, and then as we became young adults, Reagan is elected and John Lennon is assassinated, and that was another big moment. “Oh my god, life doesn’t work out the way you expect it at all”. I think, in a way, it made us very prepared for anything, even, dare I say, Trump.
Johnny: I can understand that. I’ll be getting more into the politics later, but for now, I would like to go to this question: Although your time on SNL was part of my favorite era of the show, the program had taken quite a beating in the early 80s, so was there any hesitation on your part about joining it?
Gary: No. In fact, Saturday Night Live wasn’t even on my radar. I was doing Practical Theatre with Brad, Paul, Rush, Julia, of course, and others, and I wanted to be on Broadway. My goal was actually to be a serious actor. I thought, “Well, I’ve got the chops that actually lend themselves well to dramatic acting”. My goal was Broadway, and I did Practical Theatre hoping that I might get an agent in Chicago, a commercial to pay the rent…
I had no desire whatsoever to do Saturday Night Live, but I enjoyed doing comedy with The Practical Theatre, and then, literally out of nowhere, I was told, “Saturday Night Live is checking you guys out. They were in the audience tonight. They want you at the hotel on Sunday. Can you be in New York in two weeks?”. It was suddenly thrust upon us. I wasn’t thinking about Saturday Night Live.
I was aware that the original cast had left and the show was getting beat up. I wasn’t watching it in 1981 and 1982, so I wasn’t really aware, yet I knew it wasn’t the flavor anymore, but I had no hesitation. Julia had no hesitation. Her future husband Brad, and Paul, were really the creators of The Practical Theatre, and it was just getting off the ground, so they weren’t sure they wanted to do it. Fortunately, a couple of days later they said, “Let’s do it”.
We got there, and I never felt like I was on a losing show, or a show that had lost its’ luster, because Piscopo was an emerging star and Eddie Murphy was about to skyrocket. Regardless of what anybody thinks of the show in that period, we had Eddie Murphy. He was a supernova. I always thought I was hanging on to the far reaches of the coattails of a comet trail to have myself a ride.
Johnny: Alright. You’ve talked about how Robert Blake was one of the worst hosts you had to deal with during your time on SNL. Conversely, who was one of the best hosts to work with during your time on the show?
Gary: Well, for me, hands down, it was Howard Hesseman. He did the show twice. He played Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP, and he was a good host. He came from an improv group, The Committee, so he had the chops to commit to characters, and to understand the bit and the humor. I got to do two or three, maybe even four, really good scenes with Howard, so those were my favorite shows. We became friendly, and I really felt special during Howard Hesseman’s couple of shows. Christopher Reeve became a friend. He was really quite endearing and special, so I really, really enjoyed that.
It’s funny those two pop into my head, but I can think of others I didn’t enjoy besides Robert Blake. Jerry Lewis…There was nothing wrong with Jerry Lewis. He just didn’t have anything to do with us smaller players. Sid Caesar was kind of the same way. I was a huge fan of Sid Caesar. He really created Saturday Night Live, in a way, with Your Show Of Shows, but he wasn’t a gracious host. He didn’t seem happy to be there. Michael Keaton was a great host, but it turned out to be a pretty lousy show, but what I liked about Michael Keaton was that he came to work. He didn’t ride the star gig at all. He came to sit in the office and discuss ideas. It’s just, unfortunately, we didn’t give him a good show
Johnny: If I recall reading it correctly, they brought Michael Palin in midway to help take some of the load off Michael Keaton.
Gary: Yeah, and you know, Michael Palin is another example of a great host. He was everything you hoped a Python would be…Generous, funny, approachable. He was magnificent.
Johnny: When it comes to hosts, I have to ask: What was Robin Williams like to work with?
Gary: Great. I had virtually nothing to do on that show because it was going to be Jim Belushi and Robin as there were fences to mend because of his older brother, and a relationship there that needed to be explored.
Here’s an interesting story. I had very little to do on the show, so Dick Ebersol said, “I want you to watch Robin, to make sure he doesn’t get lost before the show because he could go off on a tangent” or something, so I really babysat Robin Williams. When Robin Williams was not on, it was like a light bulb. He would shut off. He was sitting in the green room upstairs. People were all over the green room, and no one noticed Robin Williams sitting on the couch. Robin Williams, the guy that they were there to see, was just this empty shell on the couch, and no one noticed him.
It was like he was invisible, and then suddenly the switch went on, (Gary slipping into Robin’s voice) oh, and he took over the room! (Back in Gary’s own voice) Everybody realized, “Oh, it’s Robin Williams! His genius, his spontaneity!”. I realized, “Wow, he can turn it off, and when he turns it on, he becomes Robin Williams”. When he turned it on, as everyone who observed him could say, I don’t know that any force on Earth was ever quite the same. Jim Carrey got close, but Robin Williams was instantly funny, and loveable, and dangerous at the same time.
Johnny: I’m glad you had that experience with him, but to return to you yourself, one of the most standout sketches you created for SNL was the Video Dating sketch where you played the character of Ira Needleman, the nerdy oral surgeon-turned-energetic rock star. What made that sketch so special for you?
Gary: Again, great question, because this fits in with what I was saying earlier. I like real people with a real flaw, a real flaw that gives them the ability to make mistakes. In other words, here was a nerdy dentist who couldn’t get a date, and he thought the only way to do this was to produce a rock video and turn into this Springsteenesque superhero, but he was still Ira Needleman to me. For me, it was an opportunity to create a really fun, nerdy character that I could relate to, but he was able, like, I guess, Robin Williams, to just turn on his nerd charm.
It wasn’t my idea, but it was developed for me by, I think, Elliot Wald and Andy Kurtzman. It was so multilayered because I had to do the video as the nerdy dentist. I had to record the song, and we had top New York session players record this, so I’m at The Record Plant in New York City, where John Lennon recorded, and I’m recording, (singing) “My name is Needleman, I’m an oral surgeon!”. (Back to talking) We took it to the floor, and we had Broadway dancers as my dental hygienists, and suddenly I was working on choreography and all of these different elements, just to produce a three-minute “I want to go on a date” video. I think that the spectrum of that made it a very memorable piece, and I was fully committed to it.
Johnny: It was definitely a very funny segment.
Gary: …And it only aired once on maybe one best-of show within 35 years. It showed up on Comedy Central once in a while, but it doesn’t make all of the Best of Saturday Night Lives. Maybe once, 25 years ago, it got on, but people remember that. It really had a little bit of an impact because it was spectacularly well-produced, I thought.
Johnny: It absolutely was, and that leads me to ask: As you’re the first Saturday Night Live cast member I’ve ever interviewed, do you have the uncut versions of your SNL episodes as SNL is severely edited from Season 6 onward in online prints?
Gary: Oh, I’ve got everything. Some are edited, for sure. Broadway Video, I think, owns everything, so when they did play it on Comedy Central, I think you had a lot of edited versions. I have videotapes of every original airing. I would tape them off New York City cable on VHS. I’ve got boxes and boxes of VHS, and I don’t even have a VHS player!
Johnny: Well, I’m glad you have those. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why I’m reluctant to watch online prints of SNL from Season 6 onward, because of how severely edited they are. It’s just disappointing to me because I saw the episodes on Comedy Central in the 90s, and while many of them were edited down to an hour, at least they retained sketches with copyrighted music, and all those great musical guests.
Now they’re pretty much all gone unless the sketch achieved memetic mutation, like Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat impression or, more recently, the More Cowbell sketch. I just really wish that Lorne and Comcast could find a way to get the uncut SNL stuff out there. It isn’t even uncut on Peacock, and that’s Comcast-owned!
Gary: It’s easier to sell an hour than an hour-and-a-half, and there’s always a half-hour that’s easy for them to cut out, but in the stuff that’s cut out, there’s always stuff like you remember that’s good, or interesting, or a little more edgy than the more popular stuff, perhaps. Like I said, I’ve got them all from my years, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to dusting off those boxes and transferring them to DVD. It’s something I certainly should do.
Johnny: I definitely think that would be a good idea. To go from Saturday Night Live to a different project, you played Judge Jimmy Cleaver in the Night Court episode Top Judge (Gary laughs). Considering what the character of Jimmy was like, was there consideration to bringing you back in a recurring role?
Gary: You know, I think that that was discussed, actually. I don’t remember, but it is something that was possible, that Judge Jimmy Cleaver would come back. It was a popular episode, and was well-liked by the cast and crew. Harry was the nicest guy in the world. May he rest in peace, of course. I enjoyed playing this cocky, arrogant judge who did dueling magic with him. I wasn’t that likeable of a character. It was great when I got my comeuppance at the end, but that, for me, was a lot of fun. He certainly could’ve come back, but there was no movement towards that that I was aware of after it aired.
Johnny: Alright. Well, to go from the small screen to the big, you played Charles Lawrence in the 1988 Yugoslavian comedy Cognac. As I asked Teresa Ganzel about her work on Transylvania 6-5000 when I interviewed her in 2014, what was it like to be filming in Yugoslavia?
Gary: Well, that’s funny. That’s not a film that comes up very much. Rick Rossovich hot off Roxanne, Catherine Hicks hot off Star Trek IV, and me, and Slobodan Sijan was the director of an award-winning film called The Bus. It was a nice little group of people. Dan Tana of Dan Tana’s Restaurant, who was Serbian, I believe, produced it, and he had this nice little chemistry of people doing this nice little movie, but it didn’t get a release of any note. It got some European releases, but didn’t make any noise.
It was released as Cognac, but the working title was The Secret Ingredient. I think the story was Catherine Hicks’ father wanted the elixir to life, and these silent monks off the Island Of Mijet in Yugoslavia created this cognac that had The Fountain Of Youth, and I was a scientist who was brought along and fell in love with her.
It was a nice little story, but the movie didn’t do anything, yet the experience was wonderful because we weren’t a big Hollywood production with trailers and things. We had to live with the culture. We had dinner with families of fishermen on the Island of Mijet, and in Podgora. The crew was Serbs and Croats, and we weren’t staying in luxury motels for the most part, so it was a really interesting experience to get to know that culture.
Now, obviously, the story of Yugoslavia has changed as it’s now the former Yugoslavia, and at the time, the Croatians and the Serbs didn’t like each other, but they worked together and drank cognac at the end of the shoot. That was pre-genocide, so we left and the story of Yugoslavia really turned very dark very quickly, didn’t it? I’ve never been back since, but it’s some of the most beautiful land, and some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.
Johnny: Alright. One of your fellow Cognac cast members was the late Sam Wanamaker…
Johnny: …Whom I found to have a fascinating, but sad, life story. What do you recall the most about working with him?
Gary: Well, I recall working with him. He was a nice guy. He and Brad Dexter and Jeff Corey were friends of Dan Tana’s. They dined at his restaurant, and he said, “I want you to do my movie. Come out and do a couple of days in Yugoslavia”. They came out, and we dined, and they were gentlemen. They were veteran actors, and it was enjoyable to hear their stories about Hollywood and working with the people they worked with.
There were all these people that, again, were friends of Dan’s, and it was just fascinating to look at, say, Brad Dexter, a great character actor from The Magnificent Seven. I was just in awe. I didn’t really feel I was their peer by any stretch. I didn’t hang with them. I didn’t get a bead on their lives. I just admired them.
Johnny: Alright. Coming back to the United States, you played Mark in The Big Picture, Christopher Guest’s big-screen directorial debut. What are your favorite memories of that shoot?
Gary: Well, it was wonderful in that I played a slightly memorable role. I’m in the scene where Kevin Bacon pitches the movie, and I have this great line, “I thought they should all throw clamshells”, which actually became a little part of the pseudo-vernacular of Hollywood, a bad idea that an executive would have. “I see them throwing clamshells”.
It was one day, literally. Chris called me in and said, “I’m auditioning. I’ve got a little part for you. You would be one of the film executives. Here are the lines”. I’m working with great improvisers in that scene. I’m sitting next to Kevin Bacon, so I’m literally zero degrees from Kevin Bacon. Everybody was just so nice. We ran the scene a few times. Chris’ technique was to cover it with several cameras, so you got everything. You run it two or three times, you improvise a little bit, and then it’s cut, print, move on, but it was just very, very enjoyable.
I’m very pleased with the scene. Like I said, it’s just one scene in a very nice movie, but it started with a close-up of me. I saw it in a major theatre and went, “Look! Oh my god, there I am on the screen! Me, a motion picture! Wow, widescreen!”. That was a very neat moment.
Johnny: Cool. You played the title character in 1990’s A Man Called Sarge. A Cannon Films release, I’ve asked quite a few talents over the years about working for Cannon, and opinions on the studio have been mixed to negative, so what were your experiences like with the studio?
Gary: Absolutely fine, because I had little to do with the studio. Cannon released it. They gave us a small budget, I’m guessing four million dollars, but at the time, and shooting entirely in Israel, that was a much larger production value that we got. We were making a comedic war film. Golan-Globus greenlit the picture, stayed out of the way and allowed Stuart Gillard to direct and to produce. Gene Corman, Roger’s brother, was the executive producer, and they were allowed to produce their movie, so we were treated really, really well.
Golan-Globus didn’t give it much of a release. I think it was about 14 theaters nationwide. It was disappointing in the sense that it didn’t go anywhere and didn’t do anything. It wasn’t a great movie. I think it could’ve been better, but we made that film thinking, “Hey, if this catches on, and people think it’s funny, we’ll make Sarge II, Sarge III…”. It was Police Academy in our minds as what it could do. The experience was great, and Golan-Globus? They were just fine.
Johnny: Alright. To jump back to TV, you were one of the hosts of the Fox program Comic Strip Live. What did hosting that show teach you that you would apply to your later career endeavors?
Gary: Well, it taught me how to host, and it taught me that I wasn’t a good host up until then, and I really learned on the fly. I don’t think I was ever particularly good on that show, or was the right person to host that show. I’m good friends with the director, Ken Ceizler, whom I do a podcast with, but they hired me to do comedy on the show from a sketch perspective to thread around the stand-up comedy. I thought, “Okay, that’s a good idea because I’m in my natural element, and I’ll sort of host it as a comedic actor”.
After one or two shows, they decided that wasn’t working, so they said, “Kroeger, just get out there. Here are some jokes. Introduce the comics”. Well, I’m not a stand-up comic, and I wasn’t really comfortable with that format, but you did it every Saturday. I did a lot of them, and you get used to standing there, reading cue cards, looking at a camera and smiling. In the course of the year that I did it, I really learned how to be very comfortable as myself in a host persona. That’s what I learned.
I went on to host a new version of The Newlywed Game, Beat The Clock, lots of pilots that didn’t go anywhere necessarily, but I was hired quite frequently as a host. In my life today as a civilian, I host everything under the sun in terms of fundraisers. That really started my hosting life, which is something I’m very comfortable with now.
Johnny: Alright. To go from being yourself to playing a character, as with many of my previous interview subjects, you guest-starred on Murder, She Wrote. You played characters in two different episodes, so what was it like to work on that show?
Gary: I have very few bad experiences because most of the shows that I did were well-established, well-oiled machines. You get in there, and they know where to put you. You’re taken care of. Everything is done in a framework that’s doable. You’re not given too many pages to do in a day. It’s a well-oiled machine.
Angela Lansbury was a dream. This HUGE star, not only in television, but in film and BROADWAY, and she’s friendly to me. She runs lines off-camera with me. One of the things that happens in Hollywood, that people don’t know about, is that sometimes the bigger stars go to their trailer, and you have to do your lines with them for your close-up to a tape on a light stand. They don’t always stay for the off-camera, and I’ve had that experience.
Angela stayed. She wanted everything to be authentic. Her son was the director, and he really liked me, so they brought me in on other projects of theirs’. Columbo was under their umbrella, so I did an episode of Columbo as well, and I did another Murder, She Wrote. I loved it, just loved it.
Johnny: Fantastic. To jump from show business into politics, you’ve always been a very political person, a man with strongly thought-out ideas. What made you into the political person you are?
Gary: Well, you set the stage. As a BoomXer, events were thrust upon me with Vietnam, with a transformation in government, going from The Great Society to Richard Nixon, and then eventually to Ronald Reagan and trickle-down economics. As a young man becoming conscious of the power of government, I saw this disconnect, again, in 1982.
I’m not trashing Ronald Reagan, but I am trashing the fundamental paradigm of his economic philosophy, which was trickle-down. I saw the income gap widen, I saw disparity, and I saw the middle class shrink. Coming from the middle class, I was very, very aware of how politics is making this happen, and so I just became very in-tune with it.
I did not campaign for Bill Clinton. I was actually campaigning for Jerry Brown, who was much more of an idealist, the kind of progressive I was becoming more and more of, but Clinton won, and I saw him as the better of the choices that followed. I really started to establish myself as a progressive Democrat, and it’s just been part of my life.
When I moved back to Iowa seventeen years ago, I was missing show business, so I replaced show business with politics. I write a column for the local paper. I have a political blog. As you know, I’m very political on social media, and I ran for office because I’m trying to move the needle in a place where I think I can have some influence. It’s harder to get attention in Los Angeles for me than it is here. I almost won a seat or two here in Iowa, but I had a chance, and so that’s what motivated me.
Johnny: Okay. To connect politics to show business for a moment, why do you think conservatives seem to have such issues with humor?
Gary: (Laughing) Well, yeah. Good question, because there aren’t a lot of funny ones, are there? There’s Dennis Miller, but I think he’s sort of living a lie. He found a vein that he’s mining, but I don’t know that he’s authentic in terms of who he is. I don’t know, but there isn’t a lot of comedy on that side.
Well, I think that being a progressive, being a liberal, lends itself to seeing the irony in life. You have to see both sides of an issue. You have to see the gray area in the middle. You look for the contradictions, the ironies, the hypocrisies, even, in the way people behave and do because progressive ideology isn’t just platitudes or bumper stickers. It’s more philosophical.
Now I know that sounded very arrogant, but it is rooted in The Age Of Enlightenment, and it is rooted in ideas, so it requires critical thinking, and that’s the difference to me. Well, comedy is critical thinking. Comedy is seeing an irony and pointing it out. It’s seeing the little intricacies that everybody is aware of, but they don’t necessarily think of until it’s brought out…You know, the little things that strike us funny because, “Oh my god, I always do that, too!”, but you didn’t think of it until the comedian brought it up. That’s what we do on the left. We look for those idiosyncrasies, those intricacies, those incongruities in life. I think that’s an answer that I can live with. It’s a big question, but I think that’s it.
Johnny: Okay. To stay with politics, what can one do to prove that compassion and empathy aren’t weaknesses, but strengths?
Gary: I keep saying “good question” because those are really good questions. They’re big. They really require a great deal of thought. I see it one way: I don’t have a choice. It’s who I am, and so what renews my spirit is the process of doing it. I don’t need to be congratulated. I don’t need anything except to know that I did my best to try to be compassionate, and that’s my reward.
Now, the people in my life that mean something to me, who are close to me, my family, we share that reward with each other because we inspire each other to go out and do things for other people. You know very well that I get criticized a lot for my compassionate progressivism, my “bleeding heart” liberalism, or whatever a critic wants to call it,. It doesn’t affect me much, what they do.
In a way, I feel sorry they can’t see what I and millions of other people are trying to do, but our reward is doing it. I raised money for Habitat For Humanity, and more houses were built for people who needed them, but didn’t have the means, and that joy is brought to them. I find enough reward in that experience that I don’t need people to understand compassion. I need them to witness compassion.
Johnny: You truly have shown that on your social media, and it’s very admirable.
Gary: I appreciate that. I thank you because I am a presence on social media, but it’s personal to me. Maybe I put too much stuff out there, but I used it in the sense that I want to demonstrate ideas to people. Whether it’s comedy, whether it’s public service, whether it’s raising a family and having children, I kind of use social media to put myself out there and say, “Hey, here’s an example of somebody who’s pretty transparent”. (Laughing) “Here are his mistakes. Here are his successes. Take what you will”. Maybe something can be learned from my mistakes and my successes.
Johnny: Alright. To connect politics and show biz again, as both you and him were in the audience at the SNL 40th Anniversary Special, did you cross paths with Donald Trump or did you manage to avoid him?
Gary: (Laughing) Well, you know, he hadn’t thrown his hat in the ring yet. He was just talked about back then. This was February of 2015, so he wasn’t a serious candidate yet…I mean, at least in the public sphere. I walked by him with my son because I came in this entrance in Studio 8H, and he was in this V.I.P section, right in the heat of it all with Keith Richards and Paul Simon.
I remember hearing somebody say that he was unhappy with where he was seated. I was ushered to my seat, which was clear up in heaven on the other side of the studio. All I remember was walking by him and saying, “Oh, that’s Donald Trump”. Now Donald Trump, to me, having lived in New York, was nothing more than kind of a Page Six character. A builder, yes, but not someone that we really took seriously because of his philandering and all. I thought he was awful, and on his successful television show, I thought he was a dreadful host. I hated everything about that show, so I wasn’t that impressed with seeing him.
Johnny: Alright. I do have to say I find it interesting that, for much of his life, Donald Trump identified as a Democrat. He spoke about being pro-choice, he happily palled around with The Clintons, and then he took this sharp, extreme-right turn and was decrying liberals when, in fact, he was one, or at least pretended to be one, for quite a while.
Gary: Right, and he’s pretending to be a conservative now. This is all pretend. I don’t believe that the man truly has personal, life-forged values. I don’t believe that he has an ethical code. He is a populist, and he goes where he’s popular. He got more from being a pseudo-Democrat, hobnobbing with these people. He adopted the value of progressivism, but that’s just because it was a place to be popular.
In running for President, he ran as a Republican, and he found, “Okay, I’ve got a niche here with the far right, and they give me the rapture that I adore”. I think that these are just adopted pseudo-values that he has. I think if the Democrats came out and said, “Hey, we like you”, he would’ve been a more reasonable president, but we simply couldn’t do that because he came out of the box having embraced anti-science, anti-progressive, anti-arts, anti-LGBTQ community rhetoric that was terrifying to us, so there was never an opportunity where we could’ve said, “Hey, buddy. Let’s be friends”.
Johnny: Well, I’m definitely going to be voting against Trump on election day, and I know many people are. I really hope this is going to be his only term.
Gary: I hope so. I wasn’t prepared for this term. I didn’t think in a million years, and neither did he, that he would wake up and be President Of The United States, so I’m prepared for anything because I didn’t think it could happen once, BUT I’m optimistic.
Johnny: Me, too. That does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. I definitely enjoyed hearing your stories, and I definitely encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.
Gary: I’ve got to tell you, you asked the most insightful questions I’ve ever been asked because I hadn’t thought about them in the context that you put them, so this was fun for me, and I thank you.
Johnny: Oh, no problem, and I’m very touched by your compliments. Thank you again for your time. Before I get off the phone, I do have to say it was an honor to talk to you because your era of Saturday Night Live…Actually, that entire period of SNL, when Lorne Michaels was not pdoucing the show, was the first era I was exposed to in reruns, and that was the era that really spoke to me the most.
Gary: It’s funny you say that. When I went to the SNL 40th Anniversary reunion, I ran into Fred Armisen, whom I’m a big fan of, in the hallway, and he said, “I’m so glad you’re here!”. I went, “What?” I’m not used to that, so I said, “Really?”, and he said, “Yeah! You were the cast that got me interested in this!”. I went, “Wow, I’ve never thought of that before”. I never thought of my era, or the following era. People were watching me, and I never forgot that.
Johnny: Well, your era certainly was memorable, and I hope one day all of it will get credit, including your work because it does deserve the credit, not just Eddie Murphy and Season 10. You all deserve more credit than you’ve gotten, and it was an honor to talk to you.
Gary: Well, the pleasure was mine. I thank you very much, and I look forward to what you write.
Johnny: Thank you very much, and have a wonderful afternoon.
Gary: You, too. Bye bye.
I would again like to thank Gary Kroeger for taking the time out of his schedule to speak to me. To read more about Gary’s thoughts on the issues of the day, you can visit his official blog Gary Has Issues.
Soon to come to Pop Geeks are interviews with up-and-coming actor/magician Rich Manley and Happy Days alumni/healthy living advocate Cathy Silvers.