This November, Austin’s home for improv and sketch comedy ColdTowne Theater is excited to present Barney Miller Dark Knight – a theatrical event that is exactly what it sounds like. Part classic ‘70s sitcom and part gritty DC Comic, Barney Miller Dark Knight threads storylines from the caped crusader and the 12th Precinct.
Barney Miller Dark Knight was conceived of and created by ColdTowne Theater’s Executive Producer Dave Buckman. We spoke with Dave about his inspiration, classic sitcoms of the 70s and his plans for the midterm elections.
Barney Miller Dark Knight runs Saturdays at 7pm at ColdTowne Theater.
What was the inspiration to mix Barney Miller with the world of Batman?
I had to look and search in my email to see when the first time “Barney Miller” came back into my consciousness. It was December 2011. I wrote my step-brother-in-law an email thanking him for a Secret Santa gift. I casually mentioned “I am working on writing a stage show that is a Dark Knight version of Barney Miller.” Three weeks later I ordered Season 3 off o Amazon in hopes finding what the internet told me was the best episode of the series, S3E6: “Werewolf”. I couldn’t tell you how that combination jumped into my mind, but it’s been there for six years. And then one night in 2015, I ran into Leng Wong at SpiderHouse. It was night time, but she was wearing aviator sunglasses and wearing a maroon leather jacket. I thought to myself, “Holy shit! That’s [Jack Soo’s character] Nick Yemana… right there in front of me.” I went home and finished the first draft that weekend and started the process anew, adding a few more storylines, exchanges and jokes from other episodes. We’ve been improvising on top of that script, sprinkling in Batman and Gotham references ever since.
What’s the attraction to classic sitcoms?
I have always loved sitcoms. Another dream show of mine is putting up staged versions of the classic ABC line up: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company using the same reparatory cast for all three shows. Like someone would play Fonzie, Squiggy and Mr. Roper in the same night. I love those three in combination, because they represent three very different types of comedy: realtionship-based, pure physical and bedroom farce. Some of those old shows hold up 30-40 years later. Welcome Back, Kotter does not hold up so much. Mork & Mindy is not a strong as I remember. But Barney Miller, Soap and Golden Girls are still killer, because they had really good writing and really good actors. Not comedians, actors. Also shout out to Sgt. Bilko/Phil Silvers show. One of the few black and white sitcoms that is better than anything on TV today.
Any concerns adapting pre existing properties? What do you do to make it fresh?
I hope to god we get a cease and desist letter. That would be great. So no concerns at all. As I was combing through episodes (thank you Sundance channel!) there was a lot of misogynistic, homophobic and semi-racist jokes and storylines that were allowed on television 40 years ago, but that would make my stomach (and yours) turn watching them now. So excising and rewriting those things were necessary for making it palatable and presentable in 2017. I hope this show launches a national revival of Barney Miller, the way The Annoyance Theater launched the Brady Bunch revival in the 90’s.
What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in 2018?
I’m going to direct an original sketch revue with Second City’s style of writing/improvising for a few months to get to some sketches and songs for ColdTowne next May. It will be about the 2018 mid-terms. I am hoping to cast some of ColdTowne’s best firebrands and flamethrowers to write it with me. It’s working title is Kill Rightey. My wife Rachel Madorsky came up with that title a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to use it for a political sketch show. Next year, I get to.