New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 19, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
TELEVISION CLOSE-UP: Rick Reynolds
By Eirik Knutzen
Cooley News Service
Somehow, dysfunctional does not adequately describe the early years of Rick Reynolds’ life. But he put a comedic spin on it five years ago and wrote a successful one-man stage show based on the tatters of his childhood called “Only the Truth is Funny.”
Enamored with his creation, Reynolds worked closely with NBC to develop the show’s premise into a sitcom titled “My Family.” Although hailed by dysfunctional television critics, the network’s brass deemed the characters in the project a bit too
dysfunctional and pulled the plug after the pilot was in the can.
All Reynolds got out of the experience was a healthy chunk of money, a highly amusing comedy CD called “Only the Truth is Funny” and an Emmy Award nomination. It allowed him to spend several years at home in the San Francisco area, making money by selling three feature film scripts - though none have been produced so far - and watching his two sons grow.
He also wrote and performed another one-man show, “All Grown Up and No Place to Go,” which now serves as the model for “Life ... and Stuff,” a sitcom enjoying a six-week trial run on CBS. “The one-man show is basically about my (real life) marriage falling apart and therapy saving it,” Reynolds explains.
“I weave humor with my philosophy and a therapeutic message as I dredge up a lot of very sad stuff - a fairly funny and cathartic show,” continues the former standup comedian. “The network wants the sitcom version to be just funny, so that’s what we’re trying for.”
He portrays Rick Boswell, a stressed-out advertising executive opposite Pam Dawber's Ronnie, his equally harried wife and full-time mother of their two young boys. Their quest is to maintain a spark of passion in their marriage as the outside forces of the ‘90s chips away at it.
Reynolds, 45, has kept the sitcom’s concept very close to reality.
“As in the show, my wife and I live in the Bay area with two sons. Ronnie and Rick have been married IO years; Lisa and I for 14 years. Tanner Lee Prairie (Jerry) and Brandon Allen (Shawn) basically play our sons, Cooper and Jack, 6 and 4. A therapist saved our marriage; Martin Mull plays a therapist trying to save our screen marriage.”
Although “Life ... And Stuff” has a little more edge than most sitcoms,
according to the whispy-haired Reynolds, it has a much greater chance of reaching mainstream audiences than “My Family” ever did.
“It was way too heavy,” he admits in retrospect. “I had
me. Both drank. He was in and out for a while. There were ‘uncles’ and awful people living with us for periods of time. My third dad, Don Chase, who really was a great guy, stuck around until I was in high
owed to Las Vegas gambling interests.
“That’s when Don disappeared for a while,” Reynolds recalls. “My mother actually heard on the radio that he was wanted for bank robberies. He went to
Rick Reynolds (with Pam Dawber)
an incredibly dysfunctional childhood in Wood Village, Ore., a working-class bedroom community of Portland.
“My biological father drowned when I was less
school. But then he started robbing banks.”
He had an inkling that something was wrong when two “Mafia-types with bent noses” showed up at the house to collect money
prison for a long time and my mom divorced him. When he got out, he died of cancer.”
Despite the horrors of being a battered child, Reynolds claims that his
Despite the horrors of being a battered child, Reynolds claims that his relationship today with his mother
is “very good.”
relationship today with his mother is “very good.” They still see each other at least twice a year.
“I understand why she did it - she didn’t have the tools to cope with me - and she’s sorry it happened,” he says. “She was clinically diagnosed as a depressive. I remember, while in high school, picking her up from the hospital after a shock treatment. She didn’t know who I was for several days.” By some miracle, he graduated in 1970 from Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., where he was voted best actor and most talkative. It led directly to a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Portland State University six years later.
“I picked it because philosophy is a really easy degree to get and it was something that I was very interested in,” says Reynolds, laughing.
“It’s fun to get a degree in something you sit around late at night talking to your friends about anyway, particularly when you’re so sophomoric that you think you’re smart. The drawback is that there is very little money in philosophy. You just can't open a little philosophical boutique and hope to make a living selling bumper stickers that say things like, “Honk if you exist” or “My other soul is enlightened.”
Severely career challenged, Reynolds spent short periods of time as a disc jockey and touring limited portions of the state as the lead singer in a rock band called the U.S. Teens. He also published an alternative newspaper called The Oregonite for a year or so, then wound up writing a TV column for a weekly newspaper.
Always the funniest guy in his immediate social circle, he finally entered a Portland comedy competition in 1981 and won “due to the fact that everybody sucked, but I sucked a little less. First prize was a trip to play The
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Punchline in San Francisco. I got the bug and at 29, I sold everything and moved to the Bay area to start a new occupation. Ifs the bravest thing I've ever done.”
Like everybody else in the comedy business, he started out making $10 per gig, then $50, until he was headlining two years later at approximately $2,000 per week. After IO years on the road, he was ready to settle down to the joys of parenthood and high mortgage rates. But before they found the ideal house in Northern California, Reynolds and his wife spent six years in Los Angeles.
“I was on the road a lot and Lisa had a good job in the development department, for Imagine Entertainment, but we had to go where there was a real life,” he explains. “In L.A., you can’t meet a waiter or a janitor who isn't trying to sell a script. In San Francisco, they still have professional waiters.”
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