"My first appearance changed my life. What happened to me was the stories that you've heard about what used to happen on The Tonight Show. The day before my Tonight Show I had some work on the books, and then the day after my life was completely different."
– Paul Provenza
Guy MacPherson: You care a lot about standup as an art form, don't you?
Paul Provenza: Yes.
GM: Do you think it's represented fairly in the media among the general public?
PP: Uh, no, actually. It's thought of more generally as a sort of disposable pop-culture kind of white noise out there on the horizon. It's just sort of there. Nobody really thinks about it very much as an art form. Even people who enjoy it and go out of their way to see it and support it and don't think of it negatively, I think, oft-times don't realize that it is an art form; that it's not just entertainment, it's not just pop-culture. Interestingly we can go back to early recorded comedy from the turn of the century, people like Will Rogers or even Mark Twain, a lot of the work that they did, if you just heard it out of the blue you would think it was written yesterday.
GM: That can't be said about all of comedy, though.
PP: No. It's very culture specific in many, many ways. But my point is that when it is seen as an art form you can begin to see how it relates to different cultures over time. I mean, certainly when you get into the political arena and social commentary.
GM: Clearly not all comics are artists and not all comedy is art. How do you deal with the hacks? I guess there's bad art in anything, though, right?
PP: For every Picasso there was somebody who thought they were doing their own thing and breaking ground and what-have-you and nobody was interested. That's true in anything. Artists emerge from people who are doing work. There are musicians out there... There are Top 40 albums that are far from art but they're astonishing craft. The same is certainly true in film, in theatre, and pretty much anything you can think of.
GM: Yup, there's good and bad in everything.
GM: What's the purpose of comedy, if there is one?
PP: That's the eternal question; the existential aspect of comedy. But for me and for a lot of my colleagues and for a lot of people who really are working as artists in comedy, it's not so much about pleasing an audience; it's about expressing something real and true and honest. I often talk about Bob Dylan as an example. You know, Bob Dylan doesn't care what the audience thinks of what he does; he's going to do it no matter what. And ultimately, that's why people find him so great and why he's had such longevity and why he's regarded outside the pantheon of normal everyday pop music because his stuff is ambiguous and mysterious and compelling and provocative and it resonates. And comedy, because it's literal, there's no layer between the ideas of comedy... I won't say there is no layer, because there are people who are working with many, many layers, but the general notion, what we know is standup comedy, there's no layer between the verbal and the idea; it's right there. In music, there's that other layer of mystery going through this particular form. But in standup it's a little bit more linear because of its literal nature so people take it at face value. Do you know what I'm saying? It makes it a little more challenging. It makes it a little bit harder to add layers to deal with subject matter that people may have difficulty with or what-have-you because it is so literal.
GM: I read an interview recently with Albert Brooks. He was talking about something you just said about not really caring about what the audience does. Basically, if you think it's funny, you should do it.
PP: Yeah. Well, George Carlin put it perfectly. He says, "The way I look at an audience is this: I'm here for me, you're here for me, and no one's here for you." And the risk, of course, in that is the commercial aspects. What if nobody likes what you are doing and nobody's interested in what you have to say? That's where the artists really put it on the line. That's really what it is. Comedians who tailor their material to what an audience will like, that's a different beast than somebody who's got something to say and they're expressing themselves and they're going to stay true to that regardless of what you think.
GM: Don't go out looking for an audience; have an audience find you.
PP: Yeah, that's the thing. There's a lot of work out there. Just like in music. There are people who get hired to write music to sell laundry detergent and stuff like that, and they'll do that and they'll make that money. But then they go off and they write the music that they really want to write. It's the same thing in comedy. It's the same thing in any art form. There are great painters who will turn around and paint houses because they need the money, or whatever. But the work that they do is about what they want to express and what they want to say.
GM: In comedy, everybody seems to have a goal in mind that's not standup comedy, whether it's writing for a crappy sitcom or acting.
PP: That's a pretty general statement that everybody seems to have a goal. That's not true. The marketplace is what it is. Somebody like Jerry Seinfeld – here's a good example that's really counter to what you're saying. because Jerry, his whole career is ironic because from moment one he's always said "I'm not interested in sitcoms, I'm not interested in making movies; I'm interested in doing standup the best I can do. That's what I want to do. I'm a comedian, that's my language, that's what I've always wanted to do, it's the thing I know I can do, it's the thing I do." And the fact that he was the kind of comedian who without compromising who he is and what his vision is, having to speak to a mass audience, he ended up getting a TV series and ended up doing it and ended up making an impact. But he never walked away from the fact that he was a comedian. In fact, I spoke to him shortly after his series ended and he moved back to New York. I said, "So the series is over and you're back to New York, what's it like?" And he goes, "I feel like I just woke up from a dream and I can get back to doing what I do."
GM: But isn't he kind of the exception?
PP: There exists, absolutely, comics who would love nothing more than a sitcom to get rich and famous and be popular to sell out their dates but those people generally fade away. They don't really have a voice in comedy that's speaking from [their] heart, that generally doesn't last very long. A guy like Ray Romano is another one of those great examples. Ray Romano is doing exactly what he does. He did a sitcom that was very much born of who he is and what he does and it worked and he's able to live in both worlds without compromise. Roseanne had to struggle to do that. And that's why she got the reputation of being such a big bitch because when she was doing the sitcom, her vision of who she was and what she wanted to express through comedy, whether it be standup or the opportunity to do it in a sitcom form, was being compromised. And she said, "I'm not going to take this." And everybody said she that was a bitch but you know what? The show got better and better. But there are people out there, yes, who would love to have a sitcom just like there are people out there making music who all they want is the next hit record.
GM: You've been at this a long time. When did you start? At 16?
PP: Yeah, 17.
GM: Where did you perform at that age?
PP: At the New York Improv. I used to watch comedians on television and my favourites in the early and mid-'70s when I was a teenager were George Carlin, Robert Klein, and Richard Pryor and whenever they were on talk shows, the host always said, "Where did you start out?" and they all said the Improv. So one day I just went to the phone book and I found the Improv. And I went down there and I said, "How do you become a comedian?" They said you take a number on Sunday, you wait on line, and you get six minutes of time to be a comedian. It was astonishing. I grew up in the Bronx, my father was a chemist, my mother was a school teacher. I got to the Improv and it was like, oh, the other side of that door is show business. (laughs) It's astonishing!
GM: How did you do as a 17-year-old?
PP: Um, appropriately. I was like a deer in the headlights, but I felt at home in this weird way. I felt like this was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, this is one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done, this is one of the hugest failures I've ever done my first time on stage, but I said I'm coming back.
GM: And your professional parents were pleased about this?
PP: Well, my dad actually died shortly before I went into this world, and that's no coincidence. But my mom was very supportive, and still is to this day. And my whole family was excited about it. It was something that was odd for them, but they're really lovely people and I was always raised with the idea that you can do whatever you want to do if you set your mind to it. I was very fortunate that I never had any of those obstacles or family pressure or anything.
GM: Did Jay Leno give you your first shot?
PP: Jay was the emcee the night that I was auditioning. At that time, you took a number and it was at random and that was your spot in the line-up. It was about three o'clock in the morning and I still hadn't gone up, and I just went up to Leno, the emcee – he wasn't "Jay Leno" at the time; he was just the emcee, although he was phenomenal – and I said, "Mr. Leno, it's not my number for a few more, but I'm wondering if there's any way that I can get on earlier because I have to be at school in four-and-a-half hours. And he laughed and he said, "Yeah, kid, I'll see what I can do." And he brought me up next, which was way cool. And one of my great milestones in my career was being on The Tonight Show with Jay and telling that story.
GM: Did he remember?
PP: He didn't remember that specific story. But by the time I had graduated college and I moved to Los Angeles, Jay and I would see each other every night at the Improv or Comedy Store.
GM: People forget how good he was.
PP: He was great. He was one of the best standup comics ever to stand on a nightclub stage. But you know, he's working in a different format and he's dealing with corporate issues and it's a whole different ballgame. And that's one of the things that I never wanted to have happen to me where I was in the position where I had to make that kind of decision. Same thing happened to Dave Chappelle. He went his whole career basically not having anybody tell him what to do and doing all the things that he loved to do. And then all of a sudden he's in a position where if he made a mistake, what used to just be, "Okay, so that show didn't go well at the Comedy Cellar to 70 people on a Tuesday night" all of a sudden became like, "Wow, stock prices are being affected." And he just said, "You know what? This is not what I thought it would be or could be and I'm just going to go back to what I really love doing and find a different way to do this." That's an interesting kind of thing. It's a whole different ballgame. Jay's at a different point in his life. He's got a wife. And he's always wanted to do something like that. To host The Tonight Show for a comedian of Jay's generation is like the Holy Grail. So he makes whatever compromises he needs to make in order to do that and make it work for him.
GM: You also performed on Carson, didn't you?
PP: Yes. My first shot was in 1983 with Johnny.
GM: That was a completely different show at that time because that was the only show. So that must have been huge for you.
PP: Huge, absolutely huge. I mean, since I was twelve years old thinking about doing standup. To be a standup comedian on The Tonight Show was like, wow. And it's funny because I got to that point and I was like, "Wow, that happened way sooner than I expected." I think I was 23. I was like, "That happened real soon. Now what?"
GM: What came of that first appearance?
PP: Well, my first appearance changed my life. What happened to me was the stories that you've heard about what used to happen on The Tonight Show. The day before my Tonight Show I had some work on the books, and then the day after my life was completely different. It was a particularly notable first appearance through no fault [credit?] of my own. The talent coordinator at the time, the guy who helps choose material and put a set together... I was doing a piece at the time that he knew Johnny would relate to, because it talked about somebody who was in the news at that time and that person was a good friend of Johnny's recent ex-wife. And [Johnny] hated that person on a personal level. So the talent coordinator stacked the deck in my favour with Johnny. He knew that Johnny would go nuts over this piece of material. It was funny and the audiences always dug it, but he knew that Johnny in particular would go nuts. So when I did the set, the audience was laughing as hard at Johnny as they were at me because Johnny was banging the table, smacking the wall behind him and by the end of my set, he had spun out of his chair and he was on his knees banging the floor. That really bumped things way up. So it was a rather incredible first shot. He told me afterwards he would have called me over to the couch, which, of course, is like the Oscar for a first-time appearance on the show, but that Art Pepper, who was an old friend of his, was scheduled to be on the show and he couldn't come back and do it another night because he had to get back to a gig in New Orleans. So he couldn't call me over to the couch. So he did the next best thing, which was come over and shake my hand on camera. It was just astonishing. It was a dream come true.
GM: How many times did you do the show?
PP: I did it with Johnny about five or six times and did it with Jay, I don't know, about eight or ten times.
GM: And who was that person you were talking about?
PP: It was Gloria Vanderbilt. At the time she had that jeans empire. We're taking you back to the early '80s, my friend. It was so odd. I never thought that there would be any connection like that. But the segment producer knew it because Johnny used to talk all the time about his ex-wife and her friends. So he heard me do that bit and he just knew Johnny would go crazy.
GM: But he didn't tell you about it.
PP: No, he didn't tell me about it. He told me afterwards. He said, "That's why I wanted you to close with that."
GM: How is comedy different in a club compared with in front of 80,000 people in a stadium, which you've played?
PP: It's actually way more fun [in a club]. I mean, 80,000 people is just ridiculous. It was an incredible experience. Luckily, it was only a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That's Bruce Springsteen stuff, that's not comedian stuff. Comedians don't play stadiums like that. It was an odd one-off thing that happens at the University of Florida. It's become a thing they do. It's part of their homecoming program. They've always had comedians. When the gig came up I was like, "This can't work!" And they were like, "They've been doing it for like 15 years." It's so weird because you're performing and you're on the big screens and you do a joke and you can actually track it as it hits the audience from the time lag. It's so far back, the timing gets all screwed up. Oh, it was wild. And I was doing the gig with Jeff Foxworthy before Jeff Foxworthy was a household name. He was still moving very quickly in his career and had quite the following, but he wasn't a household name. And the two of us were like, "What are we doing?" And we flipped a coin and I went up first. And I came off and I was like, "It's gonna be okay, man. It was really fun! But just watch out for this, watch out for that. But it's really fun. You'll have a good time." And he's standing by the stairs to the stage vomiting. (laughs) We were both so incredibly nervous.
GM: What can we expect from your club show?
PP: The Aristocrats is doing some interesting things for me because people who are now coming based on their interest in The Aristocrats are sort of already primed for the fact that I'm going to say whatever I feel like saying. And that's an interesting phenomenon because I've not really had that. Generally I've been having to deal with people getting to know me first a little bit and then dealing with that. But now I generally feel a little bit more supported. I do not play to the status quo at all. I confront everything. When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me an adage. In social settings there are three things you never talk about: death, religion and politics. And I'll talk about all of them.
GM: Do people expect you to tell the joke?
PP: That's happened a few times and on rare occasions I will do it just for the hell of it because I'm in the mood. But I don't like to. I like to keep it in its own little special box.
GM: Did you know Bob Saget's going to be in town the same night you are?
PP: No! I didn't know that!
GM: He's out promoting your movie a lot. He was one of the hits of the movie, wasn't he?
PP: Yes. And he's been incredible. He's just a beautiful guy. We've been friends for such a long time. When Penn Jillette and I came up with this idea, there were a handful of people that we said... Because when we originally conceived it, we didn't know it would be a movie. We thought it was possible, but that's not what we set about to do. We set about just to engage in this experiment and then see what we got. And we said, well, if this just ends up being a handful of people and this sort of exercise and we have just a tape of some funny people doing this over and over again, we'll only do it if Saget does it, if Gilbert [Gottfried] does it, if a couple of other people [do it]. They were really the reason that we were like... Well, we know that if this ends up just being some short little exercise with a handful of people, it's gotta be Saget and Gilbert and a couple others. So he was really a big part of our motivation in doing this. And after he did it and it came out, he was incredibly gracious. He was like, "I didn't think you guys could do this. I didn't think it was possible. How do you do it? How do you make a movie out of one joke? And the fact that it's really good and the fact that it's getting all this attention and people are digging it, it's just beyond my wildest dreams." And I get a phone call from his manager at the time who said, "I just want to tell you that we've been trying to change Bob's image for like 15 years now and haven't been able to make a dent. And you guys did it over night." So he's having the time of his life. He can be loose. He doesn't have to worry about anything. He doesn't have to worry about what people are thinking of him, he doesn't have to worry about playing up to that image, or fighting that image. He can do whatever he wants now and he's having a blast. And he's incredibly generous to us with helping us promote the movie and talking about it. And also very genuine, too. He really thinks it's a terrific little movie and he's really proud to be a part of it. I've known Saget since the '70s. When I was in college, I was at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and he was at Temple in Philadelphia. And there were no comedy clubs in Philly at the time. So I and a couple of people that I had met there who were interested in comedy started doing our own shows. The University of Pennsylvania has a student body of 30,000. So we would go to these different dorms. They were like different markets. So we would go to these different dorms and say, "Hey, you've got this little community centre here. Can we do a show here on Saturday night? We'll put up posters." "Yeah, sure." And we'd do that. We'd do these shows. And then we started to go these little restaurants right off campus and do the same kind of thing, take over their banquet room for a night and just do a little show. And one day this guy who went to the University of Pennsylvania, his name was Sam Domski, he came up to me – I met him through a bunch of mutual friends – and he was like, "You know, I'm in a comedy team. And we'd like to do some of this, too." So I said, "Well, great." And he goes, "My partner is at Temple University and we'll come do a show." And it was Bob Saget. So we go way back. So to me, and anybody who knows Bob, the fact that he is dirty in The Aristocrats and that people are talking about how outrageous he is in The Aristocrats, is not the joke. The joke was that people think he's this milquetoast, Full House, America's Funniest Home Videos guy. That's the funny thing to us.
GM: I was a big fan of his before those shows but only from TV, so I never saw the filthy side of him. But when he got on those series, people just hated him. And I was going, "What are you talking about? He's hilarious!"
PP: He is hilarious. And he'll talk about this himself if you get a chance to talk to him, he'll tell you himself that he was an actor hired to do roles. And he did them. And the fact that those things were successful is not something that he feels he should be bothered by.
GM: I guess now your movie has helped so that when he goes to perform standup, people aren't going to go, "Oh my God! He's not the father on Full House!"
PP: Yeah, he's been really great about it. Every once in a while I'll just get a text message from him out of the blue that just says, "Hey, thank you." Something happened. Whatever. And I write back and I go, "Oh, did you get laid off The Aristocrats?"
GM: What is Everyone Poops?
PP: Everyone Poops is an art film I'm working on. You know the children's book?
GM: Yeah, I've heard of it.
PP: It's the largest selling children's book in the history of publishing.
GM: But it's not going to be a children's movie, is it?
PP: Uh, well, I don't know. But you know I've got this little thing in my head right now. Because with The Aristocrats, everybody said it was impossible and it couldn't be done. And we had so much fun proving them wrong that now I can only do that kind of thing. And so when people say, "How can you possibly make a movie out of this book?" I love to say I have no idea, but we did The Aristocrats and now I feel like I'm going to go and see if I can do this and maybe get the children's market involved in my particular scatological fetish. (laughs) No, it really is one of those things where I don't know what it's going to be. It's a huge, huge challenge and I think it'll be fun. I've already shot some footage. Notice I avoided the phrase 'got footage in the can'. I've already shot some footage and it looks like it may be something very, very interesting, although I'm not quite sure what it is.
GM: Any idea of a date, or is it going to be like The Aristocrats where you just finish it when you finish it?
PP: Yeah, I think so because I don't know what the commercial viability of it is. So I think I'm going to have to do it all by myself.
GM: I know you've spent a lot of time in Vancouver.
PP: Yeah, I lived there. I was shooting a series for ShowTime, Beggars and Choosers. I lived there for about a year and a half.
PP: Loved it. I've got a lot of friends there I haven't seen in a long time. In fact, after I finished that series, I went back to Los Angeles – it was probably about six years ago – and I went back to Los Angeles and for the next, like, two years I just kept going to Vancouver to hang out with my friends. It's such a great city.
GM: Have you done comedy here?
PP: No. I've never done standup in Vancouver. I mean, I stopped in and did a couple of little venues in little places where they were doing standup on a particular night. I popped in and did some stuff. But this is my first actual proper gig there. I may have worked there many years ago in the early days. But whatever place I worked isn't there anymore, I'll tell you that. I'm really looking forward to being back in Vancouver. It was a very great time in my life. You know, I've done two series outside of Los Angeles where I had to live in different cities. When I was doing Northern Exposure I was living in Seattle, and doing Beggars and Choosers I was living in Vancouver. And it's such a different experience getting to do the work that you do outside of that L.A. mentality. It's so much more joyful to be away from all that crap. So my time in Vancouver is all very bright when I reminisce about it.
GM: It'll be a homecoming of sorts.
PP: For me, it is. It's like I can't wait to get back and just wander the streets again... By the way, did you see that the DVD is breaking records?
GM: No, I didn't. I saw that it was out.
PP: It came out on the 24th and it's been breaking records. It's unbelievable what's happened to it. It's number one on Amazon. It hit the charts before it was for sale. On pre-orders alone it was number six. Within hours it went to number three. And by the next day it was number one and it's been staying at number one. Best Buy sold their entire stock in two days.
GM: I've got to get it because I was thinking this is a movie that's perfect for DVD because all the extras will actually mean something. So many of the extras you see with movies are pointless.
PP: Have you seen the movie?
PP: You know, when we showed this thing at Sundance, everybody was sniffing around and like, "Wow, this thing is really special but we don't know how to handle it." There were a number of distributors that made us offers but they were really hesitant about doing a theatrical release. And we actually made a deal with Th!nk because they were the first ones to step up to the plate with the courage to say, "Absolutely, let's do this theatrically." And it was important to Penn and I because one of the interesting things about the movie, the meta-view of the movie really is sitting in a room full of people and watching how everybody else is reacting. Because that's what happens with comics when we tell it to a bunch of people: other comics, their friends, club personnel, or whatever. It's all about how everybody's reacting differently. So we said, "No, this has to go into theatres. It doesn't matter if we don't make money in theatres. It has to go into theatres because that's really a part of the whole deal is seeing it with other people." So I say to anybody who's watching it for the first time on DVD, don't sit there and watch it alone. First of all, it's comedy, and that's always different when you're with a bunch of people. But aside from that, in terms of the ideas of the movie, it's a more intellectual experience when you're watching it by yourself. And you don't get that meta level of what the joke and the movie are really about, which is kind of Andy Kaufmanesque in that Andy's work was all about it's not about the joke, it's not about where the edge of the stage is, it's all about how it's being received. That's where the real comedy is for him. And it's kinda like that. So I recommend anybody who's watching it for the first time on DVD to watch it with a bunch of people.
GM: Laughter is communication, too.
PP: And just on a comedy level, it's just always better. You watch a movie by yourself and it's only so-so funny; you watch it with a bunch of people and you get swept up in it. You get that vibe that the filmmakers intended. So that's a different experience. But in this particular case, the beauty of it is watching the way everybody reacts to those lines being crossed, or not being crossed, and how different it is from person to person. That's really part of what makes it so interesting... It's the opposite of porno. You know, porno, you want to be alone watching it, and with a group it's a different experience. It's not the best. (laughs) This is the flipside.
GM: Plus you're going to get these extras of these great comedians.
PP: Unlike a regular movie release where maybe they shot some scenes that they cut out of the movie, or they have outtakes where an actor screws up or something like that, we went back to all the original footage. Because we cut from original footage. We never had selects. We never decided, "Oh, this can't be in the movie, that can't be in the movie" like they'll do with takes in a regular narrative film. All the material, every moment that we spent with these people on camera, was potential fodder because they were really being natural and they were really being themselves. And a lot of what's in the movie was when they were sort of finished their task at hand and started just hanging out with us. So we had to go back to the original footage to cut the extras. And they're all completely unique and really interesting and some are meant just to be hilarious and some are meant to find different things about personality or craft or technique or what-have-you. They're just really good. And there's a couple of really fun things on there. There's a little featurette called Behind the Greenroom Door. When we were hanging out with all these people, you know, whenever you start telling jokes with comics it turns into a joke-telling session. So as we shot everybody, everybody was always telling other jokes that they liked. Or they'd say, "You know, it's funny about the Aristocrats joke because I have another favourite joke that..." and they'll tell me that joke. So we just went through them all and found our favourites and strung them together. So it's sort of a round-robin of... It's kind of like being in a room with a bunch of comedians telling jokes.
GM: That would be a good sequel, actually.
PP: Yes, it would.
GM: All these comics' favourite jokes.
PP: Yes, it would. And there are also a couple of pieces that we cut just for the DVD. Like, we did one big huge version of The Aristocrats where everybody contributes one line. It's one narrative joke from start to finish with everybody contributing a line. We're also in the process of putting together a live tour which we're calling The Aristocrats on Ice. (chuckles) That makes us laugh. Again, one of the meta-ideas of the movie is we're letting you into our world and it's a chance to engage in the thing that Carlin says, it's for us, it's not for you. This tour is going to be that. It's going to be different people touring around with this concept. It's basically comedy by comedians, for comedians and you're allowed to come and play with us. But we're not paying attention to any of the rules and regulations. And I don't mean just in language. There's a lot of great, really transgressive, challenging comedy out there that's not the namby-pamby watered-down stuff that you see on TV. In America, it's not only language that gets censored, but there's entire subject matter that you can't go towards. We're living in a world right now where religion is, like, a huge issue in our everyday lives. The world is on the brink of destruction because my imaginary friend can beat up your imaginary friend. And yet you can't do any material about religion on television. You know, things like that. People are going to be talking about subjects that they're not allowed to talk about on television and basically doing comedy that they really like. Comedy that they feel is their art without any concession to the FCC or producers or directors or 'Don't say this because the host won't like that'. You never get to see comedians – even the best comedians; even comedians that do well on television, you're seeing them with their wings clipped. And on this tour, we're bringing you the kind of people who are doing really transgressive stuff, really edgy stuff, stuff that speaks really from their heart with no rules whatsoever... If the audience comes out and digs this thing, we can do it forever because the pool of comedians who are doing that kind of artistic work is huge. We're also talking about bringing in people who aren't in the movie but who work in that way. The idea is basically, Trust us. Trust us that we know comedy and we're going to show you some stuff that's worth coming out to see. And if you don't know some of the people who are on the show, you deserve to find out who they are. See, that's the problem with people who are doing the kind of stuff that's too hot for television is that they don't get exposure and nobody knows who they are unless they stumble across them. So we're trying to create a scenario where you can come to our shows and know that we've done the homework for you and we're bringing you the best. You'll never find them on television doing this kind of stuff. And so this is a way for you to find people who are doing the kind of work that appeals to people who are really tired of the bland, anodized kind of stuff that's allowed on television.