Fifty years ago, five years before Saturday Night Live, There was the “Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi’s Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting, which aired late Saturday night.
This campy, avant-garde late-night sketch comedy show was the brainchild of Tulsan, Gailard Sartain.
The show started out with neon lights from rides at the Tulsa Stae Fair moving rapidly, in an almost psychedelic fashion. The soundtrack was music that sounded like it would accompany the entrance of the Wicked Witch of The West in the “Wizard of Oz.
Dr. Mazeppa Pompaziodi, played by Gailard Sartain, appears in the frame with a fur-collared wizard’s robe, wizard’s hat, and boxing gloves. His opening line, while rubbing his knuckles against his face, was: “Lawzee, scope them turkeys out!” Dr. Mazeppa then introduced the movie for the night. Mazeppa was well known for his maniacal laugh, especially when introducing a horror show.
Most of the movies were horror, some of them were B-Movies, and all of them were old. When the show first aired on Saturday night, May 2nd, on KOTV, the movie was “Dracula.”
During movie breaks, the cast would perform comedy sketches. The show ran for two years on KOTV, and its last year on KTUL.
The cast included Gailard Sartain, who played Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi. However, during the sketches, he played a different character in every scene. There was Jerry Ralph R.B. Bob Bevis, a furniture salesman; Johnny Donut, the hippest, fastest-talking DJ in town, and the host of “Dialing for Dullards;” Coach Chuck, a demanding Gym teacher; Chuckles Gufaux, a professional “laugher” (see below); Bennie the Crusher, a wrestler who was secretly gay; and Hoss Chopwright. Sartain had a remarkable talent for creating memorable characters. Many of these characters were based on his observations of the mannerisms of local people. This is the same technique Mike judge would use some 25 years later when creating “King of the Hill.”
Sherman Oaks, played by Jim Millaway, was a southern-accented host and interviewer for most skits. He wore a mask that covered the top half of his face, replete with fake glasses and hair. Sherman Oaks conducted a public service program called, “Teen Town Topics.” The skit featured some “far-out” characters such as “Toby the Toe-Headed Boy.”
In the fall of 1971, Millaway appeared as Mr. Mystery, an Oklahoma political candidate. Mr. Mystery wore a ski mask, challenging other candidates to come on the show and try to take off the mask. The idea was that by wearing a mask, people could vote for him without knowing who he was. Since he disliked carpetbaggers, his platform included making every turnpike one-way (out of the state).
He sought the support of a minority group in Oklahoma: “you voters out there with an IQ over 95.” His campaign slogan was “White spaces create readership.”
Teddy Jack Eddy, (Gary Busey), was “the man with the talent.” His faux Hollywood acting school taught things like crying, falling, slow-motion fighting, and how to make airplane sounds. Busey’s character wound up slapping Sartain at the end of virtually every sketch he was in. Sartain always pronounced Teddy Jack Eddie as “Teddy Ja-keddy.”
There were other characters who appeared on the show: Laslo Mimne (John Baker), Judy Judy (Judy Owen), and a wandering violin player, Yahootie Menu (Armin Sebran), and Little darling, pronounced, “Lil Darleeng” (Gwen Taylor). The unseen announcer was Delmo Gilette (Gary Chew).
The show ended in the summer of 1973 when Gailard Sartian joined the cast of Hee-Haw. Sartain went on to have a prolific acting career, appearing in more than 40 movies, including “The Buddy Holly Story,” “Mississippi Burning,” and “The Outsiders.” Gary Busey has appeared in 150 movies, and was nominated for an Oscar for his starring role in “The Buddy Holly Story.”
Jim Millaway had a local show in the 1980s and worked as a writer for Roy Clark before going into the family business.
When asked in a 2011 interview with “This Land,” where the idea for the show originated, Sartain replied: “It was traditional, It was sketch comedy. It had been around forever. More like the Show of Shows, but we weren’t a variety show, it was more of a grab-ass kinda thing.”
The Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting was definitely ahead of its time and pushed the envelope on every show.
Alas, much of the videotape of the show was erased because it was reused. However, some of the tapes were saved, and a number of episodes were transferred to DVD. You can buy DVDs online at mazeppa.com