The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus - Friday, September 14, 2007
Q-C comedians will relive “Live on Tape”
Reunion party is Sunday in Rock Island
By Sean Leary
“Live on Tape” lives again. A 20-year reunion party for the popular local ‘80s late-night TV-sketch show will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday at ComedySportz, 1818 3rd Ave., Rock Island.  Episodes of the program will be screened, and actors from the show will be on hand to chat.
The brainchild of writer/producer Tom Hart, “Live on Tape” - a sort of hybrid beast merging “Saturday Night Live,” “SCTV” and “Son of Svengoolie” - aired from 1987 to 1990 on KLJB-TV.  A product of a bygone time when TV stations devoted more of their airwaves to locally produced programming, “Live” featured comedy sketches and cultural parodies, most of them based around a fictional TV station.
Left: Writer/Producer Tom Hart invented the show.     Right: a montage of moments from “Live on Tape”
Hart, who had graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in film, was on his way to California when a friend roped him back to the Quad-Cities with a job offer to edit tape at KLJB.  Figuring he’d spend a few years in his hometown and save some money for Cali, the Geneseo native signed on. However; two years in, Gary Brandt, the general manager of the station, offered him the chance to helm “Live”.
“He wanted to do a loose news spoof and add skits and stuff,” Hart said.  “We sort of took it from there.”  The show immediately caused a stir and continued to delight and distance audiences with its absurd humor, he said.  “People either loved of hated what it was,” Hart said.  “I look back on the show, and most of it was crap, but some of it was funny, and it was fun to do.”
“Live” also was an unintentional showcase for what would become the foundation of the first Quad-Cities ComedySportz troupe.  Local actors featured on the show included Hart, John Horvath, Don Abbott, Monta Ponsetto, Brad Hauskins, Brandon Lovested, Pete Calderone, Lora Adams, Scott Tunnicliff, Barb Engstrom, David Wooten, Don Bargmann Jr., Merlin Nelson Jr., and more.
“I’ve made life-long friends from the experience, and that means a lot to me,” Hart said.  “To this day it’s still the best job I’ve ever had.” That’s saying a lot, considering that Hart, who calls Southern California home, has worked in Children’s television since the mid-90s with Disney, Nickelodeon and Warner Bros., and has been a part of such big-name shows as “Kim Possible,” “Lilo and Stitch” and “Earthworm Jim.” He’s been nominated for several Emmys.
Hart toiled absurdly long days on “Live” - writing, acting in, producing and editing it.  That insane schedule prepared him for work in Hollywood, he said. “Live” ended when a staff reshuffling at the station got Hart a promotion that meant he wouldn’t have time for the program.  Shortly after that, he left the station and took his delayed shot on the Left Coast.
The show’s end “was a blessing and a curse” he said.  “I was ready for it because I was absolutely exhausted at that point.  That said, I was really, really happy with what we were doing.” Overall, he’s still pleased.  “I was watching some of the episodes, leading up to the reunion, and I thought a lot of it was really funny.  Of course, some of it wasn’t,” he laughed.
Hart is angling to segue into the world of features and live-action TV, he said, noting he’d “love to do something like the new ‘Battlestar Galactica’ or ‘Firefly.’”  This weekend though, he’ll be back where it all started, revisiting his beginnings in TV - both live and on tape.
Copyright © 1987, 2006 Thomas Hart