Seth MacFarlane & The Funniest People And Pop Culture From Connecticut
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And we’re back with 50 States of Funny, where ComedyNerd celebrates the funniest people, places, and things from all over America. For all of you clamoring for Connecticut, you just won the comedy lottery. Let’s hop on a CTtransit bus and check out the hilarity in the Constitution State.
Connecticut Funny People
With a snooty middle name like Woodbury, you’d think MacFarlane grew up in … Woodbury, Connecticut, right? Wrong! He grew up in Kent. (Woodbury is a name that has been passed down in the family for generations, originally based on the name of the town drunk.)
MacFarlane’s first paid comedy work? That would be his childhood comic strip Walter Crouton, published in his hometown newspaper, the now-defunct Kent Good Times Dispatch.
Other actors considered for the role of Back to the Future’s Doc Brown? John Lithgow, John Candy, Danny DeVito, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, and Robin Williams. Lloyd obviously got the part, but he was so freaking tall that he had to hunch over so he’d fit in the same frame with pee-wee Michael J. Fox.
When Lloyd showed up in his own shabby clothes for his Taxi audition, the receptionist thought he was some guy who’d wandered in off the streets. The show’s producers loved the look and kept it, saving Lloyd valuable shower time.
What does Lloyd have in common with Seth Macfarlane besides being funny guys from Connecticut? They had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower, making both actors considerably better than you.
Lear was born in New Haven and spent many formative years living with his grandparents after his dad went to jail for selling fake bonds. There has to be a sitcom plot in there somewhere ...
Lear’s father eventually got out of the pokey and was reunited with the family. He was an inspiration for Archie Bunker and some of Archie’s catchphrases -- “meathead” and “stifle” came from Lear’s old man.
America’s sweetheart Meg Ryan was born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. The biggest romantic comedy star of the 90s used to go out in the woods with pals and get drunk on Tang and vodka back in her Connecticut high school days. Relatable.
The sitcom supporting stars
Since Connecticut could reasonably be considered a supporting state, it’s not surprising that it’s home to a number of classic sitcom supporting characters. They include:
Allison Williams, Marnie from HBO’s Girls, was named one of Connecticut Magazine’s 40 Under 40. The achievement was nearly enough to make us forget her dad, NBC anchor Brian Williams, was suspended for six months for fibbing on the news.
Bridgeport native and Cheers star John Ratzenberger grew up with the nickname Johnny Rat, the only name worse than Ratzenberger.
Gary Burghoff, the actor who played Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H, has moved back to Connecticut where he paints wildlife and tries to forget the time he took off his shirt on Tattletales.
Paul Lieberstein, Toby from The Office, never worked in Dunder Mifflin’s Stamford branch. He’s the character of whom Michael Scott once said: “If I had a gun, with two bullets, and I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden, and Toby, I would shoot Toby twice."
How much does Connecticut love the Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Ted Knight? There’s a Ted Knight Memorial Bridge overlooking a scenic waterfall in Plymouth, which is way more than anyone ever did for Ed Asner.
Ron Palillo, Welcome Back Kotter’s Arnold Horshack, attended UConn where he did not star on any of the school’s NCAA-winning basketball squads.
Honorable mention goes to Waterbury native Bob Crane, star of Nazi prisoner-of-war camp comedy Hogan’s Heroes. Crane loses points for starring in a comedy about a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp.
Connecticut Funny Movies
6. Grown-Ups 2 Adam Sandler’s character returns to his fictional hometown of Stanton, Connecticut. Moving on.
5. Cannonball Run The Burt Reynolds comedy is based on a real-life outlaw road race that starts in Connecticut and ends in California. Did you know this was Jackie Chan’s first movie? Now you do.
4. Bringing Up Baby The classic screwball comedy not only takes place in Connecticut, but it stars Hartford-born Katharine Hepburn. So much Connecticut!
3. Mystic Pizza The romantic comedy, set at a pizza joint in Mystic, Connecticut, was the movie that introduced most movie-goers to Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. At the real Mystic Pizza, you can order the Julia’s Special with disgustingly healthy vegetables like fresh eggplant and baby spinach.
2. Beetlejuice Barbara and Adam have an idyllic Connecticut home that the couple ends up haunting after their car plunges into a river and they die. Comedy!
And the number one Connecticut-based movie?
Connecticut Funny TV Shows
Let’s start by lumping Bewitched (Westport, at least in some episodes), Soap (the fictional town of Dunn’s River) and Who’s the Boss? (Fairfield) into a single category -- funny-enough shows that are technically set in Connecticut but could really be set in Anytown, Sitcomland USA.
Then there’s Weeds, the dark comedy that spends most of its seasons in California but relocates to Connecticut for its final season. Strangely, another classic comedy did the same thing, changing its setting to Connecticut for its last go-round -- but this one built a lot of the laughs around the new environment.
The show’s real-life stars, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, were actually married in Greenwich, Connecticut, no doubt inspiring the move. What, they were going to set the show in Cuba?
Funniest Tourist Attraction
Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center recently closed but for decades, it scared generations of kids with the world’s largest jack-in-the-box. OK, not so much a jack-in-the-box as a horrific clown head that rose to the heavens several times a day. Run, children, run! Connecticut isn't safe for your kind!
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Top Image: Columbia Pictures