BANKIE’S HOT TAKE #15: The Uncle Floyd Show
When it comes to New Jersey and entertainment, we have our fair share of stars that were born and raised in the great Garden State.
In music, it’s Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
On film, it’s John Travolta, Kal Penn, Paul Rudd, and Kevin “By God” Smith.
On television, it’s Wendy Williams, Brian Williams, Flip Wilson, and Malcolm Jamal Warner from the Cosby Show.
I can continue naming examples of people in each field who became mainstream entertainment personalities, there is one man who I feel is truly a local New Jersey legend.
He made his breaks playing piano, became a local star on UHF television, and later had a few appearances in films. You could say he’s a triple threat.
I say he’s the epitome of a New Jersey cult classic.
His name is Floyd Vivino, but you’d know him better as Uncle Floyd.
I first learned of Uncle Floyd when I was a kid. My father spent his formative years watching the Uncle Floyd Show on television.
Both my parents told me stories about watching him live in concert at the legendary Bottom Line in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. In particular, they told a story where they were sitting byDavid Bowie who was allegedly Major Tom calling Ground Control, if you get my drift.
If the dates are correct, this was the same night when Mr. Bowie went backstage to meet Uncle Floyd and said that he learned of him from John Lennon.
JOHN F’N LENNON. Unreal.
Anyway, my Dad absolutely adored Uncle Floyd, so much so that on family vacations, on long drives in the car, he would play the Uncle Floyd Show album on cassette. In fact, I recently found the cassette my Dad made from the album. It brought tears to my eyes.
Naturally, by the age of six, I was allowed to watch the Uncle Floyd Show and all of its insanity. Every day at 5 PM on CTN, Uncle Floyd would be on, and if I was lucky enough, Papa Bruce would be home early from work and we’d watch it together. I will cherish these memories forever.
Until its end in 1995, Uncle Floyd would be on daily, broadcasting on local New Jersey television. Most ten year olds probably didn’t know who he was or had the opportunity to watch his show, but I was devastated. But, life went on and I kept moving forward. Uncle Floyd became a distant memory.
Until 2003, during my senior year of high school, I learned that my music teacher, Mr. Wazeka, was ACTUALLY ON AN EPISODE of the Uncle Floyd Show.
I began to geek out! After pestering him for days, Mr. Wazeka finally showed me the tape. In 1991, he went down to the studio in Nutley with his bandmates and met the entire staff. After eating a pork roll, egg, and cheese, the guys performed their song on the show. Coincidentally, this was the same episode where Uncle Floyd got his ear pierced.
Wild stuff and wild times.
The Uncle Floyd Show would always begin the same way. The theme song would lead into an opening sketch with Floyd and one of his puppets, either with his loyal sidekick Oogie or the curmudgeonly Bones Boy. Then after a break, the show would come back with a segment, with one of the main cast members - Looney Skip Rooney, Mugsy, Scott Gordon, or Charlie Stoddard - or a skit like Brother Billy Bobby Booper, the Liberal vs the Conservative, the Joe Frankenfurter Show, or Capt. Fork. Following that, Floyd would read letters from the fans or open their artwork. Finally, there would be a musical guest or a musical spoof to close out the show.
This formula worked for over twenty years and produced so much great, original content. It was vaudeville at its core, but current with its delivery. The show was truly original, cutting edge comedy from a Metropolitan slant.
I always thought I would never get the opportunity to experience Uncle Floyd in this century.
Granted, I found the Best of Uncle Floyd DVD in my local FYE by accident in 2004 and watched it until it wouldn’t play, but I wanted to see him live. I wanted to experience what my Dad had at the Bottom Line in the late 70s-early 80s.
And then, on June 22, 2012, I was surprised with tickets to Scotty’s Comedy Cove in Springfield, NJ for a Friday night to witness the legend. I wondered what it would be like. Would Oogie be there? Would he play the piano? Would he curse?
After Steve Trevelise from NJ 101.5 opened for him, the man, the myth, and the legend came out on stage. The multi-colored Fedora, the multi-patterned suit jacket, dress shirt, bow-tie, black slacks and shoes hopped on the stage. He was older, but still distinguished. Uncle Floyd, live in person.
Uncle Floyd cursed like a sailor, told a bunch of blue jokes, played the guitar and sang. One hour of quality comedy later and a standing ovation by the crowd, and he was gone.
It was an amazing experience. Although I was definitely the youngest person there, I felt right at home. Uncle Floyd still had it. There were no Oogies or Bones Boys, but the same biting comedy existed.
For one night, I felt as if my Dad and I had a spiritual connection. Uncle Floyd brought us together. It’s wild on how entertainment can do that. I’m blessed that I was able to have that.
The Uncle Floyd Show was more than just a TV show to me. It was a bonding experience. It was creativity personified. Most importantly, it was inspiring. Long live the legend.