Tom Waits Makes Comic Appearance on Fernwood Tonight (1977)

Here’s a time cap­sule from a par­al­lel uni­verse: Tom Waits in 1977, per­form­ing “The Piano Has Been Drink­ing” on Fer­n­wood Tonight (oth­er­wise called Fer­n­wood 2Night). The short-lived TV series, set in a fic­tion­al Fer­n­wood, Ohio, was cre­at­ed by Nor­man Lear as a spin-off of the mock soap opera Mary Hart­man, Mary Hart­man. Mar­tin Mull played Barth Gim­ble, a droll, small-town John­ny Car­son, with Fred Willard as his half-wit­ted side­kick Jer­ry Hub­bard. Most of the guests were made-up char­ac­ters, but occa­sion­al­ly the writ­ers would weave a real-life char­ac­ter like Waits into the fic­tion­al fab­ric of the show. A crit­ic might point out that Wait­s’s Bow­ery-bum per­sona from those days was more fake than Fer­n­wood, Ohio. (Ohio, at least, is a state.) But that miss­es the fun of make-believe. So drown your cyn­i­cism in nos­tal­gia and enjoy this strange lit­tle clip from a dif­fer­ent time, a decid­ed­ly dif­fer­ent place.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Cook­ie Monster/Tom Waits Mashup

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukows­ki

Jim Jar­musch: The Art of the Music in His Films

Tom Waits Inter­viewed on NPR’s Fresh Air (10/31/11)

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