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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