By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
For those who found Seinfeld's take on the existential
nothingness a bit too tony and smug (they wound up in jail --
how poetically just), MTV offers "The Sifl and Olly Show." A
late-night offering since its debut in July, "The Sifl and
Olly Show" hit prime-time last week. It now airs each
weekday evening at 6:30 p.m. on MTV, cable Channel 42.
(Fellow night-owls, rest easy — it repeats at midnight.)
Like "Seinfeld," this show is about absolutely nothing.
Sifl and Olly stand at a microphone and chat about whatever
bizarre things are running through their stoned little
minds — arguing about Cars songs, discussing the aesthetic
properties of waffles, breaking into song about Claire
Daines. It's not as much a retooling of "Beavis and Butthead"
as it is a lo-fi knock-off inspired by "Fernwood Tonight."
Both hosts have the same command of the loopy, making a
seemingly safe little chat show into something wholly bent
and bizarre. Their banter and double-take exchanges make
for hilarious TV.
It's the songs that make or break each episode, too.
It's on MTV because Sifl and Olly come from a genuine rock
'n' roll perspective. Even though they can't really carry a
tune, their spark and spunk wins every time.
Not bad for a couple of sock puppets.
Yep, Sifl and Olly are sock puppets. It's come to this.
The move to prime time doesn't mean new episodes have
been added — those come in January — but the first-season
rotation lasts a while and is full of yuks.
For those willing to surrender a bit of intelligence for
half an hour (think about the other TV programs you watch
before answering that), here's a quick guide to watching
"The Sifl and Olly Show":
Settle in. Whether watching the prime time or late-night
broadcast, it's a good time for a snack. Especially if you
have the munchies, in which case you're more likely to dig
Don't sing along to the theme song. As you'll see in one
show, the singing of the show's repetitive theme attracts
vicious bear attacks.
Wagering. Odds that Chester actually will introduce Sifl
and Olly are about 5-3 against. Odds he'll simply walk off
when given his cue are about 50-50.
Who's who. Sifl is on the left, the gray one. He's
fairly cool and laid-back when not lying about his
relationship with MTV News anchor Serena Altschul. He
provides a fitting contrast to Olly, on the right, who's a
bit excitable, particularly when hawking questionable
Polite conversation. After being introduced — or not --
Sifl and Olly will chat a bit, welcoming folks to the show.
There will be another few moments like this later, as if
the camera catches them having a rather bizarre personal
conversation. Whether you figure out what exactly they're
talking about is irrelevant.
Backdrops. Sifl and Olly are "standing" in front of a blue
screen, so various images and scenes are sometime projected
behind them. Be prepared for anything, from twirling skulls
to the surface of a waffle slowly oozing with syrup.
Interview time. Each show features two interviews with
some other sock puppet character. This is why they can call
their show a "talk show." Each interview is prefaced by a
graphic with a spinning, computer-generated skeleton which,
as one fan web site observed, may "symbolize the serious,
in-depth questions Sifl and Olly will ask that get to the
deep inner-workings of the guest."
Not quite. If the interview doesn't collapse entirely
due to a poorly chosen subject or our hosts' inept
interviewing skills, it inevitably backfires on them. Past
guests have included an orgasm (with his runt pal, G-Spot),
an atom on the comb of Elvis Presley, a woman named Sex
Girl, a psychedelic mushroom, the Grim Reaper ("I'm from
Montreal. I'm a French-Canadian") and the planet Mars.
Rock Facts. Each show is peppered with trivia questions
about rock stars. They're all bogus, though they provide
another opportunity for wagering: odds that a Rock Fact
will have something to do with Bjork are about 3-1.
"Calls From the Public." Sifl and Olly take calls from
their fellow sock-puppet public. Somehow, simply by yelling
into the phone, other sock puppet characters can be heard
AND seen by Sifl and Olly. Thus, we get to meet many
amusing locals, from a scary S/M duo threatening to beat up
Sifl to someone trying to sell our hosts some legless dogs.
Their landlord frequently calls to complain, as well; it
seems the Sifl and Olly home is amok with monkeys and water
Don't buy anything. Sifl and Olly are spokes-socks for
the Precious Roy Home Shopping Network, an enterprise in
dire need of investigation. Olly becomes particularly
exasperated when pitching products — such as scarehookers
(fake pimps to keep hookers away), Insta-Jerky (a chemical
that turns anything into edible jerky) and pirate beavers
(specially raised rodents trained to attack wooden legs of
threatening pirates) — and he sometimes must be sedated.
Performance. Art? Occasionally during a show and always
at the end, Sifl and Olly sing a song. Sometimes it's a
cover (their on-the-road version of the Cars' "Just What I
Needed" is priceless, as is their adorably spooky take on
"Don't Fear the Reaper"), more often it's an original tune
about something trivial and strange — how we deal with
stress, Claire Danes, marrying a vegetable, Claire Danes,
hiding in a cabinet or Claire Danes. The music is
sub-karaoke and neither of them can sing, but if you've
held out this long you've already been won over by their
And what exactly is Chester? You're right, he's not a
sock puppet. He is a mold turned inside out. In particular,
he is a mold from which small, plastic Buddha statues are
Watch in good spirits and remember — that whirring noise
you hear is Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
A well-traveled pair of children's high-top sneakers
sits atop the Hammond B-3 organ. The organ itself is at the
bottom of the back stairs, in the utility room next to a
rope rack where dresses are drying. The main studio is
upstairs, in a converted maid's quarters — one room filled
to the brim with keyboards, bass guitars and high-dollar
recording equipment. A hall closet has become a vocal
booth, just a few doors down from the kids' bedrooms,
emanates TV sounds and the faint odor of socks.
This is the environment in which a jolly giant, Wayman
Tisdale, recorded his latest major-label jazz record. The
disc, "Decisions," is the first record of his music career
that isn't titled with a basketball pun — the previous two
were "Power Forward" and "In the Zone" — and the first made in
the wake of his professional basketball career. "This
album is my coming out party," Tisdale says, breaking into
his court-wide grin.
The decisions that brought Tisdale to his current
situation were weighty but welcome. He launched his
basketball career at the University of Oklahoma, where he
was a two-time All-American. He was chosen as the second
overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft and set off on a 12-year
run through the NBA, playing four years each with Indiana,
Sacramento and Phoenix.
Through with hoops
A dozen seasons were plenty, though, and Tisdale bowed
out of the sport earlier this year. In our interview at
Wayman's south Tulsa home last week, Tisdale said his
hoopster career almost went on too long.
"I knew coming into the league I wanted to play about
eight years. I never thought I would make 12," Tisdale said.
"When I didn't enjoy coming to the gym each day and staying
late, I knew it was time to let it go."
Tisdale's exit from basketball was hardly retirement. In
fact, he immediately turned back to the work he always
loved, the work that sustained the low points of his
sporting career, the work that would not leave him alone:
writing, playing and recording modern jazz.
Long before Tisdale learned layups, he learned licks.
His father, the Rev. Louis Tisdale, bought his sons Mickey
Mouse guitars when Wayman was young, but Wayman was the
only sibling who didn't "start using them as a hockey stick
or a baseball bat." He took to the instrument and worked at
it until he'd broken four of the six strings. With two
left, the only parts of a song Wayman could play were the
bass lines. So Wayman became a bass player.
Then one summer, Tisdale grew two feet. Suddenly, his
"I wasn't comfortable, you know, standing a foot taller
than everyone in the (church) choir, even the director," he
said, "so I thought, 'I've got to find something I can put
my energy into that will suit me.' "
Jazz on the sidelines
Onto the court he went. But music was never put away,
only put aside. As coaches told Wayman repeatedly that he
would be in the NBA one day, Tisdale lumbered home from
practice and followed along with a guitar to Stanley Clarke
records ("That's where I got my style," he says). He kept his
hand in something musical throughout his college and
professional basketball career. By the time he began
playing with the Phoenix Suns, he also had landed a record
contract with MoJazz, a Motown subsidiary.
"That's when the ribbing got pretty tough," Tisdale said.
"These guys see this multimillion-dollar basketball player
getting on the bus with this big bass, and they say, 'Oh,
man, here comes Michael Jackson.' I laughed it off and just
said, 'Someday you'll see. You'll see.' When my first
record came out, a lot of those guys came up to me all
wide-eyed, saying, 'Man, I can't believe you did it. And
it's cool.' "
Getting that deal was a tough sell, at first. Record
company scouts tended to groan when a pro athlete wandered
into their offices. "Being in the NBA was my worst
nightmare as far as being taken seriously in music," Tisdale
said. "You walk in and say, 'Hi, I'm Wayman, and I'm in the
NBA,' and they think, 'Oh no, another vanity project,' or
they hear the tape and think, 'Is it Milli Vanilli?' This
was right after Deion Sanders had done his thing and a
bunch of other players and done rap records that were
"I was going to put it out myself, but a friend took my
demo down to Motown. They loved it, and the last thing he
told them was who I was. They were sold."
The two MoJazz albums met with rave reviews. When MoJazz
dissolved, Atlantic's godfather of jazz, Ahmet Ertegun (who
signed the quintessential jazz bassist, Charles Mingus),
flew Wayman to New York, once again defying his own
promises to retire just to sign Tisdale to Atlantic. "I
couldn't believe I just stepped up from one big label to
another," Tisdale said. "He kept telling me I had the
capability to cross-over." What Ertegun heard in
Tisdale's "Decisions" demos was not just the overriding
smooth jazz, but gospel, adult contemporary and R&B. The
songs are easygoing gems that are somehow more than jazz.
Wayman even sings on a handful of radio-ready tracks.
"If I can't sing the song when I'm done with it, I won't
do it," Tisdale said. "I'm melody and hook oriented. That's
why I differ from most smooth-jazz players, I think. It's
feel-good music. It's got gospel, Latin, R&B — that was my
goal. The one common denominator in the whole thing is the
Tisdale is confident he's made the right "Decisions," and
he plans to be as much of a musical star as he was a sports
"A person who's been on top knows how to get on top
again," he said. "The Grammies — that's my goal. Basketball
taught me what it takes to get on top every day, and music
won't be any different."
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.