Sunday, December 09, 2012

honoring tip

For much of the past year, Cambridge has been awash in banners celebrating 100 years since the birth of the late Democratic congressman and former speaker of the House, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, who was born and raised in the northwest part of the city. Tip was an extremely influential politician who served more than 30 years in the United States Congress. He began his career campaigning for FDR and ended up as the second-longest-serving House speaker in history!

Cambridge is holding a number of events to honor Tip's 100th birthday today, but I'll be marking the occasion in my own way. In 2008, a bakery called Verna's renamed one of their most popular donuts after Tip, as he had grown up just blocks away and was apparently fond of the local establishment. So of course I'll be ordering half a dozen of their Honey "Tip" Donuts in his honor. Happy birthday, Congressman!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

alt-indie holiday tunes

'Tis the holiday season once again, and as per recent tradition, that means a new mix! As usual, I've tried to include a collection of oddities and oldies that you probably won't get to enjoy as you go about your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in-store shopping... If you like what you hear, check out my previous holiday mixes, or plug in the full five-year playlist (of available songs) on Spotify.

Cambridge Holiday mix | Listen on Spotify | YouTube Playlist
Christmas is Coming Soon! - Blitzen Trapper
Christmas Treat (I Wish It Was Christmas Today) - Julian Casablancas
It Must Be Hannukah - Jason Fickel
Christmas Unicorn - Sufjan Stevens
Frosty the Snowman - Cocteau Twins
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas - Carla Thomas
The First Noel - Weezer
Green Grows The Holly - Calexico
All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue - Over The Rhine
My First Christmas (As A Woman) - Vandals
Space Christmas - Allo Darlin'
Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas - Eels
It's Christmas Time - Sammy Timberg
Santa's Drunk - Fathead
Christmas For Cowboys - John Denver
Drummer Boy - Matthew Bryan Beck
Christmas Song - Stars
Someday At Christmas - Stevie Wonder
Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis - Tom Waits
Auld Lang Syne - Andrew Bird

Thursday, December 06, 2012

not even playing one on tv

Since 2004, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has worked tirelessly to study issues of gender in children's entertainment, and to spread their knowledge so that others might use it to affect change. This week, the Institute issued a sobering new report [PDF] on the state of gender in today's family programming. Consistent with past studies, the new research found that girls and women are vastly underrepresented; stereotyped; and sexualized in popular entertainment aimed at pre-teens. But this paper hit me particularly hard because it expanded on some unsettling trends in Hollywood's portrayal of women in various high-powered, high-valued careers, including those in the STEM fields.

In a section titled, "Females Still Slam Into a Glass Ceiling," study authors Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Ashley Prescott, and Katherine Pieper reported that in their survey of recent family programming, female characters were portrayed in positions of power at alarmingly low rates. For example, of 129 family films rated G, PG, or PG-13, female politicians were all but nonexistant. "[N]ot one speaking character plays a powerful American female political figure across 5,839 speaking characters in 129 family films," the authors write. "Men, however, hold over 45 different prestigious U.S. political positions."

Here are the sad stats for surveyed family films:

Employed Characters Within Sector By Highest Clout Position

Industry: Males / Females
Corporate executives: 96.6% / 3.4%
Investors, developers: 100% / 0%
High-level politicians: 95.5% / 4.5%
Chief justices, DA's: 100% / 0%
Doctors, healthcare managers: 78.1% / 21.9%
Editors in chief: 100% / 0%
Academic administrators: 61.5 / 38.5
Media content creators: 65.8 / 34.2

The analogous numbers for female characters working in the STEM fields were similarly problematic:
"Males and females are most likely to be depicted working in the life/physical sciences than in other STEM careers in family films ... Yet computer science and mathematics comprise the largest percentage of the U.S. STEM workforce. Even though female characters infiltrate the life/physical sciences, males are almost four times as likely as females to be shown on screen in this line of work in family films. ... Summing across computer science and engineering, the ratio of males to females in these arenas is 14.25 to 1."
STEM Characters by Gender and Job Type

Industry: Males / Females
All STEM fields: 83.8% / 16.3%
Life/physical sciences: 49.3% / 65.4%
Computer sciences: 23.1% / 7.7%
Engineering: 19.4% / 7.7%
Other STEM jobs: 8.2% / 19.2%

As I've written previously, it's just about impossible these days for girls and boys not to be bombarded with sometimes subtle, oftentimes blatant cues about stereotypical gender norms. Unfortunately, it's becoming ever more clear that even before children enter school, they're being exposed to imagery that reflects the idea that certain jobs or careers are for men and not for women. If there's a bright note here, it's that the Geena Davis Institute continues to push for education about just how badly the entertainment industry as a whole is doing on this front.

Source for all stats: Smith, Stacy L. et al. "Gender Roles & Occupations:
A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television. 2012.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

shiny toy guns

Sometimes you just need to rock out. I'd been waiting years for the chance to see Shiny Toy Guns perform, so I wasn't gonna let a little hurricane stop me from catching them at the Brighton Music Hall in Allston on October 28th.

The skinny: STG hails from LA. You might've seen them in a car commercial; that's how I discovered them several years ago, with their epic remake of Peter Schilling's 80s hit, "Major Tom (Coming Home)." Their tunes span in style from classic pop to electro dance to ethereal Peter Gabrielesque to wannabe Fleetwood Mac to 90s wall of sound to hardcore, no-holds-barred rokkk.

The band has gone through some significant lineup changes in its 10-year history, which is probably one of the reasons they didn't play some of my favorites at the show. Still, it was a truly energetic and gratifying night. Enjoy the pics (more on Flickr), and here's my Shiny Toy Guns supermix, if you'd like to give 'em a listen.

Friday, October 12, 2012

channeling ada: a wikithon in honor of lady lovelace

This post was originally published on the Ada Initiative blog.

It's hard for me to believe that we're approaching the fourth annual Ada Lovelace Day (ALD), a worldwide blogathon celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). I don't even remember how I heard about the first one, but I do remember making a pledge: In honor of Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician who many credit with being the first computer programmer, I would write about a woman of my choosing who had made an important impact on some field of technology. That year, and each year since then, I've taken time to pick a person, learn more about her contributions, and explain why she was my choice for that year's ALD annals. (In case you're posts from 2009, 2010, and 2011, plus a BrainPOP cartoon bio I wrote and co-produced on Lady Lovelace.)

This year, however, things will be a little different...and all thanks to a couple of tweets.

Back in June, my friend Kendra tweeted that she was set to attend something called AdaCamp. "Yay women in open technology and culture!" she added as a brief descriptor. The sponsoring organization was the Ada Initiative, which I hadn't heard of at the time. But there were two Ada Lovelace references in one tweet, so my geek radar was off the charts! I had to check it out.

I now know that the Ada Initiative is a wonderful organization aimed at supporting women in open technology and culture—and in encouraging more ladies to join in these often male-dominated arenas. The group's definition of "open technology and culture" is pretty broad, by the way; it includes anything from open-source programming and other computer stuff (LINUX, etc.) to open education and publishing (MOOCs, TEDEx, etc.) to open or common creative works (Wikipedia, Creative Commons) to open or remix culture projects (mashups, vidding, and about a zillion web memes). This all sounded great to me, so I applied to AdaCamp, and in July I had the pleasure of joining Kendra at the two-day event in Washington D.C. It was the first "unconference" I'd ever been to. In a nutshell, that meant the participants came up with the session topics pretty much on the spot. It was a refreshing way to do things, and the energy and support from everyone in attendance was remarkable. Of course, there is something undeniably uplifting that happens when you bring close to 100 women together in one room...but to learn from and share experiences with ladies of such interesting and diverse backgrounds made the event that much more special.

Fast forward a few months to last week, when I happened upon another (re)tweet, this time from fellow AdaCamper Sarah Stierch (who, I might add, was one of the most delightful cheerleaders in all of AdaCamp). This tweet told of an event being held in London within a few days of Ada Lovelace Day (Oct 16th), an edit-a-thon of Wikipedia articles on women in the STEM fields. This wasn't the first I'd heard of Wikipedia edit-a-thons, where people gather to update and add to Wikipedia articles, usually on some particular topic. But it was certainly the first that I'd heard where the focus would be on lady STEMmers.

So my only question was...was there one happening in the States? I did a little digging, but couldn't come up with anything. And that's when I decided I'd just have to host one myself! Fortunately, I live in a major college town (Cambridge/Boston, MA) and I have friends who work at a number of local universities. Kendra, the woman whose tweet first alerted me to AdaCamp, is currently a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and she assured me she could find me a room at Harvard University, where Berkman is housed. So with her help, and with guidance from Sarah, a Community Fellow for the Wikimedia Foundation, a U.S. Ada Lovelace Day women-in-STEM edit-a-thon is officially happening!

So far we've put together a great lineup of volunteers to help us add to and create new pages on women who have been left off of the world's premiere online encyclopedia. And believe me, there are many important women missing from the pages of Wikipedia—or who are not included in Wiki lists of important contributors to the various STEM fields. This is, perhaps, not so surprising when you consider that only about 10 percent of Wikipedia editors are female. In fact, in addition to bringing attention to the plight of women STEMmers this Ada Lovelace Day, I hope very much to encourage women in particular to attend our gathering so that they can learn how to contribute more regularly to Wikipedia. This will be a key step in helping ensure that the world's most popular encyclopedia is written with a more representative voice for the millions who use it every day. To help me with this goal, I've gotten some excellent suggestions from local and regional Wikipedians, some of whom will be on hand to provide tutoring and guidance to newbie editors!

Anyway, there are a few spaces left for our Ada Lovelace Day Wikipedia edit-a-thon, so if you live in the Boston area and would like to stop by, check out our event page and register! For anyone else who'd like to participate remotely, we would love to have your help. I anticipate this will be an amazing way to celebrate Ada Lovelace and the pioneering legacy she left behind!

Thanks again to Sarah Stierch and the Ada Initiative for inspiration; Kendra Albert for helping me get things going; and the folks at Ada Lovelace Day (especially Suw), who got this whole thing started 4+ years ago. I look forward to seeing some of the rest of you on the 16th, either in person or online!

Ada Lovelace skill badge available from AdaFruit Industries.
Infographic by KnockTwice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

sally k. ride (1951 - 2012)

The world mourns today after learning the fate of one of America’s brightest stars. Sally Ride, the eminent physicist, astronaut, educator, writer, and champion of girls everywhere, died yesterday at her home after a private 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

To say I was floored by the news of Sally’s death would be a profound understatement. To be perfectly honest, I’m still reeling a bit from the shock and have been taken aback at how hard the news has hit me . . .

Like many young girls growing up in the 1980s, I had wide eyes to the future and counted “astronaut” as a legitimate career path. I was too young to remember the day in 1983 that Sally Kristen Ride made history as the first American woman to rocket into outer space. But as I’ve recounted previously, it didn’t take long for me to internalize that there was no stopping girls from exploring the cosmos in person, if that’s what we wanted to do. And as the first of my gender to do that here in the States, it was impossible for Sally Ride not to become a role model.

Little could I guess that some 15 years later I’d get the chance to work directly with that role model. I was a budding science journalist when I was presented with the opportunity to work for Sally at a little startup called At the time, she was the president of the fledgling company, whose mission was to be the go-to Web portal for all things space and astronomy. Being offered a job there was as much of a dream come true as I could have imagined at that stage in my life, and I’ll never forget the day we first met, shortly after I had accepted a staff writer position . . . Sally was warm and cheerful and welcoming, and I couldn’t wait to get to work explaining to our readers all that scientists were uncovering about the universe. It eventually became clear, however, that Sally was struggling through some significant ideological differences with the other managers at And after about six months, she left for greener pastures. I was sad to see her go, but knew she’d find success in her next adventure.

Back in her home state of California, Sally turned her attention toward teaching the next generation of youngsters about the wonders of science and technology. This had actually been a priority for her well before her days. Among other things, Sally had penned a couple of educational science books, and she’d initiated an ingenious program known as EarthKAM, which allowed middle schoolers to request specific photos of the Earth to be taken by cameras aboard the space shuttle and International Space Station. So it was no surprise when she decided to form a company, Sally Ride Science, which would focus its efforts on helping nurture students’—especially girls’—interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In the years since then, Sally had become an outspoken advocate for increased funding for STEM education. She was friendly with President Obama and had made a number of trips to the White House in an effort to make science and engineering cool to kids and important to parents. She also stressed the vital role of teachers and mentors in nurturing interest in the STEM areas, especially in our youngest students. It was heartbreaking for me to read a blog post she wrote just a couple of months ago, knowing now that she probably understood it would be one of her last opportunities to publicly voice her passion:
"Getting more students—girls and minorities in particular—excited about and engaged in STEM studies starts with inspirational teachers. When I was a girl, I had a teacher who realized that I had an affinity for science. She encouraged me and challenged me to pursue that interest, helping to give me the confidence to achieve and do the hard work required to become a scientist and an astronaut. My hope is that each of the teachers trained at the [Sally Ride Science] Academy will create that spark in other children, helping them to dream big and then have the courage and conviction to follow those dreams."
* * *

When news of Sally’s passing entered my synapses, I had been listening to—of all things—the Mozart Requiem in D Minor. I was actually scheduled to sing just a couple of hours later in a performance of the Requiem at a composer conference in Wellesley, MA. I think if it had been just about any other piece, I would have cancelled . . . My heart was heavy, and I wasn't in the mood for a cheerful gathering of singers and musicians. But the fact that it was the Requiem, a moving, sacred piece commemorating the death of an 18th century countess that was left famously incomplete after the premature death of Mozart himself, convinced me to go through with it. It was a strange evening; at times I felt myself drifting from the libretto in front of me deep into the melancholy of the music. At the same time, the experience was cathartic to say the least. Things really hit home, though, when I returned to an email confirming that BrainPOP, the educational company I work for, would be featuring her movie the following day. We usually give a reason for featuring public figures—it’s their birthday, or the anniversary of some big accomplishment. The reason we were giving for featuring the animation I had conceived of just a few years earlier? “In Memory of Sally Ride, 1951 – 2012.”

In the end, I certainly respect Sally’s choice to keep her illness hidden from the public, but I have to say I wish I’d had the opportunity to express my appreciation one last time. As I continue on in my journey, I can only hope to have even a fraction of the impact that Sally had in terms of inspiring kids to “reach for the stars.” Sally, thank you for blessing this planet with your grace, courage, and fortitude. You will be in our hearts and minds for a long, long time to come.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

castells in new york

A girl of six or seven clad in teal, black, and white straddles her father's broad shoulders and gazes down at the crowd below. An oversized red helmet obscures her dirty blonde locks but not the enormous smile on her face as she prepares to become an integral part of a human tower several stories high. Minutes later, as dozens of teammates move briskly into position, locking down their arms and their concentrations, the girl begins a seemingly impossible climb up their backs and shoulders, like Spider Man on his way to get the bad guy. Her goal is to become a bridge atop the mighty tower, a summit upon which an even younger climber will momentarily perch, raising a hand in triumph.

As a little girl with Catalan roots, I had heard of such daredevils, known as “castellers,” or “human tower builders” in the northeastern region of Spain from which they hail. But this week in New York City I got to witness them in person for the first time, as a team from Vilafranca de Penedès painted the town with it's magical stunts. It was a mesmerizing scene, to say the least . . . Like ants building a mound or bees crafting a nest, each member of the 'colony' had his or her distinct role: stockier men formed the center of the “pinya,” or base, while all manner of men and women surrounded and supported them; additional stocky men comprised the second base or “folre” that anchored the first tier with strength and stability; a dozen or so men and women created the central scaffolding of the tower; our hero, an “aixecador,” or “riser,” helped seal the tower and provide support for the cherry on top of the cake; and finally, the baby-faced “enxaneta” or “rider,” ascended, waved, descended, and made it look so very easy.

To answer the obvious question, such towers do on occasion fall. But the castellers are highly trained, and serious injuries are, by all accounts, rare. I also learned watching a pair of documentaries on the subject (The Human Tower, Enxaneta) that team bonding among castellers is extremely powerful and often provides participants with a lifelong second family. What’s more, in a part of Spain where bullfighting was recently outlawed, casteller displays and competitions deliver a powerful and symbolic contrast to that other, more barbaric Spanish 'sport'.

I hope you enjoy this handful of images from one of the castellers’ recent New York performances. If you’d like to see more, the full set can be viewed over on Flickr.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

a no-no for johan

Leave it to me to pick last night to go completely offline and in the process miss out on a major piece of Mets history. I knew something was up when I turned on my phone this morning and found about five text messages from a selection of my Mets-loving friends... What a way to start the day: The Mets. Have. A no-hitter! For a team that has so often been composed of loveable losers, this feat is particularly sweet. Congrats to Johan Santana for making it happen in such dramatic fashion. And now, I'm off to watch the replay.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

talking with tuesday: a conversation with mathnet's toni di buono

It’s been 25 years since the debut of Square One TV, the PBS series that entertained youngsters in the 1980s and 90s with a unique blend of mathematics and live-action comedy. To mark the anniversary, I spoke last month with two of the original stars of Square One’s Mathnet, Beverly Leech and Joe Howard, whose characters headed up the math-based crime-solving arm of the Los Angles and New York Police Departments. In this third and final look back on Mathnet and Square One, I chat with Mathnet-er Toni Di Buono, who starred as Pat Tuesday from 1991 to the series' end the following year. Toni filled me in on her path to acting; her transition from stage to screen; some hilarious behind-the-scenes Mathnet shenanigans; what she’s been up to since the series ended; and her thoughts on the ultimate impact of Mathnet on children’s entertainment.

Cool to know you’re from the Boston area! Which town do you call home?
Well, I grew up in a little town called Holliston, and I went to a Catholic high school in Framingham⎯Marion High School. It was fine. I’m not really religious,
so . . . I think it was probably to save me from becoming a punk or something!

That’s actually the same high school that astronaut Christa McAuliffe went to. Did you know about that connection at the time of the Challenger accident?
I had no idea she went to Marian. What a tragedy. I'm pretty sure she was younger than I. I graduated in 1974⎯oy.

Yeah, she graduated in 1966. So were you interested in acting even back then?
Well, it was a college prep school, so there was no extracurricular stuff. It was really focused on academics. But they did do a senior musical and a senior talent show. I was always sort of pretty popular⎯at least I pretended to be cool⎯and it was considered uncool to audition for one of the roles. You’d do the ensemble, but only the nerds would have roles in the show. So we all auditioned, and I got a role. Secretly I was really excited, but I couldn’t say that because I didn’t want to be a nerd. And then it turned out that my friends were accepting; they allowed me to do the role without too much ridicule. The director of the show was a graduate student at the Boston Conservatory and he said, “You have a lot of talent, and I think you should audition for the Boston Conservatory.” I thought, oh, no I couldn’t do that. But I did! He and the musical director prepared me for it. And then I ended up going to Westfield State College to be a probation officer!

Wow! How did that happen?
Well, my dad was a judge. So I thought, maybe I’ll follow in his footsteps, very slowly, a step at a time. That seemed to be kind of an in thing that year—social work, probation officer. And within weeks, I was miserable at this school. I didn’t know why I was there. I kept thinking about the audition that I had, and maybe I should just do something that I love. So I thought, you know what? I’m 18 years old, why am I doing this to myself? I wrote to the Boston Conservatory, because I had been accepted, but had chosen not to go. I said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’d really like to come to the school.” And I got an answer that they remembered me, and I was still accepted.

What did your dad think when you told him?
He wasn’t so happy. He basically said if you want to go, you’re gonna have to put yourself through. So, I did. Some summers I worked two jobs for my tuition, and after I went for a year I started to get scholarship money and some grant money. One summer I worked at Continental Bakery and I wrapped Suzie Q’s! If ever there was motivation to do well in college and to try to make a better life for yourself, it was working that summer at Continental Bakery. So, I got myself through four years of school.

Did you move right then to New York?
Well, I went to New York for about a minute and thought, I don’t think I’m ready for this. So I went back to Boston.

What was it about New York that was so daunting?
I think I was just really ill prepared. The thing about school is they prepare you for the creative process, but they really don’t prepare you for the logistics. If I was planning a curriculum for college kids, one [course] would be on the business of show business⎯what to expect, realistically. I got there and I was 22 years old, and all I had done in college were the character roles. I would always play women older than myself. But when you move to New York, there are women of that age. Why would they hire a 22-year-old to play a 60-year-old? And I didn’t have a union card, and I thought, what the heck am I doing here? So I went back to Boston and started doing some regional stuff. I was a singing waitress for a couple of years. Then I slowly started to direct some of the shows there and write some of the shows. It was a nice, creative outlet. Then I left ‘cause I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I got a call from a friend of mine who I went to college with. He said, “I’d love for you to come to New York and see this show that I’ve written called Forbidden Broadway.” I saw it and it was hysterical, and I thought he was going to ask me to audition, but he didn’t. I’m like, oh, well it was nice seeing you again . . . So I went back to Boston, and I was bar-tending at the time. But I was also coaching with a singing coach to keep myself somewhat involved. Then I got a call from [my friend] six months later saying, “I’m going to do a Boston company and I want you to audition.” And I got it, and I had a ball. They closed the show in New York for a while, and they were gonna reopen it, and the creator asked me to move to New York to open the show!

That’s fantastic.
Yeah, it was great. I remember one of my teachers in college telling me: “Never move to New York until you’re been invited,” and we were all going, who the hell’s gonna invite you? But that’s literally how it happened. I got certainly a lot of notoriety from it, and I won a couple of awards, and I then I had agents courting me, and it was really great.

How soon after that did you become involved with Mathnet?
Well, the funny thing is, I moved to New York with my husband⎯we weren’t married at the time, but we were together. He’s an actor as well, and about six months before my audition for Mathnet, he said, “I got a call for some show called Math Net or something?” I’d never heard of it before. So we watched it, and we thought it was hysterical. We were looking at it through the eyes of adults. There’s a lot of double entendre in it, I’m sure you know that.

Oh, yeah. Looking back now, some of the jokes I definitely wouldn’t have gotten as a kid.
Absolutely. So, my husband was on it; he was in “The Parking Meter Massacre” with Bev [Leech]. He barely had any lines⎯he was the bad guy at the end. And then I get this call to replace the lead, to replace Bev. I thought, if she’s a regular, why would they be replacing her? But, whatever, I’m going in! And it was very last-minute. My audition was on, I want to say, Wednesday; I got cast on Thursday; I went in for fitting on Friday; and I think we started filming on Monday. It was crazy. But it was PBS. They set a very strict schedule because they had a very minimal budget.

So what was it like once you finally started shooting? Bev told me she had gotten in touch with you to help with the transition.
I kind of don’t remember details because it was such a whirlwind. But I remember getting a script on Friday and, being a theater actor, I memorized the script starting from page 1. But that’s not how they’d shoot things. I remember Bev calling and saying, you know, do you need any help, and recommending watching Dragnet to get the style because Charlie Dubin, the original director, was really trying to stay close to that initially. It definitely evolved and sort of loosened up over the years. But I thought it was really sweet that she had reached out. And Joe [Howard], of course, I was in love with because he’s just crazy and sweet and genuine and just a great guy. I think we had very good chemistry from the very beginning. So he was an enormous help. And Charlie was great because I was a stage actor, and you’re used to getting laughs, so you know if something’s funny or not. This whole genre was so bizarre because you have no idea. You just have to trust that what the director is telling you is true, that it really is funny. So I think the first scene was with this fast-talking guy⎯he actually was quite a celebrity back then. He talked a million miles an hour.

The MicroMachines guy?
Yes, exactly. And I don’t even remember what I said or what the scene was about, but I was doing a lot more than I needed to do, reacting-wise and stuff. And Charlie pulled me aside, and he said, “You’re freaking out, I can tell. Don’t worry about it⎯you are funny! I will let you know if you’re not funny. Just be real and do what you do. That’s why we cast you!” So that’s what I did! And I slowly got into the rhythm of it.

Well, there are definitely plenty of kids from my generation who remember you, and it was a terrific role.
It’s funny, the first time I realized that more people were watching it than I was aware of, my husband and I were living in Gramercy Park and there was a school near there. So I walked by this group, and I could tell there was something weird going on. It was all these teens, and there was screaming. I sort of forced my way in, and I see these kids fighting, and the other kids are kind of egging them on. I immediately said, “Knock it off, now, come on,” and they sort of spread apart. And one guy started giving me attitude, but then he stopped. He sort of looked at me⎯he was a tough kid, he was definitely lookin’ for a fight. And he says, “Hey! I know you.” I said, “I don’t think we’ve ever met.” I was being sort of stern with him. And he says, “You’re Pat Tuesday—I love you!” [Laughs] Never in a million years did I expect that this kid would have any connection to Mathnet! But he was a riot, and we talked for a while; we must have talked for 10 or 15 minutes. And I was like, boy, I guess I’m really connecting to kids. And I felt an enormous responsibility at that point. But I mean, I run into people to this day. In fact, the last show I did, the first day of rehearsal I was walking out of the studio, and the writer, Keith Varney, said, “I just wanted to tell you I was really excited when I found out you were doing the show⎯I’m such a fan of yours.” And, you know, I expected him to talk about some show I had done, some play or whatever, and he said, “Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been a fan, ever since Mathnet.” I was like, thank you . . . kind of? [Laughs] It was humbling to say the least. But he actually has become a really good friend of mine. So that’s my Mathnet story.

I’ve been having great fun watching the various episodes on YouTube for the first time since I was a kid myself.
Oh, they have them on YouTube?

Oh, yeah. Some of them have been separated from the rest of Square One, and others are shown with the full shows.
You know, I’m so touched by how big the fan base is. I mean, when you’re doing something you’re so proud of⎯and obviously with Mathnet I was incredibly proud. I really thought it was such smart writing. Not to get too corny, but it was making a tremendous difference in kids’ lives as far as just the educational value of it. They tested it in schools, and it was unbelievable. They did this one school in Texas, and the math scores rose across the board like 80 percent. It was a failing school. So it made a tremendous difference educationally.

To that end, what were your thoughts on the cancellation of Mathnet and Square One?
When they decided to take it off they air, they brought in new business people. They were saying, “We can’t afford to do it, it’s too expensive.” People were in tears, saying, “But you don’t understand, we’re having tremendous results in the educational field!” And they were just like, well, it’s just too expensive. So the pro-Mathnet people were like, okay, we won’t do any more locations, we’ll do everything in studio. And it was like, no, forget it, we’ve got our own stuff. So the first thing these new people brought in was this show called Ghostwriter, and they spent a fortune developing it—I mean, a fortune. They could have done five Mathnet's. But, they wanted to do their own thing. And you know, it was really a shame. The whole Square One franchise was really successful, and it was the only show that had live action heroes. Everything else was animated. Not to mention the fact that it gave a lot of New York actors work! That was another really good thing.

Well, I’ve asked Joe and Bev whether they think a show like Mathnet or Square One would have a place on PBS or any other network today. How do you feel about that?
Oh, I don’t think so. I think things have gotten so visual, and I think it’s too cerebral for today, unfortunately, which makes me really sad. I think people think that because kids love video games, that’s all they want. And what ends up happening is⎯and I’ve seen it in kids; my daughter’s 16 now, but I certainly watched her from first grade on⎯kids are bored easily. It’s really hard to keep their attention and hold their attention. They can’t sit still to read, or they’ll say, “Lemme see, lemme see, lemme see!” They have to have constant visual stimulation, and I think that’s a mistake. I think they get enough of that in other areas. It would be really nice if they would offer something like a Mathnet that was slower for older kids. I mean, not pre-K kids, but kids in grammar school or even junior high. Things that sort of let kids sit with it. But they think, well, that’s what kids like, so that’s all we’re going to give them. So I don’t think a show like that could work. I really don’t. Even adult shows are so crazy-visual.

True. You know, they had a similar show for adults not too long ago called NUMB3RS. It was basically a crime drama, and it lasted several years, but then I guess it died.
Yeah, I think I saw it. Well, I think things die because I think they lose the initial vision. What ends up happening is you’ll get a great show with great writing, but then the writers leave. And then they get freelance writers. The business is so different now . . . I wonder how much longer we’re even really going to have network television. I mainly do commercial work, and I’ve noticed that the commercial industry is completely different now. They do so much in-programming commercials, merchandising. You know, they used to do product placement? Well now it’s just blatant commercials within the shows. All you have to do is watch something like The Biggest Loser; whomever is sponsoring the show just gets 30-second commercials throughout the show. So it has changed.

Do you have a favorite Mathnet episode?
I enjoyed all of them, but “Despair in Monterey Bay” was really fun just because we were on location. Joe and I had a good time walking around Monterey, and I think we drove the 17-mile coast highway and had a good time. But it was hard. With Mathnet it was cheaper for them to add extra hours than add an extra day⎯that’s just the way it worked out monetarily through the union. So every day we would work about 12 hours, and Joe and I were in almost every scene, so it wasn’t like we could relax. This one day it was really hard because we had an older actor who was terrific, but he was having some memory issues. We were on the beach with this guy, who was giving us clues as to how we could go deeper than human divers could go, and he was having a hard time, so we were standing on the beach for a really long time, and it was really cold. I would have to feed him a line, and then we would break, and then he would say the line, and then I’d feed him the next line, and I mean it just went on forever. Then we had this scene where we were on the top of a dune and we had to run down to ostensibly catch the bad guy. It went on and on. The next morning my call was like 4:30, and when I went to get up, and I couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t move. I thought, I’m in big trouble here, I can’t get out of bed. The day before, Joe and I went shopping for gifts, and I bought this weird little hand massager thing that you could put on your neck⎯it would heat up and vibrate, and thank god I bought some batteries to go with it. I was like a fish out of water⎯I just sort of flipped myself off the side of the bed and was kind of crawling to my suitcase [laughs] and I managed to somehow get this little massager out of that powerful shrink-wrap! And I get the batteries in there, and I put it on the floor and sort of laid my neck down on top of it, and I laid there for about 10 minutes, just enough to be able to get myself into a seated position. It was crazy!

And this was your favorite experience?!
[Laughs] It was my favorite because it was so funny. It being California, there were massage therapists working as [personal assistants]. And this massage therapist worked with me for maybe a half hour, so I was able to shoot that day. But it’s funny because there’s one shot of us out at the pool, figuring out the triangulation, and you can see when I turn to see Joe coming toward me, I still couldn’t turn my neck. But actually the funniest part was when we were out on the research vessel, everyone was getting sick because it had been storming for days. It was the first clear day that they had, and we had to re-loop all of the scenes on the boat. All you could hear was heaving!

Oh, man!
I was the only one who didn’t vomit. I think it was out of whatever pride or dignity I had left. But everybody⎯Dave Sperling, the cinematographer, was just green he was so ill, and he kept running away from the camera and going off the side. So that’s the one I remember the most details from because it was so crazy. But I don’t know, maybe the one with John Sayles, the robot baseball player. I think that’s because we had a lot of outdoor scenes, and we just laughed. John Sayles was such a great guy, and Paul Dooley, who played the coach, was hysterical, and Maddie Corman played the girl. It was a great bunch of people. I remember Jim Thurman and I playing catch out in the field. It was a really nice, happy time.

But probably the one that I laughed at the most was the haunted house one just because it was so silly. We had many guest stars, and one of our guest stars was a particularly difficult person to deal with. Joe and I kept getting the giggles, and we couldn’t stop because she was being very sort of grand. When you’re doing off-camera stuff, you have to get in the right eye line for the person doing their close-up so it matches when they do the wide shot or whatever. But it was so crowded in there because we were literally in a house. So we were doing our voices behind the cinematographer, and she had to look at a piece of cardboard that they had propped up for her. She kept going up on her lines, and she was blaming it on the fact that Joe and I weren’t in the proper place. So we had to go into the tiniest spot possible, with Joe crammed up against the top of my head, and my head was sort of at an angle, and she stopped and said, “They’re not giving me enough emotion!” [Laughs] Joe and I laughed, and we couldn’t stop. We knew she was going to get really mad, but we couldn’t stop! It was so preposterous that she was being such a diva, and we were in this ridiculous position. So we just sort of lost it and had to take a break. We were absolutely punch drunk at that one.

Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ve been up to since Mathnet?
What I’ve been doing lately is teaching and doing commercials. And I was in South Korea recently doing the Daegu Musical Theater Festival, which is a sister festival to NYMF. I was doing that show that Keith Varney wrote, the little boy who enjoyed me on Mathnet who’s now thirty-something. We went to South Korea, and it won best musical. And I just did a performance with my friend Fred Barton. He and I wrote a musical. He does these monthly shows at the Metropolitan Room, and he asked me to sing a couple of songs for that show. That was nerve-wracking! I kind of don’t miss being on stage anymore. I’ve always preferred television. I like the pace of it, which is weird because most people hate the pace of it; you work for a half hour and then you sit for six. But I like the quietness of it. With theater, you have to be on⎯you can’t fake it, ever, you just have to be there. My husband loves it; I think he would shrivel up and die if he couldn’t do it anymore. He’s actually in rehearsal right now for a new Broadway show called Nice Work if You Can Get It, with Matthew Broderick, and he absolutely loves it. And I’m like, eight shows a week? Are you kidding? It’s a lot of work. So maybe I’m lazy, maybe that’s the problem.

Nah. That sounds pretty tiring.
It’s not family-friendly. After we had our daughter I did try to go back. I did a Broadway show when she was seven. It was horrible. Michael was working, and we had a sitter, and we tried to get my in-laws to watch her for a couple of weeks. They were great, and it was better while they were here, but when you’re a kid and you’re used to having one parent with you every night and suddenly they’re both gone, it gets really hard. I did another Broadway show when Kathleen was 10, and it wasn’t a whole lot better, and I thought, I don’t really want to be away from her. I was kind of old when I had her⎯I was almost 39⎯so I just didn’t want to miss any of it. Of course now that she’s a teenager I’m thinking, gee, it would be great to do a show to get a little break! [laughs] She’s actually a really good kid, but, you know, she’s a teenager. And a female teenager. Not to be a misogynist, but I remember how I was, and I don’t know how my mother survived.

Is she looking toward college now?
Well, yeah, but she wants to go into theater⎯unfortunately. My husband and I, we’re not encouraging it. We weren’t discouraging it ‘cause, you know, you don’t want to discourage any passion a kid has. But when she had her first lead in a show we were thinking oh, this’ll be the end of it. And at intermission we both looked at each other and went, “Oh, crap.” She was really good. I think she’s better off than we were . . . we moved to New York not knowing a soul. So at least she knows us, and we know people, so we’ll help out as much as we can. Although I guess there’s not a ton of job security in any field right now so, you know, you might as well be doing something you really love.

You mentioned that you’re also teaching right now. How’s that going?
I love teaching. I teach voice. I teach privately and I also teach at a friend’s school in Jersey called the New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts. I teach teens⎯I won’t teach anything younger than that. Tweens are really difficult. They haven’t gotten to the point where you can intimidate them into behaving. They’ll do anything they want! But I just love teens. There’s just something about the age that I really love witnessing. I think they’re brave souls for even attempting to sing in front of people they don’t know, and it’s a struggle, and when they succeed at it, it’s so uplifting. I also teach adult voice, and that is my favorite. If I only could do one thing, that would be what it would be. Even if they have no or very little talent, there’s something about singing—it’s such an abstract art. Even though it’s a performing art, you can’t demonstrate exactly what’s happening. Like if you’re dancing, you can show somebody how to do a plié or a turn step or whatever. Even with painting or visual arts you can show people how to do it. But I can’t really show you what my vocal chords are doing or say, “Look at how deep my breath goes.” You can’t show them that stuff. So, so much of it is visualization and trust. And it’s hard for people to trust; let’s face it, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. But once it clicks, once they hit that perfect note, that relaxed sort of spinning note, 9 times out of 10 they get tears in their eyes, and it’s kind of magical. It’s really very uplifting and it’s very inspirational. Not to get too weird, but on a selfish level, it really makes me feel good.

Anything else you’d like to tell the world about your experience with Mathnet?
I have nothing but fond memories. And it was just a great group of people. If it could have gone on forever, if I never did another job, I would be fine with that as long as I could do Mathnet!

Continue to My Name is Monday: A Conversation with Mathnet's Beverly Leech

Continue to Curious George: A Conversation with Mathnet's Joe Howard

LEGO "mathnet mystery weekend" by pixbymaia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

curious george: a conversation with mathnet’s joe howard

Did you first learn about the Fibonacci sequence from a squawking parrot? Are you drawn to graphic representations of car robberies in your neighborhood? Have you ever had an itch to climb up the Hollywood sign in a gorilla suit? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are not alone. In part two of my look back on the legacy of Mathnet, which celebrates its 25th birthday this winter, I speak with Joe Howard, the actor who embodied detective-mathematician George Frankly during the show’s seven-year run on PBS. Among other things, he shares with me his favorite Mathnet zingers, his not-so-secret hobbies, and his role in churning out at least one real-life mathematician. Of course, don't miss part one, with thoughts from Joe’s Mathnet co-star Beverly Leech, and part three, with thoughts from co-star Toni DiBuono.

It’s been 25 years since the Mathnet pilot aired. Had you known about the anniversary?
Somebody pointed it out to me. My lord, 25 years ago. You know, the anniversary I was really thinking of was this May was gonna be exactly 20 years since we shot the last Mathnet. But I did the pilot in August of 1985. They tested it out with kids and did the research and everything, and when it tested well, I think we went into production again in 1986. We shot six more full story lines after the pilot, so I think they had a total of seven to work with. Maybe it was only six, I can’t remember.

As the happy-go-lucky half of the Mathnet duo, did you enjoy getting to be so silly all the time?
It was very natural. I mean, I did basically no preparation for the role of George Frankly; it was just kind of an exaggerated version of myself. And I had fun with it. Beverly [Leech] had to sort of keep within bounds because she was playing a very matter-of-fact, by-the-book kind of person. So I think it was a kind of, you know, it wasn’t really quite who she was. And with a natural inclination to comedy she sort of kind of put a clamp on things in that respect.

You had about a million memorable lines. Are there any that still stick in your head or that you occasionally blurt out?
I used to drive my family crazy with a line that showed up in two of the scripts: “No foolin’, it’s a dandy!” I’d say that. And then probably one of my favorite lines, I think, and the producer really loved it, was: “It’s better to know news than not know news even though the news we know is not nice.” The writers for that show were very, very clever. They were a couple of the original creators of Sesame Street.

Right. And I was sad to hear that they had passed away.
Yeah, yeah. One of them passed away in about ’95, and the other one passed away maybe three or four years ago. I kept in touch with him, we used to have some interesting exchanges over the years—one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. He once had a pet pig that he named Hitler, and he used to take it out walking on a leash until I guess it got to be about 600 pounds. Ha!

How did you originally get into acting?
When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s there were a lot of westerns on television. And I think I very early on wanted to be a cowboy. Then when I realized at a certain point that that wasn’t practical, I wanted to become an actor and play cowboys. That’s really my history with acting. Then there was a summer stock theater in my hometown, and about a full year after I graduated from college, I was hired by them as a member of the company, and I did four seasons there. In between seasons, I started working other theaters. I based myself out of New York, I was doing dinner theater, and a year after I finished a four-year stint⎯summers only⎯I booked a big job. It was a western musical about the life of Charles Russell the western artist. I was hired as the gun-slinging sheriff, my first big union job, at a prestigious place over in East Haddam, CT called the Good Street Opera House. Then a few months later, I got a Broadway show. I went in as a replacement into the Broadway show, Shenandoah. I was in that for a year and a half and then came out west with the national touring company. I stayed in Los Angeles, and mostly, I’ve been here since that time.

Was your ultimate goal to get into TV and movies?
Really more than anything else I wanted to do television. I got a start in my hometown because there was a theater, so it was kind of a logical jumping-off place, and I had a pretty good singing voice, and they were doing musicals. But I found that I got trapped in musical theater because I had all musicals on my resume. It wasn’t until I got out to Los Angeles that I was able to break away from all of that. I hit it big in commercials when I came out here initially, but it was very slow going getting into television. I think I had maybe four or five small roles under my belt when I booked Mathnet, and then after that it was sort of a mix of doing commercials and occasional TV things. Then I moved to Minnesota in 1990 with my family, and we started working out of there. We were sick of Los Angeles. I started doing movies: I was in Grumpy Old Men and The Mighty Ducks, and there was a big movie of the week that they did there. Then we came back to Los Angeles in 1995, and I’ve been here since, doing a mix of occasional films and mainly prime time television shows. So, it’s been a kind of a long career. I’ve been in the business now for 40 years!

I know you’re from New York, but where is your hometown, exactly?
I was born in Yonkers, but I was raised for about five years in Commack, Long Island. I also spent my fourth grade year in Burma, of all places. My father was an engineer and was rebuilding a dam that had been bombed out during World War II. That was a very exotic experience⎯I remember it vividly. Then I lived in Yonkers for two years after that, and then we moved to Chatham, which is about two and a quarter hours north of New York City. And I was there from seventh grade through college. I consider Chatham to be my hometown. We’ve always had some strong ties there, so it’s been a vacation place for the extended family who was sort of based in Yonkers. I try to get back there for about two weeks every year, particularly during the fall ‘cause the leaves are so beautiful. It’s gorgeous countryside.

So can you tell me about how you got involved with Mathnet?
It was just another audition. My agent had submitted me for the part of George Frankly, but the casting director didn’t think I was right for it. So I went in and I read for the part of the Man in the Baseball Cap [laughs]. And then she kind of looked at me funny, and she handed me the part of George Frankly and asked me to read for that. I read it, and I could see she was really interested. Then I had a callback, and I was hired. She told me some years later that there was never anybody else under serious consideration for the role. I mean, that was just it when I walked in. I was just floored because I’ve never had a bit of serendipity like that. Well, maybe I have, but I mean, that was really unusual. But I understand that among the people who auditioned for it was Phil Hartman.

That’s a fun story. And so you worked on Mathnet for seven or eight years?
It was from August of 1985 to May of 1992. So it’s about seven years.

The show was shot in LA for the first two years, and then it moved to New York. What were your thoughts about the move?
I like Los Angeles better than New York, but when you’re working in New York, it’s usually under the best circumstances, so I was fine with it. It sort of coincided with me and my family leaving for Minnesota, so I was closer to New York at that point, and they used to fly me in from Minneapolis. It was a relatively short flight, so it was fine as far as I was concerned.

What was it like when you found out that Beverly was leaving the show?
I knew she was under a lot of pressure from her agent to get out of the show because he wanted her to be getting into other stuff. And I actually experienced some of the same things. I switched agents while I was in the show, and the first thing the new agents that I got with wanted me to do was to leave the show so I’d be available to do other stuff. I just said no. I said, look, you know, I really like this thing, I’m not giving this job up. If you can get me another job in the meanwhile that’s better than this, by all means, but I’m not walking out of the show. Now Beverly, you know, she was at a point where she was probably around 30 years old. She knew that she had to make moves while she was still younger, so I think it was very difficult for her. And she did end up getting a Broadway show about a year or two later, that she probably wouldn’t have gotten if she’d stayed with the show.

How did the process to replace the Kate Monday character go? Did you have any kind of say in who would take over as your new partner, Pat Tuesday?
Well, I read with the girls being considered at the final callback audition for the part. They had two or three girls—maybe four, I can’t remember—as possible replacements, and they had me read with each of them. So they asked, "Who do you feel the best with?" And I said, candidly, that I didn’t think any of them were really right [laughs]. But I had occasion to rethink that, because I thought the replacement, Toni DiBuono, was very good. And we got to be very good friends. That worked out nicely.

You and Toni had some fun episodes in the New York segments. Are there any experiences from that latter half of the series that you particularly enjoyed?
One of the things that was advantageous was they took more time to shoot the shows. We were shooting the shows in six days in Los Angeles. When we were in New York, they were generally allowing us seven or eight days. So the producer wanted to up the production values on it, and I guess he accomplished that. But there was very good chemistry on the set. You know, Bari Willerford, who came on as the detective who helped us out—Benny the cab driver—I remained friends with him. And I thought Emilio Del Pozo, who was Captain Greco, was very good. I enjoyed him.

Do have an overall favorite episode?
I think “The Case of the Mystery Weekend” is one of my favorites, although I didn’t think the ending of it was enough of a payoff. That was a fun show where I was dressed up as Sherlock Holmes. We shot it in this great, big mansion outside of New York City. But I think among the California shows, the second episode we actually shot was “The Mystery of the Maltese Pigeon.” That had probably some of the least math of any of them in it, which was . . . I always found the math kind of a distraction. I mean, obviously that was the point of the show, but I always thought it could have been a good show if they took the math out and just took the funny kids’ cop drama.

Have you ever heard of the adult crime drama, NUMB3RS, which came out maybe six or seven years ago? I thought it was pretty similar to Mathnet in a lot of ways.
I never saw it. What was the basis of them calling it NUMB3RS? Were they doing statistical calculations?

Yeah, it was a crime show with two detectives, and one of the detectives had a brother who was a genius mathematician at Caltech. And the brother ended up coming in to solve all the cases, essentially. None of the cases would get solved without math. So, you know, it was a little more detailed, and much more for an adult audience, but it was interesting to see. I do think they owed you a debt of gratitude...
Interesting. Well, there might well be some connection there that the writers had seen Mathnet and figured, woah, there’s something here.

Can you talk a little bit about why Mathnet ended?
I know that the ownership of Children’s Television Workshop changed hands. The woman who ran the workshop, who’d been there since, I’m gonna guess, the late 60s, moved on. So the ownership changed hands, and the new people that came in weren’t interested in doing Mathnet. They had some new show called Ghostwriter that they were working on. Now, I was told that that was the reason the show ended; I had been told that there was plenty of money for it and we could have continued, but the ownership just wasn’t interested. Then I was subsequently told that that was not the case, that the funding had run out. So, I don’t know. But I do know one thing: There was a producer who was subcontracting all the production for Mathnet in New York, and he told me that they had an offer from ABC. If they would cut the Mathnet episodes into full-hour episodes, they would run them on ABC, and then if they were successful, they would put in an order for more. But they were only offering Children’s Television Workshop enough money to basically cover the cost of doing the re-cutting. The Children’s Television Workshop turned them down because they were only paying them cost. Now, Children’s Television Workshop is supposed to be a non-profit organization, so it seems to me they could’ve done that. It just seems kind of stupid that they didn’t; you’d think they’d want to prolong their shows. And when I heard about that, I was really disappointed. I mean, we only did 30 full story lines during the seven years that we worked on it, so it wasn’t like we had run out of ideas by any means. There was plenty fertile ground left. But I think there was no question about the fact that it had to do with the change in ownership and the people weren’t interested in it.

What have been some of your favorite roles after Mathnet?
Well, I think one of the best jobs I’ve had was working on a film called The World’s Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins. It was nice, and he was really nice to spend time with. He was a very engaging fellow⎯he went out of his way to talk to everybody. Could not have been nicer.

Did you get to actually ride any motorcycles when you were out there?
Oh, no, I didn’t do any of that. What’s interesting: They were at that time of year having actual races and tests on the salt flats at the same time that we were shooting the movie. It was a very unusual experience, being out on that salt lake. It was just weird . . . it looked like a frozen-over lake except it was all salt. But the thing is, most of the work that I’ve done since then has basically been small parts in movies and television. So there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to kick up my heels. Probably the most satisfying stuff I’ve been doing for the past 10 years or so is I write my own material and I showcase myself for casting people. And I get jobs out of doing that. I find the stuff that I do in these showcases infinitely more interesting than the work that I’m actually paid for.

How does that work, exactly?
This is a small stage, and they have showcases where actors put together scenes. They’ll have maybe six monologues and you know, 13 scenes, and they’ll have a group of maybe four to seven casting directors there to watch them. It’s just a way of presenting ourselves to the people who cast various shows around town. And hopefully they’ll like our work and bring us in and have us read for their shows. Now, you either have an A-list agent, which is very hard to come by, or you have to find access on your own to the casting people in order to get hired. A lot of small agents out here don’t have an awful lot of power⎯there’s about four or five big agencies that control most of the trade. So it tends to be very exclusionary. There’s a gross super-saturation of the market with actors out here: If two-thirds of the would-be actors left this town, you would still have an overcrowded market. So, it’s quite difficult to get things going, and to keep things going, unless you’re playing all kinds of angles or unless you have a really good agent.

That segues very nicely into my next question, which is about your son, Jeremy, who is also an actor. As you were saying, it’s very competitive. So did you encourage him? Or did you sort of stay out of it and let him do his own thing?
Well, my wife and I, we used to take him to auditions with us when we went to auditions. A lot of times it was just, rather than get a babysitter, it was convenient to take him with us. The casting people would see him and he was a real natural, he was very comfortable in front of the camera. And they put him on camera and he’d know exactly what to do. So it was kind of a natural thing that they got to know him, and they started casting him. He was extremely talented with no training. I remember in Minnesota, he did a show at this big children’s theater, and the artistic director said that he had the most natural instinct of any child actor he had ever encountered. He would book probably about half the stuff that he auditioned for, which is a very high booking rate. And it kind of continued through school and so forth, and he continued doing a lot of commercials, occasional film, and television. Then spring of his senior year in high school he had two auditions, and he booked both of them for about six months’ work on two major films: Galaxy Quest and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And that was kind of the end of college for him; he never stopped working. He has very little training. He spent probably less energy on his career than anybody that I know. But he has a very good agent, they get him in the door for good stuff. He literally had a good career dropped in his lap! Sometimes that’s just the way of it. So many people out here, you know, they’ve trained, and they struggle and this and that, and it’s hard for them to get anything going, and he literally had it dropped in his lap.

I guess I’d take it!

Another question for you: Do you have any non-acting hobbies or pastimes?
Well, I’m a folk singer. I own five guitars and a banjo! I play them avidly. I don’t do much public performance; it’s mainly something that I do for myself. But I was on The West Wing once as a folk singer, doing a piece that they asked me to prepare for them. And, let’s see, I also have a collection of silver coins, and I also collect antique pocket revolvers from the 1870s and 80s. So I do have various hobbies. I like to fish a lot, and I fish whenever I get a chance. Mainly trout.

Have you ever fished Nomanissan Island? Just kidding. That was one of my favorite episodes.
That was a good episode. I remember that well. I remember James Earl Jones was on that, and he was a lot of fun to work with. He was available one week, when we were shooting in California, and they put him into two episodes. And we sort of shot around him. Then I think they sort of shot a couple of responses of him off camera during one of the ones we did in New York, the Monterey Bay mystery one. He was only in three episodes total for the whole thing.

I actually heard a rumor that one of the writers or someone hid a little Darth Vader on the set. Did you guys do pranks like that?
I remember hearing something about that, but I was not aware of it at the time. Somebody mentioned it later. Maybe the figure shows up in one of the shots or something, I don’t know. I kind of expected the voice of Darth Vader when he came on the set, but he was a very soft-spoken fellow.

Do people recognize you as George Frankly on the street?
Yup, yeah. One of my favorite things that happened was I was in the school where my kids were going. I think it was in the class where my daughter was in, maybe second grade or third grade. And my wife and I were in this classroom, and she was talking to a little boy and she said, “Do you recognize my husband, here?” He said, “Yeah, he’s on Mathnet.” And he said, “I don’t like that show.” Ha! He didn’t care much for it, and he wasn’t hesitant to say anything about it. [Laughs] But then, when I was in my hometown a year and a half ago I had a girl⎯I would say she was probably 30 years old⎯come up to me in a restaurant in my hometown. And she said, “Are you the guy from Mathnet?” I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “I just wanted to thank you. Because of watching your show, I became a mathematician.” I said, “Woah.” Talk about the power of the media!

Speaking of that, you know, there’s quite a bit of interest right now in ramping up educational math offerings. There’s a new Museum of Mathematics opening up in New York later this year, and this past weekend the Smithsonian opened an exhibit geared toward kids about math in everyday life. And BrainPOP, the company I work for, produces short educational videos that sort of do what some of the vignettes on Square One did. But it’s weird to think that in 25 years, there hasn’t really been anything quite like Square One. Do you think a show like Square One or Mathnet would be as successful today?
I think that it probably would. I mean the whole measure of it is whether it would be entertaining to the kids. I think also that, particularly in terms of the needs it was trying to address, those needs were just as strong as ever, and they are now, and so from that standpoint it was silly for them to cancel the show. Because if they’re trying to increase literacy in mathematics, you kind of need a constant stream of that. And they can show it in reruns up to a point, but there are some notable absences, like we didn’t have cell phones in those days. But my daughter is a second grade teacher, and she’s been showing Mathnet to her kids. They’re a little below the target age, but the kids love them.

I just have one last question. Would you ever be interested in doing a Mathnet reunion?
Well, as a matter of fact, around the year 2000, I got together a Mathnet reunion for people who are out here, who had been associated with a show. We got together for like a pancake breakfast or something, and we had a lot of the people involved. Toni DiBuono was here at the time, and Beverly was here, and I was there, and we had one of our directors, and some people who had worked on the show in various capacities, and the producer of the Los Angeles segments. So it was a very nice time. And I think Bari Willerford was there—yes, he was there. So we had quite a few people. I’d always be interested in a Mathnet reunion.

Would you ever consider doing like a 25th anniversary special show, if someone wrote that for you and would put it on?
Oh, I’d be glad to, yeah! I’d definitely be interested in doing something like that.

Continue to My Name is Monday: A Conversation with Mathnet’s Beverly Leech

Continue to Talking With Tuesday: A Conversation with Mathnet’s Toni DiBuono

Cartoon by Jacob Chabot. “Mathnet Logo” by TJJohn12. LEGO “Mathnet” by pixbymaia.

my name is monday: a conversation with mathnet's beverly leech

Where were you in 1987 when Square One Television, PBS’s beloved math show for children, first took over the airwaves? I know where I was: glued to the tube. A product of the same Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) that launched Sesame Street almost 20 years earlier, Square One was a half-hour comedy show that actually made math fun. With vignettes ranging from the Fat Boys rapping about hamburger patterns to video game superhero Mathman fending off the evil—but somehow still lovable—Mr. Glitch, Square One was a veritable Saturday Night Live for kids, where the focus was on learning and laughing at the same time.

Much like SNL, the show was also packed with delightful parodies, none more enduring than Mathnet, the crown jewel of the Square One series. This winter marks 25 years since the debut of Mathnet, the Dragnet remake that not-so-subtly taught kids that crime investigations can’t be solved without mathematics. The show’s main characters⎯ George Frankly, Kate Monday, and, later, Pat Tuesday⎯were mathematicians in detective suits, carrying calculators in their holsters and working to unravel crimes using the same concepts children were likely to see in their math classes: ratios, averages, number sequences, and the like. Their unforgettable motto? “To Cogitate and To Solve.”

In honor of the anniversary, I decided to catch up with the show’s two original stars, Beverly Leech and Joe Howard, to find out more about their Mathnet experiences, their personal backgrounds, and what they’ve been up to since their Square One days. In this first post, I chat with the inimitable Bev Leech, who took a chunk out of a recent Sunday afternoon to discuss everything from her early dreams of Broadway to the intersection between art and science to her days as a five-tool athlete to the truth behind why she left Mathnet. Of course, don’t forget to stick around for part two, in which I talk with Joe Howard, and part three, in which I chat with Toni DiBuono, who co-starred later in the series!

You grew up in Texas with an eye toward show business at an early age. What originally brought you to the bright lights of Los Angeles?
It’s a strange story about how I ended up in LA, a bit of fate. My dream was to go to New York and be a Broadway star. I was a triple threat: I sang, I danced, I acted, and I really wanted to do the New York thing. But I’d been in regional theater and was a gypsy on the road for a long time. So finally, I had a job set up, my stuff in storage, my bags packed, and tickets to New York in my purse. Literally two weeks before I was supposed to leave, I got a phone call from my agent saying, “I got you a booking for Star Search.” And I went, “Who?” It was such a new show at the time that it didn’t even air where I was. I drove into Dallas, actually, to see the show. And I thought, “Uh, this is like a game show, not a real acting gig.” So I turned it down, and [my agent] said, “No, no, no, you can’t turn it down.” She talked me into doing it because it would be great national exposure, a bit of tape, some money to live on in New York. Four months later, I’m still in Los Angeles, with agents signing me, and there was so much activity that I ended up staying.

So how did the role of Kate Monday on Mathnet fit into the picture?
Well, in the beginning it was just another series of auditions that my agent sent me on. And, you know, they said it was the Jack Webb of Dragnet. I remembered that show, but I wanted it to be fresh, so I rented a bunch of episodes so I could sort of conform to that style. They thought I looked right for the part, they knew I got the gist of the show, so I went through a series of callbacks and ended up getting the role.

Was there anything in particular that drew you to the part?
I think what attracted me was the writing. The writing was beautifully done by Dave Connell and Jim Thurman. Of all the writers I’ve worked for, they’re still my top favorite. They were so precise and so funny. The other thing that attracted me was the setup of a comedy duo. They really had that classic vaudeville straight-man/punch line that influenced all the shows up through the 50s and 60s. My dad was for a time a standup comedian, so comedy and humor was definitely part of the fabric of my experience growing up. And humor has a very important function: It allows the writer to talk about difficult things or complicated concepts. If you do it seriously, people back off from it. But if you do it from the point of view of humor, they can grasp it. People go, “Math? Ugh. Science? Ugh.” But if they think it’s a comedy script, they’ll hear it.

Were you good at math and science growing up?
Actually, I wasn’t bad in algebra and geometry. You know what’s interesting? When I was about to graduate high school, the Army Corps came in and gave us one of these tests to help decide what field or type of job we would be best suited for based on our cognitive skills. So I took this test. I got a pretty good score, and they said I would make an excellent office manager. A week later the teacher said, “Oh, the computer screwed up, there’s something wrong with the program, and we have to take this test over again.” So, I went, and just as an experiment, I put myself down as a male. I took the test again, but this time Beverly Leech was a guy, and I got the same score. And you know what I was supposed to be then? A civil engineer. So based on my gender, I could only aspire to be a damned good office manager. But as a man, I could have been a civil engineer building bridges. Which I thought was completely interesting. But I think if I hadn’t been a civil engineer, it was probably fitting that I became an artist. There is a very specific place where art and math and science collide, and that is through the use of creative imagination. I watch a lot of documentaries on scientists and mathematicians who used their curiosity and imagination, engaged in that kind of roaming, either on foot or in their minds, and made new discoveries. I mean, without the creative imagination, Einstein never would have come up with the theory of relativity—he engaged his mind in free-range exploration for hours, weeks, even years at a time. And that’s exactly what an artist does.

In Mathnet, you played the straight man to Joe Howard’s happy-go-lucky George Frankly. Did you ever break out of character and crack up on set?
All the time. The problem was, every time we cracked up we ruined the take, and it made for some very long days, because they would have to reset the shot, start again, and reshoot the whole thing. So we learned very quickly that unless we wanted to be there for 20 hours, we had to hold it in until they yelled “cut.”

Aside from the calculators you kept in your holsters, were there any math references or props hidden on the sets?
As I remember, everything was pretty straightforward. Except for the calculator and the holster, all of it was regular classroom teaching materials. We were just trying to wrap our minds around the mathematic concepts that were given to us. I think that was always the challenge: trying to make them fresh, like a mystery we were trying to solve instead of a math class.

What was it like working with the kid guest stars on the Mathnet set?
The kids we worked with were largely very professional⎯they always had their lines off. In terms of eliciting a good performance out of them, [director] Charlie Dubin really knew how to break down fear, break down all those walls that actors have, and put it in a humorous way so that it was more effortless for the kids. He was the most gentile, most wonderful director. But working with kids was really great. Sometimes they didn’t have a lot of set experience; if they were newbies to the profession it could be a long day. But I always kept in mind that I didn’t have a lot of set experience, either. So, it was a learning curve for both of us.

The show moved to New York from its original Los Angles location after two seasons. What precipitated the move?
Well, I can’t really say I’m the authority on that. I’m guessing it was because the writers and most of the production team was from New York. And PBS and CTW were headquartered there. So I’m guessing they thought it would be less expensive and more comfortable for everyone involved if they kept it close to home and just flew the actors in if they didn’t hire local.

Many Mathnet fans were surprised and saddened when you left the show after season 3. Can you talk a little about why you left?
It broke my heart to leave the show. And you know, I’ve never answered anyone with a straight answer about why. I’m very protective of the show’s image. But, it’s been 20 years, and it’s not that it’s some deep dark secret, it’s just long and complicated. The short answer is: After several years of working under the same contract, they changed the shooting schedule and the terms in such a way that I literally could not afford to do it.

At the time, public broadcasting was going through a hard budgetary crisis. So they changed the contract to help with their budget. Now, I really loved shooting that show. But let’s face it, the salary was meager. But it wasn’t about the money, it was a labor of love. And PBS/CTW had the wisdom at that time to shoot it on hiatus. Hiatus is a rest period in the industry, and it made everybody available to do this kind of labor of love. However short the salary fell, I made enough money in the other seasons to cover all of my expenses and my bills, and during the hiatus, I was able to afford to work on Mathnet. For a couple of years it was in LA, and then they did it in New York, and that was fine.

Then the following year, I got a call from my agent. The deal that was presented to me was that the shooting schedule was going to be moved into pilot season, which would effectively take me out of the market. In those days, you were exclusively tied to a show: you had to be available at all times [during shooting season], and you couldn’t do anything else. So I would not have had the ability to earn any money. The other huge surprise was that they wanted me to literally move to New York. If I moved to New York, I’d be considered a local hire, and then they wouldn’t have to pay for my airfare, or housing, or any grocery money. But since I wasn’t asking for a raise to offset that, it seemed kind of impossible to do. The other thing, too, was that my husband at that time was only licensed to practice in California, not in New York. So if I moved to New York, I would either have to leave my family completely behind⎯and I had a baby then⎯or they’d come to New York and we’d effectively cut off two sources of income. Now, it does come down to math! After taxes and commissions to agents and managers, it left me with 200 bucks a week. Can anybody live in New York on $200 a week? [Laughs] We explained the situation in contract negotiations over and over again, you know. I was willing to take the part, and I was willing to take the money, but there had to be some kind of compromise that would allow me to take it. If they had kept the shooting schedule, for instance, and did it during hiatus as they had traditionally done, I doubt there would have been a problem⎯I’d have taken it in a heartbeat. But there wasn’t any compromise, and we all know what happened next. It was very, very hard to make that phone call. The producer and I both cried on the phone. I loved those people, and I had a really hard time stepping away from that. But CTW/PBS did what they had to do to meet their budget, and I did what I had to do to meet mine. Now, it’s been 20 years, it’s water under the bridge. I don’t have any hard feelings about it at all, and I’m sure they don’t either.

So what did you do after that?
Well, literally within a couple of weeks I got a call from New York offering me the role of Alaura Kingsley in City of Angels on Broadway. In hindsight that was probably fate again. I had been in the rotation for the Los Angeles company, but they had an immediate need for someone in the New York company. So, here I was, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. I’d spent a lot of hard years training and grooming myself for Broadway, and I was finally able to do it. If I’d done the Mathnet contract I would have signed that exclusivity clause, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it. So it’s sort of that whole, “One door closes and another one opens.” I was quite, quite down about leaving Mathnet, for a long, long time. But good fortune opened up for me, and it opened up for Toni DiBuono, who replaced me as Pat Tuesday. And I gotta tell you, I’m a big, big fan of Toni. I had seen her the year before in Forbidden Broadway, which was a wildly popular show running off-Broadway. She was so funny, I cried! So a year later I was very, very pleased that they had cast someone so deeply talented. I think she did the segue beautifully. And in fact, I got in touch with her and said if there’s anything that you need, anything I can provide to help you with this transition, please feel free. So she got in touch right away, and I helped with whatever resources and materials I had to help her fill those shoes. And I think she did a great job.

You’ve had quite a few roles since leaving Mathnet. Are there any that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
There are many television roles that have transpired since Mathnet that I’m particularly fond of. For LAX, I was playing a pilot whose plane was going to crash, and I took flying lessons to understand what it was about. That was a thrilling experience. I flew a Cessna several times, then the flight instructor put me in a commercial cockpit matching the one in the episode. He drilled me on the landing procedure about a thousand times because it had to look as if I’d been in that seat for years. I couldn’t look like a blonde dum-dum, you know? And pretty much all of my scenes were in the cockpit, so I knew I had to at least have that inner knowledge. I worked with James Garner a few times, I worked with Dick Van Dyke. Gosh, he’s my hero . . . talk about brilliant comedy guy! There was Star Trek Voyager and Quantum Leap. I had this really great tango number in Quantum Leap, and I finally got to use all those years of classical ballet training! Also, I loved doing this wonderful movie-of-the-week series called Midnight Runaround, where I played a redneck pregnant bartender.

Yeah. But the stuff I absolutely loved more had to do with stage. I loved doing City of Angels⎯that was a big highlight. And I loved playing Sarah Bernhardt at Denver Center Theater. It was a great play called Ladies of the Camellias by Lillian Groag and directed beautifully by Casey Stangl. My current love is that I’ve been working with Bobby Moresco’s Actors Gym. Our purpose is humble: We come together to serve the playwright. There’s a group of actors and there’s a group of writers. These writers bring in 10 pages at a time of developing screenplays, new plays, and television pilots, things like that, and the actors cold-read the writers’ work. But, you know, I’ve worked with really famous people, and I’ve had some experiences in life that not a lot of people have gotten to have. I’m always grateful for everything—even the parts where I really suck out loud. I think it’s an important life lesson to fail. There’s so much to be developed as a human being that, without failure, you can’t really have a clear picture of your whole self.

Very true. Well, you seem to have become the consummate character actor...
I studied to be a character actor. When I was in my 20s I really saw the writing on the wall. A lot of the TV stars at the height of their series were absolutely gorgeous⎯I mean, really gorgeous. Then as they aged, less and less was offered to them, and their efforts to stay in the news became a little more desperate. I didn’t want to be like that. And I went to study with the iconic, late, great Stella Adler. She really was tough on actors—especially blonde television actresses, hello! [Laughs] But she knew how to approach a script in such a way that she saw it through the character’s point of view. So I studied with her to get monster acting training, with the focus of developing my character skills, so that when my butt dropped and my ankles got thick, I’d have something to offer. Look, I just want to grow old gracefully. And here I am.

So you’re still acting, but you’re also now an experienced teacher. I love the fact that you offer acting classes in person and via Skype! How did that all come about?
Well, about the year 2000, the Stella Adler studio here in Los Angeles recruited me to teach Adler technique and scene study because I studied directly with her. At the time, there was a part of me that went, “Nooooo! I will not teach!” They said, well, why don’t you just give it a try because you really do know what you’re doing and we could use that here. And it turned out I was good at it. So, since then I taught at the Adler studio for six years, then at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, at South Coast Rep, and others. I take exception to that saying, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach,” mainly because actors have taught actors for hundreds of years. In recent years, I started teaching privately, simply because it gave me a lot more free time to attend auditions with a lot less stress. The name of the business is called Actor Muscle, and it’s been great. Working with Skype is absolutely wonderful since most auditions are put “to tape” nowadays. I’m able to hone their camera technique while digging out the character and script. A lot of people are a little suspicious of this because it’s relatively new and they do prefer the human touch. But I have to tell ya, I’ve got a client in the UK; a client in Florida; Texas; one from Italy⎯I get inquiries all the time from people of out state.

You seem to be very well-rounded in terms of your interests and hobbies. I saw somewhere that you’re into softball, and all this other great, random stuff...
Yeah, I’m a tomboy. I don’t play sports anymore, I had some shoulder surgery a few years ago and things are pretty limited for me now. But I was, once upon a time, a big athlete. I played a lot of softball, water skied, swam a lot, ran two miles a day, took ballet or dance classes two or three times a week. I was the only girl in my family, so there were always sports going on somewhere. My current husband and I met when we were both poor as rats, just trying to make it in the world. And our first date came from the fact that I still had a bag of softball equipment in my trunk. He said, “I knew there was a reason I liked you,” and we went to the park and played ball!

Sounds like my kind of date! You know, speaking of your family, I couldn’t help but notice that your daughter’s name is Kate. Any connection to Ms. Monday?
[Laughs] No, that’s a family name. My grandmother’s name was Katherine, so we named her after my dad’s mother.

Got it. Is she a student?
My daughter just left Berklee School of Music in Boston. She got her act together and just put it on the road. She recently mixed an album, and they moved to the San Francisco area to get their lives started as a band. She’s a really great singer and also plays guitar and some percussion instruments and things like that. But mostly singing. There are a lot of musicians in my family, so it runs in the bloodline.

I’ve also read that you’re a strong supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Can you tell me more about that?
I’m a big believer in what they do. I was born and raised in the South, and I can’t remember a time that I felt like there was a true difference between me and someone else because of skin color. I just didn’t see it. But I do remember countless times where I personally felt threatened, or that it was dangerous for me to have, say, an African-American friend. Now, I credit my parents with providing me with a mind and an environment free of racial prejudice, so I understand that racism is taught. I think I’ve also always had an instinctive fear of the KKK. I’m not sure where that comes from because I don’t know anybody that’s really associated with them. But, you know, the KKK is still alive and still capable of random violence. Now, there were two things that really led me to the Southern Poverty Law Center. One was I came across this powerful article in a magazine, talking about this political party back in the 50s and 60s called the Dixiecrats. It was a very powerful voting bloc at the time, mostly Southern, and a lot of members of the KKK were part of this. But then the civil rights movement came around, and it wasn’t PC anymore to be open about this affiliation. So the Dixiecrats disbanded and they went underground, assimilating into another political party. I think it’s probably safe to say it wasn’t the Democrats, because it was the Democrats who were promoting the civil rights movement. Just because they went underground, doesn’t mean they’ve gone away⎯I think they’re still in D.C. I certainly don’t think that all Republicans are racist, by the way. I’m a Democrat, but my parents were Republicans, and they obviously provided me with the environment and the mindset that did not promote racism in any way, shape, or form. That’s just my understanding of where the Dixiecrats went when they went underground. The second thing that led me to the SPLC was coming across an article on the lynching of Michael Donald in Alabama. The Alabama KKK had a long history of violence toward blacks, but the SPLC literally bankrupted them. They represented Michael Donald’s mother and family, and the court awarded Michael’s family with all of the KKK’s assets and monies, including the building where they used to have their meetings. I was so blown away by that kind of courage. I’m sure the SPLC went through all sorts of death threats while they were doing it⎯and the KKK is fully capable of implementing them. So anybody who has the balls to do that deserves my money and my attention.

Getting back to Mathnet, how does it feel to know that 25 years have come and gone since the show first aired?
Has it really been 25 years? It seems like 25 minutes ago.

Well, you certainly became an inspiration to a lot of kids. Have you been getting an influx of fan mail now that you’re on Twitter, now that there’s Facebook, and all of that?
I’ve actually always had people get in touch with me. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of letters and emails I got from people who were influenced by the show and actually segued later in their adult life into fields related to science and math. But yes, I have gotten a lot more interplay between the Mathnet and Square One TV fans as technological improvements have allowed easier access. There are a couple of die-hards that have been around for years and years, and it’s more like an ongoing acquaintance. I’ve had some bizarre experiences, too. Like when I teach at the Academy, there’s always at least one in the class who practically faints because Kate Monday is teaching! Every once in a while I’ll be on the road in a play with public question-and-answer after the performance, and it either appalls or simply surprises the rest of the cast that a whole bloc of the audience are Mathnet fans. They want to ask me questions about Mathnet, so [my colleagues] feel kinda left out.

The media landscape has changed quite a bit since 1987. Do you think an educational math show like Square One or Mathnet would have a hard time finding a place in television today?
No, I don’t. I think the fact that you had to ask that question means there’s a need for that kind of programming. What is of concern to me, especially because I teach, is that many of my students are truly lacking in reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. They can’t spell, they can’t cognitively figure things out. They don’t want to logically think things through to the end, they want the answer to be given to them. I’ve actually witnessed kids using their cell phone calculators in math classes. And how many times have you gone into a grocery store, and they don’t know how to count back change? They’re waiting for the machine to tell them what it is. Technology has great tools to keep the accounting books up, but it can also be a crutch that keeps a person from really being able to be an independent thinker, self reliant, self sufficient. So, yes, I think there’s a huge need for it.

I’ve been having a lot of fun watching some of the old Mathnet episodes on YouTube. Do you ever go back and watch the recordings?
Yeah, I have the original tapes, but they’re all on VHS. I’ve had some difficulty finding DVDs, but one of the people on the Square One TV Facebook page led me to a site where I could order those. I can only get five, but they’re five good ones. And yeah, I do watch them every once in a while. It’s really fun! My husband loves to poke fun at my 80s hair.

Do you have a favorite episode?
Every single one of them was an absolute delight to do, but I do have a favorite. In addition to vaudeville, I’m also a huge film noir buff. So I really, really loved “The Trial of George Frankly,” simply because it’s an homage to The Maltese Falcon. It’s just a personal favorite of mine, and Joe did a great job in that.

Okay, last question: Have you guys ever talked about a reunion show?
You know, there’s always some talk about that, and Joe and I are more than willing to be a part of it. But it never quite forms. Maybe with this 25th anniversary thing, it’ll happen!

Continue to Curious George: An interview with Mathnet’s Joe Howard

Continue to Talking With Tuesday: A Conversation with Mathnet’s Toni DiBuono

Cast painting by Jim Auckland. “Crime Scene” cartoon by XKCD. LEGO “Mathnet” by pixbymaia.