How Alan Alda's dad shaped Hawkeye's sense of humor

Robert Alda brought his son onstage and taught him the art of jokes.

For whatever reason, we all love reading about when actors are similar to their characters. Like "truth in advertisement" or some other Great American promise, there's something satisfying about a performance that draws from real life. The authenticity is palpable; we can feel the honesty reflected through the character.

It should follow, then, that there's something special about learning how "Hawkeye" Pierce was pretty similar to Alan Alda. Both seemingly had a similar forthright rascal persona that allowed for a funnybone and a heart of gold. It seems like they stood up for what is right, with both character and actor driven by a real sense of moral fortitude.

One similarity between Hawkeye and the actor who portrayed him is their closeness to their fathers. In M*A*S*H's "Dear Dad," Hawkeye writes home to his Dad at Christmastime, relating back to him what everything was like being a doctor in the 4077th. There was something very believable in Alda's performance, and it turns out he was pretty tight with his Dad, too.

Fans familiar with Alda's biographical details will recall that his father, Robert Alda, brought Alan on stage for the first time when Alan was just six months old. In a 1982 interview with The Boston Globe, Alan Alda recalled those early, formative comedy experiences.

"I would watch my father and his friends perform. My earliest memories are the burlesque comics, the straight men, the chorus dancers, the strippers. They were all very warm people, all friends of the family."

In addition to familiarizing the young Alda with the limelight, Robert taught his son how to tell jokes.

"He'd be Abbott and I'd be Costello," said Alan. "We'd do the whole 'Who's on first?' routine."

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6 Comments

JHP 3 months ago
seeing those two together on a few eps - you's never know about humor
Wiseguy70005 JHP 3 months ago
You didn't see "them." You saw the characters they were portraying saying words scripted by writers.
JHP Wiseguy70005 3 months ago
okee-dokee
LoveMETV22 3 months ago
Good article. It's nice to hear that Alan and his Dad had that close bond.
Also the:
"We'd do the whole 'Who's on first?' routine."
is a good homage to Abbott and Costello. Wonder how many times that routine has played out in film or TV ? Dustin Hoffman did a good version of it in "Rain Man."
daDoctah LoveMETV22 3 months ago
Do you count the version on Animaniacs when Slappy and Skippy Squirrel attend Woodstock? "Who's on stage? No, Who's up next; right now it's the Band. Who's the Band? The one on stage. That's right; and then Who's on next."
LoveMETV22 daDoctah 3 months ago
Wasn't counting or keeping a log of the routine, more curiosity. However wouldn't be surprised if there is an article somewhere that mentions how many times the routine has been redone, whether in film or on television.
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