Comedian, Host And More

Remembering Bill Geddie

“You’ll never work with a man like Bill Geddie again.” – Rick Figalora

Bill Geddie was the co-creator of The View and executive producer of the Barbara Walters Specials passed away last week at the age of 68.

The set up on my career is . . . Janette Barber and Rosie O’Donnell recommended me to Bill Geddie and Barbara Walters to do warm up at The View.  The job was supposed to last 2 weeks . . . and I did 12 years at The View and 16 years at ABC if we count the freelancing and pandemic years.

A lot of people have written wonderful Facebook tributes to him.  Words like pioneer and trailblazer and mentor have been used.  All are accurate.

He was a leader.  

For all of his accomplishments, what always struck me about him was 6’5 and Oklahoman / Texan and a gentleman.  He always let the women out of the elevator first. 

He knew how to get the best out of me.  He let Tom Kelly be Tom Kelly (within reason).  He gave me the resources I needed to energize the crowd in the way that I could do it.  He let me produce a silly little talk show during the commercials where audience members interviewed the ladies.  He gave me tips on how to interact with Barbara whom I loved, was kind to me, yet I was often shy around.

He let me pitch ideas for the show and for myself to be on TV.  He responded to 90% at odd hours of the evening with notes.

If I am owning who I am.  I’m a comedian who is desperate for attention and recognition.  In many ways, I was the stereotype of Lucille Ball always trying to get Ricky Ricardo.

I have a killer demo reel that has gets me work.  I owe lots of that reel to him.

He was a genius worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award.  He sensibilities were a mix of old time Hollywood, Rock and Roll and modern pop culture.

He would go to drink with the staff two or three times a year.  And a few times, I got lucky enough to corner him and listen.

Pieces of wisdom Bill gave me at different points:

1) Bigger.  

It was his note from my first day auditioning at The View.  I asked “How did I do? “He said it needs to be “bigger”.  That one word . . . had an impact on my entire act and career.

When I do warm up for a TV show, I yell out in a big voice “Who wants to In some ways my little catch phrase “Who wants to be on TV today?” was my tongue in cheek response to the word “bigger”.  

2). You need to learn how to manage the people above you.

I remember the moment.  I think it was the day Whoopi Goldberg got hired.  The room is full of press.  Bill is sitting with legendary stage manager Rob Bruce Baron.  If you think about it, managing up is a skill we all need.  How do Basketball Coaches, stage managers and movie producers do it.

3) When I had trouble picking between two job offers.  His line was “If I found two equal job offers and couldn’t choose between the two.  Follow the money.  At least then you will know why you did it.”

4) Make Sparks.  I don’t know if that was his advice or not.  But it was a sign that hung up in the View studio.  Honestly, I don’t think I really paid attention to it until when I started podcasting.  Sometimes, I’ll do a boring whiny show and think . . . “There were no sparks.

5) There was a poem hanging up in one of the dressing room hallways.  He never showed it to me but I was told it was a tradition that he’d show it to View guest hosts.

Let Your Remarks Be Of Your Own Invention

Let your remarks be of your own invention.

Don’t say “It’s a hot day” …to the ice-man.

Don’t say “I like pie” …everybody likes pie.

Don’t say “It’s a cold world” everybody says that and it isn’t true anyway.

Say something entirely new.

Say something worthwhile …

And the world will pay real money to hear it.

-Author Unknown

I wasn’t the best of friends with him.  For as much as I owe to Bill Geddie, I feel I owe quite a few people.

I once joked at Bill’s party when he left “The View” that “There are a lot of people here who project their Daddy Issues on you.  I’m proud to be one of them.” 

He was someone I wanted to make proud.

He was someone a lot of people wanted to make proud.

Simple advice from Bill . . . like the word Bigger influenced my career.  It sounds so trite but I loved having him as a Facebook friend.  Every now and again, I’d post something.  He’d reply.  He’d make that post smarter.  He actually gave a note on Ryan Seacrest taking over for Wheel of Fortune that made my silly little podcast better.

He made us all better at what we do . . . and yeah we wanted to make him proud.  

I hope he was of his influence on me.

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