Growing up here in the suburbs of New York in the pre-digital cable, pre-internet '80s, we didn't get to witness California legend Wally George and his, erm, one of a kind talk show The Hot Seat firsthand. (Don't cry for us, Orange County: we were given George's arch-nemesis, Morton Downey, Jr, instead.) In fact, I'd never heard of George until I was doing some insomniac trawling around YouTube the other night.
George was quite the sight: there's no way on God's green Earth that's not a wig, no matter how vehemently he denied being bald. He was also (ah, how should I put this) rather flamboyant for a guy who did so much gay-bashing. Essentially, he was a variant on Downey's proto-Fox News shtick, only with a peculiarly fey arrogance in place of Morton’s chain-smoking thuggery.
Make no mistake: The Hot Seat is a hoot and a half, and I’d certainly recommend YouTubing it at your earliest convenience. As an adjunct to his main show, George also hosted a half-hour phone-in show. As you’d imagine, the thing was a magnet for prank callers; what makes it truly mandatory viewing is George’s reactions to his tormentors. Rather than ignoring them, making short shrift of them, or hiring a halfway decent call screener, he seemed to delight in informing them vehemently of their lack of intelligence, sometimes going so far as to flash them one of his '80s Print Shop-created signs. Some intrepid YouTuber has compiled literally hours worth of this; that may be overkill, but you should give the sample embedded here ten minutes of your time. There’s something pathetically mesmerizing about it that words can’t quite describe, and it's easily become my go-to laugh of the week.
Sadly, Wally left us for the big talk show in the sky back in 2003. That’s truly a shame: it takes a very special kind of character to make me want to place my first post-puberty prank call.