A Chicago Success Story


The Illegitimate Players On TV

Produced by: GROUP W CABLE , The Illegitimate Players and Banshee Productions

After the stage success of "Near Northside Story", followed up by a Chicago Emmy for the televised production to The Illegitimate Players, they were again approached by Group W Cable. This time the cable company proposed they mount a television series for the tri-state area. The premise was left wide open to whatever they wished to do, so naturally they chose to mock and belittle television. And so they did.

For 26 weeks The Illegitimate Players wrote and performed their sketches and longer pieces. It was a hectic pace to produce these episodes, given all the other projects they were involved with, but they thoroughly enjoyed “revving up the writing mobile and running amuck in a demolition derby of yuk's.”

The taping schedule consisted of performing four episodes, once a month. Afterwards, members Keith Cooper and Doug Armstrong would spend up to a week with the in-house editor forging the material into something watchable.

The premise of the show was told in the opening credits, that the members of The Illegitimate Players were switched as babies with those who would go on to star in "Mamma's Family" and it was their sworn obligation to pirate cable stations throughout the land to bring their intended fame to the big screen.

The members of The Illegitimate Players On TV were as follows:

Maureen FitzPatrick
Tom Wilmorth
Kathy Jenson
Doug Armstrong
Maureen Morley
Keith Cooper

Music by: David Whitehouse
Stage Manager / Producer: Kate Giblin
Technical / Sound: Jeff Tamraz

And the technicians and crew of Group W Cable.

Some wonderful guests during the run included:

Steve and Leo  (My Dog Skip, The Santa Claus)
Will Clinger  (Host: Wild Chicago)
Marcia Wilke (Donny & Marie, Marie and Friends, Behind the Smail)
Sue Cargill (Chicago Women in Comedy, Playwright, Artist)
Romie Angelich(Stand-up, Chicago Women in Comedy)
Bill Gorgo(Stand-up / Emcee)
Jeff Rosenthal(Improv guru / Best damn Woody Allen ever.)

Each episode would open with a fake show-in-progress which would abruptly cut to static and followed by the opening theme credits which explained the intentions of the self-proclaimed cable pirates.

"Probably the most fun was running around before taping", recalls member Keith Cooper, "and changing lines and adding entirely new ideas, then witnessing the director and camera crew fretting and anticipating an inevitable disaster. Then we would miraculously pull it all together live and have the last laugh.”

“What was particularly nail-biting, yet fun, was taping the cold openings for the pre-credit ‘fake shows’ as we never gave them any thought until minutes before letting in the live audience. So it was a chaotic scramble when the director called for them. We would be grabbing wigs and anything sitting around and four totally random show clips were born. Memorable clips such as "Nuns with Guns."'

Despite the less-than-stellar production values, and a very dicey broadcast schedule, enough viewers patiently accepted those quirks and followed the series faithfully enough to recognize members around town now and then. . 

Copyright 2012 - Keith Cooper / Cooperweb