Daily Variety is reporting Emmy winner Barry E. Blitzer, who wrote on the first half-hour Hanna-Barbera shows, has died at the age of 80.
He was interviewed by Earl Kress about his work on Top Cat. It’s on the Top Cat DVD set but if you don’t have it, you can see it here.
Barry’s background was different from that of people like Warren Foster, Mike Maltese and Tony Benedict. They all could draw storyboards as they had been artists at one point. Barry was like Joanna Lee, Harvey S. Bullock and a few others—he was a sitcom writer, not a cartoonist. Barry stated he was hired to write for the Bilko-like Top Cat because he had been a writer for Phil Silvers on the Bilko show, but he stayed with the company and wrote a couple of Jetsons the following year. In fact, he put together the script for my favourite Jetsons episode with Uniblab. He continued to write sitcoms after being hired at Hanna-Barbera, joking how he got pegged as a “service comedy” guy because of Bilko, thus finding employment on McHale’s Navy and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Barry Blitzer also had experience in that one-time television staple—the variety show. It seems everyone who could sing but couldn’t do sketch comedy, or everybody who could do sketch comedy but couldn’t sing, was handed a network variety show, requiring them to both sing and perform sketch comedy. Blitzer and partner Ray Brenner were head writers for The Jimmie Rogers Show, which was basically a place for Carol Burnett to park her supporting cast (minus Harvey Korman) in the summer of 1969. There’s always the possibility he penned the immortal opening screech “Hi! I’m Glen Campbell!” since he wrote for Campbell’s variety show, too. Blitzer also had experience in that one-time record industry staple—the comedy album. He and Brenner created one in the ‘60s about how Jews deal with Christmas.
Not only did he work on Bilko—and you had to be good to write on that show—no less than the picky Sid Caesar hired him and Brenner to develop a comedy called “Our Man Schmidlap” in 1970.
In Barry’s later years, he turned to newspaper work and was a humour columnist for the Post in Pacific Palisades, where he died. In one column, he joked “the parking situation has gotten so bad around St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church that even St. Matthew himself has a problem.” Not boffo, yuck-it-up humour, but a gentle play on words nonetheless.
You can read his Variety obit here.