‘M*A*S*H’: One Actor Performed for World War II Soldiers as a Young Child

by Joe Rutland
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A lot of veteran actors filled the TV screen when “M*A*S*H” was shown on CBS. One of them was performing in public as a child.

Alan Alda, who played “Hawkeye” Pierce on the war-centric sitcom, talked about working with his father in front of soldiers during World War II.

Alda discusses the experience during an interview with Michael Rosen for the Archive of American Television.

He said that he and actor Robert Alda, his father, would perform sketches made famous by the comic team of Abbott and Costello. Alda remembers the duo from their early days on television and before that in burlesque.

‘M*A*S*H’ Star Performs Classic Comedy Sketch With His Father

Robert Alda, who also spent time in burlesque, knew their sketches like “Who’s on First?” which is a comedy classic. Alda, by the way, did appear with his son Alan in one episode of “M*A*S*H.”

The elder Alda played Capt. Anthony Borelli in “Lend a Hand” from the show’s eighth season.

“So when the war was on and I was about nine years old,” Alan Alda said, “I would go with my father to the Hollywood Canteen where we would perform for the soldiers and sailors, sometimes a couple of thousand people.”

Alda said it was the first time he performed in public and based on the timing, he was somewhere between 6 and 10 years old. “We did ‘Who’s on First?’ and I did the part that Lou Costello had done and my father did Bud Abbott’s part,” he said.

“Great writing,” Rosen said.

“Well it’s a classic sketch, a classic joke,” Alda, who appeared on “M*A*S*H” through its entire 11-season run, said. “The misunderstanding that the comic has is really the misunderstanding that’s at the basis of a lot of jokes. Different words but the same idea, same thoughts.”

Maybe you’d like to see Abbott and Costello perform the comedy routine. Well, here you go.

Costar Of Alan Alda Would Work With Him On Improving Scenes

When it comes to improving his work on the screen, Alan Alda didn’t mind doing it. His one-time “M*A*S*H” costar Wayne Rogers worked with him as well.

Rogers, who played “Trapper” John McIntyre for three seasons, recalls taking time to even repeat already-done scenes. They did this so they could improve their work.

He was asked during an interview for Pop Goes The Culture TV if he watched the show after he left.

“This is going to be terrible,” Rogers said. “I never watched the show. I would go to the dailies.”

So would Alda. They went, Rogers said, “to see, to learn. To see if we told the jokes right or if we did it right.” In watching the dailies, Rogers and Alda worked together away from the set.

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