M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr may be known for his comedic role as Maxwell Q. Klinger, but he had a lot of comedic inspiration before landing the part. Farr is also a comedian himself and has played multiple comedic characters aside from Klinger.
In 2011, Farr sat down with The Star to discuss his life and career. In the interview, he discussed his favorite comedians.
“Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Bob Hope and — best of all — Red Skelton. I was so crazy about him. When his movie of DuBarry Was a Lady came to our movie theatre I broke open my piggy bank to get the 12 cents I needed to see it. I didn’t tell my Mom. I sat through it twice and got a spanking when I got home. But a few years later, Red Skelton would be my sole support,” he explained.
Farr and Red Skelton actually wound up working together before Farr got drafted for the Korean war. He had incredibly sweet words for Red Skelton. The M*A*S*H actor described him as “the greatest clown. My hero, my mentor. He could make you laugh and cry in the same sketch.”
Farr Feels Alan Alda was ‘The Spine’ of ‘M*A*S*H’
When Farr got the part of Klinger, he didn’t know what he was signing up for. First, he had no idea that his character was going to wear women’s clothes. Second, he didn’t realize he’d become such a recurring character. He initially wasn’t supposed to be on the show that much, but producers loved his performance so much that they kept him on for a while.
This meant he got to spend a lot of time on set, and with Hawkeye actor Alan Alda. Hawkeye wasn’t only the main character of the show, but Alda was multi-talented and did a lot of other work behind the camera. Alda also wrote for and directed some of the episodes of M*A*S*H.
Farr said in an interview with The Archive of American Television that Alda was “the spine” of the show. But all that responsibility didn’t take away his kindness towards his other cast members. He was supposed “very generous.” And the whole cast loved to laugh together between takes. Alda wrote 19 episodes in total and directed 32.
Alan Alda and Jamie Farr were a part of a talented cast that brought the record-breaking show to millions. Its series finale, titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen is the most-watched live scripted episode of all time. Alda took part in the writing process and also directed the episode.
The frenzy to watch M*A*S*H was so intense that it almost overloaded New York City’s sewage system, with everyone taking a bathroom break after the episode was over. The cast even noticed that the streets were eerily quiet as they went out to dinner to celebrate: everyone was at home, watching them.