Gack & Flem, extraterrestrial latex puppets who just happen to be the ultimate showbiz insiders

By on March 16, 2018

Early on in this episode from 1992 — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — host Tom Juarez promises to show viewers “an exclusive preview of the future of television info-tainment.”

Juarez then introduces us to Gack and Flem, “a pair of extraterrestrial latex puppets who just happen to be the ultimate showbiz insiders.”

GACKFLEM7

Gack & Flem were created by Dave Pressler and Dan Clark, a couple of improv comedians who’d both moved to L.A. in the early ’90s.

Night Flight reached out to Dave Pressler — who today works at DreamWorks Animation — to get the story behind “Gack and Flem’s Hollywood”:

“Dan and I spent quite a bit of time hanging out in my apartment trying to come up with how we could make something original and different for TV. It was the age of “Liquid TV” on MTV and Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Animation Festival. Interesting visual mediums were becoming mainstream and yet still considered alternative entertainment.

“We were thinking of some kind of celebrity interview show, but with puppets. They had to be kind of clueless and naïve about Hollywood.”

“I made a bunch of sketches and we came up with the ideas for Gack and Flem, two aliens in Hollywood, fleshy-looking made-of-plastic type puppets.”

GACKFLEM5

“On a shuttle bus to LAX, Dan had shared a ride with master SFX creator Stephan Chiodo. They had a big discussion about Steve’s last film, Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

Dan and I were big fans. The Chiodo Brothers had also made Gremlin puppets for the movie Gremlins, and the Critter creatures.

Steve invited Dan to come check out the Chiodo Brothers Productions shop, where he was able to have a sculptor who would freelance the puppets for $500, which, at the time, was a huge amount of money for us!”

GACKFLEM14

“Once they were made we just needed a professional camera, and editing and some some graphics. It was so much harder back then to make something, especially if you wanted it to be broadcast quality!”

“Dan had recently gotten a gig writing shorts for “Night Flight” – the first two he made were I Harold, cut together with footage from Todd Browning’s Freaks and narrated by Dan, and the second, Larry The Dinosaur, was cut together from The Lost World from 1925, which was voiced by Dan and I. It was fun stuff at the time.”

GACKFLEM1a

Pressler: “Dan was Gack and I was Flem” (photo courtesy of Dave Pressler)

Read more about Gack & Flem below

IDevices-For-NF-web

Hey! Do you have a Night Flight Plus subscription?

We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!



GACKFLEM9

Pressler:

“It seemed logical that if we shot some interviews, and ran around town and shot some improvised on the street bits, that we could have a demo tape to pitch a bigger show idea to “Night Flight,” MTV, whoever we could sell it to.”

“We made contact with a professional camera man who was game to do some running around and shooting with us, knowing that if we sold the show it would be a bigger gig for him. Shooting around Hollywood with no permits was a bit easier back then, and since it was man-on-the-street interview style we didn’t need fancy lights or anything.”

“Also, you could get people to talk to a couple of weird guys with puppets asking stupid questions. You would just be low-key until you started shooting, then keep going until someone asked you to leave.”

GACKFLEM8

“We had some connections to Fox Kids — Dan had written a couple of scripts for some pre-school shows they were producing. We lied a bit to the publicity department and got an interview with Corin Nemec of ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,’ a popular TV show at the time.”

“The Fox publicity folks were also trying to get us to interview the cast of a new show that was about to go on the air, “Beverly Hills 90210,” but we said no, we had never heard of it.”

GACKFLEM11

“Billy Barty was another big score for us, he was very into it. We had also gotten an interview lined up with Gore Vidal at one of his book signings, but once the publicist saw us coming at them with our puppets she was like ‘No fucking way, get out!'”

After all of our wheeling and dealing we finally had a finished tape and we were pretty happy with it, but when we pitched it to Night Flight, they were underwhelmed and could still only come up with $200 per episode. There was no way we could get all that work done for that much money, the camera guy alone would probably get $200 a segment.”

GACKFLEM15

“I believe we let them air what we had done because we needed some $$$, but we wanted to pitch it to MTV, maybe even an up-and-coming Comedy Central.”

“The good thing of all this was that — even if Gack & Flem never took off as its own show — we could use the demo tape to get bigger meetings, more opportunities. It was a big springboard for our careers, and, also, in making this little show we proved to ourselves that we could really do this kind of work.”

Thanks, Dave!

GACKFLEM13

In 1999, Dan Clark told Ain’t It Cool they were able to get a development deal at MTV and HBO and NBC.

Pressler, meanwhile, ended up at the Jim Henson Company, where he became a key production/character designer on “Los Luchadores” and “Brats of the Lost Nebula.”

Watch this episode of “Gack & Flem’s Hollywood” — and other bits of early ’90s Night Flight ephemera — on Night Flight Plus!

GAKFLEMFEATURED

 

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.