“Snicker, Chuckle:” Terry Winkelmann Interviews Walt Jaschek, 1994

Flashbacks, Press Coverage, Process, TV Promotion

southtownword-waltjaschek-lowrez

This article by Terry Winkelmann first appeared on the front page of the St. Louis Southtown Word newspaper on August 11, 1994. The photo of Walt and Adam Jaschek is by Nate Silver. It was summer. That was our backyard patio.  Adam was 11. 

Snicker, Chuckle

Southside resident generates worldwide laughs

By Terry Winkelmann

If you watch CBS or Fox during prime-time or NBC late night, chances are good that you’ve laughed at Walt Jaschek – or at least his work.

The advertising agency of Paul & Walt Worldwide specializes in tickling the funny bones of radio television audiences. The St. Louis-half of the duo –– lives and works in a three-story brick house in quiet Clifton Heights. His partner, Paul Fey, works out of a high-rise on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Jaschek, a former advertising executive at Southwestern Bell Telephone, writes commercials for some of the top brands in the country, including Cadillac and Anheuser-Busch Cos. But possibly his most recognized effects are his television promotions. He’s done work for NBC, specifically spots for Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, but for the past three years, the firm’s biggest clients has been CBS. Earlier this year, Fox Broadcasting signed Jaschek to create a national radio campaign for “The Simpsons.”

Jaschek and Fey, who met in their undergraduate days at UMSL, teamed up in 1991. The partnership has won the critical acclaim of most advertising and entertainment industry organizations. Last year, the team won five Ollie awards at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s 33rd Annual International Broadcasting Awards. They’ve also scored two Clio awards, three Addys and a dozen International Broadcasting awards, among others.

“It’s fun to be part of the national entertainment scene,” says Jaschek.

It’s also fun to work at home, autonomously. That leaves this father of two free to squire his son, Adam, to swimming lessons during the summer. Adam Jaschek also helps Dad review new series and is also the first line critic on shows and certain promotional spots. When the sitcoms “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Family Matters” debuted, Adam saw the pilots before any of his classmates did. The network frequently sends by overnight express videos of new series for Jaschek to examine. Not only do his spots garner a show attention during a season, the commercials can affect its initial acceptance.

When first setting up shop in his basement, he went door to door telling his neighbors he’d be working from home. One resident responded with relief. “Oh good,” the man said. “I thought you were on a really long vacation.”

Jaschek confesses he had “no formal training” in TV promotion. Once he stumbled on the specialty, courtesy opportunities brought in by partner Fey, he simply realized “how fun it was and how many of my skills, some useless until that point, came into play.” Writing humorous promos “just evolved,” he says.

Writing a campaign can up to a week, but sometimes he has just 24-hours to come up with 60 seconds of knee-slapping wit. That’s when the glamour of working at home wanes. In the early days of Paul & Walt Worldwide, he recalls, “I worked morning, noon, night and weekends… I was totally consumed.”

These days, having settled into somewhat of a routine, he doesn’t start writing until 2 p.m. “In the morning, I’m watching pilots, taking notes, getting Adam to swimming lessons, brainstorming with partner Paul, letting the dog out…” But after 2 p.m., he gets cranking.

Just a year ago, Jaschek wrote 100 percent of the material his produces – approximately 500 commercials a year. Now he shares the work with another writer in the five-person Sunset Boulevard offices headed by Paul Fey.

Once he’s written the scripts, he sends them to L.A. via modem. “Paul prints them out and presents them to CBS,” he says.

Fey then produces the approved scripts, supervising the casting, directing and editing, in state-of-the-art recording studios in the L.A. office of Paul & Walt Worldwide. Once the approved spots are completed, the network ships them out to radio networks and stations nationally.

“CBS thinks it’s funny that I live in St. Louis,” Jaschek says. A few years ago, I would have had to live in L.A. to do what I do. But today, for all the difference it makes, “I could be in the office down the hall, across town or St. Louis.”

With Los Angeles two hours behind St. Louis time, Jaschek’s hours are also longer. “I feel like a really, really remote suburb of L.A.”

Relocating is not in the cards, he insists. “I love St. Louis. My extended family is here, and it’s a pleasant places, lush, green – and not crowded.”

Working from home is an “accountability thing,” he says. “People take responsibility for their own works, ideas and lives” when the clock that’s running is their own.

Jaschek has just completed a screenplay, is working on a comic book, and is a guest lecturer at Webster University. In short: “I’m having a blast,” he says.

walt-and-adam-jaschek-1994

Walt Jaschek used to have a mustache.

 

“Walt Jaschek and His Basement Humor”: St. Louis Business Journal article

Clippings, Flashbacks, Press Coverage, Process

Basement office? Check. VHS tapes stacked and labeled? Check. Mac SE powered up? Check. White turtleneck with sleeves rolled up? Check. Let’s write!

Article By Patricia Miller, from The St. Louis Business Journal, Jan. 28. 1991:

stlouisbusinessjournal-part1

businessjournalarticle-part2a

Walt Jaschek and his basement humor

by Patricia Miller

What strikes Walt Jaschek as funny in his southside basement often ends up on national radio.

Jaschek, 35, writer radio advertising, including national radio campaigns promoting CBS Television Network and Warner Brothers programs. His firm, Walt Now, is based in the basement of his home on Columbia Avenue.

“I figure that if it makes me laugh here in the basement, it probably works,” Jaschek said.

No only does it work, but it has also earned the St. Louis native local, regional and national attention and an number of Clio and Addy advertising awards, which line the steps of the walls leading to his basement.

“We create mind movies,” Jaschek said. “With radio, the audience is already there — you just supply the visuals.”

Larry and LaVerne, the couple addicted to the Jeopardy game show, are Jaschek’s creation. Jaschek developed the characters as pat of a story lien to promote the CBS game show for radio. (A third character, “Trebecka,” is in the making, Jaschek hinted.)

In another radio spot for the game show, Jaschek describes how “darn hard” it is to win at Jeopardy. 

“I mean these categories! ‘Civil War Snack Foods!’ Famous Gynecologists! Medieval Flossing Techniques!’…”

Jaschek’s link to “Hollywood” is his college buddy, Paul Fey, a St. Louis native who at one time worked for KMOX-TV and is a producer in Los Angeles. They have collaborated on advertising projects since Jaschek “took the plunge off the 38th floor” of Southwestern Bell Corp. (where he was advertising manager) into freelancing in 1988.

The two University of Missouri-St. Luis grads are formalizing their informal business relationship this month under the name of Paul & Walt Worldwide, according to Jaschek, who said they work well together  since they share “an inclination toward audio humor.”

“We brainstorm together,” Fey said. “But the way it has evolved, Walt does the lion’s share of the writing and while his is writing I’m producing the last spot he wrote.”

The two partners have completed hundreds or radio spots over the past two years, by way of phone, fax and modem, according to Fey. He declined to disclose the their revenues, but said a typical CBS Network radio spots runs about $9000 to $10,000 from concept to completion.

In some of those spots, Jaschek wrote scripts for the TV actors to promote their own programs, which has inspired him to do do bigger projects.

“Since I’ve done a one-minute script for the Golden Girls, I believe I can multiply that by 22 minutes,” he said. “I’d like to transition from promoting the project to doing own product, namely a TV sitcom.”

Jaschek’s resumes includes public service announcements for the American Optometric Association and the city of St. Lous Operation Brightside, as well as comic strips for Marvel Comics and his own original comic strip, Dang Gnats!

His resume also includes a theme song for the state of Missouri which he developed for Kenrick Advertising. Jaschek set the song to a country and western theme calling on tourists to “relax and refresh” in Missouri enabling him to let loose the frustrated country western songwriter in himself, he said.

The theme song and other single market humor are often much more difficult than writing national humor, according to Jaschek, who counts as his early models Monty Python, the early Second City / Saturday Night Live crew, Warner Brothers cartoons and the early Mad magazine.

“It’s a challenge to write something that is funny in Seattle, Miami, New York and Los Angeles, but single market humor is harder — you really have to know the market.

Jaschek descends into his office at about 8:30 every morning Monday through Friday. Mornings are typically spent on logistics, and always include at least one phone call to Fey in Los Angeles.

The answering machine is turned on in the afternoon during which time Jaschek “hibernates” while he goes on an “intense writing blitz to meet the daily 5 p.m. script deadlines. He then picks the pace back up again from 9 p.m. to midnight, working on the next day’s assignment or other freelance.

— End Story, January 28, 1991

Walt Jaschek wishes social media had been around when he was interesting