It has been said that a radio station is only as good as its commercials. That axiom has served Paul Fey and Walt Jaschek well.
Widely acclaimed for their sharp sense of humor, the team is nationally recognized as the creative genius behind a number of radio spots promoting the seasonal lineup of shows for TV networks.
Their client list includes King World, Warner Brothers Television, 20th Century Television and CBS Television Network.
“If a commercial is boring and doesn’t hold their attention, we can’t blame them if they reach up and hit the button on the car radio,” said Paul Fey, founding partner of Paul & Walt Worldwide. “We want to stop them in their tracks.”
Fey and Jaschek have been on the laugh track since high school, winning some 400 awards for excellence in commercial production, including three Clios and two regional Emmys. The team walked award with the five Ollies in one evening, setting a record for the most awards won by one company in the Hollywood Radio & Television Society’s annual presentation.
One Ollie was presented for a Paul & Walt commercial, “Auditions,” in which Patrick Stewart is among the voices trying out for the part of Jean Luc Picard in “Star Trek.”
Of all the awards (which stream in at a rate of 50 a year), Fey is most partial to the team’s first Clio. Fey aspired to win a Clio since his high school years, and recalls vividly the magic feeling of creating the spot.
It was a radio ad featuring a “catalog” of types of laughter. “The whole spot was kind of invented on Walt’s front porch. It just sort of came out… It wrote itself,” he said.
What keeps this team on the leading edge? “We never want to get satisfied with doing the same thing,” Fey said, pointing out that too many comedy teams rely on formulaic humor.
“Once upon a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, funny dialogue radio spots were what broke through the clutter. Now, I feel that funny dialogue spots are becoming the clutter, because there is so much of it out there,” Fey said.
Radio in particular lends itself to production-oriented spots, where a hybrid of audio effects, humor and dialogue work together. “It’s much easier to do a gigantic-scale production on radio because a lot of it is letting people’s minds fill it in,” he said.
A recent Paul & Walt commercial for a cellular telephone carrier, for example, camped up the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” with a polka beat accompanied by amusing dialogue, delivered in a deadpan voice:
“I get around, so I signed up for voice mail. I used to leery about sending voice mail. I wasn’t sure if I was putting enough stamps on it.”
As the music cut in and out abruptly, the deadpan voice again speaks up:
“Voice mail is easy. Think of it as rolling up a yellow sticky-note, jamming it into your cellular phone, and having it pop out somewhere else.”
Life begins for a Paul & Walt spot with an idea, either dreamed up by Fey, the production genius of the team, or Jaschek, the primary writer. Fey works from the Paul & Walt Worldwide office in Los Angeles, while Jaschek works from his office in St. Louis, the city where they both grew up.
They communicate through faxes and computer modems to tighten ideas, copy and production of radio ads.
The spot takes life in the imagination long before it is committed to tape. “It’s no exaggeration for me to say that I know exactly what a spot sounds like before it’s recorded,” Fey said. “The key is trying to put on tape what’s in my head.”
Paul & Walt fleshes out the characters, relying on a pool of creative talent from an audio studio in the same building as its Los Angeles office.
“People get accustomed to thinking of radio in a certain way,” said Fey, who claims the company owes its success to breaking those conventions. The plan for the future is to continue carving out new niches in radio commercials.
Paul & Walt Worldwide is now working on a project that Fey hopes will set a new milestone in how people perceive radio. He was mum about who the client is and the product, saying only that he is not bound to the conventions of 30 or 60 seconds for the spots.
“We’ve barely scratched the surface of what we can do with radio,” he said.
In this article by Patricia Miller reprinted from The St. Louis Business Journal, Jan. 28. 1991, Walt Jaschek reveals the source of his “basement humor:” his below-ground home office.
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
This story by Maureen O’Donnell appeared in the March 6, 1989, edition of Adweek magazine.
A Big Hand for the Little Agency: Two Fledgling Shops Take St. Louis Addys by Storm
By Maureen O’Donnell
ST. LOUIS – The staffers at two small, young agencies had trouble applauding at the St. Louis Addys. It wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm. Their hands were so full of awards, they couldn’t clap.
“We kept passing them down the row and juggling them,” recalls Pamela Barnes, office manager at the Puckett Group. “It was hard to applaud after a while.”
The Puckett Group and another little known St. Louis agency, Jaschek Ink, stole the show here last month. Jaschek won three gold and two Best of Show Awards after submitting only three entries. The Puckett Group nabbed nine gold awards, more than St. Louis’ two oldest, largest agencies combined: D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Gardner. Puckett Group also won a Best of Show.
Walt Jaschek’s head is still spinning from the recognition. His freelance copywriting agency, with a staff of one – the boss – won’t even celebrate its first birthday until next month.
“I wish I could be hip and blase about it,” said Jaschek, 33, “but I must admit I called my Mom at the crack of dawn and said, “Mom! Guess what!”
Jaschek won Best of Show in radio for a 60-second spot boosting the TV show George Schlatter’s Comedy Club, featuring the sounds of different types of laughs, from the “East Coast Schmooze” to the “Glasnost Giggle.”
Jaschek’s Best of Show print collateral ad, announcing his agency’s opening, was a spoof of a warm, personal note. It was a form letter.
Before opening his company last April, Jaschek was a creative director at the Flynn Group in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “It was a small, hot shop, and that was fun,” Jaschek says. He went on to work in advertising management at Southwestern Bell in St. Louis, handling copywriting and collateral materials such as brochures.
Southwestern Bell is among his freelance clients todays, as are Eveready Battery Co., Anheuser Busch, Monsanto, CBS and NBC.
“Radio is my obession, and radio is what I do best,” Jaschek said. “It engages your intelligence.” His influences include the Monty Python comedy troupe, Bob and Ray, and Stan Freberg.
Opening his own show was an easy decision, Jaschek said. “I woke up one morning, said, ‘I’m 33 years old.’ I believe people should do not what they’re good at, but what they’re great at,” it he said.
“So, [he begins singing in a Sinatra-esque purr] it’s the free-lance life for me.”