Sunday, April 26, 2009

CKMS, HBC, HUH and Other Obscure Acronyms

Recently, my buddy, Mart, reminisced on his blog about a radio show that he and I used to do at the University of Waterloo's campus radio station, CKMS-FM, back in our younger days. That triggered some fond, and humorous, memories for me, so I've decided expound a little on the subject myself.

Mart said, on his blog, that he owned a radio and cassette recorder during his teenage years, but he just didn't use them. That's not entirely true. He didn't use them in the same manner that most other teenagers would use them; that is, for recording and playing music. He did, however, use the cassette recorder to create mock radio broadcasts. His repertoire included a soap opera parody that he called "General Crisis", a classical music show called "Classical Masterpieces" and, most bizarrely, a series of news reports by a pair of anchormen named Herb Jennings and Earl McGumphrie, representing an Imperial broadcasting network. By "Imperial", I mean belonging to the galactic empire in George Lucas' Star Wars universe. These "Imperial Reports" were meant to be the kinds of news reports that citizens of the Galactic Empire might expect to hear if Imperial journalists were on the scene during several key scenes from the Star Wars movies, describing the unfolding events. Jennings and McGumphrie always seemed to run afoul of these situations and get themselves in trouble. During one report, for example, McGumphrie accidentally managed to get himself locked inside one of the pods carrying an imperial probe droid just before it was launched toward the Hoth system.

Mart initially conceived of and recorded these things on his own (apparently he was badly in need of a hobby in those days) but he eventually played the recordings for me. Since he and I always shared the same quirky sense of humor, not to mention a certain fanaticism with regard to all things Star Wars, I was naturally taken with the idea and soon got into the act.

I should explain, at this point, that Mart was always more original than I. He was the "idea man". I, on the other hand, had a way of taking his ideas and extrapolating them into ponderous mutations of their former selves, to the point where they bore only the faintest resemblance to Mart's original, simple concepts and tended to scare away small children and the elderly. You might say I was the Bill Gates to Mart's Steve Jobs.

Mart's recordings reminded me of an audio version of a Canadian comedy show by the Second City comedy troupe that was on television at the time, called SCTV (the Second City Television Network) so I suggested that we develop Mart's recordings into a radio version of SCTV, which we called HBC (the HUH Broadcasting Corporation).

"HUH?" I hear you ask. What does "HUH" mean?

* Sigh! *

It stands for "Highly Uncontaminated Humor" but, to really explain things, I need to go back even further, to Mart and my pre-adolescent days.

You see, Mart and I used to be neighbors. That's how we got to be best friends. Then came the day that I moved across town. Now, that wasn't really so very far away, but neither of us was of driving age yet and we did live a healthy bike ride apart, so we kept in touch by mail for a while. (Note: for the benefit of my younger readers, "mail" in this context refers to the non-electronic variety, involving the delivery of paper documents by the postal service, a process which generally takes several days).

It wasn't long before we began enclosing extra things with those letters; drawings, jokes and such. This evolved into a full-fledged, home-made, hand-drawn comic book roughly resembling the satirical magazines that were so popular with pre-pubescent males such as ourselves at the time, like MAD and CRACKED magazines.

We called our magazine HUH Magazine, "HUH" being, as I said, an acronym for "Highly Uncontaminated Humor". Don't ask me what "contaminants" were supposedly missing from this particular form of humor. I suspect the most appropriate answer might well be "anything that could be considered to be of cultural or intellectual merit". I offer for your consideration a rather elaborate parody of the original "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" movie poster that I drew for an early issue of HUH Magazine. I won't divulge how long it took me to painstakingly hand-render this, except to say that I wore out at least two cases of colored markers.

So, you see, HBC was a sort of transformation of HUH Magazine from a paper medium to audio.

It's also worth noting at this point that, later on, around the same time that we did our stint at CKMS-FM (remember CKMS? I'll come back to it. I promise!) Mart and I decided that drawing cartoons might be a neat way to make a living. Hey, it seemed preferable to actually working (no offense to Mssrs. Adams, Schultz, Ketcham et al) and we actually went as far as assembling a portfolio of material and submitting sample comics such as the example presented here to United Features Syndicate and some other places.

The astute reader will have surmised from the fact that neither the names "Halma" or "Mielke" are today revered among the echelons of great cartoonists that every last publisher whom we approached respectfully declined our proposal. On the other hand, I still maintain to this very day that comic strips such as Kit 'N' Carlyle stand as irrefutable evidence that there is, indeed, no justice in this world.

As I mentioned earlier, Mart was the idea man while I had a tendency to realize his ideas beyond any reasonable justification. The concept of recording funny programs to tape was Mart's, but it was I who decided that we should develop it into a full-fledged parody of a radio station. Mart came up with most of the subject ideas and invented most of the characters. Aside from Jennings and McGumphrie, the Imperial newsmen, there was Luthor Heinberg, the classical orchestra conductor, Stan McGee (yet another reporter, but without the Star Wars slant) and a food critic whose name eludes me at the moment. I, on the other hand, found it necessary to sit down and draw caricatures of several of the key characters, such as the one of Earl McGumphrie, shown here. Somehow, creating a physical image made the characters more real to me.

Did I also mention that I'm a pack rat? By now I'm certain that Mart, who follows this blog, is likely picking his lower jaw up off his desk upon seeing that I've actually kept all this material for all these years.

So what has all this to do with CKMS-FM? Simply this. During my high school years, I met a Danish chap by the name of Peter Karwowski (well, okay, he was Polish; in fact, he still is, last I checked) who also remains a close friend to this very day. Peter was also interested in recording and broadcasting at the time and, in fact, briefly started a career as a radio announcer after finishing college. His interest in the broadcasting arts led him to CKMS-FM, where he volunteered as an overnight announcer on weekends. When I learned of this, I saw an opportunity to share HBC with someone other than just Mart and I asked Peter if we could use the station's recording facilities to do a somewhat more polished version of HBC and whether he might be willing to play segments of our work on his show.

Peter entertained the idea but, as it turned out, the good people at CKMS-FM were foolish enough to give Mart and me our own show which we imaginatively dubbed "The Andy & Mart Show" (guess which one of us chose the order of the names), so we started broadcasting HBC ourselves, rather than besmirching Peter's show with it, a small mercy for which I'm sure he remains grateful. We defined HBC for our listening audience as the "Hosehead Broadcasting Corporation" rather than the "HUH Broadcasting Corporation", partially because Bob & Doug McKenzie were very much in vogue at the time, and partially because we didn't want to have to explain what the acronym-within-an-acronym "HUH" meant, for reasons which, by now, will be all too clear to the reader.

The Andy & Mart show featured the usual combination of music interspersed with weather, news items, and special features including our own HBC segments and we always infused it with a liberal dose of our off-beat brand of humor, such as the time that we made finger shadows for our listening audience. In fact, the station's Programming Director, David "Doc" Hight (who wasn't a big fan of our show, I must admit) once sarcastically introduced us as "The Andy and Mart Comedy Carnival" just before surrendering the microphone to us at the end of his show, which immediately preceded ours. Much to his dismay, I took his pointed jab as a compliment and enthusiastically adopted the new name from then on. You just can't insult some people.

It would appear that I have once again taken Mart's quick, off-hand reference to our days at CKMS and inflated into ... this. I guess some things never change, as they say.


Martin said...

The comparison of myself to Steve Jobs and yourself to Bill Gates is forcing me to a very ugly conclusion. We were geeks.

Halmanator said...

"Were?" Apparently you haven't looked closely at my avatar.