Gone Too Soon

In the 1970s, a new genius burst onto the comedy scene. Originally a student of the famed Julliard School, Robin Williams departed after his junior year when told “there was nothing left they could teach him.” He began performing in comedy clubs in San Francisco and New York and was quickly recognized for his rapid-fire delivery, brilliant improvisational skills, and indefatigable energy. Producers wasted no time finding vehicles for him.

He reached superstar status when cast as a bizarre but lovable alien in the TV show Mork and Mindy which ran for four seasons (1978 – 1982). He continued performing his standup comedy albeit in larger and larger venues and then decided to bring his considerable talents to film. His first notable performance was in Robert Altman’s Popeye which, while not considered a critical success, did showcase William’s incredible mimicry as the title character. He would continue to hone his craft and create memorable performances in such films as Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the animated film Aladdin where he voiced the genie. Thrice nominated for the Academy Award, he won for his role of a therapist in Good Will Hunting (1997).

Robin was the son of Robin Fitzgerald Willams, a senior executive for Ford, and Laurie McLaurin, a former model from Mississippi but we happen to share an ancestor. Robin’s 8th great grandfather Abraham Martin, who originally emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1680, was also my 9th great grandfather. 

Robin Williams died in 2014 at the age of 63 after suffering from severe depression. RIP cousin.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, film, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And be sure to check out our TEDxEustis talk at


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May 4, 2020

There’s a challenge trending on Facebook where people are asked to post the ten most influential albums they listened to growing up. I’m seeing lots of variety but none of the albums that most influenced me.  See, I was never all that into collecting music or developing a musical style or taste. My vinyl influences were of a different genre but they nevertheless greatly helped to shape my personality.  So without further ado…

Number 10: That Was The Year That Was – Tom Lehrer.


It was a live album recorded at the hungry i in San Francisco, containing performances by Tom Lehrer of satiric topical songs he originally wrote for the NBC television series That Was The Week That Was. I can still remember all the words to “New Math.”

Number 9: An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.


A Grammy award winning album that features selected pieces from their Broadway show of the same name. Nichols went on to become an acclaimed Hollywood director (The Graduate, Catch-22. The Birdcage). I performed one of their skits in high school.

Number 8: The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters.


Wildly inventive, utilizing improvisational humor, Winters was the Robin Williams of his day. Williams may have been better, but Winters was first.

Number 7: The First Family.


A good-natured parody of then-President John F. Kennedy. Issued by Cadence Records, The First Family became the “largest and fastest selling record in the history of the record industry. This and Tom Lehrer’s album were my introduction into political humor.

Number 6: My Son, the Nut – Alan Sherman.


 My Son, the Nut was the last comedy album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 for over half a century, until “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun in 2014. The classic “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah: A Letter From Camp” was cut one on side two.

Number 5: Class Clown – George Carlin.


 With the Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television, Carlin brilliantly demonstrated how humor can be used to deliver a powerful social message.

Number 4: Pardon my Blooper! – Kermit Shafer.

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 A collection of live radio and television mistakes, usually of an embarrassing nature. A guilty pleasure, it never failed to have me doubled up in laughter, no matter how many times I heard it.

Number 3: To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With – Bill Cosby.


Regardless of the reprehensible choices he made in his personal life, there is no denying that as a comedic storyteller, there were few in his league.  Spin Magazine once chose this 1968 recording as the greatest comedy album of all time.

Number 2: Mom Always Liked You Best – The Smothers Brothers.


 The personalities, the banter, the musical talent, they were one of my favorite comedic acts. I loved their TV show as well.

Number 1: The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart.


This recording won Album of the Year at the 1961 Grammy Awards, where Newhart was named Best New Artist; it was the first comedy album to win Album of the Year and the only time a comedian had won Best New Artist. His delivery probably did more to shape my humor than any other influence. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Schnitzel Me This


We here at Home Video Studio have a pretty cool business. We are in the unique position to have access to a huge storehouse of personal memories because families bring their recorded treasures to us to preserve and protect. And in the process, we get to vicariously experience things of which we may have no personal memory. For example, I had never before heard of or listened to Professor Schnitzel. And yet, I had the opportunity to hear three of his recorded comedy routines that were presented to me on vinyl 45s.

But in researching this name, I came across something very interesting. There were at least two Professor Schnitzels that became popular in America. One operated on the west coast in the 1920s and the other on the east coast during the 50s and 60s. There is no indication that the one was aware of the other’s existence.

The first Professor Schnitzel was played by a man named Clarence Coleman in the 1920s.  A realtor in San Francisco, Coleman created the character for a radio show in 1927 called Blue Monday Jamboree which aired on KFRC-AM. While CBS eventually picked the show up and syndicated it nationally, Professor Schnitzel was sadly never added to it as a regular character. Over the next few years he would make appearances on other shows up and down the AM dial.

The second Schnitzel made his home in Reading PA. Theodore L. Rickenbach was best known for performing his character in front of live audiences and for producing a series of 45rpm recordings for Butch Records.  It is this Professor Schnitzel that I heard yesterday when I transferred those 45s into CDs for my customer.

Both men based their humor by adopting a thick, almost unintelligible Pennsylvania Dutch accent along with a folksy demeanor to tell jokes and make funny observations about life, language and everything Pennsylvania Dutch. Audiences of the day howled.

By the way, the word schnitzel, if you didn’t know, comes from the German for “slice” and refers to a dish where a cut of meat is pounded flat, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Typically made with veal, chicken, beef, turkey or pork. The veal version is known as Wiener Schnitzel.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

What’s in a Name?


All of my grade school life, I never sat in a classroom where there weren’t a few other boys who shared my first name. It turns out that there was a very good reason for that. According to the Social Security Administration, from 1954 until 1998, with the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy’s name in America. The exception came in 1960 where it came in second behind David. That’s still an impressive run of 44 years.

But it did cause some confusing moments. In the classroom, I could never figure out if the teacher was talking to me or one of the five other Michaels who sat near me. And at recess, out on the playground, I’d be forever turning around to find out who was calling me only to find out nobody was calling me… just my name. It happened every day…multiple times a day.

So I was tickled by a customer yesterday who had come in to the studio to have some old photos from the early 1900s restored. And as he was sharing with us who these people were that were in the pictures, ticking off their names, I commented on how unfamiliar their names seemed. It turns out it was a thing in their family. Their grandmother didn’t appreciate conventional names so she opted for naming her children with words that she would just make up. If it was in the baby book of names… she would simply come up with something else.

Over the years, the family adapted to their unusual monikers by taking their first and middle names and whittling them down to just the first initials. Thus Jerimillia Crimereo called herself JC; Podifer Amitelik would answer to PA; etc. That worked for most. Unfortunately, no one thought what it would be like for little Ventroy Delwhilm who, once grown, would to the family be forever known as Uncle VD.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You Got A Problem? I Got a Joke.

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One of the benefits of being a part of a franchise operation is the ability to tap into the collective knowledge of those who are providing the same services you are… even though they may be in different areas of the country.  Every so often, one of us will run into something that we haven’t seen before and it is comforting that we have the ability to learn from those who have been doing this longer and have probably run into the seemingly unsolvable problem that lies before us.


Recently, one of our colleagues reached out for suggestions about a difficult file transfer he was trying to accomplish.  An android phone video file that needed to be accessed by a Mac computer. And none of the established procedures were working.  The colleague reached out to the Home Video Studio community. And the response was overwhelming.

Studio owner after studio owner offered suggestions as we have all had to deal with uncooperative devices. But all the suggestions offered had been tried to no avail. After multiple suggestions and multiple “tried that, doesn’t work” responses, there was only one recourse. I decided to chime in. After all, the studio owner seemed desperate enough to try anything.

“Take the android phone,” I advised, “Place it in a paper bag. Wave it over your head… And scream like a chicken!” When all is lost, I find it best to take comfort in the comedy stylings of Dick Van Dyke.

The good news is that the owner was able to reach a solution on his own. The difficulty was found to be linked to a faulty cable.  Personally, I prefer the scream like a chicken solution.

Here’s the link to the Dick Van Dyke episode entitled The Impractical Joke. Love me some Dick Van Dyke. He was my comedy mentor throughout high school.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Pardon My Blooper


I consider myself an intelligent being. I can arrange my thoughts and convey them in a coherent, often poignant manner. I am able to assess a problematic situation and arrive at a workable solution. I am able to present myself to the world as a mature, compassionate, thoughtful adult… but I have a hidden secret.  I possess an immature sense of humor. I laugh at inappropriate times and events. I can’t help myself.

It all started when I bought my first comedy album. It was Kermit Schafer’s collection of radio and TV bloopers. Back when radio and TV shows were broadcast live, all the inadvertent mistakes made by the announcers and performers were broadcast right along with the rest of the show. And I found them uncontrollably hysterical.

The fact that the mistakes were made on live tv or radio and were completely unscripted and unintentional made it all the funnier.  I played that record over and over until my sides hurt so much from laughing that I had to stop.

Thinking back on the some of the malapropisms that I remember from the album, I will admit them to be certainly sophomoric and imbecilic… which I supposed only increased the humor quotient to a young boy.

I remember: The announcer who proudly intoned, “Wonder Bread… for the breast in bed!”  The excited race track announcer who excitedly informed his audience that the favorite was being pulled from the race: “This just in… Harass is not going to run… Harass is not going to run… Remember to scratch Harass.” The formal and distinguished introduction of the 31st US President: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States… Hoobert Heever.”

It slayed me every single time. And even though I grew up, my sense of humor didn’t follow suit. Well intentioned people making mistakes that result in unexpected consequences always make me laugh despite every attempt of mine to stifle it.

I was videotaping a soccer game involving my young son’s team. Our goalie had the ball and decided to clear the zone. He booted the ball in a high arcing trajectory. And as I followed the ball with the camera, I could see it heading to one of the opponent’s mid-fielders. It was a high arcing shot so the young lad had time to plant his feet, bend his knees, and position himself precisely where he wanted to be to block the ball as it descended. Which it did, like a targeted laser, squarely between the unfortunate lad’s legs.

When watching the video footage later, you could clearly hear my chortle as the ball struck. The fact that I was standing next to the father of the poor defender was a bit awkward. What was more awkward was the fact that as I lay in bed, replaying the scene in my head, I started to silently laugh so hard that I shook my wife awake. Her immediate response… “Are you still thinking about that poor boy!?!”

I may have a problem.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.