Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Meet The Folks Behind The "Mr. Wizard's A Dick" Video

With almost 350,000 views in its first two days, the video “Mr. Wizard's A Dick is blowing up like a lousy chemistry experiment. The video compiles three minutes of Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, correcting and acting curmudgeonly to the young guests on his show (some of the instances taken out of context). It's very, very funny—and, incidentally, a nice reminder of a time when Nickelodeon showed good educational programming. I contacted the video's creators, writers Mike Schuster and Diane Bullock, and Mike and I had this brief chat.

How did you come up with the idea for the video in the first place? How long did it take to collect the best putdowns and compile them? Has your opinion of “Mr. Wizard” changed while making this video?

This idea was about 25 years in the making. We both watched the show as kids, but I was a bit more obsessed. I would watch it religiously before school and had running jokes with my parents about how casually cruel and condescending Mr. Wizard could be to the kids.

About a year ago, Diane and I started re-watching the old episodes and would die laughing at some of the things he would say and do—dbe it a snarky tone or how he'd just cut off a kid's answer even if they were on the right track.

A few weeks ago, I was laid off from my day job and, simultaneously, Diane lost her main freelance writing gig. We'd been writing partners in the past (in fact, I wrote a Splitsider piece about balancing our working and personal relationships) and decided it was a good time to start a new project together. We figured the Mr. Wizard compilation was a solid choice.

We spent last weekend watching all the episodes we had and logging every instance of Mr. Wizard acting like a jerk. By Monday, we finished inputting and editing the footage on my ancient MacBook and had the finished product that night.

Our opinion about Mr. Wizard hasn't changed. We've always loved the persnickety old coot and how he championed science and education, even if it came at the cost of an 11 year old's ego.

“Mr. Wizard’s A Dick” has gotten tons of attention over the last two days. How surprised were you by the reaction?

Once we compiled the clips, we thought the video would click with fellow comedy nerds and Mr. Wizard fans. We just had no idea there were so many out there, and never suspected it would be this popular or catch on so quickly.

What's your favorite line from the video? And what was your favorite “Mr. Wizard being dickish” moment that isn’t in this video?

It really changes with each viewing, but the one that consistently gets us is the lengthy clip at the very end where Mr. Wizard wordlessly gets into his car and leaves the kid behind in a desolate field. It was such a strange choice and hilarious gift for the original series to include that entire sequence.

While we were editing, we realized that we couldn't fit all the clips we compiled into this video, so we hope to include our favorites that didn't make the cut in a follow-up.

Has anyone who has said they were on "Mr. Wizard’s World" contacted you because of this? Are you afraid of any repercussions (cease and desist orders/the video being taken down) by Viacom or by Mr. Wizard’s estate?

We haven't heard from anyone involved with the original series or anyone who knew him personally. We sincerely hope they realize it's all in good fun and that we truly love the guy.

Your YouTube channel’s only other video consists of a baby falling off a chair. What’s up with that?

Haha, that right there is Diane at age one and a half in a home movie with her parents and sister, Pam. Diane was showing me her home movies a few years back and I probably watched that 13-second clip three dozen times. The way she pauses in the chair mid-turn to say "Hi!"—like, "All right, Mom, get ready for this one"—and hits the floor with a thud is something I'll never get tired of seeing.

What do the two of you do outside of creating the “Mr. Wizard’s A Dick” video? Any future plans for mashing up other '70s and '80s educational television?

We met seven years ago while working as contributing writers for The Onion and have since bounced around various comedy writing gigs, mostly on the web. We co-authored a book in the Would You Rather…? series and wrote a pilot for Comedy Central that never went into production. Diane also has a few scripts being shopped around.

We have a few things in the hopper and certainly hope to be involved in more projects like this in the future.

Tom Keiser lives in New Jersey and has also written for Network Awesome, Fruitless Pursuits, and The Classical.

8 Comments / Post A Comment

alorsenfants (#139)

Don Herbert is the foster father of one of my good high school friends — all his children were adopted.
I spent many hours around their house as a 4th-10th grader. He was a nice but utterly unknowable man. His wife was the one we all feared as kids — she was a battleax! Liked the West Indian maid, and the pool — in the 60s, even Bronxville had very few pools… interesting fact.
There. My world and welcome to how it was. Not so great there anymore… maybe cooler to be hanging around Wythe Avenue? Eh — don't know, maybe everybody loses –


katiebakes (#32)

@alorsenfants Favorite Awl comment I've ever read.

alorsenfants (#139)

@katiebakes Come on — but was true and heartfelt…


Annie K. (#3,563)

What he says and the way he says it sounds much to me like a scientist talking — we're dealing with verifiable facts here so just cut to the chase, ok? And if those little kids really were interested in science, he'd be a good introduction to the culture: no, you're not special, not awesome, just wrong.

Mild Cigar@facebook (#236,198)

I hate to be an old curmudgeon myself, but I didn’t think Mr. Wizard was being a dick. Perhaps I come from a bad home but if you were doing something wrong (incorrect) you got told about it quick. I think as a society we are now too used to praising kids for not doing much of anything and doling out awards for “participation” rather than achievement. It is no wonder that the country is going down the tubes.

freetzy (#7,018)

I guess if you don't have kids and/or personally identify with the kids shown, Mr. Wizard might seem like a dick. Being a father myself, he seems restrained.

Adiko Josh (#237,392)

What a video, OMG.

Marcusz (#240,677)

I love this video a lot. A few clips remind me of school days and how much fun it all was. I always consider science something beautiful and delighting it lets you understand everything and anything. A long time ago, I wanted to study this in more detail, but I did not. I hope you will earn your masters in science and discover a brand new world.

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