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Almost Live

Almost Live! logo

In 1984, KING broadcasting announced a new show that would air called Almost Live! The show was created by Bob Jones, the VP of programming, and hosted by Ross Shafer as an half hour weekly talk and comedy sketch show originally airing at 6PM on Sundays in the Seattle area. After becoming popular it transitioned to airing twice a week for an hour. After four years with many local Emmy Awards and several national awards, Ross Shafer left and hosted the FOX network's show The Late Show. After Ross's big break to FOX John Keister, in 1989, came to replace Shafer as the host after being a member on the team years before that filling performance slots. After dropping guest interviews and live band segments the show came to focus on the sketch comedy on a half hour show.

Ross Shafer Interview with Drake Sather

Ross Shafer Interview with Drake Sather expresses format of the talk show.

Early Ellen Degeneres performance on Almost Live

Ellen Degeneres as special guest is an example of the comdeic guests they would bring on the show.

The Almost Live Band! - Almost Live! Theme

For more info on Seattle music in television, see Seattle Media Culture: Music Television

In its original format, the show resembled a late night talk show modeled after The Late Night Show with David Letterman. With show host Ross Shafer, he would open with an introduction of the show along with a few jokes. He would then introduce the visiting comedians along with special guests he would interview later in the show infront of a live studio audience. Almost Live! was comprised of interviews of the special guests along with a live band and short taped sketches interspersed throughout. "The show was filmed an hour in advance, so that any small bits of editing could be done before the program went live. Hence, it went to air "Almost Live!"

KING Almost Live! promo 1985

1985 KING Almost Live! commercial

 

Before John Keister was the host of Almost Live! he was the host of pre-MTV rock music show Rocket Entertainment Video. He was then invited to join the Almost Live! cast bringing his unique style of Northwest humor to the show. Along with John he also asked local stand-up comedians Bill Nye and Joe Guppy to join the Almost Live! cast. Along with Pat Cashman who was already doing promotional work at KING created the "talented team who helped write, produce and perform the Emmy-award winning comic sketches that became the hallmark of Almost Live!"

WBFF The Late Show 1988 promo

The Late Show 1988 promo. To see what other stars came from 'Almost Live! see,Seattle Television Star's Success Stories

Pet Shop Boys interviewed on The Late Show by Ross Shafer (1988)

Pet Shop Boys interview on The Late Show with Ross Shafer allows for a comparison between shows and Shafer's transition away from Almost Live!

As the show grew in popularity, broadcasting companies would approach KING for syndication rights and were continually turned down. This frustrated Shafer as he enjoyed the success of the show and wanted to take it to the national stage. At this point he started to explore other opportunities and in 1988, along with head-writer Jim Sharp, left for Hollywood to host The Late Show on FOX.

 

Ross Shafer Intro

Show opening for first host appearance of John Keister expresses the transition of show host.

After Ross's departure, KING TV scrambled to find a new host. In this intermediate stage they had many guest hosts trying out including Pat Cashman, Tony Ventrella and many others. In the long run it was decided that with John Keister's local upbringing, familiarity with the entertainment scene and his local knowledge was best suited as host the of Almost Live!

KING 5 Almost Live promo 1990

1990 KING 5 promo shows the transition to new format and way of advertising the show.

With John Keister's official premier as host in 1989 John had a difficult time filling Ross's shoes as the late night talk show host sitting behind a desk and doing interviews. With the show slowly starting to crumble KING TV allowed Keister to change the format of the show going into season six. The show was revamped to a half an hour slot taking away the talk show format and raining in the true decade of sketch comedy. With special permission from NBC they were able to delay Saturday Night Live by thirty minutes gaining prime time air space at 11:30PM. This was great timing for KING TV. With SNL receiving some of the worst ratings in its history, pushing the show back to midnight brought a whole new audience to the show. With this new sketch comedy format in half an hour, people found it much funnier then the hour and a half of comedy that came after Almost Live!

 

An Oral History of 'Almost Live'

This article is an interview with the cast and elaborates on the significance of the show on a personal level along with a telling of the history.

Eyes Wide Shut

Back row: Tracey Conway, Joel McHale, Nancy Guppy, Bob Nelson, Pat Cashman. Front row: Bill Stainton, John Keister, Steve Wilson.

By mid-1999 there was a change in cable television and broadcasting. With media companies conglomerating, selling KING twice, slowly whittling away their ratings, the new owners of KING found no use for a relatively expensive local entertainment show. Therefore surmising 'Almost Live!' and their run of fame. Due to the shows popularity over the years, after its cancelation, re-runs were aired on Saturday nights in the northwest but the show also made its way to Comedy Central. Once it hit Comedy Central in 1992 it aired five nights a week on the national stage. Even though it was disappointing for the show to come to an end it was still a huge achievement to make Almost Live!, a Seattle sketch comedy, to the national level. The show ran on Comedy Central for two years and was taken off the air in 1994, but as John Keister said in an interview with the Seattle Met, "That was the coolest thing in the world, to be from Seattle. Comedy Central would promote it as: "Watch the show that Seattle's been laughing at for years!""

Buford, George. "Almost Live! - About." George Buford's Almost Live Fan Site. KING TV Broadcasting Company, n.d. Web. 07 June 2016.