One of the great pleasures of speaking with those who were greatly involved in the making of Soap is hearing an air of nostalgia creep into their voices as they suddenly think of things they haven’t thought of in decades. Thus was the case yesterday when I had the good fortune to speak with Tony Thomas, one of the Witt Thomas Harris triumvirate who made Soap a reality.
The only one of the three to have grown up in the business, Thomas brought to the table a unique understanding of time-tested comedy that he gained from watching father Danny Thomas perform. He also grew up in a home where anybody from George Burns to Don Rickles might stop by. Though he will be the first to tell you that Susan Harris was the master of writing sitcom, one can’t help but get the feeling that Thomas’ own knowledge of comedy helped to shape what hit the written page.
This is particularly evident in his appreciation of silence in a comedy scene, something he learned from his father. While this element of comedy goes back to the days of Vaudeville, and is perhaps best illustrated by the pauses in dialogue by Jack Benny on his radio and television shows, Soap used this often throughout its run, almost as a way of making some of its zanier elements appear even crazier in comparison.
So how about a moment of silence for Soap, and for Tony Thomas? And while I know this is Soap we’re talking about, please avoid the temptation to get all racy with talk of “pregnant pauses.” 😉