HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Roy Teicher (search) made it big in the other Hollywood as a joke writer for "The Tonight Show," "Newhart," "Mork & Mindy" and other sitcoms and movies. Now in the city with the same name on the other coast, he's going after an audience that's a little different — Florida voters.
Teicher, 46, is U.S. Senate candidate Peter Deutsch's (search) new press secretary. He hopes he can use his talents developed over a career that included show business and journalism to soften the Democratic congressman's reputation as brash and combative.
"I hope I can make it a little bit easier for people to see the side of Peter that is relaxed, amusing, comfortable and self-effacing," Teicher said. "If, on the way to an event, I can keep him relaxed and joke around a bit, then that's good, too."
Deutsch and Teicher met at prep school in New York. But they went their separate ways, Deutsch heading to Swarthmore College and Teicher for California.
At 19, Teicher was the youngest writer hired by "The Tonight Show." But he dwells more on the disappointments than the successes.
His biggest memory of "The Tonight Show" was the competition between writers to get Johnny Carson to use their jokes. He said his stint with "Mork & Mindy," the show that launched Robin Williams' career, "as the worst season, the one with Jonathan Winters."
But entertainment success left him unsatisfied. He tried journalism, writing a humor column for The Los Angeles Times. But he yearned to be a real reporter who covered local news.
So at 37, he got his first job as a reporter for $25 a week. The New York University dropout later worked for The Kansas City Kansan as an education reporter.
"There could not be anyone less qualified," he said. "I thought a superintendent was someone who fixed the pipes in the apartment building."
But journalism hooked him. "It wasn't make believe," he said. The satisfaction he got from writing about neglected schools "meant more than going to a run-through of a television show and saying, 'That's my line in the second scene.'"
His last newspaper job was editing a paper Indiana, but he says he got fired for running a controversial story. Then came the call from Deutsch about needing a press secretary because his old one left in April.
"It was certainly a case of, 'Why not?'" Teicher said. "It wasn't as much of a stretch as being an education reporter."
In another interview with Deutsch at the campaign office in Hollywood, the congressman relishes talking about his high school buddy. The typically hard-charging candidate is laughing.
"If nothing else, we'll have better jokes than anyone else," Deutsch said.