“Snicker, Chuckle:” Terry Winkelmann Interviews Walt Jaschek, 1994

Flashbacks, Press Coverage, Process, TV Promotion

southtownword-waltjaschek-lowrez

This article by Terry Winkelmann first appeared on the front page of the St. Louis Southtown Word newspaper on August 11, 1994. The photo of Walt and Adam Jaschek is by Nate Silver. It was summer. That was our backyard patio.  Adam was 11. 

Snicker, Chuckle

Southside resident generates worldwide laughs

By Terry Winkelmann

If you watch CBS or Fox during prime-time or NBC late night, chances are good that you’ve laughed at Walt Jaschek – or at least his work.

The advertising agency of Paul & Walt Worldwide specializes in tickling the funny bones of radio television audiences. The St. Louis-half of the duo –– lives and works in a three-story brick house in quiet Clifton Heights. His partner, Paul Fey, works out of a high-rise on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Jaschek, a former advertising executive at Southwestern Bell Telephone, writes commercials for some of the top brands in the country, including Cadillac and Anheuser-Busch Cos. But possibly his most recognized effects are his television promotions. He’s done work for NBC, specifically spots for Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, but for the past three years, the firm’s biggest clients has been CBS. Earlier this year, Fox Broadcasting signed Jaschek to create a national radio campaign for “The Simpsons.”

Jaschek and Fey, who met in their undergraduate days at UMSL, teamed up in 1991. The partnership has won the critical acclaim of most advertising and entertainment industry organizations. Last year, the team won five Ollie awards at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s 33rd Annual International Broadcasting Awards. They’ve also scored two Clio awards, three Addys and a dozen International Broadcasting awards, among others.

“It’s fun to be part of the national entertainment scene,” says Jaschek.

It’s also fun to work at home, autonomously. That leaves this father of two free to squire his son, Adam, to swimming lessons during the summer. Adam Jaschek also helps Dad review new series and is also the first line critic on shows and certain promotional spots. When the sitcoms “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Family Matters” debuted, Adam saw the pilots before any of his classmates did. The network frequently sends by overnight express videos of new series for Jaschek to examine. Not only do his spots garner a shot attention during a season, the commercials can affect its initial acceptance.

When first setting up shop in his basement, he went door to door telling his neighbors he’d be working from home. One resident responded with relief. “Oh good,” the man said. “I thought you were on a really long vacation.”

Jaschek confesses he had “no formal training” in TV promotion. Once he stumbled on the specialty, courtesy opportunities brought in by partner Fey, he simply realized “how fun it was and how many of my skills, some useless until that point, came into play.” Writing humorous promos “just evolved,” he says.

Writing a campaign can up to a week, but sometimes he has just 24-hours to come up with 60 seconds of knee-slapping wit. That’s when the glamour of working at home wanes. In the early days of Paul & Walt Worldwide, he recalls, “I worked morning, noon, night and weekends… I was totally consumed.”

These days, having settled into somewhat of a routine, he doesn’t start writing until 2 p.m. “In the morning, I’m watching pilots, taking notes, getting Adam to swimming lessons, brainstorming with partner Paul, letting the dog out…” But after 2 p.m., he gets cranking.

Just a year ago, Jaschek wrote 100 percent of the material his produces – approximately 500 commercials a year. Now he shares the work with another writer in the five-person Sunset Boulevard offices headed by Paul Fey.

Once he’s written the scripts, he sends them to L.A. via modem. “Paul prints them out and presents them to CBS,” he says.

Fey then produces the approved scripts, supervising the casting, directing and editing, in state-of-the-art recording studios in the L.A. office of Paul & Walt Worldwide. Once the approved spots are completed, the network ships them out to radio networks and stations nationally.

“CBS thinks it’s funny that I live in St. Louis,” Jaschek says. A few years ago, I would have had to live in L.A. to do what I do. But today, for all the difference it makes, “I could be in the office down the hall, across town or St. Louis.”

With Los Angeles two hours behind St. Louis time, Jaschek’s hours are also longer. “I feel like a really, really remote suburb of L.A.”

Relocating is not in the cards, he insists. “I love St. Louis. My extended family is here, and it’s a pleasant places, lush, green – and not crowded.”

Working from home is an “accountability thing,” he says. “People take responsibility for their own works, ideas and lives” when the clock that’s running is their own.

Jaschek has just completed a screenplay, is working on a comic book, and is a guest lecturer at Webster University. In short: “I’m having a blast,” he says.

walt-and-adam-jaschek-1994

Walt Jaschek used to have a mustache.

 

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