Knowing Rodney Helal (1979-1981) has been a great benefit to YCDTOTV.com over the years. Rodney graciously answered our interview questions, so below is what he has to say! Thanks to Rodney for his contribution to the site!
How did you get the job on You Can't Do That On Television?
I did a commercial for a local bakery in 1979 and the person who produced the commercial was told by Roger Price that Roger was looking for kids for a new show he was producing. She suggested my brother and sister, as I was considered too young at the time (10). Price came to the house to interview them, but after five pieces of cake and just as many coffees, Price asked that I come along with my siblings to CJOH to an on camera audition. I did, and I was chosen for the show along with my sister.
Describe what it was like to be involved in such a popular TV show?
It wasn't as popular when I was on it - it got popular afterwards. Being on TV was great because of course you got all the attention in the world from people at school!
What is your first memory of YCDTOTV? Your best? Your worst? Your funniest?
My first memory of YCDTOTV: Drama class in the basement of a local high school with folks a lot older than I was (I was the youngest in the cast at the time).
My best memory: Travelling with Kevin Schenk to Hollywood and staying with Ruth Buzzi for a week.
My worst memory: Roger Price's temper. I watched him break the glass on a pinball machine once - while my hand was in the way. Not a great site or feeling for a 12 year old.
My funniest: It was all fun!
Let's try some name association. What comes to mind in relation to Christine? Les? Alasdair?
Christine McGlade: My first crush.
Les Lye: One of the best actors I know.
Alasdair Gillis: A good kid who didn't let TV get to his head.
Lisa Ruddy: Squeaky.
Ruth Buzzi: AWESOME!!!!! I spent a week at her house and she treated us like her own kids. I spoke to her 3 years ago and she remembered what my mother served her for dessert at our house 17 years earlier!
Kevin Kubusheskie: Crazy and fun.
Kevin Schenk: My best friend while we were doing the show.
Brodie Osome: A good friend as well. We didn't spend much time together, but was a great friend at the time.
If you could, please describe the process for taping a show.
Shoots would go for weeks. You generally worked every day from 8 a.m. up to 11 p.m. sometimes. We would spend most of our summer in the studio, and often leave school early on a weekday to shoot the show.
We had to memorize our lines, which is easy when you are young because you can absorb so much. It was also stressful. I grew up fast because I was surrounded by adults all day usually discussing adult stuff.
What were your favorite sketches to do?
Hard to say. Getting pied was fun. Les, as the drunken father, was usually the best. It was hard to keep a straight face and do your lines when Les was working with you!
I often hear about how a lot of TV producers are nightmares to work around. Was this true about your relationship with Roger Price? How about Geoffrey Darby?
Beside the "Pinball Machine" incident with Roger, they were both great to work with. Roger treated us like his own kids, and we would spend summer nights at his house before tapings. Geoff always had a smile on, and was a whiz in the control room. They are both extremely talented, and by luck they came together as a team to make the show. It was great chemistry.
Why did you (and, for that matter, Schenk, Gebert and Somers) leave after the 1981 season?
I don't know why I didn't come back after 1981, but I did UFO Kidnapped shortly afterwards for Roger. I think the others outgrew their roles as well, and it was time to bring a new group on.
What is your opinion about the general direction of the show after you left?
They hired writers and it got much funnier. I remember on Whatever Turns You On when we would do a lot of jokes that nobody ever got, but after seeing the show a few years later, I laughed my ass off.
When you look at the entire cast of the show's run, how do you rate the cast that you had to work with?
10 - They were the groundbreakers. We paved the way for the show, and we never let stardom get to our heads (I understand the kids later were hard to handle and real brats). I remember Les saying that we were the best group to work with.
Who was your favorite cast member (acting-wise and to work with)? What was your favorite episode?
Schenk was my best friend, so I would have to say he was my favorite! Jonothan used to take me swimming at his Dad's motel in the summer. He was good like that and I appreciated it.
Did you hate the slime scenes?
Yep. Slime is hard to wash off! But they were fun too!
Why do you suppose the show had such a small Canadian following being that it was produced in Canada?
It's harder to make Canadians laugh, so you have to try harder with them. Why do you think the best comics like Mike Myers, John Candy and Jim Carrey are from Canada? Because Canadians are a tough bunch to please.
I hear you have an interesting story about 'Angie the Talking Doll' and some lines that had to be taken out of her script. Want to elaborate on that?
Well, I recall a scene where her line was something like, "What do you think I am, some sort of slut?" That was a long time ago, but if I recall correctly her mother objected and the line was changed.
Any interesting stories about Carole Hay?
Great drama teacher and always on hand to give us suggestions at tapings.
What are you up to now?
I'm doing high-tech sales with a high-tech company in Silicon Valley North. Since YCDTOTV, I've done industrial videos, commercials and an episode of Rescue 911. I've also worked as a property manager in real estate before switching into information technology.