Perhaps one of the reasons ‘Almost Live!’ found a place on TV for so many years was because – at its core – it was a distinctly local show. The jokes were almost entirely focused on Puget Sound towns, neighborhoods and places – and none of those places was a more frequent target than a suburb called Kent. And no member of the ‘Almost Live!’ writing and performing group was more informed about that town than Bob Nelson – the only one of us with an actual Kent pedigree.
To be clear, this is not the Bob Nelson who’s a retired NFL linebacker. Nor is it the one who’s a stand-up comedian – that Bob Nelson used to use profanity in his act, but now works clean. And it’s not the Bob Nelson who’s a public accountant in Tigard, Oregon. THAT Bob Nelson, by the way, is certified. And sometimes uses profanity.
No, THIS is the Bob Nelson from Kent. Grew up there – on the rugged East Hill – went to school there – he is Kent’s native son. Legally.
After graduating from the U-Dub – THIS Bob Nelson eventually took work at the Seattle Times, with the dream job of selling classified ads. Because he had a working TV set in the mid-1980’s – he occasionally tuned into the fledgling “Almost Live!” program. To him, that looked like more fun than trying to sell a used Chevy Nova in a two-inch newspaper ad – so, Bob Nelson – THAT one – wrote a bunch of sketches and then trotted them over to KING TV even though he figured nothing would happen. Sure enough. Nothing did. At first. But then, in the summer of ‘89, he got a call from producer Bill Stainton – impressed with Bob’s scripts – and like the computer hackers always say in the movies: “He was in.”
In the next ten years, Bob never left the show – except for a while to write for the Magic Johnson talk show in Hollywood. Yea. Magic Johnson had a talk show. But before long, Bob came back home – and stayed with “Almost Live!” until it came to an end in 1999. But the writing career of Bob Nelson was not at an end. Not even close. There were more TV shows, video projects – and along the way, he fashioned a screenplay that became a major motion picture in 2013. It was called “Nebraska” – and it brought the first-time screenwriter Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
As you’d guess, much more has followed, including writing and directing the 2016 film, “The Confirmation.” It’s a good one. Turn the subtitles off – and watch it. As well as anything that has the name Bob Nelson on it. Just as long as it’s THAT Bob Nelson. I talked to him via Zoom, from the Seattle area home he shares with his wife, Valerie. They live on an island, that has electricity and – at least on this day – pretty good internet.