Interview with Actor Keith Coogan By Jesse Striewski

Chances are if you grew up in the late ’80s/early ’90s such as myself, you remember actor Keith Coogan. Not only did he appear in numerous commercials (his first acting job was a spot for McDonnald’s), and popular shows on TV at the time such as Knight Rider and Silver Spoons, he was also lucky enough to work alongside two of the most memorable bombshells of their time, Elizabeth Shue in 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, and Christina Applegate in 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Recently, I was able to sit down and speak with Coogan during a candid phone conversation about these experiences, and so much more.

I instantly wanted to start at the beginning and discuss what it was like making his first movie, a voice role in the 1981 Disney film The Fox and the Hound. He told me; “Yeah, no real huge memories of that! I came from a real big showbiz family with my great-grandfather in Vaudeville, then my grandfather in silent films and television, and my mother was a comedy writer, so they knew it’s a hard way to make an easy living. And I had worked my way up through TV, doing lots of commercials and guest appearances on great shows like CHiPS, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Eight is Enough, Mork & Mindy, and Laverne & Shirley. My mom, or “momager” was the one that took me around, and almost everything with a kid in it I auditioned for. And we got a voiceover job for Disney when I was eight; it was thrilling, but really only like three or four days of work spread over months and months. And they recorded the voices singularly…it wasn’t until Robin Williams was doing Aladdin years later that they decided to bring in whoever he was doing a scene with due to his improv nature.”

He continued; “We started in ’78, and of course the hound was played by Corey Feldman, who I’ve been friends with for decades now. And then Don Bluth left the production and took a lot of animators with him, and they had to shut down before hiring new people to finish the film. And by the time it came out in ’81, I was eleven and had been doing more TV and stuff, so it was kind of an after thought like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s out’ (Laughs). I know how grateful I am to be in a Disney movie, and some say it’s their last classically-animated film before they used computers full-blown on their next production. I think it’s a terrific, sweet film, and I think it made $64 million dollars at the box office, which was a record for them at the time, too.” He added one final thought; “And despite what it says on IMDB, Kurt Russell did NOT record his dialogue wearing Snake Plissken’s jacket (Laughs).”

I also wanted to get into some of those old TV roles he took part of, starting with working with the late Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy; “Oh gosh, working with him, and Jonathan Winters, and of course the anchor holding the show down, Pam Dawber, was so great! And this was actually the last episode to ever air, and they knew they weren’t necessarily going to get picked up for another season, so the set kind of had a dire mood to it. But there was still that spark of creativity there from Williams and Winters, although Jonathan was much more on his own planet (Laughs).”

Of course I had to ask him about Silver Spoons as well; “Rick managed a rock band called Splat, which I was the keyboard player for. And they were going to go on a Star Search kind of thing before their singer got sick, and so Rick had to sing, hence the title of the episode, “Rick Sings.” It was kind of a precursor to future roles I would play, but it was more surfer rather than stoner. I also got to work with Alfonso Ribeiro and Billy Jayne, and it was a welcoming, fun set with the video games and the train, and I think I got about ten feet into the house before three guys came up to me with their satin ’80s jackets (Laughs). And all of the video games on the set had unlimited credits, so you could just walk up and play any one of them! But they didn’t typically have the train out and lying around, so there was probably a ‘no riding the train’ rule!” He went on; “But the audiences on sitcoms used to throw me off. I probably did six or seven more of them, too, including Growing Pains and Just the Ten of Us. And they always were nerve racking in front of a live audience! I remember my entrance I did for the Laverne & Shirley episode I did; I opened the door and just cracked up, so we had to re-shoot it at the end of the night (Laughs).”

And aside from sitcoms, he was also on another favorite ’80s show, the previously-mentioned Knight Rider; “That was amazing! David Hasselhoff was particularity awesome and fun to work with, and I worked with my uncle Don Stroud, who played one of the biker gang members. We shot around southern California, and one of the coolest shots we did was at Mockingbird Square, which was Clock Tower Square at Universal Studios. And the bait shop we filmed in was the diner from Back to the Future. So that was fun to not only get to shoot there, but also ride around in K.I.T.T.!”

As far as his movies go, I asked if he felt Adventures in Babysitting is the one he will always be best remembered for; “It’s entirely subjective to people, but I think for me, it’s a split between that and Don’t Tell Mom...And regarding its 2016 remake, he said; “It was the one-hundredth Disney Channel original movie, and I went to the premiere when it came out, and it was great, lots of fun! The original was stretching the PG-13 and was limited to a certain audience, whereas the G-rated version was more for a younger generation. But it rings a lot of nostalgia bells with some of the little Easter eggs in there. But still, totally different story and tone, but I loved it! And Coogan even explained a little what co-star Elizabeth Shue has been up to recently (despite not having kept in contact with her); “She was involved with a recent article on all the things you ever wanted to know about Adventures in Babysitting answered, and it’s fantastic! They cover everything from the dance scene in the beginning, to the Playboy, to “Babysitter’s Blues.”‘

I also wondered if he had kept in touch with his former Don’t Tell Mom…co-star Christina Applegate, who recently announced a MS diagnosis; “We actually spent some time running in the same circles before shooting the movie, so it was a great pleasure to get to work with her, having already known how talented she was. She’s a total professional, and it’s interesting that both of these films kind of rest these huge budgets on the shoulders of teenagers! But I know that she’s gone through a lot, but she’s a trooper, and just fantastic, and I wish her all the best…sending out good vibes to her. And as far as how close Coogan was in reality to his character Kenny in the film? He tells me; “I was a nerd, a geek, and a “Dexter” as we used to call it in middle and high school (Laughs). So I wasn’t much like my character at all, I didn’t listen to the rock music like Kenny, or the punk music like Mitch in Cousins. But director Stephen Herek was very supportive in helping me find my character. But I loved it, and there was no way I was passing up the role of Kenny.”

One thing often somewhat forgotten about Coogan are his brushes with the action genre, such as the 1991 film Toy Soldiers; “I think they wanted to forget it when it came out (laughs), meaning it did good business, but you know, nothing to write home about. But Louis Gossett, Jr., what a legend, and Denholm Elliot, another legend! I had a great cast to work with, from Sean Astin to Wil Wheaton, and Shawn Phelan who has now passed. There was also Andrew Divoff who is pretty “method,” I don’t think I saw him smile once until we were done shooting (laughs). And the late R. Lee Ermey; at this point I had already done Adventures in Babysitting with Vincent D’Onofrio from Full Metal Jacket, but now I’m working with the Gunnery Sergeant himself, so I was just over the top! But it was an interesting mix-and-match movie…basically Die Hard meets Dead Poets Society (Laughs).”

In more recent times, Coogan even appeared as himself in the 2019 Kevin Smith film Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, and I asked him to briefly tell me about the experience; “Kevin had said something interesting along the lines of, ‘before I started making movies, I watched a lot of movies.’ So he really has a soft spot for nostalgia and for anyone that came before him. And having Chris Hemsworth at the end credits say – as Thor – “The dishes are done man,” I crapped my pants a little when I first saw that! (Laughs).”

While I could continue even further with more from our hour-long conversation, I’ll end things on this note due to time (perhaps I’ll get to the rest in future pieces), but those in the New Jersey area can actually catch Coogan at the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany from the 29th-31st of this month. Regarding this event he stated; “It’s their anniversary for the convention, and it’s going to be a riot and a huge blowout! A lot of great guests, cosplay, and screenings, so it should be amazing!”

Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 3 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai first emerged in 2018, the world wasn’t quite prepared for the awesomeness that was so unexpectedly unleashed upon it. It instantly united pop culture nerds across multiple medians, bringing back ’80s nostalgia in full force for the young and old alike.

In season one, we were re-introduced to the characters Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who are thrusted back into each other’s lives more than three decades later. Daniel has since gone on to become the owner of a successful car dealership, while Lawrence stayed the same beer-chugging, metal-loving loose cannon he always was. Things shake up when Johnny decides to take a leap of faith and re-open Cobra Kai, which in turn re-opens some old wounds in the process.

Season two focused more on the two old enemies each operating their own respective dojos, with new conflicts arising from their new students (and old mentors). Unlike the first season, more emphasis was put on the rivalries between newcomers Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) and Robby (Tanner Buchanan), as well as Sam (Mary Mouser) and Tory (Peyton List). It also brought back John Kreese (Martin Kove) in a more extended and sinister role, and included a bittersweet, albeit brief tear-jerking reunion with some of the other original members of Cobra Kai (which would unfortunately prove to be Rob Garrison’s final portrayal of Tommy before his passing in 2019).

Naturally, season three takes over directly where the second one left off, with everyone dealing with the repercussions of the final battle that saw Miguel seriously injured and put into a coma. There’s still plenty of unresolved wars between multiple factions, as each character grapples with what happened and tries to return to some sense of normalcy.

And of course, there’s plenty of surprises along the way as well; Elizabeth Shue finally returns as Ali (now actually Dr. Ali Mills Schwarber) after Johnny’s attempt to reconnect with her via social media in the previous season. And even familiar Okinawan faces from The Karate Kid Part II, including Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomito), and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) return, leading to some tense moments between Daniel and the latter before ultimately bringing some closure. Even former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider manages to squeeze in a brief cameo, too.

But what makes us invest so much time into shows like Cobra Kai has got to be the reflections of ourselves we’re able to see from these characters and their struggles. They’re far from invincible, and whether you were more of a Daniel or Johnny type growing up, there’s something truly there for everyone.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars