How Alan Alda's dad shaped Hawkeye's sense of humor
Robert Alda brought his son onstage and taught him the art of jokes.
For whatever reason, we all love reading about when actors are similar to their characters. Like "truth in advertisement" or some other Great American promise, there's something satisfying about a performance that draws from real life. The authenticity is palpable; we can feel the honesty reflected through the character.
It should follow, then, that there's something special about learning how "Hawkeye" Pierce was pretty similar to Alan Alda. Both seemingly had a similar forthright rascal persona that allowed for a funnybone and a heart of gold. It seems like they stood up for what is right, with both character and actor driven by a real sense of moral fortitude.
One similarity between Hawkeye and the actor who portrayed him is their closeness to their fathers. In M*A*S*H's "Dear Dad," Hawkeye writes home to his Dad at Christmastime, relating back to him what everything was like being a doctor in the 4077th. There was something very believable in Alda's performance, and it turns out he was pretty tight with his Dad, too.
Fans familiar with Alda's biographical details will recall that his father, Robert Alda, brought Alan on stage for the first time when Alan was just six months old. In a 1982 interview with The Boston Globe, Alan Alda recalled those early, formative comedy experiences.
"I would watch my father and his friends perform. My earliest memories are the burlesque comics, the straight men, the chorus dancers, the strippers. They were all very warm people, all friends of the family."
In addition to familiarizing the young Alda with the limelight, Robert taught his son how to tell jokes.
"He'd be Abbott and I'd be Costello," said Alan. "We'd do the whole 'Who's on first?' routine."