ZODIACS, MANIACS AND JUST PLAIN YAKS

This is the official web page for the public access comedy show Zodiacs, Maniacs And Just Plain Yaks. Welcome!

Zodiacs, Maniacs And Just Plain Yaks was a public access sketch comedy show which was produced in Westchester County, New York, from 1986 through 1990. The show aired there and in New York City as reruns until 1996.

The program was the brainchild of high school friends
Al Quagliata, Clifford Baum and Dennis McCarthy. This trio, heavily influenced by the "seat of the pants" style of comedy popularized by the likes of Ernie Kovacs and Uncle Floyd, approached the local cable company and asked if they could "have a show." The cable station said if the group took their public access course they could produce their own show and so they did. Quagliata then met Steve Childs, an aspiring filmmaker, while working a part time summer job in 1984. Childs soon become co-producer/director/editor along with Quagliata when McCarthy decided he wasn't going to continue with the show. Another high school friend, James "Doc" Gerlan, was added to the cast at this point. "Yaks" began production in the summer of 1985 and the first episode aired on January 22, 1986, at midnight (ironically the program aired for the last time on the same date in 1996).

The show was originally going to be called "Cable 8 Comedy Capers," which was the channel number of the station where it was produced. When that was deemed too trite the creators came up with "Social Security And You!," a joke about the fact that most of the public access shows they had seen were boring community affairs type programs. "Zodiacs, Maniacs And Just Plain Yaks" was the title of a collection of comedy sketches on Super 8 film by cast member Brian DiCicco and his cousin Jack Sullivan. While the title had some relevance to characters in the film it was for the most part an attempt to come up with a name that sounded like "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Quagliata saw the film and asked to use the title for the new show.

"Yaks" was largely improvised and scripts were rarely used. Although Quagliata and Childs ran the show whichever cast member came up with a particular sketch would generally direct and produce it. Most sketches were shot in the studio although there were also sketches shot on location as the studio offered very little in the way of sets (this led to many talk show parodies and fake newscasts). Once enough sketches were collected to make a half-hour episode Quagliata and Childs would spend several days editing. A new episode would come every month or so and air until the next one was ready. When Childs left the program to pursue other projects he was replaced by Joseph Mingoia who took over technical direction and head camera duties with Quagliata taking over the show's editing.

This was free televsion at its best, produced with great ingenuity and on an almost non-existent budget. These were the days before YouTube and everyone having the ability to quickly produce, edit and expose video to a mass audience. The cast of "Yaks" did a great deal with very little and quickly developed a small yet cultish following in the Westchester area.

The show featured a variety of different cast members through the years. Some popular recurring characters were "Joe The Security Guard," "Maury The Annoying Next Door Neighbor," "Motts, Motts, Motts!," "Bubba Calhoun," "Mert Lichtin," and "Don Frank."