Andy Cadiff '77 (Director, HOME IMPROVEMENT, SPIN CITY, HOT IN CLEVELAND)
By Dayna Wilkinson
Andy Cadiff ‘77 has directed over 550 episodes of multi-camera television shows, including hit comedies such as Home Improvement and Spin City. He also directed the pilots of such shows as According To Jim and My Wife & Kids and three features. But he says he didn’t watch much TV as a child. “I don’t think I saw a first run network comedy until I was in my twenties.”
During his summers, he went to an all-boys camp in New Hampshire. “They staged Guys and Dolls when I was fourteen. I was a jock, not a theater kid, but we all auditioned—I was cast as the female lead.” Thus began his love affair with theater, particularly musical theater.
He became a drama counselor at the camp, directing shows there and also at his prep school outside Cambridge. “My school’s bylaws called it a Harvard College preparatory school. When I graduated I didn’t choose Harvard because of its reputation, it’s just where all my friends were going. I’m embarrassed when I see how much thought my children put into their college decisions.”
Andy played football and baseball as a Harvard freshman but after injuring his arm, he decided to see what was happening in the theater scene. He was introduced to two law students who were staging Kiss Me Kate at the Loeb Theater, Josh Rubins and George Birnbaum. “I became Josh’s assistant director—that was the mentorship that really launched me. We’re great friends to this day.”
Over the next three years Andy directed the musicals Fiorello!, Wonderful Town and Oklahoma. He switched from English to a special concentration in The History and Literature of Theater Arts. Junior year, he met Broadway producer and director Hal Prince who was at Harvard as a visiting artist. “He led a class for fifteen students,” Andy recalls, “I decided ‘this is the man I have to apprentice with.’”
Andy stayed in touch, and after graduating magna cum laude, started as an unpaid observer on a musical Prince was developing, On The Twentieth Century. Andy then got his Equity Card as a stage manager. “After three years Hal told me ‘if you want to direct, you have to get out there and do it.’”
Andy contacted Jerry Colker ‘77, who had written Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down. “It was a musical comedy about three standup comedians, and we spent the next few years developing it, doing backer’s auditions, workshops and finding angel producers,” Andy says. “It opened at the Minetta Lane Theater to excellent reviews and put us on the map.”
They developed their next Broadway show (Mail) at the Pasadena Playhouse. Allan Burns was in the audience and took note of Andy’s directing. Allan (creator/writer of such shows as the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and Phyllis) invited Andy visit the set and ultimately to direct an episode of his comedy Eisenhower and Lutz. “After Mail closed on Broadway, he brought me in as a producer then director of his show FM,” Andy says.
“That was the beginning of my TV directing career. I was used to working on a huge canvas in the theater so the challenge with television was selecting the small part of the canvas that you want to audience to see through the camera lens. But it all clicked in and I eventually started seeing things from that perspective.”
Andy has served as director and Executive Producer of several series, but so far has spent the most time with Home Improvement and Spin City.
“Home Improvement was a traditional family sitcom but it had a show-within-a show (Tool Time), comedic physical stunts and even a touch of the spiritual. We were the #1 show with a 33 share and used five cameras instead of the usual four. It was exciting to do visually creative and comedic things that aren’t possible on most sitcoms.” Andy directed 81 episodes and left to direct his first feature.
His next long-running television show was Spin City. “I was working with Michael J. Fox on an adult sitcom with political overtones. It was fantastic living and shooting in New York—we had a great cast, sophisticated writing, lots of locations, and many filmic, cinematic elements.”
Among the many changes Andy has seen during his career, one of the biggest is the emergence of original comedy programming on cable television. “It’s no longer looked at as the lesser stepchild,” he notes, “ten or fifteen years ago cable couldn’t have gotten the quality of acting and writing talent it currently attracts.”
This holds true for TV Land shows Andy directs. He points to Hot in Cleveland, which has been renewed for a sixth season. “It’s been an experience I thought I wouldn’t be able to duplicate after Home Improvement and Spin City. We have a writing staff chock full of Emmy Award winners from shows like Frasier, Just Shoot Me and News Radio. They’re amazing writers who’ve been show runners in their own right. And I’m working with women I consider to be the most talented in the history of comedy television (Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves, Betty White).
He also directs The Exes, which is in its fourth season. “I love that show as well but it’s a bit of a juggling act,” he says. “I had to miss an entire season of The Exes and also leave Young and Hungry, a new show that I love and think will be very successful. But the show that’s picked up first needs to know whether you can direct in the new season and how many episodes can you do. Writers and actors change, network representatives change—you can’t be complacent about your opportunities.
“You never know what’s next, you constantly have to re-introduce yourself to people in the business. My managers are always sending me new scripts to look at.”
Andy is attached to what will be his fourth feature, The Morning After, a romantic comedy that will shoot in Austin, Texas. “I’ve done a couple of rewrites with the writer and we’re looking to start casting toward the end of this year.”
When asked how he would advise aspiring directors, Andy says “it’s not like becoming a lawyer or doctor; there are many different paths you can take. Whatever you do, don’t just stay in your apartment thinking about it—find a writer who’s writing something that you can direct. Get a job where you’re around directors. Put yourself out there.”
Catch the 100th episode of Hot in Cincinnati on August 13th.