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Saturday, November 7, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Noah's Spark -- Tuneman Tim Noah Has A Wacky, Catchy Kids' Show, `How 'Bout That'

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

"How 'Bout That" with Tim Noah, 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, repeats at 7:30 a.m. Sundays on KOMO-TV. Find out more about Tim Noah, the show and Noah's concert schedule online at www.timnoah.com.

The music is catchy, the factoids fun and the imagery . . . well, it's weird, wild and more than a bit wacky. But then, that's the Tuneman, Tim Noah.

If you haven't heard of him, ask your kids. For more than two decades, Noah has been appearing locally and nationally at concerts, festivals and schools. He's cut a variety of tapes and children's music videos, and he's just begun his second season of what is currently the only local kids' TV show in production.

In its first year, Noah's show "How 'Bout That" won four Emmy awards (TV's equivalent of the Oscars), two Telly awards for outstanding non-network TV productions, and a Parents' Choice Gold Award. Once this second season is "in the can" - TV talk for finished - it will be syndicated nationally.

Watching Noah and his producer, Ken Morrison, in the production studio recently, it was quickly apparent that the loony, offbeat show has its roots in the duo's childhood heros: local TV kids' celebrities J.P. Patches, Stan Boreson, Wunda Wunda and Captain Puget. There's a crazy robot named Quirk, some zany musical instruments and a half-dozen backdrops that range from huge sheets of corrugated tin to a decorated elevator, a wide "window to the world" and a music studio.

"When I grew up, every Seattle-area station had its own local kids' shows," says Noah. "This year there's just us."

Offstage, Noah, 48, is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man who began singing publicly at age 12. His first real gig was at the Bellevue Public Library, and he has gained local and increasingly national fame. He'll be sharing the stage next month with Kriss Kringle at a number of Nordstrom Santa Breakfasts.

Onstage he's an overgrown kid, a persona he created in the mid-1980s in a music video that garnered national acclaim, "In Search of the Wow Wow Wibble Woggle Wazzie Woodle Woo!"

In "How 'Bout That," he jumps about the TV studio, slinging his guitar, tossing a model airplane or jamming on the piano. He banters with the Bossman, Mr. B. Biddle, via a jangly leopard-skin-painted pay phone, grabs snacks from a purple-fur-wrapped refrigerator, and continually trades jabs with Quirk, the computerized robot.

The show is geared toward kids 6 to 12, though younger children, including Noah's own son Jude, 4, enjoy it for its antics. Older viewers often appreciate the amount of information it packs into a half hour.

Noah's job is the "wrap" - the narration, music and transition - before, between and after three educational segments. The segments, such as this week's look at the Blue Angels, blue dolphins and a piano factory, are film clips and interviews, interspersed with video animation and Noah's original songs. It's a format that producer Morrison describes as "MTV-meets-kids'-TV-meets-newsmagazine."

Noah and Morrison met when Morrison interviewed him for KOMO's "Front Runners," a program about people who excel in their lives. They soon realized both had long dreamed of making a successful children's show.

It was about a decade before the show finally premiered. In the interim they did several television specials together.

So what's "How 'Bout That!" about?

This week's show starts with Noah being goofy in leather aviator garb, then cuts to spectacular footage of the famous Blue Angel fighter plane drill team and an interview with its commanding pilot.

Noah comes in with a song and water-fight sequence, then viewers are taken to Marine World, where graceful blue dolphins leap and dive and their trainer talks about having the best job in the world.

Back in the studio, Noah rhapsodizes on an old piano. Then it's off to the woods, where a logger fells a tree that may one day become a piano. In "Journey from Trees to Keys," viewers travel from the forest to the Steinway piano factory. There they learn that a top-notch grand piano has 12,000 parts and may take a year to build. The segment ends with Noah back on the piano, dressed as an 18th-century composer, playing familiar bits of Brahms, Beethoven, Bach and Mozart.

"We take a topic and delve in, then add music and song," Morrison explains about the several weeks and crew of 15 that it takes to produce each show. Noah and Morrison dream up the ideas, a writer scripts them, and then Morrison directs a camera crew and editor for the educational segments. Noah writes and sings the songs, and it all comes together in twice-monthly studio sessions that often last more than 12 hours.

Once the show is shot, there are several days of editing and voice-over additions - for example, to make Noah's robot Quirk talk.

"We have a lot of fun and we think we have a pretty special show," Morrison says. "We hope that's what shines through."

Tell us, Tuneman, do you know . How they make a piano . P-I-A-N-O, we'd like to know . How they make a piano . Bip-bop-beep-boop-bodio . All we really wanna know . is how they make a piano .

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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