“The O’Keefes,” created, written and executive-produced by youngest brother Danny J. O’Keefe ’93, will introduce the country to the semi-fictionalized, wacky and erratic childhood of the brilliant brothers.
“We have a weird family of crackpots and cranks,” Mark C. O’Keefe ’92 says. “It was very easy to pitch that. I just related anecdotes and tied them into a fabricated situation I made up in order to fit it into a television mold.”
Though some might squirm at the thought of sharing their childhood with strangers, for Mark, Danny, and Larry C. O’Keefe ’91—all alums of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the Krokodiloes and the Harvard Lampoon—it comes in stride.
In the show, Mark, Danny and Lauren O’Keefe are home-schooled siblings raised by intellectual parents. They enter private school after a childhood sheltered from the real world.
“It was a little odd to have a character named Danny O’Keefe on television,” admits Danny, who is currently executive producer of the Drew Carey show. “But thankfully they have an actor who’s far-better looking than I was at that age.”
Larry, a composer and lyricist best known for his off-Broadway smash success Bat Boy, The Musical, which is returning to Boston for a second time this May, reacted with equal pride—but jokingly disapproved of his brother’s artistic liberties.
“I had a little bit of trouble with being turned into a girl,” remarks Larry, whose television counterpart has been renamed Lauren.
“I believe the network told Mark that he had to have a female O’Keefe kid. But he took such glee in turning me into a girl that I can only conclude that he really wanted me to be one,” Larry says.
In reply, Mark says, “It was partly a consideration that I didn’t want the show to be too much like Malcolm in the Middle. Also, it did give me great pleasure to turn my musical-writing brother into a girl.”
In the era of “The Osbournes,” it seems unnecessary to question a truly bizarre family’s right to its own television show. In the case of the O’Keefes, Danny’s agent badgered him for years to do a show about his childhood until Mark finally took advantage of the opportunity.
For the most part, Mark has offered a more subdued version of his often-chaotic childhood.
According to official WB material, the O’Keefe siblings “can speak six languages, but are unable to converse with kids their own age”—a real-life fact about the brothers.
“So, when we were growing up, every summer we weren’t allowed to speak any English,” Mark explains. “We’d have to talk in a foreign language all summer. But it wasn’t like our father really instructed us in the foreign language. We didn’t really know the language he wanted us to talk in, and he didn’t know it either. So we’d just kind of wing it. We went through about seven languages like that.”
The fictional O’Keefes manage only six languages.
The O’Keefes’ unconventional upbringing has contributed to their current success, not merely as fodder for the family’s screen writing endeavors.