The MASH Matters podcast is a wonderful listen for any fan of the show. The conversations constantly unearth fascinating insights into the brilliant “sitcom” (it always feels weird to label MASH a mere sitcom) and involve cast members from the show. No wonder — one of the cohosts, Jeff Maxwell, is a MAS*H actor himself!
Maxwell portrayed Igor Straminsky, a sort of Gomer-like private, in ten seasons of the series. Now, he talks delves into the show with his MAS*H Matters cohost Ryan Patrick. In a recent episode, Maxwell discussed an episode quite important for his character, “Officer of the Day,” the third episode of season three. Though Maxwell had appeared in the background as a bit player in season two, this was the first episode to credit the actor as Igor.
The story opens with an unforgettable scene, a highlight of both Igor and Radar. Radar bleats a rather tone-deaf reveille on his bugle… until Igor shoots the instrument out of his hand with a cannon.
MAS*H Matters recently welcomed Gary Burghoff, Radar himself, for a two-part interview about his memories of the 4077th. In part two, the former colleagues reminisced about that particular scene. You can watch the scene at the top of this post.
Patrick posed a question that people often ask: Was that really Burghoff playing the bugle?
“Are you kidding?” Burghoff asked with a laugh. “How could it not be me playing the bugle?” Just before the scenes were filmed, Burghoff asked someone on the crew what exactly he was playing — he wasn’t even sure. “How does it go?” he asked. The production folks would then hum out the reveille for him to mimick — to comically atonal results.
Burns then demands of Igor, “Fire the ceremonial salute!” As for that cannon blast? Both Maxwell and Burghoff do not remember exactly how the effect was done — but it was not a real cannon blast, of course.
“I know that somehow my bugle was ripped from my hand by some device,” Burghoff said. “It probably was just a piece of fishing line or something like that… I was able to react to the shock of it because it actually felt shocking when it was torn from my hand.”
It was a breakthrough moment for supporting character Igor. “That scene gained me a little attention from various people,” Maxwell explained. “I remember somebody asked me, ‘Gee, can you make a face?’ I said, ‘How many and how long would you like them to last?”
Maxwell went on to praise Burghoff’s believable anger in the scene.
“When you were mad and you started running at me, and they grab you, I almost burst out laughing,” Maxwell confessed to Burghoff. “Your face… you were enraged! But I was so apologetic in my heart and soul because I thought, ‘I could have killed that guy!’”
Nearly 46 years later, the actors are still laughing about it.