Col. Sherman T. Potter is one of the several fan-favorites from M*A*S*H. His Potter-isms are still just as funny as they were in the Seventies and early Eighties.
Harry Morgan was known for being fun on set and several of his co-stars have said so publically. Part of the reason Morgan could be himself so frequently on M*A*S*H is because of the comfort level he felt as soon as he stepped on set. Don’t forget, by the time he was cast as Col. Potter, he was already familiar with the cast, thanks to his appearance as General Bartford Hamilton Steele.
“Everybody was really fond of everybody else,” he said in a 2004 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I think that was communicated. It was so effortless to do all of this stuff [and] it didn’t require any tough thinking to do this stuff. It was like falling off a log. I don’t even remember at the beginning that it was difficult, it fell into line almost immediately.”
M*A*S*H had several ad-libbed scenes that made it into the show, whether it was in direct dialogue or a funny cast-wide interaction that made it into the show. A lot of the back-and-forth interactions that stuck came during the dreaded lunch hour at the 4077th.
“There were a lot of practical jokes, you know, had a lot of messes where we’re eating food, which wasn’t very good, there was a lot of horseplay around that,” Morgan said. “Especially with Jamie [Farr] and Gary [Burgoff]. Jamie was very funny. We’d horse around and sometimes it was good you know, and they’d keep it in [the show]. It was very freewheeling.”
So why so many opportunities during meal time? The production aspect of how those scenes were shot made it the perfect time to cause a ruckus, and often funny ones at that, according to Morgan.
“We had a lot of mess tent scenes where you know we seated at a rectangular table and I think the camera was back here and covered the whole thing, there weren’t any close-ups. So there was a lot of horseplay, or whatever you wanted to do with your food,” Morgan chuckled. “There was a lot of childishness on that show along with whatever mature qualities we possessed. It was a really terrific, fun show to do.
M*A*S*H knew how to have fun with its impressive cast, but it certainly knew how to be serious, particularly with the cast member departures and the real loss that came with war. Arguably, the show’s biggest strength was its ability to switch between drama and comedy so effortlessly.
When looking back, Morgan recalled simply, “We had a lot of joking around. It was really wonderful to work on that show, we saw such a happy experience.”