Dave Ketchum's name was never a household word, but he was a familiar face in American living rooms, thanks to his many appearances on various programs, mostly situation comedies. He was a regular on two sitcoms that were canceled after one season, "I'm Dickens, He's Fester" and "Camp Runamuck," for which hit the road in 1965 in an attempt to drum up publicity for a sinking ship. His stops included Cleveland where he gave the interview that resulted in the story that follows.

After "Camp Runamuck" left the air, Ketchum played a recurring role on a hit series, "Get Smart," in which he was Agent 13, who popped up from such hiding places as planters, trash cans and other containers befitting an agent with an unlucky number. Ketchum kept work for many years after that, and when he wasn't in front of the camera, he was proving voice overs or writing scripts.

Ketchum's last appearance on television was in 1999. I assume he lives in California, and last February (2023) celebrated his 95th birthday.

Akron Beacon Journal, December 19, 1965



"Camp Runamuck" is in 75th place in the Nielsen ratings – so it tries harder.


"Camp Runamuck" is just about the most trying show there is.

And the guy who tries hardest on this most trying show is comedian Dave Ketchum, a dead ringer for that nut who used to stick his fingers in light bulb sockets in the old Pete Smith Specialties.

Thus Ketchum is very much at home in the grrrrunnnnt! style of comedy. He makes aaaargh! facial expressions, falls off stools and into lakes, and drools over co-star Nina Wayne [see below].

In short, Ketchum is willing to make an ass of himself if the person in charge decides such behavior will benefit the show.

Ketchum reflects the non-thinking man's approach to television. He shows up for work, gets his orders for the day – and carries them out. When he leave the studio, he forgets his work.

"I've never thought of show business as an art form," he said. "To me it's just another job."

When he wants to see himself in action, Ketchum waits until Friday nights and watches "Camp Runamuck." The canned laugh track assures him his pratfalls were not in vain.

The Runamuckers have finished 26 episodes which will carry the program through March 18. After that there may be reruns. Or perhaps the network (NBC) will reassembled the cast to film more episodes. Perhaps another series will take "Runamuck's" place. No one knows for sure.

NBC, like its competitors, has a real problem this season. No longer do they try to determine which programs are better than others. Now it's a matter of which programs aren't quite as awful.

Can you imagine what must go through an NBC vice-president's mind when faced with the task of deciding the fates of such programs as "Hank," "My Mother, the Car," "The John Forsythe Show, "Mona McCluskey" – and "Camp Runamuck"?

Until decisions are made, the programs involved – especially "Camp Runamuck" – will try to save themselves.

"Runamuck" has sent its stars on tour, which is why Ketchum popped up in Cleveland recently to call attention to his program, which was as startling as if he had bragged about bad breath.

But Ketchum has statistics up his sleeve – statistics arranged in such a way that he thinks they bolster his argument that his program deserves to run its muck for another season.

For example, he claimed one survey indicates "Camp Runamuck" is the most popular show of the year, or, as Ketchum phrased it, "Color-wise, we're number one."

(What I think the survey – if there was one – really said was "Runamuck" is the most popular show carried by NBC affiliates on Friday nights fro 7:30 to 8.)

Ketchum also claimed his show's ratings had improved, but was vague about its overall standing. "Rating-wise we're up about four places."

(Translated: "Camp Runamuck" had zoomed from 79th place to 75th.)

Fortunately, Ketchum didn't waste much time talking about "Runamuck." He preferred to talk about himself, a more interesting subject.

Ketchum is a hey-have-have-you-heard-the-one-about-the-traveling-salesman kind of talker, perhaps because he is relatively unknown and still tries hard to make a good impression.

He also tries to appear analytical which accounts for the way he tacks the word "wise" on the end of so many words – production-wise, script-wise, money-wise. He uses every kind of wise except wise-wise.

Ketchum also is a camera nut and will do almost anything to get an interesting picture. Because of this he has left a trail of amused and confused people in his wake.

He was in Seoul, Korean, a few years ago to perform for the Army and his first impression of the city was that it would make a good setting for an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

"So I figured it would be interesting if I made some home movies in Hitchcock-style, rather than the usual travelogue style. I got someone else to handle the camera while I played a typical chase scene through Seoul streets."

Ketchum said he dodged cars, popped in and out of taxis, in and out of buildings and jumped on and off buses in a wild 30-minute film which used most of downtown Seoul as background. He dubbed in "chase" music when he returned home.

He also is crazy for gadgets and one time nearly frightened his wife into hysterics with a recorder he rigged in his house.

"I hooked up a timer to a tape record and set it to play about ten hours after I left to perform out of town."

That night Mrs. Ketchum was awakened by an eerie voice from the darkness that kept repeating, "Hello, darling, I miss you." She finally mustered the courage to explore the room, located the recorder and turned it off.

Ketchum's interest in gadgets goes back to his days as an electrical engineering major at UCLA.

"I had already done a lot of performing," he said, "but I couldn't quite resign myself to being in show business. I figured eventually I'd have to work for a living – so I took engineering."

He has never had to use his engineering education. Though he hasn't set the entertainment world afire, Ketchum has remained busy in nightclubs, on radio and on television.

If "Camp Runamuck" fails, which seems a certainty, Ketchum might try pitching a show based on his Army experience. He joined the National Guard just before the Korean War. "I got into a band unit because I was sure it would be the last kind of unit called in an emergency."

Instead it was one of the first, and Ketchum soon found himself on a parade field at a California Army post where he tooted his trumpet while recruits when through their paces.

Ketchum wriggled out of the band and got into a public information unit which gave him enough free time to do a nightly radio show in San Francisco.

"Career-wise, the Army was actually a help," he said.

Which may be more than he'll ever say about "Camp Runamuck."