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for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

Pertti Reponen (1941-1998) - pseudonym Alan Dorkin


Finnish television comedy writer, director and producer. Reponen also made texts for several songs, translating and writing lyrics among others for such singers or groups Danny, Kirka, Katri-Helena, Tapio Heinonen, Matti&Teppo, Tapani Kansa, Hortto Kaalo, Carola, and Paula Koivuniemi.

"Toivotaan, toivotaan, toivotaan,
että joskus luomme toisenlaisen maan,
että antaisimme kaiken, auttaisimme ystävää,
ehkä kaukana se on, mut toivo jää."

(original song 'Che sara' by Jimmy Fontana and Carlo Pes,
trans. and song lyrics by Pertti Reponen)

Pertti ("Pertsa") Reponen was born in Joensuu, the son of Armas Reponen, an office manager, and Hilkka (Ryynänen) Reponen. He studied in Lahti and after graduating, he found in 1963 a job as a camera man in the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). In 1966 he married Angela Carole Wyner, whom he had met in England. The marriage was happy; they had three children, one of whom, Stefi, studied camera and scriptwriting.

When Reponen launched his career on TV, it was still a relatively young form of entertainment in Finland. The first regular public TV programs had been broadcast in the mid-1950s. Increasing employment opportunities in the field attracted a wide variety of talented people. In the 1960s Pertti (Spede) Pasanen, a writer, actor, and producer, made his breakthrough as the most popular and innovative pioneer in comedy. When he began to focus more and more of his creative energies on the movie business, new  scriptwriters and producer emerged to fill the growing demand for TV comedy series, among them Jussi Tuominen, Reponen, and Neil Hardwick, whose English background marked his sense of humor. Among Hardwick's early works were the series Tankki täyteen, set on a gas station, and Reinikainen, about a jovial policeman from the country. Tenho Saurén played the title role, and became the best PR man for police.

From 1963 to 1967 Reponen worked behind the camera, but in 1967 he joined the entertainment department as a producer and director. He gained success with the comedy show Ilkamat, which contained loosely connected sketches. He also contributed to folk music movement in the 1960s, and was one of the creators of Finntrio and Hootenanny Trio, which combined hillbilly and polka music. The hits of Hootenanny Trio included 'Esplanadi,' a sad story about a bad hangover, song and text by Keijo Räikkönen. Between the years 1966 and 1981 Reponen wrote song lyrics for the music company Oy Scandia-Musiikki. An important collaborator was the composer and singer Aarno Raninen, who set the music for such comedy series as Älywapaa palokunta, Soitinmenot, and Kolmannen korvapuusti, all written by Reponen.

In the late 1980s, the American singer and songwriter Lee Hazlewood, who knew that Reponen had translated his song lyrics into Finnish, was surprised of how much royalties he got from Finland. When Hazlewood called Reponen, he learned that behind the success was a young singer, Anna Hanski, who had recorded a Finnish version of his ballad 'Kotiviini' (Summer Wine). It was a hit in Finland, twenty-two years after Hazlewood had originally recorded it with Nancy Sinatra. Reponen made some changes to Hazlewood's lyrics: the wine is made of strawberries, cherries and apples (not of "Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring"), and there are no "silver spurs, a dollar and a dime" that the mysterious woman steals from the man drinking too much of her wine.

The Finnish rock musician and novelist Kauko Röyhkä has listed 'Hetki lyö,' for which Reponen wrote the words and which was made popular by Kirka & The Islanders, among the 101 best rock lyrics. "Hetki lyö, / riittänyt ei yö, / mukaan tulla et sä voi / nyt lausun sulle: "Näkemiin." (Now it's time / the night's been too short / you can't come with me / and I must say "farewell" to you."

Because of serious illness – rheumatism – Reponen retired from YLE but continued to write for television and founded his own production company. He preferred to work at home, where the constant background noise of children, domestic animals, and radio and television only inspired him. Through the influence of his wife Angela, Reponen also introduced nuances of English humor into Finnish television shows.

A very prolific writer, Reponen created for the television company MTV3 twelve series in the period of 15 years. He received the Bronze Rose of Montreaux in 1972 from Ällitälli (the Golden Rose went to Marty Feldman's Comedy Machine), Venla award in 1987, and several awards for his lyrics for songs. His comedies include Ällitälli, Merirosvoradio, Valehtelijoiden klubi, Älywapaa palokunta, Soitinmenot, Velipuolikuu, Kissa vieköön, Paha yskä, Heksa ja Leksa, Siivotaan siivotaan, Vesku rempallaan, Wiisikko, Sketsofrenia, Kolmannen korvapuusti, and Jäitä hattuun. Reponen's musical play, Elämän sait soimaan, was produced in 1994. His last television series was Pappia kyydissä (1998). Pertti Reponen died of cancer in Helsinki on August 31, 1998.

HEIKKI: Jos papukaija, joka osaa lentää, oppii puhumaan syömällä pellavansiemeniä, niin ihminen, joka osaa puhua, voi vastaavasti oppia lentämään, kun syö samoja siemeniä.
LEO: Puppua.
HEIKKI: Mutta mielenkiintoista.

(from the comedy series Älywapaa palokunta)

Reponen's television comedies were based on close relationship with such versatile actors as Heikki Kinnunen, who appeared in several productions, Leo Lastumäki, Erkki Liikanen, Eija Ahvo, Susanna Haavisto, Erkki Saarela, Pentti Siimes, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius and Kari Hietanen. Ideas for his scripts Reponen found from family life, basic characters of the Finnish folk humour, topical issues, and the British comedy tradition starting from Monty Python. Although Reponen used internationally known comedy forms, his point of view was profoundly Finnish. The scope of subjects was wide but Reponen rarely touched upon political subjects. Sometimes he mocked Helsinki's municipal politics. In one sketch Mayor Hilasvitku tells that the city plans to set a submarine on Töölönlahti (Töölö bay) as a turist trap – all town residents know that the bay is small, low, and muddy. But there is a truth behind the joke. The Finnish submarine Vesikko from the 1930s can be found at the island of Suomenlinna and in the 1990s a Russian submarine was opened in Helsinki to the public.

Many of the sayings from the sketches – as 'Aha', 'Mielenkiintoista...'  (Interesting...),  'Onks Viljoo näkyny' (Have you seen Viljo?), and 'Lycka till' (Good luck) – became part of everyday speech. Reponen considered Viljo's friend Heikki as the prototype of a Finnish man – he is dressed in an undershirt and sweat pants, where he has a bottle of Koskenkorva liquor in the hip pocket. He has also old black shoes without socks, a peaked cap, and he smokes a cigar and is constantly searching his mystical friend Viljo, who never appears. The humor in the character and the minimalist Beckettian dialogue opens perhaps only to Finish television audiences.

HEIKKI: Have you seen Viljo?
LEO: No.
HEIKKI: Aha. What are you doing?
LEO: Thinking.
HEIKKI: Aha. What are you thinking?
LEO: This and that.
LEO: That kind of things.
HEIKKI: Well... good luck.

Viljo's character inspired the film Onks Viljoo näkynyt? (1988), produced by Spede Pasanen and directed by Hannu Seikkula. In 1981 Pasanen wrote the comedy Pölhölä, which was shot in fifteen days and directed by Reponen, Heikki Kinnunen, and Taavi Kassila. The story was set in a village populated by all kinds of ignoramus. Critics were lukewarm. Reponen's other screen credits include Piilopirtti (1978), written with Seppo Huunonen and Vesa Nuotio, and Koomikko (1983) written with Matti Ijäs and Heikki Kinnunen. These films were received with mixed critical reaction, too.

Sources: Kuka kukin on - Who's Who in Finland, ed. by Irja Hämäläinen (1994); Yleisradion historia 1926-1996, Vol. 2, by Raimo Salokangas (1996); Yleisradion historia 1926-1996, vol. 3, by Kari Ilmonen (1996); Elon aika by Aarre Elo (1996); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 9, ed. by Sakari Toiviainen, Arto Haarala et al. (2000)

Selected works:

  • Miehemme maassa, 1968 (TV movie; teleplay with Vesa Nuotio and Erkki Pohjanheimo, starring Vesa-Matti Loiri, Soili Markkanen and Pertti Ylermi Lindgren)
  • Jouluaattoyö, 1969 (translation)
  • Häijyt, rennot ja rumat, 1970 (TV movie; writer with Ismo Sajakorpi and Jukka Virtanen, dir. with Ismo Sajakorpi)
  • Ällitälli, 1971 (TV comedy series; written with Kari Kyrönseppä and Vesa Nuotio, starring Heikki Kinnunen and Leo Lastumäki)
  • Merirosvoradio, 1974 (TV comedy series; writer, starring Petra Frey, Heikki Kinnunen, Leo Lastumäki, Erkki Liikanen, Risto Mäkelä, Esko Roine, Pekka Laiho
  • Aristokatit, 1973 (song lyrics)
  • Piilopirtti, 1978 (screenplay with Seppo Huunonen and Vesa Nuotio, prod. Vasarakuva, dir. Seppo Huunonen, starring Leo Lastumäki, Erkki Liikanen and Ritva Valkama)
  • Vain tavallinen mies / Tapio Heinonen, 1980 (record, song lyrics by Kari Tuomisaari and Pertti Reponen) 
  • Pölhölä, 1981 (dir. with Heikki Kinnunen and Taavi Kassila)
  • Valehtelijoiden klubi, 1982-1983 (TV series; writer, prod. Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Helge Herala, Olavi Ahonen, Leo Lastumäki, Maija-Leena Soinne, Aake Kalliala)
  • Koomikko, 1983 (screenplay with Matti Ijäs and Heikki Kinnunen, dir. Matti Ijäs, starring Aake Kalliala, Helge Herala, Heidi Herala, Heikki Kinnunen, Leo Lastumäki, Maija-Leena Soinne, Olavi Ahonen)
  • Korkki ja Lipponen, 1984 (TV movie; teleplay, as Alan Dorkin, dir. Ere Kokkonen, starring Pekka Autiovuori and Aake Kalliala)
  • ÅWPK - Älywapaa palokunta, 1984-85 (TV comedy series; writer, prod. Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Leo Lastumäki, Titta Jokinen, Kristiina Elstelä)
  • Soitinmenot, 1985-86 (TV comedy series; writer with Kai Sievers, starring Eija Ahvo, Susanna Haavisto, Heikki Kinnunen, Erkki Saarela)
  • Salakari, 1986 (TV series; writer with Kari Salminen and others, prod. Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Kari Salminen)
  • Huh hellettä!, 1986 (TV series; writer, dir. Vesa Nuotio, starring Pedro Ahumada, Jukka Puotila, Maija-Leena Soinne)
  • Kissa vieköön, 1987 (TV series; writer, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Pentti Siimes, Marja Korhonen)
  • Max ja Moritz, 1987 (song lyrics)
  • Reposen parhaita, 1988 (collection of sketches)
  • 'Onks Viljoo näkynyt?', 1988 (screenplay with Aake Kalliala and Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, prod. Filmituotanto Spede Pasanen, dir. by Hannu Seikkula, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Aake Kalliala, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, Titta Jokinen)
  • Heksa ja Leksa, 1989 (TV series; writer and director, prod.Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Heikki Kinnunen and Leo Lastumäki)
  • Paha yskä - ja yhä pahenee, 1989 (TV comedy series; writer, prod.Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Titta Jokinen, Heikki Kinnunen and Tom Pöysti)
  • Wiisikko, 1990 (TV series; writer, starring Eero Aho, Outi Alanen, Samuli Edelmann, Santeri Kinnunen, Konsta Mäkelä, Jan Nyqvist)
  • Siivotaan, siivotaan, 1991 (TV comedy series; writer, prod. Mainostelevisio MTV, starring Samuli Edelmann, Kristiina Elstelä, Katariina Kaitue, Heikki Kinnunen, Santeri Kinnunen)
  • Sketsofrenia, 1991 (TV series; writer, starring Samuli Edelmann, Santeri Kinnunen, Jan Nyqvist, Ritva Valkama)
  • Vesku rempallaan, 1992 (TV series; producer, starring Vesa-Matti Loiri)
  • Kolmannen korvapuusti, 1993 (TV comedy series; writer, dir. Hannu Seikkula, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Eija Ahvo and Nina Sallinen)
  • Jäitä hattuun, 1994-95 (TV comedy series; writer, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Eija Ahvo, Tom Pöysti, Nina Sallinen)
  • Olen finni, 1996 (TV series; writer, prod. MTV, starring Heikki Kinnunen, Jouko Klemettilä and Merja Larivaara)
  • Pappia kyydissä, 1998 (TV series; writer with Heikki Itänen, prod. MTV, starring Viktor Klimenko, Vesa Mäkelä and Santeri Kinnunen )
  • Tunteen palo, 1999-2000 (TV comedy series; creator, prod. Pearson Television Entertainment Oy, Templar Oy, starring Kristiina Elstelä, Heikki Kinnunen and Juha Laitila)

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