Joel Daly channels ‘Network’ anchor

Joel Daly

Joel Daly

In close to 40 years as an anchorman in Chicago, Joel Daly delivered more than a few impassioned commentaries along with his newscasts. But I’m reasonably certain he never uttered the words: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Now, at long last, he will. The 78-year-old television news legend has been tapped to play Howard Beale, the fictional anchorman and “mad prophet of the airwaves,” in a staged reading based on the 1976 film “Network.” Beale shouts the “mad as hell” line as he incites viewers from coast to coast to join in venting their anger.

Alan Hunter, one of the original VJs from MTV, also will star in the production as part of the “Films For The Ear” series at 8 p.m. Sunday at 27 Live, a new restaurant and performance venue in Evanston. The series is produced by veteran comedy director Nate Herman, who previously staged celebrity readings of such classics as “His Girl Friday” and “Dr. Strangelove.”

Peter Finch (as Howard Beale)

Peter Finch (as Howard Beale)

For Daly, who’s also an accomplished actor (among many other talents), the opportunity to play the role for which the late Peter Finch won one of four Academy Awards for “Network” was too perfect to pass up.

Calling the original movie “a brilliant satire,” Daly said: “Paddy Chayefsky’s description of commercial television is even more pertinent today than in 1976.  Howard Beale, in his insightful madness, saw television as a “circus,” a “carnival,” “a boredom-killing business,” and he exhorted his viewers to “turn it off.”

On that, added Daly, “I disagree with Howard: Don’t turn it off – make it better!”

A Chicago Journalism Hall of Famer, Daly retired as the dean of local news anchors in 2005 after 38 years at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.

For ticket information, see ticketfly.com.