Peter Falk Tribute

Tavis pays tribute to the five-time Emmy-winning actor with a clip from his past appearance on the show.

During a distinguished stage, film and TV career, Peter Falk received numerous awards. His false right eye—a result of cancer surgery at age 3—gave him his trademark squint, and he was best known as the shabby but shrewd Lt. Columbo. Coincidentally, his first acting job was in the role of a detective in a high school play. After earning a master's and becoming a CPA, Falk decided acting might be exciting. The five-time Emmy winner and two-time Oscar nominee also had a passion for drawing and sketching and had a studio in his home. Falk passed away recently in Beverly Hills.


Tavis: When we learned that Peter Falk passed away here in L.A. Thursday night, we immediately thought of his memorable appearance on this program back in 2005. The TV legend joined us, along with comedian Paul Riser, as the two had teamed up on a project together playing father and son.

As you can see here, the two turned out to be a very entertaining match.

[Begin video clip]

Paul Riser: I wrote this for him, and I had no backup plan. If he said no, it was going to be me and Walter Cronkite. I don’t know what I would have done.

Tavis: And why Peter Falk?

Riser: I don’t know.

Peter Falk: Tell him the story.

Paul Riser: I’ll tell him the story.

Falk: Tell him the story. Then I can tell you what my story is.

Riser: Do you have to yell at me on national television? (Laughter) Is that necessary? Here’s the –

Tavis: Here’s the story.

Riser: Sorry, my dad’s a little cranky.

Tavis: Yeah.

Riser: I grew up, I loved Peter Falk. I just always zeroed in on him. Something about him sounded like my family. Then a couple of years ago, 20 years ago, I was back visiting my parents and my dad had a Peter Falk movie on TV and he was laughing. I said, “I never see him laugh at anybody the way he laughs at Peter Falk,” so I said, “I’ve got to do something. Peter Falk as my father,” and I went off and I wrote the movie.

Falk: So that’s the nicest way I ever got a job. (Laughter) I never had a job where the writer had a fond memory of watching his father watching me on television and his father laughing and that’s why I got hired. That’s a nice way to get a job.

Tavis: That’s a great story. So Peter Falk reminds you of your dad in some ways?

Riser: Yeah, there’s something about – he doesn’t look like him, but there’s something that’s –

Tavis: Your dad’s not walking around in a trench coat asking, “And another thing,” is he? (Laughter)

Riser: No, he doesn’t do that.

Tavis: Okay. (Laughter)

Riser: But they were very much the same guy. When my wife first met Peter she goes, “Man, that is your dad.” I said, “Exactly. That’s why we’re not having dinner with Joey Bishop,” because Peter was the guy. (Laughter) The store is closed. But it came out great.

This movie, we’re so excited about it, we’ve been going from city to city playing it, and everywhere we go it’s like people are loving it, people are relating to it. I tell them that this movie has the lovely distinction of being turned down by every studio imaginable.

People who don’t even have studios would just call up and –

Tavis: Would just call and say, “No.” (Laughter)

Riser: Straight, yeah – “No. Don’t think about it.” So we said, “All right, we’ll show you,” and we went out and we raised the money and we went off and did it independently and now it’s just really catching fire.

Tavis: What’s your sense of why you kept hearing “No” so much?

Riser: Ohh –

Tavis: What’s Hollywood not ready for?

Falk: Well, because I’ll tell you. (Laughter) In one sentence, I’ll tell you what it is.

Riser: What is it?

Falk: Not enough explosions.

Tavis: Yeah.

Falk: If you have a lot of explosions, you’ve got a chance, understand? (Laughter)

Riser: Yeah, there’s no exploding in this movie.

Falk: There’s no explosions here.

Riser: But I’ll tell you what it does have, and I hope I don’t embarrass you; it has Peter Falk’s – the movie opens with Peter Falk’s first-ever nude scene. And I will tell you something –

Falk: I look pretty good. (Laughter)

Riser: Yes, and it is something, you’ll say, “I’m glad I waited all these years.”

Tavis: Just to see this.

Riser: Because – yeah.

Falk: You’ve got to tune in for that.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Riser: And I don’t think there’ll be another one, so all the more reason to race and see it. (Laughter)

Falk: I’m not totally nude. Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’m not totally nude.

Riser: No, no, it’s – tastefully.

Falk: No.

Riser: It’s done tastefully.

Falk: No, I got talcum powder. That covers me up a little bit.

Riser: Yeah, there’s a little powder, (laughter) so it’s a nice veil of subtlety.

Tavis: Why wait – first of all, happy early birthday.

Falk: Oh, thank you very much.

Tavis: September 16th.

Falk: Thank you very, very much

Riser: We open on his birthday. Is that a sign from above?

Tavis: Isn’t that a good sign?

Riser: There it is.

Tavis: Why wait until 78 to do a nude scene?

Falk: Well, that’s a – well, that’s a good question. (Laughter) That’s a good one.

Riser: There is some film of him – other film – but we’re not legally allowed to show that.

Tavis: You’re not legally allowed to show that, yeah.

Riser: We’ll cut it out of the show. But this is – I’m going to say this is – his long-overdue Oscar will be for this role. He is in such a performance, that America –

Falk: All right, this is what I would like to do. I would like to change the subject and talk about me.

Riser: I’m sorry, yes.

Tavis: Please.

Riser: Yes.

Tavis: Let’s talk about you. I promised you –

Falk: No, no. No more.

Riser: I’m just saying –

Falk: No more. (Laughter)

Tavis: So now he’s really reminding you of your dad, right?

Riser: It’s all about me, yeah, yeah.

Tavis: So now he’s getting more like your dad.

Riser: I’ll tell you what it is – he drives like my dad. My dad and Peter drive very similarly. My dad, he would say, “Hey, I’ve never gotten in an accident,” which is true, but everybody around him will get in an accident. (Laughter) I said, “Dad, you notice the pattern behind you?” You drive with Peter Falk, it’s very similar.

Tavis: Let’s talk about you for a second. I want to get back to what the storyline is here, really, about –

Falk: Okay, yeah, yeah.

Tavis: – which we haven’t talked about. But let me ask you, I promised Peter Falk when he walked in that I would do my best to avoid telling him a “Columbo” story, and I’m going to keep my promise.

Riser: Good for you.

Tavis: Thank you, because I know you’ve heard this story a thousand times from people all around the world. But do you ever get tired of hearing these “Columbo” stories?

Falk: Never.

Tavis: You never get tired of that?

Falk: Never. Never.

Tavis: Because it allows you to talk about you.

Falk: That’s right.

Riser: That’s right.

Tavis: Is that what it is? Okay.

Riser: Yeah, there’s not enough of that, really. (Laughter)

Falk: That’s right.

Tavis: So you’re proud of the work, obviously, and never get bothered by people saying, “I loved you on ‘Columbo.'”

Falk: No, no. To have a terrific character and to get paid a lot of dough and to have seats at the basketball game right on the court and you get them for nothing. (Laughter)

Riser: What a life. Where is it bad?

Falk: It’s not cancer. (Laughter)

Tavis: Where’s that trench coat? Is it in the Smithsonian? Where is that trench coat?

Falk: Well, I’m going to tell you about the trench coat (unintelligible) the Smithsonian. If my closet on the second story next to the bedroom, if that’s the Smithsonian, that’s where it is.

Tavis: That’s where the trench coat is.

Falk: Yeah. (Laughter)

[End video clip.]

Tavis: So perhaps the Smithsonian will now be able to add that trench coat to their collection of American memorabilia. Though “Columbo” was his most famous role, Falk also enjoyed great success in film, earning two Oscar nominations, including one for “The Last Movie Ever Made” by Frank Kapra.

Peter Falk passed away here in Los Angeles last Thursday at the age of 83.

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Last modified: June 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm