Speaker OK, so why are these shows why this shows that for two reasons, and I knew we had something very special before we went into production, I had written 13 episodes. I knew what we had and I knew that they were honest and classic.

Speaker And that reflected the mores of the time of a family, my wife and I and my children. And so I wrote. And every time we got new writers and I said, this is going to be around for a long time, I knew it. I, I want no sign of the day. I don’t want to hear splitsville or any of the slang of the day. I said we talk, we talk English and no not no slang. And when writers then I scratch it out and I knew we’re going to be I said, this is going to last a long time. If we do what I was what I thought was necessary, we did it both ways about censorship. I just remembered something on the show of shows that was going ten years back. The censorship was even worse. We had we had Sid Caesar and I were in a World War One sketch, and we’re in the winter bunker. We’re in a foxhole where we go and planes are soaring overhead and they’re dropping bombs. And you hear the bombs dropping. And Sid had a line.

Speaker Damn you, I wish you can’t say to him, I said, but I said, what? In a war people are dropping bombs. You can’t say, Damn no you’re not. Can’t damn on television. And we ended up saying, darn you, bombs dropping. Darn you. I mean, that’s how stupid they were.

Speaker What were the shows that were out before you before show shows or I mean like how film was representing?

Speaker Well, the shows that were big, big hits and they were peopled by very, very talented people. The biggest one of all was Lucille Ball show I Love Lucy, but I hated. I didn’t hate the show. I didn’t like the show because it wasn’t reflective of what I know about love and marriage. It was I wrote about two against the world. They wrote about two against each other. She was always trying to fool him. He was trying to keep her out of doing what he wanted to. There were there was always, you know, kind of a secret society between men and women. And I I didn’t get that. I didn’t it wasn’t the society I was living in at the time. So that was the one paying me that it was that big a hit and people loved it. And I said, don’t you know what? It’s not about what we’re about. And our show was about what I was doing.

Speaker Were there when you were growing up and you were listening to the radio and watching films, what were the what was that you love?

Speaker My parents were big lovers of comedy shows, but we always listen to every one of the comedy shows, the Eddie Cantor, show them the Jack Benny show, Fred Allen show. There was a very good situation comedy for McGee and Molly Westfeldt. And there were the Burns and Allen. They had a radio show and they had a television show and all the things that made made us laugh. And they were good. They were rather good at the variety shows were really you. I waited for the impersonators coming on and doing impersonations when I was a kid I loved in person.

Speaker Do you remember getting your first TV?

Speaker My first TV? Yes. Matter of fact, we got our first TV. I was already on the show of shows and we didn’t have a TV. My kids were very small, but I got a ten minute set and I remember I talked about this nicely. The kids would watch. There were four and six were there and they said, can you say hello to. As I said, we’re not allowed to do that. I said, I told my son, but at the end I’ll touch my tie. And that means, Hello, son, you know, but I was with this because said.

Speaker So. You and Norman, both were were Jewish fighting in World War two.

Speaker Yes. How did how did that experience impact the choices you made when you started making sure that.

Speaker Well, I. Norman was was a bombardier, and he flew thirty seven missions. I really applaud him that I was a teletype operator at one point. Then I’m on my way to Iwo Jima not knowing I was going there. I was also entertaining. I was doing an act and somebody said to there was a place in Hawaii called the the entertainment section. Maurice Evans and Alan Ludden ran it. And they said, my friend said, why don’t you audition for the light? So we’re going away tomorrow. We didn’t know where we were going on, but it was Iwo Jima and his audition. You’ll find out how professionals think of your work. I auditioned for them and they said, we’ve got to have you. And I said, I can’t. I’m going tomorrow. They treated me like a ball player. And I got into the next day, my group, when I’ve been with her for a year, they went to we didn’t know where they ended up. And he was which one year later, like a bad movie, one year later, I’m touring in an entertaining show and a review called Ship Ahoy. We end up on Iwo Jima on V-J Day, and I perform for my guys, which I haven’t seen in a year. I’m the star of the show. It’s like a bad movie, a good and bad movie.

Speaker That’s amazing.

Speaker It is so it’s hard to contemplate that could happen, but it did.

Speaker Um, I feel like, you know what you and I have one of the things we have in common was that when you started making your first shows that you really did have this drive to tell the truth and be honest with the world in in a really strong by the way, I want to I want to say that, Norman, first of all, I knew Norman Lear when he was when he was Norman Lear.

Speaker And then you’ve got to be Norman Lear, which he is today. And I have a little responsibility, but two reasons. One, when he started to do the show that made the world sit up and take notice and all of us laugh. I said, I’m going to give you a present, Norman, if you take it, you’re going to make a better show than you ever would if you didn’t take it. I said we found out because I was writing a lot of my own shows. We’d have a reading on Tuesday for once the start of the show.

Speaker I said, if you have a reading early and you have a run through on Friday and don’t do the show on Friday to have a run for on Friday, but do the show on Monday or Tuesday, whatever it was, you’ll have the weekend to rewrite. You’ll have seven days for a show rather than five or six days. And I said, once you hear it and say, oh, and you see it on its feet where they were asked, you know, they do it, I would block a blocking of it. I says, and you take it home on Sunday. You have all day Sunday by yourself to do all the rewrites. And he took that. And all the family have the same schedule that I just fell into that accidentally. And I said, my God, they wanted to change us. I no, no, that that rewriting is more important than anything else you’ll do after seeing the actors on stage and how you can fix things and make them better. Anyway, that was one of the things I did.

Speaker The other thing I want to say is that I am beholden to Norman. For one thing, when I know Norman, when he was when he was Norman Lear on Fire Island, he had a little girl and Robbie was my son. They were the same age. They played Jacks together. He and his little and Roro and Norman came to me, said, Boy, that kid of yours is funny as Robbie was a surly little clock. And I you’re not funny. He says he he was playing jacks with Ellen and he taught her how to cheat at Jacks. And he said that was so funny. He never forgot that Robbie had that in him when he started doing All in the family.

Speaker And he put Robbie in a position where his whole life changed. And then when Robbie became a filmmaker, he supported Robbie and every one of his films. He either produced it or he produced all of them. And his first films, all of them were produced by Norman Lear. Not that, you know, nepotism. And it was became nepotism because it was like a second daddy. So I have Norma to Norman Lear to thank for that.

Speaker So. What about you?

Speaker How did you know I was thinking of it? I was going to say I’m responsible for the best weekends that are my wife and I and our friends ever had in the history of marriage. Normally, I had a friend named Mr. Pearlman who owned a house. I had a tennis tournament and and like Costa for years. And we all used to come down there. And then Norman had a friend who had a house near there. And here in La Crosse, there probably it had five bedrooms and Norman invited us all to come to that house and spend the weekend and we each had a bedroom.

Speaker Larry Gelbart and his wife, Norman Lear, and his wife, Mel Brooks and his wife and host of A. Tom Delawares and his wife.

Speaker And we need the laughter that went on for a weekend has never been equaled, never, ever been equaled. And was and to describe it is some of the things we did like all of a sudden for no reason at all, we would start to sing. And we said on one of the songs was Kamkar, I love you truly. We sang it as we went from dinner or after dinner to to our rooms. We sang it and marched to our rooms. And as we’re at the door, Oh, I love you too.

Speaker Oh, I’m here on my own and shut the door.

Speaker And Norman Lear had a talk back and he processed, you know, they talked back the talk system and he started calm and slowly but surely we all picked it up. The door’s open. We all came out saying to go, went back, those kind of crazy things. And then we had a thing. We had breakfast. And I remember this was my invention. I said this friendship, we had to have a song. And Tannenbaum took a tour of Tannenbaum. We sang Young Invalidism, word that my mother used to say, Will, we’ll have this song know you’ll have this in the other world. In other words, you the great things will happen in the other world.

Speaker And to the tune of Tannenbaum we sang or Yalumba, old or young, old or young about or young about how there is no doubt like a young world.

Speaker And I said, and we used to sit around the table and sing it before and after dinner. And I said at breakfast one time, I said, you know, we should this this organization, we should seal it and wax. And it’s very hard. Most everybody put your finger in. The other person’s here. There’s wax on everybody’s ear. And we sang World and imagined and you didn’t. And nobody laughed. We were deadly serious, you know. No. Oh, yeah. Well, our fingers in somebody else’s thought, those were adults. Adults.

Speaker It sounds like so much fun, what is it?

Speaker And then there are two places, Palm Springs and any other San Diego and San Diego.

Speaker So, OK, so when when your son was.

Speaker He found out about, by the way, one other thing that Norman did, and it was over and beyond where we entered involved one time all of us drove down. He had 16 violinist’s coming down the stairs playing a hard 16 violinist’s the welcome the. But that’s normal. He’s a producer of magnitude.

Speaker So, OK, so when your friend found out about all the family and he said, I want to audition for this, what were your thoughts on that?

Speaker Oh, I thought I didn’t even know he was auditioning for it. I mean, it was a fait accompli when he told me he had a part in it and oh, we didn’t know what to say.

Speaker I knew what the show was about. And I said, it’s brilliant. His last three weeks because, no, the network will never let it on. But the audience let it all. And the audience insisted it stay on. The networks were very, very Yangtse about it. And of course, it became the number one show of all time in America. Nobody Peerson everything stopped when all the family went on.

Speaker Archie Bunker was the man. Everybody wanted to hear what he had to say. And the thing between him and me that was classic, the argument, liberal and conservative was still going on.

Speaker Do you see your son ever as we had part, you see your son ever having he had with you that you that character in any way?

Speaker Robbie is the smartest person I know, Robbie. Robbie is one of the most he’s got. He was gifted with an extraordinary brain. He remembers everything he’s got. He had that gift of memory when we did the 2000 year old man he was this spring. You remember every line. But to this day, you pick the subject, he’ll talk about the politics, whatever. And he at one point we talk about this, you know, they were saying, Governor, he would make a hell of a governor. And he said, I couldn’t get 40 percent of people in my house to vote for me. So I forgot about it. But he really and there’s no subject you can’t talk about seriously and not.

Speaker I use the word bowl.

Speaker What do you think any of Norman’s political drive rubbed off on him?

Speaker I don’t know his political drive, his mother and I were more of an influence, I think, than normal when she was growing up, you know, I mean, I was talking to her before I that the quarter, the quarter billion dollar, quarter million man march in San Francisco against the Vietnam War. I was the emcee for that. So he had he had liberal and progressive attitudes in his household. And his mother was the one who taught me about everything. Absolutely true.

Speaker Uh. So, you know, Norman.

Speaker Was really influenced by his father when he was governor of Arkansas. For seems like Dick Van Dyke, the character, you sort of took a lot from your own.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker It was acknowledged at the time. Or was it just sort of what you were getting your material from?

Speaker What do you say to that? I’m sorry.

Speaker I mean, were were other I guess were other people aware that you guys were sort of drawing so closely from your own lives?

Speaker I don’t know. But people knew that it was like their lives. So it was it seemed true to them because it was true to. So it had to be true to them. We don’t live in a vacuum if whatever influences you’re getting and reacting to, if they’re reacting in the same way, they’ll turn you in. If they if they were reacting exactly that well, they’ll watch, you know, wrestling matches.

Speaker David.

Speaker How do you remember when Morgan found it or when Norman found the American way?

Speaker I absolutely do. I remember the day one of the things we did on a Saturday and Sunday, we played tennis at his house. He had a wonderful little tennis court adjacent to his house. And one day when we always had breakfast after that one day he started telling me about this idea, People for the American Way. And I said, it’s brilliant. Norman signed me up and he said, no, I don’t want any showbusiness people in. It’s because I look like, you know, it’s a show thing. It’s frivolous, not frivolous, but it’s one of those things show business people do.

Speaker And he says, I want it. And he wanted to involve religious people, all kinds of other people, people for the American. And he went out and got them himself. There was an idea that one man I created I look at is still flourishing and we still are propelled to give it money because of the work it’s doing.

Speaker And what about him buying the Declaration of Independence, right?

Speaker That was a thing I would never think about. I mean, that is that is thinking in a very, very big box. I mean, he bought the declaration and but then he did what he did with it is showed us the country.

Speaker He wanted to unify the country. We love this country. And I love I love that he did that. He was a liberal man saying we love this country. We believe in the Constitution, which a lot of people are not accepting these days. I mean, you see what they’re saying about Obama today. I will listen to the left, the right wing talk. It was it’s it’s shocking. It’s shocking.

Speaker And disgusting. Yeah, do you think?

Speaker How is how is it perceived as an activist in Hollywood?

Speaker Oh, Norman is applauded everywhere he goes. I mean, by the way, he still wears that crazy hat. I wore this. This is my Norman Lear version.

Speaker I love that hat. He was. And he always wore that. And I love that. I love that he’s he’s like a cartoon drawing. He has got to put that out on them. So this is in honor of Norm. And I couldn’t find his kind of hat, but I try to emulate him as much as I can in wise.

Speaker I mean, what do you think about that hat?

Speaker I love it. I love it. Norman Bates sits atop it, sets up its. You know, are there.

Speaker Are there are people in the industry out there today that are creating new shows that are doing it the same way that you guys were doing enough attention to talking about things that people talk about at home that weren’t talked about on TV?

Speaker Are there are there other people creating such socially relevant work?

Speaker I imagine there are, because there are every once in a while a really good show pops up. And it’s funny, I watch the end of a show that I love, The Mentalist. That was the last one last night and I felt terrible. But I love that you got married. It was so blue.

Speaker I love that guy. Simon Baker is just marvelous. There are shows that are, but the world is passing me by. I’m hearing songs I don’t understand the lyrics to and I I’ve seen shows that I don’t know. I don’t understand. We used to have a beginning, middle and end with something now with I don’t know, it’s it’s not as structured as they used to be. But every once in a while one comes along that is, and I will find it and I watch it. I notice a few being advertised for the coming season and I think they look promising.

Speaker Do you think that there are issues there that are still making audiences really think that same thing is that, you know, we’re all thinking their heads, but nobody’s saying out loud, is there that kind of.

Speaker I don’t know. You know, I really don’t know. Breaking Bad.

Speaker Oh, but these are gone now. Breaking Bad. We love Breaking Bad, the very original. Oh, I know. A show that I saw the other day, of course, also called Soul. And then there was a show that I watched the other day was so horrible. I mean, it’s not horrible, but the people are so terrible. But I was Schitt’s Creek.

Speaker Yeah, it’s wonderful with with two wonderful actors. Oh, God. And Chris Elliott is in it. And the two of you.

Speaker That’s what happens. You get older soon as I leave here. I remember those, but people watch us look up Schitt’s Creek and there are two wonderful actors, very well known as Catherine O’Hara, I think is one of them. And the other was a very funny comedian who. Oh, oh, well, Eugene Levy. Eugene Levy. I loved him. He’s one of my favorite actors of all time, favorite communities of all time, low key. All of those shows. One of my favorite things ever is the shows that had the that group in it.

Speaker Michael McKean, you know, the best in show.

Speaker And and that was all there was that. No, I guess it was Norman. So it was those Arabs, I think. Spinal Tap. Spinal Tap. Yeah, but those were all Norman is out of hand. And all of those shows he because of his Rob’s company, came because Norman supported it.

Speaker Do you think that the shows that Norman made, you know.

Speaker The Jeffersons and all the family and good times that those shows could be made now or they sort of typecast well, shows like The Jeffersons shows can be made now that reflect today’s mores and behavior.

Speaker There’s no question about it. And they’ll become great hits because people will say, oh, that’s me. Those are those are any good writers to write those things. And, you know, Shakespeare was a guy who knew everything about his time and everything about how what made people think tick and behave. And if you have a writer like that comes along and writes about that, everybody alternate in.

Speaker So you know what, all family is coming out and you said it’s only going to last three weeks, were there any other moments have obvious, you know, amazing sideways into different, you know, organizations that he’s creating as part of anything else that you remember him doing that he said that’s not going to that’s not going to work?

Speaker Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t thought of. So I don’t know what you were saying exactly.

Speaker Like, you know, I’m thinking he he left making TV shows to start people for the American way or he decided to put on very hot Mary Hartman, which is crazy.

Speaker I love Mary. Mary. That was one of the great shows. Yeah. That was a really off shoot. Nobody ever expected that one. That was a beauty. And great people who found two.

Speaker I think that I think are there any pieces of advice that you have gotten from Norman over the years that have stuck with you much in the same way that you told him to wait the weekend?

Speaker No. No, no, no, no. Norman has a big head, had a big impact not only on the countryside, but on my life. I mean, the things that we were involved when we were together, the universal thing I wrote about that many times, and it was probably the best time, the best years of our lives. I mean, there was a movie made about that. But Norman, of one of the best months of our lives, the best days of our lives, was his insistence that we all get a room, we all room together for a weekend, and we did a two or three or four times. I don’t know how many times, but each time I never was disappointed. We never said that wasn’t a good one. I remember one was so hysterical. I wrote about that, too. We were five charades one day.

Speaker And we’re playing charades and the men and women broken out in couples when we went in one room where we’re making up stories for the other ones, we come out of the room and nobody’s there. Where were they go? They all got in a car, went into town as a joke.

Speaker They were going to leave us. You know, they were going to play. They just weren’t they weren’t in the town. And and we said so we decided, well, we’re going to play some joke on them back.

Speaker We took every picture and hunger to on the wall. We tipped over every piece of furniture. We put the glasses on the floor. We we and then we we ripped our clothes. We’re not rep.

Speaker We took our clothes half off and we we lay on the floor like we were dead and left the door ajar. And when they came in, they saw everybody murdered for a second they thought, oh my God, no, they realize they’ve been killed. But that was a good how is it good?

Speaker I remember one thing that was wonderfully, wonderfully creative and dumb, we decided to put on a show we were all performing, let’s put on a show we said, like kids, you know, and what we what how we put on the show, the people who got up or the performer, everybody else was the audience. And they got up and we all got up and did something and we sang, danced, whatever. Normal is why France at the time couldn’t do anything. She wasn’t a performer, so she creatively laid on the floor. We said, Who are you? She was the corpse in a very famous movie. That was her role. But what we did was we had the audience talk about. The performers would say, you know, the performers, very good, the one I liked most, and you talk about yourself in third person and we sat and what we did, we somebody who left when we went out and I just went to the store, I went to the market, two people talking, you know, they they love the show. And he’s but I think everybody commented on critique their own, their own performance as being the best. But it gave nice.

Speaker It was so crazy, everybody being above the audience. This was creative. This was creative. Having two two hands.

Speaker And what was it you have in your old man, basically, that the two thousand one man was created long before that, but he he he existed at any price. Mel Brooks was the truth and I was the truth, and the amount was bound to pop up.

Speaker I am sorry that you feel that cake with his house, he said again.

Speaker Oh, Ron Norman was he was a slapstick comedian. There’s no question about it. And I have seen this not once, but three or four times. And when there’s a beautiful cake, if there’s a beautiful cake and wedding cake and birthday cake, whatever it is, anniversary cake Norman looks at brings a touch of cake. Oh, I can’t wait to get a piece of that. And he puts his hand and digs out a chunk and he’s done it more than once. And it’s always funny and it’s always acceptable because it’s funny enough. It’s got to be funny than it is crazy and it’s funny.

Speaker Any other great stories we should know about Norman that you remember?

Speaker Yes, but I don’t want him arrested, so we’ll leave it right there. The jewel heist, he gave all the jewels to charity and there was no snow just for the fun of it.

Speaker Brent, any questions?

Speaker Two of two questions, actually, one. And you can answer, Suzanne.

Speaker We’re here.

Speaker You and Norman both obviously the same age, and it’s one of the things that on his book tour right now is most often discussed, what are the secrets of longevity for him, for you and and what do you attribute the mind? Still going.

Speaker The secret of Angel. Be born with good genes, insist that your mother and father give you the best genes they have. There’s no, no, no. The other thing is if you are lucky enough to have a mind that’s active even of your feet and as I’m one of these lucky people who only my neck is bothering me, I don’t have arthritis except in the neck. And it’s really driving me crazy. And it’s the only thing today is the first day I’m taking steroids to see if I can make this neck not hang like this, but maybe not hurt all the time. But it’s there’s nothing you can do. About that, if you keep your mind active, whatever, whatever it takes to keep your mind active, I don’t know if you can tell him to be active. It has to be active. He has to wake you up in the morning. So you have an idea. I find myself waking up on writing something down and going to the computer and writing a story or something. And I think it’s Gene’s being lucky to be born with the right genes.

Speaker Your mother and father. I just finished. I just finished the third part of my biography and the last chapter is about my mother. And it’s the lucky, the luck or bad luck of getting genes that, you know, don’t don’t help you.

Speaker Then the other question I had is, I think Enormities told you he’s trying to get a new show. There’s one Betty, only one Betty White out there that represents an entire demographic. He wants to create a second guess who died. And there are a bunch of actors out there that could do really well in this space. Do you think? Can you talk about ageism in Hollywood? And have you seen it in your entire career or do you see it more now or ageism in Hollywood?

Speaker No. You know something? That’s one of the places that ageism, I don’t think affects as much, because when you do any kind of good theater, there’s always older people in it and you need aged people to play to people. We know when there’s a guy with four or five with makeup who is a young guy. But when you see an old actor, a wise and old actor playing a character, it’s gold. It’s gold. So that’s one place that is really please come here. All good, good actors. And they keep coming from England to which I saw wonderful. I’ve never mind does matter. But it was an old guy who impressed me. One of the there’s a show going on right now with Alan Alan Mandele. He’s about an eighty five or six, seven year old. They’re playing the price the. He’s he’s old. He played Waiting for Godot two years ago, most extraordinary performance I’ve ever seen. An old guy, nobody on the stage could touch what he was doing. He did the definitive version of Godot that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen it four times, but all people in a more welcome in show business than any other place in the world.

Speaker George.

Carl Reiner
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
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"Carl Reiner , Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 19, 2015 ,
(1 , 1). Carl Reiner , Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Carl Reiner , Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 19, 2015 . Accessed June 8, 2023


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