Transcript:

Speaker So tell me, what did you what did you watch growing up? What is your first memory of television? I watched.

Speaker Everything that was on television, I watched. Well, here's an interesting thing, my father was on television before we owned a television, so that's how far back we go. My dad was on in Admiral Broadway. I think it was nineteen fifty four. Your view is like nineteen forty nine. And then show of shows. We got a TV in like 1951, one of those little tiny, you know, things about six inches. And you know, I watched everything, I watched every cartoon show, every sitcom, every western. You know, I watched a test pattern with an Indian in the middle. So whatever was on, you know, they sign off when they had the American flag and they sang the national anthem. I watched that the farm report in the morning. I was like I was the first generation to watch television. And I literally grew up on television. I watched a show called Winky Dink. Winky Dink was a kid's show. That guy named Jack Barry was the host. Now, Jack Barry, if people remember, used to also host a show called Twenty One. It was a quiz show. It was a big scandal. And he got thrown off and Charles Van Doren and all that. Everybody knows about that. But he goes to this kid's show called Winky Dink. And this was the first interactive television show. And that you, Winky Dink was a cartoon guy and he would get in trouble and they give you a kit where you put like a plastic thing over the TV and you draw things to help. Winky didn't get out of situations like he stuck over here. He's got to get across the river, draw a bridge to Winky Dink can get across the bridge. And of course, like a lot of kids, you know what? I lost my little, you know, screen that you put on the TV. I drew right on the right on the television because, you know, you don't want winky dink to to to to get in trouble. So I may make sure I save his life. So I literally watched everything father knows best, Ozzie and Harriet, you know, everything, everything that was on television.

Speaker You literally did not go to school.

Speaker No, I did go to school. That was my school. That was my school watching television. I saw every Laurel and Hardy. I think I saw every Three Stooges, every little rascals. I can sing the theme song to all of these shows if you want, but I know you don't want it, so I'm not going to do it.

Speaker Come on, give me your favourite theme song or something.

Speaker Well, you know, well, first of all, I can do you know, I well, you know, Van Dyke Show. I love da da da da da da da da da da da da. I could do that. But, you know, it's like my favorite thing is that I can remember this, you know, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound look up in the sky.

Speaker It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman. Yes, it's Superman who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands and who disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way. So it's sick. It's sick that I how much television is is imputed into this brain of mine.

Speaker Are you really an early TV addict?

Speaker Yes. Like the kind of people. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker I was a binge watcher before there was such a thing as binge watching.

Speaker So the fantasy is what appealed to, you know, like any boy or any young kid was that was the escape or just.

Speaker Well, I just I just like that there were people moving around on the television set. I mean, you know, I could I could watch Oral Roberts try to convince people to put their hands on the set and, you know, God was going to touch them. I, I believe and I watched everything. You know, I liked Andy's gang. When, you know, the little, you know, plunk your magic twang or Froggie. I mean, I watched everything, Ramah, the jungle, you name it. I watched it.

Speaker I'm going to go look at this Twinky Degassing, Winky Dink, not Twinky, Dink, Winky Dink, we had something later in the 70s called the Queen Bee put in the oven. Thank you, Shrinky Shrinky Dink. That's something else you stole it from. Clearly from the winky things. I don't know about that. I stole it.

Speaker So OK, so you have this going on in your fantasy life and then at home, who used to come, you get all these interesting people coming to your house all the time. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Speaker Well, you know, people have always asked me, you know, was how was it growing up in your house? You know, and I didn't think, you know, you don't think anything is different. I mean, because you all, you know, is what you have in your house and you're a kid growing up. So the thing is normal. I mean, Norman Lear would be there and Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar and Neil Simon and the funniest people in the world would be, you know, at my house, you know, growing up. And and I didn't realize that, you know, until I went to my friend, you know, Michael Leeds or Steven Raybon or Paul Schindler, that it just wasn't as funny over there. That was the only different. There were nice people. It just there wasn't as many laughs over there, as many jokes, you know.

Speaker No.

Speaker So I'm like, why was Norman Lear coming to your house? Actually, what was the initial what was the initial relationship with your dad?

Speaker Well, they were friends. I mean, the first time I met Norman, I think I was about seven, eight, nine years old, eight years old, something like that.

Speaker My my father had a house on Fire Island and Norman had a house on Fire Island, which is, you know, off the coast of Long Island and New York. And Norman's oldest daughter, Ellen, I used to play with her. And so, you know, Norman actually was the first person to recognize that I had a sense of humor because I think he tells the story. I was playing a game of jacks. You know, we you throw the ball up in the air, you pick the jack with Alan. And I was making commentary and telling her how to do it and showing her. And Norman thought I was really funny. He tells my dad, he says, you know, your son is really funny. And my dad said, what are you talking about? That kid, he's like a brooding kid these days, sits in the corner. He doesn't see any. So Norman was actually the first person to recognize that I had any comedic ability.

Speaker And was your dad just the harshest critics? A few words about your dad for those people in their.

Speaker Well, my father, you know, Carl Reiner, who was, you know, on the Sid Caesar show and created The Dick Van Dyke Show and directed all these wonderful movies with Steve Martin, the jerk and man with two brains and dead men don't wear a plaid. I mean, he's a brilliant man. And I grew up, you know, they talk about a long shadow.

Speaker I grew up in that shadow. I would come up to his den and I would look up. And there was 12 Emmys sitting up there, which he had from all the work that he had done.

Speaker He's brilliant and he's a great guy and he's talented. And when I was growing up, he tells his story. I don't remember it. But I at one point I went to my mother and I think I was about eight, eight or nine. I went to my mother and I said, I want to change my name. And my mother thought, oh, my God, this poor kid is worried about having to live up to Carl Reiner and all this stuff. And he and she says, well, what do you want to change your name to? And I said, Carl. So it wasn't like I wanted to change. I looked up to my dad and he to me was a god. I I admired him so much. He was so talented and I wanted to be to be like him. But it was interesting that Norman Lear was the guy that basically recognized these things. And, you know, a lot of times parents don't see their kids the way outsiders can see them, you know. So Norman was the one who saw that and, you know, gave me a lot of opportunities to either prove them right or prove them wrong.

Speaker So you're seven, you meet him, he realizes you're funny, recognisers. You're funny. Did you mean you latch on to him? Was it like someone finally saw you for the kid you knew you were or overstated?

Speaker I think you're overstating. I don't think, you know, I latched on to him in that way at that time. It wasn't until, you know, I did all in the family that I looked up to him and started thinking of him as like a father figure and like a second father, because it wasn't just that that he hired me for all in the family. It was it was that I saw in how he conducted his life that there was room to be an activist as well, that you could you could use your, you know, celebrity or whatever, you know, power you had as a celebrity and actually, you know, help make some change in the world, not just through your work, but through actual activism. And I saw how he did that. And and that that meant a lot to me because I then started thinking about, well, what could I do with my, you know, you know, with my good fortune and how I could affect things. So he played a huge role in my life, not just the fact that he you know, I got a chance to be on all the family, which was an incredible show. And then he gave me an opportunity to direct my first few films. But seeing how he conducted his life outside of show business was was a big thing for me. And I looked up to him. And so I was lucky. I was very fortunate. I had my dad, who I look up to in terms of my work and how he informs the way I view things. And then Norman Lear in a bigger way of how I view the world.

Speaker And you will I mean, you talk about this this large shadow of your dad. I know it's a completely different kind of shadow. I realize that. But it's funny because when I talk to Norman about his dad, he talks about looking up to Herman in a way he didn't know what he was going on, but sort of that idea of a larger than life. Dad, did he. Did you ever discuss it with him? Did you. Did he ever talk to you about his younger years?

Speaker Well, I knew I knew that it was not easy for him. You know, the thing about when you're a kid, you look at your dad, you don't know. You know, all you know is this is the person that's, you know, the that part one of the people that gave you life. And so you imbue that person with a lot of power. And it's not until you get much older that you can see whatever false flaws they have in how human they they are. But, yes, I knew about Norman. I mean, Norman used to say that that his father would say call him a meathead. He would say, you're a meathead. You're dead from the neck up. And so that's where he got the idea to make the character that I played be called Meathead by by Archie. And I knew his father had been, you know, I had some legal problems and had gone to to jail and all that. And and so I knew a lot of what Norman had gone through. And it was tough on him. And he had a very, very difficult childhood. And I also heard about the stories that he told me about his mother and how, you know, there was never anything good enough for her and, you know, all of the accomplishments he had. And he's told the story and I'm sure you've heard it about when he was first being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. And he tells his mother about this and she says, well, if that's what they want to do, who am I to stop them? You know, I mean, that's the kind of response that he would get. He'd never get the kind of approval that every kid looks for from their parents. And I think Norman always had that. And, you know, it's one of the things that drove him and that has driven him all these years is, you know, you have this thing inside of you, too. I'll show you. I'll show you what I can do. And Norman certainly, I think, had that drive.

Speaker Absolutely. I'm learning so much from him. But that also he's 90, too. And that fantasy to please continues. Yeah.

Speaker Yeah. I don't think it ever it ever ends. I mean, the more you get comfortable with yourself, the less you have to prove to other people. But it's very hard to get over the initial traumatic damage that happens to you when you're very young. I mean, you can work it through, you can have therapy, you can talk about all this stuff, but it's still there, you know, and it never goes away. It's something you learn to manage. You're certain you learn to deal with and you can hopefully go beyond it. But it's there. And, you know, good or bad, I mean, the bad is that, you know, you got damaged a little bit. That hurts the good is that it? Hopefully, if it doesn't destroy you and make you, you know, incapable of functioning, then it does have the tendency to to drive you to prove things.

Speaker Absolutely. Which is what he is doing in a major way. I wanted to ask one more thing about the childhood before we move on. Oh, hey.

Speaker Hey, my son.

Speaker You know, this this is a thing that we used to do. And any time I make a movie, I have a rule that that we have like, you know, twenty ten dollars a day at the end of the week. And if somebody's phone is ringing, they have to put money in the kitty, you know, like twenty dollars. And then if I'm doing a movie that has kids then you're not allowed to curse around the kids because that's a twenty dollar. So I was doing this movie Flipped, which is there's a young lot of young people in it. And just as we're shooting the camera guy, we're sitting right there, the focus puller, his phone goes off and he goes and I go, that's twenty dollars.

Speaker And he goes, oh fuck. And there's I said, that's forty. So like boom boom. He had forty dollars right away.

Speaker We're going to answer to this like starting. Yeah. Somebody's got to pay twenty dollars. Yeah. Someone behind the curtain. Yeah.

Speaker Well I wanted to talk about what is done and felt what was that.

Speaker And describe described to me Genom felt is a Yiddish term that essentially means heaven.

Speaker You know, when you leave this world you can go, you go to heaven, you know, you go to another place that is idyllic and wonderful and yeah, everybody's happy.

Speaker And you everybody get involved. For Norman and my dad and their friends was it was basically five couples. It was Norman and Francis at the time. My mother and father, Estelle and Karl, Larry Gelbart and Pat Gelbart. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft and Dom Delawares and Carol Delawares, and they would go and take either the Caesars Palace House in Palm Springs or they'd go to La Costa and there was a little house that had five bedrooms and that the five couples would spend the weekend together playing games, making each other laugh and having like the best adult camp you could possibly imagine. So these are people that really enjoyed each other's company and really made each other laugh. So that's what they termed that. Those experiences being involved with the kids to that. No, no kids allowed. I mean, I did I did remember that on a couple of occasions when they did it down in La Costa. My father used to have a tournament down there where they raised money for the frostier children for Frosti Center for Children with Learning Disabilities that I did come to the house maybe for an hour or two, but we were not allowed to live at the house. I mean, that was there.

Speaker That was their time searching for video and photos. We're getting nowhere.

Speaker Yeah. I mean, I don't know if they took videos or photos of that, but I mean, it had to have been a great time.

Speaker Sounds like everybody in the circle, your dad, Norman, everyone is a real premium on wit and repartee and goodness.

Speaker Yes. And I think anybody would say I mean, obviously, Mel Brooks is the funniest man in the world. But even Mel, I think, would say that the fastest wit of that bunch was Larry Gelbart.

Speaker They would all kind of acknowledge that Larry Gelbart, who created MASH and also Tootsie and all that, and he was brilliant. I mean, sharp, so fast and so sharp.

Speaker And I know watching the show is the norm. And I know there was a lot of writers but got back and forth. And I just you could sort of hear the kind of dialogue that he was interested.

Speaker Well, if you think about it, I mean, that group of people that came out of the first half of the 20th century was basically responsible for everything that you laughed at. I mean, in the I mean, the second half of the 20th century that that that made you laugh.

Speaker I mean, was Mel Brooks, my dad, Woody Allen, you know you know Neil Simon, Joe Stein, Norman Lear, Aaron Rubin, all of these people, Larry Gelbart, they created all of the comedy that you laughed at in the second half of the 20th century.

Speaker That's the footprint. That's yeah. Yeah. It's our humor as a country. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker It comes from that. When you think of all the Woody Allen movies, all the stuff that my dad did, all the movies he did and all the, you know, stuff that Norm and all the television that he created. And Mel Brooks, the great genius who did the most brilliant movies. And, you know, you think about it all. And Neil Simon, who has an incredible, you know, prolific Broadway. I mean, you know, it's pretty, pretty amazing.

Speaker So obviously, Norman wasn't doing that, wasn't doing you a favor by casting you were auditioning you for All in the Family despite the family connection.

Speaker I'll tell you how much he wasn't doing me any favors. And that before All in the Family went on CBS, they had done two other pilots for ABC. And I actually auditioned at one point for one of those and I didn't get the part. So it's not like, oh, let's give him the part. They didn't give me the part. But then as it moved from ABC to CBS, I went back and auditioned. I had matured as an actor, gotten better, and I was able to, you know, to win it over at that point.

Speaker Did she was familiar with your political leanings as a young man when he cast you as Mike was that.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, yeah. Norman knew. I mean, not just our families. I mean, we were you know, my father was against the Vietnam War. My mother was part of the group, another mother for peace. They were very active in the civil rights movement and talking about that. So, yeah, the families were very you know, we were liberal, you know, liberal Democrats. And so, yeah, they knew my politics. Sure.

Speaker You remember that?

Speaker Oh, yeah, no, yeah, I couldn't forget that. I mean, like I say, eight years we spend all this time together and, you know, no, there's no acting. You don't have to act.

Speaker Did you keep in touch with everyone when?

Speaker Well, I was close with Carol, you know, we did spend, you know, time after that, I wasn't as close with Gene and Sally, but, you know, Carol, yeah, I used to see him every once in a while. And, um, yeah, I mean, he had a place out at the beach. I used to come out and go out there sometimes.

Speaker Let's bring back the Clexane will keep going, guys. Thanks for Plexi, get rid of the greed.

Speaker Yeah, it's just such and such a joy to revisit these. Yeah, I was born in seventy one when the show started. Oh yeah. The first year we came on. But so I started watching them maybe 10 years later, but I didn't know they were either. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. Yeah sure.

Speaker So and they played them on Nick at night and TV land and places like that.

Speaker People really it seems like even kids in their 20s. Yeah. So it's you know we did this.

Speaker You were born in seventy one. That's right. You look too young to be born in 72. So much for that. But it's true for people on this crew so. But you don't look old at all.

Speaker It's the fresh New York City water. There you go. But yeah, it was it really holds up. We did this. We filmed this. This event with Norman last week, with all these hip hop artists are common. Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. Talking about sort of his influence on black culture and on hip hop. So, yeah, it's just like it lives it live. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For any piece of media. Yeah. But I'm back on it. Y'all are. Good.

Speaker Jack. We're just talking about.

Speaker Yeah, maybe put a little water in there. Oh, here is water right here. Yeah, yeah, I'll do it. I could do it. I could do it.

Speaker Turn it off. We'll just keep going. I promise. I'll go quicker now.

Speaker Where do you live? In New York. I live in the Lower East Side. OK, but not the cool part though. The part way over near the East River. I live across from the Bialystock or synagogue, OK, which is the oldest synagogue, apparently. And you were born in New York. I'm from Detroit. Oh, Detroit. Yeah.

Speaker Yeah. No, I'm going try and get my brother sister up in New York City.

Speaker Don't you think Detroit's going to come back? We did a film called Detropia Raichlen and a couple of years ago. Yeah.

Speaker About that question. Yeah. Back there for a year. And actually it was like the Nater. It was really a bad moment with twenty ten 2010, 2011 when we filmed and it was really at the worst right before it declared bankruptcy.

Speaker Yeah, but there were little shoots, you know, we saw a little shoot. Yeah. And we end the film with that sort of open. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Because people are moving in.

Speaker Yeah. All those artists were coming and buying up places they could shoot and they are.

Speaker Yeah. It's affecting the downtown area. Yeah. The vast majority of the city is impoverished.

Speaker Yeah. It's most of the black residents aren't unfortunately feeling the benefits yet of this so-called. Right. So I'm cautious about it because it's like artists with extra money.

Speaker Right. Do their work, but not really. Yeah, right. Right. But you say that people get mad. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker It's going to be you know, I hope so because I did a picture a few years ago and we were based in Ann Arbor and I went to Detroit a number of times, you know, because I love baseball, you know, and I would watch the Tigers and they have this beautiful ballpark, you know, Comerica Park.

Speaker But it was bizarre because it was like everybody came from, you know, like suburbs and they come in.

Speaker The park was full of like forty thousand people. The minute the game's over, they're like vacuumed out of there. And, you know, the place was like a ghost town. You know, it was like really weird.

Speaker Happens within fifteen minutes. I mean, you go to Joe Lewis Arena for the hockey. Yeah. We went one in December. Same thing that it is. Yeah. It feels like. Yeah it takes fifteen bloody minutes to get out and everybody gone. Yeah. There's like so many highways. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. So it's, it's a good observation. Sure. It's still like that. Why did you want the part of Mike. Did you want it badly or.

Speaker Well I mean when I first auditioned like I said, my first audition when I was at ABC and you know, I had never read anything like that that was going to be on television. I mean, I thought, you know, this is you know, this is beyond, you know, cutting edge.

Speaker I mean, we're we're, you know, at the end, you know, bending the envelope, whatever that expression is, this was way beyond anything. So, yeah, sure, I wanted to be part of it. And, you know, we all thought when we did it that it would be on for 13 weeks and be off the air because, I mean, it was, you know, so movies to say is too hip for the room, you know? I mean, it was just too smart and too different and too edgy. And, you know, we thought, well, goodbye and good luck.

Speaker And the fact is, we probably would have been goodbye and good luck, except for the fact that they ran the first thirteen that we did in consecutive so over the summer. So basically we were on for twenty six weeks in a row.

Speaker They ran that first thirteen again and the people started picking up on the show in the second thirteen, you know, and CBS was nervous about it. They put on a big disclaimer saying, you know, essentially we don't want we don't have anything to do with this show. We don't espouse any of their ideas. You know, basically, I don't know. We don't know how this got on the air. But if you want to watch it, go ahead. You know, be our guest. But don't don't say we didn't warn you. And so that was basically this disclaimer.

Speaker And then people found the show and it became successful. We never thought it was going to be a big hit. We thought it would be, you know, like I say, to hip for the room.

Speaker So did you read a script you say on Norman, old friend, old pal, are you out of your mind?

Speaker No, no. You know, as far as you know, as somebody who is an actor, writer, artist, whatever it is you are, you look at something like this and you say, wow, what an opportunity. I mean, who knows if it's going to be good or I mean, if anybody's going to accept it.

Speaker But, boy, what a great thing to be part of. And and what a great, you know, leader that we had who had the guts to, you know, not only fight for this thing, but even when we got on the air in the first thirteen where we were not successful yet to fight to keep certain shows, you know, produced, you know, we did a show, I think, that dealt with my character being impotent.

Speaker Or something, they didn't want to put that on the air and he Norman said, well, this is the show and if you don't want to put it on, you know, I'll I'll be in the Fiji Islands. Call me if you need me, you know? And so, you know, that's what he did. And you got to you've got to give it to a guy like that.

Speaker You know, you've got to hold on a second.

Speaker You know, we've got to put this off here, you know, because people call, you don't want them to I want you to know it didn't make noise.

Speaker I turned it off.

Speaker So, so. So, yeah, there was a couple of skirmishes early on to talk to you guys in the cast about what headquarters was saying or did he try to not expose you to like they want this line out. How open was this set?

Speaker We knew. And the first like I say, in the first few episodes, we knew the fights that he was having with the network. We we were well aware of that. But I got to admire Norman because he stuck to his guns and said, this is the show and you take it or leave it. And they eventually took it. And, you know, the rest of it, as they say, is history. I was fortunate enough to be in two situations, one with Norman on all the family. The other was I was a young guy. I was a writer on the Smothers Brothers show who had and Tommy Smothers had similar kinds of fights with the networks. And at the time I was so young, I didn't realize, you know, that that how difficult that was. By the time I was doing all the family, I realized how rough it is on a producer to stand up to the network and have that kind of courage and that kind of guts. And Norman is you know, he's he's got more guts than than anybody I've ever known.

Speaker And did you get did you get complaints or letters, did you personally get encouragement from what kind of.

Speaker You know, correspondence that you have with the audience and, well, I got I got a lot, you know, my character was an atheist, so I got a lot of people trying to save me, you know, from, you know, find I could find God and somehow I wouldn't go to hell or whatever. I got a lot of those kind of things. And then, of course, you know, I'm a liberal. So the conservatives didn't like what I had to say. But it was interesting early on in the show, I got it because I would I ran into a guy and he said to me, he said, that show you're on all the family is the best show on television. That and The Beverly Hillbillies are the two best shows. He was dead serious. So I said, OK, I get this, I get this. Basically, you do your work, do what you think is right. And whatever anybody else says, you know, hopefully they like it, but you can't. You've got to take everything with a grain of salt.

Speaker You never had any hand wringing as a liberal progressive person. Reading the script and going, shit, I'm really glad we're giving voice to this. We're going to let him say all these words. Did you ever have that moment? No, that wasn't as an artist, you know, I never had that moment.

Speaker I mean, we did get criticized. You know, there was a big article and in The New York Times by Laura Hopsin, who wrote Gentlemen's Agreement, who talked about the fact that there's no such thing as a lovable bigot and how dare we portray Archie in any other way. But then but but to be a demon and evil and all that.

Speaker But the truth is, people are people. The people are human, you know, and you can have all kinds of views and still be a human being who loves his family, loves his wife, his daughter, whatever. And I like the fact that it's it's spawned conversation. Norman Lear has talked about it many times. His favorite play was Major Bahbah by George Bernard Shaw. And everybody knows George Bernard Shaw is a liberal. But if you didn't know that and you just went to see the play, you'd come away thinking, you know, I don't know where this where Shaw stands on these issues, guns or butter, you know, is he a hawk? Is he a dove? Because he he presented both sides eloquently. And that was Norman's idea, is to present both sides and then have the discussion. Archie never said anything bigoted that that he wasn't called on. He was always called on it. We always pointed out that he was saying something and doing something wrong. We didn't glorify it. We just said this is who exist. There are people like that. And we always were very, very careful to to to make a point of the fact that he was a bigoted.

Speaker Yeah, he was always answer. We were looking at the Sammy Davis Jr. episode today, and it's like crazy things are being said. The word coon is and the N-word are in the scene. Yeah. Oh, my God. Yeah. And but yet in the end, you kind of feel sorry for Archie. You're not mad at Sammy Davis has enlightened all of us, right.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's funny. I mean, you just telling me about this scene with Sammy Davis Jr., which by the way, the biggest laugh we ever got on all the family was when Sammy kisses Archie. I can't remember how many seconds, but they laughed forever.

Speaker But you and asking me this question just said, you know, that you say the N-word. You know, we actually said these things. And, you know, Louis C.K. does a brilliant routine about, you know, people saying the N-word. To me, that's worse than saying the actual word because it conjures something in your head. You now have to think that. So I mean, anyway, it's it's we now have become so pissy that you can't say anything, you know, you can't say anything. But to me, it's in the context of something. It's a piece of art. If it's in context of, you know, a bigoted person, then that's what he says. And that's, you know, maybe he doesn't say that now. He certainly thinks that now he may not say it because you're not supposed to. But in those days, that's what a bigot person would say.

Speaker Absolutely. Yeah.

Speaker Yeah, I agree with you. And, you know, I was talking earlier today with someone and it's funny because I can see, like, shows that are you know, I could see Ralph crammed in and, you know, all these horrible things against women and this, you know, the woman in the kitchen and the stupid blonde and all that. And I can laugh at those shows now because I feel like, well, nobody really believes that anymore. But you see that scene and you hear these words. And because we haven't dealt with it or she hasn't changed as fast we wanted to, it's just the third rail. Yes. It's harder to be to say that word and.

Speaker Yeah, because you haven't dealt with it.

Speaker But but but we have I mean, you know, people talked about it all in the family when it first came on. Was it going to, you know, eradicate racism? Of course not. A television show can't do that, but it can be part of the conversation and the way in which we reduce, you know, racial stereotypes and racial animosities and all that is to keep airing these things and keep talking about it. I mean, and and by normalizing these things, you destigmatize all of this and people start to accept. I mean, I remember when when Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, you know, of my generation, I thought, no, you know how somehow about an African-American, a black man, how is he going to become president? There's no way this country and my kids and kids, you know, and the next generation were like, what are you talking about? Why can't that be what's the big deal about gay marriage? Why are you why are you trying to fight for this? Why shouldn't we just accept this? And you realize that you do make inroads, that you can have this discussion and the discussion over a period of time can have an impact. And then we have an African-American president, the first one. And so, you know, these these things, these barriers can be. Worn down, but it needs a constant vigilance and a constant, you know, national dialogue.

Speaker It's the same exact reason why we make documentary films, because we know we're going to change the world with one. But, you know, if it's out there and conversation, say, yes, you have to keep the conversation going.

Speaker And that's what I love about Norman's work. He kept the conversation going. He opened up the conversation in many and many areas. You know, they never talked about homosexuality on television or impotency or, you know, certainly not in sitcoms or, you know, the way we talked about the Vietnam War or race relations and things like that. He brought these things up and so did he solve these things? Of course not. But he did raise the awareness and keep the conversation going and continues to. And continues to.

Speaker Yeah, it's funny.

Speaker I was getting irritated or noticing when I was watching these clips, all the nervous laughter in places that don't see. Appropriate in the live audience. Yeah, did you notice that at that party? What is that? Did you do was that something that you had to contend with?

Speaker Well, I mean, we were doing a live show every week and, you know, you listen to the show, it's the actual audience. It's not like we have laugh track. We would actually they'd actually have to remove some of the laughs because the show wouldn't be short enough to fit in the time. So they were never like adding laughs and stuff like that. But that's people's normal reactions. I mean, we were doing a show for an audience so that whatever they, you know, whatever they did, they did.

Speaker And sometimes when you were getting to those tough moments and issues and uncomfortable things, did you notice that people just instead of staying quiet, would try to find a laugh?

Speaker Yeah, sometimes it's sometimes a nervous laugh. Sometimes we got laughs that we didn't feel we deserved because the people love the character so much that you didn't do anything. They just love the fact the minute I would sit down in Archie's chair and he'd walk in and look at me, I mean, you have built in things like that. And Carol used to get angry all the time because it would disrupt the the rhythm, you know, of things he said. They're so happy to be here. I said, Carol, they're enjoying the show. Don't don't get mad at the fact that they're enjoying the fact that they've come to love these characters.

Speaker And what tell me about the relationship between Carol and Norman. It's it's no secret. Yeah. About it. But I'd love to get your perspective on what was that relationship, how much tension was there? Why were the things that Carol didn't want to do on behalf of the character?

Speaker There was a lot of tension between Norman and Carole.

Speaker You had two very strong willed people, two very talented people, and they were at loggerheads a lot of the time. And I found myself in the middle of it a lot of times because, you know, I loved Norman. You know, like I say, he's a second father. But at the same time, I'm working with Carol and I'm with them all the time. So it was you know, it's a weird thing to be in the kind of peacemaking position for a young guy like me. But a lot of times I had to do things like that. But they did they did fight with each other. They did have different views of how to do things. Ultimately, I think that it made the show better. I don't think it was enjoyable for either of them. I think they both had a rough time with it. But I think, you know, that ultimately it made for a better show. You know, any time Norman had the ability to push us, you know, to to limits, you know, to make to force us to look at certain things, to force us to do something better, to reach beyond what we were doing. And I've used this expression, Norman's heard it many times. It's called a cook level. It's a Yiddish term means to stir the pot, you know, and Norman did that. He did that. But ultimately, it made the show better. And I think the tension, like I say, not enjoyable for Norman and Carol, but it did make the show better, it seems like was a very unorthodox kind of set.

Speaker Could you talk a little bit about the production, how you put the shows together? We all right?

Speaker Yeah, it was a very unorthodox show in that because of the way Carroll like to work and we were allowed to experiment. We all improvised while we were doing the show. We all helped with our own dialogue, sometimes with other people's view, because the very famous, very memorable time that I had, we all had when there was a great playwright named Herb Gardner who wrote A Thousand Clowns and wrote I'm Not Rappaport. And a number of other wonderful plays came to watch a run through which we used to do on Wednesday, because we do the tapings on Friday and we do the run through. And then we'd all sit around the writers, the actors, directors, producers, everybody would sit around and we have a note session and the note session was a free for all. I mean, we'd all say, you know, I'd say, hey, Carol, why don't you take that line that you do, though? And somebody else would talk. There was not like the hierarchy where, you know, the producers and director would say something. The other actors would take the notes and then incorporate them. Everybody was allowed to freely contribute to what? To make the show better. And I remember, you know, Herb Gardner saying this is like wild. He's this is like creative communism. I've never seen anything like this. How everybody can can contribute like that. But that's the way we did it. We did it. And I remember show one time, I'll never forget this. We did a show.

Speaker We used to do a show at five thirty and then at eight o'clock, same show. And then we take the best of both. They edit the best of both. But it was the same show, just different audience. And I remember a first act or it was a first or second, I can't remember. But one of the acts didn't work when we did it for the Five Thirty show, and the four of us were so comfortable with our characters, we knew what we needed to get done. And we just started improvising between shows and we went up. With that improvised second act or, yeah, the second act, actually, and we improvised the whole thing for the audience because we knew that our characters that well and I remember we had won a Golden Globe.

Speaker I think it was for the writing of the show. We won many Emmys and things and awards, but they had a Golden Globe for the for the writing staff and more. Lokman, who was the head writer at the time, came up and said, I want to thank. And then he listed all the writers. I want to thank this one, this one. And Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers as part of the writing staff, because everybody recognized that it was a communal effort. It was a real communal effort.

Speaker That's extraordinary. The creative communism. I totally love that.

Speaker A lot of people saying that they feel like please to me. And I know you felt that you didn't do many. You didn't take hours and hours to make these.

Speaker No, no, we did a show. I mean, the shows were usually contained in a time frame where we would be a first and second act and we would shoot a show in thirty five minutes. And then it was over 40 the most, you know, but but we'd go from top to bottom and people, you know, we were all stage trained actors. So you learn your part and you did it performs you were doing in front of an audience, so you did it and then when the show was over it was over and we didn't do pickups. I mean, you know, you go to a lot of tapings and they go forever and it's hours and hours on end, you know, but we were all stage trained actor, so you just did it. I can't remember spending more than 40 minutes doing a show.

Speaker Yeah. And not to get out too much, but was this really the first use of a close close ups? I've read this to the close up with something.

Speaker Oh, I don't know. I mean I mean, you know, Desi Arnaz invented the the system of using multiple cameras and on I Love Lucy, they did three film cameras and then they added a fourth later on some other shows. But this was the first one that did it with television, you know, with with tape cameras. You know, there hadn't been many of those. There had been, you know, playhouse 90s and, you know, Studio one, Lux Video Theater that used to do live shows like that. But I don't think they did sitcoms that way. They need to do them three film cameras or they do a single camera film shows. So we were the first, which allows you to get tighter because when you're shooting a show in front of an audience with a film camera, you can't just switch lenses so fast. But with a tape camera, you can, you know, zoom in or, you know, change the lens that much more.

Speaker Yeah, I'm moving on past all my family and I jump in.

Speaker I'm going on.

Speaker Rachel, in terms of all I'm just moving on to the next phase here, so if you have anything about that, you want to.

Speaker OK, OK, you want to do it now or after? Um, well, what I'm curious about.

Speaker Is I'm seeing this pattern of Norman separate from being brave and all these other things that he can be. He sees. Talent and people that other people don't see. He picks people out of nowhere, he remembers the you know, the person that had to walk on line from two years ago.

Speaker He filed them away like Bea Arthur singing garbage or, you know, playing Jackson Jacks. Yeah. So for me, that's a real secret weapon of a human being. Right? You can get far on that despite rising talent.

Speaker They're people, yeah, so I just wanted you to give a comment on that, to comment on that, because we have we we are talking to many people that he. They they give him credit for being.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, because of that, because if he saw something in them and well, I told the story about how he saw he saw in me something that I don't think anybody else saw. I mean, he he he did have he had two too great. You know, two he had a million great attributes. One was his strength and perseverance and, you know, the strength he had to stick to his guns on things. The other was being able to recognize somebody's talent and know that it could work in a certain kind of situation. And the other was his ability to get the best out of people. So it's it's the best qualities you can have for a producer recognizing talent that will make something work, pushing that talent as far as they can go, and then sticking to your guns and doing doing the work. So, I mean, that to me is like the best three qualities any producer could have.

Speaker And if you try to emulate emulated those qualities yourself, I don't know, emulate.

Speaker I mean, I was I was lucky. Like I said, I was lucky to have my dad and and Norman so I could learn from two two pretty good people.

Speaker TV dad, Archie Bunker, yes. So so you decided to move on to do other opportunities where you you never thought to go seven years. But tell me a little bit about the ending of that in your next phase.

Speaker Well, when I when I did the show, I never thought it was going to go. We had eight years. I never thought I was going to go eight years. I figured it would be on 13 weeks and then be off. I mean, I was more interested in directing even before I had directed some theater in Los Angeles. I had my own improvisational theater group that I acted in and directed. And so my mind was always moving in that direction. And so to do all in the family, that was eight years, you know. And I thought, well, at first I thought, oh, this is fun, that'll be exciting. And it'll be thrown off the air. And then it became exciting because it became a big hit and that was kind of fun. And then, like by the third year I went, oh, I could be doing this for the rest of my life. And then I was I made a peace with myself in the fourth year and I said, just go to school, learn as much as you can, learn about how stories are structured, learn about how they use the cameras, learn about, you know, staging scenes and all of that. And that's what I did. And I it was to me, it was like a great learning experience, aside from the fact that we're doing a great show. And so by the time I got out, I knew I wanted to direct something I was wanting to do even before we did the show.

Speaker And how did Norman take it and the rest of the cast when you decided that you were doing well?

Speaker Norman has always had faith in me. You know, the world didn't have faith because in those days is very different from now. Now you have a lot of cross pollination between TV and movies and people go back and forth. There's no big deal in those days. TV people were looked down upon. We were like second class citizens. The movie people were the the royalty and the TV people were the peons. And so if you did TV, you couldn't be in two movies. That wasn't a thing. So for me to make the move from being a sitcom actor into directing movies was like, you know, that didn't happen.

Speaker I mean, it's subsequently you've seen a lot of people come out of television, Ron Howard and Penny Marshall and Jim Brooks and Garry Marshall and Danny DeVito. A lot of people have come out. But in those days, that wasn't the thing. So that was the. But but Norman always had faith in me, you know, always did. And and luckily, you know, he had faith that he would finance the first film I did, which was This is Spinal Tap. And I had spent years trying to get that thing together. And just when I thought I had the money and the and the distributor, Avco Embassy, Jerry Perenchio and Norman Lear bought the company and they decided to get rid of all the projects. And one one of them was my project.

Speaker I went into Alan Horn. I said, Please, Alan, let me talk to Norman and to Jerry. And I can maybe I can do this thing. And he said, OK. And he set up a meeting and I impassion with all my heart and soul trying to, you know, tell tell him how good this thing could be. And, you know, and this is what Norman told me happened after I left the room, he turned to tell me that.

Speaker What did you can you tell me what the pitch was?

Speaker Well, I can't remember exactly what I said, but I talked about how this movie could be, you know, a great movie. It's about rock and roll and kids will like it. And and, you know, I was trying I was just being a salesman like crazy, you know, because we're doing this oddball satire mockumentary rockumentary. I mean, just nobody ever done anything weird like this before. But I'm selling and selling and I'm passionate and crazy and all this stuff. And, you know, Norman says, after I left the room, Norman turns to everybody in the room, Jerry and Alan Horn, whoever else was there, and said, Who's going to tell them he can't do this? Norman always had faith in me. You know, he even though is a crazy idea for a movie, he had the faith that I could do it. And so he said, OK, let me do it.

Speaker And then he funded. You know, you did mention the title of the movie, this is Spinal Tap. I said it before. You weren't paying attention. You weren't paying close attention. But I did a lot of talk. You were going to have to go to the lobby and wait for my. Yeah. Which, by the way, is my favorite line in the movie. There's two favorite lines I have in the movie. One is I wish we could talk, but I, I don't have time. I got to go. Wait, I got to go to the lobbying, wait for the limo. The other one is there's a fine line between stupid and clever, which I love that line to. Oh yeah.

Speaker And we're going to pitch and get sold because no one had done that at all. I mean. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker No, it was a weird thing. I mean, I had done I was the first company I tried to sell it to. I couldn't explain to them how I wanted to do it. So I took the money that they were going to give me for a screenplay. And I made twenty minutes of the movie. And then they looked at it. They didn't want it. And then I tried to go to different studios. Nobody won. And I had a twenty minute reel with some concert footage and some interviews stuff and some backstage stuff. And finally I was able to get, you know, Norman to agree to do.

Speaker How important was it to you that he likes, but this is Spinal Tap and how and what happened at the premiere?

Speaker Well, it's important. He was like medically, he was like my medic. He gave me the chance to make a film, you know, with which where nobody wanted a, you know, a sitcom actor to make a film. It just wasn't done in those days.

Speaker And then, you know, since he owned the company, he then, you know, funded the sure thing, which was my second film. But my my favorite story about Norman and this, you know, I'll never, ever be able to thank him for this was you know, my third film was Stand By Me.

Speaker And we were in preproduction and we we were two days from shooting. We had spent all the time getting the cast together, rehearsing everything. We were up in Oregon. We had the whole cast and crew and we were starting shooting in two days after like two, three months of preproduction. And Norman and Jerry sold the company embassy to Colombia and they said, we don't want to fund this movie. They said, we're not interested in this, forget it. And so we're dead now. And now we got all these people we got and Norman personally stepped up and put the money down for the movie. It was like seven and a half million dollars of his own money. Put it up and we made the movie and, you know, became successful. He got his money back. You got money made, did well. But what a what a ballsy, gutsy thing to do, you know, to step up and do that.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah. Now that to me is like I'll never be able to thank him for that.

Speaker You you were already working your ass off, but I bet you worked that little bit harder. I mean you I mean someone else's money like that. A friend. Yeah. And what a great film. You must have been so proud of that.

Speaker Yeah he was. And then the next thing we did was, was the Princess Bride. And you know, he, he there was another really oddball mixture of, you know, adventure and romance and doodling and satire. And there's like a crazy mixture. And yet he said, OK, let's go with this. I mean, these are pictures. I mean, there's no way I can make these pictures at a studio. There's no way that anybody would want to make these pictures. But Norman had the faith in me to to allow me to do them.

Speaker It's incorrect, your message, I love that, that's really. We all need to know.

Speaker We do, we all need a medic if we were lucky enough to get one.

Speaker Absolutely. Yeah, of course. Um. Wow, so he was instrumental in your career from from day one. Let's change the battery.

Speaker Sure, why wouldn't you? How are we doing fine, OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, so. But I appreciate all the time you're taking. Yeah, no problem offering to. But you only get 90 minutes. That's not enough. Well, no leave two women get two hours.

Speaker Hey, can you I'm dying to see this this going clear. Have you seen relatives or friends? I haven't seen you. I read the book.

Speaker Yeah, well, I was we were at Sundance last week. Oh, yeah.

Speaker And so I'll take three. Strangely, Rachel and I met in nineteen ninety nine.

Speaker We made a film, take three more TV documentary about Scientology and we interviewed the head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige. Yeah I know, I know that guy. And then his main lieutenant, Mike Rinder, was like the defender of the. Yeah. Yeah. He became he left the church a few years ago and became Alex's number one. Wow. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You saw this guy. So a lot of our old footage was in the movie. Wow. Oh, you're kidding me. Alex called us. We got in touch with the producer. Wow. So it's a funny. Do you like the movie. I like it a lot. Yeah, it's very well done. Well researched. Lawrence Wright is great. Yeah. Yeah. I love the book. Yeah. And it's, you know, it's a Scientology.

Speaker So have you seen that the Durst documentary, the one about Durst. I'm dying to see that one first two episodes a three days. It's a real guy, you know, he's a real guy, he's in there.

Speaker This movie is going to make a lot of ways I can't believe I mean, the church I mean, at one hundred and sixty lawyers, Alex had a look at the movie before I put it out, because they're very litigious. My God, the worst. But it's going to get seen. It's you know, there's like fifty thousand members left. Is that true? I don't know. Ten thousand is the Mormon movie. Fifty thousand Scientology.

Speaker What do you mean? Ten thousand is the Mormon. Only ten thousand Mormon.

Speaker The Church of Latter day Saints. There's there's a movie about a cult, a very extreme cult with all the. Yeah. Misogyny, polygamy. There are ten thousand. But you mean FLDS. Yes. FLDS is our friend Amy Berg made right at the festival, but no. Fifty thousand. So I thought there was many more. Fifty thousand.

Speaker That's why there are more people in ISIS.

Speaker Yeah, I feel like there's a lot. Yeah. So like how important, how actually important it is as a religion any more. Yeah.

Speaker You guys ready to go. Sure. Am I doing OK? Am I in my shouldering it up in there?

Speaker Yes, so obviously. Three movies together, we did four.

Speaker We did, we did, this is Spinal Tap, the sure thing. Stand by me and Princess Bride.

Speaker So so obviously, you know. Many years spent working together, this and that.

Speaker Tell me about the political side to Norman and how did you watch that evolve and how does he use his the power that he had in entertainment and his celebrity? How do you choose to wield that weapon? And what did you learn?

Speaker Well, I mean, you know, obviously he he was he's been very interested in and seeing the country grow the way we imagined the you know, the founding fathers intended and the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, freedom of speech. And all of those ideas were expressed in, you know, in all my family in the works he did. But I think what happened is he saw the media and he saw the country actually being taken over by the religious right and controlling how we should all think and feel about things. And so that gave birth to the people for the American way.

Speaker And when I saw that happen, I thought, wow, I mean, here's a guy who didn't just get upset by the power of forcing a religious idea or forcing a values or way of life on people.

Speaker And let's express it in a in a movie or a television show and get that out. He said. I actually want to try to do something about this in a more in a more profound way. And so he started People for the American way. And I thought, wow, this is this is something you can actually affect real change. I mean, it's one thing to make a television show. You can get a dialogue started and people are talking. But if you really understand a particular issue and understand what needs to happen in order to move the ball forward on a particular issue in the political arena, you can do it.

Speaker If you know how to use the media and know how to use public relations and know how the political world works. And so that that was a big thing for me. And that and so when I first started working with my wife on early childhood issues, I realized how to go about that because I had seen how Norman went about doing what he did.

Speaker And so when we launched our our foundation and the awareness about the first years of life, we, you know, didn't just start a foundation, but we had a television special and we had pieces and we had Newsweek special edition and we got the president to give us a White House conference to throw emphasis on this issue. And, you know, and we got a lot of people to to put the issue front and center and, you know, learning from seeing how he did it and then aligning yourself with people who can actually take an idea and effectuate it in society is a big deal. It's a big deal. I mean, if we when we did proposition, you know, the the the case against Proposition eight and overturning Proposition eight, it wasn't just about, you know, filing a lawsuit.

Speaker Yes, we did file a lawsuit, but it was also about educating the country and about getting a message out there and using the tools that you had available to get people to start changing their attitudes about, you know, marriage equality and gay marriage.

Speaker And so what we see, we see what happens is you have, you know, only two states and way under 40 percent people agreeing with it. Now we have 37 in a very short period of time. You have thirty seven states and the vast majority of people agree with it. So you can effectuate change, but you have to know how to go about doing it. It can't just be, you know, a spitting into the wind, you know.

Speaker Did you feel that Norman felt that he needed to sort of walk away from entertainment and the day to day grind of making television shows in order to effect the change and work on the issues that were most dear to him? Was that, you know, that that was a decision?

Speaker I don't know that he made that conscious decision. I think you can do them. You know, you know you know, they can be in sync with each other. They don't have to be mutually exclusive. Now, if you do, you know what I did, which was to become the chairman of a state commission for, you know, seven years in Sacramento implementing early childhood. Then then you do, because then you're taking a government job and you're and you're doing that. But I think you can do, you know, both these things now? You make a lot of enemies, because if you're taking a position on something, you're going to get a lot of people hate you for it, which is an.

Speaker That also affects your work because there are a lot of people may not want to go to see a movie or not want to see you because they don't like how you position yourself on something. But that's part of, you know, part of a choice you make. You know, if you want to actually get something done, then that's a choice you make. I can tell you honestly, I feel so much better when somebody's a gay couple or comes up to me, said, oh, I love what you know, we're able to do this when we got married or whatever. That's a great feeling. I mean, it's also a great feeling somebody comes. I like the work you did. I'm you make me laugh. And that's nice, too. But, you know, you can profoundly affect somebody's life if you have a way of raising awareness and changing laws and doing things like that.

Speaker Why do you think it is important for me to go out with the. What did you say at the time, what were you what was your did he talk to you about about that? And I know you work with him on that level. Tell me, what was the root of that? Why was that so important to him?

Speaker I think it was important to Norman because, you know, Norman fought in the Second World War. You know, he was a bomber pilot and I mean, bombing, bombing missions and so on. He really believes in this country. You know, and if you looked at where we were during the 40s and the 50s and we fought the right war in the in the 40s and it was right to try to defeat the Nazis.

Speaker And then you see this shift that happens and this hegemony that we experience as America and we start going into places like Vietnam and places that we shouldn't be going and then then Iraq and places like that where we don't really have a business to go. He sees his country slipping away. I mean, what he saw was what's so great about a country and what we were fighting for, democracy, preserving democracy we see slipping away because all of a sudden, you know, we're the last remaining superpower. And so we have to exert our power. And like I say, hegemony around the world. And Norman don't like that. So to him, the Declaration of Independence was to reconnect people with the ideas that we had when our first our country was first formed.

Speaker And I think he wanted to spread that word and he wanted to get young people engaged, get young people to to get register and vote. And that was the idea behind what he was doing there to remind us that the country was founded on.

Speaker And you know what's funny? He's ninety two. And I'm sure you have the same thoughts about your own father. But it's I wonder when people like Norman go, where is the collective memory? You're talking to a guy that grew up in the Great Depression that, you know, drop bombs on the Nazis. He has this incredible memory. He knows the last hundred years of what happened in this country. And people don't study history, don't care that collective memory as a country is, I feel does slip away. So you look at something, someone like Norman and you say, man, like.

Speaker Well, it is a little bit scary when you think of a country pulling together during the Great Depression and Roosevelt creating programs to help lift people, and then you see that after 1964, you know, and Goldwater losing the election in a landslide to to to Johnson, the country has very, very slowly and incrementally moved to the right. And so whenever you see anybody fighting for everybody to be lifted up, you know, whether it's universal health care or universal preschool or something to lift people up. And you see such, you know, anger and hatred and opposition to these kinds of things. And we just kind of accept that, you know, it's like wanting to tear down, you know, Social Security or Medicare or public education or all these things that lift a society up. It's it's like you want to say to people, yes, capitalism is a great thing. But there are there are elements of socialism that working with capitalism can produce this great great society and great strong middle class. We don't see that now. We see everything directed towards just the upper one percent and just raising the the power of the of the wealthy.

Speaker And so it's not like you have to shift, you know, money from one place to another. But what you have to do is provide people with an opportunity to lift themselves. If you look after the Second World War, people came home, they had the GI Bill, they had housing like Levittown and places people could live. Now you've got the VA collapsing. Why? Because we didn't fight. We didn't put we didn't set the money aside to fight a war in Iraq. We didn't set the money aside to fight the war in in in in Vietnam. So you've got all these people who are not being taken care of because we're doing something that we don't all agree on. Everybody agreed we got to go fight the Nazis.

Speaker But our country was divided when we fought in Vietnam and our country was divided when we went to Iraq, even though the media, you know, was doing the bidding of the of the administration.

Speaker But we need people to say, yes, we all are in this together, not that we're going to be communists, not that we're going to be a socialist, but finding the ways to lift people up through certain social programs mixed with capitalism.

Speaker That's really something that Norman, you know, it's like he remembers the civil society. He recognizes civil society. And he expects that to be provided now and and some people might even find that quaint. Yeah. Which is shouldn't be equated with something that we were founded on. So I think that, you know, it's powerful that he offers that it is powerful.

Speaker I mean, why why should a kid have to go to school and pay off a student loan for the rest of their lives? Why shouldn't there be an education system that we can all be? I went through public education. I had a good education. I went through UCLA and didn't I mean, we had but our priorities have gotten way out of whack. I mean, you know, we're not funding public education. We're not funding the health care system, the women. We're not funding the things that lift us up.

Speaker We're basically saying we're going to fund the military and that's all we care about and we're going to just be strong and that's it.

Speaker Well, and share these ideas very, very strongly. Do you have anything to join forces recently on on anything in terms of getting your voices? What's the most recent?

Speaker Well, we I mean, Norman was a supporter of what we did on on Prop eight, you know, in overturning Prop eight. He was a big supporter of that. And, you know, we led the charge on that. And, you know, that that was great.

Speaker I mean, the next step would be, you know, to try to find a way, you know, to to to support programs that'll help forget, lift the middle class, recreate the middle class is like doesn't exist anymore.

Speaker Exactly. Yeah, that's exactly what it is. All right. So let me see how we're gone. We've gone all over the place now. OK, what is enormous in Norman's terms, what is his death?

Speaker What does it mean to be patriotic?

Speaker What it means to be patriotic is to love the the founding principles of the country, to love the idea that we're all created equal, we all have to have an opportunity to pursue happiness, pursue those things. And even though the founding fathers did not, you know, didn't understand that, you know, the idea that women could vote, that African black people could vote, the the principles of the country are laid out so that we can keep aspiring to making this a more perfect union. And they're all there for us. And so we must keep aspiring to that.

Speaker And how is perceived as an actress in Hollywood? How is he perceived by the Hollywood?

Speaker Yes, Norman is perceived as an activist and if you have an issue that you are trying to push, Norman is one of the first people that you talk to.

Speaker I mean, everybody knows who in Hollywood are the go to people for getting anything going. And Norman is definitely one of those people love.

Speaker He's still the guy you go to. He's the first dog.

Speaker Yeah, no, he's definitely somebody that we all think about. You know you know, you you go through it, Norman Lear's world, in order to, you know, whatever the issue that you care about, you're going to go through his world at some point.

Speaker I was listening to an interview that he did with one side of a conversation a few months ago, Producers Guild, or someone called him. He was very irritated on the phone and he heard his side. We were filming and it was wonderful. He was giving this reporter a really hard time, which I loved. And he said something like, oh, well, Betty White, you can't just say Betty White's name and think that that's there's no ageism in Hollywood. And I did not hear the question, but I can imagine. Let's talk about ageism in Hollywood as it pertains to someone like Norman Lear who's trying to get some shows off the ground and has.

Speaker Some things in the works, but he talk to you about that experience, you know, I'm just I've read recently that he's trying to do some shows now.

Speaker He's trying to to do some things. There's no question about it. There's ageism. There is just no question about it. You know, there is a reason at certain points where, you know, you make somebody, an older person may be out of touch, not aware of what's going on, you know, but if you are aware of what's going on, then, boy, what a great thing to be able to tap into somebody who has that kind of brain experience. So hopefully people, you know, at a minimum, you've got to listen. You have to listen.

Speaker To somebody who has done it, do you and your dad still still chat and get together and talk about the old days and the new days and what how would you.

Speaker Yeah, they talk. Norman and my dad are good friends. I mean, you know, they talk. My dad also spends every night with Mel Brooks. They they talk there every night together. Share.

Speaker Yeah. Moments. Tell us about. I I don't know. I want to hang out with your dad and and Mel Brooks and watch movies. What do you think keeps going and going after all these years?

Speaker Boy, you know something? If I could understand that, I would bottle it. I mean, I've never seen a guy, you know, at the age he is. He's ninety two years old. He still has all the enthusiasm. He still has the energy. His mind is working great. I marvel at him. You know, I look up at him and like, oh my God, if I could be, you know, half that energetic, you know, five years from now, I'd be thrilled.

Speaker Um, what do you think his. I totally agree with you when he's teaching us how to age. Right. Um, what is his grade? What do you think? His greatest achievement.

Speaker I think his greatest achievement is, is the fact that he used his mind to further not just entertainment, but ideas, using entertainment for that and putting his ideas out there, knowing how to take all the talents that he has and basically get certain ideas out there.

Speaker That's his greatest legacy that he was able to do, that most artists will do something, you know, through their work. And he's been able to blend his work and his activism in a way that he gets something done on a grander scale. And I think that's that's his greatest achievement.

Speaker Anything I missed back there, Rachel, Brent, any follow ups, things I didn't touch upon, the one thing that.

Speaker I don't know if it's an irony or coincidence, but it's something I've always found interesting is that, you know, all the homes that you could have purchased and purchased the home.

Speaker It's crazy. It's crazy. But tell me about this. It's crazy, the whole story.

Speaker So as a young person and doing all in the family, I used to go play tennis sometimes at Norman Lear's house. He had a house in Brentwood. And and I used to say all the time I would go over there and I used to say, boy, if ever I get money, if ever I have some money to buy a house, buy a really this is the kind of house that I would like. I mean, it has this kind of New England charm and it's kind of got this great, you know, classic look to it. And then I was I was married, I just got married and we were looking for a house, I owned a house and off Coldwater Canyon and Michelle was looking for houses and I was working.

Speaker And one day she says to me, I think I found something that might be good, you know, I think that we could enjoy. And I said, OK, you know, where is it? And then she tells me and I said, well, wait a minute. I said, This is Norman Lear's house. I said, You're showing me. I spent a lot of time. I know this. And she said, yeah, I when I first came here, I didn't know. I mean, there was a lot of pictures of Norman Lear here. And I thought, well, whoever owns this house really must like Norman Lear a lot. And then they told me that it was his house and I wasn't going to tell you about it because I thought maybe it'd be weird, you know, that you would be, you know, but I think it's a great house. And I said I said, honey, this is exactly the kind of house that I've always wanted. And I thought for a second, Harlow, should I? And then I finally said, OK. And I did. So I bought the house from Norman. Now, this is a very storied house because the first people that owned that house were Henry Fonda, who was owned it in the 30s. And Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda were born in that house. And then it was sold to the actor Paul Henry, who was in Casablanca. He played and he was in now Voyager. He's a very famous scene where he likes to cigarettes and gives Betty Davis the other cigarette. He owned it for 20 years and then Norman owned it for about 18 years. And then we bought it for Norma from Norman. And we've owned the house for twenty three years.

Speaker That's where we live now. That's amazing. So there you have it.

Speaker That's a good story, a good story. Yeah, that's a good story, Rachel.

Speaker And also when we moved into the house in Norman, you know, Norman used to have a lot of political functions there. And so we moved into the house and we wanted to add something to the house we have to go to, like the Brentwood Park Association. And they said, well, you're not going to have like a lot of political things, are you? Like Norman? He always had. I said, no, no, no. That's that. We had President Clinton there and Hillary and Al Gore and they actually were having the Nancy Pelosi come over Monday. But I mean, it's like we did the exact opposite. So a lot of political things have flown have floated through that house you're carrying on.

Rob Reiner
Interview Date:
2015-02-05
Runtime:
1:17:42
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Rob Reiner, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 Feb. 2015, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1055
APA CITATIONS:
(2015, February 05). Rob Reiner, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1055
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Rob Reiner, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 05, 2015. Accessed January 20, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1055

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