Archive for the ‘Genre: Comedy’ Category

Director James Burrows on Makin’ His Way in the World Today

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Director James Burrows is practically synonymous with popular television comedies. Burrows got his start in television under the tutelage of Jay Sandrich on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, went on to direct episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, co-created Cheers with Les and Glen Charles (and directed almost all of the series’ episodes), directed episodes of Taxi, Friends, Frasier, and the entire series run of Will & Grace.

Burrows stated that one of the biggest laughs he’s ever seen on television occurred when he was directing Friends:

Watch James Burrows’ full interview here to hear his tales of Taxi, Cheers, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and other TV favorites.

About this interview:

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, James Burrows discusses his early years working as a stage manger under his father, playwright/director Abe Burrows, and outlines his years directing for the stage in regional theater. He recalls his break into television directing, working at MTM Productions on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and describes directing Fay, The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne & Shirley, and Phyllis. He details working with the cast and creative team behind Taxi, and directing the majority of the series’ episodes. Burrows chronicles the eleven-year run of Cheers, which he co-created with Glen & Les Charles, and for which he directed nearly every episode.  As one of the pre-eminent directors of sitcom pilots, Burrows shares what he looks for in selecting a pilot and explains what drew him to directing the pilot episodes of Night Court, NewsRadio, and 3rd Rock From the Sun. He talks of working on the early seasons of Frasier, Friends, and Caroline in the City, and speaks of the joy of being the sole director of the hit series, Will & Grace. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on December 17, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA.

20 Years Later – Is Seinfeld Still Stuck in that Parking Garage?

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

“The problem with the mall garage is that everything looks the same. They try to differentiate between levels. They put up different colors, different numbers, different letters. What they need to do is name the levels, like, ‘Your mother’s a whore.’ You would remember that.”

So proclaimed Jerry Seinfeld in the “Parking Garage” episode of Seinfeld, which first aired on NBC twenty years ago today, on October 30, 1991. This 23rd episode of the series where Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine wander aimlessly in a parking garage, placed 33rd on TV Guide’s list of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. A dying goldfish, a frightening condition called uromisitisis poisoning (which apparently does not justify public urination), and a sensitive Christian Scientist all make it into the plot of one of the series’ most beloved episodes. And here’s a fun fact: according to editor Janet Ashikaga, the episode is based on the parking garage at L.A.’s Century City Mall.

Ashikaga, director Tom Cherones, and production designer Tom Azzari share their memories of one of the series’ most difficult episodes to shoot:

Editor Janet Ashikaga on Tom Cherones’ innovative ideas on “The Parking Garage”:

Director Tom Cherones on deciding where and how to shoot the episode:

Production Designer Tom Azzari on crafting “The Parking Garage” set:

Learn more about Seinfeld’s “Parking Garage” episode:

First Use of Videotape on the First of Two “Jonathan Winters Shows”

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Jonathan Winters does characters like nobody else. A staple on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen and the star of two shows called The Jonathan Winters Show, Winters is one of comedy’s consummate chameleons. From 1956-57, he hosted the first Jonathan Winters Show, a fifteen-minute entertainment program on NBC. The second Jonathan Winters Show was an hour-long variety show that aired from 1967-69. The 1956 program lays claim to a couple of television firsts: the first use of videotape on network television occurred on the program on October 23, 1956, with a pre-recorded two minute and thirty second tape of singer Dorothy Collins performing. And According to Winters in his Archive interview, the fifteen-minute show was also one of NBC’s first color broadcasts.

Winters featured some of his most beloved characters on the 1956 Jonathan Winters Show, including the unforgettable Maude Frickert, whom he discusses in this clip:

Learn more about the 1956 and 1967 Jonathan Winters Shows by watching Winters’ full interview:

“I Love Lucy” Turns 60 – The Archive has some ’splaining to do

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I Love Lucy debuted 60 years ago on October 15, 1951 and within 6 months became the first TV show to be seen in 10 million homes. Today it’s still broadcast in reruns all over the world. The Archive has not only conducted interviews with many of the show’s cast and crew members, but with numerous other TV legends who were fans of or inspired by the popular sitcom.

Watch Archive interviewees Sheldon Leonard, Dann Cahn, William Asher, Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., Army Archerd, Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf, Jay Sandrich, Mary Tyler Moore, Keith Thibodeaux, Sidney Lumet,  A.C Lyles, John Forsythe, Doris Singleton, and Dixon Dern reminisce about I Love Lucy in this video:

Here are a few more little-known facts about I Love Lucy, straight from those who worked on the show:

Irma Kusely
- I Love Lucy’s hairdresser

“Philip Morris was the sponsor. And Desi smoked Chesterfields. So I don’t know how they did that.”  

Dann Cahn
– Editor

“Ten minutes at a time. Each reel of film, of a load, was ten minutes.  They timed a scene to be shot within ten minutes. They never ran ten. Seven, eight were the most… Then they’d entertain the audience and they’d do another one.”

Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr. – Writers

“Sometimes he would fool us. We wrote it and he says, ‘he wouldn’t say it that way.’ I forget the word, a couple of them were like that … He never minded and there’s an interesting thing, he admitted years later, sometimes there’d be a joke that was based on American slang or something… And he wouldn’t know what it was, but he never let on … we’d do some little joke on that and he never said a word. He told me, ‘well, I figured you guys said it was funny, it was funny, but I didn’t know what it meant.’”

Dann Cahn – Editor

“I packed up and I met an agency in New York and I went across the George Washington Bridge and made that famous first process shot for television – which was when they went across the bridge singing “California Here We Come.” They were in the Pontiac with the top down, but they were sitting on the sound stage with the audience. And behind them was the what we called process film plate, which I shot out of the rear end of a station wagon of going across the bridge, and it was projected behind them on the screen. And that was the first process photography for television. Momentous moment, and it looked great, and there’s still stills all over the place of them on the bridge driving in the Pontiac, which you can buy anywhere.”

Ted Rich – Editor’s apprentice

“They’d shoot the shows – like on The Lucy Show, we’d shoot on Thursday. It’d start on Monday, but Desi wanted to shoot the show on Thursday because he loved to play golf and they had a home in Palm Springs. And they’d take off Friday and they’d go away.  So they’d shoot the show on Thursday.”

Ted Rich – Editor’s apprentice

“We had Dean Martin, coming on as a guest on the show. They were scared to death because Dean Martin would not rehearse. He would not come in at all. He did it spontaneous as he came on. And they – Desi Arnaz was so worried and Billy Asher was our director. They were so concerned, because sometimes, I don’t know whether it was true about whether he had an alcohol problem or what. You never know when you’re relaxed and you have an audience there. But they went ahead with the show because they had him billed for it and the script written for him and, by gosh, we filmed the show and Deanwalked right on and did his scene and it worked great and it was hysterical.  But the cameras don’t know where he’s going to be or what and again, he’s saying that same thing, once he got on the set, stay with him. Because even though he’s doing that episode, he’s going to finish. If we miss Lucy or Desi Arnaz in something of the coverage – we can pick it up the next episode. It wouldn’t be a problem because the sets didn’t change that much. But it was scary in those kinds of situations when we had a person like that come on and you don’t know what to expect. It was a nail-biting time for them.”

Jay Sandrich
– Assistant Director

“One of the most interesting experiences I had is when we did an hour show with Red Skelton. There was a scene in a boxcar and they’re both hobos as they called them in those days, and he is doing a pantomime of eating a meal and she’s supposed to do it exactly the way he did it. So she stopped him in rehearsal when he started, and he was a great pantomimist and she said, ‘how do you do that?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. I just do it.’ And she said, ‘no you, you’ve got to show me.’ He said, ‘well what do you mean?’ She goes, ’show me how you do it.’ So for about two or three hours, he tutored her. ‘Well you’ve got to feel that there’s a glass there. You got to feel the weight, when you bring it up to your lips and you’ve got to pretend like you’re swallowing the liquid.’ And she’d say, ’show me.’ And he’d do it, not quickly. He’d have to do it moment by moment by moment. By the end of those two or three hours, whatever it was, she was as good as he was.”

Jay Sandrich – Assistant Director

“The other one I remember which was not a happy experience, we had a bunch of chickens, baby chicks and they bought them at the beginning of the week and they were in a box. And by the time Thursday came around, take the lid off the box, one of ‘em was big enough to crawl out of the box and crawl on the floor and one of the cameras rolled over it right in front of the audience. I mean the cameraman didn’t see it or anything, and try to get an audience to laugh after they’d just seen a baby chick run over. Horrible.”

Keith Thibodeaux – Little Ricky

“No, never, never did… Well only thing I can guess is that they wanted people to think that little Ricky was their real son, Desi Jr., Desi Arnaz Jr. So whenever I did get mentioned, it was always, ‘Lucile Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Frawley, Vivian Vance, and Little Ricky,’ so it could have been Rin Tin Tin for that matter.”

- by Adrienne Faillace

For even more about I Love Lucy, click here to visit the Archive’s show page.

If at First You Don’t Succeed … Recast: “The Dick Van Dyke Show” Celebrates 50 Years

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Back in the summer of 1958, Carl Reiner, already an established writer and supporting actor on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, sought to create a sitcom in which he would star. He followed the adage of “write what you know” and created thirteen scripts of Head of the Family, a largely autobiographical series centered around Rob Petrie, head writer of “The Alan Sturdy Show.” Rob was married to Laura, they had a six-year-old son, Ritchie, and Buddy and Sally were Rob’s cohorts in the writers’ room. Sound familiar?

Reiner’s agent, Harry Kalcheim, shopped the Head of the Family pilot script around, and actor Peter Lawford wanted to front the money to shoot the pilot. Once Reiner sent a script to Lawford’s father-in-law and supplier of the cash, Joseph P. Kennedy, Reiner was given the green light. The pilot was shot in December of 1958 in New York, with Reiner starring as Rob, Barbara Britton as Laura, Gary Morgan as Ritchie, Sylvia Miles as Sally, and Morty Gunty as Buddy. And then … nothing. The pilot failed to sell for the Fall 1959 season, and for the next year, Reiner thought the project was dead. But Kalcheim refused to abandon the show. He presented the pilot episode to another client of his, producer Sheldon Leonard.

Already a successful creator/producer of The Andy Griffith Show, and producer of The Danny Thomas Show, Leonard recognized genius in Head of the Family, but identified one major flaw: Reiner completely miscast himself as Rob Petrie. It’s difficult to see how Reiner could be wrong for a role that he based on himself, but Reiner was a natural sketch performer, not a sitcom actor. Reiner didn’t take the news well, but as he describes in his Archive Interview, Leonard brightened his spirits by telling him that he was a natural producer:

Sheldon Leonard, himself a seasoned writer/performer (he played the robber who famously asked Jack Benny, “Your money or your life?”), convinced Reiner that one makes a much better living as a creator/writer/producer than as an actor. Reiner agreed and so began the hunt for a new Rob Petrie.

Re-enter Harry Kalcheim, candidate for best-agent-ever. A year earlier, at the urging of Kalcheim, Sheldon Leonard attended a musical revue called “The Girls Against the Boys” to check out a performer named Dick Van Dyke. In his Archive Interview, Leonard recalls liking Van Dyke, but not having any material at the time that could showcase his talents. Now, the right project had come along. Leonard convinced Reiner to hop a plane to New York to watch Van Dyke in Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie” and Reiner saw what Leonard now saw: Rob Petrie.

With a new lead, Reiner and Leonard distanced themselves from many elements of the failed Head of the Family pilot. The program assembled in the spring of 1960 was shot in California, in multi-camera format rather than single-camera, filmed in front of a live audience, and had an entirely new cast. The original scripts remained, but Reiner re-tooled them for multi-cam shooting and to play to the actors’ individual strengths, like Van Dyke’s talent for physical comedy:

Assembling the new cast was effortless in some ways, torturous in others. Sheldon Leonard knew he wanted Rose Marie as sassy Sally Rogers, who in turn suggested pal Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell. Reiner took on the part of Rob’s boss, re-named Alan Brady; Richard Deacon portrayed producer Mel Cooley; and little Larry Matthews, who had never professionally acted before, played six-year-old Ritchie. Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert rounded out the cast as neighbors Jerry and Millie Helper. Everyone was set … except Laura Petrie.

After auditioning many actresses for the part and coming up frustratingly empty-handed, Leonard and Reiner paid a visit to Danny Thomas, the largest funder of the newly formed Calvada Productions, which owned the show (Calvada: Ca – Carl Reiner, l – Sheldon Leonard, va – Dick Van Dyke, da – Danny Thomas). Thomas recommended they audition a woman who had tried out for the role of his daughter on Make Room for Daddy. The actress was wonderful, but with her cute nose, Thomas felt that no one would believe she was his daughter! Thomas remembered her as “the girl with three names.” With the help of a casting agent who tracked her down, Mary Tyler Moore auditioned for and won the role of Laura Petrie, as she explains in her Archive Interview:

Throw in advertising agency executives Lee Rich and Grant Tinker of Benton & Bowles, who secured sponsor Procter & Gamble and optioned the series to CBS, and that brings us to Tuesday, October 3, 1961, the premiere of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner suggested the new title, following Sheldon Leonard’s tradition of naming a show after its star. Though no longer the lead in front of the camera, Reiner’s leadership behind the camera resulted in the classic sitcom of the 1960s.

Critics adored The Dick Van Dyke Show, but the program did not enjoy high ratings and was nearly canceled after the first year. Due to Sheldon Leonard’s persistence, four more seasons aired, and the show ended its run on June 1, 1966 with episode “The Last Chapter,” in which Alan Brady is set to star in and produce a television show based on Rob Petrie’s autobiographical novel. Talk about art imitating life!

But art imitating life is what made The Dick Van Dyke Show such a gem. You believed Rob and Laura as a couple. They showed affection, they fought, and she sighed, “Oh, Rob!” sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of happiness. Sally and Buddy teased each other like co-workers really do; all of the characters represented people you felt like you knew or wished you could befriend. Fifty years later, the episodes and characters still remain approachable and real.

So here’s wishing a very Happy 50th Anniversary to The Dick Van Dyke Show. We expect we’ll be watching Rob trip over that ottoman for many years to come.

- by Adrienne Faillace

“You’ve never heard of a talking horse?” 50 Years of Mister Ed

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

October 1st marks the 50th anniversary of the sitcom Mister Ed, which began its five-year network run on CBS on October 1, 1961. (The show initially ran in limited first-run syndication from January to July of 1961.) The premise, was simple, Mister Ed was a talking horse who only spoke openly to his eccentric owner, Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young). Archive of American Television interviewees share some little-known facts about the classic series:

George Burns helped launch the series.

“George Burns was part-owner of the show.  He put up $75,000 for the pilot, which never aired. I was at that famous meeting where George said, “the horse wouldn’t say that.” I said, “I got a flash for you George, the horse wouldn’t say anything!  And he says, “no, the character that we’ve given the horse wouldn’t say it.”  So my partner Lou Derman said, “let the horse decide.”  That became a famous thing.” — Larry Rhine, Writer

Mister Ed’s voice was played by Western star Allan “Rocky” Lane.

Alan Young, Actor (“Wilbur Post”)

Mister Ed was your typical American teenager.

“Lou Derman’s contribution outside of some wonderful writing were two things that, in my opinion, made that show what it was.  One was to treat Ed as a teenager. Once you tell that to writers, you can have that he wanted his mane to grow long. He wanted to play a guitar. He wanted a pad of his own. It gave us all those premises.  The other was a wonderful thought.  Sounds easy, but it wasn’t at the time. That was to put a telephone in the barn in reach of the horse because the horse never spoke to anybody but Wilbur. If he talked to everybody you wouldn’t have a show…. The telephone gave Ed a chance, who didn’t talk to everybody, to talk to everybody.  And he would pick up the phone and say, “a horse is being held here against his will. This is Wilbur Post.” And so forth and also listening in on calls from the house and he knew everything that was going on because he listened in.” — Larry Rhine, Writer

Mister Ed didn’t really talk.

Alan Young, Actor (“Wilbur Post”)

The theme for Mister Ed was originally sung by an Italian opera singer.

Ray Evans:  I wrote the lyrics, “a horse is a horse,” or something to that jingle, a catch phrase, and Jay took it there and did the 6/8 melody to that, and practically the same lyric.

Jay Livingston :  I said, “I feel sorry if a buddy of mine has to sing this.  He can’t breathe.  No place.”  Now they went to Rome to score the show. And they had an Italian opera singer sing Mister Ed.  Can you imagine how that sounded?

Ray Evans :  It was cheaper to go to Rome.

Jay Livingston :  And they wanted to go on the air in a week.  So they said, “will you sing it to the track and we’ll get a singer in later?” But we’ve got to go on the air.  So I sang it to the track, it’s been on there ever since.

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, Mister Ed theme song composers

Mister Ed was actually a zebra.

Okay, no one in the Archive spoke about this, and we’re very skeptical, but seems pretty sure that was the case….

To learn more about Mister Ed, visit the Archive’s Mister Ed Show Page.

The one where “Friends” creators tell their story: Marta Kauffman & David Crane’s interview now online

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

The writers and co-creators of Friends and Dream On shared their story with the Archive in 2010. The longtime writing partners were interviewed together, and individually about their past and current projects. David Crane was recently nominated for and Emmy for Outstanding Writing for Episodes, which he briefly discusses. Their complete interview is now online at

On the effect Friends had on American pop culture:

“At a certain point the show tells you what it wants, and you know you’re going in a certain direction and you had no idea that this arc would be so powerful and you have to go with it… When you do a show, your intention is not to affect American culture or to have people start wanting to wear their hair like this or dress like that.”

On what Friends means to them:

David Crane on advice to aspiring TV writers, from his solo interview:

On why their writing partnership was successful:

David Crane and  Marta Kauffman were interviewed for three hours in Burbank, CA. They spoke of how they began writing together, their partnership with Kevin Bright, and the creation of the popular series Friends as well as Dream On and other series and pilots they worked on together. They spoke in great detail about Friends; its development, cast, and writing process. Crane and Kauffman were also interviewed separately, speaking about their early influences as well as more current solo projects. The interview was conducted by Beth Cochran on October 7, 2010.

If you like it then you shouldn’t put a ring on it: THAT GIRL turns 45!

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Before Carrie Bradshaw, before Murphy Brown, even before Mary Richards, it was That Girl’s Ann Marie who first showed American television viewers that it was okay to pursue a career instead of a man.

Fondly known as a pioneer in the portrayal of television’s leading ladies, That Girl certainly earned its place in television’s history books. It was a ratings hit, lovely to work on (according to cast and crew), and left a blueprint for the Carrie Bradshaws of the world on how to be a fashion maven. But getting That Girl onto television was not an easy process, and the program’s backstory makes the final product all the more impressive. With a bit of a daring premise, a clash of the titles, stars who didn’t test well, and an agent character gone AWOL, the series experienced a few setbacks on the path to success. Throw in a hunt for Daddy and a dispute over the finale, the behind-the-scenes tales of That Girl could almost be sitcom fodder themselves.

Marlo Thomas, who portrayed That Girl’s Ann Marie, had her work cut out for her. In 1965, Thomas starred in a pilot for a show called Two’s Company, and though the pilot didn’t sell, it did grab the attention of ABC executive Edgar Scherick and sponsors Bristol-Myers and Clairol. Scherick saw star-power in Thomas, and Bristol-Myers and Clairol believed she could increase sales of their products with those trademark bangs. With sponsors and a star secured, all that the group needed was a show idea. Thomas had one, but it wasn’t well received.

She wanted to do a show based in-part on her own life as a single woman trying to make a career for herself as an actress. The character would not be a stay-at-home mother, a teacher, or somebody’s wife, but would be the somebody. Watch below to find out how a copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique convinced Scherick that Thomas’ idea had merit:

With Scherick on board, the show began to take shape. Thomas wanted Sam Denoff and Bill Persky, writers for The Dick Van Dyke Show, to co-create the program. Denoff and Persky observed Thomas in a London production of “Barefoot in the Park” and were convinced of her acting talent, but were concerned about whether or not Thomas could be funny. It turns out they didn’t need to worry — Marlo, like her father, legendary entertainer Danny Thomas, had a knack for comedy.

The show was originally titled “Miss Independence” after the nickname Danny Thomas gave Marlo after she first moved into her own apartment and promptly called him to complain that her new abode was infested. The elder Thomas turned to his wife, Rose Marie, and reported, “Miss Independence has ants.” Denoff and Persky thought the title sounded too much like a musical a la 1776, and Denoff came up with the title of “That Girl.” His parents used to refer to his sister as “that girl,” as in “that girl is going to drive me crazy,” and he and Persky then crafted the show’s signature prologue featuring a zoom in on Marlo Thomas, ever “that girl” that captured everyone’s interest.

Thomas starred as Ann Marie, a young woman straight out of Brewster College. Against her parents’ wishes, she moved to Manhattan to follow her dream of becoming an actress. Ted Bessell played her boyfriend, Don Hollinger, though in the original, unaired pilot, Don was Donald Blue Sky, both Ann’s agent and boyfriend. Bessell didn’t test well in this role; audiences didn’t like the idea of Ann’s boyfriend profiting from her career. Persky and Denoff rewrote Don to be Ann’s boyfriend, a reporter for Newsview magazine, gave him a new surname, and cast a young George Carlin as her agent. When Carlin didn’t show up for episode six, actor Ronnie Schell was cast as Ann’s agent. Several other actors were replaced after the test pilot: Rosemary DeCamp took over the role of Ann’s mother, Helen, from Penny Santon, and Lew Parker became Ann’s father, Lou, in lieu of Harold Gould. Groucho Marx read for the role of Ann’s father, and although everyone agreed Marx was a comedic genius, they also agreed he wasn’t right for the part.

That Girl received a five-year contract, with Marlo Thomas serving as the show’s un-credited Executive Producer via her role as head of Daisy Productions, the company that backed the show. The sitcom was an immediate hit for ABC and maintained high ratings throughout its five seasons. As the contract’s deadline approached, ABC, Denoff and Persky wanted to renew, but Thomas did not. Feeling as though Ann wasn’t entirely representative of the modern woman (the audience was supposed to believe she “never saw Don’s ankles”), and adamant that Ann not marry, Thomas believed Ann had played out her time on primetime. ABC wanted the final episode to showcase the wedding of Don and Ann, but Thomas refused, believing that would send the message to viewers that the only happy ending for a woman was marriage. Don and Ann did get engaged in the fifth season, but in the series finale, rather than mishaps during a ceremony, antics ensue when the pair are trapped in an elevator on the way to a women’s liberation meeting.

Through all the bends in the road, That Girl emerged as a winner, not just in terms of ratings, but for presenting a main character that reflected the revolutionary era in which she lived. Television had featured single women before That Girl (on Our Miss Brooks, for example), but here’s what set Ann Marie apart: she was the first leading lady to not actively hunger for a husband. Yes, she was in a loving relationship, but she didn’t need or want to define herself in terms of the man in her life. Ann proved that the viewing audience would accept an unmarried, career-oriented woman, and though she may not have been the thoroughly modern woman Thomas wanted her to be, she was the closest to one that American television had ever seen. Before television’s viewers could care about Carrie decades later, they first needed to accept Ann.

And accept they did, for the 1960’s audience loved That Girl. Forty-five years later, multiple generations now do, too. Cheers to That Girl for navigating the prickly path to primetime and for showing viewers that you don’t need to be half of a married couple to be a whole woman.

- By Adrienne Faillace

Jonathan Winters gets serious

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Never say goodbye to your day job or any job. Seriously, I’m not one to discourage anybody.. I would say this- if you’re going to go into this business, you should go into it. But know this going in: your chances of just making a decent living it’s tough, it’s really hard. You’ve got to study. You must be an observer. You must look at everything around you, and if you’re in doubt about characters- take your car, take the bus, or walk to the closest terminal. Just sit there, in a beat-up old raincoat, pair of shades.. And you’re going to see America go by.” - Jonathan Winters

Comedy legend Jonathan Winters’ full interview is now online. Below are some excerpts from his 2002 interview.

On his advice to young comedians (clip below)

On his character “Maude Frickert”:

On his early television work:

On Robin Williams and Mork and Mindy:

On where his inspiration comes from:

On appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:

On winning an Emmy for Davis Rules:

On working with Bob Hope:

Watch the full interview with Jonathan Winters at

About This Interview
Jonathan Winters was interviewed for nearly two-and-a-half hours in Santa Barbara, CA. Winters reminisced about his early career in Ohio, and about his early days in New York. He specifically recalled appearing on early television programs including The Garry Moore Showand The Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen. Next, Mr. Winters talked about the evolution of some of his well-known characters, including Maude Frickert, Elwood P. Suggins, and King Kwasi. He discussed some of the many well-known television personalities with whom he worked during his career, including Jack Paar, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson. Finally, he talked about his work on programs in the 1980s and 1990s including Mork and Mindy, Hee Haw, and Davis Rules. The interview was conducted by Dan Pasternack on October 11, 2002.

Norman Lear on comedy

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

“Life is a serious matter, but I see it through a prism that finds comedy in anything.”- Norman Lear

A very happy birthday today to TV writer, producer, and legend Norman Lear, who is 89!

In this excerpt from his 1998 Archive interview, Lear addressed the question of how he uses humor to diffuse a serious situation or an emotional issue, without becoming dogmatic:

See the full interview with Norman Lear here.

About the interview:
Regarding his contribution to television, Norman Lear notes: “Flying across country [one] night I remember looking down and thinking, hey, it’s just possible, wherever I see a light, I’ve helped to make somebody laugh.” Norman Lear’s writing career began in the 1950s, and reached its zenith with a series of socially conscious sitcoms, the crown jewel of which was the highly rated, multi-Emmy Award-winning All in the Family. In his Archive interview, Lear speaks about his early work in publicity and his move to Los Angeles, where he teamed up with comedy writer Ed Simmons. He recounts how he broke into the business by finagling Danny Thomas’s phone number from his office and pitching a comedy routine idea to him personally. He enumerates his continued television writing jobs for such stars as Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis on television’s The Colgate Comedy Hour.He fondly recalls writing for The Martha Raye Show, which he also directed, and describes how the show ran afoul with its ad agency and was cancelled. He outlines the creation of his own production company, with producing partner Bud Yorkin, and his work on The Andy Williams Specials and The George Gobel Show. For All in the Family, he discusses the creation of the show (based on a British series but inspired by his own family) the struggles to get it picked up by a network, and the show’s impact. On his collaboration with Carroll O’Connor on the iconic Archie Bunker he candidly comments: “When Carroll O’Connor realized he had to embrace the script, not without some of the changes he suggested, but without the wholesale changes he would insist upon; that when he finally accepted it and slipped into the character, none of us could write Archie Bunker the way it flew out of him— realized he had to embrace the script, not without some of the changes he suggested, but without the wholesale changes he would insist upon; that when he finally accepted it and slipped into the character, none of us could write Archie Bunker the way it flew out of him— in his understanding of the character, and the idiom, the language, the malapropos. It was worth all of the aggravation to get to that moment, I’d wait for that moment with awe.” He outlines the conception and casting of the numerous successful series he subsequently launched, including: Sanford and Son; Maude; Good Times; The Jeffersons; One Day at a Time; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; and Fernwood 2-Night. Lastly, he comments on series he refers to as the “misses and near misses.” Norman Lear was interviewed in Brentwood, CA on February 26, 1998; Morrie Gelman conducted the five-hour interview.