MUSEUM OF TELEVISION & RADIO SEMINAR, THE: COMEDY CONVERSATIONS: NORMAN LEAR AND PHIL ROSENTHAL {LONG VERSION}

Summary

One in this three-night series of discussions with comedy-based writers hosted by The Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles. The third and final evening hosts a discussion with writer and show creator Norman Lear. Host Barbara Dixon (director, The Museum of Television and Radio) offers opening remarks and then introduces moderator Phil Rosenthal, writer and creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Rosenthal introduces a clip package featuring memorable scenes from Lear's famous shows, including: "The Colgate Comedy Hour"; "All in the Family"; "Maude"; "Good Times"; "The Jeffersons"; "Fernwood 2 Night"; and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." Rosenthal then welcomes Lear to the stage.

The conversation touches on such topics as: Rosenthal's lifelong love of "All in the Famiiy"; Lear's process of writing the pilot script twice and being told the show would fail because of its controversial nature; inspiration for the opinionated Archie Bunker from Lear's own father; the show's loose basis in the British series "Till Death Us Do Part"; comparisons of Lear and Rosenthal's quirky parents; Lear's early jobs as a shoe salesman and door-to-door vendor; his experiences as a pilot in WWII; his longtime "desire to entertain," based partially in his father's three-year stint in prison; his original interest in a career as a "publicity man"; working as a writer for journalist Dorothy Kilgallen and then being fired for a particularly odd comedic piece; his unorthodox meeting with Danny Thomas, who then hired him; working for the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy team; memories of Lewis and his arguable "stupid American" persona; the memorable theme song to "All in the Family" and its representation of Archie's stubborn nature; the writers' process of "scraping the barrels" of their own experiences for inspiration; Lear's need to delegate when running multiple shows at the same time; his desire to "cream" the audience with both comedy and genuinely emotional scenes; the "spiritual experience" of watching a crowd laugh; the recent mockumentary film "Borat," compared to parody shows "Mary Hartman" and "Fernwood"; Lear's fondness for certain current comedies, including "The Daily Show" and "South Park"; and Rosenthal's direction inspiration from Lear's shows on "Raymond."

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics: his desire to satirize American commercialism in "Mary Hartman"; Archie Bunker's struggles with "impudence" as a metaphor for his Great Depression-like inability to provide for his family; Carroll O'Connor's sometimes-difficult nature and his expertise at crafting "Archie-isms"; Lear's original idea for the show and unusual conversation with Mickey Rooney; the compassionate character of Edith, played by Jean Stapleton; his aversion to guest stars and exception for Sammy Davis Jr., whose race, religion and disability all memorably flustered Archie; the responsibilities associated with leadership; his purchase of a copy of the Declaration of Independence at an auction; the current status of the middle class and the unlikelihood of "All in the Family"'s success today; the extreme prevalence of under-30 characters on current television, unlike on "Raymond"; comparisons between "Fernwood" and the comedy film "This is Spinal Tap"; and the story behind Lear's trademark hats.

Details

  • NETWORK:
  • DATE: November 14, 2006 7:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:34:13
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:89442
  • GENRE: Seminars
  • SUBJECT HEADING:
  • SERIES RUN:
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Barbara Dixon … Host
    • Phil Rosenthal … Moderator
    • Norman Lear … Guest
    • Sammy Davis Jr.
    • Dorothy Kilgallen
    • Jerry Lewis
    • Dean Martin
    • Carroll O'Connor
    • Mickey Rooney
    • Jean Stapleton
    • Danny Thomas