Bill Persky

Writer/ Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Bill Persky discusses his early years in advertising and radio, before teaming up with longtime partner, Sam Denoff. He describes how after writing for The Steve Allen Show and The Andy Williams Show, he and Denoff were hired to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, where they eventually became producers. He reveals the genesis of the series' most well-known episodes including "That's My Boy" and "Coast to Coast Bigmouth." Persky outlines the creation of their next show, That Girl and its role in promoting women's liberation. He speaks of his continuing interest in directing and his eventual transition to directing, following the end of his partnership with Denoff. Lastly, he describes the creation of Kate and Allie and his five-year association with the series. He concludes the interview by describing some of his current projects with Nick at Nite and TV Land. Karen Herman conducted the interview in New York, NY on November 12, 2005.

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" gave writers something to aspire to. There was a purity about humanity... nobody was vicious. Funny is when we are brought down from being too pompous about being human beings."

Highlights
Bill Persky on what is funny in comedy
Bill Persky on the legacy and message of That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Bill Persky on Sam Denoff who became his longtime writing partner
Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show and how they got him their 10 pound spec script
Bill Perksy on an old adage from comedy writers: "If you ask what kind of writer is he you'll hear one of two answers.  Greatest guy in the world. Can't write his name. Or funniest guy in the world, don't turn your back on him. You won't ever hear greatest guy in the world, funniest guy in the world. Except maybe for Carl Reiner"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early childhood and influences
On getting started as a writer for radio; on meeting Sam Denoff and George Shapiro; on writing a pilot
On getting his break writing for television on The Steve Allen Show through Bill Dana; on Steve Allen and Tim Conway

Chapter 2

On various tv and film projects during the 1960s; Gene Kelly, on comedy writers
On The Andy Williams Show; Harry Crane; on comedy writers
On writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show; on the controversial subject matter of his script on a baby swap; on Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard

Chapter 3

On The Dick Van Dyke show cast; on his favorite moments from the show
On the "Coast to Coast big mouth" episode of The Dick Van Dyke show, which won an Emmy award; on other classic episodes 

Chapter 4

On the legacy of The Dick Van Dyke show; on shooting the show on the day JFK was assassinated
On comedy writing and what is enduring about The Dick Van Dyke show
On how That Girl came about, with Marlo Thomas

Chapter 5

On the legacy of That Girl
On exploring the relationship between two women on Kate & Allie; 

Chapter 6

On his favorite episodes of Kate & Allie; on why he cancelled the show
On his relationship to the TV Networks in general; Brandon Tartikoff, Grant Tinker; on directing; on parting ways with Sam Denoff

Chapter 7

On his relationship with writing partner Sam Denoff; on their writing process; On Good Morning World
On Good Morning World; on working with Orson Welles; on directing

Chapter 8

On working for CBS; on his current projects
On his career highlights; on advice to aspiring writers
Shows

Andy Williams Show, The

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Bill Persky on writing for The Andy Williams Show and on comedy writers

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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Bill Persky on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show and on the controversial subject matter of the baby swap
Bill Persky on some of his favorite Dick Van Dyke show moments
Bill Persky on The Dick Van Dyke Show's "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" episode
Bill Persky on the legacy of The Dick Van Dyke show; on shooting the show on the day JFK was assasinated
Bill Persky on the legacy of the Dick Van Dyke show

Good Morning World

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Bill Persky on writing Good Morning World; Ron Rifkin

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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Bill Persky on the Hallmark Hall of Fame episode "The Man Who Came To Dinner" with Orson Welles

Howdy Doody

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Bill Persky on his first job in television coming up with a storyline for Howdy Doody - the pigloo

Kate & Allie

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Bill Persky on the origin of Kate & Allie and the relationship between the two women on that show
Bill Persky on his favorite episodes of Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on why he cancelled Kate & Allie

New Steve Allen Show, The (1961)

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Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show, and the story about their 10 pound spec script

That Girl

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Bill Persky on the premise of That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas, which he wrote with Sam Denoff
Bill Persky on the legacy and message of That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Topics

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Bill Persky on filming the Dick Van Dyke show on the day John F. Kennedy was shot

Television Industry

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Bill Persky on why he cancelled Kate & Allie

Women

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Bill Persky on the legacy of That Girl and the birth of liberated women on TV
Professions

Directors

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Bill Persky on how he came to be a director

Writers

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Bill Persky on getting started as a writer for television, and the story of the 10 pounds of comedy material
Bill Persky on his favorite comedy joke, which he wrote for The Steve Allen Show, about Ben Casey
Bill Persky on the limitations of writing and why he wanted to be a director
Genres

Comedy Series

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Bill Persky on his favorite comedy joke, which he wrote for The Steve Allen Show, about Ben Casey, about Ben Casey
Bill Persky on what is funny in comedy
People

Steve Allen

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Bill Persky on working with Steve Allen

Harry Crane

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Bill Persky on comedy writer Harry Crane

Bill Dana

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Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show and how they got him their 10 pound spec script

Sam Denoff

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Bill Persky on Sam Denoff who became his longtime writing partner
Bill Persky on working with Sam Denoff as "the blending of two opposities"; on their writing process

Dick Van Dyke

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Bill Persky on the talents of Dick Van Dyke, and his style of comedy

Gene Kelly

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Bill Persky on working with Gene Kelly
02:09

Sheldon Leonard

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Bill Persky on Sheldon Leonard and the mocha java story

Carl Reiner

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Bill Persky on Carl Reiner "inventive, honest, decent"

George Shapiro

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Bill Persky on meeting George Shapiro while just starting out as a writer with partner Sam Denoff

Marlo Thomas

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Bill Persky on the premise of That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas, which he wrote with Sam Denoff

Grant Tinker

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Bill Persky on Grant Tinker

Orson Welles

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Bill Persky on directing Orson Welles on "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

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