John Moffitt

Producer & Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly four-hour Archive interview, Producer/Director John Moffitt describes his start in television, as a production assistant on The Ed Sullivan Show. Moffitt details rising through the ranks to become an assistant director on the show during the mid-to-late '60s and shares his recollections of  several memorable guests including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby. He talks about producing television specials Good Vibrations from Central Park and Tribute to Monty Python and discusses directing the comedy-variety series The Richard Pryor Show, the late night comedy sketch series Fridays (with guest star Andy Kaufman), and the satirical HBO series Not Necessarily the News. In addition, Moffitt recalls the formation of Moffitt/Lee Productions, speaks of directing Comic Relief specials for HBO and comments on the challenges of producing The Emmys. Karen Herman conducted the  interview on November 20, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA.

"We get word from the parking lot that the guard had given them a hard time and they were going to leave. I ran to the parking lot and I actually threw myself on the hood of the car and they were kind of shocked. I just said, 'this is something I've been wanting to do all my life and I finally get to work with you guys and we all want you here! Don't let one stupid fucking guard convince you not to do this.' They laughed and came in and so I got to direct the Rolling Stones."

Highlights
John Moffitt on a college visit to CBS Studios that changed his life
00:52
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on Ed Sullivan not trusting a red light
01:11
John Moffitt on advice to an aspiring director
04:10
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on building sets for and acting in high school productions; on his comedic influences
07:54
On what he wanted to become; on life at Dartmouth; on getting a job in the CBS mailroom
13:11
On getting a job in CBS Operations as Night Log Clerk and then running Tel Ops and Slides; on disappointing Bill Paley
06:41

Chapter 2

On getting drafted and trying to get into the Army Pictorial; on writing and directing training films; on returning to CBS after the army and assisting Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival
08:57
On trying to get a production job at CBS; on joining The Ed Sullivan Show as a PA
19:44

Chapter 3

On Ed Sullivan selecting acts for The Ed Sullivan Show; on some of his favorite Ed Sullivan Show guests including Louis Armstrong, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby
16:37
On cameras and production of The Ed Sullivan Show; on the show going to color in 1965
04:13
On Bob Dylan not appearing on the show; on the production of the show; on censorship issues with The Rolling Stones; on the Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
07:55

Chapter 4

On The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show  (cont.)
06:50
On working on The Ed Sullivan Show during the time of the assassination and funeral of John F. Kennedy
02:48
On how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement; on how The Ed Sullivan Show did not reference the Vietnam War
01:34
On becoming assistant director on The Ed Sullivan Show after working on a European mobile unit during the summer; on Sullivan director Tim Kiley; on becoming director of the Sullivan Show 
11:05
On directing music on The Ed Sullivan Show (i.e. Rolling Stones; Dave Clark Five); on The Ed Sullivan Show going off the air as Sullivan got senile
06:15

Chapter 5

On life after The Ed Sullivan Show - directing Good Vibrations from Central Park, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, Van Dyke and Company, The Captain and Tennille Show
12:47
On producing and directing The Richard Pryor Show
10:54
On the formation of Moffitt/Lee Productions
04:45

Chapter 6

On creating, casting, producing, and directing Fridays
12:11
On the death of business partner and best friend Bill Lee; On producing Not Necessarily the News  and HBO's Comic Relief
16:03

Chapter 7

On his philosophy of directing stage comedy shows for television and on his own sense of humor
07:31
On directing the CableACE Awards
02:43
On his long association with the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards
13:45
On producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Chapter 8

On turning down the chance to direct Saturday Night Live at its beginning; on producing the HBO reunion special Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen
05:15
On his current projects; on ageism; on his directing style; on loving live television and directing a feature
10:29
On advice to an aspiring director - write and perform; on mentors; on how he'd like to be remembered
07:26
On B-roll photos: of him directing in the army, with Louis Armstrong, of Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan, of him with Sullivan, of the control room on The Ed Sullivan Show, with the Beatles' drums, of Sullivan with staff, 
06:25

Chapter 9

On photos from The Ed Sullivan Show, with Frankie and Annette, of The Richard Pryor Show, with friend Bill Lee, of Comic Relief, of Not Necessarily the News, of The Emmys, of Bob Hope and Danny Thomas, of promotional materials for Person to Person, The Late Late Show and CBS
14:28
Shows

Arthur Godfrey and His Friends

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John Moffitt on Arthur Godfrey doing radio and TV shows from CBS
00:58

Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts

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John Moffitt on Arthur Godfrey doing radio and TV shows from CBS
00:58

CableACE Awards

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John Moffitt on directing the CableACE Awards
02:43

Captain & Tennille

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John Moffitt on directing The Captain and Tennille Show  and their subsequent specials
00:50

Captain Kangaroo

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John Moffitt on finally getting assigned to be a PA, for Captain Kangaroo, just as he got another opportunity to PA for The Ed Sullivan Show
00:46

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

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John Moffitt on how Carol Burnett's show was the first CBS set to be colorized
00:35

Comic Relief Specials

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John Moffitt on producing HBO's Comic Relief Specials
05:27
John Moffitt on a photo of Comic Relief
00:29

Don Kirshner's Rock Concert

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John Moffitt on directing Don Kirshner's Rock Concert- there was never a sound check
03:25

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

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John Moffitt on joining The Ed Sullivan Show as a PA
18:43
John Moffitt on Ed Sullivan selecting acts for The Ed Sullivan Show
06:33
John Moffitt on the production specifics and some of the guests who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show
18:17
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
06:50
John Moffitt on working as assistant director and then director on The Ed Sullivan Show
15:27
John Moffitt on directing music on The Ed Sullivan Show (i.e. Rolling Stones; Dave Clark Five)
04:58
John Moffitt on The Ed Sullivan Show going off the air
01:17
John Moffitt on photos from The Ed Sullivan Show
05:46
John Moffitt on photos from The Ed Sullivan Show
02:18

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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John Moffitt on Van Dyke and Company  winning an Emmy and Bob Einstein's acceptance comment
00:37
John Moffitt on directing the 28th Primetime Emmy Awards (the first time steadicam used on television)
03:05
John Moffitt on being unable to direct the 29th Primetime Emmy Awards (due to a strike, it was first time the show aired in September)
01:22
John Moffitt on producing the Primetime Emmy Awards in 1979 and his subsequent involvement in other Emmy telecasts
03:03
John Moffitt on producing the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards
06:15
John Moffitt on photos from The 28th Annual Emmy Awards
01:27

Fridays

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John Moffitt on casting Larry David and Michael Richards on Fridays
03:08
John Moffitt on the first episodes of Fridays and on Andy Kaufman's notorious surprise fight sketch
07:00
John Moffitt on Fridays
12:11
John Moffitt on a photo of Fridays
00:36

Good Vibrations from Central Park

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John Moffitt on directing Good Vibrations from Central Park
02:39

Hollywood Squares, The

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John Moffitt on producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Late Late Show, The

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John Moffitt on promotional material for The Late Late Show
00:58

Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen

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John Moffitt on producing the HBO reunion special Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen
02:39

Not Necessarily the News

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John Moffitt on Not Necessarily the News
04:54
John Moffitt on a photo of the cast of Not Necessarily the News
00:34

Person to Person

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John Moffitt on promotional material for Person to Person
01:05

Playhouse 90

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John Moffitt on John Frankenheimer's directing style
00:26

Richard Pryor Show, The

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John Moffitt on directing The Richard Pryor Show  and working with Richard Pryor
10:54
John Moffitt on photos from The Richard Pryor Show
00:39
John Moffitt on photos from The Richard Pryor Show
00:47

Saturday Night Live

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John Moffitt on Fridays comparisons to Saturday Night Live
00:51
John Moffitt on turning down the chance to direct Saturday Night Live at its beginning
02:36

Van Dyke and Company

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John Moffitt on directing Van Dyke and Company
03:37

Your Show of Shows

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John Moffitt on going to see Your Show of Shows, live
00:39
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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John Moffitt on censorship of The Rolling Stones on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:25

Civil Rights Movement

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John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement
00:55

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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John Moffitt on admiring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin 
00:26

Diversity in Television

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John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement
00:55

Emmy Awards

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John Moffitt on Van Dyke and Company  winning an Emmy and Bob Einstein's acceptance comment
00:37
John Moffitt on his long association with the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards
13:45

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show did not reference the Vietnam War
00:39
John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement
00:55
John Moffitt on working on The Ed Sullivan Show during the time of the assassination and funeral of John F. Kennedy
02:48

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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John Moffitt on working on The Ed Sullivan Show during the time of the assassination and funeral of John F. Kennedy
02:48

Memorable Moments on Television

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John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (cont.)
06:50

Minorities

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John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement
00:55

Pop Culture

View Topic
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on directing music on The Ed Sullivan Show (i.e. Rolling Stones; Dave Clark Five)
04:58
John Moffitt on Andy Kaufman's notorious surprise fight sketch on Fridays
06:08

Rock 'n' Roll on TV (1950s & '60s)

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John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on directing music on The Ed Sullivan Show (i.e. Rolling Stones; Dave Clark Five)
04:58

Technological Innovation

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John Moffitt on The Ed Sullivan Show going to color in 1965
02:27

Television Industry

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John Moffitt on censorship of The Rolling Stones on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:25

Vietnam War

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John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show did not reference the Vietnam War
00:39

War

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John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show did not reference the Vietnam War
00:39

We Celebrated

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John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (cont.)
06:50
Professions

Directors

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John Moffitt on writing and directing training films for the army
01:03
John Moffitt on becoming assistant director on The Ed Sullivan Show after working on a European mobile unit during the summer; on Sullivan director Tim Kiley; on becoming director of the Sullivan Show 
11:05
John Moffitt on his philosophy of directing stage comedy shows for television
06:03
John Moffitt on his directing style
06:32
John Moffitt on advice to an aspiring director
04:10
Genres

Awards Shows

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John Moffitt on directing the CableACE Awards
02:43

Game Shows

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John Moffitt on producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Late Night

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John Moffitt on Fridays
12:11

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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John Moffitt on joining The Ed Sullivan Show as a PA
18:43
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show  (cont.)
06:25
John Moffitt on directing The Richard Pryor Show
10:54
People

Chris Albrecht

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John Moffitt on producing HBO's Comic Relief Specials;  on Zmuda going to Chris Albrecht to propose Comic Relief Specials
03:09

Louis Armstrong

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John Moffitt on Louis Armstrong's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
02:10
John Moffitt on a picture of him with Louis Armstrong on The Ed Sullivan Show
00:31

Frankie Avalon

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John Moffitt on a photo with Frankie and Annette
00:32

Beatles, The

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John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show  (cont.)
06:50

Milton Berle

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John Moffitt on a picture of Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan
00:34

Bill Bohnert

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John Moffitt on Bill Bohnert adjusting to color on The Ed Sullivan Show
00:38
John Moffitt on a photo of Comic Relief
00:19

Bernie Brillstein

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John Moffitt on the formation of Moffitt/Lee Productions
04:45
John Moffitt on turning down the chance to direct Saturday Night Live at its beginning
02:36

Sid Caesar

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John Moffitt on Sid Caesar's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
00:44

Chevy Chase

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John Moffitt on producing the Primetime Emmy Awards in 1989 and his subsequent involvement in other Emmy telecasts
01:05

Dick Clark

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John Moffitt on Dick Clark being too smooth to be like Ed Sullivan
00:19
John Moffitt on working with Dick Clark Productions
04:45

John Cleese

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John Moffitt on producing the HBO reunion special Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen
02:39
John Moffitt on photos from a Month Python reunion
01:02

Bing Crosby

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John Moffitt on Bing Crosby's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:28

Billy Crystal

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John Moffitt on producing HBO's Comic Relief Specials
03:09
John Moffitt on a photo of Comic Relief
00:29

Larry David

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John Moffitt on casting Larry David and Michael Richards on Fridays
03:08
John Moffitt on a photo of Fridays
01:05

Shelley Duvall

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John Moffitt on Shelley Duvall's role in starting the CableACE Awards
00:57

Dick Van Dyke

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John Moffitt on directing variety show Van Dyke and Company
03:37

Bob Dylan

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John Moffitt on Bob Dylan not appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
02:35

Douglas Edwards

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John Moffitt on meeting the people at CBS News
01:57

Bob Einstein

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John Moffitt on directing variety show Van Dyke and Company
03:37

John Frankenheimer

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John Moffitt on John Frankenheimer's directing style
00:26

Michael Fuchs

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John Moffitt on Michael Fuchs giving him the chance to do an HBO pilot for what became HBO's first series, Not Necessarily the News
04:36

Annette Funicello

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John Moffitt on a photo with Frankie and Annette
00:32

Terry Gilliam

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John Moffitt on producing the HBO reunion special Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen
02:39
John Moffitt on photos from a Month Python reunion
01:04

Arthur Godfrey

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John Moffitt on Arthur Godfrey doing radio and TV shows from CBS
00:58
John Moffitt on trying to meet Arthur Godfrey
00:13

Whoopi Goldberg

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John Moffitt on producing HBO's Comic Relief Specials
03:09
John Moffitt on producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Don Hewitt

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John Moffitt on meeting the people at CBS News
01:57

Bob Hope

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John Moffitt on promotional photos of Bob Hope and Danny Thomas
01:12

Louis J. Horvitz

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John Moffitt on directing Don Kirshner's Rock Concert
02:30

Spike Jones, Jr.

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John Moffitt on producing the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards
04:04

Andy Kaufman

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John Moffitt on directing Andy Kaufman weekly on the variety show Van Dyke and Company
01:13
John Moffitt on Andy Kaufman's notorious surprise fight sketch on Fridays
06:08
John Moffitt on Andy Kauffman wanting to fake his own death
01:56

John F. Kennedy

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John Moffitt on working on The Ed Sullivan Show during the time of the assassination and funeral of John F. Kennedy
02:48

Tim Kiley

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John Moffitt on Bing Crosby's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:28
John Moffitt on becoming assistant director on The Ed Sullivan Show after working on a European mobile unit during the summer
04:24
John Moffitt on The Ed Sullivan Show director Tim Kiley
02:37
John Moffitt on his mentors
01:02

Michael King

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John Moffitt on producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Ted Koppel

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John Moffitt on how Ted Koppel 5 days a week got picked up and pushed back Fridays
00:59

Bill Lee

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John Moffitt on the death of Bill Lee and how Bill's wife became the new partner in Moffitt/Lee Productions
03:57

Jerry Lewis

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John Moffitt on admiring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin 
00:26

George Lucas

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John Moffitt on George Lucas being a fan of The Richard Pryor Show
03:22

Dean Martin

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John Moffitt on admiring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin 
00:26

Steve Martin

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John Moffitt on directing Don Kirshner's Rock Concert  where Steve Martin made his first TV appearance
02:30

Jack McGeehan

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John Moffitt on getting his break through scheduling for Jack McGeehan, who worked on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:34
John Moffitt on working with Jack McGeehan for The Beatles' appearance in Miami Beach
05:06
John Moffitt on his mentors
01:02

Lorne Michaels

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John Moffitt on turning down the chance to direct Saturday Night Live at its beginning
02:36

Edward R. Murrow

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John Moffitt on meeting idol Edward R. Murrow 
01:15
John Moffitt on having some fun with the slide card promoting Edward R. Murrow
02:22
John Moffitt on promotional material for Person to Person
01:05

Conan O'Brien

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John Moffitt on hiring a writer out of Harvard named Conan O'Brien for HBO's first series, Not Necessarily the News
00:18

William S. Paley

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John Moffitt on how Bill Paley was not pleased with the prank on the Murrow slide
02:22

Joseph Papp

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John Moffitt on assisting Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival
03:33

Robert Precht

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John Moffitt on getting his break on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:34
John Moffitt on Ed Sullivan not trusting a red light
01:11
John Moffitt on Robert Precht wanting him to AD The Ed Sullivan Show
00:43
John Moffitt on Robert Precht making him a director on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:09
John Moffitt on his mentors
01:02

Richard Pryor

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John Moffitt on directing The Richard Pryor Show
10:54
John Moffitt on photos from The Richard Pryor Show
00:47

Michael Richards

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John Moffitt on casting Larry David and Michael Richards on Fridays
03:08
John Moffitt on a photo of Fridays
00:36

George Shapiro

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John Moffitt on directing Andy Kaufman
00:22

Tom Smothers

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John Moffitt on Tom Smothers recruiting director Tim Kiley for The Smothers' Brothers Show
00:41

Ringo Starr

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John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show  (cont.)
06:50

Rolling Stones

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John Moffitt on directing the Rolling Stones appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:42

Barbra Streisand

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John Moffitt on Barbra Streisand's early appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
01:05

Ed Sullivan

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John Moffitt on Ed Sullivan
09:51
John Moffitt on Ed Sullivan selecting acts for The Ed Sullivan Show
06:33
John Moffitt on The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:55
John Moffitt on how The Ed Sullivan Show reflected the Civil Rights Movement
00:55
John Moffitt on The Ed Sullivan Show going off the air
01:17
John Moffitt on a picture of Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan
00:22
John Moffitt on a picture of him with Ed Sullivan
00:17
John Moffitt on a picture of Ed Sullivan with a Beatles' wig
00:16
John Moffitt on promotional photos of Ed Sullivan
00:28

Danny Thomas

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John Moffitt on promotional photos of Bob Hope and Danny Thomas
01:12

Bruce Vilanch

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John Moffitt on producing the relaunched Hollywood Squares
04:42

Sylvester L. Weaver

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John Moffitt on Dartmouth grad Pat Weaver and getting denied from the NBC Management Training Program
00:56

Robin Williams

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John Moffitt on Robin Williams appearing on The Richard Pryor Show
00:29
John Moffitt on producing HBO's Comic Relief Specials
03:09
John Moffitt on directing and shooting Robin Williams
00:44
John Moffitt on photos from The Richard Pryor Show with Robin Williams
00:27
John Moffitt on a photo of Comic Relief
00:29

Bob Zmuda

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John Moffitt on Andy Kauffman wanting to fake his own death; on Zmuda going to Chris Albrecht to propose Comic Relief Specials
05:05

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