Milton Berle

Comedian / Performer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Milton Berle (1908-2002) fondly recalls "Mama Berle" and her influence on his early career when he started performing as a child in Vaudeville. He discusses how his Vaudeville background prepared him for television, talks extensively about the success of Texaco Star Theater, and reveals how he earned the moniker "Uncle Miltie." He speaks of the challenges of performing live and creating fresh material each week, and openly discusses his reputation as a "perfectionist" and the legendary rumor that he stole jokes from others. Dan Pasternack conducted the interview on June 11, 1996 in Los Angeles, CA.

"One Tuesday night, we had four minutes to go and I had to stall. I had to start ad-libbing. I said, 'I want to thank you, especially the boys and girls, and my little nephews and nieces that are watching, this is your Uncle Miltie saying good night.' I said it once. The next day, I went to Boston and pass two hardhat workers. One of them said, 'Hi, Uncle Miltie!' First person that ever called me Uncle Miltie. I told this story to my mother. She said, 'That's a very good moniker for you.' From then on, I said Uncle Miltie."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Milton Berle on how the moniker "Uncle Miltie" came about
Milton Berle on getting approached by Texaco to star in their new TV show, Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song
Milton Berle on the lore of him stealing jokes for Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on how he'd like to be remembered
Milton Berle on the proper way to smoke a cigar
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On the proper way to smoke a cigar; on his early years and influences; on his mother's dedication to him and to his career
On the highlight's of his career as a child performer; on his work in silent films and his start in Vaudeville
On how he got his start in television with Texaco Star Theater

Chapter 2

On his Vaudeville influences; on getting approached by Texaco to star in a television show for them; on his time in radio and why radio wasn't his best medium
On his first television appearance; on television telethons; on others discouraging him from pursuing television

Chapter 3

On the beginnings of Texaco Star Theater; on how he gathered material for the show and on the lore of him stealing jokes
On the rapid pace of going through material for Texaco Star Theater
On the technological innovations that occurred during the early years of Texaco Star Theater

Chapter 4

On laugh tracks recorded from the early days of his show; on the Texaco Star Theater theme song and his wild costumes on the show (including the famous June bride costume)
On memorable live television mishaps on Texaco Star Theater
On the mishaps with the "Barber of Seville" sketch on Texaco Star Theater and how it affected the subsequent sketch

Chapter 5

On a typical work-week on Texaco Star Theater
On his motivation for working as hard as he did; on his drive for perfection; on directing rehearsals with a whistle
On altercations that resulted from his perfectionism; on a memorable flashback scene on Texaco Star Theater
On a fight with his brother Frank; on memorable guest stars on Texaco Star Theater; on booking the African-American group The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater

Chapter 6

On getting The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater; on how the moniker "Uncle Miltie" came about; on Texaco Star Theater winning Best Kinescope show and Milton Berle winning Most Outstanding Kinescope Personality at the 2nd Emmy Awards
On trying to get Hollywood moguls to embrace television; on signing a lifetime contract with NBC
On the final broadcast of The Milton Berle Show
On dramatic roles he took; on his thoughts on the future of television in the 21st century

Chapter 7

On his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Alan King, Elvis Presley and Rod Steiger
On his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Woody Allen, Henny Youngman, Phil Silvers, and Red Skelton

Chapter 8

On how he'd like to be remembered; on the truth about his "endowment"
Shows

Beverly Hills, 90210

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Milton Berle on his appearance on Beverly Hills, 90210

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Milton Berle on Texaco Star Theater winning Best Kinescope show and Milton Berle winning Most Outstanding Kinescope Personality at the 2nd Emmy Awards

Milton Berle Show, The (1954-56)

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Milton Berle on the final broadcast of The Milton Berle Show

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse

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Milton Berle on complimenting Rod Steiger on his performance in "Marty"

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse: "Marty"

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Milton Berle on complimenting Rod Steiger on his performance in "Marty"

Texaco Star Theater

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Milton Berle on how he got his start in television with Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on getting approached by Texaco to star in their new TV show, Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the beginnings of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the very first broadcast of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on how he contributed to the success of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on not being afraid of entering television with Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on his material for the first shows of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on bringing writers on staff for Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the lore of him stealing jokes for Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the rapid pace of going through material for Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the technological innovations that occurred during the early years of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song
Milton Berle on his costumes on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on memorable live television mishaps on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on a memorable live television mishap with Red Buttons on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the mishap with the "Barber of Seville" sketch on Texaco Star Theater and how it affected the subsequent sketch
Milton Berle on a typical work-week on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on directing Texaco Star Theater rehearsals with a whistle
Milton Berle on altercations on Texaco Star Theater that resulted from his perfectionism
Milton Berle on a memorable flashback scene on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on a fight with his brother Frank while on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on memorable guest stars on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on getting The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on how the moniker "Uncle Miltie" came about
Milton Berle on Texaco Star Theater winning Best Kinescope show and Milton Berle winning Most Outstanding Kinescope Personality at the 2nd Emmy Awards
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song and its strong ties to the show's sponsor

Bloopers

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Milton Berle on memorable live television mishaps on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on a memorable live television mishap with Red Buttons on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the mishap with the "Barber of Seville" sketch on Texaco Star Theater and how it affected the subsequent sketch

Diversity in Television

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Milton Berle on booking the African-American group The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater

Historic Events and Social Change

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Milton Berle on booking the African-American group The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater

Minorities

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Milton Berle on booking the African-American group The Four Step Brothers on Texaco Star Theater

Pop Culture

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Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song

TV Theme Songs

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Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song

Technological Innovation

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Milton Berle on the technological innovations that occurred during the early years of Texaco Star Theater

Television Industry

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Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater theme song and its strong ties to the show's sponsor
Milton Berle on his thoughts on the future of television in the 21st century
Genres

Drama Series

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Milton Berle on his appearance on Beverly Hills, 90210

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Milton Berle on getting approached by Texaco to star in their new TV show, Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the beginnings of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the lore of him stealing jokes for Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on how he contributed to the success of Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on memorable live television mishaps on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on a memorable live television mishap with Red Buttons on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on the mishap with the "Barber of Seville" sketch on Texaco Star Theater and how it affected the subsequent sketch
Milton Berle on a typical work-week on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on memorable guest stars on Texaco Star Theater
Milton Berle on a memorable flashback scene on Texaco Star Theater
People

Woody Allen

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Woody Allen

Buddy Arnold

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Milton Berle on bringing writers on staff for Texaco Star Theater - songwriter/writer Buddy Arnold

George Burns

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Milton Berle on appearing on Vaudeville with George Burns

Red Buttons

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Milton Berle on a memorable live television mishap with Red Buttons on Texaco Star Theater

Charlie Chaplin

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Milton Berle on appearing in films with Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Douglas

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Milton Berle on laugh tracks recorded from the early days of his show, created by Charlie Douglas

Gene Kelly

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked

Alan King

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Alan King

Elvis Presley

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Elvis Presley

Phil Silvers

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Phil Silvers

Red Skelton

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Red Skelton

Rod Steiger

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Rod Steiger

Rudy Vallee

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Milton Berle on doing a radio show with Rudy Vallee

Walter Winchell

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Milton Berle on the lore of him stealing jokes for Texaco Star Theater

Henny Youngman

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Milton Berle on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Henny Youngman

Darryl F. Zanuck

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Milton Berle on approaching Darryl Zanuck with an idea for "The Twentieth Century Fox Follies"

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