Norman Lear with Emerson College

Writer / Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his one-hour interview for the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, Norman Lear talks about his early years at Emerson College and his time in the television business, and recalls some significant lessons and memories throughout his career. He talks in depth about the healing power of laughter and about how comedy is an excellent vehicle for social change. He discusses some of his career highs and lows, and talks about his experience working on shows such as All in the Family, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and The Martha Raye Show. He also gives advice on how to maintain creative integrity in the business-savvy television industry, and comments on the rarity of true talent. Lear speaks about how a sense of humor can be sharpened but not acquired, and talks about how he gets inspiration for the comedy in his shows and characters. Bill Dana and Jenni Matz conducted the interview on May 26, 2005 in Los Angeles, CA. 

"Laughter is an intravenous -- instead of sticking it in the vein, causing people to think while they're laughing, it's the intravenous of messaging through laughter."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana
Norman Lear on how a storyline on Good Times came about and how television can be a teaching tool
Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show and why the show got canceled
Norman Lear on comedy as a tool for survival and laughter as a way to get messages across
Norman Lear on why he decided to pursue a career in television and the joys of working in television
Norman Lear on advice to those getting into comedy
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On attending Emerson College; on where he was on December 7, 1941 and on his time in the army; on comedy as a tool for survival and laughter as a way to get messages across; on why he decided to pursue a career in television and the joys of working in TV; on spreading messages in the television he's done and on not speaking up about something on The Colgate Comedy Hour; on the writing teams on early television and early writing staffs; on he and Bill Dana's early years getting to know each other, socializing with Imogene Coca and others; on Danny Thomas and David Susskind being instrumental to the start of his career
On he and Ed Simmons beginning their career writing for Ford Star Revue; on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show; on the importance of knowing comedy legends who came before you; on a party the night The Colgate Comedy Hour concluded in New York; on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana; on maintaining creative integrity while navigating the business of television; on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family; on crafting who the characters were in All in the Family; on comparisons between a controversial kiss on The Martha Raye Show and the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family
On his creative process; on the healing power of comedy and laughter; on the incident that led to Norman Cousins writing Anatomy of an Illness; on exploring tough themes through comedy and contributing to PSAs about voting
On the business of show business; on whether good writing can be taught; on advice to those getting into comedy; on what makes people laugh; on being happy with his career -- and it was worth it; on needing more laughter today; on what he's most proud of; on a piece of wisdom - the jacket with two pockets
Shows

All in the Family

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana
Norman Lear on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family
Norman Lear on crafting who the characters were in All in the Family
Norman Lear on comparisons between a controversial kiss on The Martha Raye Show and the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family
Norman Lear on educational tools learned when exploring the storyline of Edith Bunker's almost-rape on All in the Family

All in the Family: "Sammy's Visit"

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana
Norman Lear on comparisons between a controversial kiss on The Martha Raye Show and the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Norman Lear on spreading messages in the television he's done and on not speaking up about something on The Colgate Comedy Hour
Norman Lear on a party the night The Colgate Comedy Hour concluded in New York
Norman Lear on originally being unhappy when Jerry Lewis broke the fourth wall on The Colgate Comedy Hour

Ford Star Revue

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Norman Lear on he and Ed Simmons beginning their career writing for Ford Star Revue

Good Times

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Norman Lear on how a storyline on Good Times came about and how television can be a teaching tool

Martha Raye Show, The

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Norman Lear on the writing teams on early television and early writing staffs
Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show and why the show got canceled
Norman Lear on comparisons between a controversial kiss on The Martha Raye Show and the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show and why the show got canceled
Norman Lear on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family

Advice

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Norman Lear on advice to those getting into comedy

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Norman Lear on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family

Emmy Awards

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana

First Big Break

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Norman Lear on he and Ed Simmons beginning their career writing for Ford Star Revue

Historic Events and Social Change

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Norman Lear on where he was on December 7, 1941 and on his time in the army

Memorable Moments on Television

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana

Pivotal Career Moments

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Norman Lear on he and Ed Simmons beginning their career writing for Ford Star Revue

Television Industry

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Norman Lear on why he decided to pursue a career in television and the joys of working in television
Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show and why the show got canceled
Norman Lear on maintaining creative integrity while navigating the business of television
Norman Lear on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family
Norman Lear on the business of show business
Norman Lear on advice to those getting into comedy

War

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Norman Lear on where he was on December 7, 1941 and on his time in the army

We Laughed

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana

World War II

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Norman Lear on where he was on December 7, 1941 and on his time in the army
Professions

Writers

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Norman Lear on his creative process
Norman Lear on whether good writing can be taught
Norman Lear on advice to those getting into comedy
Norman Lear on what makes people laugh
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana
Norman Lear on choosing his battles with Standards & Practices and sponsors on All in the Family and on crafting the characters
Norman Lear on how storylines on Good Times and All in the Family came about and how television can be a teaching tool

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Norman Lear on spreading messages in the television he's done and on not speaking up about something on The Colgate Comedy Hour
Norman Lear on the writing teams on early television and early writing staffs
Norman Lear on he and Ed Simmons beginning their career writing for Ford Star Revue
Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show and why the show got canceled
Norman Lear on originally being unhappy when Jerry Lewis broke the fourth wall on The Colgate Comedy Hour
People

Sid Caesar

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Norman Lear on tense moments between Nick Condos and Sid Caesar

Imogene Coca

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Norman Lear on he and Bill Dana's early years getting to know each other, socializing with Imogene Coca and others

Norman Cousins

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Norman Lear and Bill Dana on the incident that led to Norman Cousins writing Anatomy of an Illness

Bill Dana

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana running errands for The Martha Raye Show and on Dana and Lear's early years getting to know each other
Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Norman Lear on Bill Dana writing the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family -- and the script not being submitted for an Emmy award for Bill Dana

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr

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Norman Lear on a controversial moment on The Martha Raye Show

David Geffen

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Norman Lear on a story David Geffen told him

Jerry Lewis

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Norman Lear on spreading messages in the television he's done and on not speaking up about something on The Colgate Comedy Hour

Jerry Perenchio

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Norman Lear on the business of show business
Norman Lear on the business of show business and the creativity of Jerry Perenchio

Martha Raye

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Norman Lear on controversial moments on The Martha Raye Show

Charles Revson

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Norman Lear on controversial television moments on The Martha Raye Show

John Rich

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Norman Lear on a party the night The Colgate Comedy Hour concluded in New York

Ed Simmons

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Norman Lear on the writing teams on early television and early writing staffs

Neil Simon

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Norman Lear on the writing teams on early television and early writing staffs

Danny Thomas

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Norman Lear on Danny Thomas and David Susskind being instrumental to the start of his career

Bud Yorkin

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Norman Lear on a party the night The Colgate Comedy Hour concluded in New York

All Interviews

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