Rocky Kalish

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In their three-hour interview, Austin "Rocky" Kalish (1921-2016) and his writing partner and wife, Irma discuss their long career as television writers. He talks about growing up in the Bronx and turning to writing while serving in the Army during World War II, and later moving to Los Angeles to work in radio and pen song lyrics. He recalls meeting Irma and and quickly becoming partners with her professionally. In their joint interview, Rocky and Irma discuss their first gigs writing for Martin & Lewis on the radio, and for The Colgate Comedy Hour  in the early days of live television. They chronicle their writing careers on shows such as Gilligan's Island  (for which they co-wrote the pilot with Elroy Schwartz and conceived of the characters), I Dream of Jeannie, My Three Sons, F Troop, Family Affair, The Flying Nun, The Reconversion of Sister Shapiro, Carter Country, Too Close for Comfort, and The Facts of Life. They speak in detail about several episodes of All in the Family  they wrote, including an emotional story about Edith's character in "Edith's Christmas Story," and the controversial "Gloria the Victim" episode. They describe writing "Maude's Dilemma" on Maude, and working with Norman Lear. They discuss working with a largely black cast on Good Times  and the challenges of the show, and talk about various stars with whom they've worked, including Shelley Berman, Marilyn Monroe, and Fred MacMurray. They talk about creating the failed series Mason, and Irma speaks of writing books and her involvement with the Writers Guild and Motion Picture and Television Fund. Amy Harrington conducted the interview on December 21, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA.

"There were some comedy writers who did comedy shows and that's all they did. We were able to move from a musical, a variety show, a soft show, a broad comedy show like 'F Troop' or something as heavy as doing a cancer (episode) on 'All in the Family'..."

Highlights
Rocky Kalish on writing "Stop remembering and start to create!"
00:59
Irma and Rocky Kalish on how they work together and how they determine what is funny
01:05
Irma Kalish on how writing the All in the Family  episode dealing with cancer helped her friend, and impacted her feeling about her profession "you never know how many people you've touched"
05:06
Rocky and Irma Kalish on tackling scripts with social import in the 1970s
02:29
Rocky Kalish on the pilot he wrote for Gilligan's Island and the changes between that and the series; on coming up with the names of the characters
00:44
Full Interview

Chapter 1

Start of interview with Austin "Rocky" Kalish
On his childhood in the Bronx, NY; on his early dreams to become a boxer
On his parents and what he inherited from them; on longevity; on the challenge of writing his memoir; on his siblings; on his early interests
On his early interest in comedy and entertaining; on being determined to become a writer at age 33; on the first time he saw television and coming up with an idea for his own show, the Scene-shifters
On being inspired to really start writing while in the Army
On meeting his wife and writing partner, Irma Kalish
00:51
On starting a career as a writer for comedians
02:32

Chapter 2

Start of joint interview with Rocky and Irman Kalish; on getting married; on writing pulp magazines and their writing partnership; on writing movie reviews
On their writing process and how they divvied up responsibilities; on writing at the beach
On writing lyrics to music; on beginning to write for early television shows together; 
On working with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on radio; on writing sketch humor;  
On writing for the Colgate Comedy Hour
On the dearth of women in writer's rooms in any television show when they first began working in TV and how they helped change the dynamic with Family Affair; on 
On the Hollywood Blacklist and Irma's pioneering efforts as a woman in the business 
08:08
On working on Gilligan's Island with Elroy Schwartz; on not getting credit for their work on the series; on the difficulties with Sherwood Schwartz his brother and producer on the series; on coming up with the names of all the characters
07:54
On working on I Dream of Jeannie; the writer's room

Chapter 3

On the I Dream of Jeannie... 15 Years Later special; on The Flying Nun and how the premise of the character's being Jewish being rejected by network Standards & Practices
On working on The Brian Keith Show (aka Little People); F-Troop and why it was cancelled, on My Three Sons and working with star Fred MacMurray
07:35
On All in the Family; on writing the script about Edith's cancer scare and Gloria's attack; on doing shows with great social import 
On working between comedy and drama; on writing a controversial script for Maude  (Maude's Dilemma); on the discrepancy over the writer's credits on that episode
On working with Shelley Berman; on writing for Good Times with a mostly black-cast and alleviating tension on-set
On writing with relevancy; on creating and writing the pilot Mason with Mason Reese, the first show they created; on Carter Country and Too Close for Comfort, Oh, Madeline, The Facts of Life, 227 and more
13:58
On advice to writers, on their legacy in television
Shows

All in the Family

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing the All in the Family episode where Edith gets cancer
04:00
Irma and Rocky Kalish on an All in the Family episode they wrote when Gloria is molested
02:08

Brian Keith Show, The aka The Little People

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on The Brian Keith Show; on how the director never spoke with Irma
02:40

Carter Country

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on writing for Carter Country with Victor French
01:52

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Rocky Kalish on writing for The Colgate Comedy Hour; the format of the show; on meeting Marilyn Monroe
02:12
Rocky and Irma Kalish on The Colgate Comedy Hour' s writers room

F Troop

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on writing for F-Troop; on why it was cancelled
01:50

Facts of Life, The

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on The Facts of Life and an episode with Lisa Welch she refused to do
01:20

Family Affair

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Irma Kalish on how they changed the writer's room dynamic on Family Affair by including women in the writer's room
Irma Kalish on the premise of Family Affair; on working on the show as the only staff writers
16:56

Flying Nun, The

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on The Flying Nun which they wrote for; on the character being a jewish girl; but the network said they couldn't use the word Jewish
02:07

Gilligan's Island

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Rocky Kalish on writing the pilot for Gilligan's Island with writer Elroy Schwartz; on not getting credit for the show
01:53
Rocky Kalish on coming up with the premise of Gilligan's Island and the characters, and the name of the S.S.Minow
02:33
Rocky Kalish on the pilot he wrote for Gilligan's Island and the changes between that and the series; on coming up with the names of the characters
00:44
Rocky Kalish on the success of Gilligan's Island "there's no accounting for what the success of a show is going to be"; on the tone of the show
02:36

Good Times

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on writing on Good Times with John Amos
04:01
Irma and Rocky Kalish on being white writers on an mostly black show, Good Times; on how they adapted to their cast
02:18

I Dream of Jeannie

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On working on I Dream of Jeannie; the writer's room

I Dream of Jeannie… 15 Years Later

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on working on the I Dream of Jeannie... 15 Years Later  special; 
00:57

Mason

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on writing the pilot for Mason with Mason Reese
02:00

Maude

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on pitching and writing for a controversial episode of Maude with Susan Harris (Maude's Dilemma)
02:36
Irma and Rocky Kalish on the reaction to the abortion episode (Maude's Dilemma) on Maude
01:31

My Three Sons

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for My Three Sons; on Fred MacMurray
01:09

Oh Madeline

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Irma Kalish on writing for Oh, Madeline with Madeline Kahn
03:21

Too Close for Comfort

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on writing for Too Close for Comfort; getting a People's Choice Award
03:14
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on the origin of The Flying Nun as a jewish girl; but the network said they couldn't use the word Jewish
01:44

Hollywood Blacklist

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on the impact of the Hollywood Blacklist
04:04

Minorities

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Irma and Rocky Kalish on being white writers on an all-black show, Good Times; on how they adapted to their cast

We Cried

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Irma Kalish on how writing the All in the Family  episode dealing with cancer helped her friend, and impacted her feeling about her profession "you never know how many people you've touched"
02:11

Women

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Irma Kalish on the dearth of women in writer's rooms in any television show when they first began working in TV and how they helped change the dynamic
03:06
Irma Kalish on her status as a woman writer in the early days of television and the pressure to be "twice as good as a man" and how Rocky supported her career
02:24
Irma Kalish on how writing the All in the Family episode dealing with cancer helped her friend, and impacted her feeling about her profession
02:11
Professions

Writers

View Profession
Irma Kalish on the process of writing with her husband Rocky and how they divvied up responsibilities
11:06
Rocky Kalish on writing for Martin & Lewis in their early radio career, as a boost to his career with wife Irma
01:26
Irma Kalish on writing sketch humor
00:41
Irma Kalish on how writing the All in the Family  episode dealing with cancer helped her friend, and impacted her feeling about her profession "you never know how many people you've touched"
02:11
Irma and Rocky Kalish on how they work together and how they determine what is funny
01:05
Rocky and Irma Kalish on tackling scripts with social import in the 1970s
02:30
Irma Kalish on her advice to aspiring writers
01:25
People

Shelley Berman

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on working with Shelley Berman 
04:00

Jackie Gleason

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on getting hired by Jackie Gleason then let go after Jackie found out a woman was to be in the writer's room
01:03

Irma Kalish

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On meeting his wife and writing partner, Irma Kalish
00:51

Jerry Lewis

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Rocky Kalish on writing for Martin & Lewis on the radio
02:22
Rocky Kalish on writing for Martin & Lewis in their early radio career, as a boost to his career with wife Irma
04:24

Fred MacMurray

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on Fred MacMurray on My Three Sons; on his frugality
00:50

Dick Martin

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Rocky Kalish on writing a song for Dan and Dick Martin that never was used
01:22

Dean Martin

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Rocky Kalish on writing for Martin & Lewis on the radio
02:22
Rocky Kalish on writing for Martin & Lewis in their early radio career, as a boost to his career with wife Irma
04:24

Marilyn Monroe

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Rocky Kalish on meeting Marilyn Monroe "when she walked, she left little puddles of sex"
02:12

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