Rocky Kalish with Emerson College

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In their three-hour, joint Emerson Comedy Archive interview, Rocky (1921-2016) and Irma Kalish (1924-2021) discuss their backgrounds, and how they met and married. In a free-wheeling discussion, they touch on many of the shows they worked on including Colgate Comedy Hour, Meet Corliss Archer, My Three Sons, Family Affair, Gillian’s Island and The Flying Nun. They recall working on two Norman Lear shows; All in the Family, where they wrote the groundbreaking “Edith’s Christmas Story” dealing with breast cancer, and Good Times, where they hired Janet Jackson in the final seasons to play “Penny.” They describe working with many luminaries during their time as writers, some of whom became friends, including Selma Diamond, Shelley Berman, Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, and Cloris Leachman. They touch on many problems facing the industry including writers strikes, ageism, and the challenge of longevity for a writer. They speak of their philosophy of comedy and joking writing, including if being funny can be taught, and what goes into constructing a joke. Jenni Matz and Bill Dana conducted the interview on February 7, 2007 in Encino, CA.

"Was it worth it? You bet your ass it was! If we had our lives to live over, we wouldn't have it any differently."

People Talking About ...
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On longevity in comedy; on how they met and married; on how they got started writing comedy
On the phenomenon of Jewish writers; on writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on Colgate Comedy Hour and Meet Corliss Archer; on Rocky's early writing partners and on writing for radio shows
On going to writer for My Three Sons and Family Affair; on Selma Diamond, and on Irma's involvement with the Writers Guild; on writing a movie directed by Shelley Berman
On writing for F Troop and on the large number of scripts shows used to be; on producing the show Good Heavens with Carl Reiner and Too Close for Comfort; on producing and writing Carter Country
On writing for Good Times and All in the Family; on writing for The Brian Keith Show and on dealing with ageism; on writing for The Facts of Life starring Cloris Leachman
On writing the pilot for Gilligan's Island; on writing for The Flying Nun and various other pilots; on dealing with ageism in the industry
On writing the book "As Dead as it Gets" and on the "streetwalker story"; on partaking in various Writers Guild strikes; on working with Jim J. Bullock on Too Close for Comfort
On hiring Janet Jackson to play "Penny" on Good Times; on bringing basketball to China; on their interest in boxing and on their billing
On writing for Family Affair and on dealing with taxes; on their reasons for going into comedy; on the business part of show business
On the importance of keeping writing; on writing jokes that stand the test of time; on then-current shows like The Sarah Silverman Program, South Park, and Family Guy
On freelance writing, and on writing jokes for specific situations; on writing for non-comedy shows like Gunsmoke, and on writing shows for the Writers Guild; on their writing process
On working for Norman Lear as a writer; on writing comedy for different kinds of venues; on teaching writing, and what young writers should know when they start
On the longevity of certain comedians and writers; on Milton Berle; on going fishing and flying airplanes
On if you can teach someone to be funny; on their children, and on putting together a stand-up act or eulogy; on their proudest accomplishments, and on finding a good agent
On producing Too Close for Comfort, and on the notion of writing in the future; on meeting with Freddie Prinze, and on writers supporting each other; on the importance of writers playing their dues
On the popularity of westerns in the late 1950s and early 1960s, on being prolific writers, and the kind of people who write comedy; on advice on crafting a script; on the value of comedy and on working with Madeline Kahn on Oh Madeline
On visiting a concentration camp; on answering the question "was it worth it?"
Shows

All in the Family

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Good Times and the All in the Family episode "Edith's Christmas Story"

Brian Keith Show, The aka The Little People

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for The Brian Keith Show and on dealing with ageism

Carter Country

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing and writing Carter Country

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on Colgate Comedy Hour and Meet Corliss Archer

F Troop

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for F Troop and on the large number of scripts shows used to be

Facts of Life, The

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for The Facts of Life starring Cloris Leachman

Family Affair

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on going to writer for My Three Sons and Family Affair
Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Family Affair and on dealing with taxes

Flying Nun, The

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for The Flying Nun and various other pilots

Gilligan's Island

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing the pilot for Gilligan's Island

Good Heavens

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing the show Good Heavens with Carl Reiner and Too Close for Comfort

Good Times

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Good Times and All in the Family
Rocky and Irma Kalish on hiring Janet Jackson to play "Penny" on Good Times

Gunsmoke

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for non-comedy shows like Gunsmoke, and on writing shows for the Writers Guild

My Three Sons

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on going to writer for My Three Sons and Family Affair

Oh Madeline

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on the value of comedy and on working with Madeline Kahn on Oh Madeline

South Park

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on then-current shows like The Sarah Silverman Program, South Park, and Family Guy

Too Close for Comfort

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing the show Good Heavens with Carl Reiner and Too Close for Comfort
Rocky and Irma Kalish on working with Jim J. Bullock on Too Close for Comfort
Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing Too Close for Comfort, and on the notion of writing in the future
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Rocky and Irma Kalish on advice on crafting a script

Memorable Moments on Television

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Good Times and the classic All in the Family episode "Edith's Christmas Story" where Edith deals with a breast cancer scare

Television Industry

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on dealing with ageism in the industry
Rocky and Irma Kalish on partaking in various Writers Guild strikes
Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for F Troop and on the large number of scripts shows used to be
Rocky and Irma Kalish on advice on crafting a script

We Considered

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Good Times and the classic All in the Family episode "Edith's Christmas Story" where Edith deals with a breast cancer scare
Professions

Writers

View Profession
Rocky and Irma Kalish on their reasons for going into comedy
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the business part of show business
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the importance of keeping writing
Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing jokes that stand the test of time
Rocky and Irma Kalish on their writing process
Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing comedy for different kinds of venues
Rocky and Irma Kalish on teaching writing, and what young writers should know when they start
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the longevity of certain comedians and writers
Rocky and Irma Kalish on if you can teach someone to be funny
Rocky and Irma Kalish on their children, and on putting together a stand-up act or eulogy
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the importance of writers playing their dues
Rocky and Irma Kalish on advice on crafting a script
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the value of comedy and on working with Madeline Kahn on Oh Madeline
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing the show Good Heavens with Carl Reiner and Too Close for Comfort
Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Good Times and the classic All in the Family episode "Edith's Christmas Story" where Edith deals with a breast cancer scare
Rocky and Irma Kalish on hiring Janet Jackson to play "Penny" on Good Times
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the value of comedy and on working with Madeline Kahn on Oh Madeline

Western Series

View Genre
Rocky and Irma Kalish on the popularity of westerns in the late 1950s and early 1960s, on being prolific writers, and the kind of people who write comedy
People

Steve Allen

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on Steve Allen

Milton Berle

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on Milton Berle

Shelley Berman

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing a movie directed by Shelley Berman

Art Buchwald

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on Milton Berle

Selma Diamond

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on Selma Diamond, and on Irma's involvement with the Writers Guild

Janet Jackson

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on hiring Janet Jackson to play "Penny" on Good Times

Madeline Kahn

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on the value of comedy and on working with Madeline Kahn on Oh Madeline

Cloris Leachman

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for The Facts of Life starring Cloris Leachman

Norman Lear

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on working for Norman Lear as a writer

Jerry Lewis

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on Colgate Comedy Hour and Meet Corliss Archer

Dean Martin

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on Colgate Comedy Hour and Meet Corliss Archer

Freddie Prinze

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on meeting with Freddie Prinze, and on writers supporting each other

Carl Reiner

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Rocky and Irma Kalish on producing the show Good Heavens with Carl Reiner and Too Close for Comfort

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