A Life Well Lived

Norman Lear, American Icon is a television and film writer/producer who had iconic shows in the 70’s and 80’s. At 97 Norman still does not plan to retire. Live on stage, daughter Kate Lear interviews Norman who reflects on the past and some of his timely philosophies.

our next guest Norman Lear is one of the great figures in our popular culture in our society and in the world of television he is a visionary you know the programs that he was behind and maybe you will learn a little bit just here today about all of the other things he has done because he's a man not just with a creative brain but a vast and deep social conscience as well he developed maybe the best sitcom of all time all in the family right gotta love that Sanford and Son one day at a time The Jeffersons good times and Maude all of those are credits to him and from him and we have a real special treat today we're gonna try something we've never tried at imagined solutions and that is to have a satellite hookup caitli R of with Norman who is in California today Kate Lear is Norman's daughter and is
joining us here on stage to have a live convert if everything goes right yeah exactly and I see mr. Lear there he's all ready to go with his trademark hat and I think we're ready to go we all set we're all set right dad you will you'll have a little bit of a satellite delay get used to it all right here you can you see me can I see you hi Daddy oh my goodness that's my middle job everybody thank you um first of all I want to thank Randy antic and the imagines conference for enabling me to have a conversation with my dad which is really one of my favorite things to do I want to describe for him where we are so we're in a large tent in Naples Florida and there are 600 fabulous people who
are here wanting to learn more about various things in the world and I think we are the comic relief okay maybe and maybe not but where I think we'll offer something just a little bit different so I wanted to start that you are now 97 did you know that remember what by the way I want you all to know there is a are you a four-second a full 4 second delay before he can hear me so in any event you're 97 now and I want to talk a little bit about aging gracefully alright about aging gracefully because of the way I look at it you are aging so gracefully you instead of contracting in life your life is expanding he has one series on the air one day at a time he got a Critics Choice Award he had another show a live
new version of all in the family that he did with Jimmy Kimmel he he doesn't stop so I wanted to start there and just and ask you what keeps you moving forward and what keeps your arms open to life I can't overstate how much I enjoyed getting up in the morning I love getting up in the morning and I won't do that every day so it starts there I am you elaborate on on enjoying getting up in the morning I go the last thing I think about falling asleep is usually the taste of the coffee and whatever I'm gonna eat in the morning whether it's yogurt or but thinnest slice of bagel imagined with with a little smoked salmon I fall asleep thinking about that
and I wake up thinking about you guys there was sick I have six children the woman I'm talking to is one of the most glorious things in my life I don't I don't have the words to express how much I not just love but enjoy so much talking to this this really young woman mother of two grandsons and why public laureates anymore everybody doesn't have a glorious son-in-law but you do I go you know you are the most positive person I know you have seen a lot you've been through the depression
World War two where you flew 52 missions I want everyone to know that Watergate 9/11 our crazy world right now but I think your sense of optimism is informed by your worldview how did you develop that worldview and what have your influence has been how does one develop over a positive worldview first of all I've spent an awful lot of time in my life laughing I am convinced that laughter adds time to one's life and nobody has spent more time that I have with the Carroll O'Connor's and the Carl Reiner errs and the Mel Brooks's and the Edith bunkers and the you know on and on people of adjusting the Machado now and and the people I'm working with now my
god I laugh and I'm convinced laughter adds time to your life and maybe laughter also helps in informing the attitude one lives with by now I expect to laugh and and that expectation is something I live with all the time when I'm not even thinking about it I've never said any of what I'm saying right now before I've never thought this but I like it and I think I'll write it [Laughter] I think one it can inform what I agree and I you and I have yes my attitude has been and has been informed informed by
years of laughter we we have shared some of the great laughs you and I I'm not I digress a little bit but marty Feldman there's a little bit that marty Feldman used to do that we would be on the floor in stitches Steve Martin I I agree that laughter adds time and I think I think that is has to be clinically proven but I agree the other thing that I think that has added to your life is that you meet people and you want to know them so my father is the kind of person who will be in a cab ride and have a real conversation with that person and maybe even stay in touch or he'll go to the theater and he likes the play or he doesn't like to play and he'll contact the playwright the next day and they'll have lunch I mean this goes on and on and on he has tens of thousands of
people around the world that he's connected to and communicated with is that something that brings you know when I talk about you keeping your arms open to life how important it is is it to connect to people I already think it couldn't be more important you know you either wake up in the morning and you're interested in whatever is going on I love these two little words and I don't think we pay enough attention to them over and next when something is over it is over on to next and if there was a hammock in the middle of those two words that would be the best definition I know of living in the moment and you know I hope what my words and my attitude and whatever conveys is how
much I love this moment I love talking to you Kate across a continent and know that I knowing as the audience doesn't know right now but will in a moment then I'm gonna be seeing you in a couple of weeks cuz you're gonna come out this way I can't stay away try and stop me but to stay with the over and next thing a little bit I I struggle with that and I I think this little bit of a Norman ISM or I call them Norman isms they're pieces of personal philosophy that that that he has and that I have learned from and I think everybody who knows him has learned from that's a hard one but I remember Christmas vacations after a week and you're eating and you're playing games and you're laughing and the moment comes when you all have to say goodbye and I would look at my dad
and he'd be fine with it and I would be you know mortally depressed so that over and next that ability to know that the next step the next day the next event the next thing that's very motivating well that next event that next moment is a treasure the one that passed hopefully was a treasure you never know about that till you're living it but the upcoming anything is a gift and a treasure yes so you're there I'm here I am not going anywhere until my time is up so let's talk a little bit about even this I get to experience that was the name or is
the name of his autobiography which his family worked very hard to get him to finally sit down and write and thank God he did but that even this I get to experience comes from a story that happened with my husband Jon LaPook who's sitting in the second row talk a little bit about what happened and what that even this means to you and the way you live your life well you have to refresh my memory sweet are you talking about a specific incident you're remembering and I'm not at the moment you had when you were having a time in your life where things weren't going so well and you and John had a conversation on the phone and use well I'll tell you so he was having a very down time in his life and he called up John and he said you know I have the strangest thought
and my thought is even this I get to experience is that odd there was something he was embracing the difficulty embracing the complication and trying to learn from it so look there's a lot of stuff okay I I wouldn't I wouldn't say I was embracing it so much as I was would say it was the next moment it next was coming and living in that hammock living in the moment is the best way I know to you know to be interested in that to understand it as a gift to not know exactly what it will be but treasure its possibilities all of that sounds wonderful to me and look and
the way to embrace the moment you just lived in the moment that is coming that is for me incredibly accepting philosophy right you're accepting what has happened and you're excited and interested in what's to come so I think that's another part of living graciously and gratefully as we all get older so let me move on to a couple of other things this is the title I think above your name is always the next chapter so what are you looking forward to tomorrow and next week what's what's the number one thing you're interested in that's happening in your life right now well I am working with Rita Moreno who's
talent I am treasured for the better part of well for most of my life and with Justina Machado who I know for about a year now since we for about three years since we started to do the Latino version of one day at a time and I mean those performers just knocked me out there are others the the whole cast just knocks me out and the people I'm working with the Brent Miller who is my younger so shi'ite and partner and the the head writers whose talents I absolutely treasure Mike Royce and at 97 you do forget a little this is what's happening
now for 600 people in Florida Gloria caldron Collette I came up with it Gloria color on Colette oh my gosh but I said but the kick will be the way she and I and Mike Royce will embrace this moment of my forgetting yeah it is um it is a surreal fear that me dipping to be able to do this way to be able to do this for 600 people I love it I have to say that um being back in the television business with my father has been a thrill because I spent my teenage years in the studio when he was doing his you know iconic television
series and now he's back in the studio with by the way the same producer who produced the original one day to time Pat Palmer and being going into those like frigid studios once again and watching the creative process has been just an absolute thrill what's different about television today than when you were then in the 70s your heyday what's different for me is Mike Royce and Gloria caldron Collette and the people they have gathered to write the show I was much more I am whenever 97 years and a lot of experience brings to a show and a party and and and so forth is what I'm bringing to it it isn't the same as the 4550 year old guy
who was working his ass off the way Mike Royce and Gloria Calgon Collette are I worked hard I pay a lot of attention I couldn't be more involved in interested but the contribution of laughter not the acceptance of the laughter for oneself but the contribution of it is far greater from the likes of Mike Royce and glory called Uncle Ed and I marvel at it is it because they is it the sheer enormity of what you were doing a minute one time you had six shows at the same time on the air and now you're able to relax into just experiencing one is is that a difference I think it was eight shows on the air and I didn't expect you to forget that
yeah I'm catching up with that for seconds now I mean you know what when when when we had all those shows going and so forth and there was a giant collaboration like this is a collaboration one day a time that was a bit simply a bigger collaboration and I realized when I decided I wanted to do some other things I wanted to do that film and I wanted to do the book and so forth and I sought to replace myself I realized that I had I had kind of grown up in a in a climate where it called for
another 15 minutes at the end of the day or it called for another leg or arm or tail or whatever the climate called for I was already in the you know I already been planted and it was easier for me to deliver what the increased the climate called for it so when people came in through when I called good friends to see if they could replace me with who had long and healthy careers themselves they looked at what was going on and said how the hell did this happen and it happened not because I could come and do it but because they grew up in it I I hope that's as clear as I intended to be absolutely and and actually a learning moment for me yeah that's that's amazing I didn't I
never really thought about it that way I wanted to talk just for a second about people for the American Way which is a First Amendment organization that my father started 30-something years ago how important has that part of your life been to you you've had your well my father lives upon lives he always talks about that lives upon lives in terms of the chronology of your life but also lives upon lives in terms of what you can accomplish and a huge chapter in his life has been political political activism and one of the things that he's done before actually before people for he did something called the business enterprise trust which rewarded companies who were doing good and making money at it and now people for the American Way which is defending First Amendment the way I used the way I used
to put it was that we were honoring companies that were good for 360 degrees of their constituents they were good for the people who worked for them they were good for the people who bought their product they were good for the world generally exactly and people for so how what have you gotten from that engagement that kind of political engagement I've gotten its I don't know how to talk about how I feel about our America I adore the the Constitution the Declaration of Independence the words
that introduced both of those documents and the promises America has made to 360 degrees of it's citizens all of its citizens it has not yet been able to keep all those promises but I burped but I always knew it is on the road to that and I adore it all those years ago 30 some years ago I was reacting to a Jerry Falwell and the Pat Robertson and others who were insisting you had to worship their way before you could become a good person that if not a good citizen the genesis of people the American Way was trying to find a way to tell them they were wrong that's not our America you worship as
you wish in our America and not as as you're told you must and and arguably that philosophy or the feeling is more important today than ever I believe I believe it is by the way when I just saw you applauding but I didn't hear anything but your hands does that mean the audience was applauding oh thank you oh I wanted to say that audience him if that audience could if if we could get them out here I have a
huge bed we could all be under a sheet together you know we've got some takers we'll see you in I'll see you in six hours can you talk a little bit about the foolish about the foolishness of the human condition which is an expression you've used my whole life that I have found so much nuance in through the years and different stages of my life well there's an anecdote but she's the first time I ever thought about it it's a bit of a story my father went to prison when I was nine years old and he
tried to sell some fake bonds or something and he they sent him away for three years at Deer islands off the coast of Massachusetts I was living with my grandparents in New Haven my mother was living with my sister someplace near New Haven when my father was away no I'd jump ahead to another story let me stick with the night that my father was arrested his picture was in the front page of the paper in Revere Massachusetts Chelsea Massachusetts and and my mother had a lot of people over she my mother was embarrassed at yours he wasn't gonna be able to typical story to tell here she wasn't going to be able to live where we were living she was selling furniture that's very nice the night that my father was taken away so
there was some strangers in the house and especially a stranger that was looking to buy my father's red leather chair he and I would sit in this red leather chair on Friday nights for the fights from Madison Square Garden we would sit in that chair on Saturday afternoons listening to the ball game on the radio I can't over say what that chair meant and ottoman meant to me and all of this is happening in my people are buying things maybe we're moving anyway a man a very grown man puts his hands on my shoulder and says well Norman you're the man of the house now I do not know
whether it was at that moment or a year later or two months or a week later considering that moment when I realized what a horse's ass that guy was to look at a nine-year-old kid on that evening going through what I had to be going through and tell me I was the man of the house now whether it happened at that moment or or a year later or four years later I don't know but it became in my eyes very quickly the best exam who are you of the foolishness of the human condition and and it took a real horses I asked in this case to be that foolish yeah yes and that is in some are
they applauding now yes absolutely yes they are yeah and that is informed I think a lot of that has informed a lot of your humor and a lot of your decisions in life well I have to wrap up a little bit but I I want to just say that imagine how lucky I am I am 62 years old and I have been able to observe this person for 62 years I've sat had his knee and watched his every move but you know what allow me it's my turn it's my I'm on the stage he's so modest that this is I know this is making him uncomfortable but I you know and and to get back to aging gracefully the last 20 years of his 97 years have
been so incredibly special it's really the whipped cream on top of the sundae with the cherry and then they cherry and then the cherry I just keep they're just cherries just keep adding up I feel so fortunate to to watch him move through the world and do all the extraordinary things he's doing so I am grateful for this opportunity to talk to my favorite person and dad is there anything else you'd like to say before we jump off how does one say thank you to a daughter of that of that consequence and that loveliness that loveliness that loveliness bless you sweetheart and bless your sisters and your brother
and your stepmother is that what Lin would be to you who yeah my wife bless all these glorious women and that's and in my life love you darling girl love those six hundred people there's one there's one more I had one Crescent from Rani in the back of the room can you talk a little bit about the purchase of the Declaration of the end of Independence and what that whole stage of your life meant to you I saw that it was for sale just some little item in a newspaper that this copy of the Declaration a specific kind of copy that was it's only one in the
world twelve in the world but only one available anywhere and I it was a dream of the moment and the dream was to be able to send that document around the country to towns and cities small and large for the American people to see the document that promised the America that they were working hard to achieve and you know with three days later four days later somebody sat in my office on a Sunday morning he was in town for that one day and I came in to say hello to him and so forth associated with a major corporation and
he said how much money do you think you're gonna need to travel this document and I said from I think about 30 million dollars and he put his hands across the table and he said you've got 15 of it that was within the first 40 hours or 20 hours of my owning the document and we were able to make arrangements with the post office together ran and other expenses and so forth put together a little show that traveled with it for the first year and in the time your mother and I owned it over we as a family owned it it did travel to 50 states it was it was amazing it was an amazing experience
Oh to Sarah Kate just as I did with you to stand on a line that went around the block and watch families holding onto kids come up to that document and I don't know two out of five cries cries tears coming down their eyes looking at that time it was the thrill of thrills it was a thrill of thrills and so was this thank all of you so much for your patience with the technology and I love you daddy I love you I love you okay thank you I don't have the words