Norman Lear is being honored by the Kennedy Center (because, of course he is), but he will not be attending the pre-ceremony reception at Trump’s White House (because, of course he won’t).
Normal Lear is doing the right thing. (Because, of course, man, of course. It’s Norman-fucking-Lear.)
A couple years ago, during a trip to Mexico for a friend’s fiftieth birthday, I self-actualized. Over that weekend, I got to spend time hanging out with Norman Lear, who at one point told me I was funny and should do something in comedy.
That’s like Einstein saying you’re excellent at science, or William Shakespeare saying your iambic pentameter isn’t too bad, or DaVinci saying you’ve got a pretty well-rounded skill-set.
This isn’t a humblebrag. I just had to tell you. Come on. It’s Norman Lear. A description of this moment should be my Twitter profile and my email signature.
Back then, Norman told me he was working on new show; a remake of One Day at a Time, featuring a Latino family. I joked that he should let me be Schneider. He said, “Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Schneider is the one caucasian character on the show.”
Through a weird set of twists, I actually recorded myself with my laptop camera while reading some of Schneider’s lines from an early script. I didn’t get the part. If the show’s creators watched more than ten seconds of my performance, then consider this a public apology. I’ve got a face for radio and an id for social media.
A couple months ago, One Day at a Time came out on Netflix and got universally great reviews.
And that shouldn’t surprise you. At his TV peak, Norman Lear was producing six of the top ten shows on American television. Let that sink in for a second. And get this, the shows weren’t just good, and funny, and entertaining. They were vital. They were groundbreaking. All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Maude —an unrivaled string of gutsy, moving and hilarious shows.
And at the peak of his game, he stepped away from TV to become a key force in progressive politics, standing up to the religious right, and founding People for the American Way. And he’s been fighting the good fight ever since (through this week).
There’s a documentary about Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (Netflix, PBS). It’s a great, inspiring documentary. And the whole time I was watching it, I kept thinking to myself: Norman Lear is the exact opposite of Donald Trump. Like, literally the exact opposite. (And that could be the highest form of praise.)
I also reminded myself how lucky I was to get to spend some time with this guy. Norman Lear is real news.
So take a break from the jaw dropping, brain-squeezing, soul-sucking, hope-smashing news from DC, and spend a little time with a person who actually did help make America great. Remind yourself of the folks on the good side by learning a bit about the life and art of one of the best of them.