Conversation with the incomparable Normal Lear

norman lear on ted

Here is the intro to one of the very best TED interviews I have had the pleasure of watching.

In the 1970s (and decades following), TV producer Norman Lear touched the lives of millions with culture-altering sitcoms like All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Good Times, pushing the boundaries of the era and giving a prime time voice to under-represented Americans. He is now 93. In an intimate, smart conversation with Eric Hirshberg, he shares with humility and humor how his early relationship with “the foolishness of the human condition” shaped his life and creative vision.


It’s all worth watching and you will find it below. However here are just a few of the memorable quotes from the interview:

  • Many of your TV shows push our culture forward by giving the underrepresented members of society their first prime-time voice.
  • At one point, you aggregate an audience of 120 million people per week watching your content. That’s more than the audience for Super Bowl 50, which happens once a year.
  • EH: You’re inducted into the TV Hall of Fame on the first day that it exists. NL: I call my mother immediately in Hartford, Connecticut. “Mom, this is what’s happened, they’re starting a hall of fame.” I tell her the list of names and me, and she says, “Listen, if that’s what they want to do, who am I to say?” That’s my Ma. I think it earns that kind of a laugh because everybody has a piece of that mother.
  • I think that’s when I learned the foolishness of the human condition, and it’s been that gift that I’ve used.
  • I guess I’ve spent my life wanting — if anything, wanting to be heard.
  • Russell Simmons was talking about a simple thing that made a big impact on him. He saw George Jefferson write a check on “The Jeffersons,” and he never knew that a black man could write a check. And he says it just impacted his life so — it changed his life.
  • I know that there isn’t anybody in this audience that wasn’t likely responsible today for some little thing they did for somebody, whether it’s as little as a smile or an unexpected “Hello.”
  • EH: How old do you feel? NL: I am the peer of whoever I’m talking to.

… and now here is the video. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

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