Norman Lear’s  autobiography, “Even This I Get to Experience,” will have you laughing out loud —if you’re me.  And probably if you’re you, too. 

So Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner are at the wedding of Lear’s daughter Kate to a young physician named Jon LaPook, in a beautiful Vermont setting.  The day is drizzly but the sun breaks through for the ceremony. Carl Reiner makes a toast, and then he asks what advice the 2,000 Year Old Man would give the newlyweds?

Brooks: “Ignore each other. And I say that with love and spirit and spirit and love, and in feeling and sentiment, and romance and spirit and love. Because the more you find out about each other, the more disenchanted, the more disgusted, the more you realize you are just plain people like each other, and you’ll hate each other because the same hate you feel for yourself you’re going to throw on each other. So keep the mystery alive. When Dr. LaPook comes home at night, Kate should say, ‘Who is it?’ and Dr. LaPook should say, ‘It’s Irving.’ Never give your real name in marriage. Never. Once they know who you are in a marriage, you’re finished. So seriously, let me be serious. Don’t give away too much, you’ll be married a long time.”

In the 1970s Lear —now resident at the 92nd Year YMHA— created and produced many beloved sitcoms: All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, Sanford & Son… He also created a soap opera to air at night, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which showed the extent of social breakdown in a town called Fernwood, Ohio. He got the idea for MH2 in 1968 (the year the movement peaked, BTW),  but it wasn’t until the mid-1970s, after Archie Bunker had become a household word, that Lear had the clout to get Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman produced. 

 I can remember the tune, but only a few of the verses to “King Norman Lear,” a song about the women in Lear’s shows. 

…Maude’s message to America tonight:
Be kind to folks who’ve had strokes
They can still sing
They got a whole lot to bring
You if can just laugh at their jokes

Charlie’s message to America tonight:
The Democrats are hypocrites, through and through
And we can all laugh
At the white House staff
As if we had some power, too (thanks to you)

King Norman Lear
King Norman Lear
Of all your darling daughters
Which one holds you most dear?

Mary’s message to America tonight:
Something is out of control
Pat’s on the run
Heather thinks she’s a nun
Loretta better forget about her goal

These are real conditions!
People breaking down
An ordinary housewife
Going underground

King Norman Lear
King Norman Lear
Of all your darling daughters
Which one holds you most dear?

His book provided the answer: Maude. —Fred Gardner