“Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.” – Norman Lear
World War II veteran, activist, Emmy-Award-winning TV producer and Academy-Award-nominated screenwriter Norman Lear has not only made an enormous impact on culture, he has, according to President Bill Clinton, “held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.” As one of seven inaugural TV pioneers inducted to the Television Hall of Fame, Lear is perhaps most known for creating the sitcoms All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, Good Times, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – groundbreaking comedy TV shows that stood out by merit of their blue collar perspective and intelligent treatment of social issues. Over the past four decades, Lear has also devoted much of his career to the philanthropy, progressive causes and civic engagement. He founded People for the American Way, the Business Enterprise Trust, the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, the Declaration of Independence Road Trip and Declare Yourself; and he and his wife, Lyn Davis Lear, founded the Environmental Media Association. He has been the recipient of four Emmy Awards (and has been nominated for 17), including an International Emmy Awards Founder’s Award; the Peabody Award; the Presidential Medal of Arts; the Producers Guild Lifetime Achievement Award; ACLU Freedom of the Press Award; People’s Choice Award; and many others. He is still active in politics and media.
Q&A with Norman
Who was (or is) your inspiration?
Waking up each morning is my daily inspiration. I love it, and it begins the night before when I fall asleep thinking of the taste of coffee and the sight of my kids first thing in the morning. As for career inspiration – George Bernard Shaw, who expressed regrets for writing such a long letter to a friend because he didn’t have the time to write a short one.
What was your favorite moment in your career?
My career has been crowded with great moments but my favorite moment is still to come.
What is the special formula of great comedy?
Some understanding of the foolishness of the human condition.
I think, no matter the circumstances of your birth, it is extraordinarily hard to be a human being. Relax.