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Norman Lear, 96 on being yourself.

Owning It

Norman Lear is 96 and working hard on season 3 of his Netflix reboot of boundary-breaking sitcom “One Day At A Time.” We asked Norman: After all these years, the shows and the awards, of all the characters you have created, which is the one you identify with the most? “Mine. Me. I wake up every morning with it. I go to bed every night with it. I am my own creation.” In other words, be who you are, live who you are. That seems to be the formula for loving your work at 96.

One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time

Norman Lear is a World War II veteran, actor, writer, producer, director and creator of legendary sitcoms like All In The Family, Good Times, Sanford And Son, and many other sitcoms that revolutionized American television.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Norman Lear took inspiration from those around him to create his characters. His family was a victim of the depression and witnessed his family, as he describes it, go “belly-up”. Lear was motivated by his press agent uncle Jack, who visited the family and always flipped Norman a quarter. Norman wanted to be the person who could flip someone a quarter.

Norman Lear’s Binders of Original Script

Lear at the time never dreamed of becoming a big Hollywood writer. He had attended Emerson College but dropped out after hearing the news about the Pearl Harbor bombing. At that point, chaos broke loose, and Lear decided to join the army at the age of 19. He became the radio operator in the army and was later discharged in the year 1945.a

Just like his uncle, Lear eventually became a press agent, but due to hard times, he was not being paid well and decided to take another career path. In 1954, Lear began writing sitcoms for CBS, which was canceled after eight episodes. Then he became a producer of NBC’s The Martha Raye Show after director Nat Hiken left the series. In 1959, Lear created his first television series that ran for two successful seasons and ended in 1961.

Lear then started his comedic writing career in 1967. His path was full of failures and his ideas faced rejection from the industry. He once said, “I think I learned early that it’s hard to be a human being. I don’t care what the circumstances of one’s birth, it’s hard. If life hasn’t made mischief for us, we’ll make it for ourselves. But that’s the game of life.” Thanks to Lear’s persistence though, he generated many successful and game-changing sitcoms.

Norman Lear's Binders of Original Script
One of Norman Lear’s Original Script

David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.
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