Marlo Thomas: Free to Be … and Free to Laugh

Candice Bergen joins Marlo, upon the release of her new book, for a conversation about humor – growing up with and without it, being born with it and how life can be better because of it.

CANDICE BERGEN: Marlo, I think you invented a hybrid book with Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny because it’s sort of like an anthology of contemporary comedy and memoir, and it reads so fast and fun.

MARLO THOMAS: Well it was accidental, because that wasn’t what I was planning on doing. I was planning on writing my memoir as seen through the lens of comedy, so that I knew that I was going to go to all the funny places in my life, because that’s what I remember. You know, I’m blessed with that kind of memory.

CANDICE: Wow.

MARLO: And I’ve been telling these stories …

CANDICE: How do you remember them?

MARLO: I’m fascinated that I did. I don’t even think I have a good memory. I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but somehow I could even remember colors. That just fascinated me. Whenever I’m hanging out with friends and we share stories I often have told about what our house was like growing up, people always say, “Oh, you’ve got to write these down, nobody had a childhood like this. Who had Sid Caesar at the dinner table with George Burns and Milton Berle? That doesn’t happen.” So I began to think that maybe I should. So I started to write them down and I thought to myself, “Don’t give yourself a beginning and a middle and an end.” I thought, “I’ll just start to write the stories and I’ll figure out later where they go.” I didn’t want to start with, “And then I was born, and then I …” I’ll never make it, I’ll never get there. Then when I started thinking about how much my father influenced my comedy – timing, my love of the craft of comedy – I thought of his influences. “My father had this very grim childhood.” His father was very mean; I didn’t like my grandfather at all, he was a scary guy. And my grandmother was sweet but very passive. She had ten children – nine boys and a girl and no one to help her. They had no money. So she was too pooped to talk. .

CANDICE: Well your father was born where? In this country?

MARLO: In Toledo.

CANDICE: In Toledo. And his father was born in Lebanon?

MARLO: In Lebanon. And his mom was born in Lebanon, and his mother was, like, 14 when they got married; it was an arranged marriage. And they came to this country and then they had these ten children. They actually had twelve; two didn’t make it. So nine boys and a girl. My grandmother spent her entire life chasing after nine boys, and her daughter was her assistant. You know, they sort of did it together. And like all of those immigrant families they never saw a doctor – all the babies were born at home. And she was the nanny and the laundress, and cook, and the everything. So by the time I knew her she was exhausted. So I was writing about the fact that my dad did not have a funny childhood house; it was not a house of laughter, and ours was. But he had this one uncle, Uncle Tony, who was so funny.

CANDICE: Is that who your brother was named after?

MARLO: Yes, my brother was named after him. And he was personified as Uncle Tonoose in Dad’s television series “Make Room for Daddy.” So when I was writing about it, I thought, “Isn’t that interesting? There was this one figure in his childhood that gave him the gift of laughter.” And I obviously got it from him, from my dad, and all those guys that hung out with my father in our house. And then I started thinking, “I wonder if everybody had a funny relative.” So I started thinking about that, as I was writing.

CANDICE: They didn’t!

MARLO: Well, they did. Every comedian that I interviewed had a funny mother, father, uncle or grandfather. It was their inspiration about being funny, who honed their funny with them, who did funny bits with them. You know, like all the great stores Billy Crystal tells about his Uncle Berns. Everybody had somebody. Kathy Griffin’s father was funny. I loved Jay Leno’s story that his father was an insurance salesman who liked to tell jokes when he went out on a call and he’d try them out on little Jay, and little Jay thought, “Wow, how great to be an insurance salesman, you get to tell jokes.” So they all had this. But I didn’t know that at the time, and then I would see people at dinner parties and I’d say to someone, like Joy Behar, or whoever, “Was there somebody funny in your family?” And there always was.

CANDICE: That’s so interesting. So interesting because humor can’t be taught, can it?

MARLO: No, I don’t think so. I asked Larry Gelbart that. Larry Gelbart’s father, Harry, was my father’s barber. That’s in the book. And Harry Gelbart used to tell my father these funny jokes; these little jokes. And then my father would turn them into these big long stories, you know, with music and Hebraic hymns and all. But Harry Gelbart said to my dad one day, “I have a very funny kid who wants to be a writer. He’s 16. Would you let him hang around the studio?”

CANDICE: Really?

MARLO: Harry Gelbart was one of my dad’s closest friends. They would scream laughing; I would run from my room all the way to where they were just to sit on the tub and listen to all these jokes that they would tell. They had such a good time. So Daddy said, “Sure, have him come over to the studio.” So he’s 16 years old, just hanging out, said a few funny things, and Dad said, “He’s cute, this guy. Give him a few things to do.” And it turned out he was Larry Gelbart. And when my father died, he was the one who wrote the Appreciation in The New York Times.

CANDICE: Oh, oh.

MARLO: Yes, I was very touched by that. So I called him when I was starting to write the book and I said, “Tell me what you think about a sense of humor. You had a funny dad, I had a funny dad; do you think you can be taught to be funny?” And he said, “I don’t think so, but I think that you can learn to appreciate the surprise of the joke.” He said, “That you can learn, because that’s what a joke is. A good joke is, I didn’t see it coming.” I hang out with a lot of comedic people and they always say, “I didn’t see that coming.” That’s the big thing. If you didn’t see it coming, it’s a good joke. If you saw it coming, you know, it really won’t make you laugh.”

CANDICE: Have you started a book tour?

MARLO: I have. I’ve been to Orlando and D.C. and L.A., and I’m going now to San Francisco, back to L.A., Chicago, St. Louis and Boston. Then I’m done. It’s a lot. But I’ll tell you – it’s fun because it’s a fun book. I tell jokes from the book, either on television or the radio or in the bookstore. So it’s all happy. You know, I’m bringing good news. And right now there’s just so much glum news.

CANDICE: I think it’s brilliant.

MARLO: It’s a good time for it. I didn’t really realize that when I was writing. I didn’t think about that, but it is a good time.

CANDICE: Are there any comedians that you wanted to get that you weren’t able to get?

MARLO: The only one I didn’t get that I wanted to interview was Cosby. He’s so great. But I interviewed him for my RightWords book. So he’s a good guy. And all the comics talk about him as being a guy who really can stand up and command an audience. That’s the dream, the goal is to be able to be in command of it. Joan Rivers said she feels like a lion tamer with a chair and a whip. My father used to feel like a matador with a cape, you know. It’s you against them. It’s different than anything any of us do.

CANDICE: Oh, I think they have balls.

MARLO: I know, of steel. Of steel. To think that they could get up there and do that.

CANDICE: And there’s this kind of fighter pilot mentality. I mean, I’ve been backstage at events where guys are going out, they’re doing standup, and it’s like a room full of industry people and they’re going, “Oh, man.”

MARLO: I know. It’s murder out there. They’ll kill you. And they use all those words.

CANDICE: Yes.

MARLO: “Murder” and “kill” and “dying.” I mean, if you didn’t do well …

CANDICE: Yes. And “I killed” and …

MARLO: And if you didn’t do well “you died.” Or when Dad had really done well he’d tell us on the phone, “I left ‘em for dead.” But when he did badly, he “died.” It’s amazing. So much is at stake for them, I guess, because they’re all alone up there.

CANDICE: I know. It always stuns me.

MARLO: But I was struck, too, by the love of the crowd from so many of them; a real love of putting it together. I don’t know if you’ve seen this documentary that Jerry Seinfeld did called “Comedian.” You must get it, because you love to laugh; you’re a good laugher. This is a documentary that Jerry Seinfeld made going out on the road. After he made zillions of dollars and he’s completely famous and doesn’t need to do a damn thing but play ball, he decided he wanted to go on the road and create a new act from the beginning, from zero, with no old jokes – and just start new. And he had, like, five minutes, and then six minutes, and you see him put this act together.

CANDICE: Wow.

MARLO: And you realize, really, what it is to really love what you do and to feel the challenge of that. It’s very exciting. I cried, it touched me so. It really did. And on the way, on the road, Chris Rock would come in and say hello to him, and his friend Quinn Taylor and different people. But at one point Chris Rock said that he had just seen Cosby and he said he was great – all new material, fantastic. And Seinfeld says, “How much time does he have?” He said, “Two hours.” He says, “Two hours!” Because he was at this measly six minutes. “Two hours of original material!” Yes. Yes. And then you take a guy like Steven Wright – I don’t know if you’ve gotten to his chapter yet – what he can do in one line, one sentence: “I went to the funeral of a clown and all his friends got out of one car.” Or, “Our candle shop burned down and we all stood around and sang Happy Birthday.” It’s just these little stories – but they’re stories. You can see the people in the street singing “Happy Birthday.” It’s just amazing to me to have that kind of mind. That’s his thing, that’s the way he sees it. He said an interesting thing – he’s an artist as well – “When you draw a picture of a bottle of wine and some flowers on the table, there’s a space between the wine and the flowers – and that’s the space I’m interested in.” It’s just, you know, another place, another space. I’m fascinated by how they talk about the craft.

CANDICE: I also like the part about your mother – I thought it was lovely – and how she was her own force.

MARLO: Yes. Yes she was. And it was interesting because all those women were so much alike. They were not highly educated, they finished high school.

CANDICE: Carl Reiner’s wife, Estelle, was similar.

MARLO: Right. And Bob Hope’s, and all of them. And they all were singers, or band singers, or radio singers, or something in clubs. Jan Murray’s wife was one of those –

CANDICE: And Billy Wilder’s.

MARLO: Yes, they’re all like that, and they all met in clubs. And Jimmy Durante’s wife was a cigarette girl at the Chez Paree.

CANDICE: Did you interview everyone in person, or on the phone, or e-mail?

MARLO: Half and half. Some in person, some on the phone. But I taped them all. I was terrified. I took two tape recorders with me. I was scared it might come apart.

CANDICE: It happens all the time.

MARLO: I know. When I interviewed Kathy Griffin, the tape recorder didn’t work for the second half, and I called this writer friend of mine and I said, “I’m just hysterical, and she’s so funny and I want to get her wording right,” because that’s what is unique about each person. He said, “Get off the phone. Sit down right now, close your eyes, it will come back to you; and just start writing. Just start writing, it’ll come.”

CANDICE: And it did?

MARLO: It did.

CANDICE: You’ve written five books, right? The first two books were Free to Be – you did two Free To Be’s?

MARLO: Right. Then I did two The Right Words at the Right Time. And then I did Thanks and Giving. Thanks and Giving was to teach children about gratitude and giving. I really liked that book. It was a very good book.

CANDICE: You’re something to come up with these ideas for books that are all bestsellers, when publishing is dead; it’s just gone. Good for you.

MARLO: Well I think it’s a very good time to have a comedy book.

CANDICE: Oh, perfect. How do you write? Do you write on a legal pad or on a computer?

MARLO: Computer. Oh, I don’t think I could do it on a legal pad, do you?

CANDICE: I used to. And now I’m doing it on a BlackBerry.

MARLO: Oh, my God.

CANDICE: And then I got this sort of this muscle spasm in my thumb. But now I use an iPad, that I just love.

MARLO: I do too. But, you know, I think writing on a computer makes your writing better, because –

CANDICE: It’s free. Well, I’m afraid of my computer. I am. How long did it take to put this book together?

MARLO: I guess a little over a year. I was pretty driven about it. I had this feeling that if I don’t write it continuously I’m not going to remember it all, and I’m in a good zone; it’s coming. And I really wanted to get it. And it was interesting, I would wake up in the morning with pretty much half of the chapter in my head.

CANDICE: Really?

MARLO: Yes. It was interesting because I’ve never done that before.

CANDICE: On any of the other ones?

MARLO: No. But I was –

CANDICE: Because this one was closer to your heart.

MARLO: Yes, completely. And so I would be thinking about it the day before when I was working out, or walking or whatever. I’d go, “Oh, I should do that story about the such-and-such.” And then I’d go to bed that night … I remember one time specifically thinking that Lew Parker had died, the man who had played my father on television, and I was very close to him. He was my father for five years; he didn’t have any children and he always said that I was the daughter he wished he’d had. So we had a close connection, and I love him, he was a real character – a little Damon Runyon kind of character. Anyway, the last couple months of his life was here in New York, and I went to visit him every day and brought him ice cream and stuff that he wanted, and then he died, and then his wife called me and said, “Lew asked me to ask you to do the eulogy.” I said, “Oh, of course.” And then I thought, “My God, I don’t know how to do a eulogy,” so I called my father, who’d done every eulogy, including Harry Cohn’s, who he didn’t even like, because Joan Cohn asked him to. So I said to my dad, “What do I do? I mean, how do I pay tribute to this darling man’s life, and how do I …?” He said, “You’re not going to be paying tribute to his life. You’re going to be talking about him, and what you knew of him, and for God’s sake be funny. Tell jokes. People want to laugh at a funeral. They’re going to cry enough. You’re there to help their spirits.” So he gave me a funny joke to tell, which I put in the book – the Georgie Jessel story about the guy with the cat.

CANDICE: Oh, yes, I read that.

MARLO: Yes, it’s a wonderful joke. Anyway, so I was thinking about that. I was thinking about all the comedy connections in my life, and so one day I was thinking, “Oh, that’s right, Dad gave me that joke to tell at Lew’s funeral.” And so I was thinking about it and I went to sleep that night and I woke up in the morning and I had the first half of the chapter in my head. And I sat down and wrote it.

CANDICE: You work in your office here?

MARLO: Here and in the house in Connecticut, yes. And then I would print them out, and then I’d read them to my master editor, my husband. I’d say, “Tell me what you think.” He’d say, “That is really good! That’s great!” And then he’d say, “Now I don’t know that you need the last three sentences. I might end it up above.” I’d say, “Oh, that’s interesting. Let me try that.” So he was helpful in that way. He’s such an encourager. And he was surprised because I hadn’t really written this kind of thing before.

CANDICE: Right.

MARLO: And then we’d cry over something, you know. He’s a good crier, like my father.

CANDICE: He’s Irish, why not?

MARLO: A lot like the mid-Eastern people.

CANDICE: Exactly.

MARLO: Yes, they’re guilty and they’re emotional. They’re very guilty, the Irish.

CANDICE: I never thought the mid-Eastern people were guilty, but that’s –

MARLO: Oh, please.

CANDICE: Well, the Jews, but –

MARLO: They’re all guilty.

CANDICE: Do you have another book in your head?

MARLO: I don’t. Not at this moment. I think I’m still, interestingly enough, kind of in this book, if you know what I mean. Did you feel that way when you wrote your story? I’m still, like, living, reliving something. I relived it and because my parents are gone, it has had a lot of resonances for me. And I’ve been talking to my sister and brother a lot, since they’ve read it. I didn’t let them read it while I was writing it.

CANDICE: Yes, that’s smart.

MARLO: Because I thought they’d say, “Don’t say that and don’t do this and that wasn’t the way it was.” So I didn’t show it to them till it was done. But when I sent it to them – they were the first people I sent it to, and I dedicated the book to them – I said, “Look, this is the way I remember it. I hope it’s the way you remember it.” And they both said, “This is it. I remember it this way.” So I felt good about that.

CANDICE: Does your sister, Terre, have a good sense of humor?

MARLO: Very. Terre was actually the funniest person in the family.

CANDICE: Really?

MARLO: My dad used to call her Elaine May. So Terre’s Elaine May. She has the greatest sense of humor; very sharp, very smart. You know, she could have written comedy. She still could, but she’s chosen not to; but she could. She’s very, very funny. And my whole family tells jokes. You know, to a lot of the comedians I interviewed I said, “Give me your favorite joke,” and a lot of them said, “You know, I don’t really tell jokes.” Robin Williams gave me jokes, Jay Leno gave jokes, Bob Newhart gave me a few jokes. But a lot of them said, “Oh, gee …” Jon Stewart said, “I don’t really tell jokes.” I said, “Really?” He said, “No, I tell stories about things that happened.”

CANDICE: I think of it as a generational phenomenon.

MARLO: Maybe. Right.

CANDICE: I can never remember them.

MARLO: I just love jokes. I love to hear them and tell them. Bette Midler was up here the other day. She interviewed me for something, for AARP, and we couldn’t stop telling jokes. And some of her jokes are really bawdy; they’re wonderful.

CANDICE: Now, see, there should have been people to appreciate that dialogue. I think writing a book is a great process to put oneself through. For anybody.

MARLO: Right, yes.

CANDICE: It’s kind of like the AA inventory, a personal inventory.

MARLO: Right. I’m blessed to have had a good family, but it made me appreciate so much more the kind of family I had, and have, but mostly the childhood family. As Jerry Seinfeld said when I interviewed him – I thought his interview was actually brilliant, I think he’s so smart. I asked them all, “When did you think you were funny? When did you realize you were funny?” And he said, “It was that I really valued the laughter.” I said, “I know exactly what you mean.” All people love to get a laugh. If you tell a joke and somebody laughs, well, you’re thrilled. I mean, it feels good. Laughing feels good. As Alan Alda put it, it’s like being on a wavelength with somebody. You really feel like you’re on the same wavelength, and it’s like dancing together. But Jerry was saying that it’s the way you value laughter. And I think that that’s the way we grew up, as really valuing laughter, that it was a good thing. It was like eating and drinking and getting a good night’s rest. That’s a great way to grow up.

CANDICE: Yes, it is. It is. You’re very lucky.

MARLO: And also to be able to laugh at something as it’s happening. I mean, when I first married Phil, and he would be mad at something, just the way he looked would sometimes make me laugh. And he would say to me, “Why are you laughing?” I’d say, “I’m so sorry, but it’s just so funny the way you’re looking like that. I’m so sorry.” And after a while he kind of got there too, because that’s sort of what broke us up when we were kids. Like my father would make some huge announcement, like it was carved in stone. And we would say, “Got it, Dad. OK.” And so he would laugh at that, and then we would laugh at him, and he would laugh at himself for being pompous. So it was a continuous chain of laughter. At the end of the book you will see there’s a wonderful story, and I ended the book with it purposely. After my dad had died, my mom was completely destroyed because it was so sudden. Nobody was prepared for it. They’d been married 55 years, and this was the only boyfriend she ever had; she never knew another man, unlike her daughters. She was completely his, and he was hers. So his death suddenly just knocked her for a loop. She came to live with us for a few months, and then she went home and she had a rough time. Anyway, about three or four months after my father died, two of the grandchildren were graduating from high school together – my sister’s son and my brother’s daughter – and they had asked me to be the commencement speaker. So I said, “Of course.” And we went to lunch afterward at the Hillcrest Country Club where my dad belonged as an honorary member, because he wasn’t Jewish. Anyway, so we’re there having lunch quietly in a little private room – too many people bothering my mom, you know. We were taking care of her, she was a bit fragile at the time. So in walks George Burns and we were so happy to see him because he was a real fixture at our house growing up. He walks in, walks right over to my mother and says, “Hey, Rosie. I hear you’re single again.” And we were aghast. We were afraid to look. And then she threw her head back and she roared. And I thought, “God bless them, they know how to go for the funny. They’re so brave.” Such a brave thing for him to do. And then I wrote the last line of the book and I didn’t realize until later that it really is the whole point of my book – God bless a sense of humor. God bless a sense of humor, that he would come in and do that. That is so risky.

CANDICE: So, so gutsy.

MARLO: Oh, my God, I couldn’t have done that for all the money in the world.

CANDICE: Yes, yes. That’s a great story.

MARLO: And that’s how I feel about it – that we have to keep putting that in our lives. A lot of people have asked me in interviews, “How do you put that in your life?” I said, “Well, you can go to a comedy club, it’s there. You can find comedy movies. You can hang out with people you know make you laugh. Make them your friends. I mean, I know you have other friends that you want to be with because you can tell them all your sad stories, or you’re in business together, or it’s a good idea for you to be their friend, or whatever it is. But I would stick with the people that make you laugh, because it’s a contagious thing, laughter. Depression is contagious too, you know. I read somewhere that you’re only as happy as the most depressed person in your family. Well, that’s a horrible thought.

CANDICE: Or as happy as your most depressed child.

MARLO: Exactly. So the idea is that you can have laughter in your life, and if you can bring it into your life, it will be a contagion for you. If I’m in a restaurant and the people at the next table are laughing and having a great time, I want to go and sit with them because why should I be sitting here, with these serious people talking about these serious things, when they’re laughing? When I give parties, dinner parties, and I have a couple of tables, there’s like always one table, for some reason, that just explodes in laughter, and it isn’t even the table where the funniest people are. Those people just connected in some way.

CANDICE: It’s what Alan said, their wavelength.

MARLO: Yes. It’s like dancing – it just feels good, and there’s air under it. I’ve been studying laughing since I began writing the book, because I wanted to see if I wanted to use any of the psychology in the book.. I ended up not really using it, but it did kind of help when I was talking to people. And laughter is an endorphin. You get from laughter what you get from running in the park. You get more oxygen in your body, it’s healing. Norman Cousins had a terribly painful deterioration in his back. He wrote about how he watched Three Stooges movies, Chaplin movies and Marx Brothers movies –

CANDICE: And it relieved the pain.

MARLO: For two hours a day it relieved the pain. What more do you need? We all go through really difficult times. Women write to me that they’re going through a bad divorce or just hard stuff. And I always suggest, “Go find a place to laugh. It will make you feel better.” Run in the park, jog, get some oxygen going and find places to laugh. It’s not that hard, really.

CANDICE: No, it’s just that people do love their own misery.

MARLO: I know.

CANDICE: It’s very hard to break that chain.

MARLO: Yes, I know. I have a very short attention span for misery.

CANDICE: Yes.

MARLO: I really do. Mine, as well as anybody else’s. I mean, I’ll stick with you for the story and do whatever I can to help out. But I don’t want to really hang onto it for too long. Some things get you, but you can get out. You can get out.

CANDICE: I remember I was really stunned by how impacted you were by your father’s death. I just thought the closeness between the two of you was so striking and great.

MARLO: Right. Well he was my pal, and my mentor. And he really listened. That to me is the secret of parenting and of marriage – really listening. You know, people don’t listen. They’re too busy giving you advice and fixing it. And fixing it isn’t really always what you want. Sometimes you just want somebody to listen, because when you’re telling something about yourself, or some concern you have, you don’t really know it all until you tell somebody else. You need the space to tell them. But if they’re chiming in, like my mother used to: “Oh, well, you know what you should do?” or, “We can do this” or, “We’ll get to that” or, “That’s silly. You don’t need to worry about that.” But you haven’t yet expressed it. You need to first get it all out. Then you can get to something. But it takes a while. I learned that in my marriage, but I learned it first from my father. He did that. And also his death was sudden so that’s hard.

CANDICE: Did he have a heart attack?

MARLO: He had heart failure, yes. Just in an hour, and he’d just been on a book tour. His book was on the bestseller list. He’d just been to St. Jude two days before, celebrating the 29th anniversary of the hospital. He was fine, I mean as far as we knew. But heart failure.

CANDICE: Was he at home when he died?

MARLO: Yes. In the middle of the night, 1:30 in the morning he got up, walked over to the sofa with his rosary in his hand and died.

CANDICE: And how old was he?

MARLO: Seventy-nine, and we had just celebrated our Christmas together, the whole family. It was just such a blessing. They all came to Connecticut, which we hadn’t done in about eight years or so. It was a real blessing. And Mike Nichols sent me a note that I have passed on, I think to you and everyone else that has lost someone, that the conversation goes on. It’s the most important thing anyone has ever told me.

CANDICE: Yes, Lorne Michaels said that to me when my father died.

MARLO: It’s so true. It goes on. And if you can feel that and hold onto that, it really does take some of the horribleness away. But there’s so much joy in the remembrance.

CANDICE: Oh, I’m sure. You’re really blessed. I mean, we knew all of those guys, but they were never hanging out all the time. My father was Swedish, so there wasn’t any laughter at all when I –

MARLO: Your mother, what was your mother?

CANDICE: She was Southern.

MARLO: How come you have such a great sense of humor?

CANDICE: Well, I think my father.

MARLO: You’re a great laugher.

CANDICE: I love to laugh.

MARLO: I know.

CANDICE: Love, love it. No, I think my father had a sense of humor, under all of the skin, maybe, and gloom. I think we’re good.

MARLO: Great.

CANDICE: Is there a style today of comedy?

MARLO: It seems to me the only difference today are the taboos, that in my dad’s day you could make all kinds of sexist jokes, racists jokes, Polish jokes. You could talk about people that were short, or retarded. There was a complete politically incorrect kind of comedy. But what you didn’t do was talk dirty. I mean, Lenny Bruce was arrested for it in the ’50s, for obscenity, and he wasn’t taking his clothes off, it was just language. So today we don’t do racist/sexist jokes, but we can say anything we want. The other thing that is different is somebody like Joan Rivers comes at this with anger, and somebody like Billy Crystal –

CANDICE: Well, as do so many male comics.

MARLO: But not a lot of them. Billy Crystal’s not angry. Seinfeld’s not angry. Jay Leno’s not angry.

CANDICE: Right. It was almost a ’50s, ’60s phenomenon. Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman, for some reason I think –

MARLO: Right, and Rickles.

CANDICE: Yes, Rickles.

MARLO: But Joan Rivers actually said, “Comedy’s about anger.” Really? But Billy Crystal, there’s not an angry thing in him. It’s all about love; he comes from a loving family. We’re part of the family that loves him. There’s such an ease about him. It’s really interesting. And Robin Williams, with his mother who puts a rubber band in her nose – it’s in my book. Robin Williams’s mother would put a rubber band up her nose, and then when his friends would come over she’d let it fall out. Hello? Welcome to Robin Williams. Who else would he be? Of course he’s wild and funny and completely brave and off the wall. His mother put a rubber band – can you imagine your mother, from the South, your dignified, beautiful mother, putting a rubber band up her nose. So that’s great, anyway.

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