tv Charlie Rose PBS November 28, 2014 12:00pm-1:01pm PST
>> charlie: welcome to the program. tonight the future of the automobile industry with carlos ghosn, the c.e.o. of renault-nissan alliance. >> in 1999, i arrived in japan and had to face the turnaround of nissan. the fact i was not japanese, the fact i was a recent comer to the car industry3helped me a lot because, you know, i had no paradigms in mind, i didn't have any preconceived idea. people knew i was not involved in the past of the industry, so i engaged in a lot of transformation without pryer baggage. >> charlie: we conclude with norman lear who produced all in the family and other great sitcom hits. >> comedy is all a reflection. it sounds like i knew what the
hell i was doing at the time. i didn't. i was just, you know, working from that place. looking back on it, all kinds of things, while people are laughing. i denied we are having a message. we were about making an audience laugh. >> charlie: carlos ghosn and norman lear when we continue. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following: >> rose: additional funding provided by:
>> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. captioning sponsored by >> charlie: carlos ghosn is here, c.e.o. and chairman of the renault-nissan alliance, a corporation that represents one in ten cars sold worldwide, one of two c.e.o.s to run two fortune five companies simultaneously. he has become avtovaz in 2005. he led cars into the market with vehicles such as the nissan leaf. welcome back to the table almost five years to the day since last time. >> thank you, charlie. >> charlie: let's talk about cars like the leaf, where we are
and how much a holdup is it in terms of buyer acceptance that there are not enough predictable charges stations for people thinking about an electric car? >> well, you know, the fact that there are not enough charging stations is the main obstacle for people moving into buying the car. we have a lot of surveys practically in all the countries, not just the united states. this is the main obstacle today. we're lobbying in every country to try to support the development of the charging infrastructure. the leaf is the most sold electric car in the world. >> charlie: i do know. and alliance has sold almost 200,000 electric cars. still small request paired to the 84 million cars sold every year. this is a very important step because we still see a big future for the electric car. >> charlie: the leaf is a
profitable car for you? >> the leaf starts to be profitable. with the quantity that we are now producing, and after all the cost reduction that we have been through for the last two with years, we start to be profitable. so that's why we think that it's time to push, because when you start to be profitable, you're obviously very motivated to sell the car. >> charlie: how long do you think it will take in order for there to be a wide acceptance of the cars? >> i think the development will be steady but not very quick. regulations will help a lot. as you probably know, the chinese are putting very strict regulations on emissions and they are moving towards emission standards which are nearly as strict as the united states and this will force the car manufacturer to transform part of their offer into electric cars. today in china, you can't expend your plans, you cannot -- because everything has to be
authorized -- without proposing a new technology, what's called the new energy car, which is the electric car or plug-in hybrids. >> charlie: you cannot expand in china unless you agree to invest in new technology that have a positive impact on climate? >> exactly. it's defined electric or plug-in hybrid. >> charlie: hmm... whine is your biggest market. >> it is. >> charlie: it will grow fantastically, is it not, with the continued rise to have the middle class in china? >> it has grown fantastically. today, 20 million cars a year, from 2 million two years ago. it's still growing 7% to 8% a year. 7% to 8% is a reasonable number, but 7% to 8% in china is 1.5 million additional cars every year. >> charlie: what's the best-selling car in china? >> well, the best-selling cars in china are a sedan that looks
like the altima. it doesn't have the same name, obviously, a different design, but cars like the altima in the united states, is the biggest selling car. >> charlie: your goal is to become one of the three biggest carmakers, toyota, general motors, volkswagen, you want to replace one of those and become third after general motors? >> we're number four. we have a growth plan that should position us. we are forcing a different market. it's too early to say and we're not targeting any car manufacturer in general, but just the math of the growth taking place should put us in the top three. >> charlie: how do you do it? i mean, you're the chief executive officer for three different companies. and they're in three different places -- moscow, paris, tokyo.
how do you stay alive? >> well, i do. i spend most of my time between paris and tokyo and from time to time i go to the southern part of russia. but i say, obviously, it requires a lot of personal organization, team organization. i'm fortunate to be surround bid very professional people who make things easy for me and prepare because, you know, when you're traveling the whole time, because i'm every month in paris and in tock owe, people don't care if you are jetlagged or coming out of a plane, they see the c.e.o. and they just want him to be fresh and ready to make decisions, et cetera. >> charlie: they want their time with him. >> exactly. and it has to be quite a bit of time. so we just need a lot of self discipline and organization. >> charlie: you plan ahead by 15 months. >> yeah, i have a schedule which is practically defined for the
whole year 2015. >> charlie: do you have a secret to jetlag? >> no, unfortunately, there is no secret. the only secret is don't try to take anything, you know. nature has to do its job. but you can help nature by being, again, very frugal during your trips and trying to adapt to the new country where you will be staying the next week with as soon as possible. >> charlie: you're not a car guy by training. you were at michelin where you spent 18 years or so and then game to renault. >> yes. >> charlie: alan mal malaly wast a car job, came to ford and everybody agrees did a good job. mary barra, on the other hand, grew up at g.m. some people at ford have been classic car guys and g.m. as well. is that all that needs to be a
good manager and run a car company? >> in some cases, people who have grown up in the car industry would probably be better prepared to face the challenges at a certain point in time and, from time to time, you need outsiders, depending on the timing. you know, in the case of -- i mean, i take my case, in 1 1999i arrived in japan and had to face the turnaround of nissan. the fact that i was not japanese, the fact i was a recent comer to the car industry helped me a lot because, you know, i had no paradigms in mind. i didn't have any frequency idea. people knew that i was not involved into the paths of the industry. so i engage into a lot of transformation without prior baggage. >> charlie: but you were doing things also that went against the culture and traditions in japan. >> yes. >> charlie: you were firing people. >> yes. >> charlie: you were shutting down non-productive plans.
>> yes, but i always explained why i needed to do it. i was not doing it as negligence, i was just saying we need to do that. >> charlie: or the company might not be profitable and might have to shut everything down. >> right. so we explained why we were going to do it. we were cautious to say we're not in the business of transformation, we're in the business of turning around the company and for this we'll make the minimum changes necessary. >> charlie: it's a global business in every way. do you use the same kind of -- the same assembly lines for all the cars? >> yeah, we do. and, you know, we are introducing a lot of flexibility in our system which means that in the same plant you can do many cars and on the same assembly line you can do cars of totally different design and different sizes. this is due to the fact that the new manufacturing systems that we have in our own plants are very flexible. >> charlie: when you look at
the future, how do you see the future of the automobile industry? what are the forces that are changing it? >> yeah. well, i see -- first, it's going to continue to grow for the very simple reason is, you know, the emerging markets are very low in terms of motorization. just to give you an idea. i'm not going to give you a lot of numbers. in the united states, you have practically one carper one individual. in europe, you have one car for two people. in most of the emerging markets, you have one car for ten people. so this is not going to stay like this. we're moving from one car for ten people to probably one car to three people or to two people, which means a lot of cars are going to be produced particularly in the emerging market. now, these cars are going to change because the main trends today is low emission or zero emission. second one is connected car.
>> charlie: they want instant information. >> exactly. >> charlie: all the information you can get through your computer. >> exactly. and autonomous car, which doesn't mean a driverless car. you are in the car, but you decide to switch on or off. if you don't want to have your eyes on the road and if you want to do something else, you swish to a system that will take control from you. this is something extremely important. a lot of technology is being put behind this and i think with the three trends -- low emission or zero emission, connected car and autonomous car -- you can predict what's coming for the next five to ten years. >> charlie: of those, the connected car is clearly easy to do. with respect to low emissions, that has to be a demand on the part of the government and therefore you have to do that. the third thing, though, the autonomous versus the driverless, the autonomous is
easy to reach? >> i think it is. i think you will have a lot of autonomous car by 2020 and it will be building by bricks. you will launch the first semi-autonomous car in 2016, 2018, 2020. we mean by autonomous, self-parking cars, part of the autonomous car. the the fact you're on the highway and the system allows you to drive with the function of the car in front of you -- you keep a certain distance. the car will keep in the same lane, you know, because you can detect. this all of those, we call them a technological bricks. when you put them one after the other, you end up being able to detach completely your hands and your eyes from the road in a very safe way and do something else. you can do a video conference, you can do something very useful while you're driving the car. big demand. >> charlie: an operative idea
by 2020? >> yeah, in cars by 2020. >> charlie: why not driverless? >> well, my opinion is usually you use a car to drive yourself. i mean, that's why people use a car. you transport your body and you want to do it in the most efficient and comfortable way as possible. if it is to transport goods, well, it's not the car anymore, it's something different. so, for me, what's very important in the definition of autonomous transportation is it's about transportation of people and transporting people in the most secure, efficient and pleasant way possible. >> charlie: what do you say to people at google and places like that that are trying to develop driverless cars? >> they are testing the technology which is great, and we are working with them, but you are testing the technology to make the autonomous car as efficient as possible. then there is a big question, charlie, is who is responsible for the car, when the car is without the driver. where is the liability?
the car manufacturers are never going to take the risk to take the liability for a driverless car, unless there is a legitimate scenario that would protect them from any abuse. >> charlie: there is always the talk and business goes up in disruptive technologies or disruptive forces. what could be disruptive in terms of the automobile future that you see? >> oh, i think you're going to see a lot of disruptive zero emission technology. today, electric car is the most popular marketable. it is set, costs are going down. we are in a phase of making it more efficient. but you have fuel cells coming. hydrogen is a factor. zero emission -- >> charlie: toyota is doing something like that a. >> we're working on hired general. carmakers have to develop all
the technology at the same time. you can't just squeeze yourself in electric car only in fuel cells because you don't know what are going to be the regulations in the different countries. >> charlie: it varies from country to country. >> exactly and they can switch from one technology to the other. in europe, 60% of the cars are diesel. in united states and japan, less than 1%. the reason for 60% diesel in europe is legislation, regulation. you know, driving people to buy this kind of technology. that's why you can't just develop one or two technology because it's not only based on consumer demand, it's also based on what the legislature wants. >> charlie: you also must be be doing well in attracting the talent you've attracted because some are leaving you to take jobs at other important places. one of your executives went to
aston martin, a job i'd love to have. >> yeah. >> charlie: and other places to run their own show. >> yeah. >> charlie: how do you deal with succession and executives who have trained to do their own thing? is there a way you can find to keep those executives or is it inevitable that if they're good, they're going to be hired away? >> the car industry is very competitive and there is a war for talent in this industry, and talent is not something only academic, it's also based on what you've done. when you do something which is remarkable in any field in the car industry, everyone knows about it. so you become a little bit of an asset not only for your own company but for your competitors, particularly if they need the specific skill to solve a problem or go after an opportunity. we hire people from competition. it's normal that competition from time to time hire people
from us. we try to protect ourselves. there is no bullet-proof kind of system, so we have to admit the only way you can do is to have a very solid succession planning by which every job, particularly in the top job, off list who can replace the person who is leaving and move quickly. we're trying to be as hard of a target as possible but at the same time being realistic that we're going to lose some of our talent as well as we'll hire some existing with other competitors. >> charlie: how hard is it to deal with different cultures in each of these countries? >> it's difficult and complex but, at the same time, unavoidable. particularly carmakers, today, are established on 50, 60, 70 countries where they have plants, technical centers, you know, big, you know, a big number of employees, and you want all of theme to be
complete -- you want all of them to be completely engaged and mote intrietd what they're -- motivated into what they're doing. they need to feel as part of the whole company and being able to, depending on what they're bringing to the table, to go to the top. that's what we're trying to develop in the culture. diversity is a strength, complicated to manage, but you manage it well and you have much better solution and engagement. >> charlie: when you took over, you were at renault and then nissan came together because they both wanted your talent, it's not a merger. >> no. >> charlie: it's more a partnership. >> exactly, what you call an alliance, a partnership. >> charlie: how does that work? >> we have two different executive companies, two different boards, two different headquarters. one in paris, one in tokyo. >> charlie: c.e.o.s. it happened through the
circumstances that ended up because i was the c.e.o. of nissan becoming also the c.e.o. of renault, voted by the shareholders of renault and nissan. but i don't think it's mandatory for the future. you can imagine a system where the two companies work together, each one having their own c.e.o. >> charlie: do they compete in the same market? >> yes, europe, for example. >> charlie: so here you are setting the direction of two companies who are competing with each other. >> exactly. but, you know, the opportunity comes from the fact that it is not so much cross shopping between the two brands. somebody wanted to go by a renault in europe, in his mind, he has peugeot, volkswagen, et cetera, but rarely nissan. from the other side, some may have more toyota, nissan,
hyundai. so the cross shopping is very local. i don't think any one of the two companies have felt obstruction coming from the other. >> charlie: g.m. is having lots of problems with recalls. how do you assess that? is it now that there is a notion that car companies not wanting a lot of problems as soon as they see even a small problem, and some of these have not been small problems because people have been killed, but they're quick to recall because they understand the bad publicity and, secondly, they understand the danger if someone's risking their life. >> that's the reason you will see more and more recalls and voluntary recalls. >> charlie: exactly. you just don't want to take the risk that any of these recalls backfire on your brand. it's too costly to have these problems. so any other c.e.o.s are getting involved, i'm asking, very quickly, recall the car, and we'll see more and more of
it. >> charlie: what do you think of tesla? >> it's a great competitor. >> charlie: he made the best effort to create a new car company in a while. >> i think probably it's very courageous trying to do a car company these days when you have to compete against the titans. >> charlie: yeah. what's most important is he's trying to develop with us the notion that zero emission cars can be fun, exciting, attractive, and that's why i don't consider him as competitors. he's more into the premium. >> charlie: the higher end market. >> we are much more into the mass market of electric cars. pushing in the same direction, making the electric car a normal car, something that is attractive for people. >> charlie: what does the leaf sell for? what does the sticker price sell for? >> obviously, it depends on in what states you are buying it because every state has a different policy in terms of
supporting. but i would say you can find a life as low as $28,000. >> charlie: the dealership community is very upset is elan because they don't want cars bought on line because you have dealers. what is your view of that? >> in our system we need entrepreneurs to rely the cars. i don't think we can do it directly through one consumer. you're selling 8.3 million cars directly to the consumers is something on which no car manufacturer is ready for. nobody is doing it. >> charlie: what happens when somebody like amazon or alibaba says we're going to get in the car business? >> you know, well, welcome to the car business.
>> charlie: they're simply a transactional person. >> buying a car is, at the same time, a rational adventure and a very emotional one. i don't think you buy a car like you buy a refrigerator or you buy something which is strictly useful. there is a kind of ceremony -- >> charlie: and romance. and the people come with the family. it's something which is very important. as long as you have the side of an emotional buy and a rational one, you're going to need showrooms, dealers, this connection, this continuous relationship with the consumer. >> charlie: hasn't the transaction changed? people because to have the internet -- people, because of the internet, they can walk in and know a lot about your cost structure than they've ever known before. so their capacity to bargain, if there is a bargaining possibility, is better because they have so much more information at hand.
>> the consumer today is much better informed through the web and particularly our own sites about the car and comes having made his own decision. >> charlie: he knows what he can spend and what he can buy. >> what kind of car, what kind of engine, what are the specifications he wants and why he wants them. all of this is done. but he needs to come to the showroom first because nothing replaces the real object in front of you. nothing replaces a driving test. nothing replaces making sure that you're going to have this relationship of trust with the dealer because at the end of the day something wrong happens with your car, it's the dealer who's going to be taking care of it, so you need to feel comfortable with this relationship. that's why, yes, consumers today working the showroom are much better informed and mature but, still, they need touching the object, driving it and establishing this very important contact with the dealer. >> charlie: what's the fear?
what's the great threat that worries you the most that you have to manage to avoid? >> well, i think we need to solve a lot of the concern which are today around the car industry, the first one is emissions. >> charlie: right. that's why we're introducing technologies that are zero emission. second a lot of people are complaining about traffic because in some countries allowing the development of the car industry doesn't go at the same speed which you are developing infrastructure which means highways and crossroads, et cetera. that's why theonnected car is important because then cars are going to be able to talk to each other and it will have as an advantage you will be able to avoid traffic jams and congestioned roads because you will know at a certain point in time what is the fastest way to go to your destination. so avoiding congestion through
connectivity of the cars and emissions are the main concerns because, you know, the car industry has been an industry that everybody considered as one of the top industries in the world. it fell a little bit from its pedestal because of the emission problems. so we need to establish it to its petaldz through low emissions, connectivity and awe autonomy. >> charlie: why don't you have a formula one team, nissan? mercedes does. >> we used to have. when you have your own team, is our experience, and you're developing an engine you're selling to other people, puts you in an awkward position. so we felt uncomfortable with. this we said either we have our own team or we just limit ourself to be an engine provider for many teams. so we decided to go for the
second option and today we are supplying the engine for many teams. red bull has been for the last five years, you know, world champion. >> charlie: yes. we're very proud to have contributed. >> charlie: not this year. not this year. you can't guarantee you will be champion forever. >> charlie: didn't you like the ego value of that, having your own team? >> yes, but you have to overcome that. >> charlie: thank you, carlos. great to see you again. >> thank you. >> charlie: norman lear is here, the "new yorker" magazine called him the pugnacious runner long before that existed. he is responsible for sitcoms. received four emmys, a peabody and national endowment of arts. his new book is called "even this i get to experience." pleased to have norman lear back at this table. welcome, sir. >> he is pleased to be here. >> charlie: i hope so. why did it take you so long to
write this? >> it only took me 87 years. (laughter) i had nothing else to do. i wanted to write it 20 years before i actually wrote it and made notes and had people save me scripts and going through correspondence. i had a pile of stuff when i finally started five years ago. took me about four and a half years. >> charlie: you said the reflection on your life for this book made you realize how hard it had been to be a human being. >> you noticed. >> charlie: yes, i have. it is hard to be. the circumstances of birth can vary and some have it so hard. i don't mean to compare it to people across the globe. but just being a human being is difficult, no matter the circumstances. >> charlie: well you had it hard because your dad went to prison. >> he did. >> charlie: your mom sort of turned you over to relatives. >> yeah. my father went to written for
three years when i was nine years old. i lived with an uncle and another uncle. i lived with my grandparents. and i saw my mother infrequently in the three years my dad was away and my cyst snore why was that? >> i'll never understand that because i used to say to her, you know, through the years, as a grown man, where were you? why didn't i see you? and she would say, i was there. what do you mean i wasn't there? mother, i have no memory of you. she would say, please! that was the end of every conversation. >> charlie: please, stop it. yeah. >> charlie: did she live to see you successful? >> she did, but she never really acknowledged that i had gotten past 11 or 12 years of age. she never addressed my mature years. she didn't talk about them. i was just the best son that ever was, but every anecdote she
had to tell was about norman falling down the stairs to get a laugh when he was a kid. >> charlie: being an outsider makes you want to get a laugh, doesn't it? >> being an outsider on the doll. i was living with an uncle i thought i had to perform for, another uncle i thought i had to perform for and take care of his kids, and getting a laugh was the best way to feel comfortable. >> charlie: why show business? why show business? >> charlie: yeah. i had one uncle and he used to -- i was a kid of the depression -- i had an uncle jack, he used to flick me a quarter. he was a press agent. that was the only role model i had. i wanted to be an uncle that could flick a quarter. that was my goal. >> charlie: how did you get started? >> i went to california -- i was a press agent in new york. want to know how i got fired? >> charlie: yes. i got fired because i was making $35 a week and we had a
show called "are you with it" which was a review. one of the acts in that review was buster shaver and his midgets. the lead was named olive. i wrote and a columnist wrote that buster shaver and olive were seen shopping fifth avenue. he on foot, she on a st. bernard. somebody must have said, dorothy, what on earth are you doing with items like this? anyway, she called my boss and i was canned. >> charlie: she got you fired? she did. i came to california to become a press agent again and ran into a fellow ed simmons who wanted to become a comedy writer. our wives hit it off, we both had babies.
they went to a movie. he was writing a parody to a song called the sheik of arrabear. we wrote it together. when the girls came home from the movies, we went out and sold it for 35, 40 bucks, half what i made selling door to door. >> charlie: that was the film you had done that was first a success when you got the opportunity to create a sitcom at cbs. >> yes. >> charlie: what was that? that was interesting. i was being divorced. i was writing with ed simmons the martha ray show. a fellow named phillip sharp came to be with us. he was becoming divorced. he had four children, i had fun. i sawed how are you? he said, all she wants is my joan davis reruns. so he was settling for reruns he created of the joan davis show.
so i said, i've got to do a sitcom because it was owning something. >> charlie: everybody knows this because to have the publicity that bill cosby got for it, that jerry seinfeld got for it, you create a television show that you own, the network broadcasts it, they pay for episodes, but the real payoff becomes when it goes off the network and you can syndicate it. seinfeld made up to $500 million. >> i was smart enough to know i need add business partner. >> charlie: yeah. i found a fellow named jerry parensho who was a great man, and he became my business partner and he made it a business. one, two, three, four, five, six, seven shows on the air... i wouldn't have known how to make a business of it, he did that.
>> charlie: have any sense of the dollar value of revenue for all the shows that you created in syndication? >> we sold the shows to the coca-cola company, of all, the library of shows to the coca-cola company a great many years ago. and the title of this book derives from the fact that despite taking down a whole bunch of money, i went into business for myself without that business partner, made the mistake of doing things the wrong way because i wasn't a businessman, almost went broke and got a phone call when i learned about this, and -- from my son-in-law who asked me how are you feeling? i said, i feel terrible, what are you talking about? awful. but, you know, john, something keeps running through my head, even this i get to experience. so that's where the title of the book came from. >> charlie: "even this i get to experience," the fact he came
up with something not very happy. >> even that i got to experience. >> charlie: there was a wonderful line you have about happiness. it is pursuit of along the lines of excellence. what is that? >> i think aristotle's definition of happiness. happiness is the exercise of your vital abilities along lines of excellence and the lives that affords them scope. >> charlie: have you had that? yes. >> charlie: you have been happy according to aristotle. >> and according to norman lear. >> charlie: so "all in the family "-- . >> yeah. >> charlie: you and carroll o'connor have an interesting relationship. >> we did. >> charlie: who did you have in mind when you created archie bunker? >> an amal gum of people i had known and heard about and the people we lived with as neighbors and a piece of my father. my father called me the laysiest white kid he ever met.
>> charlie: that line became famous in all in the family. >> it became well known in all of the family. and i used to scold him for putting down race, and he also said you're also the dumbest kid i've ever known. that part of it is homegrown, so i understood that. the rest of it is just what i felt and read and saw among family and friends and naibth. >> charlie: and carroll o'connor enhanced the personality of archie bunker in a big way. >> i couldn't begin to tell you the personality i had in mind because it depend opened the actor who performed it. carroll o'connor came in, sat down, read five sentences -- >> charlie: you said, he's the guy. >> yeah, i wrote the words, he inhabited the character. >> charlie: a clip from all in
the family. archie asked sammy davis, jr. a question. >> they're always telling me i'm prejudice. listen, you have been around a lot and seen a lot of people. do you figure me for a prejudice guy? >> don't tell me you're paying attention to those young kids! what do they know? you prejudice? if you were prejudice, archie, when i came into your house you would have called me a (bleep). you didn't say that. i heard you clear as a bell. right straight out you said "colored." >> yeah, that's what i done, all right. >> and if you were prejudice you would like some people close their eyes to what's going on in this great country we live in. not you, archie, your eyes are wide open. you can tell the difference between black and white. (laughter) i have a 2k50e7-rooted feeling you will always be able to tell the difference between black and white. and if you were prejudice you
would walk around thinking you're better than anybody else in the world, but i can honestly say having spent these marvelous moments with you, you ain't better than anybody. (laughter) (cheers and applause) >> can i have your hand on that, sammy? and i hope you's all heard that over there. that's from mr. sammy davis, jr., mr. wonderful himself. and that should prove to you once and for all i ain't prejudice! ♪ his truth goes marching on >> you see that? hi, arch. where were you? i bumped into someone and had to go get my camera. mr. davis, this is great. >> no pictures!
, this is for me. i want a picture taken with archie bunker, my friend and me. one, two, three! (laughter) (applause) >> charlie: you still love it, don't you? >> oh, my god, yes. >> charlie: and the delivery. you know, i saw something here that i hadn't really seen before, if i did i totally forgot it, and it's the way that man said colored had as much weight as (bleep) as archie just said it. racism exists in america in 2015 to the extent that piece mattered, yes. >> charlie: what was it about you in terms of what you wanted to do? you wanted to use comedy to have an impact on big social issues that were part of the american
conversation. >> uh-huh. well, comedy is -- i mean, this is all a reflection. it sounds like i knew what the hell i was doing at the time. i didn't. i was just -- you know, working from the plethora. but looking back on it, comedy is intravenous. you know, you can slip all kinds of thinking in while people are laughing. it's like an intravenous. so i denied for years that we were sending a message. we were about making an audience laugh. i'd say today, too, that that was the first rule -- >> charlie: yeah, but jerry seinfeld used to say it was about nothing. >> uh-huh. >> charlie: but you were about something. >> they were, too, human behavior. but we were about what was happening in our culture that
affected us, what was going on with our kids, our relationships, our politics, our -- you know, it was hard -- if it was hard to be a single human being, i have to hard to be five of them. >> charlie: did you and o'connor fight? >> yes, we disagreed about a great many things. >> charlie: because he became so identified with that role. >> yes, and he was carrying a heavy burden. i mean, it was a big burden to be carrying. i mean, i think it started there. and he had a fear i've seen in a lot of actors of stepping out in front of an audience and representing something, anything, whatever that happens to be, for millions of people. you know, that's heady stuff. and he was an irish intellectual. seriously intellectual.
he thought things had to go a certain way. i don't think he understood the way we did it -- "we "meaning the writers -- the way comedy worked as we understood it, so we would have arguments. >> charlie: i want to talk about sherman helmsley. take a look between carroll o'connor and george jefferson. >> hello, mr. jefferson! i, mrs. bunker. ey, jefferson there, how are ya? listen the former invitation you sent by your wife, i think that was very white of ya. (laughter) >> that's exactly the way i felt when i did it. (laughter) >> george, why don't you take archie over to the bar and offer him a drink? >> hey, jefferson! i see you hosing down your morech yesterday.
>> yeah? when am i going to see you hosing down yours? bartender, a drink, please. >> any particular brand? yeah, the expensive brand. what about you, sir? scotch and soda, please. yes, sir. hey, hey, jefferson, there's a switch for you. this guy giving you the big yes, sir. >> he's a bartender, ain't he? yeah, i'm used to it having the other bay around. >> how many servants you got in that mansion you living in. >> what do you mean by that? let me tell you something, that bartender is willing to work for me because if you've got enough green in your pocket then black becomes his favorite color. >> sherman helmsley. he was -- we didn't have -- i didn't have george jefferson for, i don't know, months, and in order to have a male adult
next door introduce the character of a brother or an uncle who was an actor who came down from san francisco to play the role, until i or my casting director, one of us remembered his performance in a show called pearly, and as soon as i remembered that, you know, sherman helmsley, he was george jefferson. and he came out -- and the fact that he was smaller than archie, you know, he was a little bantom guy, that was miraculous chemistry. >> charlie: maude also spun off from all in the family. all in the family was the mother -- >> don't say it (laughter) >> charlie: here it is. you know, i have been thinking, there is no earthly reason for you to go through with this at your age. you know it, i know it, walter knows it. >> i don't want you to talk about it! >> i didn't say anything, but
now that you mentioned it, it's legal in new york, now, isn't it? >> well, of course, it is, walter. i don't your he is the answery. when they -- i don't understand your hesitancy. we're free, we have the right to decide what we can doen w our own body. >> then will you please get yours into the kitchen? >> you're just scared. i am not scared! you are! it's as simple as going to the dentist. >> now i'm scared. mother, listen to me, it's a simple operation now. but when you were growing up, it was illegal and it was dangers s and sinister and you've never gotten over that. now you tell me that's not true. >> it's not true. and you're right. i've never gotten over it. >> it's not your fault. when you were young, abortion
was a dirty word. it's not anymore. now, you think about that. >> charlie: you have said -- what? >> just that you let it run so long. it's so tender, the writer. thank you for letting it run. >> charlie: you have said you see more of yourself in maude than any other character. >> because she was a reflective liberal. i am a reflective liberal. you know, i don't know as much as i wish i did. i don't know, certainly at this age, as much as most people think i know. you know, at 88, even 80, you know, 89, once i hit 90, i can get applause crossing a room,
and i'm thought to be so wise at 92, and i'm the same guy i was at 75. i am reflectably full of emotion, i know a great deal about a lot of things, but i am not anybody's wise man or expert. i am just somebody -- >> charlie: but because you are norman lear, they put that into their perception of you. >> yes. >> charlie: and because he created people for the american way and he was a voice for liberalism. >> and he turned 90. >> charlie: and he turned 90. and something happened at 90 with other people. >> charlie: what would you change about the life norman lear has lived so far? >> now, this is going to sound -- you're not concerned about diabetes or anything... >> charlie: no. i wouldn't change a thing because i believe that, if this
moment is right and i love this moment, then everything that led up to it had to be, just had to be. >> charlie: i agree with that. the idea is that you had to go through all the things that you went through in order to be where you are today. >> right. >> charlie: so to say i wish it hadn't been that way would be to deny who you are. >> absolutely. >> charlie: you created a show called aka pablo. >> yes. >> charlie: we all thought you had the golden touch. we thought norman could do no wrong, but you created a show about an hispanic family. >> about an hispanic family. >> charlie: didn't work with. i told the network that we were living the american immigrant experience. you know, when the jews came here, the irish, the italians, when they came here, they lived up the[xreet, down the street, across the street from each other. they were gathered in a place. at that time, the only fresh immigrant experience were the
latinos, who were living up the street. there would be 17 characters, it was going to take time to get used to them. they were some wonderful actors. i think if they had let more than six shows go -- we only did six shows. if they had let 14 shows that perhaps might have caught on or 32 shows, that's what's happening with all the shows that are succeeding on the non-networks today. >> charlie: right. they have time to develop. >> they have time to develop. >> charlie: same thing about "60 minutes," they had time to develop. they put them on sunday evening at the time they did and there was time to develop and build an audience. i mean, it's like movies. if you don't make it on friday night, you don't make it. >> that works with the same way. i have been trying to for three years to get a show about your generation and mine and maybe the one above mine and below
yours. >> charlie: yes. people in retirement, in a lovely retirement village, you know, where they run from 60 to 95, 105. >> charlie: and that age group has huge spending power. >> they have the most expendable income, and they are the largest growing demographic, and it's still 18-39. ask me the title of the show. >> charlie: what's the title of the show. >> "guess who died." >> charlie: you were a ground breaker in terms of the television you created one time after another, was that because there was something in you or simply because that's where you found the humor in social issues? >> i think it's really because that's where i found the humor. when i was nine years old and my father goes to prison, my mother is selling the furniture, i'm about to go live with people who are practically strangers and somebody puts their hand on my shoulder and says, you're the
man of the house, now -- >> charlie: yeah, at nine. -- if you don't know that's funny -- or let me word it another way -- if you do know that's funny, then there's something to work with. >> charlie: hard to write this? >> it was extremely hard to write. >> charlie: why? because i wanted to get close to -- i say in the dedication, i wanted to open my veins, another way of saying i really wanted to tell the truth as i saw it, find and tell it. some of it i had to find and dig for. >> charlie: your wife, frances lear, had an interesting wife, too. >> she did. >> charlie: did you stay close? >> we didn't stay close. we didn't have great problems, but we didn't stay close. she says in there -- or, no, she says in her own book, it's a --
>> charlie: i'm going to read it. she wrote "my life is like an epic poem with lines that rhyme with he and she, he is what i might have been, and she is only me. >> yeah, that breaks my heart when i hear that. she wanted to be a star or everything she thought i became. the night that turned her life around, she says somewhere in her book, was an emmy broadcast when johnny carson was doing the show and came back from a commercial and said, welcome back to the norman lear show. she says her life changed with that joke. from then on, walking down the street, it was, hello, mr. lear, this was my wife with. she couldn't bear that role.
>> charlie: all of us can know the stories behind the man. archie, gloria, edith and meathead couldn't tell them better. norman lear couldn't have written a more touching tale of his life than here, in "even this i get to experience." and president clinton, norman lear, he's been so successful throughout his more than nine decades on earth and how americans have relied on his wit and wisdom for more than six of the decades. it's also why "even this i get to experience" is such a great experience. >> i could listen to that all day. thank you, charlie. >> charlie: your son-in-law, the great jon lapook is at cbs. >> he is responsible for the title. the next morning, he called me
and said, you have to promise me we can bury you. i said, why? he said, because i want to take your children some day, your grandchildren, my children to a stone that reads "even this i get to experience." >> charlie: thank you, norman. for more, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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