CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interviews With Tom Shales, James Andrew Miller, Catherine Crier, Art Buchwald, Alan King
Aired October 27, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight a round robin of great guests. We'll start by going behind the scenes of one of America's most enduring and funniest TV stalwarts. Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller are here with the uncensored story of "Saturday Night Live." And then "Court TV" host Catherine Crier joins us to make her case against lawyers, and she'll talk about what you can do about a messed-up legal system.
Also with us, the always-funny Art Buchwald, here to make us laugh again, but the laughs won't stop there because Alan King's here to share with some great Jewish jokes. Closing it off, the sensational Russell Watson will perform. It's all next. It's a jam packed LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Good evening to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND, outstanding line-up of guests, and we begin with in Washington Tom Shales, the Pulitzer Prize winning television critic of "The Washington Post" and James Andrew Miller. Jim Miller is a writer of and appearing in many publications "The New York Times" especially and "Life" and "Newsweek", and they have co-authored "Live From New York", an uncensored history of "Saturday Night Live" as told by its stars, its writers and its guests.
Why -- how did this come about, Tom, the idea to do a book on this show?
TOM SHALES, AUTHOR, "LIVE FROM NEW YORK": It was really Lorne Michaels' idea, Larry. We were sort of touched by the hand of God. Lorne Michaels reached down and said come forth and writeth my history, the history of the show. And so we did, but it was Jim's idea to do as an oral history. That is instead of long, you know, plotting narrative, we would have a long selection of quotes from people who worked on the show in -- you know stars of the show and then people who just maybe production assistants, so we could get a cross-section of everybody who worked on it for 27 years.
KING: Knowing, Jim, both you and Tom, I would doubt that you gave up editorial control, did you, to Lorne Michaels or anyone?
JAMES MILLER, "LIVE FROM NEW YORK": No. In fact, the amazing thing is he never asked to see anything. He -- the first time he saw the book was when it was done, and even now I don't even know if he's read the whole thing. He has this remarkable detachment from things. If somebody was running around North America asking questions about me over the last 27 years, I think I would have called up a couple of people or asked to see something. But it was amazing. He really did not interfere at all.
KING: Explain, Tom, how this show ever got on the air. If we remember the '70s, this was not a time for adventure taking and people taking a risk. How did "Saturday Night Live" get born?
SHALES: Well it was a fluke because Johnny Carson had NBC -- the only thing NBC had been programming on, on weekends at 11:30 Eastern Time was Johnny Carson reruns, "The Best of Carson" and Johnny decided he didn't want those reruns on anymore. They weren't doing very well, and I think he had his -- he already had his master plan for, you know, taking off certain nights of the week. So anyway, Herb Slauser (ph) wanted to keep that time for the network.
He was the president of NBC at the time, so he kind of just said let's do a show from New York, and let's use one of our studios that isn't being used like 8-H, which of course, was originally built for Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC symphony orchestra way back when networks had symphony orchestras, if you can imagine such a thing. So anyway, Herb Slauser (ph) then sort of hired Dick Ebersol as the executive in charge and Dick Ebersol hired Lorne Michaels as the executive producer, and they went out, searched America for the brightest young comics, improv actors they could find, and that's how it came about.
KING: But Jim Miller, did they not face blue penciling, the network honchos, the suits? Didn't the suits say you can't do that?
MILLER: Well one of the great things that Lorne was able to pull off was to keep the network at bay. I think Ebersol helped him a lot in that regard, and that's one of the key successes of "Saturday Night Live" early on. I don't even think the network knew what they were getting when the first show aired. Herb Slauser (ph) was up in Boston with Bowie Coon (ph) was then commissioner of baseball and they sat around watching the first show. And you know Herb (ph) tells us in the book they had no idea what was coming on. It was -- it was remarkable that one was able to have the detachment and the separation from the network that he did.
KING: Is it also remarkable, Tom, that the show still looks about the same as it's always looked?
SHALES: It does. One big change is microphones and maybe this is too technical a point. But if you look at the old shows, it's -- you can't hear the dialogue nearly as well because they're using boom microphones. You know they didn't have wireless mikes then with everybody wearing a fanny pack and they do more pre tape stuff now. They can do fancier things. They use more prosthetic makeup to make somebody look like George Bush or Al Gore. But basically, yes, it's the same show that it was in about the 10th week that it was on. That's when it sort of congealed into the show we know now.
KING: Jim, was it a hit right away?
MILLER: I don't think it was a hit the first week. I mean everybody noticed it, and I think that by the fourth show you started to see -- there was a New York magazine article, which unfortunately for the rest of the cast only had Chevy on the cover, and that kind of separated him from everybody else. But by the fourth week or the fifth week, things had started to take off, and it got to the point where Gilda was -- Gilda Radner was just amazed by the fact that she would walk down a street in New York City and people would stop her and talk to her about the show. And that was really great for these people who had, you know, come from nowhere.
KING: Tom Shales, what did your critique say back then?
SHALES: I'm happy to say that I gave it a rave review. "The New York Times" dismissed it. They thought it...
SHALES: ... was -- yes, they thought it was a music show, and they sort of missed the point. But...
MILLER: And they missed the whole show, I think. They only watched 20 minutes.
SHALES: Well, yes, their critic said gee I'm sorry, I was late getting home from dinner on the subway. I don't know -- anyway, they re-reviewed it, though, a few weeks -- after everybody else had called it, you know, the second coming, the millennium of comedy, then "The New York Times" re-reviewed it and agreed that this was a revolutionary breakthrough. You know, this new generation had taken over TV.
KING: Do people, Jim, who say that now it's funny, but not as funny, how much of it was the script? How much of it was the talent?
MILLER: Well, you know, "Saturday Night Live" throughout the last 27 years has had this -- they go up and down. It's one of the great stories in the book that we're able to trace because there are great years, and then there are "Saturday Night Live" dead jokes come about and everybody's worrying about this cast member leaving and how are they going to regroup. But the truth is that the writing has been, you know, pretty darn good through the years, and every single time a Chevy Chase leaves, then there's a Billy Murray to come on board, then there's an Eddie Murphy, then there's you know a Dana Carvey. They just keep on reinvigorating themselves. So even though you may be in a downturn, you know that the next success is right around the corner.
SHALES: And Lorne has always seen it as a writer's show. The writers exercise a large measure of control over the sketches they write. If they write something on -- if they come up with an idea on Wednesday night, then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) go write it and they do and they get to follow it all the way through to on-air performance and they really serve as producers as well as writers.
MILLER: Well the great thing is during a presidential election year, they always get a nice bump because there are...
KING: Yes. MILLER: ... there are impersonations and the way they take on the debate and the candidates, you just can't match that any place else on TV.
KING: Let's get a break, then we'll come right back with Tom Shales and Jim Miller, the coauthors of "Live From New York". Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, well, well if it isn't the co-mayors of Nerd Town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up George W.? Did you party it up last night?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No dude, I couldn't. The rents (ph) are in town, spent the whole week going to bed at 8:00 and smoking out the bathroom window.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell you them press people, they're just loony. They say you're a drag on the ticket, they must have been watching a different show. When you were quite there for an hour that was world class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who am I? Why am I here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Still to come, Art Buchwald and Catherine Crier will be with us and Alan King. We are opening tonight with Tom Shales and Jim Miller, the coauthors of "Live From New York," an uncensored history of "Saturday Night Live" as told by its stars, its writers, and guests. Tom, satire is usually down in the dumps. Why did satire work?
SHALES: Well, we hadn't had any really good political satire in this country, I don't think for quite a while. When the show first came along, there was, you know, Radner and Martin's "Laugh-In" in the early '70s, but they didn't really do political satire. It was more pie in the face stuff, and all politicians are crooks. You know it was more general stuff. They didn't really do parodies of politicians. And then Chevy Chase coming out and tumbling around as Gerald Ford, falling off of everything, that just -- people were shocked and delighted by that because nobody had quite taken, you know, such a clear cut pot shot at a politician in quite some time.
MILLER: I also think after the turbulent '60s and Watergate, it was time to laugh again, particularly at political leaders and so their timing was really perfect. KING: Did that cast, Tom, get along? I mean they appeared on screen to really get along and they were all extraordinary. I mean Eddie Murphy was like a bit player. Did they -- did that synchronize well off stage?
SHALES: Well, over the years, I think there have been people back stage who didn't get along and that -- the first cast, they all got along. They all smoked the same thing. They -- but you know actors are actors and they were competing for air time, and every cast has had to do that. So, you know, while they're friends to a degree, they're probably not above shoving the other guy out of the way. If, you know, if I want my sketch on, then I just sort of gently nudge Jim off the set. It's always been, I think that way.
There have been feuds over the years and of course, somehow for some reason, Chevy Chase keeps coming up in our book as the guy that everybody loves to hate because...
SHALES: ... he used to alienate people -- well, he makes nasty remarks to people that he thinks are funny and they don't. And sometimes they are very brutal, and it just so happens that he's come back to host, you know, during these various eras of "Saturday Night Live" and each time and each age of "Saturday Night Live," he's alienated people and made them very angry. And it's too bad in a way that Chevy takes such a beating in our book because, of course, if he hadn't been such a magnificent star at the beginning, it might never have been the big hit that it was.
KING: Do we know, Jim, why Eddie Murphy won't talk about "Saturday Night Live"?
MILLER: I think it's this weird mole that he just hadn't removed from his body. He didn't go to the 15th anniversary, and he didn't go to the 25th reunion. Even when he's publicized in movies and reporters ask him about "Saturday Night Live," he evades the questions. He just feels like his life has moved on and it's a shame because in the book we literally give him credit for saving the show. I don't think if Eddie Murphy had come along then, if he hadn't, I don't think there'd be a show right now.
KING: There's no connection, is there, Tom, or strange coincidence between early deaths of "Saturday Night Live"? We have Belushi, Radner, Farley, Hartman.
SHALES: It's eerie...
SHALES: ... that's for sure, and John's was the first I think. John's -- when he died of a drug abuse problem, I think that scared everybody into sort of cutting way back on their drugs use. And so there weren't any more really drug related deaths, I don't think until Chris Farley, who saw himself as the second coming of John Belushi and tried to emulate him in every way he could, even to the point of looking for John's clothes and wardrobe. You know, finding pants that said John Belushi on them and then trying to wear them on the show. So you have that sad case. Phil Hartman was a very unique strange case of violent death, but the show definitely has a higher mortality rate...
KING: Yes, I know.
SHALES: ... than you would expect, yes.
KING: Jim, in research, in talking and doing all these interviews, what surprised you the most?
MILLER: I think the biggest surprise was just how candid people were with us. That's when we knew we had a book. If people had come on and said, well ,"Saturday Night Live" was a special time in my life, and I was very honored to be on the show, then we wouldn't have had a book. They were incredibly open about the pain of doing the show, the pain behind a lot of the scenes that they had to do, what was going on in their lives, the pressures, the competitiveness. And I think that that was, for me, I couldn't believe how candid people were, and that was a great surprise.
KING: What for you, Tom?
SHALES: The biggest surprise?
SHALES: How long a grudge can last, I think. How bitter some of the people were who didn't maybe do so well on the show. Janeane Garofalo and Harry Shearer and even Billy Crystal isn't really bitter, but you know he was supposed to be on the very first show, and got bumped at the very last minute. He had his makeup on, was ready to go on, and there was a big fight between Lorne Michaels and Billy's manager and -- over Billy's -- over how much time Billy would have, and he walked and was, you know, it delayed his career probably by 10 years. And when we talked to him about that, he sounded still distressed by that and pained by that and curious, you know, about what if I hadn't been bumped that night, how would my life have been different.
KING: They do keep ratings. Jim, do they know the most successful show ever?
MILLER: In 1978, Steve Martin hosted. It was the show -- I'm sure you remember when he did the King Duck (ph) song -- and I think that was one of the most successful ever. They also had a show in 1985 when Lorne Michaels came back to do the show, when Madonna hosted, and it was good news and bad news because they got a great rating that night, but unfortunately the cast was so bad, people tuned in, saw a cast they didn't like, saw a writing they didn't like, and then tuned out for a couple of years. So that was a blessing and a curse that night.
KING: Tom, what's your critical appraisal of the show now? SHALES: Still capable of surprises, which I think after 27 years of television, if anybody is that, they're doing a great job. "60 Minutes," about the same length...
SHALES: ... the same duration, I think, and still capable of surprises. "Saturday Night Live," just when you think maybe oh gee, that they've lost it, they find it again. And you know the big revelation of the past few years, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon taking over weekend update, which is a very important segment of the show. And when that started the sparkle again, and when they did Gore and Bush, things came to life again and the show was back.
KING: They have produced, how many people who have become -- I don't know, the exact total, Jim, fixtures in the American comedy scene.
MILLER: Oh, it's more than a couple of dozen, and the strange thing is that sometimes you don't know it on the show. Alec Baldwin told us in the book that he said from now on he's decided that he's going to be nice to every sniveling little brat that's on the show because you never know if they're going to be making $20 million a movie next year. It's -- you know, NBC didn't like Chris Farley and Adam Sandler on the show. Adam Sandler tells us that he thinks he got fired from the show, and then lo and behold, he becomes this huge star with a great movie career. It's really been a great cradle for a lot of movie careers, television careers and otherwise. But sometimes you just don't know it by looking at the show.
KING: Tom, have the suits ever messed with it?
SHALES: They've tried. I think, you know, Jim is right. Lorne manages to keep them away. You know, it's like keeping a vampire away or something. He's got the garlic or whatever it takes to keep the network executives. Sometimes they come down and visit and -- but they try not to -- you know I was there, I remember they did -- I remember the party after one show and I saw Billy Murray actually give noogies to Fred Silverman -- grabbed him and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thing. And I think the network executives like to pride themselves on being good sports, so they try to, you know, sort of stay away.
MILLER: But they get Norm McDonald. They got Norm McDonald...
MILLER: ... that one time when they...
KING: Yes, they did. That's right.
MILLER: ... in and nailed him.
KING: Do they...
KING: ... who sees every script, Tom?
SHALES: Who sees every script?
KING: Is there a top official at NBC that sees every script before they air?
SHALES: I think Standards and Practices still looks at them, but you know things have changed so much. You can say so many things on television now that you couldn't say in 1975. It's almost kind of just a perfunctory formality to look at the scripts, but I don't think anybody above Standards and Practices -- I don't think any vice presidents come down and read the scripts.
KING: Jim, it's done very well in reruns in places, right?
KING: Network, cable networks that show highlights of years ago.
MILLER: It's the gift that keeps giving. It's amazing because you turn on -- well now I guess it's on E! Entertainment Television, but you turn on these channels and it's -- people love watching the sketches over and over again, particularly the early years, so it's got a long life in video sales and everything else. It's just been a monster cash cow.
KING: Yes, that's another question. Saturday night a big profit night for the network Tom?
SHALES: Yes, I think they do as well -- they won't factor it out. They just do late night profits; you know $200 million a year or whatever it is. But they include Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, the whole magillah in that, so the network is very, tight with numbers. They won't give out the actual profits of "Saturday Night Live", but I mean over the years, it's just generated...
SHALES: ... tons and tons of dough for the network, and I don't think it's ever lost money, even when it was really -- even when the ratings were down.
KING: Fascinating book. Congratulations, guys.
SHALES: Thank you.
MILLER: Thank you very much.
KING: Tom Shales and Jim Miller, the co-authors of "Live From New York", an uncensored history of "Saturday Night Live."
Catherine Crier is next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having our cities' institutions up and running sends a message that New York City is open for business. "Saturday Night Live" is one of our great New York City institutions, and that's why it's important for you to do your show tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we be funny?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why start now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND this special edition, an old friend, terrific journalist, Catherine Crier, author of the new book, "The Case Against Lawyers", which makes it wild because you're a lawyer.
CATHERINE CRIER, "THE CASE AGAINST LAWYERS": Hey Larry. Yes...
KING: Why are you mad at...
CRIER: ... it's a...
KING: ... your own profession?
CRIER: I go after them because I truly believe there's an idealistic child that this was the grandest, noblest profession. There are plenty of wonderful lawyers, but I think that the rule of law is being abused by those who can control it -- the lawyers, the lobbyists, the legislators, and we are the ones suffering as a result.
KING: And not the other side, not the prosecutors, not the judges, not the...
CRIER: Oh, no, no I put them all in there together...
KING: ... plaintiffs.
CRIER: There are problems with the criminal law, which I talked about, the civil, the regulatory, the political. It's all in there together because these rules that were supposed to get us away from King George, the tyrant, and make sure we were all equalized and liberated by these laws had become the tyrants, the new tyrants for us, and we had a very select few who can manipulate and unless we change things, we are basically going to lose the democracy as we know it and simply be the surfs of this particular group.
KING: Catherine, by the way, hosts her own show, "Catherine Crier Live" on Court TV. She started in television on CNN coming from a judgeship, so she's seen all sides of the ledger. Would we have said the same years ago when Edward Bennett Williams was in his prime or Darrow? Would we be saying the same? These guys wrote their own laws a lot. CRIER: Yes. Maybe not because it's sort of accumulation. We have gotten to the point now that it is so dominating our lives that we can hardly take a step from the moment we roll out of bed in the morning without being governed and regulated from our schools to our workplaces to the pleasurable activities in our lives that are disappearing rapidly due to liability. That has all been heavily concentrated, I would say, in the last 30 years.
KING: What did it?
CRIER: I think we saw some liberalization of attitudes in the '70s and '80s in the citizen conservative versus liberal. But all of a sudden, we were analyzing everybody's psychology. We weren't so quick to assign responsibility because there was always an excuse. We backed off a lot of activities as citizens, and let the lobbyists start walking into members of Congress' offices and write the laws without complaining. So I would say most of it ultimately is our advocation.
KING: Were these lobbyists for the trial lawyers?
CRIER: Well there are lobbyists for the trial lawyers, but I also talk about more than just the obvious lawyers. Any piece of legislation on Capitol Hill -- first of all legislators are dominated by lawyers...
CRIER: ... But any piece of legislation is written by a lawyer for that member of Congress. Most lobbyists are lawyers. Most of the bureaucrats, all of their rules and regulations come from lawyers. So there a common thread here, and it's the counselors.
KING: Would some of this be solved taking the British tact of the loser pays the lawsuit?
CRIER: I'm very supportive of that and I know it makes the plaintiff's bar quite angry. But you can accommodate those who need help. The impoverished who need to have the right to bring a meritorious lawsuit will have a judge who can balance the attorney's fees and can award appropriate fees. If somebody truly can't pay and it was a legitimate lawsuit, you don't make the award. But those who are filing garbage should have to pay. Also contingency fees (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have lawyers as basically partners in every piece of litigation that comes through the civil courts, and that means they're going to push it even harder because they make money the more money the lawsuit makes. That's not the way it's supposed to be, and therefore they're in no hurry to get rid of these cases.
KING: Does it concern you, though, that so many people with the admit of DNA appear to be in jail who shouldn't be?
CRIER: Oh of course it concerns...
KING: That is the other side of a system gone berserk, right when they... CRIER: I...
KING: ... reach too much on the side of, you know, technicalities, but how about that?
CRIER: I know. We have to be concerned and that's one of my arguments against the death penalty. I went to the DA's office supporting the death penalty. I opposed it when I walked out. We're not infallible. We have convicted and executed innocent people. More than that, it cost more to try a death penalty case than it would to lock these people up the rest of their lives once we stop the appellate process. The death penalty does not deter. There is no study ever that demonstrates it deters, so why don't we lay this argument to rest, have life without parole, and that way if someone comes up with new evidence and establishes innocence, we can turn back the clock.
KING: What's been the effect of the Court TVs and others and around the clock coverage of trials and we see trials up front and we have Van Dam cases and others where...
KING: ... we have people guessing as to how verdicts are going to come out.
CRIER: Oh, yes. Well, the public courtroom was something had provided for us in the Constitution, and once upon a time people sort of came from thousands of miles away, if they could, to sit and watch the show, which was Clarence Darrow giving an 11-hour final argument in a death penalty case.
Now we've got the airwaves. O.J. Simpson was an anomaly. It was an anecdote. Court TV demonstrates every day that we can broadcast without detrimental effects and then a case like Amadou Diallo where the New York judge threw out the notion of unconstitutionality, keeping cameras in a New York courtroom because we needed to see that.
Al Sharpton and Rudy Giuliani came out opposite ends of the spectrum and said thank you for letting the people see that this was a fair and just trial. Whatever you found (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the outcome, it was handled fairly and justly and we may have, according to them, really prevented violence in the streets.
KING: Catherine Crier, does the case against lawyers offer solutions?
CRIER: Well, I got to the end of the book and I said all right, are you a coward? Are you a man or a mouse? And so I tried to jump in there and give some solutions for civil, criminal, regulatory, all of which we sort of -- the contingency fees the loser pays, some of the elements of criminal law that we need to reassign responsibility for our conduct, regulations that serve their purpose and not simply allow government officials to issue traffic tickets for bad paperwork and finally, some real serious suggestions, I hope, for the political process, where our laws are given away as contributions essentially to big contributors or selectively enforced for certain groups of people.
And finally, I put some responsibility on us because unless we are truly the masters of this country, the citizens who tell representatives what we want done, then we are going to get what we settle for and I would suggest that's domination by these groups.
KING: In a capitalistic system, though, it's still money buys you better law, doesn't it?
CRIER: Well, money buys access and access can buy influence, but we can change that with rules. Not all rules and not all laws are bad, but I do suggest some of the ways that we at least are aware. Line item veto will publicize port barrel projects, requiring various bills to address only that issue, an appropriations bill that deals with particular issues. Why do we have a defense bill that buried deep within it is assigning port to a particular state so they can build a railroad museum? We can't know it all, but we can find ways to make the information more available to the press and to the public so we can voice our opinions and make ourselves heard.
KING: Catherine Crier, you brighten any screen you appear on. Thank you very much.
CRIER: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Always good seeing you. The book is "The Case Against Lawyers." The author is Catherine Crier. Next, another old friend, Art Buchwald. Don't go away.
KING: It's a show of old friends tonight. We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE a dear old friend, Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer...
ART BUCHWALD, AUTHOR, "WE'LL LAUGH AGAIN": Hi, Larry.
KING: ... Prize winning columnist, best-selling author. His new book is "We'll Laugh Again" from Putnam. I think they're the only people who've ever published them. They've published all of his books, and they seem to come...
KING: ... in tumults. Tell me what we mean by the title.
BUCHWALD: Well the title means that after September 11 everybody was shaken up, and it reminded me when Mary McRoy (ph) said to Pay Moynihan when Kennedy was killed, we'll never laugh again, and Pat Moynihan said we'll laugh again Mary (ph), but we won't be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) again. And so that sounded like the perfect title because right after the -- September 11 everybody said to me humor is dead. You can't make fun of the president. You can't make fun of Congress. You can't make fun of the institutions. And two weeks later, humor came back with a vengeance, and we were told to go about our business calmly and also be suspicious and afraid of everybody.
KING: This is a collection of your best columns including 18 written since September 11.
KING: Now after September 11, when did you decide I can be funny?
BUCHWALD: Right after it.
KING: Really, right after it?
BUCHWALD: Yes. I mean that week I wasn't funny, but after -- I'm not being funny. I'm being satirical. I'm pointing out the madness we're all in an insane asylum now. I just wrote a column today -- Don Rumsfeld went over to see Iraq in 1983 and sold Saddam Hussein all that poison and all that stuff he had there because we wanted him to beat Iran. So that's madness. It's madness. And then also, they set up an office of misinformation at the Pentagon and there was such a stir about it that Rumsfeld came back and said he was abolishing the office. But we didn't know if he was telling us the truth or he had misinformation. So...
KING: So the newspaper is funny. The news is funny.
BUCHWALD: Yes. I just write off the news. For example, the president says we got to support the war and also the economy. So have a nice day and go to Disneyland and that's his way of supporting the economy. Well that's madness. We're supposed to be -- quote -- "at war" -- quote. I don't know.
KING: Of all the things you've covered and you've said also that you love certain presidents. You love Bill Clinton just because you wanted eight years of that, right?
BUCHWALD: Yes. He was good. He was very nice. He wasn't in a class with Nixon.
KING: Nixon was the funniest to write about, right?
BUCHWALD: Nixon was -- yes, because I didn't write about him. I recorded him and the same when Clinton -- you know, when the lady friend of his...
KING: How quickly we forget...
BUCHWALD: ... they were -- when they went public, I became a very rich man. I was able to buy a house in Martha's Vineyard and everything. So I was grateful for that. I am living off the news. I am not a humorist in the sense that I write jokes. I tell what's going on.
KING: Yes, you do.
BUCHWALD: And what's going on is so much funnier than anything I could make up.
KING: How are you doing? We know you had a stroke. You battled depression; we've talked about that on this show, and succeeded.
BUCHWALD: Oh, yes.
KING: Why do you keep on going, though?
BUCHWALD: Well, I don't play golf.
BUCHWALD: If I don't play golf, what am I going to do? Retire? I've been doing this, Larry, for 53 years. I've enjoyed every moment of it. I lived in Paris, then I came to Washington, and I'm not going to quit until they throw me out. If I leave, Larry, I don't get any perks like Jack Welch. That's the one thing...
KING: No, you don't have any deal.
BUCHWALD: I don't have a deal. I'm trying to get WorldCom to merge with me. But I don't give up. You know, that is the other thing that is keeping me going. When you think how crooked the world is with the people on Wall Street, the banks, the brokers and all those people and people losing all their fortunes, that has to have satire. I did an article about what happens to the wife of an indicted CEO? And so I sat down on a park bench with Esther (ph) and she was feeding the pigeons and she told me her story. They took the Woman of the Year Award away from her.
She was kicked out of the Garden Club. She was the head of the opera, now she was in the second balcony, standing room only, and she was really down on her luck. And then she told me at the end of the column, that she was going to sue her husband because he also stole her house money.
KING: Boy, this had to be -- the world seems -- was...
KING: ... turbulent as ever Art.
BUCHWALD: Yes. Yes. Yes. You know and the people out there we can't believe anything anymore. That's the problem. We had a lot of faith in our institutions. Catholic Church, what's going on in Wall Street and all that stuff and suddenly we've been shaken -- shaken by what's going on and we don't know -- we have no center and that didn't come out of September 11. That came out of people discovering what these people were doing, and they were doing terrible things, and if they were just doing it for themselves, fine. But they were taking so many people down with them -- all the people who had pensions, so I feel there's a lot of anger in my satire because I...
BUCHWALD: ... don't think these guys should get a free ride... KING: Well...
BUCHWALD: I did an article where these guys get found guilty and then they make a plea bargain, and the plea bargain that their lawyer makes is he wants 30 days and no handcuffs, and the prosecutor says 60 days, no handcuffs, but no tie and no shoelaces.
KING: Art, we're out of time. Thank you so much. It's always great seeing you and great...
KING: ... success with the book.
Art Buchwald, the book is "We'll Laugh Again" from Putnam.
When we come back, another famed American humorist. Alan King will join us. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND one of my favorite people. We've been friends for a long time. We each had different names to start. Alan King what a rack, on to a producer, actor, just did a great series on Broadway. He is the avid of the Friars Club in New York. I share that title in California, and he's the author of a new book, "Alan King's Great Jewish Joke Book".
Is this a collection you've made...
ALAN KING, "ALAN KING'S GREAT JEWISH JOKE BOOK": Yes...
L. KING: It's not your own stuff.
A. KING: I've written -- no, no, no, I've written books, four books, had themes, you know, but then all of a sudden, Crown Publishing came to me and they had great success with Senator Dole, books about politics...
L. KING: Yes.
A. KING: And they said to me do you have a collection of jokes, and I said do I -- I answered with a question, you know, which is Jewish. I said do I have a collection and then with a bit of research, I had to, you know, edit it down. Billy Crystal did the foreword, which is beautifully done and funny. And then every chapter besides the joke book, I try to explain in a paragraph or so where the jokes originated, what brought it about, how it came about. You know, an example of the theme -- it says Jesus saves, but Moses invests.
L. KING: Correct, that's a classic Yiddish humor line.
A. KING: That's the kind of humor we have lived with forever, from the scuttles in Europe and we brought the humor with us. The Irish brought their poetry, the Italian brought their love of music. The -- you know and the Jews brought this humor, and it's become part of our American culture. People that don't like Jews do Jewish jokes.
L. KING: And they even laughed in concentration camps. They were doing jokes there, according to...
A. KING: The only way that was -- that's what kept their sanity. That's -- you know, I once said to my father -- my father was a great -- I was raised -- I was privileged to be raised in a large family, seven boys and one girl, during the Depression. We lived with my mother's father, was a Rabbi. My father was an Atheist so I got the best of both, and it was always -- even though there was hollering, it was always funny, not only in retrospect.
You now while I was growing up, like on Sunday, when the families used to get together, my mother, my grandmother died young, so my mother was the matriarch and every Sunday they'd all get together and they'd put the kids in one room and they'd throw all the coats on the bed. Now if there was a kid lying there, it was dead because the coats kept piling up, you know. And then, I was about 7 years old, and everybody was hollering and talking loud, so my father was a giant and a gentleman.
I said pop, why do Jews talk loud? And he looked at me and said for 2,000 years nobody listened. You learn to talk loud. I mean, these are the things that are inheritant in our culture and in our humor.
L. KING: And you bring it with you every where you are, right?
L. KING: You're funny -- you're funny all the time.
A. KING: Of course, you know, I when I started out as a kid, I was one stroller reviewed at the Paramount Theater funny, but don't know how well he'll do west of the Hudson. They were calling me a Jew comic.
L. KING: Yes.
A. KING: You know, and even now -- even now when the press and in reviews, people say not only about me, when there is something that they don't like, they say Borsch Belt, you know.
L. KING: And we know what that means.
A. KING: That gives it a commentation (ph). You know it's, oh, I see it's a Jewish kind of thing, you know.
L. KING: Yes, but way out of proportion to the population...
A. KING: Oh yes...
L. KING: ... has been the successful Jewish comedian.
A. KING: You know this comes from Talmud too.
L. KING: Oh.
A. KING: You know there's...
L. KING: The Talmud was funny?
A. KING: Well, it wasn't funny, but it explained it was always two sides. On the other hand, you know -- you tell -- my grandfather was a Rabbi and it was before World War II and I got a chance to go to last minute, somebody took Gail (ph) and I was go to Albany to a nightclub -- this was a big -- and you had to fly there to get there. Nobody flew. My mother went crazy. You know and my mother was funny. The minute anything went wrong, she always used to say I'm going to kill myself. My father said that'll make it all right, you know. That'll make it perfect. She's going to kill herself, perfect. So she said you got to talk to the Rabbi, my grandfather. And I explained to him and he said to me, you know he said you get on a train, you'll see the country.
You'll see the -- you know you got an aunt in Poughkeepsie, you'll stop off, you'll call her. He went through a whole thing. He said you'll have lunch. You'll read a book, and you'll get to Albany. I said grandpa, I said I've got to be there in a few hours, he said then you'll fly.
L. KING: Then you'll fly.
A. KING: That's right. On the other hand -- and it's been -- it's been part of my -- it is a major part of my life, the humor.
L. KING: How did you collect it all? I mean, did...
A. KING: Well, I have -- I had -- I did a lot of research, and I had quite a few young wonderful people who helped me with this collection and you know I thought I knew every Jewish joke that was ever told until I saw the research, and you know -- and the Israelis considering what they're going through, it's -- they're funny, their humor. It comes out of Eastern Europe. It comes out of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It comes out of wisdom...
L. KING: Yes.
A. KING: ... you know, the rabbi having been forced to do a eulogy at a funeral. He said this man is the worst man -- they said Rabbi, it doesn't look nice that you don't say a few words. So he said, oh he said this man lying here was a thief, a liar, and he went on and on, the worst person. He says but his brother is standing next to me, to him he was an angel.
So, there's always...
L. KING: Yes.
A. KING: ... something in it that even in the most difficult times, an example, an Israeli just sent me a joke. A Texan, a Jew from Texas went to Israel to teach them how to grow turkeys, and he went to this little Jewish farmer. And he said to him, an Israeli farmer, and he said to him how big is your farm? He says, oh he says about two acres. He said two acres. The Jew said what kind of farm do you have and he says I've got a farm. He says I get in my car at 6:00 in the morning and he says by 7:00 at night, I'm still on my farm. And the little Israeli Jew said I had a car just like that. Hey come on. That makes a great deal of sense.
L. KING: Alan, do you ever stop? I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE) movies? You were so wonderful in "Casino" and then you do "Inside Comedy Mind" on "Comedy Central."
A. KING: I just had the -- I just did four months...
L. KING: As Goldwyn.
A. KING: ... Sam Goldwyn of all the things I've done, and I'm going to London opening first of March for four months to do Goldwyn. Now you talk about Jewish humor, you know Goldwyn spoke with a heavy accent. But you know there was so much sense -- you know he was the first one who said include me out. You know...
L. KING: It's a one-man show, right?
A. KING: Yes...
L. KING: It's you and the audience.
A. KING: ... well no, it's two men. Lauren Klein plays my secretary who's -- you know so there is some...
L. KING: Interchange.
A. KING: ... drama there, you know interchange.
L. KING: Alan, it's an honor knowing you. I salute you. I can't wait to get at this book. Always great seeing you.
A. KING: And pick out anyone. They're funny.
L. KING: The new book is "Alan King's Great Jewish Joke Book". There is one guarantee -- there's three guarantees in life, death, taxes and you'll laugh at this book, Alan King.
L. KING: If you don't like this, there'll be another.
A. KING: That's right.
L. KING: Thank you, Alan.
And when we come back, we're going to conclude things with an extraordinary talent, Russell Watson. You ain't heard nothing yet. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back to the remaining moments of this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. He's been called the world's hot new tenor and once you hear Russell Watson tonight, you are going to agree. His first album "The Voice" made history as the fastest selling debut album ever by a classical artist and for "Trek" fans, he also sings the theme song for UPN's hit series "Star Trek Enterprise."
He's performed for President Bush, for England's Royal family, even the Pope. Tonight he performs for us. Here is Russell Watson with Va Pensiero from his new album Encore.
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Crier, Art Buchwald, Alan King>