“Flat out, one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written . . . an absolute treasure.” —Booklist (starred review)
In my ninety-plus years I’ve lived a multitude of lives. In the course of all these lives, I had a front-row seat at the birth of television; wrote, produced, created, or developed more than a hundred shows; had nine on the air at the same time; founded the 300,000-member liberal advocacy group People For the American Way; was labeled the “no. 1 enemy of the American family” by Jerry Falwell; made it onto Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List”; was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton; purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and toured it for ten years in all fifty states; blew a fortune in a series of bad investments in failing businesses; and reached a point where I was informed we might even have to sell our home. Having heard that we’d fallen into such dire straits, my son-in-law phoned me and asked how I was feeling. My answer was, “Terrible, of course,” but then I added, “But I must be crazy, because despite all that’s happened, I keep hearing this inner voice saying, ‘Even this I get to experience.’”
Norman Lear’s work is legendary. The renowned creator of such iconic television programs as All in the Family; Maude; Good Times; The Jeffersons; and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Lear remade our television culture from the ground up. At their peak, his programs were viewed by 120 million people a week, with stories that dealt with the most serious issues of the day—racism, poverty, abortion—yet still left audiences howling with laughter. In Even This I Get to Experience, Lear opens up with all the candor, humor, and wisdom to be expected from one of America’s greatest living storytellers.
But TV and politics are only a fraction of the tale. Lear’s early years were grounded in the harshness of the Great Depression and further complicated by his parents’ vivid personalities. The imprisonment of Lear’s father, a believer in the get-rich-quick scheme, colored his son’s childhood. During this absence, Lear’s mother left her son to live with relatives. Lear’s comic gifts were put to good use during this hard time, as they would be decades later during World War II, when Lear produced and staged a variety show for his fellow airmen in addition to flying fifty bombing missions.
After the war, Lear tried his hand at publicity in New York before setting out for Los Angeles in 1949. A lucky break had a powerful agent in the audience the night Danny Thomas performed a nightclub routine written by Lear, and within days his career in television began. Before long, his work with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and later Martha Raye and George Gobel) made him the highest-paid comedy writer in the country, and he was spending his summers with the likes of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Movies followed, and soon he was making films starring Frank Sinatra, Dick Van Dyke, and Jason Robards. Then came the ’70s and Lear’s unprecedented string of TV hits.
Married three times and the father of six children ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-eight, Lear’s penetrating look at family life, parenthood, and marriage is a volume in itself. A memoir as touching, funny, and remarkable as any of Lear’s countless artistic creations, Even This I Get to Experience is nothing less than a profound gift, endlessly readable and characteristically unforgettable.
About the Author
Norman Lear is the television producer of such groundbreaking sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. He has received four Emmy awards, a Peabody, and the National Medal of Arts. As an activist, he founded People For the American Way. He lives in Los Angeles. Most recently, Mr. Lear is the subject of the PBS American Masters episode, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, premiering 10/25/16.
The Wall Street Journal: “The Norman Lear who emerges from “Even This I Get to Experience” is engaging and unpompous, an amusing storyteller who pokes fun at himself and writes with brutal honesty about his life, especially his childhood. And what a story!"
Associated Press: “An entertaining, penetrating celebration of a richly lived life.”
Los Angeles Times: “Immensely likeable…[Lear] isn't always a mensch in "Even This I Get to Experience" (italics, characteristically, his), but at least he can write like one…. In this city, Norman Lear and his post-coaxial contemporaries built a mass medium with their bare hands. On good days — as Lear well recalls, and recalls well — they made it sing. If only more with their talent had lived so long; if only more who live so long had his talent.”
Booklist (starred): “This is, flat out, one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written… An absolute treasure.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred): "A TV titan on his memorable life and storied career. Lear, best known as the creative mind behind such classic comedies as All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Good Times, recounts his extraordinarily eventful life with his signature wit and irreverence. The result is not just a vividly observed and evocative portrait of a long life, but also a fascinating backstage look at the evolution of the American entertainment industry... Lear writes movingly of his service in World War II, his difficult upbringing and subsequent troubled marriages, and his commitment to liberal causes, evidenced by his founding of the advocacy organization People for the American Way and his purchase of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. That he makes these subjects as engrossing and entertaining as his Hollywood reminiscences speaks to Lear's mastery of storytelling and humor. A big-hearted, richly detailed chronicle of comedy, commitment and a long life lived fully."
Publishers Weekly: “[A] feisty, thoughtful autobiography… Lear pens sharply observed studies of the creative process on his many iconic productions and bares plenty of raucous, sometimes bawdy anecdotes—readers get to experience a nude and lewd Jerry Lewis… [I]n keeping with the bigoted, mouthy, complex and loveable characters he created, Lear's knack for sizing up a flawed humanity makes for an absorbing read.”
President William J. Clinton “That Norman Lear can find humor in life’s darkest moments is no surprise—it’s the reason he’s been so successful throughout his more than nine decades on earth, and why Americans have relied on his wit and wisdom for more than six. It’s also why EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is such a great read.”
Carl Reiner “Norman Lear could never write a more dramatic, touching, or funnier tale of his life than he’s done here in EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE.”
Bill Moyers “Many have known the Man behind the stories. Now all of us can know the stories behind the Man. Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Meathead couldn’t have told them better!”
Arianna Huffington “EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is not just the brilliant, moving story of a man who has lived an amazing number of lives—from making it onto Richard Nixon’s ‘Enemies List’ to changing the face of television—but also a life manual on how to live a life of depth, purpose, and meaning.”
will.i.am “Norman Lear is a hero and a friend . . . he experienced so much in his life . . . sometimes I just want to sit down and ask him questions about life and his perspective . . . to do it right it would take years of interviews . . . but now that he wrote this book I can experience his journey and wisdom over and over again.”
Trey Parker “Fantastic stories from one of the wisest, most subversive, and most beautiful human beings the comedy world has ever known. Like the man himself, this book is charming, awe-inspiring, and hilarious.”