Happy Birthday Ed Asner - An Interview at the 86th Milestone


Ed Asner has been an entertainer for most of his adult life. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Ed soon began to carve a niche for himself in Chicago, New York, and finally Los Angeles. Winner of seven Emmy’s (with 20 nominations), five Golden Globes, an entertainment icon, a performer on Broadway, and a Television Academy “Hall of Famer,” Ed Asner has without a doubt made a huge footprint on the entertainment industry. In fact, he is the only actor to win both a comedy and a drama Primetime Emmy for the same role - Lou Grant. 


On November 1, 2015, Ed will be having a memorable birthday party at the Skylight Theatre to salute his years as a respected entertainer. Celebrities galore will be guests at this affair honoring Ed’s 86th birthday and his many contributions to the Los Angeles theater scene. Jason Alexander will be hosting the tribute to Ed. Guests who may be making surprise appearances include Barbara Bain, Shelley Fabares, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Jean Smart, Loretta Swit, and others. 




As a prelude to this fun affair, Ed Asner was interviewed about his thoughts and feelings as he turns 86 on November 15. His candid and sometimes amusing observations made this interview as much fun as his upcoming “Salute” will be, which includes a performance of the comedy, “El Grande Circus de Coca Cola” (Critics’ Choice – Los Angeles Times). 


Any words of wisdom that you could share gained from such a tremendously successful career in entertainment...and from your experiences in life? 


You just have to keep trying not to repeat the same mistakes, but you do anyway. I don’t know when you stop making mistakes; but, when you’re older, that becomes your old-age charm. Yesterday, I took great delight in shaking a journalist’s hand. He squeezed my hand as hard as he could, and I was still able to squeeze him back and make him wince. Squeezing hands is part of his M.O., and I could still have fun with it even if I’m older than he is. My response gave me a great deal of pleasure and told me I’ve still got it. 


What are some of the fondest memories of your career?  Have there ever been any roles that you wanted but somehow didn’t get? 


I was so lucky being able to step into theater. I learned there and was able to work in theater, getting good roles over the years in Chicago. Everybody is a beginner at some point. I have very fond memories of playing J.J. Peacham in Three-Penny Opera. We did it all on piano. And then we did it in New York for three years. I love Brecht. He likes to beat society with a hammer to shape it. I like that idea. Three-Penny Opera is a great memory. 


As for the roles I didn’t play, I guess some would be Rhett Butler, Willie Loman, and Romeo. But I never pursued a role. Roles usually came to me. I never expected to be offered some of the roles I was offered, and that’s a good memory. I had an epiphany doing one role; it was a kind of delight I had with it. I was offered two movie roles about Christmas, one with a poor family and one with a rich family. I did the rich family Christmas story. That was “The Gathering,” and it became a classic. 


You are a champion for small theaters in Los Angeles.  When and why has this become a cause for you? 


Ever since Equity decided to allow 99-seat theaters, they flourished in LA. Thousands of people enjoyed these plays over the years. Suddenly, there was a role reversal, and Equity wants to change it. I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 99-seat theaters made a tremendous contribution to theater and culture in L.A. If actors feel it’s okay to renounce money, then they should have that choice. It doesn’t seem like the theaters are making money either. The current plan allows the growth of live theater. Actors aren’t like other unions. They’re artists. When they perform, they know they’re alive. And it gives them a chance to learn from their mistakes. Maybe someday they can move to a 101-seat theater. In L.A., we don’t have inclement weather, except maybe when people want to find some place that’s air conditioned. Here, actors can’t count on inclement weather to make people come in and have an enjoyable evening. There are lots of reasons that it differs here. L.A. can’t be judged or put into the same model as Chicago or New York. This is our way of creating something to attract audiences. 


Why do you think it’s important to keep development programs, like the ones at the Skylight Theatre, alive? 


No matter how many seats they have at the Skylight, I know that it’s a place for actors to try out new ideas. It gives them a chance to find out what works. We can’t get rid of something as important as that. That’s the present and the future of live theater. I believe in 99-seat theaters. It’s a great and noble idea.





Skylight Theatre Company announces their SALUTE TO ED ASNER on Sunday, November 1, 2015. The Salute includes a performance of the L.A. Times Critics’ Choice EL GRANDE CIRCUS DE COCA COLA.  Doors open at 5 p.m. for a pre-show fiesta. The performance begins at 6 p.m. with the SALUTE TO ED ASNER immediately afterwards at 7:30 p.m. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Donations will benefit the continued development of new plays by the Skylight Theatre Company. For reservations, call 213-761-7061 or go online at http://www.skylighttix.com.



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