Veteran television writer Ed. Weinberger will be making his theatrical debut with his new comedic play ‘A Man and His Prostate’ on Saturday, July 11th, 7 pm at The Malibu Playhouse. The play will also include a brief Q & A with Weinberger and its star, Ed Asner.
This production has been described by its official PR press thusly: “A man, late in life, discovers his inner self in more ways than one. A near tragedy actually experienced by the writer is masterfully transformed into a comedy by Weinberger and perfectly portrayed by Ed Asner.” The play will begin the theatre’s Summer of Comedy for 2015.
The recipient of 9 Emmy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, a Peabody Award and Writers Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award, Weinberger began his career writing for stand-up comedians such as Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor, later writing the monologues for ‘The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson.’ Weinberger has the distinction of being one of MTM Enterprises’ core founders. It was there that he created, produced and wrote numerous television comedies such as ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ ‘Phyllis’ and ‘The Betty White Show’. Today, Weinberger is best known for his hit television comedies ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘Taxi’ which continue to enjoy international syndication.
The Los Angeles Beat caught up with Weinberger, an iconic “treasure” of American television comedy, as he took a rehearsal break this week at The Malibu Playhouse:
Please give our readers an overview of the play, ‘A Man and His Prostate’ and the main character as portrayed by Ed Asner. The pre-show press state that the play is based on your personal experiences.
It’s based on my personal experience. I was in Florence, Italy when I took ill with an unknown malady. Before I knew it, I was in an Italian hospital, undergoing emergency surgery regarding my innards. I was in there for about seven days. When I recovered, I realized that I’d gone through what I thought was a unique and funny experience. I thought I’d write about it, try to put it in theatrical form. I sent it to Ed Asner who said “Let’s give it a try!”
How long did it take you to write ‘A Man and His Prostate’, including the re-writes?
Oh, I don’t know. The writing process is hard to put into terms. I wrote it very quickly. It was the re-writing that took awhile. Once Ed Asner started doing it, the re-writing continued…and it’s probably still continuing as we learn something new.
What made you choose the Malibu Playhouse to host your very first play?
Well, they chose us. That’s the only way to put it. We did a reading at The Falcon Theatre in Burbank, before an invited audience of about one hundred and fifty. Somebody was there from The Malibu Playhouse. They read the script and said they’d like to do it there. Now we’re trying to generate interest from other theatres. We’re taking it one baby step at a time.
Your collaborations with Ed Asner have been consistently successful, both commercially and critically. Why do you think that’s been the case?
Ed and I have worked together for forty-some years, if you wanna put a time on it. When I was brought in as a producer and writer on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Ed was already there. We worked together for six years on that show. Of course, that was a collaborative effort between the writers-a wonderful staff of writers-and a wonderful cast. It wasn’t simply between me and Ed.
Your respect-both professional and personal-for Ed Asner is well known. What particular quality about Mr. Asner has made it rewarding and enjoyable for you to work with him over the years?
Are you talking about him as a man or as an actor?
As both a man and an actor.
As an actor, I think that he’s one of America’s treasures. As an actor, I might even say that he’s under-appreciated for his range. Well, maybe not under-appreciated, as he’s had enough awards. I just think that he’s an amazing actor and someone who’s been very successful in television and film, in drama and comedy. There’s not a lot of actors who have that kind of range.
In switching from television to stage work, what has been your primary challenge and reward?
The challenge is always the same: how do you best entertain an audience. So the goal is the same, regardless of the medium. In television, your audience is in the millions. In theatre, your audience is much smaller. I don’t think that the goal changes; at least it doesn’t for me.
So the rewards are the same, then?
Well, there’s different rewards. You have a smaller audience in the theatre, but you have an immediate response. You have, uh…and so it’s…uh…
You see their faces. Their expressions. That has to be satisfying.
Well, I can’t see their faces…nor do I look at their faces, lol! But I can hear the laughs, and that’s the important thing.
With everything that’s going on in our world, we need to laugh; maybe more than any other time in recent history. Don’t you think it’s more important now than ever?
Well, I’ve never looked at comedy that way. I’ve never considered laughter the best medicine. It helps, obviously. I’ve read all of ’em; well, not all of ’em. I’ve heard enough about it. I won’t demean anybody who’s ever said “You’ve made my day better!” I don’t want to minimize that, but it’s not in my calculus. I just haven’t thought about it that much. I haven’t thought about the good, I mean that kind of good, created by comedy. I think that’s just part of all the things we need. I think a good health care program is more important. If it’s an issue between comedy and good health care, I’ll opt for the health care.
Yes, it’s a pleasure, and it gives pleasure, and I think that’s important. However, you can get it in many different ways. I think you can get it from great tragedy as well. All of it contributes to the culture and to our overall well being. I think a great production of ‘Death of a Salesman’ is more important than a night at The Laugh Factory.
What: A Man and His Prostate
Where: Malibu Playhouse – 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
When: Saturday, July 11th – One night/one performance benefit for the Malibu Playhouse
Time: 7 p.m.
Running time: 80 minutes
Includes: Brief Q&A
Tickets: $75 general admission
Cast: Edward Asner
Writer/Director: Ed. Weinberger
Producer: The Malibu Playhouse
Special musical performance: Maria Newman (subject to availability). Newman, daughter of famed composer, Alfred Newman, is an award-winning American composer of classical music and a critically acclaimed violinist, violist and pianist.
About The Malibu Playhouse: The Malibu Playhouse is a non-profit, 99-seat theater that’s dedicated to producing professional productions of new plays, musicals and contemporary classics. The Malibu Stage Company-as it was originally called-was founded by Charles Marowitz and Jacqueline Bridgeman in 1990, as Malibu’s only professional theater company. It is located at 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA.