"There's nothing I believe more than this, that laughter adds time to one's life," Norman Lear told an audience gathered to honor him and other four other television comedy greats.
"I believe that as much as I believe my mother loved me," the writer-producer added. "She said she did. But I wasn't sure."
Like the 97-year-old Lear, who made his name — and TV history — with groundbreaking sitcoms like "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," the other honorees at Thursday's Paley Center for Media ceremony proved that talent is ageless. Carl Reiner, 97; Bob Newhart, 90; Carol Burnett, 86, and Lily Tomlin, 80, each won over the room with their humor and memories.
"Guess this is a hell of a time to tell you no, we're not coming to your Christmas party," Newhart teased Conan O'Brien after the late-night host introduced him as "one of my all-time comedy heroes."
"He pulls off the hardest kind of comedy — timeless, human, clean and subversive. And he makes it all look effortless," O'Brien said of Newhart.
The onetime accountant became an instant sensation in 1960 with his debut album, the Grammy-winning "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart," scored sitcom hits with "The Bob Newhart Show" in the 1970s and "Newhart" in the '80s and won an Emmy as Professor Proton on "The Big Bang Theory."
The sentimental moments included Rob Reiner's introduction of his father, the writer-actor-producer whose TV career stretched from the 1950s variety series "Caesar's Hour" to creating "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to a recent role in "Angie Tribeca."
"This is the nicest thing, to be able to do this for my dad," said the younger Reiner, who gave him an arm for support as they walked onto the hotel ballroom stage at The Paley Honors: A Special Tribute to Television's Comedy Legends.
Carl Reiner, who credited a government-supported acting program with his childhood start in entertainment, charmed the audience by reciting lines from a Shakespeare soliloquy he learned as a kid and sharing an anecdote about another TV comedy force, Jack Benny. He called his children and grandchildren his greatest pride.
Carol Burnett was introduced by Kristin Chenoweth, who lauded the singer-actress-comedian as one of the few who can do it all and always "with such heart."
Burnett, who starred on Broadway, as well as TV, recalled what preceded the 1967 arrival of "The Carol Burnett Show."
"As a woman in this business, it wasn't always easy to do what the naysayers said couldn't be done," she said. When she sought to exercise a contract clause with CBS for an hour-long variety show, Burnett said executives told her, "and I quote, 'It's not for you gals.'"
She punctuated the story with a derisive "huh." Her long-running show won armloads of Emmy Awards on CBS.
Tomlin, whose parade of characters made her a hit on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and who stars opposite Jane Fonda on "Grace and Frankie," was self-effacing, saying she couldn't match Newhart's "sterling one-liners." Instead, she delighted the audience by reciting some of her characters' catchphrases, including telephone operator Ernestine's "one ringy dingy."
"I'm so grateful for this great, great honor," Tomlin said.
Lear was introduced by "black-ish" star Anthony Anderson, who said Lear's work forced audiences to confront difficult issues while shedding light on common bonds, and by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who said the producer used laughter to challenge "us to make progress."
The night's last word went to Lear.
"Bless you all, thank you all. To be continued," he said, smiling.
A rare near-mint condition copy of the first Marvel Comics comic book has sold at auction in Dallas for $1.26 million.
Heritage Auctions says the Marvel Comics No. 1 from 1939 sold Thursday. Heritage says the buyer wished to remain anonymous.
Ed Jaster, senior vice president at Heritage, calls it "a historic copy of a historic comic book." The issue features the first appearances of characters such as the Human Torch, Ka-Zar, Angel and the Sub-Mariner.
Heritage says the comic book was first purchased at a newsstand by a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, mail carrier who made a practice of buying the first issue of comic books and magazines. Jaster says that since then, the issue has only changed owners a handful of times.
Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter, aka Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret in Netflix's "The Crown," are perched royally atop folding chairs as they hold court in a hotel suite serving as an interview room.
The actresses chat and laugh easily together, a contrast to their characters' often tense exchanges in the drama's third season, released this week. Sibling rivalry and loyalty within Britain's House of Windsor are key elements, involving the steady Elizabeth and her flamboyant sister as well as Elizabeth's two older offspring, Charles and Anne.
Margaret, described in one episode as essentially a leading lady forced to play a supporting role, is upset over allowing her personal life to be constrained by duty (last season, she bowed to pressure to break off an engagement) without benefit of glory.
"Why are you so jealous of me? Why?" said a smiling Colman, helpfully — and teasingly — paraphrasing a reporter's question about Margaret for Bonham Carter. "How do you cope with being No. 2?"
It's "very, very hard," Bonham Carter parried back.
"I think it's a very fascinating sort of relationship, though, isn't it?" Colman said, and her castmate turned serious as well.
"It is, and so common to any family, whether you're a queen and a princess: How you define each other, or how somebody's defined by your position in the family and whether you are younger or an older sibling of the same sex," Bonham Carter said. "I'm lucky in my life. I have two older brothers and I'm the youngest. So I think my life wasn't complicated by it."
With Elizabeth and Margaret, "The Crown" has "definitely gone through the whole sibling competition," she said, noting that it is creator-writer Peter Morgan's dramatized version of their relationship. Margaret died at age 71 in 2002; the queen is 93.
"There is a difference between the real ones and 'The Crown' Margaret and the queen," Bonham Carter said. "I met lots of people who knew the real Margaret, and they said that they really did love each other. There was enough of the affection and the positive support that Margaret was to the queen."
The fictional pair do behave more warmly toward each other than in previous seasons, with Margaret's wrath instead memorably directed at her husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (Ben Daniels), and Elizabeth reserving her steeliness largely for her son and heir to the throne, Charles. In one scene, his youthful lament that he wants his voice to be heard earns him a cutting rebuke from the queen.
The beleaguered Charles fares better with his supportive and spirited sister, Anne, part of the Windsor generation that's adjusting to adulthood and their royal burdens in the tumultuous 1960s and '70s. Erin Doherty ("Call the Midwife"), who plays Anne opposite Josh O'Connor's Charles, said plunging into an already popular series helped them bond.
"We met in a rehearsal and the sibling banter was just there, and I genuinely feel like he's one of my best friends," Doherty said. "I think because we're of similar ages in this really crazy whirlwind of an experience, I feel like we kind of, in real life and on screen, have to support each other."
O'Connor ("The Durrells in Corfu") noted that he and Doherty both studied acting at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (as did Colman, all at different times), which may have contributed to their "good chemistry.
"There's something about a kind of actor that's brought through that (program), and we got along really well," O'Connor said, then added: "I think everyone who's seen (their relationship) creatively has liked it, and there might even be a bit more of it in series four, which would be really nice."
Colman, who stepped in this season for the original Elizabeth, Claire Foy, is careful to note that "The Crown" is an imagined version of private lives. "I can't say this often enough — it's us doing our acting job, us in a studio. From an actor's point of view ... it's a part that I'm playing and it's a part that's written beautifully by Peter (Morgan)," she said, politely but firmly.
For practical reasons, Colman appreciated the advantage of playing an 18th-century monarch in "The Favourite," which earned her the best actress trophy at this year's Academy Awards and its British counterpart from BAFTA.
"I find it much easier knowing that no one can say Queen Anne didn't sound like that. Everyone's a critic because everyone" can vent online, she said. "You have to let that go. It's an acting job."
In offering tribute to Toni Morrison, speakers from Oprah Winfrey to Fran Lebowitz on Thursday each shared a very different, but equally special portrait of the late Nobel laureate, who died in August at 88.
Angela Davis remembered a dear friend who as a Random House editor helped launch her writing career and would jot down notes for what became the classic "Song of Solomon" as she cooked eggs for her family. Lebowitz marveled at Morrison's seemingly photographic memory of the bad reviews she had received. Poet Kevin Young once went to the movies ("The Five Heartbeats") with her and otherwise proudly sat at her feet. Winfrey spoke of Morrison's majestic, sometimes intimidating presence, and of the complexity of her work, novels such as "Beloved" for which a single reading was not enough. She also acknowledged that her heroine, so down to earth on some occasions, was well aware that she really was Toni Morrison.
"She told me once, 'I've always known I was gallant,'" Winfrey confided to thousands gathered at sundown at Manhattan's historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where more than 30 years earlier Morrison had been among those saying goodbye to James Baldwin. "Who says that? Who even goes there?"
With its massive rose window and nave ceiling reaching more than 100 feet, the cathedral was suitably grand for an author who may well endure as the essential American literary voice of her time, one who universalized the stories of black Americans and raised American prose to poetic heights. Attendees were young and old, of diverse genders and races, members of the publishing world and longtime fans. They filled the front seats, and the back seats. Some sat quietly through the roughly 100-minute ceremony, others murmured, affirmed and cheered out loud.
Speakers stood in the cathedral's pulpit and hailed the spirit of Morrison. Jesmyn Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner, outlined the long history of how blacks had been robbed and usurped and called Morrison a kind of prophet who found a wandering people "in the desert of the self" and saved them, deeming them "worthy to be heard." Author Edwidge Danticat, fondly speaking of Morrison's smoking a cigarette at the Louvre in Paris, noted her identities as a mother, grandmother, sister, editor and teacher, and now, in her passing, an ancestor.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, not even born when Morrison published her debut novel "The Bluest Eyes," acknowledged his jealousy that some got to know her so well. Morrison's impact on him was through her printed words. He spoke of being startled by the landmark "Black Book," a scrapbook of black American life that his father kept in the family's bookstore in the 1970s. He praised the economy and poetry of her language, her sense of humor and the wisdom of what he called "grown folks literature."
Coates, 44, best known for his prize-winning meditation on race and police violence "Between the World and Me," called Morrison a challenge for other writers, the "queen of them all." One of her messages was, he said, "Black is beautiful, but it ain't always pretty."
Words on Thursday were interspersed with music, from the dreamlike saxophone solo of David Murray to singer-pianist Andy Bey's reflective take on "Someone to Watch Over Me." But the deepest music was in the words of Morrison, in a passage from "Song of Solomon" — selected by Winfrey — about the power and possibility of land.
"'You see?' the farm said to them. 'See? See what you can do? Never mind you can't tell one letter from another, never mind you born a slave, never mind you lose your name, never mind your daddy dead, never mind nothing. Here, this here, is what a man can do if he puts his mind to it and his back into it," Winfrey read, her voice rising into a fierce chant.
"Grab it! Grab this land! Take it, hold it, my brothers, make it, my brothers, shake it, squeeze it, turn it, twist it, beat it, kick it, kiss it, whip it, stomp it, dig it, plow it, seed it, reap it, rent it, buy it, sell it, own it, build it, multiply it, and pass it on — can you hear me? Pass it on!"
Josh and Benny Safdie's Diamond District crime film "Uncut Gems" and Robert Eggers' fever-dream period tale "The Lighthouse" led the 35th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards with five nods each, in nominations announced Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Spirit Awards, which honor films with budgets below $22.5 million, are the premier ceremony for indie film, held annually in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., on the day before the Oscars.
With some of this year's top Academy Awards nominees expected to include bigger budgeted films like "The Irishman" and "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," that left room for movies like Lulu Wang's family drama "The Farewell," Joe Talbot's anguished gentrification tale "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" and the Shia LaBeouf memory piece "Honey Boy" to rack up multiple nominations.
The nominees for best feature are: Noah Baumbach's divorce drama "Marriage Story," Terrence Malick's World War II epic "A Hidden Life," Chinonye Chukwu's prison drama "Clemency," "The Farewell" and "Uncut Gems."
"Marriage Story" will be given the Spirits' ensemble award, dubbed the Robert Altman Award. The honor means its actors, including stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, weren't eligible for individual nominations.
Baumbach's screenplay was also nominated.
Independent distributor A24 dominated with 18 nominations, including those for "Uncut Gems," "The Lighthouse," "The Farewell" and "The Last Black Man in San Francisco." Those included acting nominations for "Uncut Gems" lead Adam Sandler, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as early 19th century Maine lighthouse keepers in "The Lighthouse" and Zhao Shuzhen as the grandmother of "The Farewell."
Renee Zellweger, among this year's Oscar favorites for her Judy Garland in "Judy," was nominated for best female lead alongside Karen Allen ("Colewell"), Hong Chau ("Driveways"), Elisabeth Moss ("Her Smell"), Mary Kay Place ("Diane") and Alfre Woodward ("Clemency").
Joining Pattinson and Sandler in best male lead are Kelvin Harrison Jr. ("Luce"), Chris Galust (the microbudget "Give Me Liberty") and Matthias Schoenaerts ("The Mustang").
Jennifer Lopez was nominated for best supporting female performance for the stripper-heist drama "Hustlers," which also landed a nod for director Lorene Scafaria. Octavia Spencer ("Luce"), Lauren Spencer ("Give Me Liberty") and Taylor Russell ("Waves") rounded out the category.
Both LaBeouf and Noah Jupe were nominated in the supporting male actor category for "Honey Boy." The film's director, Alma Har'el, was also nominated. Also up for supporting actor are Jonathan Majors ("The Last Black Man in San Francisco") and Wendell Pierce ("Burning Cane").
The Spirits' Bonnie Award, a $50,000 grant given to a mid-career female director will go to one of three finalists: Wang, Marielle Heller ("A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood") and Kelly Reichardt, whose latest film is "First Cow."
The John Cassavetes Award, given to the best feature made for under $500,000, will go to Kirill Mikhanovsky's "Give Me Liberty."
The nominees were announced in a press conference by actresses Zazie Beetz and Natasha Lyonne, and chosen by a committee of about 50. Winners will be decided by the 6,000-plus members of Film Independent. Last year, Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk" won best feature.
The Spirit Awards will be held Feb. 8 and broadcast on IFC.