For insight into what makes Chuck Lorre tick — and what ticks him off — look no further than the vanity cards that punctuate the end of his shows.
The blink-and-you-miss-’em missives, which have sounded off on everything from high-maintenance sitcom divas to his own familial issues, contain some of the producer’s most personal and confrontational writing. Example: “I want to apologize,” he wrote in a message to his late father, “for despising you for reasons I still don’t understand.”
Lorre’s been whipping up the mini-essays — which max out at 200 words — since the 1997 premiere of his ABC comedy “Dharma & Greg.” But the cards became more popular with the advent of DVRs, which made pausing on them a snap.
“Suddenly, this silly thing I was doing in the crevices of television was getting a lot of attention,” Lorre says.
In fact, they’ve attracted enough of a cult following that they now have their own Facebook group called “I watch Chuck Lorre’s programs just for his vanity cards.”
Importantly, fans and the press aren’t the only ones who’ve taken notice. To date, CBS — which screens the cards’ content in advance — has censored at least six of Lorre’s submissions, including those that recently took shots at Sumner Redstone, and listed a series of words that “confuse the CBS censor.” (All of the cards, including the nixed ones, can be found on Lorre’s website, chucklorre.com.)
“Most of the time, I have a pretty good sense of humor about it,” says CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves, who has been name-checked more than once. “If you create two hit shows for my network, you can give me a hard time once in a while.”
Lorre says he often has no idea what he’ll write before he sits down to do it, which is part of the fun.
“I made this thing up, so I might as well go wherever I want with it,” he comments.
Time permitting, of course.
“Sometimes they’re written on the bus to school,” he adds, noting his last-minute tendencies. “That’s part of what gets me into trouble. If I had a little more time to think, I may not have written a few.”