Through more than 30 years in television, Chuck Lorre has risen to the top of the TV comedy business, collected multiple awards, and seen his shows and his characters enter American pop culture. On Monday, he was inducted into the NAB Hall of Fame.
But his favorite moment is much more personal.
Minutes after leaving the podium, Lorre told Variety about the moment that still gives him chills, all these years later. It was when he first joined “Roseanne,” during its third season, when it was the No. 1 show on TV.
“I went to the first rehearsal of the first script that I was involved with. There was a scene with John Goodman and Roseanne and Laurie Metcalf, and I remember they’re playing out the scene, and I turned to my friend who was the executive producer on the show, my boss, and I whispered ‘They’re saying what we wrote.’ ”
He laughed softly at the memory. “I was in awe of these people and they were big stars, and they actually trusted us to write a script that they would then bring to life.”
He admitted he doesn’t exactly remember what he was doing or where he was when he got the call that he’d been admitted to the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
“It doesn’t really register,” he said, “because all you do in your life is you show up every day and go to work. And you do the best you can, like anybody else does with any job. You show up and do the best you can. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do this one job for a long time.”
“To be acknowledged for it, it’s a little staggering actually. It’s strange. I don’t want to think about it too much because tomorrow I’m going back to work. And this award doesn’t impact the work I have to do tomorrow. That’s the work, and it stands by itself.”
Lorre took only one day off from work to come to Las Vegas, and headed directly to the banquet at the Westgate Hotel from the airport. His kudos made him the headliner at the NAB Show Television Luncheon, which also honored actress Keke Palmer with the Chairman’s Award.
Though his introduction onstage compared him with Norman Lear, he dismissed that notion afterward. “Norman reinvented television with what he did. I certainly haven’t done that,” said Lorre. “I’m a student of this man, not a peer.”
He was more sanguine about another part of his introduction, which quoted him saying that in an era when television is changing, he keeps the focus on the people and the words.
“I think all storytelling, whether it be dramatic or comedy, is people and words,” he said. “Ultimately it all comes down to the old adage: If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”
“And then if you don’t have the right cast, if you don’t have the right actors and actresses, it doesn’t matter what you write, you’re going to fail. So I’ve been really blessed I’ve been able to work with some extraordinary casts over the years. The trick was just to deliver scripts that were worthy of their talent.”
He also credited his writing staffs with making it possible for him to run multiple shows at once.
“It really is a matter of listening and hearing the vision of other people that are brilliant writers, and then trying to help and encourage and help build their vision,” he said. “Because it’s an impossible job for one person to do. There’s not enough hours in a day, there’s not enough brain cells in the frontal lobe. You need to surround yourself with great writers, and I’ve been fortunate to have that on all the shows.”
Now ensconced as a Hall-of-Famer, with well over 500 episodes of television behind him, Lorre said there is something he knows now that he wishes he knew when he started: “Nothing good comes from fear.”
Said Lorre: “The anxiety and stress that comes from delivering a show you believe in, that’s worth watching, that’s truly funny, that’s worth people’s time — it’s enormous. I carried that with me for years, trying to get it right, trying to learn on the job.
“I don’t know that quality comes out of anxiety. Ulcers do. Insomnia comes from it. I wish I’d had a little more faith early on.”