HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: Actor Ed Asner attends his 90th Birthday Party and Celebrity Roast at The Roosevelt Hotel on November 03, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Ed Asner interview (one-man show at the Strand 11/22-11/24): he’s a grouch and he’s proud of it

Originally posted Friday, November 15 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Grouchiness is a trait many a TV character has embraced over the years from Al Bundy on “Married... With Children” to Red Forman on “That 70s Show” to House on, well, “House.”

An earlier era grump was Ed Asner’s Lou Grant, the irascible journalist on the classic 1970s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and his own spin-off show that ran into the 1980s. 

Asner, now 90, has made a career playing cantankerous people including Carl Fredricksen in 2009’s animated Pixar classic “Up.”

“I’m a grouch,” Asner said in a recent interview. “I have to admit it.”

But grumpiness does not equal laziness. He is still acting on TV shows, including three shot recently in Atlanta: DC Universe’s “Doom Patrol,” YouTube’s “Cobra Kai” and CBS’s “MacGyver.” 

And the Emmy-winning actor will be manning a one-man show at the Strand in Marietta for three days November 22 to 24 for a humorous play called “A Man and His Prostate.”(Buy tickets here.)

The show was written by a 74-year-old “Mary Tyler Moore Show” producer Ed. Weinberger (that period after Ed is deliberate, not a typo). 

“Weinberger wrote it about the blight of having prostatitis,” said Asner. “It’s a lovely piece. It’s also informative. Hopefully it encourages people to get their prostate checked!” 

Asner doesn’t mind kvetching, be it Los Angeles traffic (“Traffic is a snake pit!”), a hotel in New York City (“My toilet seat was damaged!”) and multiple hip replacements. (“I’ve had five. It’s a scam!”)

So Asner will be seated during his show at the Strand. “I’ll charge double if I have to get up during the show,” he cracked. 

But he complains without overt rancor. He is thrilled to be still out and about and doing what he loves.

The actor celebrated his 90th birthday earlier in November and talked to the AJC four days later. More than 300 people showed up to fete him, including Rob Schneider, Brad Garrett and Ed Begley Jr.

Sadly, he said, many of his former “Mary Tyler Moore” castmates have passed, two recently: Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel. The only one to make it to his party was Cloris Leachman, a sprightly 93. 

“I’m still worn out,” he said. But he added: “You could say I’m luckier than Rudy Guiliani or Donald Trump.” (Asner is an avowed liberal and believes his “Lou Grant” show was cancelled by CBS in 1982 due to his strong political views.)

The party also doubled as a fundraiser for the Ed Asner Family Center, where people with special needs learn about the arts created by his son Matt Asner and Matt’s wife Navah Paskowitz-Asner. His youngest son Charlie has autism. “They kept telling me it was autism,” he said. “I just thought he was high spirited.”

Asner, who separated from his second wife in 2007 and divorced in 2015, is still open for love.

“I’m a great lover!” he said. “Sixty year olds throw themselves at me!” 

His most famous Lou Grant line from “Mary Tyler Moore” is from the first episode directed at Moore’s Mary Richards: “You now what? You got spunk! I hate spunk!”

Asner is a bit flabbergasted that the line is still thrown at him nearly 50 years later. “I actually love spunk! I really love it. I hate having that quoted all the time!” 

IF YOU GO

Ed Asner in “A Man and his Prostate”

7:30 p.m. Friday, November 22

7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 23

3 p.m. Sunday, November 24

$35-$85

Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre

117 N Park Square, Marietta

www.earlsmithstrand.org

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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