My 20 minutes alone with Ed Asner
I’m a writer & part of the team for The Nite Show with Danny Cashman, Maine’s only late night talk show, seen in the full state—Portland to “the county”—and some of New Hampshire. The sidekick of the show at the time was Joe Kennedy, and we were hanging out in one of the dressing rooms when he said, “Hey you want to meet Ed?” I said of course and we went to his dressing room. Joe knocked on the door and Ed said come in. He was alone, just sitting in a chair.
Joe introduced himself as the show’s sidekick and Ed started right in with an overly gruff, curmudgeon-type guy, saying things like, “Who?! Who are ya?!” When he did this I did my Curly impression from The 3 Stooges when he was scared, “Nyaa!”I could tell in Ed’s eyes that he liked this, so I did it a few more times as he acted all gruff and ornery. I took a pic of him and Joe, and then Ed looked at me and ordered, “Sit in my lap.” I was, “Really?” He said something like “Yup, you’re my ventriloquist dummy.” This felt like Ed’s SCTV training and I felt blessed and plopped down on his lap. Joe took some pics. Ed mouthed slightly speaking, expecting perhaps me to do the talking, or as a gift to me, to add dialogue later. I had Joe’s phone set to individual pics, and we only got the very end of the bit filmed, the part where I started doing impressions from The Mary Tyler Moore show—Ted and Georgette. He laughed and I jumped off his lap. Here’s the 3-second video that survived:
Joe had to leave for some show thing and Ed wanted me to stay. I asked if he wanted copies of my books. He said, “I won’t read them but I’ll accept the gift.” I figured what the hell, the comedy novelty book isn’t a book one “reads,” so I figured 1 out of the 3 he might peruse. I said I’d be right back. He was so sweet he said something like, “You better be.” I ran to the show’s dressing room where Danny was alone, finishing up the cue cards. I rifled through my backpack, grabbing 3 books, and said, “He doesn’t want me to leave!” Danny laughed. I went back.
Ed said, “You came back!” He was such a sweetheart, making some nobody like me feel special. That’s still my main take-away from the encounter with Ed Asner. Supportive and kind.
He lost his curmudgeon bit and was just a normal guy. His voice was kind of raspy and airy when he wasn’t in character, and I figured that was just due to age. He still had the loud, commanding voice at his disposal. He said, “I feel bad, with a tight, wispy throat since coming out East.”
It’s almost 3 years later, and I’ll try to remember some more. We talked politics and mocked Trump together. “The swamp got even swampier.” I said how I used to watch him as Lou Grant with my grandparents in the 70’s and started to gush—he wasn’t into that, and waved that behavior away. He was sitting in the only chair in the room and I sat on the floor, saying “I’m young I can sit on the floor” And him saying, “Yes you are.”
His daughter came in and gave him a pork slider & some chips that we have at the Nite Show tapings, and left. He offered me some chips, I said no. He gave me his pen and I signed my books for him. He got gruff again and asked “Are you published?” I said no, I haven’t tried to get these books published yet. He insisted I should try and said he had a book coming out soon about his life.
We talked about The Mary Tyler Moore Show and he said, “You know, that show put me on the map.” I said how gorgeous Mary was and I think the next thing he said was bullshit, just messing with me. He said softly, “And she tasted good too…” I “sang” the instrumental sax melody to his hour-long Lou Grant spinoff show, and he had no idea what it was from. Then he asked me to sing the Mary theme. I did the ending and he sang along. “You’re gonna make it after allllll-” I threw in the kitten “meow.” That I’ll never forget.
He got slider gunk on his shirt—the one he was going on the air in. I got a wash cloth and stood over him trying to get the stain out. His daughter or someone eventually came and had him hang his glasses over it. She was really sweet. We all talked politics for a few minutes. People for the show came in to prep him and I had to pee and ducked into his bathroom, and he says in his loud, gruff voice, “Hey, what’s he doing in there?!” I laughed loudly.
And those are my memories with Ed. RIP.