Norman Lear — the iconic TV producer who created the groundbreaking 1970s sitcoms All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and The Jeffersons — passed away at his home at the age of 101. Lear continued to produce TV later in life, including the 2017 remake of One Day at a Time and the 2022 Netflix revival of Good Times.
“Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” said Lear’s family in a statement. “Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.”
As reported by Variety, “Norman Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, homosexuality, the Vietnam War — by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula.”
Norman Lear Once Said About Audiences, “The More They Cared, the Harder They Laughed”
Even for those not alive during the 1970s, Norman Lear's sitcoms such as All in the Family (pictured) gave people permission to talk — and even laugh — about hot-button issues. Lear received the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors and supported liberal and progressive causes throughout his life. One could say that decades before “wokeness,” Lear already wrote the book on the original meaning of it through his culturally significant series.
In a 2005 interview with The Onion, Lear said:
“Originally, with all the shows, we went looking for belly laughs. It crossed our minds early on that the more an audience cared – we were working before, on average, 240 live people – if you could get them caring, the more they cared, the harder they laughed.”
Looking back at All in the Family years later, Lear reportedly downplayed the show's significance. “I didn’t see it changing television at all,” said Lear. “We had a Judeo-Christian ethic hanging around a couple thousand years that didn’t help erase racism at all. So the notion of the little half-hour comedy changing things is something I think is silly.”
The 2016 documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You covers Norman Lear's extraordinary career. He also published a 2014 memoir titled Even This I Get to Experience. Lear is survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, six children, and four grandchildren.
RIP to Norman Lear
I wax 16 when @robreiner and @TheNormanLear gave me my break in the biz – and treated me like a son – looked after me in such a kind loving way. that only in retrospect could I fully appreciate what great caring humans they are
Norman made you feel like a…
— John Cusack (@johncusack) December 6, 2023
Rest in Peace Norman Lear. Nobody did it better. pic.twitter.com/je4tI6YzwB
— Mario Cantone (@macantone) December 6, 2023
Farewell to the incomparable Norman Lear, a trailblazer who challenged norms and shifted the paradigm through the laughter and lessons you've shared. It was an honor to be a small part of your impact and to witness it in my lifetime. To a legacy and life well-lived, thank you… pic.twitter.com/lL5LCZgfb4
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) December 6, 2023
R.i.p. Norman Lear. A master of story telling and a healer through his shows! He is what all of showbiz should be aspiring to. He is the consummate creative producer we have long abandoned in the industry. pic.twitter.com/svGWzG1CMj
— John Leguizamo (@JohnLeguizamo) December 6, 2023
How lucky are we? How lucky are we to have crossed timelines with Norman Lear? How lucky am I to have grown up with All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Good Times, Maude and all the rest? #Blessed. Rest now, Norman.
— Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch) December 6, 2023