March 24, 2022

Robert Klein - Iconic Comedian, and Actor

Robert Klein - Iconic Comedian, and Actor

Robert and I talk about his career, medicine and dentistry, Johnny Carson, SNL, his family, quitting smoking, politics, health  and even the pictures on the wall behind us.


Disclaimer: Unedited AI Transcription


Larry (00:06):

I'm Larry bar. And you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast. For those of us in the remember when generation

Larry (00:23):

Today, I would like to welcome a very, very special guest fund specifically for seniors. We all know Robert Klein from his more than 80 appearances on the Johnny Carson show and his more than 70 film and TV credits, he hosted Saturday night live twice and was in the original cheeseburger sketch with John Belushi and Dan Ackrwoyd. Robert was the first comedian to have an HBO special and went on to star in eight more. He's been nominated for two Emmy's, two Grammy's and a Tony. His most recent film before I go is a sometimes funny, but always moving experience. Robert Klein will be appearing June 22nd at the Suffolk theater in Riverhead, New York, Robert, it's a joy and really a thrill to have you on the podcast.

Robert Klein (01:20):

Dr. Barsh. It's a pleasure. I hate to be a, but I got a little that's the only dentist joke. I'll do I promised you,

Larry (01:29):

I, I was gonna say take your best shot, but that's okay.

Robert Klein (01:32):

No, no, I just, I avoided a root canal yesterday. I'm very happy. So you this is called specifically senior. I don't know why,

Larry (01:44):

Because it's specifically for seniors.

Robert Klein (01:47):

Oh, what is the senior? Exactly.

Larry (01:49):

That is something I have been trying to figure out. I'm older than you are. And I still haven't matured out of my twenties or thirties. Well,

Robert Klein (02:01):

You told me you're 85 and I just turned 80.

Larry (02:05):

So who's your pediatrician?

Robert Klein (02:10):

No, I went, I, I go to a guy who I knew since he was in medical school, his ex-wife and my ex-wife were opera singers at in Albuquerque, in Santa Fe and the opera. And I know him all those years. He became a big, he does all the opera thing as he is on Madison avenue. And if you sneeze, it's $1,500

Larry (02:36):

When my wife and I moved down here, we were looking for a physician. So I asked the friend and she recommended a doctor. And I say, is he good doctor? She said, he's a nice boy. So

Robert Klein (02:51):

Yeah. I wonder if are any doctors in Florida

Larry (02:57):

Rim shot

Robert Klein (02:57):

Little I have a bone to pick with south Florida. Really. I sent two perfectly healthy, 65 year old retired parents to south Florida. 30 years later, they were dead.

Larry (03:13):

What that happens

Robert Klein (03:14):

Is going on down there. Larry, you're a scientist. Is it the water? Is it poison in the shuffle board court? Tell me

Larry (03:24):

I don't have an answer then. Yeah, for that. I could say the governor, but I won't.

Robert Klein (03:31):

I moved down to Tamarac as soon as my father was 65 and she was 64. My father was a style salesman and he is, he was very much moved by Arthur Miller's death of his salesman. Cause he never really was happy being a salesman. He was an excellent student STUs and high school S mathematician, but only went to city college for a semester, wanted a work and wear a tie. His father worked with his hands. And so wearing a tie, you know, was a big deal. My father was, and mother were born in New York. No one asked any of this, but I feel like telling you born in New York, nineteen oh seven, nineteen oh eight Hungarian, all four of my grand grandparents came from Hungary. Luckily in 1903 from Deborah son and from Budapest, we lost no one in the Holocaust that we know of. Fortunately, although we had a cousin that came over in 53 that hid from the Nazis in Paris for three years, her dog would bark and the woman would put her in the closet. And can I ahead and ask me something?

Larry (04:50):

Yeah, we, we have a lot in common. My father-in-law was in the Woo's business as well, and I had a great grandfather who was from Kherson. So

Robert Klein (05:01):

It's that? What's Kherson

Larry (05:02):

Chris son, the one of the port cities in Ukraine. That's being attacked now. So yeah. Tell, tell

Robert Klein (05:12):

I'm reading. I I've always been a reader and I was a history, political science major in college, but I've been doing more reading since my career was interrupted by the pandemic more than ever in my life and a lot of it, world war I and world war II. And I'm in the middle of a book by sir Martin Gilbert, who was a Jewish historian and a Churchill's son chose him to do an authorized biography. And it's amazing how these same names are popping up. Bosnia, Serbia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine. This, this conation has been going on in one way or another for well better part of 200 years, at least 150. And it's very sad in the middle of the 21st century to see people that look alike, speak the same language for the most part and you know, major urban centers. It's not that the, the suffering of Syrians or, you know people in Myanmar for that matter or Kania where he was also. So Bri brutal. It's not that there are any less, but there is something about that. Stirs me even more about the modernity in Ukraine. It's European, this high tall buildings. And I'd like to point out Selenski that people thought was a little Shail is a tremendous hero. I like to point out he is a comedian and a Jewish comedian at that comedians rule, Larry

Larry (07:08):

Comedians, not only rule, but they make great actors. Tell us about your movie.

Robert Klein (07:16):

Well we did it before the pandemic the wonderful Annabel ski and I, I play a father and we shot it on the upper west side of Manhattan. No studios, all on location. And I think she was marvelous. People reme may remember her from her movies in the nineties and then her marvelous appearances on the Sopranos as the sexy Mercedes dealer. She was unfortunately she, she was really at her own volition, testified at the Harvey Weinstein trial. And he did quite a bit of damage to her in her career and she was extremely brave and I told her so to testify, it wasn't her case that was up, but the judge allowed her testimony suffice it to say that she's just marvelous in this. And there is, there's sort of, there is some wisdom in the film.

Robert Klein (08:22):

A lot of it is the fact that she's a depressed person and so forth, but there is a, a, a kind of surprise at the end. And I think it has something to say, and I am very pleased to be part of, and it's an independent film, a relatively low budget compared to the, you know, many ins and millions, but nonetheless artful, it was directed and written by a man named Eric Shafer who has written and directed some features in the past. And I don't know, I I've been in about 40 feature films and a lot of film television. It's never been my strongest point. I mean, the, the, I would've liked to do some more of them, but the way it turned out, I did a lot of things. So I was never outta work.

Larry (09:14):

It was a pleasure to watch a film that didn't have CGI in it.

Robert Klein (09:21):


Larry (09:22):

No computer graphics.

Robert Klein (09:24):

Yeah. You know, I just saw a film. I really admire the older films in which are massive, but didn't have that like Lawrence of Arabia or the, the longest day, no computers, those are extras. Sparas thousands of them. You know,

Larry (09:41):

The only thing that bothered me about the film was that the worm didn't get credit.

Robert Klein (09:48):

Yes, there's a worm. And in fact that was the original name of it. God is a worm and the distributors and the, ultimately the producers did not like that title. I wonder why God You're bound to you're bound to offend someone, although word is as noble, a creature as any other.

Larry (10:12):

I found on YouTube, any of you, a video of you appearing in Ted Max's original amateur hour as a member of the teen tones, did you always want to be an entertainer?

Robert Klein (10:28):

No. I always wanted to be a doctor and my my father was on the today show with me with gene. What was his name? The critic you remember with the big mustache?

Larry (10:42):

Yeah. Right.

Robert Klein (10:43):

And and he said, Mr. Klein that he always wanted, my father was very funny. Should have been a comedian. He said, did he always wanna be an actor? He said, no. He wanted be a doctor. I figured by the time he becomes one, I'll be old enough to need one. He was hilarious. He had gene falling out of his seat. And no, I, I, I, I, I thought medicine was, I had a, a, a local doctor ASA Rosenstein who could not get into, he had wonderful grades, undergraduate who couldn't get into a medical school because he was Jewish. This was in the twenties. And he went to Creighton in Nebraska, a picture of him with Indians. And I, I always thought he was very heroic. The Catholics lit candles for him, the Jews lit candles. He came to your house.

Robert Klein (11:36):

He delivered the babies. He practiced into his seventies or eighties until some sort of dementia began to creep in. And I thought he was tremendously heroic. And I thought medicine in general. And I went to Alfred to become a doctor. Alfred was a small liberal arts college in New York state up upper state. And a few things got in my way calculus, physics, biology, zoology, reading, spell comprehension, behavior, aptitude, attitude. But aside from that, aside from that, so I went for history of political science, the proper preparation for comedy. I was hit with a really, almost everyone I went to school with, became a physician or a, a judge. My roommate is a retired neurologist, Les she's in Florida doing volunteer work wonderful. But it wasn't for me, but I it became realistic because you never know.

Robert Klein (12:45):

And I went outta my sophomore year at Alfred for a play, the brothers Carma off. And, oh, I had detained as a kid. I was on the amateur row in high school. And, you know, but I didn't dream that I could do it professionally. My mother and father went to every Broadway show from the thirties on they, every movie, my mother knew all the movie stars. They loved, my mother played beautiful piano. We used to sing around, but you know, to do it professionally is totally different. But I caught on in a, in a wonderful two man drama department in Alfred Smith and brown, both Tweety and pipe smoking. One had been a navigator in world war II with Puy I hours and an English wife. They were wonderful. They had such great taste. And the end of my junior year, they called my father and they said, you know what, Mr. Klein, he's very talented. And my father who was born in Brooklyn and lived, was brought up in the upper east side of Manhattan before it was Tony, you know, immigrants. And, and they said, we can get, we believe we can get him into graduate school at Yale for drama, like fall said, Yale to be an Okta, did Eddie can to go to Yale.

Robert Klein (14:11):

And he, he was half kidding, but he, at a point because subsequent to my year of graduate school, I didn't finish. It was a three year master of fine arts post college. You know, I just that's like becoming a doctor. I, I, I wanted to work, but subsequent to that, I was in second city. The, the greatest thing ever happened to me. And I learned, I think, more there and I got $150 a week. So anyway, I owe it all to them that they missed. They directed me. They, they, you know, instead OFS ambulating into law school or teaching, what would I do with history, political science? I don't know. I'm not a businessman. And so it was wonderful. They had only recommended two people in all their years to Yale. And I didn't even have to audition because the, the, the trusted, the Smith was the old college roommate at Amherst, the Dean of the school. He wouldn't steer him wrong. Only two people in all those years. And I made ahead at the Yale drama school, but I wanted to work. So the immersion was so important that I was now not only in theater, but in an Ivy league context with professional everything. And so that was kind of as swash my father when he took his head out of the oven, when he found out to be a doctor of an actor.

Larry (15:41):

Aha. So you wanted to be a doctor, doctor, not a doctor dentist.

Robert Klein (15:45):

Well, you know, there was a snobbishness about that in your time you had to take every course, a doctor did including gross anatomy and you had to car a piece of chalk. I knew that,

Larry (16:02):


Robert Klein (16:03):

Dental expressions. Yeah, that was out to my sophomore year. So that, it's how it started. And then it's I wrote a book and a lot of it is in there. And if someone wants to buy it, they can get it as a real bargain Simon and Schuster. It's been out in hardcover, maybe 14th, 12 years, and in soft cover six, it's called the amorous bus boy of Decatur at you. And you can find it on Amazon, or if you don't wanna give them the money it's available. And it got very nice notice in the Sunday times book review, I'd like to write another one, but I'm waiting till I'm 140.

Larry (16:50):

And that was about growing up in the fifties and sixties.

Robert Klein (16:54):

Yes. It actually ends when I'm 25 years old and my first trip to Los Angeles. And I, I didn't think I would have a career. It didn't begin very well. My first trip to Los Angeles. But I haded such an exciting life and career. A lot of things I never could of dreamed of. I, I, you know, I had put up in the Bronx. I was too once Washington DC. I never went anywhere. I never, you know, I flew first time in a seven and that was state New York or 20 minutes flight to something I got caught on the way back to school. And now I, there's only three states I haven't been to. And that's South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, and certain I want to, but the people would leave. And let me just see the things there, the politics there's absolutely polling as it is of America, including your great state.

Larry (17:58):

Let's not even get involved in that discussion. I just,

Robert Klein (18:04):

Or not you know, I, maybe some people are your, you see you're already in the business, you don't wanna offend it. It's not you saying it. It's me saying you don't like me.

Larry (18:17):

When I, when I was in PR, there's a lot about it. I don't like down

Robert Klein (18:22):

Here you want

Larry (18:24):

If they start having open carry I'm outta here I don't like this new bill about 30% of my practice at one time were the greatest bunch of gay guys in the early eighties when HIV aids was a death sentence. Yeah. We lost so many kids. It was just, Anyway,

Robert Klein (18:53):

We lost so many in show business. Endless. Yeah, go ahead.

Larry (18:59):

We just lost. These were not celebrity kids. These were not actors. These were just guys having a rough time. I even remember the name of my first aids patient anyway, and that's where my wife who was managing the office was incredible with these kids. Just great. Anyway, what was the experience like being on Johnny Carson for the first time?

Robert Klein (19:32):

It was nerve wracking. It was January 19th, 1968. And it was the biggest, you know, it wasn't a million different shows and, and choices on television. Then the night show, you talked about it, the office water found the next day, if you killed a so and, and the producer and my manager, everyone thought what I did was so different at that time that maybe the audience would get to know me for a minute or two next to Johnny, and then do my standup. And then I didn't get a laugh in the minute or so sitting down. So I went to stand up and kill them. And you know, I, I just did Fallon before the pandemic the most, most recent iteration of the show. And they gave me a plaque for every one of my appearances. I think it included about 15 guest hosts for Johnny, but it was a total of 93 or 94.

Robert Klein (20:37):

So you know, it turned out I owed him everything. He was very, very generous to young comedians. And for comedians, he loved as I loved Jonathan Winters and Rickles. I mean, he laughed, he was generous. It's hard to make comedians laugh very often. So I owed everything cuz I never wanted to do a sitcom early in my career. I, I, I could have done the Wayne Rogers role on me opposite a older and Wayne Rogers only stayed one year and I never regretted it. Cause my, my career was very hot then in, in standup and doing some movies and I saw the movie mesh, which I thought was brilliant. And I sit comes for me, the honeymoons bill co all in the family, maybe a handful that I watch. I, it joke, laugh, joke, laugh. Although I've done them since some of them are pretty good. I just did a role. The last thing I did was will grace just before the pandemic, I, I played the husband of life dinner, my old best friend from Yale Jimmy burrows, the, the most important television director. And I'm very proud of him cause he was in my class in the drama school. You know, it's fun. But I don't know. I, I, I, you know what, I know something the the pandemic made me a little lazy. I've been working for 57 years, you know? So

Larry (22:13):

It, it, that was a rough period. I hope we're over it. It would be nice to get out again.

Robert Klein (22:20):

Well, you know, that's the thing I feel sorry for especially young people of the world, but well, for so many people who had affected, but to me, I had just been working hard in Florida as a matter of fact at some theaters and some big theater communities, you know, whatever. And I just loved reading and not having responsibilities, but I have a, a previous condition. I was unfortunately a, on an off cigarette smoker for 25 or 30 years, not in about 25 years, but, and I have some C O P D I have chronic bronchitis and it's getting a little worse. I was, I got away with it for years, but I've done something that I never could have imagined I do for 30. Some of the best money I've spent is I've been working with a trainer three times a week for 30 years and the same one for about 28 years.

Robert Klein (23:21):

And I think it's, it's counted, you know, I mean, making me no matter what I do if I drink too much wine or anything, I have to paid for it. I mean, and my family wasn't like that my father was skinny and you know, you know, good tight muscles. He never got sick until we got hepatitis. Somehow we don't know how, and it led to the liver cancer and have a drink, you know? I think it's important. And I, I was, I could afford to actually have someone force me to do it, which everyone can't, but when he can't make it or when I'm on the road or whatever, I know what to do, don't he even need him. It's just that it's an appointment I have to make, you know, so anyway I think it's helped. Believe me. I feel I'm 80.

Robert Klein (24:14):

I, I feel 80 in many ways, but I think that and working and reading and, you know, I think keeps me reasonably sharp. I, I, I have trouble with names and nouns and everyone I know does who doesn't they have for the last 25 years. And you know, why did I go in the kitchen again? That kind of thing. And I memorized my lines as easily as I ever did when I have to for movies or stuff, if that helps. So you know, I, I remember the late Mike Nichols, he directed my first Broadway show, apple treat, and I was in a movie directed primary colors. I, you know, Mike used me like clockwork every 37 years. So we're backstage and distribute to Jules Fier, a great cartoonist. And he said you know, I have you in mind for a, for a role theater.

Robert Klein (25:13):

I said, you know, my, I really don't wanna do Broadway anymore. You know, he said, do you have trouble memorizing lines? First thing he said, I said, absolutely not. I just don't wanna show up eight times a week and do the same thing over and over again, live theater is fantastic. It'll never be replaced, but for an actor, especially in a hit, I mean, in playing our song, I did a year on Broadway. I did eight weeks in California, preliminary to Broadway sisters, Rosen swag. I did a year. I mean, you say the same thing every night. Roger, your nuts.

Larry (25:48):

I can imagine I, when I was teaching, I couldn't give the same lecture twice because it got bored.

Robert Klein (25:54):

Well, how about you know, cavities the same procedures? I don't know. I, although medicine and dentistry present different problems all the time.

Robert Klein (26:07):


Larry (26:10):

On the other side, I noticed something. Yeah, you hosted Saturday night live twice and you start in the cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger sketch. What don't we know about that sketch?

Robert Klein (26:29):

A lot of laughter in rehearsal you know Gilda Radner and Madeline con with two of the funniest women I ever knew. I, I knew Madeline very, very well long before she became a star. And they both died of the same thing. Ovarian cancer, but Gil Durand was, was hilarious. And the whole sketch was so funny. I, I did the fifth show in the series the very first year, and I gave Lauren Michaels who has since become one of the most powerful people in international show business who was a little picture from Toronto.

Robert Klein (27:26):

And I told him, don't do it live. Everyone was so nervous. This was at NBC studio eight H I did two specials for NBC there in 81. It's where they still do it. It's it was an original studio from the early days of radio. That's where you they, they converted, they were not made for television, those studios. And nobody in that building had done a live show since how duty in 1954. And here they are with, and everyone was very nervous. And then I did it in the third year it was already established. I would've done it more time. It was some I, I, and a few times I was so busy. I, I couldn't coordinate dates with them. And then my manager and Lauren were unhappy with each other. I don't know, whatever. All I can say is that original cast were all brilliant.

Robert Klein (28:19):

And Belushi was a sweetheart. Some people fall through the cracks, they cannot control themselves. And the, the, the worst thing in drug addiction is when you have the money. And also no one can, he was doing blues brothers and somewhere Chicago and John Landis was a director. He should have shut it down and yeah, and sent him to a rehab, whatever, but it's always money and it he's responsible for himself. He was not a child, but he was a lovely person. And he was so talented and Aroy kind of strange. They were a great bunch. Jane curtain was on one of my NBC specials. She was complete different from the others, but they all were very attached, you know? And I, I, they started it off. Most of them were second city people from Chicago, just as I had been about four years earlier than they. And in fact, I just did a, a zoom play a few months ago with Alan akin. It was near the one of the original care, and it was so wonderful going back and forth with him. He just turned 90. Wow. And he, he never gave a bad performance. And I was his double ganger at, at second city. I idolized him. You know,

Larry (29:42):

What happened to your generation of comics who could break up an audience without resorting to full letter words as every other word in the performance?

Robert Klein (29:55):

Well first of all, you know, cultural things have changed. Engine profanity is an important part of the language if used aptly like a good novelist would not every other word. So I agree with your O sensibility and many others in that, you know I, I, I was the first person to curse some to say the F word it on television when I had my first HBO special. And I did it intentionally

Robert Klein (30:27):

Just like Lenny, Bruce did his stuff is so it seems so tepid now, you know, and, and it was his sacrifice Christlike, seriously. It was professionally crucified. He couldn't, he had no champions except his, his, his, his, his wonderful first amendment, lawyer, Marty Martin Garvis he had no champions, nobody wanted to hire him. So he paved the way and now everyone, you know, it's, it's just part of the discourse. Every, every second word is bleep. Bleep is always exciting. There's a lot of talent out there. You wanna know something, I I've just show businesses has always been so all consuming and without question competitive and so forth, when the, when the taxi meter is off, I like to be off duty. You know what I mean? I'm not really up on everybody. I know that there's a lot of profanity and that it, it becomes, I mean, you know, I, I watch this court TV and people show up in their sun is up for murder.

Robert Klein (31:41):

They're wearing an undershirt, you know? So the two are somehow connected. There is an absence of elegance somehow that is crept in and also use of the language. He should have went here. He should have went there. How much is snobbery and how much is beautiful. English is as beautiful as any language in the world. And I always wanted to represent that even in comedy, you know, use the right word, you and make sure depending on the audience that people understand you, I, I don't wanna be unfathomable or above everyone's, you know, head too smart for the room. Been to, or tonight show was a tough, sometimes only Johnny and the band were laughing. You know what I mean? But there's, there's talent out there. The world has changed Larry with respect to that bodily functions and everything else is, is out there.

Robert Klein (32:44):

I, I just, it's funny history, political science history is, is so under-taught and anemic in the teaching of it. When I think of my college college advanced, you know, American diplomatic history and American history courses, or, or the history of Europe, modern Europe, so empty, so much more has been discovered since then, so much more nuance, you know, and all this talk of this with the 16, 19 pride and, and you know the, the teaching racial history, how many people knew until recently, even if they know that the white house was built by slaves and the capital was built by slaves and, and the entire European economy depended on slavery too, because they needed cotton. And cotton was the machine that the human being with a machine they're producing gun, it's so complex, never been taught, and they don't want anyone to hear anything they don't like,

Larry (33:47):

And it's become so politicized.

Robert Klein (33:51):

Well, it is politicized because they, they, they suddenly become, you can't say that about America. How about people beating on cops? So January 6th, I, I am not even sure most of the police unions have, have, have condemned it. It's okay to break the rules. When you believe democracy is just a piece of paper. If you don't agree that candidate a one and candidate B lost well lost, you know, there's puts Trump, who was, you know, who has a golf course, about two miles from my house here, Barack cliff, Hey, let's not get started on him. Go, go show business again, or dentistry, or the Boston red Sox, whatever you, you are a Bostonian. I love Boston. I used to love Jacob worth that restaurant. You remember worth, you know, with guy with saw dust on the floor and brot worst

Larry (34:48):

And lock overs,

Robert Klein (34:50):

And what

Larry (34:52):

A restaurant called lock overs.

Robert Klein (34:55):

I don't know that one

Larry (34:57):

That was supposedly

Robert Klein (34:59):

Food, legal seafood, and the play. We used to go down, have a big prime rib, the famous one. You sit at a, a, a long table.

Robert Klein (35:10):

Are you sure you lived in Boston?

Larry (35:12):

I did, but it's been 20, 25 years.

Robert Klein (35:16):

Oh my God.

Larry (35:17):

I'm old.

Robert Klein (35:20):

Well, you look great by the way, you definitely have your models. You're doing well.

Larry (35:24):

Thank you. You mentioned smoking. I got a credit Bob Fosse for saving my life on that one. My wife and I went to see all that jazz. I came out, had a cigarette and she said, do you have to do that? And I said, never again.

Robert Klein (35:45):

Wow. So you didn't stop in 1960 when the that's when my father through was away. When the, when the report came out by the way, my, my important manager for the first 24 years of my career, Jack Rawlins, Charlie JY, they managed Woody Allen and Dick hav and own their names around all the Woody Allen films. And he was a wonderful man. He lived to be a hundred. And he, he he smoked eight cigars a day in this closed space. Everyone that worked in that office died prematurely. He lived to be a hundred the Bob FOI and the reason I brought him up, see, I I've forgotten the middle of why I brought it up, but I, I remembered now we, which is pretty good. Bob FOI and and Patty cha were friends of jacks.

Robert Klein (36:43):

And he had a beautiful duplex office right down the street from Carnegie hall on 57th street. And they'd come there a few times a week chat with Jack, and then they took their constitutional, which for them was eighth avenue down, past Carnegie hall to fifth avenue across the street, come up the south, the north side of 57th street, both chugging one cigarette cigarette. After another Patty was an alumnus of my high school, David Clinton. It was a famous school for all boys and wonderful one. Wonderful man. I, I didn't really know. Fori but they were both had early deaths because of all the smoking. I know like, like a firecracker that fizzles, what are you gonna do? You can't change.

Larry (37:36):

What projects are you working on now?

Robert Klein (37:40):

Reading books on my iPad, which I thought I'd never do. I belong to something called book Bob. And they keep on hacking me every day or bargains. I'm a bargain hunter. So I pay no more than 1 90, 90 9 cents, 1 99 or 2 99 complete works of Winston shirt, Jill I told you, I'm reading this book by Martin Gilbert now, world war. I, I just finished one about how entirely about how they got into world war. I reading I, I'm having an awful lot of trouble sitting down and writing. I have lots of notes and lots of little false starts. But really, I I'm, I have a couple of shows in June, one at the Suffolk theater and one at Monmouth college in New Jersey where I have an honorary degree, I have three honorary degrees. So if one, one is a doctor of humane letters.

Robert Klein (38:43):

So if youe letter is sick, I can cure it. I have no idea. I got it from my, my old school who were enemies of mine for a while, because I publicly wrote a routine which I did on Saturday night live and elsewhere about the antisemitism at this school. There were six fraternities. It was the only social life. There was no alcohol within 13 miles in the place was a seventh day Baptist village where the Sabbath was on Saturday, but they didn't believe in alcohol. And we were college students with an 18 year old you could drink. So the only place you could drink was a fraternity house. The only place you could have parties, and four of them were white Christian only, and the administration tolerated those for years. And I went up to one of my choice and they couldn't take 54 boys in only allowed 25.

Robert Klein (39:47):

So my first year I was a social outcast. I never forgave them and they petitioned me the president of the school and this and that. I did a except the the honorary degree because of my wonderful drama department who was so proud because I was starring in Broadway. Then in their playing our song, I was nominated for a Tony. I rented a plane and flew my wife and I up there. It was beautiful. I did it only for them. And since then, I mean, they're, it's nothing like that. In fact, the, the fraternities behaved so badly that for the last 15 years, they're forbidden, two students died within a 20 year period from drunken hazing. And one from Monmouth and one from Columbia college, Chicago, which is a wonderful school, purely show business school of every aspect of theater and movies, lighting, costumes, acting wonderful institution. And I did that in honor of my director in second city, Sheldon Patinkin, who was a cousin of Mandy Patinkin you know what did I tell the students try your best be optimistic because I started from nothing. I had no connections, nothing, and you need some good fortune too.

Larry (41:11):

This has been great. Robert I'll, I'll tell you,

Robert Klein (41:16):

I didn't let you get a word and edge wise.

Larry (41:19):

That's perfectly. All right. Now I'm gonna get a couple of words in

Robert Klein (41:23):

Now behind me

Larry (41:25):


Robert Klein (41:26):

A section.

Larry (41:27):

I thought

Robert Klein (41:29):

It it's just a detail from a mane painting that they blew up for a poster for an exhibition in Paris. And it was when I lived on fifth avenue, that was the designer chose that, you know, and I do think it's beautiful. And it put me into Hawk. I, I lived the high life I did

Larry (41:48):

Behind me. I can never get this figured out behind me is a picture of anchor wa that I took

Robert Klein (41:57):

Of who

Larry (41:57):

Anchor wat in Cambodia. Great trip. Oh, oh, your temples place.

Robert Klein (42:05):

It's a place.

Larry (42:06):

It's one of the Cambodian ancient temples.

Robert Klein (42:10):

Oh yeah. You did a lot traveling. I I,

Larry (42:15):

No, I thank God. Yeah, we did.

Robert Klein (42:17):

I have no, I have no eyes to I have I mean, I've been in enough hotels. I haven't purchased a bar of soap in over 35 years. That's how many hotels I've been through

Larry (42:30):

When you're a dentist during one room, when you

Robert Klein (42:33):

A dentist, you're

Speaker 3 (42:34):

A dentist all the way from the first cigarette to the vet today,

Robert Klein (42:38):

By the way, reminds me Dr. PVI, my, my first dentist in the Bronx, he was two blocks away on hu avenue. And he was a vet. He was a picture of him from world war II. He used to smoke a Malborough while he was working on me. And instead of an ashtray have hanging off his table there, the, the, what do you call that? The tray,

Larry (43:01):

Yeah, bracket table,

Robert Klein (43:02):

The bracket table and his tobacco stained big fingers in my mouth. And he like that. And he died of a heart attack in his forties. You know, that's the other thing. I mean, I, I was brought up, I was born in 42, so I don't really remember the war, but everything after it, I, I met so many Holocaust survivors working as a busboy in a lifeguard in the mountains and just in life, you know, and, and I wish I would've asked more of those people that were in the war. Most of them really him talk about it. My father was too old for the war. He was an air raid warden. And just because it, it, it's still the, the destruction is so appalling, but the, the, the magnificence of the organization of how, even though there was carping and, and criticism got together and, and the only things that came out of it that are worthwhile were really worthwhile, like jet travel and radar in medical usage, all kinds of wonderful things come out of war. But if ever a war was necessary, sadly, that was the war world war II.

Larry (44:20):

Yeah. I, I was a little older than you and my dad was an, a raid warden as well. But I remember bringing scrap metal and old Crisco used up Crisco to the, to the collection centers.

Robert Klein (44:38):

Yeah. And how people cooperated and, and, you know how after the war, 46, 47, we all got vaccinated for smallpox that then we, he got polio, polio. He got vaccinated and no one gee, and no one thought of it as, as my buddy, even though 4 trillion people have been vaccinated, no, it's your responsibility because you breathed, you can't smoke in a restaurant because the smoke goes, so why should you be on vaccinated? Let's see, there's a big discussion in New York about Kyrie Irving, the basketball player, who also said the earth is flat, and they're making it into a cause celeb and blaming the mayor, the mayor's mandate or the legal thing was that if you have a business in New York and have a certain size, everyone has to be vaccinated. So you're gonna make it into exception. VI it is true on vaccinated. Players are coming in. There's a certain absurdity to that, but I don't know, man, I don't America used to is like I'm very, very worried for the democracy. I hate to tell you, it makes me feel a little bit relieved to be old. Although I have a son and his wife and, you know, but this this is a little scary what's happening. Tucker Carlson, defending Putin and, and, and the president, the United States, Trump defending this, this scum, this former spy, you know, whatever I, okay. Look it's.

Larry (46:10):

I, I worry about it for my grant children.

Robert Klein (46:13):

Yeah. I don't have any grandchildren yet. I know they want them, but we'll see. They, they have dog. It's an intermediate thing, but I'm afraid if they have a child, they'll get so used to the dog, they'll put down for the child, a bowl of meat and a bowl of water. This could happen.

Larry (46:31):

Well, the other thing you is, my dog right now is five years old. It's a miniature poodle. They live to be 15 or 18. I've got him trained to take me to the vet when my time comes,

Robert Klein (46:46):

I know it's a race. What do you call that? A benefit something thing like you know, I wouldn't do a complete mouth on me if I were a dentist. You know, even if I needed it, There's always Guber, Gerber, strain pairs, you know?

Larry (47:05):


Robert Klein (47:05):

That's probably what they give you. And those things they advertise on television. And one hour they implant every two. That's perfect.

Larry (47:14):


Robert Klein (47:14):

And then the day, and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they grow hair. Listen, it's a pleasure.

Larry (47:20):

It's a pleasure. Listen,

Robert Klein (47:22):

Say that. I wanna see this recording.

Larry (47:24):

Now. I want my few words. When you start a podcast at age 85, you ask friends, medical colleagues who admittedly think you're crazy to be on. And then you search the internet for real celebrity, not expecting to hear from anyone most of the time, people don't even bother to answer and say, and then you have the rare, distinct honor of getting a reply from Robert Klein, who actually says, call me Robert. This has been an honor a privilege. Thank you for being on specifically for seniors. Thank you for being so gracious with the technical problems. We Larry, can we do this in cash instead of the truth? I got a buck in my pocket. Get it for the money. Okay. I'll send a dollar. All right, please consider this an open invitation to come back. Anytime you feel like talking, it's been fondly. It's been great. Thank you.

Robert Klein (48:28):

Good luck.

Larry (48:30):

Take care. Bye bye. If you found this podcast interesting, fun or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the follow or subscribe button, wherever you listen to podcast until next time, I'm Larry bar. And you've been listening to specifically for seniors.

Robert Klein Profile Photo

Robert Klein

For more than forty years, Robert Klein has entertained audiences, and has an acclaimed career in comedy, on Broadway, on television, and in film.
In the spring of 2017, his documentary “Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg” aired on STARZ. The special is a hilarious look at his life and career, featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Ray Romano, David Steinberg, Fred Willard, John Stewart, Jay Leno and others discussing Klein’s influence on their careers, comedy as a whole, and their reverence of his comedic genius.

Born in the Bronx, he was a member of the famed “Second City” theatrical troupe in Chicago.

He was nominated twice for Grammy Awards for “Best Comedy Album of the Year” for his albums “Child of the Fifties” and “Mind Over Matter.”
He received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor, and won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his performance in the hit Neil Simon musical, “They’re Playing Our Song.” In 1993, Klein won an Obie and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in Wendy Wasserstein’s, “The Sisters Rosensweig.”

In 1975, Klein was the first comedian to appear in a live concert on Home Box Office. He has gone on to do nine one-man shows for HBO and received his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music and Lyrics in 2001 for Robert Klein: “Child in His 50’s.” Klein released “Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005,” a collector’s DVD box set to critical acclaim.
His special for HBO, “Robert Klein: Unfair and Unbalanced earned him a second Emmy nomination in 2011 for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. The special is available on DVD.

Among dozens of starring and guest-starring roles on television, he co-starred in the hit NBC series, “Sisters,” has a recurring guest-starring role on “Law and Order” and has guest starred on “The Good Wife” and “Royal Pains.” He regularly appeared on talk shows, making more than 100 appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Currently, he can be seen on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” where he is a show favorite, and on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
He’s appeared on “Madame Secretary” starring Tea Leoni on CBS, “Sharknado 2: The Second One” and ”Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” starring Ian Ziering, on Syfy. He guest starred as Laura Diamond’s grouchy but loveable father, Leo, on NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura.” Most recently, he appears as Grace’s father, Martin Adler on “Will and Grace,” starring Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally.

Klein has also appeared in many notable films including, “Hooper,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Primary Colors,” “People I Know,” “Two Weeks Notice,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” and “The Back-Up Plan” with Jennifer Lopez.
“The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue,” his first book for Simon & Schuster, is an affectionate coming-of-age memoir about growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s before embarking on a show business career. In it he recounts his journey from an apartment in the Bronx, developing his talent in Chicago and the beginning of his show business stardom. The book is pure Robert Klein: witty, honest, self-questioning and always contagiously funny. Publishers Weekly wrote: "...he unfurls an array of captivating anecdotes, writing with wry wit and honesty."

Robert, a lifelong New Yorker, makes his homes in Westchester and in New York City.