The tributes are pouring in for legendary TV producer Norman Lear, who died Tuesday at the age of 101. Rob Reiner, whose career kick-started with Lear’s “All in the Family,” called the icon his “second father,” while “Abbott Elementary” creator and star Quinta Brunson affectionately referred to Lear as “my goat.”
In the initial reactions, “goat” is the term being floated around most — the word denoting Greatest of All Time. It’s hard to argue with that status given Lear’s extraordinary career. Few, if any, made an impact on television the way he did, not just with breakout shows like “All in the Family” and “Good Times” but throughout the decades — Lear produced the beloved sitcom “One Day at a Time” in 2017.
Jimmy Kimmel offered a lengthy tribute of his own in a statement.
“It is obviously silly to want more time with a person who outlived a whole century but losing Norman Lear, even at 101 years old, feels unfair,” Kimmel began. “His bravery, integrity and unmatched moral compass were equaled by his kindness, empathy, and wit. Norman was very proud of the fact that the so-called Reverend Jerry Falwell dubbed him ‘The number one enemy of the American family.’ The opposite was true. More than anyone before him, Norman used situation comedy to shine a light on prejudice, intolerance, and inequality. He created families that mirrored ours, showing us a world in which Archie Bunker and Michael Stivic could learn to not only co-exist, but to love one another.”
Kimmel continued, lauding Lear’s concern for humanity’s future.
“As a young man, Technical Sergeant Lear flew 52 combat missions over Nazi Germany. He continued to fight for freedom all the way to the end of his life on earth. Even at 101, Norman cared as much about the future, our children, and planet or as anyone I have ever known. He was a great American, a hero in every way and so funny, smart, and lovely man you almost couldn’t believe it. The privilege of working alongside Norman and the opportunity he gave me and my wife to get to know him and his beautiful family has been among the great honors and pleasures of my life. We were all very lucky to have him.”
George Clooney said, “It’s hard to reconcile that at 101 years old, Norman Lear is gone too soon. The entire world of reason just lost its greatest advocate and our family lost a dear friend. A giant walked in his shoes.”
Tyler Perry called Lear one of his heroes in a statement.
“Not long ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my heroes. He invited me to lunch at his home and as we sat and talked and laughed, I got a chance to tell him how he had helped save my life. I shared with him that he taught me to dream a bigger dream by his example. He was 100 years old at the time, but sharp as ever. Full of wisdom and great advice, and I took it all in. Just before I left, I asked, ‘At 100 years old what are you looking forward to?’ Without any hesitation he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ It was such a simple but powerful lesson to live your life fully one day at a time.”
Perry said Lear’s classic sitcoms were “the only thing that brought laughter and joy to me as a child, who was living a daily nightmare.” He continued, “I’m so glad that I had the chance to say to him, thanks to his vision and his work, he gave me many ‘tomorrows’ to look forward to. So today, sadly, I say goodbye and I salute a veteran. One who asked me to help put together a moment for him to say thank you to the surviving Redtail Tuskegee Airmen, he wanted to thank them for the escorts they provided him and others during World War II, which I did with Robin Roberts on GMA. It felt good to be able to do something for him.
“A hero and someone who inspired me to try and bring as much laughter to the world as he bought to the little boy that I was. You sir are truly one of one! I’m so glad we were on the planet at the same time. Thank you for your example. Rest in peace my dear friend, I thank God for you. My prayers are with your family.
Travel well, Mr. Norman Lear.”
Lear’s knack for tackling politics in a consumer-friendly format is also being hailed, notably by “The Wire” creator David Simon. “Anyone who ever had a chance to say something pointed or political in an American television entertainment owes Norman Lear their adoration and awe,” he said. “He saw what was possible in that vacuous glowing box and, almost singularly, he made it so.”
See more statements from industry members sharing their condolences for Lear below.
- Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company: “There are no words to fully express the monumental impact and legacy that Norman Lear leaves behind. He was an icon and the brilliant mind behind countless timely and meaningful shows that were full of heart and humor. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and was one of the most influential storytellers in television history. His passion went far beyond the screen as a veteran, philanthropist and social activist. Our hearts are with his wife, Lyn, his children and all those who knew and loved him. Norman, we thank you for the beautiful stories that transformed our industry and for making us laugh along the way.”
- Jane Fonda: “Today is a very sad day. Norman Lear, a man who meant a lot to many on a personal level and who changed the face and soul of American comedy, has passed. My heart is heavy. I loved Norman.”
- Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO: “Norman Lear was a true pioneer whose legacy will forever be connected to including LGBTQ characters on television when no one else would. With storylines on ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Maude,’ ‘The Jeffersons,’ the new ‘One Day at a Time,’ and the upcoming ‘Clean Slate’ starring Laverne Cox, Lear humanized the LGBTQ community for the millions of people who tuned in to watch his shows. Norman Lear made it a priority to champion LGBTQ creators and he pushed Hollywood to follow in his groundbreaking footsteps.”
- Brian Grazer: “Norman Lear was a national treasure. He was more than a creator of groundbreaking television – he was a trailblazer who transformed how we watch and talk about entertainment for over 85 years and I will always be grateful for the impact he had in paving the way for so many of us in the industry. Not only do I have the utmost respect for his comedy work, but his fearless commitment to addressing critical social issues and including those narratives for audiences shaped my own approach to storytelling. Norman’s career wasn’t just influential, it was transformative, and his legacy will forever inspire generations to come. I will miss you Norman, my dear friend.”
- Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Norman Lear created families: not just the Bunkers of All In The Family, but the extended galaxies of families of casts and crews on every groundbreaking show he helped produce. So grateful when he called and asked me to co-produce a documentary about the life of our friend Rita Moreno, the easiest Yes of my life: ‘Lin, we gotta do this for Rita.’ ‘Yes sir.’ There will be so many words on how Norman made the world better in the days to come. They’re all true and they’re all underselling it. I’ll miss writing him birthday tunes every year. I’m grateful for every text and conversation we had. My heart is with his family and all the families he made.”
- Brent Miller, President of Production of Act III Productions: “It has been an absolute privilege and honor to be one of Norman’s many collaborators and partners. It has been thrilling and inspiring. He pushed us and inspired us every day to make entertainment that mattered. I will miss Norman’s wisdom, wit and friendship deeply. With the help and support of our partners at Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as many other talented collaborators – writers, actors, executives and crew – we were fortunate enough to make television history, over and over again. He will remain the guiding light at Act III Productions as we continue the shows already in production and move forward with those we imagined together. I already miss his laugh and the twinkle in his eye and our shared love of Bloody Marys. But as he always said… to be continued….”
- Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend Norman Lear. A Founding Father in our industry, Norman and the shows he created defined what great television could be. Always entertaining, impactful, and fearless in addressing society’s most complex and difficult issues through humor, shows like ‘All In The Family,’ ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘One Day at a Time’ set the standard for modern television audiences and paved the way for just about every great situation comedy or drama that has followed since. Norman will forever be recognized among the great television legends, and we are honored to have had him as part of the Sony family. It was always a such a joy having him with us on the lot, and I’m already missing being able to check in with him. Our hearts go out to Lyn and his family and all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Read some of the initial reactions below. Many more to follow.
I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family.— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) December 6, 2023
My Goat. What a life. Rest well, Norman Lear. https://t.co/GJUnvXbAuH— quinta brunson (@quintabrunson) December 6, 2023
The greatest of the greats. R.I.P. Norman Lear. You were loved.— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) December 6, 2023
Anyone who ever had a chance to say something pointed or political in an American television entertainment owes Norman Lear their adoration and awe. He saw what was possible in that vacuous glowing box and, almost singularly, he made it so.— David Simon (@AoDespair) 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
This is such sad news to wake up to. What a titan of this industry. And he was always so lovely when I got to spend time in his presence. I know 101 is a LONG life, but still…this one hurts. ❤️🕊️#HaveYouSeenMyChildhood #RIPNormanLear https://t.co/t4PNHWrYty— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) December 6, 2023