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  THE RUTH BUZZI INTERVIEW
A TALK WITH THE CLASSIC COMEDY LEGEND!

Ruth Buzzi is among one of my earliest and most memorable RetroCRUSHES. As a kid I remember laughing until my sides ached while watching the kids show “The Lost Saucer” in the mid 70’s. She is a multi-talented performer who has been in over 21 feature films, a Broadway Musical, numerous guest starring roles in popular television series, 7 years on Sesame Street, voicework in cartoons, and a hit television show “Laugh In” which was the #1 on NBC for 5 ½ years!

She was honored when Rowan and Martin got a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, has been nominated for 5 Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe for Best Female Performer, and a Cleo for best commercial spokesperson.

I don’t want your head to get all fuzzy so I will now bring you our exclusive interview with the gifted Queen of comedy Mrs. Ruth Buzzi.

You’re known primarily as a comedienne. Is that something you originally set out to do? Do you feel you have a natural talent for comedy?

I realized in dancing school as a youngster that I had a natural gift for comedy. My dance teacher, Helen King, observed it too because she asked me if I’d be willing to do a comedy ballet for the yearly recital and I was THRILLED to do it. That REALLY started me with comedy. I saw the power I had with the audience during that dance and it was FUN!!!!!! I carried that into everything I did in front of the schoolbody, even as Captain of the Cheerleaders during school assemblies on Fridays before big games. I got everybody on “my side” through comedy.

You were in the musical "Sweet Charity" on Broadway early on in your career.

It was absolutely wonderful working in “Sweet Charity” for a year and a half. Gwen Verdon was a real doll. From Bob Fosse on down I couldn’t have been with a nicer group of people, including the whole production crew. The opening was a special treat because The Palace Theatre had been closed for years, as I understand it, and so it was re-furbished for the grand opening of Fosse’s new musical. I could write tons on this whole experience, but you can read more about it on my website RuthBuzzi.com.

What was it like to hit in a big time broadway musical so quickly?

Well, “Sweet Charity” wasn’t really my “big time” in retrospect. I thought it was. I had already been on both “Garry Moore Shows”, I was a semi-regular on Burnett’s first C.B.S. series called “The Entertainers” where I did hilarious sketches every other week with Dom DeLuise, Off Broadway shows (see the biography section of RuthBuzzi.com), many MANY nightclub revues, many tv commercials, radio commercials, voiceovers for my first big cartoon series “Linus the Lionhearted”, four full seasons of summerstock…

I’d hardly call all this “hitting the big time so quickly”. If in YOUR eyes that was it, that’s great with ME, but I really feel the BIG TIME moment was landing “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” in California while I was taping the “Steve Allen’s Comedy Hour” summer series.

You’ve worked on a great number of variety shows. During that time you met many famous stars: Sonny and Cher, Glenn Campbell, Donnie and Marie, Tony Orlando and Don, Debbie Reynolds, Johathan Winters, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore just to name a few. Not to mention the 5 years you spent on “Laugh In”. Is there one variety show appearance or actor/actress that sticks out?

The ones that stick out are many and what effected a lot of the memory was how funny the writers wrote particular sketches that I’d be handed to perform. The funnier the material, the funnier I could (can!) make it. Oh, goodness, I did some “killers” with Flip Wilson and HIS show. The writers on the Tony Orlando Show “did me proud”, Carol Burnett has some “killer” sketches we did together that I wish she’d re-run now. The original “Dean Martin Comedy Hour” handed me some hysterical sketches, as they also did on the “Dean Martin Roasts”...and on and on. I’ve got “highlights” in the story gallery section of my website on tons of these variety shows given to me by their great writers. I’d love to be doing all that again. I LOVE the variety format...hence “Laugh-In”.

You starred in another classic TV show "That girl". I read somewhere that Marlo Thomas can be a difficult and demanding lady. What was it like working with her?

Marlo Thomas is one of the kindest, sweetest, most professional people I’ve ever worked with in this business. I could write a book on working with lady leads of series. Interesting...especially in the comedy world...men too, don’t get me wrong. I know the “goodies” and the “naughties”, trust me!!!!! Ha! Ha! Marlo Thomas is a “GOODIE”. Marlo was also the producer (I think!) of her show and had every right to speak up if something went wrong during a shooting day. I was present when one of the guests of the week (not a name) arrived to do a scene with all of us and he did’t even know his lines! He hadn’t memorized them. Marlo said to him something like “How can you come in here unprepared? Ruthie, Albert and I have learned our lines and we’re ready to shoot the scene but now we can’t because you didn’t learn yours. We now have to shut everything down and wait until you learn them! Do you know what this is going to cost us to now hold everyone overtime at the end of the day because you arrived unprepared?” Something to that effect.

Well, Folks, if that was my show I would have said the very same thing!!!! How DARE this guy have the nerve to come in totally unprepared AND with NO excuse! Now you can be sure, this guy went out with his friends that night, or home to his family, same difference, and DID NOT TELL ANYONE HE CAME TO WORK UNPREPARED, but more than likely said what a tough broad Marlo was...hence one starts to get a tough lady reputation. Very unfair.

Now this is my observation of that very important afternoon. This guy altered the whole shoot. She COULD have gone stark raving mad and thrown things all about (like I’ve heard other leads of shows have done in the past during shoots when things don’t suit them), but no, she more or less in a quiet, lady-like tone, told him how wrong and unprofessional he was…….and he WAS!!!!!!!!!! Over and out. Marlo Thomas is a wonderful lady.

Have you ever met Marlo’s husband Phil Donahue?

Yes, I’ve met Phil Donahue a few times and even was on his show when I was shooting in N.Y. with “Sesame Street”. We were his guests. I had, indeed, met him BEFORE that shoot and he couldn’t have been nicer to me. He made me feel like an old relative. Really terrific. I think they make a great couple. Both of them have great senses of humor and love to laugh. I like people who can be good audiences to others, know what I mean? Not a jealous bone in their bodies. That’s why she was so much fun to work with.

What was it like being a part of the wonderful educational show "Sesame Street" for 7 years?

I absolutely loved working with everyone on the show. The Muppets were absolutely dynamite. They all are fast, witty, fun, clever, sensitive terrific actors to work with. It was a tremendous experience. Here again, I could go on and on...

When I was a young kid I use to watch you in one of my favorite Saturday Morning TV shows called, "The Lost Saucer" co-starring Jim Nabors. How did that come about? Sid and Marty Krofft came up with quite a few crazy shows in the 1970’s. What were they like? Where was it filmed? Did kids at that time recognize you from the show? Did you enjoy working with Jim Nabors?

Sid and Marty were wonderful bosses to work with. I had already worked with them on “The Donnie and Marie” series. That’s when I learned how “rich with funny ideas” especially Sid was. He could come up with ideas for sketches that would have me in stitches. When they asked me to do the Saturday morning ”Lost Saucer” series with Jim, whom already was a long time friend. I had already done lots of performing with him on different shows, even in Hawaii. I was thrilled to be partnered with him again, so a big “YES!” came out of my mouth. We filmed the show right in the middle of Hollywood. I’ve worked at ao many studios I forget which one, but I feel it was the old Desi Arnez and Lucy Studios.

In all the years that have passed since shooting that show, hundreds and hundreds of people stop and ask me what the name of the show was. Most of them, I think, were too young to read, so they don’t remember. It constantly amazes me how many people get excited about having seen that show. It’s fun to see.

You were friends with Lucille Ball and made a guest star appearance on her last television show, "Life with Lucy”. It must have been a difficult time for her because everyone had such high hopes and the show failed in the ratings. Do you remember the mood on the set?

I only was there for one show and because I was already a good friend of Lucy, she was very comfortable and pleased that I was guesting on that particular show. She had me come to her own private dressing room every day to have lunch with her and I thought that was very sweet. Everyone on the set simply wanted to make the show work, so I did not see any negativity. We all just worked together to try to make the show play as well as it possibly could.

You've also done a lot of cartoon voice work over the years. Is there any cartoon character voices you're especially proud of?

Yes, I really loved the very first cartoon character I did for my first cartoon series called “Linus The Lionhearted”. My character was called Granny Goodwitch. I drew a picture of her which is on my website. During and after the series, Jerry Matthews (Sugar Bear voice) did all the Post Cerial commercials as those characters. Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner were the other two leads on the series. They recorded their voices on the West Coast and Jerry and I (because we were living back East) recorded our voices in New York. In the end, I was still recording the commercials in Los Angeles because of moving back here. Great fun.

I also really enjoyed doing the voice of Nose Marie on the cartoon series “Pound Puppies”. Fun, FUN cast. They ALL are actually. ”Cro”, my last full series, was tons of fun. Actually, another full series besides all of these, that was very creative to do as they had me do most of the female voices, was “Berenstain Bears”. I was Mama Bear on down.

In addition to all of your film and TV work you’ve done a series of classic TV commercials. Tell us about your Clorox 2, Inperial Margarine, and Post Raisin Bran gigs. Any favorites there?

Clorox 2 was probably my favorite because the writing (again so important) of them was so clever. They had me play tons of different characters. I was an all-girl band on one, I was a family on another, I was a Fairy Godmother to myself on another….etc. They were a very smart, creative team from San Francisco. They gave me approval of script, costume, hair and makeup. I NEVER had to say I didn’t like a copy of the commercial we were about to make. In my eyes they each were clever and perfect. Great Memory.

I know you're good friends with Dom DeLuise and his wife. Do you still keep in contact with other stars/people you've worked with?

I would venture to say that that the DeLuise family are more like great relatives to me and my husband. It just so happens that we are having dinner with them THIS VERY EVENING which is why I’m going to have to end this interview very shortly.

Do you have a favorite famous person you liked while growing up that you have a retroCRUSH on?

The funny shenanigans of Billy DeWolfe (editors note: retro movie & TV star who co-starred with Ruth on “That Girl”). I’m certain most of you would not have the faintest idea of who I’m talking about.

Thank you Ruth Buzzi for such an entertaining interview! How lucky you are to have given the gift of laughter to millions. I wish you continued success in your career. To find out more about Ruth Buzzi go to her official website at: www.ruthbuzzi.com.

 

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