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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Stroumboulopoulos: Interviews with Howie Mandel, Henry Winkler, and Robert Kirkman
Aired June 14, 2013 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOULOS, CNN HOST: Come on in. What a program we have for you tonight. These days, he's the Canadian that has an eye for spotting talent. We're getting into it tonight with Howie Mandel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWIE MANDEL, JUDGE, "AMERICA'S GOT TALENT": Used to go to the hospital to the admitting desk. And I'd go up and go, can I speak to a doctor?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We also have the king of cool, Arthur Fonzarelli here on the show tonight, Henry Winkler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You've been described as difficult. Would you describe it as difficult?
HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR: I carried a tremendous amount of anger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And we're going to do the talking dead with the guy that created the Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman. You're going to die when you hear what he has in store for season four.
ROBERT KIRKMAN, CREATOR, THE WALKING DEAD: The fourth season, we're going to be doing it lighter (ph), a little bit of humor. But there's a third thread, it's going out to be --
(IMITATION OF HERRMANN'S PSYCHO)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Stroumboulopoulos starts now.
All right, very, very nice to see you. How exciting is this? What we have a show we have, what you saw up on top who's going to be here. When Robert Kirkman sits in this red chair, I know a lot of you on the internet machine are going to be all about what's happening in the next season of The Walking Dead. I'm going to get into that with him. But let's get right to the first interview of the show, shall we? This guy was, as you know, called a borderline psychotic, and that was to promo his show. (LAUGHTER) What is that like? That's the story of Howie Mandel. He's going to come on in just a second, but here's his story.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: The loneliest place ever is you're a stand-up comic, but in a weird way, it was a perfect job for somebody like Howie Mandel. Growing up in the Toronto suburbs in the sixties, he was rambunctious, distracted and obsessive, had a hard time making friends so he turned to (pint) for attention, which just got him expelled from three schools.
But in 1978, he was working as a carpet salesperson and took his unique personality to a famous comedy club in Toronto. He was hit. He booked a week-long engagement in the club. And guess how he was billed? As a crazy borderline psychotic. And even though it was politically incorrect in an odd way, maybe it means that Howie was finally being accepted for who he really was.
He quit selling carpets, and quickly became one of the hottest names in standup comedy. He had an HBO special.
HOWIE MANDEL: What? What?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Over the next 30 years, he was owning TV. He's done everything. And even with constant work, found time to help others with their disorders, making sure that they know that they're not suffering alone, even if you're a standup comic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Oh my goodness, it's Howie Mandel. (APPLAUSE) How are you, sir?
MANDEL: I am doing great, and before we start, I just want to say how thrilled I am to see you here, in America, on CNN. I've got to say, and for those Americans who haven't seen you before, I've been doing this for 35 years. I've every talk show.
I have to say, and people ask me this all the time, the best interview, the most in-depth interview, the most comfortable I've ever felt is doing my interviews with you. We've done it on your show in Canada -- (APPLAUSE) He is smart, he's done his homework, and the thing is, and I get from you that I don't get from a lot of other people, is you are genuinely interested, and knowledgeable about the people that you're talking to.
And you don't get that. Because usually, you're just doing a talk show, and it's guest after guest -- STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right.
MANDEL: -- and I know you haven't asked me a question yet, but I just wanted (LAUGHTER) to celebrate, from one Canadian --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Thank you.
MANDEL: -- to another --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Thank you.
MANDEL: -- that I'm thrilled to have you hear.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You are very kind. (APPLAUSE) Thank you very much. How are things? How's AGT going?
MANDEL: AGT --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: America's Got Talent.
MANDEL: -- America's Got Talent is bigger and better than it's ever been. Heidi Klum and Mel B of Spice Girls --
MANDEL: -- joined Howard Stern and myself, and this year we're going to Radio City Music Hall. I played Radio City Music Hall. It's the most memorable point in my career. I was backstage. It seats about 7,000 people. I was backstage and you look out in the window onto whatever street that is in Manhattan.
And I watched -- it was two sold out shows. I watched 7,000 people pour into the street at the end of the first show, and 7,000 people coming in. They closed traffic, they had cops. And I'm thinking this goofy little kid from Toronto. I mean, there's a corner in Manhattan in this iconic theatre --
MANDEL: -- I mean, it's for me. So for these people this year, to have the opportunity to play that stage, you can go through an entire career and never play at Radio City Music Hall. It's so amazing. It means so much, and I hope people appreciate that when they watch.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So look out the window and see the 7,000 people, there are many in this world who would collapse under that pressure.
MANDEL: That pressure and that, you know, anxiety that it -- that wells up in me, is my fuel. If I'm too tired, if I'm too scared, if I'm too nervous, if I'm ridden with anxiousness, I feel alive.
MANDEL: If I'm just sitting comfortably and nothing's really running through my head, and I'm just comfortable --
MANDEL: -- it's, to me that's terror, and that's discomfort.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Let's go back to an early performance here on television, for people who saw you. So take a look at this clip, here.
MANDEL: I grow up. I grow (LAUGHTER) Oh, anyways. What? What? What? (APPLAUSE}
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANDEL: You know that's not, that's not (APPLAUSE) Thank you. Thank you. That is from the sixth annual Young Comedians Special on HBO.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I think Tommy Smothers brought you, or one of the, one --
MANDEL: Tom -- the Smothers Brothers were the hosts. You know who else the young comedians were? The undiscovered? It was me, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Lewis --
MANDEL: -- Harry Anderson and Maureen Murphy (ph) who was an impressionist that was on the Tonight Show. We were the young undiscovered comics. But even at that point in my career, you could see my demeanor. It was based on fear. The truth of the matter is, when I first got up on stage, on a dare, in Toronto --
MANDEL: -- where we're from, that, I didn't really plan. You know, I think I don't really plan, and I never think about the ramifications of what's happening. So I walked up on stage, the spotlights were there. I saw an audience, and then I realized, I don't have -- I don't really -- I'm not prepared. And then I got nervous (LAUGHTER) and I didn't -- I don't edit myself.
And I don't edit myself physically and I went, OK, OK. OK. OK. And they started giggling at me, just trying to get -- and then I heard a little giggle, and I went, "What? What? What?" And then I heard more and I went, "What? What?" And that became my fear and my nervous became what I was -- became known for. I had nothing.
I was a, you know, I'm (LAUGHTER) I -- what? What? What are you laughing at? You know, I dropped the mike on my -- and then I didn't know. I just -- the honesty of who I am and what's going on is what has worked for me.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: As you get older, do you think about the fact that you're getting older and that --
MANDEL: Oh, yeah. STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Yeah?
MANDEL: I, I always think -- I'm old now. I'm really old. And I say it every (LAUGHTER) about three times -- why do you laugh at that? (LAUGHTER) I'm aging. (LAUGHTER) I'm this close to 60, people, and that's, it's really weird and I'm, my, my (LAUGHTER) I'm -- I'll be -- I'm 58 year this year and my daughter's getting married and as far back as I can remember, you know, I was trying to figure out what middle age was.
Like it's, is 40 middle age? Does that mean I'm going to live to 80?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Like --
MANDEL: Like how do you figure out what middle age is, until you know when you're die? (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right. You --
MANDEL: And people die in their 20s, so that means when they were 11, they were middle age?
MANDEL: They were young, they were short, they didn't shave but they were middle age. So I don't -- so, you know, as a germaphobe and a hypochondriac, and everything, I'm concerned -- I just want to survive this interview. I just want to make it through (LAUGHTER) this show.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right. So far, so good. But a daughter getting married -- when a new person comes into the family --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- because everybody knows your system. Your wife understands your system, your kids. Everybody understands --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- your system.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: When you have to welcome somebody new in --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- is it the awkward dad hug? Is it -- what is that all like?
MANDEL: Well, thank God she met somebody with severe OCD. So I'm very comfortable (LAUGHTER) right --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Dude, no therapist ever predicted that.
MANDEL: I should send you -- I wish I would have -- knew you were going to ask me that, because I have a picture of him. He was driving with us some place in Florida, and he has a surgical mask on. For no reason. He was just worried about the people we might meet and I thought (LAUGHTER) I love this guy. I can't believe (LAUGHTER) I didn't give birth to this guy. This is, this is a perfect guy for our family. (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Lending credence to the philosophy that you date someone like your parents.
MANDEL: Yes, and my daughter and I didn't get along when she was a teenager, and you know, I don't think people would think this of me, I'm very conservative, as far as raising kids. And I went into her room one day when she was in school, and I opened up a canister, a film canister. You know, there used to be film before the digital.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right, yeah. (LAUGHTER)
MANDEL: And I open it up and I, I found marijuana.
MANDEL: So I went to the school, and I went to the office, and I went to the class and I said, "I need to pull her out of school." And I pulled her out and I put her into the car, and I drove her home. I went into the room, I grabbed the canister, I opened it up. And I said, "What is this?" And she told me that it's the fish food for her tank, which it was. (LAUGHTER) It was. It wasn't marijuana, it was fish food.
And then I had to explain to the teacher why I pulled her out. I just wanted to check the fish food and I'm --
MANDEL: -- very -- at least concerned about the, the sea life.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Well, Dude, she would be really disconnected from you for a long time for something like that, wouldn't she?
MANDEL: She was. And -- but you know what? She, today, she's a teacher --
MANDEL: -- in the inner city, and she's a lovely young lady, a beautiful young lady who's getting married and she says, "I can't thank you enough for that kind of concern." I never tried to be her friend. I'm her parent.
MANDEL: I believe that rules are what young people are looking for. You know, I had them in my life. I grew up in a, in a strict family. So I don't remember what the question was.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Um-hum. (LAUGHTER)
MANDEL: But I'm hoping that even if, as I end this answer --
MANDEL: -- it is making some sense. That's my ADHD kicking in. I don't remember what I -- yes is the answer. (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Stick around, more with Howie right after this.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right, there's still a lot more to talk about Howie Mandel. I heard about you voiced Gizmo in the Gremlins.
MANDEL: All right (IN GREMLIN VOICE)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: More with Howie Mandel.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Welcome back. (APPLAUSE) We're hanging out with Howie Mandel. Lot to talk about. Hey, let me -- before -- let's look at this photograph of when Howie was performing early in his career, from this club in Toronto. Look at..
MANDEL: Oh, that's me. With hair.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: First of all, you look like you're the drummer of a def metal band, which is --
MANDEL: You know what this was? This was my very first. That's Yuk Yuks, that's where I started out, and that was my first paid gig. They had -- you know, you can go on amateur night, and then they gave you -- I was the feature act. And I still have the check from that week. I got -- I did, I think it was nine shows, for $125.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: . Wow.
MANDEL: Yeah. No, and you're going, whoa. I was thrilled. I couldn't believe that somebody would give me 100 bucks, and somebody would give me 50 bucks for going up there, and doing everything I've ever been punished for, expelled for, hit for (LAUGHTER) , yelled at for. I mean, how do you make money doing this? I wasn't really doing anything.
MANDEL: And I didn't realize that this is possibly, you know, a career path. I mean, the very first time I got up on stage, it was the -- it was -- nobody was more surprised than me. The first time they started laughing, like when I started doing the rut, it was like -- I was -- it was the most comfortable place on Earth, that discomfort. I was just wallowed in -- I mean, that -- what do you call it? Swaddled in a warm blanket of laughter.
And everybody was looking at me. You know, at school I was a, I was a pariah, you know? I would --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Oh, you've been kicked out of a bunch of schools.
MANDEL: I was kicked out of a bunch of schools. I was not the, you know, and people say, was I a class clown? No. I loved a spectacle and when you're a young kid, I think the key is, and it is still is today, that you kind of fit in. You don't really want to stand out. You know? You want to be -- you want to dress like everybody, you want to look like -- and I couldn't sit. I didn't know that it was ADD.
I couldn't sit. I would make -- you know, I would enter -- because I thought it was funny, alone, I would enter the class 15 minutes late through the window on the second floor (LAUGHTER) and just sit down on my desk, and the class would stop, and the teacher would go, "Howard?" I was Howard.
MANDEL: That's why I don't use that name anymore, because they were always angry --
MANDEL: -- with me, and I'd go, "Yes," and they'd go, "Do you want to say anything?" And I'd go, "No." And then everybody was just weirded out and worried and they'd let me go about my day. But I would do things like that all the time, so I just thought of more as a, as like I'm not. I was the guy that would make weird noises. I was the guy that phoned companies to get bids on an addition to the library without getting any authorization.
Just to see the principal go out there, and say, who authorized it? And they said, "Howie Mandel." And then he's call me into the office and say, "Did you authorize this?" And I would say, "Yes," just to see his face go like -- I entertain myself. You know that adage you hear comics say? If could just make one person laugh, I'm doing my job?
MANDEL: I was the one person. (LAUGHTER) Nobody else. Nobody else. So people come up to me now from Toronto, and they go, "I remember you in school. You were so funny." "No, I wasn't. You never laughed. I didn't have any friends." You know, I didn't. You know --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So what's it like then, when, then you meet that girl, and you're young and she likes you and she puts up with this and she gets it, and it's the woman who becomes your wife.
MANDEL: The woman who becomes my wife, I met when she was 18 years old. We've been married for 34 years.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Sometime -- MANDEL: I mean, when I found (APPLAUSE) somebody, when I found somebody who got it, who enjoyed it, and kind of understood it and was -- I just hung on. And I have not let go since, and I won't. I mean she's the -- she's my treasure. That's my stability in life.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What kind of carpet sales person were you?
MANDEL: Number one, I'm color blind. But I didn't, I didn't tell them that. And it was like a captive audience, because I wouldn't leave until they bought something, but then I thought, I wanted to be uncomfortable. And I wanted to make them uncomfortable, because that's where I'm comfortable. (LAUGHTER)
I remember, and I know you know some of these stories. I remember like at one place, there's family sitting on a couch, and I had to go and measure the rooms. And then what I did, is after I measured the rooms, I took off my shirt and I drew the whole apartment on my stomach and chest. And I'm -- and I would, really, seriously, I would, I would just lie down, I would like down, and like this.
I and I would, I would say, all right, so you want the, the shag in -- do you see the shag in this area here? Because I think we need something with more wear that will go down the stairs, here, that will wear a little more (LAUGHTER) and at first, you saw them looking at each other, but then after a while, you know, comfort would set in, and they would, like they would say, "Listen, we want the blue, the blue carpet, right up to your nipple and then (LAUGHTER) so -- you know.
And I loved bringing people into this uncomfortable world. If people are just tuning now, I would imagine at home they're uncomfortable.
MANDEL: What kind of interview is this? What kind of (LAUGHTER) That's a (inaudible)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And there's the thing, though. Was, was there always one part of the room you really didn't want them to point to? (LAUGHTER) Like what's in the attic? What's in, what's in -- Howie, show me what's in the basement? Did that scare you?
MANDEL: (LAUGHS) Yes, we're, we're having that refinished. (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What's Saint Elsewhere like for you then? Because I mean, it was -- that was a real-feeling show.
MANDEL: You know, I went on the set, I saw all these people. You know, one of my favorite movies is the Graduate? And I saw Billy Daniels, who played his father, and I saw --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Young Denzel was around, right?
MANDEL: I started with Denzel. From time to time, he still will call and go, "Howie, how would you play this scene?" But I'm busy, I can't take every -- (LAUGHTER) But I wasn't setting out to be an actor.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: At what point did you realize it wasn't a comedy?
MANDEL: Monday. Monday. When my agent called me and told me what I had, and it was a dramatic series, I went, "Sure, I'll do it, but I mean, really? Why would you hire me to do a dramatic series?"
And I can't tell you -- the whole run of that show, that people would -- I got the biggest repetitive piece of fan mail I got is, "I have a bet with my husband that Fiscus, you, Howie Mandel, are not the same guy that puts the rubber glove on his head." Because, you know, the -- my audience was so fractured. You know, people knew me from HBO and colleges as the wacky stand-up who puts a rubber glove on his head.
Then there was the audience that watched prime time Saint Elsewhere, a very well written drama. And then, you know, there was people that, when I started doing Bobby's World that knew me from, you know, that --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That was a huge show.
MANDEL: That was big, yeah.
MANDEL: It went all over the world, but that was the -- young mothers and their kids knew me. Well, the kids didn't really know me. The young mothers knew me. The kid -- the mothers would bring kids and they'd go, "This is Bobby." They'd bring them up to the -- and they'd go, "Talk to him like Bobby," and I'd go, (CHILD'S VOICE) "How you doing?" (NORMAL VOICE) and the kid -- you'd just see the horror in the kid. Like this man ate my favorite guy on TV. But --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Can you just do that again the voice?
MANDEL: (CHILD'S VOICE) What do you, what do you want me to say?
MANDEL: You know what? That voice --
MANDEL: -- and I've talked about this before. My voice, that voice (CHILD'S VOICE) I can do that voice, (NORMAL VOICE), right, when I was a kid. And I did Bobby's World. But before Bobby's World, I did a show called the Muppet Babies, and I was Skeeter in the Muppet Babies, and if you remember the Muppet Babies, (SKEETER'S VOICE) Skeeter, Skeeter was (NORMAL VOICE) Scooter's little -- STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right.
MANDEL: -- sister. It's the same voice. (SKEETER'S VOICE) This is the Skeeter (BOBBY'S VOICE), this is Bobby. (NORMAL VOICE) And then my friend got me onto a movie. I did this movie called Gremlins.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You were Gizmo.
MANDEL: I was Gizmo, yes. But for -- well, and it -- but it's the same voice, he goes (GIZMO'S VOICE) Ja-co-mo-va-ha-hay. (NORMAL VOICE) it's the same voice. So this is, this is, this is (SKEETER'S VOICE) Skeeter, (BOBBY'S VOICE) Bobby, (GIZMO'S VOICE) Gizmo. (LAUGHTER) I did have another -- one other voice that nobody ever used.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What was it?
MANDEL: it was the helium, I sounded like I was on helium. In Toronto --
MANDEL: -- I used to go to the hospitals, to the admitting desk --
MANDEL: -- with the helium voice, and I'd go up and go, (HELIUM VOICE) "Can I, can I speak to a doctor?" (LAUGHTER) (NORMAL VOICE) Because I was a --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Did you get to speak to a doctor?
MANDEL: Well, she'd go, "What's the problem?" I'd go, (HELIUM VOICE) "What do you mean, what's the problem?" (LAUGHTER) "I was at a birthday party. I wasn't the only one doing this. Everybody was doing this. (LAUGHTER) That's why you're the best.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Thank you. Howie Mandel, everybody.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How cool is this? The Fonz is here. Henry Winkler still to come. And later, Robert Kirkland is going to talk about the Walking Dead.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Tell us what it feels like if you could kill by (armchair crater).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Welcome back to the show. What do you say about a guy who's played the iconic character, like the iconic character. Even in really cool movies that come out later like a Quentin Tarentino movie, they refer to this character. That's how big a deal he is. What's Henry Winkler feel like when he knows he's the Fonz, to a lot of people. Hey, Howie, what do you think of him?
MANDEL: He is -- not only is he iconic, he's the epitome of what viral became. You know, you see something on the internet now, and then everybody's talking about it. When I saw the Fonz, the next morning, everybody was going, "Hey", and everybody was buying a leather jacket. And everybody went to fix things by banging on it. He was the cool, the epitome of cool. He was the bad guy who was good, and that's why I like him.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Henry Winkler, everybody. (APPLAUSE)
WINKLER: Oh, what a great introduction, thank you.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Those are great shoes.
WINKLER: Oh, well, I was thinking the same thing about yours. I love color.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Me, too.
WINKLER: You know?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: One of the best things about doing a show --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- that doesn't have a desk, is 'cause your shoes become very prevalent.
WINKLER: Very important.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I love those. What is, what's this? We got books?
WINKLER: I have books. I brought you books. This one is my only adult book.
WINKLER: It is, "I Never Met An Idiot on The River" and it's about, (LAUGHTER) I love to fly fish for trout. And we go to Montana. So, there are photographs in there that I took --
WINKLER: -- while I'm fly fishing, and things that I learned along the way.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And what's this one here?
WINKLER: This one is a series of four. It's called "Ghost Buddy", and this young man --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That's the Fonz.
WINKLER: That -- well, you know, the ghost sounds like the Fonz --
WINKLER: -- and I don't know how that happened but, (FONZ VOICE) all of a sudden, it came out that way. (LAUGHTER) (NORMAL VOICE) You know?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I would never get tired of --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- hearing that. Here's the thing. You were so young when you were the Fonz.
WINKLER: I was 27. I got it on my 27th birthday.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What was the first phone call you made when you got it?
WINKLER: I, I think I called my parent, who did not want me to be an actor, and I said, "I -- I think that my career is starting." And my mother said, "I think we're going to take you and your sister on a trip to Europe." I said, "I don't think I can go, because (LAUGHTER) I, I think my career is starting." And my mother said, "This is very good. Yeah, tell your father."
And I thought, oh, my goodness, they're so supportive, these wonderful people. And, it was only when the show got popular, they were then the co-producers of Henry Winkler.
WINKLER: But I didn't need them to be proud then. I needed them to be proud when I was trying to figure it out, when I was confused. So I made a decision to be a completely different parent.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And you are successful, you think?
WINKLER: I think so. You know, you know what? You never, you never get away without screwing up your children.
WINKLER: I don't know what it is -- you can do everything you think -- oh, how I'm -- this is -- I'm perfect at this, and they come to you and at 23, and they are sitting at the dining room table, and they go, "So, remember this? I carry this with me forever." (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: From the outside, we waited, many of us waited for the return of Arrested Development.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: On the inside, you know -- WINKLER: Yeah.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- how close was it to not happening?
WINKLER: Well, you know, I don't know if I'm talking out of school, but I will -- Mitch Hurwitz is a walking, talking genius. And that's no joke, that's just -- there he is. And he should be like , put in glass, you know, to protect it.
But he said to me once, "I don't know how to bring all those characters forward for five years, in two hours in a movie." So he was reluctant to write that movie. And then all of a sudden, Netflix came along. Then he had the problem that all the actors were now working, were doing movies or television shows or whatever they were doing.
So we weren't in the room a lot together, and he created this like a, a three-dimensional chess board. I mean, (WHISPERS) sometimes, I don't get the jokes, but I just say, OK, I'll just do it.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What is that -- what do you mean? What is an example of a joke you don't get? That people loved?
WINKLER: See, that's how much I don't get it. I can't even remember the jokes. But no, it -- they're -- it's so dense --
WINKLER: -- and it's written with such a rhythm that Mitch hears in his head, that it is almost, all of it, completely scripted.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: A very different family comedy than Happy Days was.
WINKLER: Yes it is.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What's your relationship like with that character? Was there a time when you needed to get rid of it?
WINKLER: No, there was a time when I thought that like -- I thought that I, I shouldn't talk about it. I thought that I would introduce myself as Henry. People went Fonzie, I went Henry. And then I realized to just shut up, because I love him, he gave me the world, I enjoy him, people enjoy him.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You were in a movie called The Lords of Flatbush --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- of Flatbush, which was so good --
WINKLER: Thanks. With Sly Stallone.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Before Rocky.
WINKLER: Before Rocky.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: A year, two years before Rocky --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- came out.
WINKLER: And it -- we made it before Happy Days.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right. Did you get a sense at that point that Stallone was going to have the run that he did?
WINKLER: Yes. You -- I didn't know that he was going to be a major star. What I knew was that he was very smart. He lived in an apartment off of Lexington Avenue in New York. I went to visit him there. He painted his windows black so he would not know what time of day it was outside. He did not leave his apartment, so it would not influence his writing.
He was constantly writing. He introduced me to Billy Joel. He listened to Billy Joel.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: The music of Billy Joel, or actual Billy Joel?
WINKLER: No, no, the music of.
WINKLER: I love musicians, I really do. I get tongue-tied with musicians.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Like who -- where did you get the most?
WINKLER: I was in a sushi restaurant here, and I -- walking by and I went, "You're Mick Jagger! Ho! You're Mick Jagger! You know what? I have your records. I -- " (LAUGHTER) And this is what he did. This is what he did. "Henry?"
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: He knew your name, that's something.
WINKLER: He knew my name. And I slinked, slinked out -- the only saving grace --
WINKLER: -- and there was another table of adults who said, (WHISPERING) "You said hello to Mick Jagger. That was Mick." (NORMAL VOICE) Bruce Springsteen --
WINKLER: I met Bruce Springsteen and his wife. I kissed her hand. I shook hands with Bruce, then I kissed his hand. (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How did that go over?
WINKLER: I slinked out of that place too.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Are you on a search for something? Because in the fly fishing book, this, you said, your reflections on life and you come up with little answer to life. Are you looking for something?
WINKLER: As an artist, how do I Jack Nicholson, there is very little distance between his soul and his creations and I would like to get there where what I do is seamless. And you don't see me working at it. When I was younger, I saw myself working at it.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Stick around. More with Henry right after this. (APPLAUSE)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And later, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, or as I call him, Robert Zombie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We're back here on the show, hanging out with Henry Winkler here. So, do you understand your parents?
WINKLER: Do I now?
WINKLER: No. No. They, my parents, my parents never saw the individual. You know, now I respect them, I respected their journey. I appreciate them. I am grateful for the life that I, that I was given, but I did not like them. I mean, that's just the truth. You know, and my children were able to say whatever was on their mind.
Max, the youngest would stand up at the table, push his chair in, he said, "Don't say anything until I'm done. This is wrong, I don't agree with this. I think this is wrong. My curfew is way off." (LAUGHTER) And then we would talk about it.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Does it bother you that you don't like my parents?
WINKLER: I mourn, I mourn that other people talk about their parents with great affection. I mourn -- I don't know, I don't know what they're talking about, and I wish I had that in my life. I do.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And while this way, there's the Fonz, finding himself connected to a good family.
WINKLER: Wanting badly --
WINKLER: -- for Mrs. C to be his mother, yeah. That is true.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Some of this great comedy and -- WINKLER: Right.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- fun --
WINKLER: Because I think that is the key. That there is, there is nothing -- if a piece of entertainment is bottomless, is empty, then it will disintegrate into dust. No matter what that show is, if it is filled with humanity, then it will sing to everybody who is watching. And somebody will identify with every character.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How good a motorcycle rider were you?
WINKLER: I don't know how to ride a motorcycle.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: World, crushed.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: World crushed.
WINKLER: OK. OK. I am unbelievable.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: But that scene where you pulled in, were you literally just on in that one shot?
WINKLER: I was just on that one shot. Now, they did put on a bike. I was on the bike. I was supposed to go about five feet. I, I'm -- I did not know the -- and the -- so I went five feet at about 90 miles an hour. (LAUGHTER) I'm not kidding. And the man who was the director of photography was sitting right in front of me. I watched him fly.
I dropped the bike. We slid under the sound truck. They came running over and they pulled the bike out, because they rented it. Then, (LAUGHTER) --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Then they pulled you?
WINKLER: Then they pulled me out. But, here's the great thing, OK? The second bike I used which was a Triumph, was the same bike that Steve McQueen used to jump the fence in the Great Escape.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And we recall that poetry, don't we?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That's poetry.
WINKLER: Now, I'm walking down Beverly Hills, in the street, and Steve McQueen is walking the other way. And all I did was nod my head. I never stopped him to say, "I'm so happy to meet you." So I never make that mistake anymore. I meet somebody that touches me and I email them, or leave them a tweet or shake their hand if I see them in person. It's joy for me. I'm so happy to tell somebody that I really am touched by that. Thank you. It makes me crazy. I really enjoy that.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Could you just do the "hey" for me?
WINKLER: (FONZ VOICE) Hey, George. Let me tell you something. I'm very happy to be here on this show with you, because you're very good with the questions. Not everybody is good with the questions. I have sat in this seat, in other countries, where people have not done their homework. And it is boring. (LAUGHTER)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Everybody, Henry Winkler. (APPLAUSE)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right, spoiler alert. Robert Kirkland is that man talking. That's next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right. Tonight here on the program, I hope you're having a wonderful night, wherever you may be. OK, so I'm really looking forward to the next conversation, because we get to explore -- some of the themes that set it up. Any good horror movie, certainly a good zombie movie has to say more about what's happening in the society in general.
You know, when George Romero had The Night of Living Dead, it certainly tackled a lot of big issues: racism, classicism, feel like an outsider. But those zombies were scary, except, you know, they were slow, so you thought, well at the very least, if you were in that situation, you could get away from them. Then out comes something like 28 days later, which weren't particular zombies, but they were so fast, you couldn't get away from them.
And then, The Walking Dead comes out, and you don't know what the hell's going to happen, which makes it scary, and makes it interesting. And it started from a pretty cool place. The guy who created it is Robert Kirkman and he's in the red chair next. Hello, Robert. (APPLAUSE) Cool.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Listen, welcome to the show.
KIRKMAN: Thanks for having me.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How's life?
KIRKMAN: it's good, good.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Could you, could you have imagined that this is what would have turned into?
KIRKMAN: No. No, this far exceeding any expectations I could have ever possibly had.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: But what's interesting more common folks is when, when you consume whatever it is, the story, especially if its violent, it's different, because it's a still image and then there's a bubble so you, you experience it differently. What was it like when you first saw some of the more extreme scenes, moving?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, I think that would probably surprise people. Like it is really jarring for me. Like it's not -- I'm not one of those guys that's like, "Oh, yeah, that's awesome. Let's see these intestines thrown all over the place." I mean that stuff is really cool, and I really love horror movies, but that stuff is really unsettling for me and there are scenes that happen in the comic that, you know, were drawn as still images that I've looked at 100 times.
You know, from the, from the pilot episode when that horse gets torn apart --
KIRKMAN: -- you know, that happens in the comic, and it's a really gory and nasty scene, but seeing that in person and seeing, you know, people that look like zombies actually pulling those guts into their mouth --
KIRKMAN: -- and chewing on them and stuff. Like that stuff's just disgusting. So -- and then so, yeah, I'm just kind of like --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And then you break for lunch.
KIRKMAN: -- I'm going, I'm going to go somewhere else, yeah. So when that's over --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: But bizarrely, it's a family show.
KIRKMAN: It is bizarre that it's a family show. I hear from, "Oh, my grandmother loves that show." (LAUGHTER) And actually, I just saw my grandmother, and she was, "Like I, I stay up and watch that show, and I always regret it." (LAUGHTER) But, you know --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How you doing, mom?
KIRKMAN: Oh, I appreciate you doing that, but yeah, my nanny. She loves the show, but it keeps her up at night.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How did you manage the control issue? So you have comics as your story, and then when you go to TV, even if Jesus had a show a network executive would tell Jesus, "Can I give you a note?" Like that sounds --
KIRKMAN: I would recommend Jesus to a show on AMC. Because that -- they are, they are pretty good. I hate to kiss ass, but they are pretty smart. You know, they actually like -- read the scripts and you know, have good notes, and they don't really come back with anything crazy, you know, "can this be a laser dog instead of a zombie, this episode, because we hear those are popular."
I don't know what other network outlets are out.
KIRKMAN: I imagine that's what they're like. But --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I've never got the laser dog not, but that's not to say it isn't coming. This is only the second episode. It could happen.
KIRKMAN: There would be a lot of laser dogs on TV, so I imagine that it must be all the network cut. But no, I mean, the control thing I think is easy for me just because I still have the comic. You know, if I'm ever frustrated, if -- you know, it's television.
I mean, it's hard to have 400 different people working on something and it, and it ended being exactly what you expected. So, you know, from time to time, there are scenes where I'm like, uh, kind of wish that hair had been moved over here, because I am, I am a very picky guy.
But you know, the collaborative benefits of working in television, I mean, there's stuff in The Walking Dead show that I would never been to come up on with on my own that I think is far better than anything I've ever done in the comic. And I think that comes from working with all the talented people involved in that show.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Who put this picture of the Pope, this Battle Pope here -- talk about that?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, that was, that was my first comic. I --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You have Jesus on the cross having a conversation.
KIRKMAN: I try to be as controversial as possible.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Good, you win.
KIRKMAN: Yeah, I don't know if -- yeah, I don't know if -- I don't know how this is going to go, now that we're showing this.
KIRKMAN: But, but no, I mean, I was starting out. I had never done anything before and I knew that you know, if I did something that was like normal, you know, people would go, "Oh, there's a normal comic book. I get normal comic books from hundreds of other people." So I wanted to do something where, you know, if someone heard about it, they had to like find out more, whether they loved it or hated it and so --
KIRKMAN: -- Battle Pope seemed like a concept, I feel like, "Oh, somewhere's Battle Pope, they're going to be like, I gotta know what that's about. What is that?" And I don't know, it seemed to work out. I mean, it got me some notoriety that led to other projects.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: The life lessons learned there, you can do anything you set your mind to?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, I kind of feel like -- yeah, I mean, maybe a little bit. I mean with Battle Pope, especially, you know, I wanted to do comics, and I just made a comic book. I didn't know how to do it, I figured now to do it while we were doing it, and you know, I started a publishing company, because no one else wanted to publish a comic book called Battle Pope.
So I was like, "Well, I guess I'm a publishing company now, and I'll make this comic." (LAUGHTER) So yeah, I mean, I kind of feel like I must have learned something from (Anmy), and I'm like, "Oh, we need a fence around the house. Let's build a fence." You know, I need to make comic books, I'll make comic books.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Even if people don't read comics, they know Marvel or even DC because it will be that thing that comes up just before they watch that movie.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That makes all the money. What was your experience like in --
KIRKMAN: Not all the money, just most.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Most of the money. What was your experience like in that world?
KIRKMAN: It was, it was really tough for me, even from the beginning just because I came from you know, publishing my own comics, and so going to Marvel, and you know, writing other comics for them, like being kind of a work for hire kind of thing, yeah, I found it very frustrating, because I felt like they were doing things wrong, and when I would tell them, they didn't appreciate that. (LAUGHTER)
Like I don't mean to sound like I feel like I could your job better, but I think you should be doing this. And then I'd hear myself saying that, really, what are you doing? So I mean, I was at Marvel for four years, and it was a lot of fun, and if I look at it, I learned a lot. But it was an extremely frustrating, you know, not being in control, and not being able to say, "Oh, you know it would be really cool if Spiderman's hand got cut off."
You know, like everything was written by committee and you had to like, vet everything, and you know, it's -- I love those comics as a fan, I enjoy reading them. But the process that goes into them, you know, once I knew how the sausage was made, I -- it wasn't to me.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What's -- what's going to happen in season four? What's --- I want to go take --
KIRKMAN: What's going to happen in season four? Well, let me tell you -- STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Yeah.
KIRKMAN: -- the opening shot --
KIRKMAN: -- is, oh, I don't think I --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You have to tell me something.
KIRKMAN: I have to tell you something?
KIRKMAN: Here's what I'll say.
KIRKMAN: Oh, no. The first two seasons, the zombies were the threat.
KIRKMAN: The third season, humans were the threat with the Governor coming in, Woodbury and all that stuff. The fourth season, they're going to be dealing with a lot of zombies, a little bit of humans, but there's a threat that's coming, and it's going to be nature.
So the world itself is going to be a threat that they're going to have to deal with, that I think it's going to change things up in a pretty interesting way.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: If I'm picking what you're throwing down, I'm hearing laser dogs. (LAUGHTER) I want a red mamma. All right, stick around. More with Robert Kirkman, but I'm going to put him at work, I'm going to do that.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right. We're back here with Robert Kirkman. OK, I want go to picture, let's go back to 1991, let me show this picture --
KIRKMAN: Oh, boy.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- let me show this picture, let's go back.
KIRKMAN: What are we doing? Where are we going?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: This here. Oh, hey.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Oh, hey. Here's with the (ahs) like about 80.
KIRKMAN: it wasn't bad.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It wasn't bad.
KIRKMAN: I am wearing a diaper there.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You were. That's a happy time in your life?
KIRKMAN: A miserable time in my life. No.
KIRKMAN: Well, I mean, I don't know. I was living in a, I was living basically in the red light district of Lexington, Kentucky. There were a bunch of, a bunch of porno shops right around the corner from me that I did not frequent. And I really didn't. But yeah, I had my publishing company going. I was losing money left and right, and going broke very quickly.
And yeah, I mean, yeah, it was, it was a tough time. It was -- and looking back on it, I'm like oh, you know that was, that was fun, that was neat, you know living in that house and running my publishing company and you know, trying to make ends meet. But hoo, God, I would not do that again.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Did you have a moment where you weren't sure if this was going to happen?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. I, actually Amazon.com has a giant warehouse in Lexington, Kentucky and I went in to put in an application, like after I'd been publishing for a year and a half, maybe two years, and I sat in the lobby, and I got the application and I remember just thinking, this looks terrible. Like, I don't want to do this. I'll just, I'll just go starve.
So I left, but I was actually in the physical place, trying to put an application in, and I just decided not to. And then I don't know, like maybe six months later, I started getting work writing for other people and then that was able to, you know, keep me going. But yeah.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Do people around you take it seriously, family and friends?
KIRKMAN: Well, my family didn't know. I didn't tell them for like -- until I started making money, I hadn't told them I quit my job. So like I worked at a place called Kentucky Lighting and Supply --
KIRKMAN: -- if you ever need some electrical equipment or, you know, fixtures or stuff like that, you should check them out -- STROUMBOULOPOULOS: OK.
KIRKMAN: It's a nice place. And then, and then I eventually quit because I was like -- I'm, you know, I was working until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning making comics, and then I'd wake up at work, because I had to be at work at 8:00 --
KIRKMAN: -- and then go to the, go to work like 15 minutes late because I actually live right down the street. And just do a horrible job all day long. And then go home and work again, and it was, it was pretty tough. So I decided, you know what? I'm gonna, I'm gonna quit and I'm going to make a go at this, and I was going massively in debt, like funding everything on credit cards.
And I didn't want to tell my parents like, "Oh, yes, so I'm quitting my job and I'm doing this comic thing, and it's probably not going to work out, and I'm wracking up crazy amounts of debt." It was like I had gone to college without actually going to college, and I had like college-level debts when I was, when I actually started making money.
I just didn't want them to worry. And so my mother called Kentucky Lighting one time, and they were like, "Yeah, he doesn't work here. He hasn't worked here for almost a year." And so then she thought I had been fired, and didn't want to tell them, so she called me. It was like, "What happened? Why, like you don't work there anymore? Like what's going on?"
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Is your mother Jerry Seinfeld? That was amazing.
KIRKMAN: Right. That was actually what my mother sounds like. You (inaudible) -- but now, and then I, and then I actually showed up one day in Florida with a long box of comics. And I was like, "I've been lying to you for a while. I just didn't want you to worry. This is what I've been doing. Here's all these comics."
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So it's almost like you had to, like you had to come out to your parents. It was like a -- but it gets --
KIRKMAN: Just a little bit.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- it gets better campaign. Here's my --
KIRKMAN: Yeah. And my dad was a small business owner.
KIRKMAN: You know? And I knew that he would worry too much about me and that they would gripe at me and I didn't want to get griped at.
KIRKMAN: So yeah, I tried to preserve them from that.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So, what do you think about The Talking Dead, man? So I mean, The Talking Man gets more viewers than most other shows actually get. It's incredible.
KIRKMAN: If a pot smoker from another dimension had come in and told me, "Hey, you know, there's going to be a talk show about this show that's made of your comic -- "
KIRKMAN: I'd be like, "Dude, you are on pot."
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Yeah. Give me some or go away. You want to --
KIRKMAN: I don't touch that stuff.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What a pleasure. Thanks, Robert. It's Robert Kirkman, everybody. Thank you for the program tonight, thank you so much for hanging out with us, for checking it.