AMERICANS WAKE UP TO ERMA’S HUMOROUS SPIN ON LIFE’S ORDINARY MOMENTS.
Soon after The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank hit the best-seller lists, Erma received a call from producer Bob Shanks, who was putting together a new television show for ABC. NBC’s “Today Show” had been sounding the public’s wake-up call since 1952, but according to critics of the time, it had grown predictable and dull. Yet with no programming to challenge it, “Today” continued to pull a sizable audience.
Bob Shanks took up the challenge. With “Good Morning America,” he hoped to create a program that informed and entertained at the same time, one that provided women with advice and ideas on how to run their homes.
Before talking to Erma, Shanks had already assembled a large and impressive cast, including David Hartman (who had starred in a TV western called The Virginian), Nancy Dussault (a television actress). Jack Anderson (a syndicated political newspaper columnist), Rona Barrett (her beat was Hollywood), Jonathan Winters (a roly-poly comedian), and Geraldo Rivera. Erma’s response? “I can’t imagine all those people in the same country let alone on the same show. I think you’re out of your mind.”
While Shanks seemed to agree with Erma’s assessment regarding his state of mind, he was convinced that the concept would work, and he wanted her to be a part of it. He asked her to do two- or three-minute humorous “bits” and promised that her portions of the program would be filmed in Phoenix. She said, “Yes.” Erma’s decision proved a good one. “Good Morning America” hit the air in 1975 with easygoing David Hartman heading up the odd mix of characters Bob Shanks had harnessed.
Erma’s stint on “Good Morning America” lasted eleven years. What began as two or three minutes of her zany twist on life evolved into longer interviews with celebrities, including Zsa Zsa Gabor (whom she interviewed in Zsa Zsa’s king-size bed) and comedienne Phyllis Diller.
But regardless of how famous or important her interviewee, Erma never played the interrogator. Talking with her was like chatting with a friend. She employed a down-home, relaxed style.
Erma thrived with the supportive crew and loosely styled Good Morning America interviews. But eventually she grew tired of the travel, which carved ten days from each month. She decided to quit. It was hard to give up the show because she prized the job and adored the people she worked with. But she was exhausted. For more than a decade, in addition to two “Good Morning America” pieces a week, she had continued her column, “At Wit’s End,” written more books, produced a television show and, with Bill, managed to raise her children.
From the book, Erma Bombeck: Writer and Humorist by Lynn Hutner Colwell.
Used with permission of the author.