Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1: Taking a Walk.

Speaker 2: I mean I loved McDonald’s, I love Burger King, I loved the Kentucky Fried Chicken. I loved the fast food places because they had flavor. It didn’t matter that it was completely artificial and banned. For you, it’s a miracle we were alive. Really, when you consider all the chemicals that we have consumed, maybe we’re here because we’re filled with preservatives.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Taking a Walk Podcast, the podcast where Buzz Knight talks with musicians and creative cool people about their inside story. Today, Buzz speaks with Phil Rosenthal, co creator of the iconic TV show Everybody Loves Raymond and the star of the Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil, which is in its seventh season. Phil is also the creator, with his daughter of the book Just Try It. Here’s Buzz with Phil Rosenthal.

Speaker 3: Phil Rosenthal, the legend is here. Oh my god, I’m so excited.

Speaker 2: You make me sound old.

Speaker 3: Oh stop it.

Speaker 2: How could I be you?

Speaker 3: Phil? That’s my first question? I want to be you.

Speaker 2: This is very easy. Anyone can do what I’m doing, meaning to travel and eat. You know, I know not everybody has the budget to do it exactly as I do it, But to be honest, I was having fun like this when I had no money at all. I got a very cheap flight to Europe when I was like twenty three, and I tell kids, you don’t have to lie down when you fly. You’re young. You can be uncomfortable a little. It’s okay. You can go and stay in a youth hostel or Airbnb or bed and breakfast and you get a baguette and a piece of cheese and sit out in the tuileries for free in Paris during the day, and you’re as good as anybody, and you’re having the time of your life.

Speaker 3: Well, we do know that finding experiences really is better than anything else you could spend money on, really, right.

Speaker 2: That’s what I learned that when I had my first trip to Europe, and when I did exactly what I just said, that’s when I realized, Oh, this is what your extra money is for. It’s for these life experiences, because what you get in return stays with you your whole life. And that is a new perspective on everything.

Speaker 3: Congratulations on season seven, My god, season seven of your your great You’ve had such a run of shows, right, Somebody feed Phil. I’ll have what Phil is having but season seven, right.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I’m the luckiest guy you’re ever going to talk to. That’s how I feel. And now I get to do this live tour where I go all around the United States starting next week and play these big theaters and meet all the beautiful people who seem to enjoy the show or just want to see me tell funny stories. It’s so much fun. We do a Q and A, and this is part of traveling. The best part is meeting the people. That’s always the best part of every episode. Yes, the place is usually beautiful, the food is usually fantastic, but the best part of the people that I get to share it with.

Speaker 3: Now, please tell me there isn’t an episode coming up where you go to Russia, because I’m going to beg you to have a food taster.

Speaker 2: Ah. You know. My kind of segue into the food and travel game was in nineteen let’s see, No, not nineteen, I’m not that old. In two thousand and nine I went to Russia because they called me. The Russians called me Russian Television and asked if I would come there and turn my sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond into Everybody Loves Custua and I went with the proviso that they would let me film the process, and that film is called Exporting Raymond. And that was the first time I was actually on camera in my job as the creator of Raymond, trying to impart to the Russians why they should try to make a believable sitcom. Yeah right, instead of something that’s Their style of humor is very broad and farcical and almost clownish, which is great. But if you wanted to adapt everybody loves Raymond, then we kind of set that on planet Earth, where you believe that this stuff could happen. So that movie, that documentary was my transition really into being in front of the can and I thought, what if I could travel to other places that were beautiful and I could eat great food? And I sold the show with one line to PBS. At first, I said, I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything.

Speaker 3: Well, let’s talk about the things that you’re afraid of. Food that repulses you is the topic? Now? Oh boy, is there are there things that do repulse you?

Speaker 2: I’m not partial to black licorice. I know I’m not alone. Do you like it? No? Okay? So that we have that in common. I was just in Iceland this season, and I thought the food was fantastic, but everybody told me, you know what, the famous dish is here that you gotta try. I said, what I said, putrefied shark, putrefied shark. I said, you know, I gotta tell you, I tend to stay away from dishes that have the word putrefied in the title of the dish. And I had seen that Boordain in episode where he ate this and got physically ill on camera. So thank you, mister Bourdain, not just for pioneering an entire genre in the food and travel space, but for taking that hit for me.

Speaker 3: Who would win a cage match between you, Stanley Tucci and Eugene Levy.

Speaker 2: Ha ha Oh, now you’re talking about Battle of the heavyways. Huh? All the kids? What do we have in common? I’m going to say, all picked on in school?

Speaker 3: Well, all healthy travelers too.

Speaker 2: I’m in very good company, aren’t I. I mean, they’re they’re they’re amazing. And and yet I think we’ve each carved out a little niche for ourselves, right, I think so. But every single person on the earth has their own niche it’s either who you identify or who you like to watch, or who you feel comfortable with, right as far as we as far as we go. But we all owe this great debt to Anthony Bourday. We are only doing a take on the type of show that he he reinvented the genre.

Speaker 3: Without a doubt. Yeah, was your daughter Lily upset at you after you ate reindeer?

Speaker 2: Nope, Nope, She’s used to me eating things. We wrote a kid’s book together called just Try It about a dad who eats everything and his little girl who won’t need anything, And it’s loosely based on our real life. But of course she’s twenty six now on an adult and does eat everything. And we’ll show has me try stuff Sometimes I’m the little kid who doesn’t want to try things. Listen. While we were writing it, I realized this isn’t just a book for kids. This is a lot of grown ups won’t try anything.

Speaker 3: Talk about how much fun it was collaborating with your daughter.

Speaker 2: The best, just the best. I mean, I recommend that you have kids. I have a daughter, okay, so I don’t have to tell you what a joy it is to do anything with them, especially as they get older, and you realize that these have grown into wonderful people and their own right that you’d want to be friends with any rate. And so we have a wonderful time together, my whole family. I just love being with them. We laugh so much, and you know it’s cliche, but there’s nothing like it.

Speaker 3: And the eye rolls have reduced, haven’t they.

Speaker 2: Oh, I still get plenty you do get yeah, Yeah, yeah, I mean I think sometimes I go on the road where people laugh at things I say and clap when I come out, because I certainly don’t get that at home.

Speaker 3: Who do you get more eye rolls from your kids, your wife, or your brother that you work with.

Speaker 2: I’d say my brother’s the worst because he knows me the longest and he’s my younger brother, and so he’s getting even with me for when we were little. Yes, because I was five and I was the star of the show in my house. I was the center of attention, and then one day my parents came home with my replacement.

Speaker 3: So talk about some famous first going back to growing up in Queen’s first song that you remember loving.

Speaker 2: Wow, that’s a good question. I’m gonna say. I want to hold your hand, maybe you’ve heard of that group.

Speaker 3: I think so.

Speaker 2: And I love the Monkeys too, which was the kind of an Americanized version for little kids like me. I love them too. I had all their stuff. I loved the Beatles, I loved everything I had. You know, I’m sure you had this too, AM radio every morning getting up listening to WABC, cousin Brucey. I think it was the DJ Sure and America Top forty. What’s great is I go now in the radio on the radio with my wife in the car and we listened to seventies. We put on the seventies channel because that’s when we kind of came of age. Right. That music that hit you between the years when you’re ten and twenty years old, that’s kind of your music, right, And so that the music of the seventies, even more than the sixties when I was really little kid. That’s the stuff that you just hear it and even if you haven’t heard it in fifty years, it takes you right back. So nice.

Speaker 3: And what was so amazing about AM radio back then was it was this hodgepodge of everything that sort of, you know, all collided on as a playlist, right.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it was. It was great. It was great. I love it, but listen to kids. I still love music. It just comes at us differently. I just got the downloaded in one second, the new Beyonce, and I love it. I think it’s one of the best things she ever did.

Speaker 3: Have you heard a version of a Blackbird?

Speaker 2: Gorgeous?

Speaker 3: Yeah?

Speaker 2: Gorgeous? I mean that. That’s a remarkable recording because the first time you listen to it, I think you’re knocked over. Then you listen again and you hear different things in it, intricacies, and it just keeps rewarding you the more you listen to it. I think that’s a great way to put it. First Comedian that you loved, Oh goodness, I’m gonna say my dad. My dad was really funny, and he was just I didn’t even realize there was another way to be He was just funny without trying, funny way of talking, funny facial expressions. My mother had a different sense of humor, but obviously a great sense of humor. That and they laughed when it was the currency of our house. When we weren’t fighting, we were laughing.

Speaker 3: Max Helen, right, yeah, yeah, and talk about the the serendipitous moment that led to them meeting.

Speaker 2: Yes, you know, I always say I wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t funny, and I mean that literally, because she first saw him he was doing amateur stand up. He was a tailor, he worked in the garment center, but he got up one night in New Jersey at an amateur club because he liked telling jokes and he loved the old Jewish comedians from when he was growing up, and he loved telling jokes. And she was on a date with another fella, but thought this guy was funny. Hence my brother and me.

Speaker 3: It’s amazing.

Speaker 2: Yeah, we’ll be.

Speaker 1: Right back with more of the Taken a Walk Podcast. Welcome back to the Taking a Walk Podcast.

Speaker 3: Okay, last on the famous first I like it first meal that cemented your love affair with food.

Speaker 2: That’s gonna be tough. I always loved great food, but growing up in my parents’ house, I was not in an environment where that love was allowed to flourish. It was not great. They both worked, we didn’t have a lot of money, and this was not I mean I used to joke that in our house, meat was a punishment. And it wasn’t until I left that house that I had food with what they call flavor. I mean, I loved McDonald’s. I loved Burger King, I loved the Kentucky Fried Chicken. I loved the fast food places because they had flavor. It didn’t matter that it was completely artificial and banned for you. It was first of all, marketed to us the same way AM radio was. It was literally, you listened to your favorite Beatles song and then the ed for McDonald’s would come up. Right. It was aimed at our heads and our bellies, and I couldn’t love it more. I loved the popular culture which included this. It’s a miracle we were alive. Really, when you consider all the chemicals that we have consumed in this food and junk food and cookies and cake and twinkies and you know, all that stuff. Maybe we’re here because we’re filled with preservatives. But I loved it. I loved it. And then you know, I think I was twenty four when I had a steak, like a real steak in New York at a place called Gallagher’s in Midtown, and I thought, this is steak, so anything like it. I literally had the worst cheapest cuts of meat because that’s all we could afford and it was cooked within an inch of its life. It was gray and terrible. And you know the name of our kids book has just try It. But in my house the book would have been called just finish it. You’re not leaving until you finish it. So it did feel like I was being reprimanded for something I didn’t do. And the finished this terrible. But when that steak came at Gallagher’s and now at Peter Luger’s or other great steakhouses in the world, if you ever had steak in Italy or Paris, I mean, come on, this is unbelievable.

Speaker 3: Do you remember something called Swiss steak?

Speaker 2: Yes, that’s not a kind of a chop me thing. It’s also tough and terrible. Yes, I think you’re right. I wasn’t even say terrible, because what about the Swiss people out there.

Speaker 3: I grew up in Stafford, Connecticut. It was terrible. Trust me.

Speaker 2: It wasn’t like Salisbury steak or worse than that.

Speaker 3: I think it was worse, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting clouded because my mother was a terrific cook. Nothing away.

Speaker 2: It’s nice, but you know, there was.

Speaker 3: A limited budget to get the good cut of meat.

Speaker 2: Right, absolutely.

Speaker 1: You know.

Speaker 2: I speak to other chefs in the world, great chefs who also had parents who weren’t great cooks, and it wasn’t until they went out on their own. It’s just like the music that hits you when you’re a teenager becomes your music. This thing when you find some great love at that age, that becomes your thing. And that’s how I was with food. It was like I always say, it’s like in the Wizard of Oz when she opens the door and now the movie’s in color. Yeah.

Speaker 3: Right, For a man that eats as much as you do, how do you keep your girlish figure?

Speaker 2: Yes, this is the number one question I get. I uh, you know how they make a dog food commercial. No, they don’t feed the dog until the commercial dog and I don’t eat until we do that scene you’re watching. And that scene is probably the only meal I had that day. I’m like saving up for that, so I’m hungry and I don’t finish anything because the crew is looking at me with their tongues hanging out, and I love sharing it with them. It’s only fun if you can share it, and that actually saves my belly for the next thing. That I’m going to eat because I want to try everything, but you can’t possibly finish everything. That’s a good diet. Don’t finish everything. And the other thing is I walk every day a lot, and I try to work out every day. It’s some capacity.

Speaker 3: And you’re on the Taking a Walk podcast, even though it’s virtual. So I’m glad we brought up walking for sure.

Speaker 2: People, if you’re listening to this and you’re walking, pick it up a little. I’m doing it for your own good.

Speaker 3: So if you didn’t turn out to this great career involving the creation of one of the iconic shows and everybody loves Raymond and all your other work, what would you be doing.

Speaker 2: I’d probably be depressed because this is all I wanted to do, was this was to work in TV. I watched a lot of TV as a little kid. My parents used to say to me, go outside here, listen to your take a Walk podcast and go. And I really I felt safer with my friends on TV because I was a shrimpy little nothing and I did get picked out in school, but I just my parents. When they would yell at me for watching TV, they would say, what are you going to do? Get a job? Watching television, and it’s funny. When I got my first job writing TV, I sent them a big television set with a note on it that said, Haha, that’s great.

Speaker 3: So you really didn’t have a plan, b.

Speaker 2: I really didn’t. I had a lot of odd jobs when I graduated from host University and moved into New York City because I wasn’t equipped to do anything, I studied theater. Well, good luck with that. It’s going to be forty thousand other people in New York going for you know, that little part on something with no lines for no pay. So I worked as a guard at the Metropop Museum of Art. I worked as a bartender. I worked as a temp I worked for a small movie company, doing odd jobs for them. And yeah, I guess I would have you know, I think the expression is bum around. Can you talk.

Speaker 3: About the creation of the unbelievable cast of Everybody Loves Raymond? How do you come up with something with everybody just being so brilliant, so perfectly too booned? How does that happen?

Speaker 2: Well, I didn’t have a choice with Raymond. He came with the thing. But then I had to create a world where he would first of all be comfortable because he never acted before, and keep him as a character close to his actual life. And so the show is based loosely on his actual life and what I know about the personalities. I filled him with the personality for my life, and so I just wrote from real life experience and real things that happened to me. And then look for the people that I believed we’re doing this right, you have to have I’m not going to say that taste doesn’t have anything to do with it. You have to have some taste. In other words, if you laugh, that’s because you’re in tune with my sense of humor and raise sense of humor, right, because what we thought was funny, And then these people are super talented and took whatever we wrote and made it better. You know. For example, Doris Roberts, who played the mother, we saw a hundred people for that role, and the test was how funny and believable would she be reading this one scene from my actual life that my mother actually said to me. And she was just the best one. And that’s how it was with every cast member. I agree with you, it’s a phenomenal cast.

Speaker 3: I agree.

Speaker 2: It was like having an all star basketball team where you could pass the ball to anyone and they could score brilliant.

Speaker 3: Who was even though they were tremendous on so many fronts, who was the biggest pain in the ass?

Speaker 2: Raymond? Raymond Raymond is neurotic nutcase, but the best kind because he only hurts himself. It was, you know, a kind of learning curve for both of us. I came from a sitcom world and he did not. And his personality and his sense of humor came from the very, very believable, the very relatable. That’s what his stand up comedy was based in stories from home, things that you could relate to as if you had kids, if you had a wife, okay. And that’s the laugh, the observational humor of believability. So he didn’t want to do anything in the show that he didn’t actually do in real life. Include in drink coffee. I said, ray this is the television in the cup, can be anything you like. He goes, no, they’re not going to believe it. Okay, So that is annoying, but that he didn’t even realize it. But that’s the method. That’s method acting, and that extreme actually helped ground the show in believability. And we developed this rule in the show. Yes, we’re exaggerating a little bit for comedy’s sake, but we’re not exaggerating so much that you can’t believe this wouldn’t have this would happen, right, We want you to say this could happen when you watch it. Now. We all know the shows where that’s not a rule, and they’re perfectly fine. But on our show, we thought the relatability was just as important as the comedy. The relatability and the believability was just as important. Does that makes sense?

Speaker 3: Yeah, and the show will always stand the test of time in my opinion.

Speaker 2: Oh, thank you. Well that was on purpose. We really did want to stand the test of time. That was built into the way. We were thinking. No topical jokes. You know, we’re doing the show when President Clinton is there. Would we have made President Clinton jokes? I guess we could have, but they would be as dated as saying his name.

Speaker 3: Is right now, I see back there, the lunch box, the naked lunch box, back there promoting your podcast. Yes, I have a podcast too, Yeah, hello, fellow podcaster.

Speaker 2: So we were only one of the busies.

Speaker 3: Exactly a three million, two hundred thousand so you’ve had Donnie Osmond, you had Sean Cassidy, I think Carrie Underwood. Who are some of the musical gets that you’re still looking for? Bruce Springsteen if he’s listening, Bruce, I saw you did Kirby Enthusiasm last night.

Speaker 2: I’m here too, you know, I’ll listen. I’ll take Bruce anyway I can get them. I’ll take him on the podcast. I’ll take him on Somebody Feed Film whatever.

Speaker 3: You once speaking of curb? Yeah, are you really a good poker player?

Speaker 2: No? I don’t play. That was the first time I was on. I think it was season one or two. But the one that people seem to remember more is the one where he tries to get out of lunch with me and because he’s he doesn’t want to be on Somebody for Phil, I tell him at a party, hey, come on do the show. You just heard him talking to Richard Lewis. He’s going to ask me to be on the show. I don’t want to do it. And sure enough I asked going to be on, and I go, uh, come on, we’ll go to Ethiopia. Do you like coffee? And he’s like no, no, no, no. I was like, we could talk about it. I go, great, let’s have lunch. And now he’s got to have lunch with me. I’m such a pain in the ass. And he shows up to lunch wearing a Maga hat to scare me off. Brilliant. Yeah, we’re the opposite. And he realizes that the difference in our personalities is funny. So he’s put me in the show a couple of times. And I always joked that the name of my show should be why Curb your Enthusiasm? Can you enclosing?

Speaker 3: Tell that story about lunch with Johnny Carson.

Speaker 2: Oh my goodness, So I directed speaking of President Clinton. I got to direct President Clinton in a funny video that they showed at the White House Correspondents dinner. I wrote jokes for him for all eight years of his presidency. You know, there’s a humor season in Washington where they are called upon to make funny humor speeches. And I had a friend there who called upon me to help, and I made this video. And a friend of mine, after this video premiere the next day, he said, my friend saw it and he wants to have lunch with you, And it was Johnny Carson, And so I went and had lunch. Johnny had been off the air for eight years and no one had seen him. Remember when he when he retired, he went away. It was like our garbook, you don’t see him anymore. So here here he is. I remember what he was wearing, a yellow sweater. He looked fantastic. He was so nice, and I brought Ray Romano with me because I knew he would he would plots as they say, to come and see him. And we spent two hours with Johnny and Ray and I were both reduced to that Chris Farley character on SNL. Remember when you threw the tomahawk. That was great. We were just like two children meeting their idol. But he was so nice. He talked about anything you wanted to talk about, and if you started to do a bit from his show, he would join right in and do his part. It was so fun and he was so nice. Well, I’m home, and I wrote down every single thing I could remember from that afternoon. I didn’t do that when I worked with the president, because when you think about it, there’ve been several presidents, but there was only one Johnny Carson.

Speaker 3: Well, speaking a nice You are supportive of so many charities. I want to give you a shout out for that everything from the Ebenezer Baptist to the Homeboy Industries to the Delta Alliance. I mean, you know, seeing so many things that you are supportive of is so wonderful and it’s great to have you on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 2: Thanks.

Speaker 3: Congrats on season seven.

Speaker 2: I’m the luckiest guy you we’re going to have on this walking podcast.

Speaker 3: Thank you, Phil. It’s an honor to meet you.

Speaker 2: It’s a pleasure to meet you, my friend. I hope to see soon.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Taking a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Taking a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.