comedy, television

The top 10 reasons I love and will miss David Letterman as the host of the Late Show

David Letterman
David Letterman

The world is buzzing about Dave’s stunning announcement that he will retire from his three decade run as the host of the Late Show some time in 2015. I love, admire, and respect Dave. He’s been a role model for me with his creative courage and generosity. Here are the top 10 reasons I’m sad to see him go:

10. How else am I going to learn about wild, wacky, and wonderful animals without Jack Hanna’s on-going invitation to the show?

9. No one else could get people like Lady Gaga and Bill Murray together in such an authentic, joyful way while giving guests the show of a lifetime.

8. Dave’s mom. Her humor showed us that apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

7. Paul Shaffer and his band members are free to be their eccentric, talented, hilarious selves.

6. No one else stands up for and supports people just getting started in entertainment the way that Dave does.

5. He is never afraid to publicly take on critics with strength, humor, and candor. His capacity to bury the hatchet with people who have hurt him is admirable.

4. Dave sets the example that we can find what we love and find a way to do it in a way that inspires others.

3. Watching Dave try to use Twitter is endearing and adorable. It also makes us laugh at our addiction and reverence of 140-character bits.

2. Regis Philbin will now be running loose on the streets of New York with no one to publicly keep track of him.

1. Though Dave is a mammoth star, he never, ever forgot his humble roots and he has always been determined to lift others as he rises.

Bon voyage, Dave. I’m glad to have a full year to say goodbye properly and pay tribute to your incredible achievements. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

childhood, media, television

Inspired: Thank God for Television

The Cosby Show – one of my favorites, then and now

There are a lot of people who bemoan TV as wasting the minds of America. I’ve never understood that mindset because TV literally saved me. As a kid, it taught me to dream. It taught me about relationships, friendship, and the many options that were available in the world of work. It showed me that I could live my life differently than those around me. It gave me a very small window into a very big world.

As a child of the 80’s, I looked up to and learned from characters in The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Facts of Life, Different Strokes, Cheers, Who’s the Boss?, and The Muppet Show. I loved reruns of The HoneymoonersI Love Lucy, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Mork & Mindy. I remember seeing the very first episode of The Simpsons and deciding to play the saxophone so I could be like Lisa. Saturday morning cartoons were my favorite event of the week. I watched the news morning and night to learn about far-flung places around the globe. From my tiny little town that didn’t hold much hope for me, TV gave me the idea that there was a lot more to the world than what I was experiencing. It made me laugh and it gave me an escape.

Somewhere inside me, that little girl is still there, her eyes glued to that small shiny box, her smile wide, and her face lit up by the light of pictures that showed her she could carve her own path. TV didn’t waste my mind. Quite the contrary – it bolstered me up. I wouldn’t be who I am without it.

art, commitment, creativity, television

Inspired: Lena Dunham and Sheldon Cooper on the Power of Career Commitment

Zosia Mamet, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams. Photo by Jason Laveris/FILMMAGIC
Zosia Mamet, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams. Photo by Jason Laveris/FILMMAGIC

Lena Dunham, the creator and star of Girls, and Sheldon Cooper, the quirky and maddening character played by actor Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory, have something in common and something powerful to teach us: commitment and focus create the magic sauce of achievement. It’s hard to imagine two people who are less alike and yet they arrive at the same conclusion when it comes to their work. They bet the farm and won.

Lena Dunham was on David Letterman this week. She was so funny and authentic that I decided to learn more about her career. She built her rising star through a web series, Delusional Downtown Divas, and SXSW Film. In 2009, SXSW Film screened her first feature film, Creative Nonfiction. In 2010, the same festival screened her second feature film, Tiny Furniture. Dunham wrote, directed, and starred in both films. Tiny Furniture earned two Independent Spirit Award nominations and that caught the attention of Producer Judd Apatow. Girls is the result of their collaboration; she creates, stars, and sometimes directs it while he serves as the Executive Producer.

Sheldon Cooper said something profound in this week’s episode, appropriately titled “The Occupation Recalibration”. His neighbor and friend, Penny, decides to quit her job as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory to focus on her acting career. After five years in LA, she does much more waitressing than acting and she decides to give her near-impossible dream all of her attention. Sheldon supports this decision with one simple statement: “The best way to achieve a goal is to devote 100% of your time and energy to it. When I decided I was going to be a physicist, I didn’t take some other job in case it didn’t work out…We’re dreamers.”

Who says there’s nothing good on television? People who don’t watch television. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in the content squeezed in-between expensive commercials. Lena and Sheldon are just two examples and they serve as powerful role models for all of us: if we really want to achieve a dream, we must double-down on it. There’s no guarantee of success, though focus gives us our best possible chance to make it come true.

* Tonight, The Big Bang Theory and Girls are competing for the Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical Golden Globe. Lena and Jim are both nominated for Best Actress and Actor, respectively.  

education, film, teaching, television

Beautiful: Finally a Reality Show that Celebrates Real Heroes – Teachers

_MG_0785bOn Friday night, I caught the airing of Teach, the new documentary by Davis Guggenheim. It gave me chills, in a very good way. As someone who was saved, literally, by my education, I know that it is a gift that can turn a life around, that can take someone in an entirely new direction beyond their wildest dreams.

Bravo to CBS for putting such an incredible piece of filmmaking on prime time TV. Kate O’Hare of did a wonderful write up of the show:

“The actions of teachers unions – whether protecting bad teachers, protesting against politicians (or marching for them), and promoting education “reforms” that often seem more about social issues than the three Rs — often capture the interest of the media, overshadowing the day-to-day work of teachers trying to do the best job they can.

In 2010, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim directed and co-wrote“Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that took a frank look at the failures of the American educational system as it showed parents trying to get their children in charter schools.

Much of the media attention for the film focused on a segment that showed how teachers unions fiercely protect political alliances and policies and teachers’ job security, often at the expense of needed financial overhauls.

In a two-hour special called “Teach,”airing Friday, Sept. 6, on CBS, Guggenheim puts the focus back on exceptional teachers, following four public-school instructors through the 2012-2013 school year.

The special also kicks off an 18-month campaign by production company Participant Media, in partnership with, to urge students and recent graduates to go into teaching.

“I believe teachers are heroes and have the ability to make an incredible impact in the long-term future of our kids,” says Guggenheim in a statement. “The airing of ‘Teach’ on CBS is another milestone in Participant’s long-term commitment to raise the visibility of the teaching profession and support efforts to recruit the next generation of great educators.”

•The teachers profiled are: Matt Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at McGlone Elementary School in Denver; Shelby Harris, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho; 10th-grade AP world-history teacher Joel Laguna at Garfield High in Los Angeles; and Lindsay Chinn, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at MLK Early College, Denver.

•All the educators featured strive for excellence, using conventional and unconventional methods.
Follow Zap2it on Twitter and Zap2it on Facebook for the latest news and buzz”
beauty, creativity, curiosity, science, television

Beautiful: The Pi of Life

Have you been watching the TV show Person of Interest? Filled with quirky characters, nerdy testaments to the power of technology and programming, and a healthy dose of espionage and government secrecy, it consumes my complete attention during every episode.

Last week’s show, 2πr, began with a lyrical discussion of Pi. Yes, that Pi: 3.14159265359… or said another way, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi randomly repeats with no end. Finch, the main character of the show, explains that Pi contains every number combination possible. It contains all of creation – past, present, and future. Somewhere, it contains our phone numbers, birthdays, social security numbers. If those numbers were translated into letters, it would contain every word, every sentence ever written by anyone. Mind-blowing.

This is why I find math and science so intriguing, inspiring, and endlessly fascinating. We don’t need to ask, nor wait, for answers to any of our questions, curiosities, and confusions. They are all around us. All of them. What we need is an open heart, a discerning eye, and a clear, keen mind to see them, recognize them, and then put them to good use.

art, change, comedy, community, courage, television

Leap: A Lesson from Comedic Actor Sherman Hemsley, Star of All in the Family and The Jeffersons

Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as George and Louise Jefferson

It wasn’t until much later that I realized how revolutionary his character of George Jefferson was at the time. While he was making all of us laugh, he tore down social barriers and prejudices that existed for centuries in this country. A black entrepreneur who wasn’t intimidated by anyone, least of all his prejudiced white neighbor? That was a revelation, particularly to have it showcased on network television. His co-star, Isabel Sanford, was the first (and so far, the only) Black actress to win a Lead Actress Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981.) Clearly, we still have a long way to go.

A South Philly native, Sherman Hemsley passed away from natural causes on Tuesday. His bravery and strength, his ability to creatively challenge the conventions of his time through his own performances, has cemented his contribution in the performing arts. As my sister, Weez, so beautifully said, “He finally got that deluxe apartment in the sky.” R.I.P. to another Trailblazer who is gone too soon.

healthcare, medical, medicine, New York City, television

Leap: NY Med, the Best Medical TV Show I’ve Seen, Debuts on ABC

“If you don’t have a reason for your heart to keep beating, it won’t.” ~ Dr. Oz

In 2000, I developed a mild obsession with a show called Hopkins 24/7, a show that went behind-the-scenes at Johns Hopkins to show the lives of medical residents. Since then, dramatized versions of hospital shows have all fallen short. Real-life was so much more riveting.

Yesterday I read a feature piece in the Times about a new 8-part series on ABC called NY Med. (Incidentally, Hopkins 24/7 was also an ABC show and created by the same producer.) NY Med goes inside New York’s best hospitals to show real-life situations as they unfold from a wide variety of angles, including the perspective of Dr. Oz, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian, among many other roles. (He is also a Penn alum which is one of my alma maters so I have to give him a special shout-out.)

If you have even a mild interest in our healthcare system, this show is an incredible eye-opener. It is thoughtful, thorough, emotional, and professional. In other words, it’s a rare example of network reality television done right in every way that leaves us with more questions than answers and more hope than despair. The first episode ends with one of the doctors singing a a gorgeous version of Let It Be in the hospital’s chapel. I was crying.

Check out the show’s website – The remaining 7 parts of the series will air on ABC on Tuesdays at 10pm Eastern.

grateful, gratitude, television

Leap: Mr. Rogers Asks Us to Take 10 Seconds of Silence to Think of the People Who Helped Us Be Who We Are

I recently saw this video on KarmaTube of the acceptance speech Mr. Rogers gave when he was presented with an Emmy for Lifetime Achievement. In it he asks all of us to take 10 seconds of silence to think of all of the people who helped us be who we are. Though it was a short and sweet speech, there is a strength and emotion in it that leaves everyone who watches it with a profound sense of gratitude. Have a look and follow his example. You’ll be glad you did.

Video from KarmaTube

commitment, dreams, inspiration, music, television

Beginning: Decide to Marry the Night

Lady Gaga performing "Marry the Night" on A Very Gaga Thanksgiving

“What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! / Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Goethe

Late on Thanksgiving night everyone had gone home and my parents were fast asleep. Phineas was cuddled up next to me snoozing, and I was pecking away on my laptop to draft a freelance writing piece. When I write, I usually have music or the TV on in the background. I flipped through the channels and saw that A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, Lady Gaga’s Thanksgiving special, was on. “Perfect,” I thought. “I love her empowering music and I won’t get distracted by a complicated storyline.”

So much for that idea.

I found Lady Gaga’s story incredibly compelling – her sense of family, the incredibly personal and unique inspirations behind each of her songs, and how she views real wealth. And there was one message in her interview at the end of the show that really stuck with me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Her song “Marry the Night”, her favorite song on her new album Born This Way, is about the decision she made a few years ago to fully commit to her work. Lady Gaga decided she was “going to tear it up”, make her work her husband, and never look back. “Marry the Night” is the musical manifestation of that promise to her herself.

Inspiration will find us in the most surprising ways – a unintended conversation, an chance meeting, a Lady Gaga TV special. Eventually, we will find that we can’t fight our purpose forever. During my vacation last week, the signs of a new life taking shape were abundant and abundantly clear. There was no mistaking them.

I need to commit to the work of my life – my teaching through Compass Yoga and to my writing. On Thanksgiving night, a switch flipped. The fear of this leap didn’t disappear, but it somehow became inconsequential. It now feels like there is a greater force moving me forward, a gentle hand at my back, as if the night may have chosen to marry me and I must go along.

Thanks, Lady Gaga. I needed the push.

career, television, work, writing

Beginning: Career Advice from Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney as we will always remember him

Last week we lost a great icon of opinion writing. I will never forget the 60 Minutes episode in 2010 where Andy Rooney went to the Super Bowl, a pilgrimage for him for over 40 years running. I loved getting a glimpse of him out from behind his now-famous desk and in the world – driving his car, going through the stadium turnstile, and making his way to his seat. Episodes like this let us know that the Andy we knew and loved on television was exactly as he appeared to be – nothing more and nothing less.

When he stepped down from his post at 60 Minutes, I got the same horrible feeling I had when Steve Jobs stepped down from his post at Apple. He loved his job so much that this could only mean one thing: his time with us was coming to a close in every sense. Though we know him for his curmudgionly opinions and writing, he was also a solid defacto career coach.

At every age, he presented exactly who he was. He never towed any company line and he never tried to make nice for the sake of politics. His opinions were strong and well-researched. Disagree with him all you want, but there was no way to refute his intellect. Sometimes this “area of development”, as some would unfortunately term it, cost him his job. It’s also what made him distinctive and memorable. There will never be another Andy Rooney.

Most people I know scorn the idea of being defined by their jobs. Not Andy. He had a secret: if you work at what you love, then there’s no problem with the job defining who you are. The job is who you are. Like it or not, most of us spend a great deal of our waking lives at work. And if we’re going to spend that many hours working, then we might as well like it.

Andy persistently and adamantly did only work he loved. On Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, we watched Morley Safer interview Andy Rooney on the eve of his retirement. Watching the piece, it seemed so strange to me that he is no longer among us. Just weeks ago, he was so full of life, wit, and yes, opinions. Morley asked him what he’d do with his time if he had his career to do over again. Without missing a beat, Andy replied, “I’d get a weekly spot on 60 Minutes where I’d give my opinion about anything I wanted to talk about. I’d write it and I’d say it. I complain about a lot of things, but one thing I can’t complain about is my life.”

When my days are up, I hope I feel the same way. And I hope I have the chance to work at doing something I love until the ripe old age of 92 or beyond. What more from life, or a career, could we ask for? Thanks, Andy, for this final lesson. You will be missed.