Veteran Actor Ed Asner Is Happy To Keep On Working

May 24, 2017

Prostate cancer usually is not a laughing matter, but Ed Asner’s one-man show, “A Man and his Prostate,” manages to bring a lot of levity and information to a very important subject.

A formally attired Ed Asner for a publicity photo, left, and the more-casual Ed Asner for a talk with WNIJ.
Credit Phil Masterton/WNIJ

He presented that show three times in the Chicago area this month, including one at the Woodstock Opera House, one in the Windy City itself, and one at The Garlands of Barrington, to which an old pal of his has retired.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Asner loves returning to the Midwest. He says he “loves Chicago,” where he cut his acting teeth. He considers the area “his roots.”

In 1951, Asner was in Chicago when he was drafted into the Army and served in Europe. Right before being sent home at the end of his stint, he received an invitation from an old friend stateside to join the Playwrights Theater of Chicago (which evolved over a couple of generations into The Second City). “I thought to myself, my god, my life is falling into place.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Asked what he considers his best work, Asner said, “I can’t deny 12 years of being a Lou Grant of one form or another.” Two of Asner’s seven Emmy Awards are for that same role – in the comedy category with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the drama category for “Lou Grant.” His self-effacing comment on that fact is, “Yeah … I never could get it right.”

At 88 years of age, Asner shows no intention of slowing down. “I keep looking for work,” he said. “If garbage collecting was part of it, I’d probably be doing that, too.”

Asner uses a cane to get around and shows some slight signs of a bout with Bell’s Palsy, but he’s still working, touring and advocating.

Ed Asner in a scene from "A Man and his Prostate"

Although he’s on something of a hiatus now, Asner will take “A Man and his Prostate” back on the road this summer, with three performances scheduled “out east” in August.

The play was written by Ed Weinberger, who wrote for stand-up comedians Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor then moved to the writing staff of “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” He won an Emmy for the TV series “Taxi,” and created several other series.