Contact Kathryn at:

Kathryn Spira

An Icon Still Delivers

Back in the late seventies I started watching a sitcom called The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This was my first real love of the situation comedy. Reason I bring this up is to talk about the great Betty White.

A week ago this past Saturday night she hosted Saturday Night Live at the ripe young age of 88 and a half. The show was laugh-out-loud funny as I’m sure you will all agree if you had the chance to see it.

Some twenty odd years ago or actually maybe thirty Betty White played the hilarious Sue Ann Niven on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. This is when I first knew I wanted to do some kind of situation comedy as an actress.

When I attended Indiana University as an acting and music student I had it set in the back of my mind that I really wanted to do some kind of comedy one day on television. Unfortunately at the acting school the focus was more on the classics and more serious minded acting studies. Though I still had it in my mind that because of my natural comedic timing I would one day be a shoe-in for a network sitcom.

Which brings me back to the wonderful talent that Betty White still brings us today.

After Mary Tyler Moore, she went on to the Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992 as Rose Nylund with costars Beatrice ArthurRue McClanahan and Estelle Getty.The Golden Girls won several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series twice. All four stars each received an Emmy Award throughout the series' run and each had multiple nominations.

During those years I was in New York and then Los Angeles. I have a vague recollection of watching the show, but in watching clips on You Tube now it strikes me as a lot funnier than it did in my 20s, though at the time I was at the height of pursuing my career and at that time I was living in the West Village of Manhattan with my dear friend Jacques.

I was so immersed in making a living bartending and trying to get auditions that I didn’t watch much TV. So much so that I’m tempted to rent the series from Netflicks and rewatch it with a new perspective.

Actually, most of the plays and musicals I was in when I was in high school and college were comedies, but the program at IU tended to emphasize drama and more serious dramatic arts. But my talents and experiences were probably more suited for comedy as I look back with 20-20 hindsight.

The SNL show with Betty White is said to be the highest rated SNL in 10 years, and it all has to do with White, who was in almost every skit.  The last highest rated show was when John McCain and Sarah Palin were on.

I hear White went out with the other actors at the after-party until 3 am and then caught a plane home. I can only hope to be that active and with-it when I’m that age.


About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site