Why ‘I Love Lucy’ Icon Lucille Ball Called Eddie Murphy and Buddy Hackett’s HBO Specials ‘Inexcusable’
Lucille Ball of the legendary sitcom I Love Lucy is still considered an icon over 30 years after her death. The infamous redhead became the queen of comedy during the show’s six-season run and made her an authority on getting laughs.
Maintaining high standards when it came to keeping comedy classy, Ball had some choice words for a certain Saturday Night Live star when it came to his standup routine on cable.
Lucille Ball didn’t like comedy shows in the 80s
In a 1984 interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Ball was asked her thoughts on TV sitcoms at the time. The comedy star was a fan of shows like Three’s Company and Cheers, and always tuned in to anything from comedians Carol Burnett and Goldie Hawn. Despite a few favorites, Ball noted a lack of originality and pressure for instant success in television.
“There’s not much new stuff, a sameness,” Ball remarked. “And there’s too much too choose from – we used to have a few channels and that was it. Also, now nobody gets a chance to prove himself anymore. If the show isn’t an instant success, the network yanks it off the air so it never has a chance to find an audience.”
Yet Ball noticed a strong content shift when the controversial show All in the Family hit the airwaves in 1971. With the introduction of the character Archie Bunker (Carol O’Connor), an unfiltered working-class father with strong opinions that he never sugar-coated, Ball felt the material involving bigotry created a negative influence.
”My whole lifetime I never called anybody (derogatory ethnic names),” The Lucy Show star explained. “Those words had been put out of our vocabulary. And in one night, they were put back in by Archie Bunker, and kids began using them again. Now they’re still there. Despite the success of the show, it has left a legacy of those awful words.”
‘I Love Lucy’ star comments on Eddie Murphy’s HBO special
While Ball was a trailblazer of comedy in the 50s, she never opted to even hint at the use of profanity. Though censors at the time wouldn’t allow curse words, the I Love Lucy legend felt such language would never be appropriate on the air.
“Those four-letter words keep pouring out on the cable stations,” she noted of cable’s rise at the time. HBO was reaping ratings gold by featuring uncut standup routines, complete with graphic vulgarity. When Ball was asked about Eddie Murphy’s Delirious special and Buddy Hackett’s Live and Uncensored, which both aired on HBO in 1983, she didn’t hide her disdain.
”Inexcusable,” Ball remarked. “Why should we glorify that by watching it? How can we stop it? It’s making money, and as long as they’re making a buck they don’t seem to care. Nobody cares anymore!”
Lucille Ball adjusts to life out of the spotlight
The comedy queen was grateful that her shows stood the test of time thanks to the traditional way of shooting a sitcom.
”You know, we did all our shows on film, so we were able to preserve them,” Ball explained. “It was a great innovation at the time. But now we have them to show to different generations. What if it had all been down the drain? Wouldn’t it be awful if we lost those last 30 years?”
Ball had been off the small screen for quite awhile by the time she had her interview with the Christian Science Monitor. The iconic redhead revealed the adjustment to a more open schedule was tough at first, but soon she was able to enjoy the extra time on her hands.
”It was absolutely traumatic,” Ball admitted. “I’d gotten up at 5 o’clock in the morning for the previous 35 years and looked forward to every minute and suddenly there was nothing to look forward to. Soon, I realized that was not true, of course. I had a lot to be grateful for. My health, my children, a great husband. And I got myself started again.”