Julia Gets Wise with Rhea Perlman

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This week on Wiser Than Me, Julia spends time with 75-year-old actress Rhea Perlman, who recently became a grandmother for the first time. Julia and Rhea trade stories of being pregnant on set and reminisce about working together 40 years ago on Saturday Night Live. Then, Julia tells her mom Judith that Rhea has read a lot of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s work, which inexplicably prompts a laugh-out-loud funny story from Judith.

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Judith Bowles, Rhea Perlman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  00:00

So I spent a lot of my childhood in Washington DC, our nation’s capitol, in a neighborhood that was filled with all of these amazingly creative kids. Like I’m not kidding, for real creative. For example, one of them was Margaret Edson, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for the play wit. Yes, I shit you not. We played all kinds of make believe games all of the time on our street. And by the time I was nine or 10, I’d already decided to be an actress. It was around that time that we kids started a proper Theatre Company. I mean, you know, we thought it was a proper theatre company. We called it the university players. We liked that name because it conveyed a certain gravitas upon our group of six or seven Elementary School performers with absolutely no experience of any kind. One of the first shows in our extensive repertoire was a production of Sorry, wrong number, which was a super scary murder thriller. Okay, we charge our parents $1 to come down to their own basement to see the premiere performance. And I gotta tell you, it was a magnificent show. I played Mrs. Stevenson. The lead role that was originated by Barbara Stanwyck in the movie for you film buffs out there, and I believe that in every way, I outshone Ms. Stanwyck. At least that’s how I remember it. So, opening night, which was also closing. The show was going great. Until my five year old neighbor Michael, who was playing one of the exceptionally scary murderers, he messed up a line. And as an actress, of course, I was completely professional. I held it together. But as a producer of this production, I was livid. I was absolutely furious. Still, other than Michael’s massive fuckup it was perfection. We were very dedicated thespians. And I just I loved it so much, so much that I really never stopped performing. Back then, you know, performance was just an element of our playing. Everything was make believe we lived across the street from American University in DC. And so our little pack of nine and 10 year olds used to wander the campus pretending to be college kids, we would really get lost in pretending to be sophisticated coeds, I would wear my I had this suede vest with fringe, which I thought was totally collegiate. It was by the way, and which I wish I still had I just I adore fringe. I always will. I never will stop adoring fringe. It just, it’s timeless. We go to the Student Center, we drink hot chocolate, pretending it was coffee, because that’s what college students drink, obviously, and we would lean on walls. You know how college students always lean on something. And we throw our heads back pretending to laugh at really college II jokes. You know, so thrilling. I’ve always loved to pretend to be somebody else, especially somebody older, it was a route to a kind of control over my life that I really didn’t have yet and that I really, really wanted. We started other performance companies on that street too, by the way, including a modern dance troupe called Julia and the umbrella people. In which Michael redeemed himself, you’ll be happy to hear. He was truly a wonderful dancer. Tragically, there’s no video of any of this. But I remember all that vividly. I remember the absolute transporting joy of imaginary play. I remember the singular focus of these performances. And here’s the thing. I get almost exactly the same feeling when I work now. Almost exactly. It’s weird. Except it’s not weird. And so today, I am thrilled to be speaking to another professional make believer actress. Rhea Perlman. Hi, I’m Julia Louie Dreyfus. And this is wiser than me a podcast where I get schooled by women who are wiser than me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  04:35

I love my family and my friends. I like my exercise. I like to shop a little. But the truth is, I really love to work. I do. I just love it. So I am totally psyched to hang out with our guests today. Because she just works and works and works over 50 years she’s amassed like 117 credit That’s okay. Do you know how much work 117 credits is? Do you know how long 50 years is? She did what like 1000 seasons of cheers alone. That’s probably as funny a show joke to joke to joke as anything ever broadcast. Also, I thought a lot of people watch the Seinfeld finale with 76 million people. But guess what joke’s on me? Because 93 million freaking people watch the cheers finale. I mean, that’s almost 40% of the US population at the time. And that was just a start. She’s still working. She’s in The Mindy Project. She made the Matilda movie. She’s in the Barbie movie that Greta Gerwig is doing which looks like tons of fun. And she made a Netflix movie this year that I’m into and somehow she balances all of that excellent work with three grown up kids and one grown up marriage or not, and other real shit like writing books, and she can honestly say I’m from Coney Island. I wish I could say that. I am profoundly excited to welcome a phenomenal actress, Mother author and someone who is most definitely wiser than me. Rhea Perlman.

Rhea Perlman  06:08

Thank you, Julia. That was quite the intro. You know what I was going to call this show?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:17

Tell me.

Rhea Perlman  06:18

Old broads in the business.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:25

Fine. I love that. Speaking of which, are you comfortable saying your age?

Rhea Perlman  06:29

Sure. All over the place.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:32

How old are you?

Rhea Perlman  06:33

I am 75.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:36

Fantastic. Congratulations. And how old do you feel?

Rhea Perlman  06:40

75. Well, when I have to do something technical like this? I feel 75. But in general got it. I feel maybe 40.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  06:56

What do you think is the best part about being 75? Is there anything? There’s gotta be something that’s well, actually, I have a feeling I know what it might be.

Rhea Perlman  07:08

Yeah, well, the best part is that my, my children have grown and that one of them had a grandchild. So I that didn’t happen before I was 75. It just happened seven weeks ago. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. I mean, everybody said you’ll it’ll change your life when you have a grandchild. And it does.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  07:30

It does. Can you describe how it does? I’m dying to hear.

Rhea Perlman  07:34

There’s a certain love. I mean, I felt it when my own children were born, of course, a sign of love. It had never felt before for anything. And I had felt love, you know, for my husband, for my other people in my family for a boyfriend’s here and there, whatever. But this is it was a profound kind of feeling. And there it is again, you know, it’s just, they can do no wrong. It’s like looking at a new human being a new human being. It’s so amazing that people create other people.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:12

It’ just mind boggling.

Rhea Perlman  08:14

Isn’t it? It’s mind boggling.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:17

Wat’s your granddaughter’s name?

Rhea Perlman  08:19


Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:21

Oh, what a fabulous name

Rhea Perlman  08:23

Sinclair Lucille DeVito. They kept the name DeVito, even though she’s married. And her husband’s name is not Vito, but that’s what they chose. That’s a beautiful name is are you spending a lot of time with her? I am spending a considerable amount of time and trying to like not get in their face every day. But we live pretty close together. I live in the east side of LA and so today and so it’s an easy, you know, 10 minute drive.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  08:56

And what are they? What do you want to be called now that your grandmother?

Rhea Perlman  08:59

Grandma Riri.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  09:05

That’s very good. I call my grandmother grandma didi. Oh, Grandma didi. And by the way, her name was Grace. My grandmother’s name was Greg really? Well, yeah. I love the name, Grace. In fact, if we had had a daughter, we would have named her grace. I think it’s a beautiful name. And what do you think? Do you have what is like if you can say at this point, because you’re seven weeks in but it’s a bit into being a grandma, but is what do you think is the most important advice you could give your children about being a parent? Yeah, no.

Rhea Perlman  09:37

I would say be there for them for any situation that they need you for. Be there for them when you want to be but don’t overwhelm them. And, you know, there’s no room for impatience. I mean, you have to have impatient sometimes you’re going to be impatient but stay have a night nurse. which is a good thing I wish I had had one.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  10:03

A night nurse is a game changer. Because if you can get more than five hours of sleep in a row, yeah. Well, that is just incredibly exciting because I remember when we were on when we made you people, and I was asking you about your family, and you said to me, and you told me that you have three kids, and you said, but I’m not a grandmother yet. Right. And now here we are. And your grandmother, it’s so fantastic. Yeah. It’s beautiful. I love it. I know that we work together and new people, but do you know that we work together 40 years ago, and that I had for Yeah, we did. Because you and Danny hosted SNL and I was in the cast. It was my first season on the show way. Yes, way. Yes.

Rhea Perlman  10:49

Oh my god. You know, I have such I was so terrified doing that show. You were never rewatched it? Because oh my god, I generally don’t like watching my stuff on after I’ve done it. But after a while I am okay with it. You know now, of course, tears episodes, I watch them, you know, right. But at that particular I didn’t really understand the workings of the whole thing. And it’s so fast.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  11:19

Yeah. It’s like being in a rocket ship. And it just is soaring through the week. Yeah. So we’ve been working together a long time now.

Rhea Perlman  11:29

Let’s continue on.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  11:30

Yes. When you were a kid, did you want to be an actor?

Rhea Perlman  11:34

Not when I was little. No.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  11:37

When did you get bit?

Rhea Perlman  11:39

I got bit. Sometime at the end of junior high school. I guess you’d call it middle school now? Yeah. I was always very, very shy. Right. didn’t say much. And, except with my friends. I knew I was could be a total goofball with my friends. Yeah. You know, but and they were, were there was a talent show. And I decided to to a Ricky Ricardo impression, playing the bongos and singing Babalu in front of an entire assembly of people’s huge school. And I did that and people like when crazy. They thought it was hysterical. And so that was my bug.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  12:25

I love that you made the choice of doing Ricky Ricardo and not Lucy Ricardo that is so fabulous. That is such a good choice. I do anything to be able to see. You do that back in the day. That’s incredible.

Rhea Perlman  12:40

I kind of wish I could see it myself.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  12:43

We’ll get more wisdom from Rhea Perlman after this break. Stay tuned. Hey there listeners. Just a quick note, before we get back to the show, I want to tell you real quick about my new movie called you hurt my feelings. It’s a little comedy about the little white lies we tell to the people we love the most. I play a writer who discovers that her longtime adoring husband who said he loved her latest book actually hates her latest book. Can you imagine that? mindfuck it was so superb to work again with Nicole holofcener, who is the writer and director. The entire cast is truly unbelievable. I’m so proud of the damn thing. You hurt my feelings. It’s out now in theaters everywhere. I hope you go check it out. All right, you grew up in Brooklyn and Coney Island. And that feels completely magical to me. You know, with the ocean, the boardwalk.

Rhea Perlman  13:54

And the fireworks Tuesday night? Every Tuesday in the summer. Oh, wow. Yeah. Yes. layup, you know, blanket on the beach. And you’d lay there and look up.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  14:07

I know you said in the past that your grandparents only sent the boys of the family to school. Right. And not the girls to college? Yes. Is that correct? Yes. Did that mindset that your grandparents had did that permeate into your life through your mom?

Rhea Perlman  14:21

Yes, it did. My mom really resented the fact that she never got the opportunities that her brother did. She had a sister as well. But her sister didn’t want the same things as she did. Mom was very smart. She read a lot and she was just she knows she was good in school and she really would have benefited by continuing her education.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  14:49

Yeah, she was right to resent it.

Rhea Perlman  14:51

Yes. She was a bit of a feminist in that way. And she also, you know, as my sister said the other day she said You remember mom, she told Did I know she told me I don’t know if she told you, but I could do anything I wanted in my life? And I don’t remember hearing that specific sentence from her. But yeah, I do feel like she felt that way that a woman should have the same opportunities as men, bar none.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  15:20

But that’s good. She had that point of view, because even if she didn’t say it directly to you, it sounds like it permeated out of her and into you to a certain extent. Yeah. So I think so. What was your relationship like with your mother?

Rhea Perlman  15:33

It was, it was complicated. Didn’t look as complicated as it was because I didn’t fight with her. My mother can be very contentious. And she doesn’t give much, you know, as far as her point of view. And it was difficult for my children say, as to have her as a grandmother sometimes, sometimes. Because if she said, Here, let me teach you knitting. I’m very good at this. I may teach you and if one of them said, Now, I don’t want to, they said, Oh, sure. Go be stupid. She’d say, oh, yeah, not great. Not great. No, not great. So she took everything. Personally, she was very defensive.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:18

So I doesn’t sound like you’re going to be modeling that behavior that your mother taught you as a grandmother to your granddaughter Sinclair.

Rhea Perlman  16:26


Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:26

I don’t see you saying okay. Yeah, go be stupid. Yeah.

Rhea Perlman  16:33

No, sound like I didn’t even get the feeling that she recognized when she said it, that she shouldn’t have said that. You know?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  16:42

Okay, well, here’s a parenting question. A couple of parenting questions. So you had you all three of your children when you were making chairs? Yes. Right. And I had my two children when I was making Seinfeld. Wow, we have a lot in common. We have a lot in common. Yeah. And I know they wrote your pregnancy into the show. Yes. And shall we say exaggerated the pregnancies? Yeah. Right. Which is a clever idea. And with me, we didn’t ride it in. We just I just carried boxes and stood behind couches and things like that. When? Yeah, but for me, it was a monster juggling act as a new mother to do a show and have these babies. What was your experience?

Rhea Perlman  17:26

Yeah. Well, um, well, I the funny part in the beginning was that Carla, the character I played started out before I was pregnant with four children. Right. So and then I got pregnant. And they were said, Oh, that’s great. You know, that’ll fit right into the character. And they, they found a way to get me pregnant in the show, right. And then, two years later, I was pregnant again. And they went, Oh, really, you know? Third time, they just gave up and Carla had twins. I didn’t have twins. But so I ended up with eight children, kids.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  18:06

Did you know Gary Goldberg? The wonderful Gary Goldberg. For our listeners who may not know Gary created family ties. He also produced Spin City and Brooklyn Bridge, just a very important TV writer and producer. And he and his wife Diana were huge proponents of childcare. Yeah. And they were paramount because they set up the that whole daycare center on the lot.

Rhea Perlman  18:31

I was part of that. You are part of that? Oh, yes, I was part of that. Of course, you were daycare was the thing I was the most connected to, at the time through an organization called LA’s best that was an after school care. But the people who I met through that were, you know, talked about, we need to have childcare in the workplace. And so we figured we would start here, even though I had kids, Gary Goldberg had kids. It wasn’t for my kids. I had childcare I could afford. And I could see my kids and it would be okay. But you know, all the people who worked at Paramount, the hundreds and hundreds of people who came from right, and you know, who knows what place outside of LA, they’re the ones who needed it, you know? So that’s what it became.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  19:26

Well, that’s a real game changer. What a great thing you did. Wow. So what was it like for you as a pregnant woman on TV, and then as a young mom to be working? What was that like for you? Because you were you and Danny were both working at the same time. So how did that work? Did you share responsibilities? What happened?

Rhea Perlman  19:46

Well, I have to say that as far as working and being a mother, and being on cheers for all those years and having the babies while I was on the show. It was magical. It was a magical time that they, everyone. That show was so cohesive as far as the people. There was so much love there. And all of us were around the same age. And even though you know, most of them were men, their wives were having babies, right? That there were a lot of babies born during the cheers years.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  20:24

So it’s like a shared experience of the work itself. And then you are all sort of in the same boat from a relationship and family growing point of view.

Rhea Perlman  20:35

Yeah. And we all had different issues, of course, with relationships and with our kids. And then some of them were a little bit different in ages and stuff. But of course, as far as working, I was happy I was working. I didn’t work that far from home, I worked at Paramount, and I lived, you know, it was like a 1520 minute drive. Right? Yeah. The kids were allowed to come down. Not all the time. But I had, you know, a little room. Yeah, that bottom of the stage and. And it was a lot of fun for them to come down just to see it. Just to go to where the craft service thing was.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  21:14

I know craft services a huge thing for my boy, because there would be junk food there. And they were it was like walking into a paradise. As soon as they saw that card table set up with bowls of m&ms.

Rhea Perlman  21:28

We had besides the craft service table, we had the candy draw. They knew where that was, and when they can after they were there that had to be refilled. That’s all.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  21:39

I remember when somebody asked my son when he was young, and I, I can’t remember who it was. But they said, you go to work with your Mommy, what is that like? And he said, they have really good reasons there. Oh, God, but you and Danny, did you share responsibilities as a parent? Well, we were during that time. Yeah. I mean, I say this, because you’re both working. That’s why I ask the question. Yeah.

Rhea Perlman  22:09

We share responsibility standing tried to be as involved as he could. And I always feel like I did more. But I don’t know if he would say that. You know, I feel like, you know, I mean how, of course it’s the mother. There’s no way for you not to do more.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  22:28

I think as a as a woman, or at least speaking for myself, I feel pressured to kind of what’s the word lead the way as a parent to a certain extent, because you’re the mother.

Rhea Perlman  22:41

Right? I definitely was one put together the bag that you carried around, show you what was in it and what had to be in it. And I knew one thing I did know that he was not that involved in was, I knew, even as my kids were getting older when I was working. I knew where they were at every man. I knew where they went. I knew what, where they were hanging out. I knew who they were with. Yes. Like to me, was really important to know, even if I couldn’t be the one who brought them to that house. Yes, yes. You know, or pick them up from school that day? Yes, that I knew where they were, and what they would do.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  23:24

Can you talk about what it’s like? Because I’m just curious. What is it like witnessing your daughter become a mother? What is that experience for you? As now? A new grandmother?

Rhea Perlman  23:39

I’m trying to think of the right word. But it’s it’s, it’s awe inspiring. In all of my daughter, being a mother, she’s extremely natural. And he did not grow up as a person who was like, Oh, I can’t wait to have a have a kid someday I’m gonna have seven. It wasn’t until, because I would drop the hints every now and then I tried not to bombard my kids with you think you ever gonna have a baby? You know, right. But I did say it every now and then. But when she decided to do it, she came to me and she said and the United trying. I was like yelling. And it was like something. You know, it was time. It was hard. It was a time and it gave me so much faith that your children are going to do what they need to do when they need to do it. And to have faith in them.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  24:43

I love that you say having faith in them. Yeah, it’s just it’s beautiful parenting advice actually. Yeah. I want to get back to you and cheers because I saw that you said in an interview you said that you likening yourself to Carla, and you said, we are both earthy and practical. We’re survivors. And I was just curious if you were practical and earthy in your 30s. I mean, are you now at age 75?

Rhea Perlman  25:12

Well, I guess I feel more able to like to let loose and to do what I want, you know? Yeah. And, you know, since Danny and I are we are married she I heard your introduction, of course, yeah, we are still married. And we are still very good friends. And we see each other a lot. Yes. And our family is still the most important thing to both of us. I believe. He loves to work like you. I like to work.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  25:44

Did age in your life to getting older sort of shift your relationship to ambition?

Rhea Perlman  25:51

You know, it’s it’s really weird when you think about it, because I’ve kept a lot of that under wraps. It might it’s my insecurity, I think, Oh, interesting. I am a very insecure person, like go from shy to insecure. Yeah, I know, it’s not something that you always see. But like, when I got the first part I got here, which seemed to me to come out of the blue, which was a TV movie with Marielle. Hemingway, when she was 13. called, I want to keep my baby wasn’t my baby, it was her baby. She wanted to keep her baby. And I was a social worker, you know? And, and I got cast in this and I was, wow, you know, and that made me more ambitious. Because I thought, Oh, this is a possibility for me a real possibility. But I don’t think I would have ever given up on my relationship for it. And I didn’t, you know?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  26:51

So you and Danny were married for However, while you’re still married, but you separated now. You’re separated for how many? A couple years now?

Rhea Perlman  26:58

Oh, more? Like more? 10? Maybe? Oh, I have no idea. Dates are not my thing. It could be eight. I I don’t know.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  27:09

What’s that like, as an older person now being an individual away from a partner, although I recognize that you have a really good relationship with him. So it’s not like he’s out of your life by any means.

Rhea Perlman  27:22

But I’m not gonna like, you know, sugarcoat it was difficult. Haha, it was very difficult at first, right, you know, and there were a lot of reasons that we separated, which I’m not going to go into, but of course now, and it took time for us to come to this. Somehow. Pretty decent understanding. Yes. And relationship with each other.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  27:43

I would imagine. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a big shift. For him, no doubt. And I think it’s amazing that you’ve come to this. I don’t know. This sort of it sounds to me like you’re pretty peaceful about it at this now.

Rhea Perlman  27:58

Well, I am at the moment. I live alone with my little dog. Right, my partner in life now? Yeah, I don’t like living alone. Oh, you don’t know. I like being alone. I like having time to myself. I love if, you know, like if I was when I was living with an AND, OR and the kids were all in college or wherever if he went away to do something when? Well, good. I have like, you know, two weeks so I can do whatever I want. You know, right? When it’s every day. It’s not my favorite.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:32

It’s not your favorite. Would you like to have a partner? Would you like to find another partner?

Rhea Perlman  28:37

Well, that’s her name.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:40

You want me to set you up?

Rhea Perlman  28:44

No laugh but don’t set me up. Don’t unless it’s someone really wonderful, rich and famous, gorgeous. And a lot younger than me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  28:52

I’m all over this. I’ll get back to in about 10 to 15 minutes. Okay. But yeah, maybe maybe not. I hear what you’re saying. I mean, you’d like the autonomy. And on the other hand, maybe does it feel a little lonely? I don’t know.

Rhea Perlman  29:07

It does. It feels a little lonely. When when I have people over a lot. I have. My family comes over a lot. You know, like, one kid or the I mean, three kids. It’s a lot of people. And yeah, I have a lot of company. And very good friends. My sister lives very close by how nice, but when everybody leaves after a great night. I go, whoo. Where is everyone? Oh, gosh, you know, yeah. Where is that person? You know that. We could just talk about how the night went? You know?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  29:41

Yes, yes. Yes. How do you deal with endings? I wanted to ask that. I know. Because I mean, because that’s a part of life. Right? Not just, you know, shows ending. Friends, Family, dying. I mean?

Rhea Perlman  29:59

I could cry right Now just thinking about endings. I mean, they’re hard, right? Yeah, they’re hard. And it just feels so close when you know, people. I mean, you start off knowing nobody. Well, I started off knowing nobody who had died. Maybe my grandfather was the first one. But now of course, we’ve all had friends who have suffered awful illnesses and died and, and then no more, and it’s really hard for me to ever put that in any context where it’s okay. It’s never really okay. It is like in my Zen meditative self, I understand that. As tick not, Han says, I don’t know if you don’t take that. Yeah, yeah. You know, sort of, he was a Vietnamese activist, and became a great teacher, a meditation teacher of mindfulness meditation. And I didn’t know him personally. But I read him a lot and watched all these videos that he was on YouTube. And he was a very, very peaceful person. And he says all the time, there really is no death. Because we are pieces of the universe. And when we are no longer are human in our human bodies, we become other pieces of the universe. Yeah. In reality, like not just sort of an idea of it. We literally become other pieces of the universe, you know, maybe not the flesh, but the part of us that is us. Because what is us, us is what’s ever going on in our, our mind and our soul. We never know which which is which? Do we know what’s coming from here? And what’s coming from here? I? I don’t you know, yeah, right. Yeah. So I would find that really comforting. When I thought about death, because as a child, I was terrified of it. Not because I was surrounded by it, but because of the idea of it.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  32:12

Right? Well, it’s a mindful approach. And maybe then the question shouldn’t be about endings, because really, the way you’re talking about it, and perhaps he was talking about is that it’s not so much an ending as a shift.

Rhea Perlman  32:28

I guess.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  32:31

That actually chokes me up thinking about that.

Rhea Perlman  32:35

Shift and, yeah. And acceptance of that shift.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  32:39

Yeah, totally. I love that. I’m gonna take that to heart. Okay, it’s time to take a quick break more with Rhea, Perlman after this. I want to ask you a couple of quick little questions, if I could, okay. Is there something you’d go back and tell yourself at 21?

Rhea Perlman  33:23

I would tell myself to relax, just brick and take a load off, man, because, you know, accept it as it comes a man. The thing that somebody once said to me is, you never know what’s around the corner. Yeah. And that’s the thing that I would tell myself at 21. Yeah, yeah, things don’t stop at this street. You never know what’s around the corner sometimes sounds like it’s gonna be something bad. But it could be something great.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  33:52

Right. Okay. That’s a great one. Relax. Is there something you would go back in your life and say yes to?

Rhea Perlman  34:04

Oh, yeah. You’re asking too many good questions.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  34:08

I’m sorry about that.

Rhea Perlman  34:11

There are so many things that I would go back to in my life and do a different way because I know what it is now. Uh huh. Like, there was a show I did called Perl. It was on for one season. Yes. It came from an idea I had. Yeah. And it was written and produced by people that I was not very close with, but seemed like they would do a good job. And they’re, they’re very competent people. But I did not have a team. I didn’t have a partner in that. So when things were not going right for me, before the show, which I felt this is my show. I have to make it go right and I had great people in it. Malcolm McDowell was in it, and Carol Kane and all kinds of really good actors and it’s a sitcom? Yeah, this is just kind of a business. The thing I think that to be a successful producer creator, you have to have a team of people on your side. Who are going to back you up. Yeah. All the time. You can’t do it yourself. Right. That’s you’re not respected enough? No one is right.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  35:23

Okay. So that’s interesting. So you would have you would have redone the team slightly or put somebody.

Rhea Perlman  35:29

Yeah, I would have redone the team redone a team. I had the right people, because those people might have been the talented people, but they may not have been the right people for this show.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  35:39

Got it. And you sounds like you maybe you had an instinct that you didn’t quite follow?

Rhea Perlman  35:45

Yes. And didn’t really know how to, you know, after a certain point, I worked so hard at getting this show. Done. Yeah. It’s a lot of work. Yeah. And then I would when, when I wasn’t being backed up by the network, or the producers, I’d be on the phone calling TV critics myself just blabbing to TV critics, just like reading. I don’t think anybody does that.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  36:10

No, I just I needed somebody to tell you not to do that. I wish I could have helped you. I should have called you. You should have called me dammit. Is there something that you wish you’d spent less time on in your life?

Rhea Perlman  36:26

Oh, on ragging on myself. I just wish I’d spent less time questioning myself all the time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  36:34

That’s unbelievable. To hear. I was going to ask you earlier when you were younger? Did you like your own body? No, you did not. See now this is so amazing. And how do you feel about your body now? No.

Rhea Perlman  36:57

Really, I had a, I had an I had a period of feeling good about my body. Oh, when I was younger, when I was a kid, I was a skinny skinny kid. I just felt like I really didn’t have a body. I was not athletic. I wasn’t, you know, good in gym. I didn’t do anything like that. And then then as I got older first, so I went to yoga. And then I started to really, really enjoy working out and exercise many different ways. And then I felt like my body was really in great shape. And it’s been in pretty good shape.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  37:31

Well, so now you’re telling now I think you do like your body. I think it sounds like you do.

Rhea Perlman  37:36

But now it’s gone. It’s got like I was so flexible, up to a few years ago. And now it’s like, why can’t I do that anymore? But are you still doing yoga? Yes. But because of the pandemic? I’m doing it on my own to a nap. Yeah, I hear you. Yeah. So it’s not as intense. Although Gracie became a yoga teacher. Oh, and so when she was available to give me classes, that was always great.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:04

Well, I just want to go on the record saying you know, as I was rewatching episodes of chairs and and other work that you’ve done, like, Matilda, and so on. You had an amazing body. And I still think you have an amazing body very fit. Very spry. No, really, I’m not kidding. Thank you.

Rhea Perlman  38:23

What is it amazing that I really want to do something about but I is like my skin. What happens to your skin? It gets complete. It gets crazy. Like, what is that? Why? I mean? It doesn’t matter how many arm exercises I do. My muscles are good. But my skin that’s covering those muscles are like, go away.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:46

Don’t rag on it. I’m giving you your advice that your wish had given to yourself. Thank you.

Rhea Perlman  38:51

Thank you. It’s not something that haunts me.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  38:55

And what do you want me to know about aging?

Rhea Perlman  38:58

I don’t like it. Gonna say a lot of good things about aging. I mean, so many things I don’t like about aging.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:08

All right. So, so I’ll prepare myself not to like it or prepare myself. I mean, we’re all aging, needless to say. But anyway, that’s very funny. But can you tell me something that you’re looking forward to Rhea?

Rhea Perlman  39:21

Oh, well, I’m looking forward to every stage of my granddaughter’s life. Yeah, I really am. And I used to only be looking forward to things like traveling, which is still something I’m looking forward to. But I put on hold for quite a while because of the pandemic and now this and now that’s what I’m looking forward to most and maybe other grandchildren. Who knows.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:45

Ah, imagine that. Yeah, yeah. What a blessing. Yeah, well, you’re a blessing. Rhea Perlman.

Rhea Perlman  39:52

You’re a blessing to we can be a group called the blessings.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  39:59

That’s fine. agree. I love that idea. Well, I wish you everything, possibly wonderful and excellent. Thank you for talking to me. This has been the best conversation and I adore you.

Rhea Perlman  40:11

Thank you too. Yeah. Okay. Have a good one. Bye. You

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:14

You too. Bye Bye. Wow, how much fun was that? There is so much to tell my mom here. All right, time to jump on the zoom with my Mom. Mommy. So mom, I so I have this conversation with Rhea Perlman who is utterly charming, by the way you would love her.

Judith Bowles  40:41

Oh, I love her from afar. Yeah,

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  40:45

I mean, there are a lot of takeaways from the conversation. But one of the questions that I asked her was, is there something that you’d go back and tell yourself at 21? And you know what? She said? Relax.

Judith Bowles  41:02

I think it is terrific. Yeah, I do too. However, Can I say one thing? Yeah. 20 tell a 21 year old to relax. I know exactly. I mean, in other words, you know, you look back and you think, Oh, I was so tense. I worked too hard. Or did too. I did too much. But try to go back and stop yourself from doing that when you did it. Was that possible?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:26

No, I guess it’s not possible. So I guess that was a shit answer she gave us. But I hear what you’re saying. No, no, no, I know what you mean. Because there’s a kind of fervor that you have at 21. That’s undeniable. And it I guess it, it propels you to this moment. Now she’s 75 by the way, yeah.

Judith Bowles  41:43

Oh, she’s a kid.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  41:46

A spring chicken.

Judith Bowles  41:47

Exactly. My God. She can be doing cartwheels tomorrow. That, you know, when? I think it was it doesn’t matter said youth is wasted on the young. I’ll put it right. What I mean, when you’re young, you’re on the make. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a crude way to say it. But it feels so true. That you, God, you wish you could have the wisdom you wish you could have stood back a little bit and had some perspective. But boy, the hormones are just thrashing you out there.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  42:22

Yeah, totally. It’s a very good point. The other thing I asked her about endings, to talk about endings and what they’re like for her. And by endings. I meant, like, you know, shows ending family members, friends, dying, marriages ending, you know, endings, generally that that can have multiple meanings. First of all, she has she it was so visceral because she was like, either so hard. She really, I really felt like she meant it. And of course, they are hard. They’re inherently impossible. But then she starts talking about she does a lot of mindfulness work. And she was talking about that Buddhist monk, tick, not Han. Yeah. You know him. Yep. Yeah, I didn’t. I pretended like I did.

Judith Bowles  43:14

I know. I wish I did. But I have his books. Yeah, yeah. I knew him. I never knew her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  43:20

no, I know. But you know of him is when I’m here. Right? I did not know of him as she said it and I had this moment of like, do I say I know do I not I kind of lied and it was obvious. Anyway, whatever. And she was talking about how he says that there and I’m probably gonna butcher this but they’re not like endings, their transitions or changes that you’re, you’re still have this earth not necessarily in a flesh sense. But you’re still have this earth. I found that so touching. And she was talking about how hard they were for her these endings. But while at the same time saying this, and I thought, Oh, well, it sounds like you’ve got your head wrapped around endings in a pretty significant way. Anyway, I thought that was interesting as hell.

Judith Bowles  44:06

Oh, I think that’s very interesting that you know, that you think of her and her work and then you think of tick not Han, this monk in the in Plum Valley. And And isn’t it amazing that these two came together that the mind and the ideas came together? I mean, that’s in itself.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  44:27

Isn’t that funny? That his Yes. His brain working on this connected with her brain? This actress on cheers and then you know?

Judith Bowles  44:37

Exactly, I mean, yeah, but I’m so happy to hear that. I think that’s such a it’s very touching. And I think it’s absolutely wonderful. If we’re not I had a fall I had a bad fall. Walking in I had the wrong size shoes on doesn’t matter. But the fact of the matter is that afterwards I was saying I can’t fall I can’t fall. And so I take not Han has a thing and he says walk is is a big walking meditator and he says, Walk is if your feet are kissing the earth. And so I tell you, that’s a little thing that has stuck with me when I walk. In other words, cheek by my mind, my mindfulness and my feet. Don’t get distracted and don’t think about other things. So anyway, he speaks to me speaks to lots of things.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  45:21

Mom, what are you talking about? You had the wrong size shoes on it?

Judith Bowles  45:24

Well, they were choosing had the, you know, the soul sort of stuck out a little bit? Well, you know, it’s stuck out from that. What? No, I mean, I can’t tell you why I feel. I mean, I don’t know. But I was walking fast. And I was on Wisconsin Avenue. And down, I went, and my starting to fall, I thought to myself, I’m falling. And I fell. And then, you know, people came in quickly and said, Are you alright, you’re right. I told you this. And then I said, and I had to kind of check everything out. And I said, Yeah, I’m okay. My watch. I watched it on my own. And so So I put my arm up, and I said, I can’t see my watch. But I think it’s, it’s time to call 911. So I said, Good. Somebody cancelled it. And canceled the little thing. And so I said, Okay, now I’m fine. So that I was able to get up. I was so glad that watch […]

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  46:19

Yeah, that’s incredible that that happened, but I’m still not exactly sure what the issues are that you were talking about. They don’t fit. You don’t wear them anymore, right?

Judith Bowles  46:29

No, I gave them away immediately to say to the needy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  46:41

I think we’re gonna have to cut that out. Perfect, okay. The needy, Mom, seriously, what are we in the middle of a Dickens novel?

Judith Bowles  46:55

I gave way to people who had bigger feet than I do.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus  47:00

Okay, maybe that’s a better way to phrase it. Okay. Anyway. I think that’s perfect. Okay, mommy. Well, I think that’s good. I think we’ve had our good recap.

Judith Bowles  47:12

I think we have too love, and thank you for being in touch with me and thank you for being in touch with Rhea.


There’s more WISER THAN ME with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. WISER THAN ME is a production of Lemonada Media created and hosted by me Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease , Alex McOwen and Hoja Lopez. Brad Hall as a consulting producer. Our senior editor is Tracy Clayton. Rachel Neil is our senior director of new content and our VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, Paula Kaplan and me. The show is mixed by Kat Yore and Johnny Vince Evans and music by Henry Hall. Special thanks to Charlotte Chrisman Cohen, Ivan Kuraev, and Kegan Zema. And, of course, my mother Judith Bowles. Follow wiser than me wherever you get your podcasts and hey, if there’s an old lady in your life, listen up.

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