Gilda Radner: Life’s short, comedy’s forever

Gilda Radner made people laugh as one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live with iconic characters like Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella, and Lisa Loopner. Blending recently discovered footage with interviews from people who knew her best, the film Love, Gilda is a tribute to the late comedienne-actress, who lost her battle with cancer, and how she lived her life. Executive producers Alan and Robin Zweibel (Alan’s TV credits include being an original writer on SNL and co-creator of the It’s Garry Shandling’s Show) will participate in a Q&A after the film screening at the Ridgefield Playhouse Nov. 28. Andrea Valluzzo spoke with Alan Zweibel about the film.

Andrea Valluzzo: How did this movie come about?

Alan Zweibel: A director (Lisa D’Apolito) was doing a film to promote Gilda’s Club and fell in love with the place. She had never met Gilda but wanted to do a documentary about Gilda and having not known her, she called me and my wife because of our relationship with Gilda. We helped her get started, put in her in touch with a lot of our old friends from SNL, gave her tons of our own memorabilia, seen throughout the movie, both video and pictures and it started to snowball from there.

AV: Why did you decide to make this documentary?

AZ: It’s important to me because Gilda was my pal, she’s the godmother of our three kids. It was a labor of love. This gives us the opportunity to express our love for her and let people see her in a way she may not have been seen before — reintroduce her and introduce her to people too young to remember her.

AV: What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?

AZ: The number one message is what Gilda would have wanted. The Garry Shandling show was her last television appearance and she wanted to go on even at the risk of thinking that the audience wouldn’t remember who she was. She hadn’t been on television for a long time but she felt her comedy was the only weapon she had against the disease and she came on and she did really well. She just wanted to show the world that you can live a substantial life even with this. So she was thumbing her nose at cancer. She was very much involved with and had a lot of gratitude for The Wellness Community, a support community for cancer patients and their families in Los Angeles, and ultimately an East Coast version called Gilda’s Club. I think she would be really thrilled that her legacy, aside from her comedy, includes these Gilda’s Clubs and to show how people how to live with cancer.

AV: What is your fondest memory of Gilda?

AZ: There are dozens of them but the memories I hold dearest to me are not from the show. It’s her and Gene Wilder showing up at the hospital and visiting our daughter Lindsey when she was born. I went home to get some sleep, I came back and there were Gene and Gilda in hospital gowns looking into the nursery.

AV: What will the film show?

AZ: It’s the complete person: what made her tick, what her demons were, what her vices were, where her comedy came from, her happiness, her sadness. It’s a lesson in Gilda and I’m thrilled that people can get to see her the way we did. It heralds her comedy and her life but it also shows some of the warts and what makes someone funny, a lot of that comes from pain and things that aren’t perfect in your life and how she put a spin on it and made it part of her comedy.

AV: Tell us about the Q&A you and Robin are doing after the screening?

AZ: Everybody’s touched by cancer. This is a movie that makes people emotional because they can relate to the disease in one way or another, so by me making them laugh during the Q&A, there is something cathartic about it.