From Our Listeners

Letters: 'Producers', Pryor

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Neal Conan reads listener e-mails about law enforcement and mental illness, The Producers, and the legacy of Richard Pryor.


It's Tuesday, our new day for your e-mails.

Our show on law enforcement and the mentally ill prompted many of you to share your experiences of living with a mentally ill relative. Lester Whitley in Kansas summed up what several of you had to say. `I have a son who is bipolar,' he wrote, `and I know firsthand the problems. There are times when my son tries to get the police into a conflict to end his suffering. He hates to take the medication, and this is an easy way out. The local police know my son and handle him in a very positive way. They know when he hasn't taken his medicine. I love my son and if by chance he runs into law officers that don't know him, I am fully aware that the results will not be good. Law enforcement has no way of knowing when they run into a mentally ill person. I support what the air marshals did on that plane. They have to weigh the safety of all the passengers on the plane against what they believe is a threat. I pray it never happens to my son, but if it did, I would understand and not hold the officers at fault.'

Our conversation with actors Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, stars of the play and the newly opened film "The Producers," prompted this comment from Michael McNeil in Denver. `The play "The Producers" was stunningly offensive, not for parodying the Nazis, per se, but for its attempt to satirize Hitler by making him a mincing queen. It mocks homosexuals by playing to the basest, most negative stereotypes of gays and then implies that such evil--the evil of a Hitler--can legitimately be equated with homosexuality. It is especially bewildering,' he continues, `that Nathan Lane, who's a fine actor, can condone such an insidious analogy. Does he not know that the Nazis murdered thousands of homosexuals during the execution of their "final solution"? Mel Brooks' play is an overwhelming success because it affirms a very common form of irrationality and hatred: homophobia. What this says about contemporary American society is nothing less than disturbing.'

But Phil Heague(ph) in San Antonio, Texas, heard the conversation differently. He writes, `I've always enjoyed TOTN and find its treatment of national and global topics insightful and beneficial to understanding the big issues. Today it was flat-out funny and joyful, and I sat in the office parking garage to hear the end. The first "Producers" movie was a big hit with my high school drama club back in the mid-'70s, so I've always had a soft spot for it. Lane and Broderick made for an interesting and hilarious interview, and I don't think I've ever heard Neal Conan get the giggles along with his guests.'

Well, we also got a call from Barbara in St. Louis, who pointed out my terrible gaffe at the end of the show when I wished "The Producers" good luck. `I think there's a number in that show that reminds us all that "Good luck" is bad luck in the theater.'

And she's right. `Break a leg,' guys.

Finally, we didn't have time for this e-mail following the death of Richard Pryor. Silver Rose of Phoenix wrote that `Richard Pryor shared something with the late Gilda Radner. They were both able to bring to their comedy a poignancy, a peek into the vulnerable underside of their characters, in a way that made us understand that they were very much like the small, lost child that lives within each of us. I remember a sketch he did when his pet monkeys died. While in his back yard mourning, the vicious dog next door jumped the fence to commiserate with Richard about his loss. At the end of the story, the dog padded back to the fence, looked back over his shoulder before jumping back into his own yard, and said to Richard, "You know I'm going to be chasing you again tomorrow."'

You can send us an e-mail with your questions and comments. That's the best way to reach us. The address is Be sure to tell us where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan.

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