Laurie David: One Seriously 'Inconvenient' Woman Climate-change activist Laurie David raises millions, helped turn Al Gore's slide show into an Oscar-winning film, and won't take "no" for an answer. All of which has made her fair game for comics and critics.
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Laurie David: One Seriously 'Inconvenient' Woman

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Laurie David: One Seriously 'Inconvenient' Woman

Laurie David: One Seriously 'Inconvenient' Woman

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Throughout the year, NPR and National Geographic are traveling the globe to find out how climate changes people and how people change the climate. In today's installment of Climate Connections, a profile of Laurie David.

David has been called the high priestess of Hollywood activism. She's raised millions of dollars for environmental causes. She was one of the executive producers of Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." And as Laurie David spreads the word about global warming, one of her most powerful tools has been comedy.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Laurie David is charming, well connected and persistent. One of her first jobs, in the mid-1980s, was booking talent for "Late Night with David Letterman." In 1993, she married Larry David, who created "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and co-created "Seinfeld." When they moved to Los Angeles, she started her own business, managing comedians and comedy writers. And just about everyone Laurie David knew got a call when she started working on global warming.

Ms. LAURIE DAVID (Environmental Activist): I'm going to use all my resources. I'm going to take advantage of all my friends to try to get this message out. And comedy is such a great way to get the message out, because, of course, if it's funny, it's always because there's a kernel of truth there.

BLAIR: Naturally, one of the first people she recruited was her husband. Here's Larry David performing at George Washington University on Earth Day at a Sheryl Crow concert.

Mr. LARRY DAVID (Emmy-winning Actor, Writer and Producer): My wife, Laurie, she asked me to join her and Sheryl as this the end of their Stop Global Warming College Tour. And I said no, but she said, you're coming.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Larry David has made the misery of living with an environmental activist part of his stand-up routine.

Mr. DAVID: Of course, I realized, you know that what I do isn't nearly as important as what she does. Not stopping global warming or anything...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DAVID: ...just trying to make people laugh. I'm not saving the cute polar bear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DAVID: By the way, it scares the (bleeps) out of me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Permeate popular culture with information about global warming - that's how Laurie David describes her goal. She's taken her message to fashion magazines, Oprah, and even the soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful." Laurie David believes it can't simply be the domain of the environmental movement.

Ms. DAVID: The scientists have been warning us about this for a couple of decades, and nobody has listened, so my goal was, to, okay, let's get different messengers here. Let's get this message out in a way that people don't expect to hear it.

CEDRIC "THE ENTERTAINER": They explained to me what global warming, you know, and I was, like, okay, this sounds like some white folks stuff right here...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: A few years ago, Laurie David produced a cable TV special called "Earth to America," that featured a long list of major Hollywood talent. It was hosted by Tom Hanks and included Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Wanda Sikes, Ray Romano and Cedric "The Entertainer."

CEDRIC "THE ENTERTAINER": And you know, it's like, we know the gases from the sun get inside the Earth and then it's trapped, and the heat keeps warming up the earth, we keep getting hotter. You know, so basically, we're making us - so we're like a big bag of microwave popcorn in here, people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CEDRIC "THE ENTERTAINER": And we'll eventually going to start popping.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: "Earth to America" was filmed before a live audience at - of all places - the Celine Dion theater in Las Vegas.

Ms. DAVID: Perfect place. I mean go to the most extravagant place, the place where, you know, lights are left on - the waste and the consumption, I mean, this is - that's the poster child of global warming - Las Vegas.

BLAIR: The head writers on "Earth to America" were Steve Skrovan from "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Scott Carter from "Real Time With Bill Maher." Months before the show, they gathered at Laurie and Larry David's house, along with the comic minds behind "The Simpsons" and the movies of Jack Black and Will Ferrell.

For one of the taped skits, four Republican congressmen agreed to be interviewed by humorist Robert Smigel - as Triumph the Comic Insult Dog, the cigar-chomping puppet Rottweiler. Here's head writer Scott Carter.

Mr. SCOTT CARTER (Head Writer, "Earth to America"): So writing lines for Robert and having him...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CARTER: ...having the dog, with a straight face, with four actual Congress people, with straight faces arguing with a dog...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CARTER: ...was really, really funny.

Unidentified Man #1: We've got to follow good science not junk science.

Mr. ROBERT SMIGEL (Actor): (As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) Right.

Unidentified Man #1: And I think rather than committing ourselves to huge amounts of money, we ought to know what we're talking about.

Mr. SMIGEL: (As Triumph the Insult comic Dog) Global warming, I think, you know, maybe it was made up by overeager scientists, you know. The same scientists maybe that made up things like evolution and gravity. Is going to work, right?

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: Now, you've got a point.

BLAIR: A DVD of "Earth to America" will be released later this year.

With all of the celebrity events Laurie David has organized around global warming, she herself has become an easy target. A few years ago, Eric Alterman wrote a big article for The Atlantic Monthly on Hollywood activism. And if you took exception to the fact that back then, she was using a private plane while publicly urging greater fuel economy. But Alterman does believe she's made a big difference.

Mr. ERIC ALTERMAN (Writer, The Atlantic Monthly): If you judge Laurie by how one individual citizen holding no office has managed to reach millions of people, then she really deserves an enormous amount of credit. You know, after Al Gore, she's probably done more than anyone in America.

BLAIR: And then there are the ripple effects of Laurie David's work. There was a parody of her in a "South Park" episode called "Smug Alert." And Sarah Silverman recently spoofed "An Inconvenient Truth," the Al Gore documentary that Laurie David co-executive produced.

Ms. SARAH SILVERMAN (Stand-up Comedian): Carbon dioxide levels are soaring and if left uncheck will cause sea levels to rise, glaziers to melt and the earth's temperature to skyrocket. And if you ask me, I think it's awesome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVID: I was thrilled she was doing that. Anytime anyone spoofs anything related to the issue of global warming is good, because to me it's like, okay, gets the word out.

BLAIR: Laurie David says there's nothing altruistic about her mission. She says she's personally terrified of the effects of global warming.

Ms. DAVID: I'm doing this for one reason only. All the things I personally care about are at stake here. And other than, you know, falling asleep at 9 o'clock on my wedding night, this is the most selfish thing I've ever done.

BLAIR: That selfishness is pretty motivating. In the fall, she'll come out with her second book promoting environmental activism. This time aimed at kids. It's called "Down to Earth."

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

NORRIS: You can see clips from the "Earth to America" comedy special and read an excerpt from Laurie David's book at

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