A year and a half shy of her 90th birthday, Betty White is still hip and very much in demand, even garnering an Emmy nomination Thursday for her recent hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live." She has always been funny and talented, and she has the resume to prove it.
Fresh off that "SNL" appearance and starring in a new sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," Ms. White will be the special guest for a new event sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Life: An Expo for Boomers and Seniors is scheduled Aug. 15 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Tickets go on sale today.
Ms. White said she is happy with her current situation but doesn't dwell on it.
"I am just happy to be working at 881/2," she said in a telephone interview.
She called hosting "SNL" a lot of fun and a challenge. She gave the credit for all of the funny skits in which she was involved, including a randy bit about a muffin-shop owner, to producer Lorne Michaels and the writers.
"Lorne Michaels is a genius," she said.
"I also had the privilege of working with Tina Fey and a great cast. I didn't have any input into the scripts, and I didn't have to say, 'No, I won't do that' to anything."
She called hosting the show a challenge not because it is shot live but because of the use of cue cards.
"I started out on live television (a local show in California in 1949), and we did five and half hours a day," she said. "What worried me was I'd never worked with cue cards before, and I hate seeing people look away from the other person to a cue card, but you have to do it. The cue-card man is your best friend."
Ms. White won the first of her six Emmy Awards in 1952 for her work on the comedy "Life With Elizabeth." She has performed either as a regular or as a guest star on such shows as "The Golden Girls," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Boston Legal."
On "Hot In Cleveland," she co-stars with Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves as a mouthy landlady. She said she originally agreed to do one appearance on the pilot, but after it was picked up so quickly by TV Land, the producers kept sweetening the offer for her to become a regular. The shows airs on Wednesday nights.
Over the years, she has earned a reputation as a lovable comedian who appears willing to say or do almost anything.
"As long as it is fun, I will do it," she said. "The only things I won't do are jokes about cruelty to animals or jokes about dope. Dope is not funny. I've seen it destroy too many people."
On a recent episode of "Hot in Cleveland," she had the opportunity to again work with Carl Reiner and Tim Conway.
"They were up to their old tricks," she said. "I just hear Tim Conway's name and I laugh. Oh, the things he used to do to Harvey Korman (on "The Carol Burnett Show").
Ms. White is the president emeritus of Morris Animal Foundation and has been a trustee since 1971. She describes animal rights issues as her passion.
"I work so I can care for animals," she said.
During our 12-minute interview, Betty White was gracious and funny. She insisted on being called Betty.
"It's just easier," she said.
Below are some extras from that interview that did not make it into the printed story.
On being a regular on a TV sitcom again
CTFP: What made you decide to do another sitcom?
BW: I really didn't want to do it. I agreed to do the pilot and it got picked up in three weeks. That is unheard of. Sometimes it can take months, or years.
After it was picked up so quickly, they kept coming back with new offers and sweetening the offer. Things like I only had to work two or three days. They were all so nice and the girls (co-stars Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves) are wonderful to work with.
On her "Saturday Night Live" appearance
CTFP: Did you have any input into the scripts for the show and was there anything you told them you would not do?
BW: I did not have any input on any of the scripts. Lorne Michaels is a genius. The writers are so good and they write so many scripts and you try them through the week and there are so many changes made to them by the time of the show. It was a wonderful experience.
On her career
CTFP: Is there anything in your career you are most proud of?
BW: I let other people determine things like that. I don't dwell on it.
CTFP: Is there anything you haven't done that you'd like to?
BW: Robert Redford. That is my standard line. I've never met him and don't really want to. I just want to worship him from afar.