Thursday, December 20, 2018


Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner were married. For just a few moments, I encourage you to imagine what parties at their house used to be like. Michael McKean and David L. Lander romping about, Carrie Fisher hanging out with who knows who else. And all that silliness and laughter ended up being funneled into that comedy machine known as Laverne and Shirley. It was the slightly grittier big sister of Happy Days, and I could spend an age or two trying to diagram all the points of intersection between all of those stars and American Graffiti and those fifties kids in Milwaukee. Ron Howard and Cindy Williams being the most obvious of the bunch.
Then there's that little matter of how her brother, Garry Marshall, served as the nexus of humor for more than a decade at ABC before turning his attention to the big screen. This was the guy who gave Penny her start on television, as Oscar Madison's secretary in The Odd Couple. It was a few years later that she won a spot on the cavalcade of amusement that would eventually spin off a young comedian named Robin Williams in his own sitcom, Mork and Mindy.
A few years after Fonzie literally jumped a shark, Laverne and her pal Shirley moved out to Los Angeles, providing them with their own encounter with the metaphor. All of a sudden, after nearly a decade, the joy had left that gusty, oddly paired couple.
So Penny set about making movies. As a director. She made Big, with that ABC sitcom castoff Tom Hanks, who had once guested on a post-shark episode of Happy Days and starred in a movie made by Ron Howard and another one made by her brother Garry. And then she gave Tom the chance to tell the world, including Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell that "There is no crying in baseball."
And when she was done with that, she had Mork play a neurologist who helps Robert De Niro awaken.
Not bad for a goil from the Bronx. She stomped on the Terra, and then found ways to help others do the same. As the big train of comedy comes pulling into the station, she will be missed. Aloha, Penny.

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