Lorre in September 2011
|Born||Charles Michael Levine
October 18, 1952
Bethpage, New York, United States
|Occupation||Writer, producer, composer, director, production manager|
|Net worth||$600 million (2011)|
|Spouse(s)||Paula Smith (m. 1979; div. 1992)
Karen Witter (m. 2001; div. 2010)
Chuck Lorre (//; born Charles Michael Levine; October 18, 1952) is an American television writer, director, producer, composer, and production manager. He has created a number of successful sitcoms such as Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and Mom. He also served as an executive producer of Roseanne and Mike & Molly.
After graduating from high school, Lorre attended State University of New York at Potsdam, dropping out after two years to pursue a career as a songwriter. During his two years at college he "majored in rock 'n' roll and pot and minored in LSD". He also admits to drinking heavily in his past, telling EW that he "led a dissolute youth until 47". He now is in recovery.
He changed his surname from Levine to Lorre at age 26, explaining in 2004:
The reason I changed my name was simple. My mother, never a fan of my father's family, had an unfortunate habit of using Levine as a stinging insult. When displeased with me, she would often say/shriek, "You know what you are? You're a Levine! A no good, rotten Levine!" So, for as far back as I can remember, every time I heard my last name I would experience acute feelings of low self-esteem. My first wife was the one who suggested I change my name to remedy the situation. In fact, it was she who came up with the name Lorre, complete with the fancy spelling. I thought it sounded great. Chuck Lorre. Finally a name that did not make me squirm. It didn't occur to me that in England my new name translated into Chuck Truck. But most interestingly, I had completely forgotten that when I was around eight years old my father's business began to fail, forcing my mother to find work in a clothing store called... Lorie's. Pretty creepy, huh? Did I abandon my father's name only to unconsciously name myself after a place associated with my mother's abandonment of me? Or, even creepier, did my ex-wife somehow know all this and propose the name Lorre just to screw with me? Hmmm... I was a no good, rotten husband so I certainly had it coming.
After leaving school, Lorre toured across the United States as a guitarist and songwriter. He wrote Deborah Harry's radio hit single "French Kissin' in the USA" for her 1986 Rockbird album. Lorre also co-wrote the soundtrack to the 1987 television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Dennis Challen Brown. Lorre shifted into writing, being a writer on the show Roseanne. Though he was fired over irreconcilable creative differences, Lorre's time on Roseanne impressed producers, and led to him creating his first show, Frannie's Turn, but it was cancelled after 5 weeks.
Afterwards, Lorre created his second show, Grace Under Fire, starring comedian Brett Butler. It premiered on ABC in 1993, and was nominated at the 52nd Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Lorre's third show was Cybill, starring Cybill Shepherd. The show aired for four seasons on CBS and received critical acclaim, winning a Primetime Emmy Award in 1995 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for co-star Christine Baranski. The show also won two Golden Globe Awards in 1996 for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy for Cybill Shepherd.
Dharma & Greg was the fourth show Lorre created, in partnership with Dottie Zicklin (credited as Dottie Dartland), which premiered one year before the end of Cybill in 1997. (Lorre had left Cybill in season two.) The show starred Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as the title characters, whose personalities were complete opposites: Dharma's world view being more spiritual, 'free spirit' type instilled by "hippie" parents, contrasted with Greg's world view of structure, social status requirements, and "white collar duty" instilled by his generations of affluent parents/ancestors. Like the "yin/yang" symbol in every episode, each represents one of the 'polar opposites' that would seem to repel, but somehow strongly attract to create the most harmonious "whole". This comedy shows through metaphor in light daily living struggles, the deeper challenges of life/existence for which every human has struggled for generations. The show earned eight Golden Globe nominations, six Emmy Award nominations, and six Satellite Awards nominations. The show earned Elfman a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1999.
Following that, Lorre created his fifth show, Two and a Half Men with co-creator Lee Aronsohn. The show focuses on two Harper brothers, Charlie and Alan (Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer). Charlie is a rich, successful Hollywood composer/producer and womanizer who owns a beach house in Malibu. When Alan gets a divorce, he is forced to move into Charlie's house. Alan also has a growing son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), the "half" who comes to visit Charlie and Alan on weekends. Two and a Half Men premiered on CBS in 2003 and has become the highest-rated sitcom in America. However, CBS put the show on hiatus in 2011 following several incidents of production shutdowns allegedly due to Sheen's serious problems related to drug and alcohol abuse, which culminated in his insulting verbal attacks directed at Lorre during a radio interview. Sheen was officially fired from the show, and later filed a $100 million lawsuit against Lorre and Warner Bros. Television for wrongful termination. Afterwards, CBS and Warner Bros. hired Ashton Kutcher as Sheen's replacement, and the show later continued for four more seasons up until its finale in 2015.
Lorre's next show was The Big Bang Theory with co-creator Bill Prady. The show follows two physicists with genius IQs and very low social skills who befriend their neighbor, an attractive, outgoing young woman with an average IQ and no college education. Each episode usually focuses on the daily lives of the men and two of their equally socially challenged yet highly brilliant friends, with a dose of absurdity from the relationship with their uneducated, but socially brilliant, neighbor. The two main protagonists, Sheldon and Leonard, are named after the actor and television producer Sheldon Leonard. The show premiered on CBS in 2007 and is the highest rated comedy series in the United States.
Lorre is executive producer of Mike & Molly, created by Mark Roberts, which premiered on CBS in September 2010. His seventh show, created with Gemma Baker and Eddie Gorodetsky, Mom, premiered on CBS on September 23, 2013. On March 13, 2014, CBS announced the second season renewal of Mom.
The unique vanity cards for Chuck Lorre Productions have become a "trademark" for Lorre. On the end of nearly every episode of his productions, Lorre includes a different message that usually reads like an editorial, essay, or observation on life. A typical card might include a range of topics as diverse as what the Bee Gees never learned, the cancellation of Dharma & Greg, his support of Barack Obama, the competence of AOL Time Warner management, and the genesis of Two and a Half Men.
The card is shown for only a few seconds at most, so longer messages cannot be read unless recorded and paused, although Lorre now posts the cards on his website. CBS has censored Lorre's vanity cards on several occasions; Lorre posts both the censored and uncensored versions of the cards.
During Charlie Sheen's controversial departure from Two and a Half Men in 2011, Lorre referenced Sheen in several cards. Lorre used the vanity card for the series finale, "Of Course He's Dead", to address the circumstances of Sheen's absence from the episode.
Lorre published a compilation of his vanity cards in a coffee table book titled What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Bitter, released on October 16, 2012. The book takes its title from Vanity Card #1, which first aired following the first episode of Dharma & Greg.
During The Big Bang Theory episode titled "The Hook-Up Reverberation" Vanity card #463 was displayed. Vanity card #463 discussed Chuck's lost or matured angst along with the news that he will stop writing the vanity cards. Vanity card #464 was displayed in the next episode stating it was his last and that he felt like they would not be missed. However, he resumed his cards; Vanity card #493 on March 5, 2015, featured a tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, who had guest starred on the show as the voice of Sheldon's conscience three years before.
- Roseanne, 1990–1992, (writer, co-executive producer, supervising producer)
- Frannie's Turn, 1992 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Grace Under Fire, 1993–1998 (creator, writer, co-executive producer, supervising producer)
- Cybill, 1995–1998 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Dharma & Greg, 1997–2002 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Two and a Half Men, 2003–2015 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- The Big Bang Theory, 2007–present (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Mike & Molly, 2010–present (writer, executive producer)
- Mom, 2013–present (creator, writer, executive producer)
Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory are both taped at the Warner Brothers lot, in adjacent stages; the shows share several writers and technical crews. The Big Bang Theory has cast a number of alumni from Lorre's past series, starting with Johnny Galecki from Roseanne (he was Darlene's boyfriend and later husband). Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene on Roseanne, was Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory. Laurie Metcalf, who played Jackie in Roseanne, plays Sheldon's mother Mary. Christine Baranski, an alumna of Cybill, was cast as Leonard's mother Beverly.
Also, on The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny are seen watching Oshikuru: Demon Samurai. Oshikuru was the show for which the character Charlie Harper wrote the theme song on Two and a Half Men. Charlie Sheen made a cameo appearance in the Big Bang Theory episode "The Griffin Equivalency".
Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men appeared in one episode of Dharma & Greg. Jenna Elfman, Susan Sullivan, and Joel Murray of Dharma & Greg also appeared in various episodes of Two and a Half Men. In the eighth episode of the fifth season of Two and a Half Men, "Is There a Mrs. Waffles?", Charlie watches an episode of Dharma & Greg after watching the first commercial for his CD. In the first episode of the ninth season, after Charlie Sheen got fired from the show, Dharma & Greg were one of the couples looking over Charlie's house, which was for sale. Cryer also appeared in the series premiere episode of Mom.
In the season 6 Big Bang Theory episode "The Holographic Excitation", Sheldon and Amy are fighting over which couple to go as to a Halloween party. Among her suggestions seen on a whiteboard are Blossom & Joey (Blossom and Amy both being played by Mayim Bialik) and Dharma & Greg.
Awards and recognition
Lorre was first married to his business partner, Paula Smith, in 1979. The business partnership and marriage were dissolved after 13 years and the birth of their two children.
He also has publicly admitted his decades of struggle with the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis, and other mild health struggles with depression, worry, and anger/rage. Lorre stated in an interview: "Put me in paradise and I will focus on the one thing that will make me angry." In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said, "I am wired on some deep level to seek out something to be worried and obsess about."
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