TODAY   |  September 18, 2012

Penny Marshall: Comedy helped me survive

Penny Marshall talks with TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb about her new memoir, “My Mother Was Nuts,” and reveals that comedy helped her overcome her mother’s often scathing sarcasm.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> children, the she talented penny marshall is with us today.

>> her new memoir is called "my mother was nuts."

>> let's look at highlights from her life and career.

>> one, two, three, four.

>> penny marshall became a household name in 1976 playing laverne defazio in the country a's top-rated sitcom laverne and shirley about who friends that worked in a milwaukee brewery. after seven years of performing mad cap sketches with her co-star cindy williams , marshall turned to directing earning her place among the hollywood elite with "big" that starred tom hanks and groesed over $100 million, as did the 1992 film "a league of their own" about an all- american girls professional baseball league in the 1940s . a high profile marriage to actor and director rob reiner , a romance with art garfunkel and stories about her life both in hollywood and as a child growing up in the bronx are part of her newly released memoir, "my mother was nuts." what a title, huh? it's true.

>> great to have you penny.

>> thanks for having me.

>> how are you feeling? everybody thinks you --

>> don't knock it.

>> i'm fine. i've been fine. i go once a year. i dodged a big bullet. all these people that are saying saying, they write this --

>> too late. sorry.

>> you got that from carrie fisher , didn't you?

>> yeah, and everyone else. carrie has --

>> what a mouth.

>> well, we talk that way. what else is there to do?

>> why did you decide now was the time to put it down to paper?

>> my brother did his second book, so i thought, well, since i think i'm dying i might as well do something. i thought i'd write the thing, you know.

>> you're not currently looking to direct?

>> yes, they only do certain kinds of movies. i like a story.

>> an interesting dialogue and great characters we care about. imagine that?

>> i'm not doing vampires. on television i do some. you know, i don't -- there's so many channels, i don't know when the seasons are over.

>> what's in your go-to shows that you enjoy watching on tv?

>> comedy-wise? ""modern family" and the big bang theory , and that's multicamera. i like it better.

>> you tell the story of your life in this thing.

>> yeah.

>> i think he was on laverne and shirley .

>> i probably was. we were thinking of moving to burbank -- we all moved to california for some crazy reason. i think it was --

>> i have to ask him about that.

>> do you still keep in touch with shirley?

>> yes, she's here actually. not in the studio. she's coming up tonight, i think. she's rehearsing a play, and she needs to learn some tap steps. i'm off toept, and you can come up. i'll teach you.

>> you're going to teach her how to tap dance ?

>> we should have a camera on that. people would love to see the two you back together.

>> she has to bring the script or do some thing to let me know what the step is.

>> tell us about the title "my mother was nuts."

>> what was your mom like?

>> my mother is still alive and totally nuts.

>> your mother wasn't crazy at all?

>> no, no.

>> mine was a little nuts. she was funny.

>> she did a good job with the two of you, don't you think?

>> you had to, or else you'd be crying all the time. she was very sarcastic, but she was very funny, too.

>> she said you are a miscarriage.

>> i was a mistake and miscarriage and so stubborn i held on.

>> that's shocking to hear a mother say that.

>> when you're young it's certainly shocking.

>> did make you stronger, penny?

>> you had to laugh or you'd kill yourself, come on. you'll go and form a sense of humor.

>> this book is full of humor. it's a fun read.

>> a million names that you worked with. i didn't know you wanted deniro first for the role --

>> tom turned it down and so did every other actor. it wasn't like that was my first choice. it was that i said, okay, let me go a different way, because there was vice versa and i like father like son. we'll come in before. look, he's in every comedy now. i knew bob for years, so i knew he had a different kind of sense of humor. let him dance on a piano. i'd watch it.

>> you brought us so much joy and so many laughs through the years.

>> he gave me a validity that made tom change his mind, and i'm happy i did it with tom, who was my first choice.

>> we encourage you to read "my mother was nuts." it's a lot of fun.

>> you mentioned syracuse having a thing, the women from league are having a reunion. it's going to the 20th anniversary of the movie.

>> oh, wow.

>> they're putting it on blu-ray. they're having a reunion in cooperstown.

>> there you go. thank you, penny.

>> hi to the women. i'm sorry i can't come to syracuse.