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THE NEIGHBORHOOD ARCHIVE - All Things Mister Rogers

The Tonight Show

DATE: January 16, 1989

. . .

JAY LENO: My next guest, besides looking like the older brother of my last guest, has been a star on children's television for 36 years. He has a new book called How Families Grow. Please welcome Mister Rogers.

FR: He [Jimmy Brogan] said he always ended his routine with a sweater and said 'Now I'll take this off and give it back to Mister Rogers.'

JL: Nice to see you. Now you have a son named Jay also I heard backstage.

FR: I do. His name is James and another son named John. But when he went to college somebody said 'What is your nickname?' He said 'Jim' ... We had never heard that before but from then on he was Jim.

JL: Actually my full name is James but it just wound up Jay somewhere about the fourth grade. If it was easier to spell...fine. I was looking through your book and whenever I have guests on I always try to read their book. And I was like, well let me see what this is...and you know this is fascinating. I really thought it would be kind of a kids book, kind of written in a childlike way, but it's really a fascinating thing here. One thing I thought was real interesting what this part about -- page 134 -- where you'd taken the kids to a doctor and you say that the parents should go with their own instinct rather than what the doctor sometimes prescribes. You know the part I'm talking about?

FR: Yes.

JL: [Laughing] Well you wrote the damn thing. Tell us what you mean here. But I thought that was very interesting.

FR: Well, if a parent has a very strange feeling about a caretaker for a child, and that's a rare feeling for that parent, then perhaps they should find somebody else.

JL: You mean if you're going to the doctor and the doctor is telling you things that you just don't think are right for your child, just find another doctor.

FR: Especially if that's a rare feeling for the parent.

JL: I actually found some stuff I can use for comedy material in here. The part about kids taking words literally. The little girl was getting her blood pressure taken and the mother said 'The doctor's just gonna blow that up so you just sit still.'

FR: She thought it was going to blow up.

JL: Kid do take it literally.

FR: It's mighty important to be able to treat children in respect and to try to understand where they're coming from. [To the audience] Just like you.

JL: Another big one was about getting a haircut. You know, I never understood why kids yell and scream -- I mean, I used to yell and sceam when I got my hair cut but I forgot why. What was your reason?

FR: Maybe you felt that the haircut person was going to cut more than hair.

JL: Yeah. Well actually he's charging two bucks more than the other guy. That's why. But that's true that the children think if you've never had your hair cut you think someone is actually taking ... you know, cutting your fingers off is the same thing.

FR: Sure. Or anything else on your body. And when you're four or five you want to be sure that you're going to have all of your parts when you leave.

JL: Never leave the building without all of your parts. That's what I say. How do kids react when they see you? In fact, one of the women on the staff here had her child and she ... it's like meeting the Beatles, isn't it? Really, when you're five.

FR: Sometimes children wonder how that person from television got out of the television set.

JL: I wonder that myself sometimes.

FR: One time I tried to explain electronically what it was all about and a little boy said to me afterwards 'Well, how are you going to get back in?' So I decided that I would just tell them that it's a picture that we make. And all the better.

JL: You started here at NBC, didn't you, working as a...

FR: A floor manager in 1951, 2 and 3.

JL: So your goal was not to get into children's television at the time?

FR: No, not originally. But I found that public television was starting in Pittsburgh and I went there and all of a sudden we needed a children's program.

JL: And you got picked.

FR: So Josie Carey and I made a children's program and for eight years I was never seen. I just did puppets and music.

JL: Oh, I see. Do you have a song for us that you're going to do tonight?

FR: Sure. If you'd like to hear it. You know, we're very serious about what we talk about with children and something that is really tough is to deal with your anger. This is a song that we sing to children about anger. [Sings What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel]

JL: [Applause from crowd] That's a great song!

FR: I need to tell you one thing. A child gave us the first line of that song. He said, 'What do you do with the mad that you feel when you feel so mad you could bite?' And we listened carefully and we wrote the song from it.

JL: I hope that child's getting residuals today. We'll be right back after this message...

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