Retro : Cindy’s Happy Daze
“I was a pretty funny kid,” recollects Cindy Williams, who used to put on shows in the family garage and at church camp. “I could see the humor in things.”
And Williams grew up into a pretty funny adult. Williams and co-star Penny Marshall had practically the whole world laughing with their slapstick shenanigans on the 1975-83 ABC sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” Williams played the naive, trusting Shirley Feeney who worked on the bottle-cap assembly line at Milwaukee’s Shotz Brewery alongside her roomie, the glib Laverne De Fazio.
Though Williams looked like she was an old pro at pratfalls when “Laverne & Shirley” began, she acknowledges she was a novice at the sitcom genre; her previous starring role was in the acclaimed 1973 hit film “American Graffiti.”
“The sitcom is where I learned comedy,” she says. “I grew up in that form. It was absolutely difficult for the first 13 shows to figure out who, when and where, but once you get your pace, the show gets its pace and the writers get their pace, hopefully, it all jells together.”
Williams is now back on ABC in the new sitcom “Getting By,” which premiered last Friday. Williams plays Cathy Hale, a single mother of two daughters who is having problems making ends meet. Cathy, a social worker, shares her office with Dolores Dixon (Telma Hopkins), another single mother with two sons. The women decide the most logical way out of their economic crunch is to pool their resources and share a house.
“Getting By,” Williams says, will have some of the slapstick humor that made “Laverne & Shirley” such a hit. Just don’t look for it in the first eight episodes. “The last four shows got pretty physical,” she says. “The first eight shows weren’t too physical. Everyone was finding their way along--the writers, the producers, the cast. When they saw where our strengths lay, they started writing accordingly. It was like a 13-episode pilot.”
Williams says attitude makes a good situation comedy.
“When you can find those characters with attitudes who are in sync, they are funny and charming to watch. You see aspects of yourself in the characters’ attitudes. Usually in sitcoms, the characters you play are close to you. They are beats within yourself that you really play well.”
Though “Laverne & Shirley” has been off the air for a decade, Williams still is recognized by fans of all ages.
Being part of a phenomenon like “Laverne & Shirley” was great fun, Williams says. “Everybody who’d ever come up to me who said, ‘I love Laverne & Shirley,’ were the nicest people. There wasn’t one time when I thought, ‘Get that jerk out of here.’ They were the sweetest. I love people, and the show opened all kinds of doors to meeting people. Anyone who dreams about having that kind of fame and success in their lives, (would find) it is everything you ever wanted.”
Married to actor Bill Hudson and mother of two children, Williams also is a successful movie producer. She was associate producer of the 1991 hit comedy “Father of the Bride,” with Steve Martin.
“I get ideas,” Williams says. “I am a great audience. I see things that I know other people will appreciate. When I saw the old ‘Father of the Bride,’ I said, ‘There is a genuine remake there. There is no reason why this shouldn’t be made today.’ ”
“Getting By” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on ABC.
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