The man has appeared Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show more often than anyone but Bob Hope. His David Steinberg Show first assembled the talent who would become SCTV. He’s worked with Groucho Marx and directed Newhart and Seinfeld. His irreverent sermons won over audiences at Second City and got the Smothers Brothers thrown off the air.
I made him talk about his cameos as the rabbi on Mad About You.
Fortunately, the affable Steinberg called that series he frequently directed “one of my favourite things I’ve done, too.”
“Paul (Reiser) and Helen (Hunt) made me do that,” he recalled. “I had turned down all these offers to just be a director. They said, ‘well, who can we cast as this rabbi,’ when it was written for me. I didn’t realize that. I said, ‘I have no idea, but let’s go to this person and that person.’ It took forever before I caught on to the fact that they wanted me to do it.”
In content and tone there’s not much similarity between Mad About You and the latest series he’s executive produced and directed. Living In Your Car, premiering May 7 on HBO Canada, stars John Ralston as a financial executive charged with fraud, obstruction and racketeering, trying to rebuild his life after he cuts a deal to be released from prison.
There is a clear stylistic similarity between the two shows, however: the fast pace, akin to a screwball comedy of the 1930s.
“I was always making them talk faster,” Steinberg said. “If you look at Mad About You, that was a notion I brought to that as well. Paul and Helen are walking through the apartment they’re talking fast and they don’t stop for a joke at all. Even if the audience is laughing, they don’t stop for it. That’s my style. “
“Once I found what I like, I do it everywhere.”
Though he’s earned the right to be highly selective with his projects, and his forays into Canadian television have been few (there was also Big Sound for Global a few years ago), he found what he liked in the Living In Your Car scripts.
The Movie Network played matchmaker between him and the writers after first meeting with Steinberg about Single White Spenny, a pilot that ended up going to Showcase.