‘All in the Family’: Rob Reiner Once Explained How Overboard the ‘Meathead’ Nickname Went

by Matthew Wilson

Like Ron Howard, future-director Rob Reiner got his start in sitcoms. His “All in the Family” nickname still haunts him to this day.

On the show, Carroll O’Connor’s character Archie Bunker certainly had a way with words. Or at least insults and nicknames. Reiner played Bunker’s son-in-law Michael Stivic. But audiences quickly began to know him by Bunker’s nickname for him – “Meathead.”

Of course, Bunker didn’t just single-out Stivic with his verbal onslaught. The character was just as creative in nicknaming the rest of his family members. Some husbands call their wives “sweetie” or “pumpkin” or some other pet name. But Bunker settled for the less pleasant nickname “Dingbat.” Meanwhile, Bunker called his daughter, Gloria, simply “Little girl.”

Perhaps, the show went a little overboard with the nicknames at times. Rob Reiner is certainly a household name as far as directors go. But over the years he hasn’t quite been able to escape Meathead. It’s continued to follow him throughout his career, making for some pretty hilarious if annoying moments.

“I thank [Lear] for it! Because, you know, nobody calls me that now,” Reiner said. “I’m kidding. I get that every day of my life. Literally every day of my life, somebody will say, ‘Hey Meathead.’ No matter what I do with my life, I could win the Nobel Prize, they’ll say, ‘Meathead Wins Nobel,’ it doesn’t matter. I have Norman Lear to thank for that.”

Rob Reiner Joins ‘All in the Family’

Of course, looking back Reiner wouldn’t have it any other way. Starring in the role was the actor and director’s big break in Hollywood. Reiner started off his career, writing and acting for the Andy Griffith-led “Headmaster.”

That short-lived series followed Griffith as the headmaster of a private school. During one of the episodes, Reiner played a teacher on the show.

“I think we wrote six episodes of ‘Headmaster,’” Reiner explained. “One of the episodes was about a teacher who has an affair with one of his students. I played that teacher. I was 23 at the time and falling in love with a 17-year-old student.”

According to Cheatsheet, his stint on the show impressed the creator of “All in the Family,” and the actor was quickly cast as Meathead.

“And that episode was one of the reasons I got All in the Family…,” he said. “I think Norman Lear saw my work in [‘Headmaster’]…he felt that I had matured as an actor, and he gave me the part.”