“All in the Family” may have been a comedy. But Carroll O’Connor always played Archie Bunker as if he was deadly serious about whatever he did. That was the key to O’Connor’s comedy.
Bunker was never in on the joke. He was a character living in sitcom land. He wasn’t aware of an audience watching him or laughing at his remarks. So, O’Connor played the character as if he meant every remark he said to his castmates. And the audience ate up Bunker’s jokes.
“The trick with playing comedy is to play it very seriously. I always played Archie Bunker very seriously,” O’Connor told The Golden Globes. “You know, Archie never laughed. He was seriously annoyed by the world. So, I didn’t have to play comedy, I just had to play his traumatic concern with the way things were falling apart. That’s all. I didn’t have to do jokes. People laughed at Archie’s attitudes. There weren’t very many jokes, it was just the way it played itself.”
Carroll O’Connor Was on ‘All in the Family’ For Nine Seasons
O’Connor played Archie Bunker for nine seasons of “All in the Family,” from 1971 to 1979. Throughout the series, the character was known for his quick wit. He often had colorful nicknames for his various family members. For instance, he called his son-in-law Mike “Meathead.”
Bunker also got up to various antics during the show. But O’Connor also tried to find the truth behind the character and what made him tick. He found that this help heightened the comedic elements of the show.
“Listen, no matter what you play as an actor, you just create a character and you try to find the truth in the character. That’s what you go for. And in some plays, it might be tragic, a tragic truth. In other plays, it will be a very funny truth or somewhere in between,” O’Connor continued. “But you go for the truth. If you go out and just play for comedy, nobody’s laughing at you. I mean, you’re playing for the wrong thing. You got to play for the right thing which is the truth of the character and then let happen whatever happens. So, there is no problem with going from one thing to another. The principle of truthful acting is uppermost in your mind.”
Whatever O’Connor did proved to be a success. The show was incredibly popular for its time and remains among sitcom classics.