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Amy Sherman-Palladino Explains Her Cultural Influences

This post originally ran on September 25, 2014. We are re-running it in advance of the new season of Gilmore Girls.

Amy Sherman-Palladino has created some of the fastest talkers in television history — especially on Gilmore Girls, which returns for a new, four-episode season on Nov. 25. These are the movies, albums, towns, and plays that have influenced her career.

Easter Parade
I started as a dancer, because my mother wanted me to be a dancer. She had actually no interest in me doing anything else, so all early influences were very MGM-musical driven. Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, a major Judy Garland fetish that still exists on a weird, probably should-be-gay-a man level. One of my mother’s favorite stories is “I met Judy Garland on the street, and I went up and talked to her, and she was so nice.” That was it. That was the whole story.

Mel Brooks’s 2000 Year Old Man
My father was a comic, and he stuck it in my room, like, “Yeah, you are not going to be a dancer. You are a Jew; have a sandwich.” It was something I listened to over and over and over. Young Frankenstein and The Jerk were the two things that my father and I sort of bonded over — and my stealing of his 2,000 Year Old Man albums. Anything even mildly Jewish was very important to me for a very long time. The Borscht Belt, the comic, that whole sort of very rich history — it was a lot of that that I’d heard about through my dad.

Norman Lear
You know, All in the Family, Good Times. When I was a kid I auditioned for stuff, and weirdly, I auditioned for Albert and Norman Lear’s company more than anything else, and I never got anything. But it was him, and his storytelling especially — I didn’t intend to be a writer, and I certainly didn’t intend to write a sitcom, so he’s the touchstone.

Erma Bombeck
I remember I read every single book — I had her book! I wasn’t hip to columns and things like that. But Erma Bombeck then led to — like, Joan Rivers being dead now is absolutely the end of the world, as far as I’m concerned. Joan Rivers was the natural extension. But I loved Erma Bombeck! I’m sorry, I can’t apologize for it! I love her.

Early ‘80s KROQ
I would hang out in clubs, so it became a lot of whatever was KROQ. Purple Rain was very big. Madonna was very big. Anything that was on KROQ was very big. And in L.A., KROQ was king. That was all your music. Then, when I met my husband [Dan Palladino], it got psychotic because he actually, I believe, should be diagnosed or something — desperately, weirdly Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time about my husband and music. He’s just now finishing hoarding iPods because they’re not making the bigger storage capacity iPods anymore.

Carole King’s Tapestry
I can’t even say, like, I was so feminist conscious back then, but there are female cultural [moments] that just seemed larger than life. And Carole King’s Tapestry — every single song in that album, it gets in your DNA. I listen to some of my KROQ stuff now, on a lark, and I’ll be like, “Oh, I was so young and cute. I was very thin back then, and I could wear cute clothes.” So, it was like you could smile in sort of a nostalgic way. Whereas Carole King, you listen to it now, and it’s like, “No, still good now. Just as kickass now as it was then.”

Tony Kushner
One of the big, big things I listen to when I write is Caroline, or Change. Over and over and over again. We were in New York, and we were supposed to be doing a show with Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose, and we did, like, two or three episodes, and then we all went on strike. And on the strike line every day, I got to stalk Tony Kushner on one side and Tony Gilroy on the other, and I swear to god — I was like, “Tony fucking heaven.” My agent friend was like, “Why don’t you talk to him?” So I was all ready, meaning I shaved, like, front leg and back leg, who knows. And he was never on the line again because he had gone. I’ve met him since, and I believe my word babble was on par with when I met Norman Lear.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy was of the time when you really watched TV. Like, it was appointment television. And, I loved the humor, I loved the combination of this sort of weird cast. I don’t know if I thought about, like, “Oh, female leads,” because I come from Roseanne, so my whole background was really strong, offbeat, interesting female leads. But it was one of those shows that was just that pure pleasure. It was funny, and it was sad — and ridiculous when, as a grown woman, I think about Angel and Buffy breaking up and Angel walking off into the mist after they’ve killed the mayor who turned into a giant thing.

The Mark Twain House
We had just bought a giant, old, creaky house, and we were decorating it — I kid you not — and we were kind of obsessed with the shit that Mark Twain did in his house, so we were like, Let’s fly to Mark Twain’s house because it’s creaky. So we went to Connecticut, and we stayed at this inn, and it was October, leafing season. People were pulling us over going, “Excuse me, do you know which way the pumpkin patch is?” I’m like, “Are you shitting me?” I come from the Valley, where everything’s like, Heeey, there’s another pharmacy! So we went back to the inn, and the concierge was a French woman, and I went up to the room, and I said to my husband, “What if I placed the show, like, here? Like, in this place?” He goes, “Sure, why not?” And I sat down, and I got out the pad from the hotel, and I literally wrote, like, the first three scenes of Gilmore Girls on the pad. The inn is called the Mayflower. It’s now gotten a lot fancier.

Amy Sherman-Palladino on Her Cultural Influences