Betty White may be the hardest working woman in show business right now — and surely is the hardest working 89-year-old. White’s latest project, which she promoted during NBC’s first day of press tour, is “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” a reality show featuring senior citizens pulling pranks on young whippersnappers which debuts Mon. Jan. 16 at 9:30 p.m. Over breakfast with reporters, White talked about senior humor, flirting and turning 90 (NBC will be airing a tribute special for that landmark on Jan. 16 as well).
As to why she’s enthusiastic about a show promoting old people as pranksters, White said, “Don’t sell them short. They’re just hip enough and maybe mean enough to want to get even. So I think it’s just kind of a reverse psychology to the poor, old senior. It’s ‘Hey, we’ve got a sense of humor, warped as it may be.'”
Warped, maybe, but White will not allow the show to be cruel. “My only functionality in the production is to be sure it’s not mean-spirited,” she said. “Things aren’t funny if it’s mean-spirited. Sometimes I think the comedy gets a little banana peel comedy. You laugh at somebody slipping on a banana peel instead of an intellectual joke. It’s not that kind of show. It’s just a silly, fun show.”
Though NBC will be paying tribute to White for her 90th birthday (the special airs before the actual event on Jan. 17), White isn’t overly enthusiastic about adding another candle to her cake. “Everybody is celebrating it for me,” she says. “And they’re all saying, ‘Oh my goodness! You’re 90!’ And I keep trying to explain, ‘Don’t give me any credit. I didn’t do anything to get to be 90. It just happened. I didn’t accomplish anything. It just came up on me.’ While she won’t be running a 10k to celebrate, she did admit, “I might go out and have a little vodka on the rocks.”
She also joked about her busy work schedule. “I have a wonderful agent. He’s my good buddy and a fine agent, and his perspective is much better than my own. So when he brings me stuff, I say yes. If I don’t, he beats me.”
She also quipped about her new show’s take on sex in the golden years. When asked why senior sex is so funny, she said, “Look at yourself. If you had a sense of humor you would laugh to beat the band. Sex is pretty funny, let’s face it. And the more seriously we take ourselves, the funnier sex gets, I think.”
The ebullient White did take a moment to take things seriously, however. When asked her biggest regret, she said, “I have a major regret, that Allen Ludden (her late husband) isn’t with me.”