Q+A: '2 Broke Girls' Producer Tim Kaiser
Emmy-winning producer Tim Kaiser loves his hometown so much that he commutes regularly between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
Photos by Justin Merriman / courtesy Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tim Kaiser, 50, has television in his blood. His father, Lloyd Kaiser, was president of WQED for most of Tim’s childhood. The younger Kaiser grew up around the sets and got to hang with Fred Rogers himself.
After graduating from Westminster College in 1985, Kaiser worked in public television before moving to Los Angeles in 1988. Within two years, he landed his career-making gig as a producer on “Seinfeld,” where he won the first of two Emmy Awards. The second was for his work on “Will & Grace.”
Despite a thriving career in Hollywood, Kaiser says he grew homesick. Now, he commutes to LA during shooting season of the popular comedy series “2 Broke Girls,” for which he’s the co-executive producer. Kaiser rents a home there and flies back to Pittsburgh three out of four weekends a month to be with his family.
Why did you decide to go out West, and how did it go?
My wife [Kristin] and I prayed about the move, and we decided to give it two years. If I didn’t make it then, we would look at it as a two-year vacation in sunny LA. We ended up staying 25 years. After several jobs as a production assistant, I landed a job running postproduction on a “Mary Tyler Moore” comeback show, which began my career.
You nixed plans to produce the show “Uncle Buck” to work on “Seinfeld.” Why?
As you look at it now, it is a slam-dunk decision, but at the time, “Uncle Buck” was the next big hit. I was offered 13 episodes versus four on “Seinfeld,” [with “Uncle Buck” offering] almost double the money. No one really knew who Jerry [Seinfeld] was outside the comic world. I felt something really unique and different when I met with the “Seinfeld” gang. It was the controlled craziness/brilliance in a sense that intrigued me to make me take the gamble at age 26.
I suppose the real answer is that I was blessed to make the right decision. “Uncle Buck” was canceled after a few episodes, and “Seinfeld” went on for nine years and is considered by many to be the top sitcom of all time. It was the best professional decision I have ever made.
What does a TV producer actually do?
I am brought in after the pilot script is written, and my job is to get that concept on the screen from beginning to end. I hire the crew and run the show.
Why did you come back to Pittsburgh? For my wife and me, it was important to get back home, where we could safely raise our kids in the environment in which we were raised. We also have our families here, and we were able to reconnect and be part of each other’s lives. I am able to take care of my father in his older age, as it should be.
Your commute is intense. What effect has it had on your career?
The bicoastal thing hasn’t really impacted me professionally in that I still get to pick and choose my projects. I kind of created this schedule. No one that I know of has ever done this at my level on a continuing series over eight months a year. I guess that makes me crazy?
What do you miss about Pittsburgh when you’re not here?
When I am living in LA, the main [things] I miss about Pittsburgh, other than my family, [are] the spirit and loyalty of the people and the city. LA is such a big place that people don’t tend to feel like they belong anywhere. Unless LA sports teams are winning, people don’t care about them. Anyone from Pittsburgh will tell you the same thing: It’s a small town with a big heart.
Something that never gets old to me is that with all of my travel back and forth each week, I can go to the airport and not even look up my gate number. I can just walk down the terminal until I see a sea of black-and-gold jerseys with names like Lambert, Polamalu and Crosby, and then I know I am in a place that will get me home.