Chuck Lorre (born Charles Michael Levine; October 18, 1952) is an American television writer, director, producer and composer. Lorre has created many of America's hit sitcoms including Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory. Lorre also served as an executive producer of Roseanne, Mike & Molly and Mom.
Lorre was born as Charles Michael Levine in Bethpage, Long Island, New York, to a Jewish family.
According to Lorre's website on "Vanity Card #119", Chuck changed his name from Levine to Lorre at age twenty-six. A direct quote of his website gives the entire explanation of why he changed his name:
After high school, Lorre attended State University of New York at Potsdam, dropping out after two years to pursue a career as a songwriter. He has publically admitted to his past of drugs and alcohol use. During his two years at college he "majored in rock 'n' roll and pot and minored in LSD." He also admits to drinking in his past, telling EW, "I led a dissolute youth until 47." He now is in recovery.
After leaving school, Lorre toured the United States as a guitarist and songwriter. He wrote Deborah Harry's radio hit single "French Kissin' in the USA" for her 1986 Rockbird album. Lorre also composed the soundtrack to the 1987 television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Dennis Challen Brown. Lorre shifted into writing, being a writer on the show Roseanne.
Lorre's first show as creator was the ABC sitcom Grace Under Fire, starring comedienne Brett Butler. It premiered on ABC in 1993, and was nominated at the 52nd Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Lorre's second show was Cybill, starring Cybill Shepherd. The show aired for four seasons on CBS and received critical acclaim, winning a Primetime Emmy Award in 1995 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for co-star Christine Baranski. The show also won two Golden Globe Awards in 1996 for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy for Cybill Shepherd.
Lorre's third show was Dharma & Greg, which was premiered one year before the end of Cybill in 1997. The show starred Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as the title characters, whose characters were complete opposites: Dharma's world view being more spiritual, 'free spirit' type instilled by "hippie" parents, contrasted with Greg's world view of structure, social status requirements, and "white collar duty" instilled by his generations of affluent parents/ancestors. Like the "yin/yang" symbol in every episode, each represents one of the 'polar opposites' that would seem to repel, but somehow strongly attract to create the most harmonious "whole". This comedy shows through metaphor in light daily living struggles, the deeper challenges of life/existence for which every human has struggled for generations. The show earned eight Golden Globe nominations, six Emmy Award nominations, and six Satellite Awards nominations. Elfman earned a Golden Globe in 1999 for Best Actress.
Lorre's fourth show was Two and a Half Men with co-creater Lee Aronsohn. The show focuses on two Harper brothers, Charlie and Alan (Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer). Charlie is a rich, successful Hollywood composer/producer and womanizer who owns a beach house in Malibu. When Alan gets a divorce, he is forced to move into Charlie's house. Alan also has a growing son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), the "half" who comes to visit Charlie and Alan on weekends. The show premiered on CBS in 2003 and has become the highest-rated sitcom in America. However, CBS briefly canceled the show up until its eighth season following several incidents of production shutdowns allegedly due to Sheen's serious problems related to drug and alcohol abuse, which culminated in his verbal attacks directed at Lorre during a radio interview. Sheen was officially fired from the show, and later filed a $100 million lawsuit against Lorre and Warner Bros. Television for wrongful termination. Afterwards, CBS and Warner Bros. hired Ashton Kutcher as Sheen's replacement, and the show was renewed for its eleventh season.
Lorre's fifth show was The Big Bang Theory with co-creator Bill Prady. The show follows two physicists with genius IQs and very low social skills who befriend their neighbor, an attractive young woman with an average IQ, no college education, and very high social skills. Each episode usually focuses on the daily lives of the men and two of their equally socially challenged yet highly brilliant friends, with a dose of absurdity from the relationship with their uneducated, but socially brilliant, neighbor. The two main protagonists, Sheldon and Leonard, are named after the actor and television producer Sheldon Leonard. The show premiered on CBS in 2007 and is the highest rated comedy series in America.
Lorre's most recent production Mike & Molly premiered on CBS in September 2010.
For more details on his career experiences, peruse his 'vanity cards' at www.chucklorre.com. For example, card #245 explaining multiple issues with his employers: "I decide getting on staff at Roseanne would be a great opportunity for me, even though every writer who had ever worked on the show had been fired. Four weeks into the job I deliver my first script and I'm almost fired. I create Grace Under Fire, realize what I'm in for and try to quit after pilot is picked up to series. I try to quit again during Christmas. A few weeks later the Northridge earthquake hits. During a large aftershock I drop to my knees and pray for the sound stage to collapse and kill me. I think developing a new series starring Cybill Shepherd is a swell idea. The show is an instant hit. Cybill wants me to fire Lee Aronsohn because he's a misogynist. She's not wrong, but I jokingly tell her, "Why do you care? You're not a woman." She fires us both. I get the call not to come back to work on Yom Kippur from a Carsey-Werner exec named Dirk Van De Bunt."
Chuck Lorre will produce a new TV-series on CBS called Mom starring Anna Faris.
On the vanity card for Chuck Lorre Productions at the end of every episode of Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly, Lorre includes a message that usually reads like an editorial, essay, or observation on life. A typical card might include a range of topics as diverse as what the Bee Gees never learned, the cancellation of Dharma & Greg, the competence of AOL Time Warner management, and the genesis of Two and a Half Men.
The card is shown for only a few seconds at most, so longer messages cannot be read unless recorded and paused, although Lorre now posts the cards on his website. CBS has censored Lorre's vanity cards on several occasions;Lorre posts both the censored and uncensored versions of the cards.
Several of the cards were believed to have legal implications for Lorre's contractual relationships with Charlie Sheen.
The vanity card used on Grace under Fire and Cybill featured a wooden desk with an Apple Macintosh SE.
The vanity cards often are unapologetically supportive of President Obama, and occasionally contain very anti-corporate or anti-war sentiments.
- Roseanne, 1990–1992, (writer, co-executive producer, supervising producer)
- Grace Under Fire, 1993–1998 (creator, writer, co-executive producer, supervising producer)
- Cybill, 1995–1998 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Dharma & Greg, 1997–2002 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Two and a Half Men, 2003–2015 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- The Big Bang Theory, 2007–2019 (creator, writer, executive producer)
- Mike & Molly, 2010–2016 (executive producer, writer)
- Mom, 2013–2021 (creator, executive producer, writer)
- Young Sheldon, 2017–present (creator, executive producer, writer)
Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory are both taped at the Warner Brothers lot, in adjacent stages; the shows share several writers and technical crews. The Big Bang Theory has cast a number of alumni from Lorre's past series, starting with Johnny Galecki from Roseanne (he was Darlene's boyfriend and later husband). Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene on Roseanne, was Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory. Laurie Metcalf, who played Jackie in Roseanne, plays Sheldon's mother Mary. Christine Baranski, an alumna of Cybill, was cast as Leonard's mother.
Also, on The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny are seen watching Oshikuru: Demon Samurai. Oshikuru was the show for which the character Charlie Harper wrote the theme song on Two and a Half Men. Charlie Sheen made a cameo appearance in the Big Bang Theory episode "The Griffin Equivalency".
Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men appeared in one episode of Dharma & Greg. Jenna Elfman, Susan Sullivan, and Joel Murray of Dharma & Greg also appeared in various episodes of Two and a Half Men. In the eighth episode of the fifth season of Two and a Half Men, "Is There a Mrs. Waffles?", Charlie watches an episode of Dharma & Greg after watching the first commercial for his CD. In the first episode of the ninth season, after Charlie Sheen got fired from the show, Dharma & Greg were one of the couples looking over Charlie's house, which was on sale.
In the season 6 Big Bang Theory episode "The Holographic Excitation", Sheldon and Amy are fighting over which couple to go as to a Halloween party. Among her suggestions seen on a whiteboard are Blossom & Joey and Dharma & Greg.
Awards and Recognition
Lorre won BMI Television Music Awards in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 for Two and a Half Men.
On March 12, 2009, Lorre received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.
Three months later, Lorre received an honorary degree from the State University of New York at Potsdam and gave a keynote address at the graduation.
Lorre was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in March 2012.
Lorre was first married to his business partner, Paula Smith, in 1979. The business partnership and marriage were dissolved after 13 years and the birth of their two children. Lorre was married to actress and former Playboy Playmate, Karen Witter for 10 years but divorced in July 2010.
Chuck also has publicly admitted his decades of struggle with the autoimmune disease Ulcerative Colitis, and other mild health struggles with depression, worry, anger/rage. Stated Lorre in an interview: "Put me in paradise and I will focus on the one thing that will make me angry." As he told Entertainment Weekly: "I am wired on some deep level to seek out something to be worried and obsess about."