A few decades with Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney's last weekly commentary on 60 Minutes aired Oct. 2, just about a month before his death. We look back at some of the choicest quotes of his seven-decade career.

Memorable quotes from the 60 Minutes star

Andy Rooney, who died at age 92 on Nov. 4, was best known for his commentaries on the CBS program 60 Minutes, but his writing career stretches back decades before he first appeared on the program.

He started doing "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" in 1978, rarely attracting controversy but usually attracting a huge and adoring audience. On Oct. 2, his 1,097th and final commentary for 60 Minutes went to air.

Andy Rooney in his office at CBS in New York in 1998. (Jim Cooper/Associated Press)
Rooney got his start in journalism in the 1930s as a copy boy at the Knickerbocker News, a newspaper in Albany, N.Y., his hometown. During the Second World War, he was a correspondent for the U.S. army publication Stars and Stripes. By the end of the 1940s, he had co-authored three books, based on his experiences in Europe during the war and a year after.

His first job in broadcasting was as a writer for Arthur Godfrey's CBS radio and television programs from 1949 to 1955.

During much of the 60s, he collaborated with Harry Reasoner as the writer-producer for CBS News specials, winning several awards.

The first time he went on camera was for PBS in 1971, in "Essay on War," which he wrote, produced and narrated, and for which he won his third Writers Guild of America Award.

He returned to CBS in 1973, occasionally writing segments for 60 Minutes. He first went on camera for the program in 1978, as a summer replacement commentator. Executive producer Don Hewitt made him a regular at the start of the new season, and "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" has been there ever since.

Below are some of his many memorable lines, from 60 Minutes and elsewhere.

My knack is for observing something everyone knows about, but from different angles.

Associated Press, 1978

I've always said that ideas are overrated. I'm more apt to collect information on the obvious, which we all have but haven't bothered to put together. We're so busy analyzing the obscure that we haven't realized that we haven't really mastered the commonplace.

Associated Press, 1981

I have a sort of heightened averageness that people relate to.

Associated Press, 1982

I just wish insignificance had more stature.

New York Times, 1967

It is unsatisfactory for a writer to have his words said once and then disappear forever into thin air. Seeing our names in print lends to the dream all of us have of immortality. You can't ask for more from something than immortality and money next week.

A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, preface, 1981

Members of CBS's 60 Minutes celebrate the program's 25th anniversary on Nov. 10, 1993, in New York. From left are: Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Morley Safer, Steve Kroft, Ed Bradley, Leslie Stahl and executive producer Don Hewitt. (Bob Strong/AFP/Getty Images)
Writing humor is more precise than most things. When I am a speaker, the only time I know I have done something right is when the audience laughs. If you organize a sentence with a good thought in it, you don't know whether the audience has been touched or not, because there is no reaction. The only way you know if you have done something right with the organization of words is when you make people laugh.

Toronto Sun interview, 1982

In the news division, tears take precedence over laughter and there is a widespread and firmly held belief that humor lessens the importance of anything it touches.

New York Times, 1967

In 1978, Rooney went on camera as a summer replacement on 60 Minutes, then became a regular with the 1978-79 TV season. On Oct. 2, he delivered what would be his final commentary not just for the program but on television. He died a month later, (Carlos Rene Perez/Associated Press)
I like to look absolutely average when it comes to clothes. Not wearing a necktie when everyone else wears one has never seemed to me like the place I want to take my stand as a revolutionary.

60 Minutes

"There are a lot of know-nothing boobs who don't appreciate the modern art being put up in public places in all our cities," he declared peevishly one week. "I know this is true, because I'm one of those know-nothing boobs."

60 Minutes, 2008 (View the commentary on YouTube)

A bank has to have a name that sounds important and honest, otherwise people would keep their money under the mattress where it belongs.

60 Minutes, 1978

There was some recognition in 1989 of the fact that many of the ills which kill us are self-induced: too much alcohol, too much food, drugs, homosexual unions, cigarettes. They're all known to lead quite often to premature death.

A Year with Andy Rooney, CBS TV special, 1989

(That statement landed Rooney in hot water with the gay community and others. His letter of apology to the gay newspaper The Advocate compounded the problem. CBS suspended Rooney for three months, but a drop in 60 Minutes' ratings and complaints from viewers and colleagues had him back on the air after just a month. Rooney conceded, "As for homosexual insensitivity, I suspect I'm guilty.")

I'm having too good a time to die but I understand it may happen.

Letter to Barry Goldwater published in Sincerely, Andy Rooney. 2001.

Old people are not doing their part for world order by dying on time the way they used to.

Syndicated column, Tribune Media Services, 1998

Let's face it, even on the nights when I'm good, I'm not that good.

60 Minutes, 1990 (published in Years of Minutes, 2003).