Emmy award-winning actor Ed Asner did not write the program he presented Jan. 13 at the Hannibal High School auditorium, but his skillful reading of the author's comical way of sharing his own experiences with prostate trouble provided Asner with a script that kept the crowd laughing.

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Emmy award-winning actor Ed Asner did not write the program he presented Jan. 13 at the Hannibal High School auditorium, but his skillful reading of the author's comical way of sharing his own experiences with prostate trouble provided Asner with a script that kept the crowd laughing.

The program, “A Man and his Prostate,” was written by Asner's friend, Emmy-award winning writer Ed Weinberger, who won for the “Taxi” TV show.

Asner is best known as Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” followed by the “Lou Grant Show.”

The Hannibal program was co-sponsored by Bluff City Theater and the Hannibal Regional Healthcare System.

Joe Anderson, executive director of Bluff City Theater, opened the program and introduced Todd Ahrens, president/CEO of the Hannibal Regional Hospital, who said as a prostate cancer survivor, he knows the importance of calling attention to the need for men to get tested and treated.

The program's literature from the hospital stated about one in seven American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 39 will die from this cancer. It encouraged men to call 573-629-3500 to schedule a screening.

Asner began his story (as Weinberger, the patient) by explaining he and his wife were on a cruise in Italy when he became ill in Florence. He was taken to a hospital, while his wife remained on board the cruise ship and left for another city. He was not in contact with her for several days, and she later reported many people on the cruise had been suffering from food poisoning.

Asner continued his story, with details about not being able to empty his bladder, so he was hospitalized with a catheter. After numerous tests, he was told his prostate was enlarged, so he had surgery, with part of his prostate removed.

Then he spent several days recovering before he could regain normal use of his bladder. He was very thankful he did not have cancer. All the things that happened in the hospital - where most of the doctors did not speak English - were told in graphic and amusing ways, and the program included screening of several pictures of Asner as the patient.

After the program, some members of the audience shared their opinion of his program. Jack Whitaker said, “It was a unique way to present the trials and tribulations of men and their bodies.”

Asner's meet-and-greet in the HHS cafeteria gave people an opportunity to pose for photos and seek autographs. As they waited to meet Asner, some shared their impressions of Asner.

One compared Asner with Mark Twain. Dr. Curtis Burton said, “I think Ed Asner is very much like Mark Twain. He was ahead of his time in the entertainment industry, because he used his position (as president of the Screen Actors Guild) to try to affect political change.”

Another local man, Mike Marx, was no stranger to Asner, because in the 1970s when Marx worked in Los Angeles, he was an assistant publicist with the firm that represented Asner. Marx also visited with Asner a few years ago when Asner did a one-man show in St. Louis, portraying President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Marx added that Asner's performance was “great, very funny,” adding, “I've gone through the cancer about 11 years ago.”

Harold Haycreft said Asner is “so personable to everybody he meets.”

Kathy Haycraft, chairperson of the Bluff City Theater Board, said, “He's hysterical, super funny, and it was very well done and drew attention to a healthcare topic that needs to be addressed more openly.”

She added that “We are really happy he agreed to come to Hannibal.”

Anderson agreed, explaining that he was “thrilled Ed was able to come to town with the show. Ed is an icon and the fact that they chose Hannibal I think is really exciting, because this is the only Missouri stop on the tour he has been doing in big cities.”

See photo gallery for more photos of Asner meeting people after the program.

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.