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New York City ''sewer rats'' became an important part of Art Carney's career

Art Carney and Jackie Gleason were two of the biggest names in Hollywood during the '50s, and yet, Carney never saw it that way. He was known for his role as Ed Norton during his time on The Honeymooners (1953).

Maybe it was because the star played the role of a sewer cleaner, or as Carney called them "sewer rats," during the series' one season. It must have been hard to see how high he had come when he spent so much of his time below ground. Maybe it was because he was constantly being humbled by Gleason. Either way, most TV and movie stars at the time would grab at the chance to be as nonchalant as Carney was about his level of fame during his time on The Honeymooners.

In fact, despite being a Hollywood star, Carney said he hadn't even visited LA in almost 14 years (as of 1955).

"Last time I was out here (Los Angeles) was '41," Carney said in a 1955 interview with Portland Press Herald. "It's a nice enough place, but it's no New York."

Carney said he had tons of offers to star in both TV and a variety of films, but that would require him moving to Hollywood — and he was not about to do that.

"I like being second banana just fine," Carney said. "It's a good setup working with Jackie. We're sort of partners, so why take a chance with a good thing."

Carney added that he was more than happy to play the role of the sewer hopping Ed Norton. The comedian said that playing a "sewer rat" was one of the main reasons he decided to stick it out with Gleason. "I'm relaxed with the character," Carney said. "I guess I really belong in the sewer. I'm like Norton. Easy come, easy go."

"All the other sewer rats think I'm pretty good in that part, too," Carney said. "I've got all kinds of loving cups and plaques and awards from sewer workers and sewer organizations. It gives me a good feeling to have a following like that."

According to the interview, Gleason allowed Carney to do three outside TV shows every thirteen weeks. Carney took advantage of that to establish himself as one of America's top dramatic actors. 

"I bring the job out into the open," Carney said. "I glorify sewer rats. Matter of fact I'm an honorary sewer rat. If I lose my acting job, I could flop into any sewer and be welcome. They'd hire me. We've found a home in the sewer!"

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