I’m a fan of the BRAVO channel; one of my favorite shows is Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. I think he is a gifted interviewer; it is clear he loves actors and the process and all that great stuff. It makes me happy. He asks good questions, and it is the perfect mix of interview, gush, and insight. I like to see who squirms and who basks in the glow of attention. There are some awesome interviews with amazing actors: Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Kate Blanchet, and the list goes on and on. There have been some wonderfully talented people on that show, really incredibly talented actors. I would love to be an acting student in the room when one of the greats is being interviewed.
However, there are some interviews of some folks that I have a hard time taking seriously as “actors.” For example: Brooke Shields, Mickey Rourke, Sharon Stone, Jay Leno, the band Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, the cast of The Simpsons, and Kanye West. These people have actually, legitimately been on the show as guests. Sure, Mickey Rourke made that one good film, you know the one I mean, right? Yeah, I can’t remember the name either, but sure, he made one. Then he turned into a freaky looking dude and made fairly odd choices in his life, but who am I to judge? Kanye West? As an actor?
It also bugs me when Lipton asks these famous people, “If not acting, then what?” they wistfully look up and take a deep breath and nine times out of ten, they say, “I would have liked to have been a teacher….” Really? Put them in a classroom for a month, on a teacher’s salary and then see what they say. I can just imagine a downtrodden, tired, not-so-good-looking-without-that-facial-every-week Tom Cruise (pre-Hollywood smile) addressing his class. “Why aren’t you listening to me? Listen to me! And put that desk down…”
Sure, teaching seems noble, fun and perhaps even a bit fabulous to the casual observer, and sometimes it really is noble, fun and fabulous, but it’s also hard work, both intellectually and emotionally, and frankly, after eating school lunch for over 24 years, losing a BIG chunk of my salary due to Act 10, getting chastised by a few parents, as well as their children and watching my profession be brought to its knees due to standardized testing and budget cuts, well, that kind of nonsense can get under my skin. There are days (more than a few) where I would absolutely change places with Meryl Streep or Julie Roberts in a fraction of a heartbeat. I totally understand the likelihood of that ever happening is about as good as Kanye West winning an Oscar for his acting, but it is fun to daydream about.
Here’s a fun-fact. Lipton’s famous questions at the end of every interview were first made popular by Bernard Pivot on a show called Apostrophes. They are great questions. If I ever make it on “The Actor’s Studio” these would be my super spontaneous, authentic answers. (Feel free to answer them too in comments.)
1. What is your favorite word?
-F*ck. By a long shot.
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
-Winning praise of people I admire and respect.
4. What turns you off?
-People who drop the ball. And slavery. And misogynists.
5. What is your favorite curse word?
-F*ck. By a long shot.
6. What sound or noise do you love?
-Little girls giggling, particularly my own.
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
-Instruments that are out of tune. And angry men shouting at children, women or animals.
8. If not acting, then what?
-(Wistfully looks up) Teaching…
9. What profession would you not like to do?
-Cleaning out porta-potties.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
-“Nice job kiddo; you did good. Now, get back in there.”
I’m now less than a decade away from retirement, and on occasion, my mind drifts toward daydreams of that time when I no longer teach. Will I stay busy? Will I miss it? Will my brain turn to mush? If not teaching, then what? Directing? Writing? Learning a new language? Distilling my own vodka? Regardless of how that plays out, I plan on making a really great retiree; I bet I still do all kinds of noble, fun and fabulous things. However, I bet I still spend some time of the couch watching old reruns of “The Actor’s Studio.”