Next week I am starting my media tour. I’ll be on Leno Tuesday night, Letterman on Wednesday, and Conan on Thursday. I’m hitting Howard Stern early Friday morning and then heading straight to Regis and Whoever She Is. But the two shows I am most looking forward to are Charlie Rose (for his no-frills discussions) and "Inside the Actor’s Studio" with the pompous James Lipton. Gotta love that show.
I am not going to launch yet another round of tired Lipton impersonations (fyi, David Cross did it earlier and better than Will Ferrell). I respect Lipton as a skilled interrogator of our most talented artists and performers. I am excited about appearing on the program and I don’t feel the need to mock its host. Besides, I can’t wait to sit across from him and answer Bernard Pivot’s questionnaire. I plan to answer it honestly: without pretense or any image-conscious phrase parsing. The way Sean Penn answered it.
I’ll truthfully reveal my actual favorite curse word, rather than the generic, painless ones every other actor spits out. I’ll admit that I like the sound of crying children, that what turns me on are naked, crying women (not “discovery,” or “kindness”) and that what I want to hear from God when I arrive in Heaven is my favorite curse word (and some crying.) It’s my day in the sun and I am going to do it right. You might not like it, but when you are on the show, you can do it however you want. You should get the call pretty soon; I think I’m up after Vin Diesel and then Lipton dives into the general population. He has nowhere left to turn.
Seriously. The last few times I’ve flipped past "Inside the Actor’s Studio," I’ve seen Mark Wahlberg, Jamie Foxx, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, Will Smith, David Duchovny and Ethan Hawke. Who else can be on deck but Vin Diesel, followed by me and a few of you? I mean, I was pretty damn transcendent as the villain in my 6th grade play, not to mention my show stopping 5th grade performance (lipsynch my ass!) of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hounddog,” complete with onstage groupies (Aimee Orzel, I still have your panties). The world needs to know how I prepared for those roles and whether the non-divorce of my parents informed my journey as an entertainer.
I also want to say “cunt” on TV.
There are two reasons for the pathetic line-up of “actors” now appearing on this once proud show. The first is that over the summer of 2002 NBC bought Bravo. Suddenly a cable network with limited reach that answered to no one was taken over by a conglomerate concerned with nothing more than ratings. Take a look at some of the things that have begun popping up on the one-time Arts network. Celebrity Poker? Reality television?? I knew Bravo. Bravo was a good friend of mine. And reality television, you are no Bravo.
The second reason is that the pool of talented actors from whom to pick from is dwindling. That's tough, but there is plenty of talent out there that would make far more compelling interviewees than whoever's movie is opening this Friday. Let SNL plug Sahara. Faced with a lack of star-power, "Inside the Actor's Studio" should instead turn to writers and directors, or just plain good actors instead of celebrities and stars. I'd rather see Paul Giamatti interviewed than Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Maybe you think Val Kilmer deserves to be on there. Or that Sylvester Stallone doesn’t. Well, I’ll argue that there are three reasons for a person to be on. The most appropriate is a combination of career longevity and career excellence (Jack Lemmon, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, the upcoming Morgan Freeman). The second is a short but sustained period of superior performances (Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey - at least at the time he was on), and the third is longevity with some kind of special cache (Stallone, a one-time superstar who wrote Rocky; Jerry Lewis).
Keifer Sutherland was recently on. Let’s see: longevity…no…sustained excellence…no…cache…no. Hey, I used to worship The Lost Boys. And I love “24” - the Jack Bauer Power Hour is a kickass jolt of mini-action movie every week and Keifer is great on it. But come on, WHO IS JAMES LIPTON WORKING FOR?!
Since NBC took over it’s been about ratings and that means stars and that’s a shame. It was a lot more interesting listening to someone like Arthur Penn or Paul Newman or Sydney Lumet discuss their craft than the cast of fucking “Will and Grace.”
Lest you think I’m being prejudiced shows or actors I dislike, they did the cast of “The Simpsons” too, possibly the greatest TV show of all time, and even that episode sucked. Of course, instead of interviewing the geniuses who write the show, they interviewed the people who do the funny voices but have nothing to do with the content. D’oh!
If you are unsure who Arthur Penn and Sydney Lumet are but like the sound of Bart’s voice and want to see what the person who does him looks like, then NBC is winning. But for me, it’s a lot more interesting to learn about someone who has something to say than to hear from the equivalent of funny- noise-making guy in the Police Academy movies.
"Inside the Actor’s Studio" used to be about learning something about artistic development and gaining some insight into a respected actor or director's creative process. Not anymore. Not when Cameron Diaz is the one talking.
Unfortunately a quick look at a guest list for the show, complete with air dates, reveals that the some sketchy guest selection goes back long before NBC’s purchase. Roseanne? Bernadette Peters? Ben Affleck (though, in all honesty, the post-Good Will Hunting, “I’m a writer” Affleck fits into my third category above, and every show on earth was clamoring for a piece of the Affleck/Damon duo)!
At least most of the pre-NBC guests are defensible. Maybe even Geena Davis. The post-NBC the show totally hit the toilet. Think Jay Leno would’ve been on if NBC didn’t run the show? A-hell no.
It keeps getting worse. Check the schedule: the cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Angelina Jolie are on tap. Yikes.
They’re maggots, Lipton. What would God say to you?
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
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5.13.05 @ 9:05a
I used to watch Bravo as a way of avoiding reality shows and I hate gambling and find poker really really boring. Lately I find the Comedy Channel taking up the slack. Even the Blue Collar Comedy tour is funny most of the time. Did anybody happen to notice that a poll last year found that people who watch the Daily Show are better informed on issues than even people who watch PBS? Hah! Maybe it's because we learned how to read a long time ago. Maybe not.
Long way around the mulberry bush to say I agree with you, Mike, about Bravo and Lipton.
5.13.05 @ 9:38a
I no longer wish I had Bravo.
5.13.05 @ 10:25a
HEY! Don't bash the voice artist, Sparky! Watching Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer shift voice gears is quite a feat to those of us who know how hard it is to do. And both of those particular actors run donut circles around the others, with their multiple movie and stage performances.
That being said, I agree with everything else. It's hard to imagine that Inside considers Angelina Jolie or Cameron Diaz worth listening to compared to, oh, Joanne Woodward. However, watching Jane Fonda was a waste of airspace, especially now that she's found God and has a book to promote. Whether or not you agreed with her politics, she used to stand for something more than her vehicle with Jennifer Lopez.
5.13.05 @ 10:29a
Tracey, I enjoy seeing Hank Azaria and Shearer and all them do their thing, I just don't think ITAS is the place for it. They definitely add to the quality of the Simpsons, but we learned NOTHING in that interview. He just asked them questions IN CHARACTER and they performed. That's crap.
5.13.05 @ 10:54a
I'm so glad you wrote this, because you found a reason why it went straight down the tubes, while I just thought they were running out of actual actors. When I saw a commercial for Jennifer Lopez on ITAS, it was over for me.
She's CAPABLE of acting, yes. We saw that in Out of Sight. But does she act? Not as much anymore. She models.
5.13.05 @ 11:05a
Azaria and Shearer demonstrated a true voice artist - unlike just having, oh, I don't know, Demi Moore or Ben Stiller phoning in the voice for a whore or a zebra. So I didn't mind the format that showcased them, because I think few people understand how difficult it is and that, in itself, is a demonstration of craft.
5.13.05 @ 11:14a
No, it was more like having Robin Williams on in the guise of an interview and them him just performing his annoying routine for 2 hours. I'm not in any way attempting to demean the voice artist or the difficulty of doing that, but all they did was DO WHAT THEY DO, rather than explain their method or anything.
It was entertaining but shallow.
5.13.05 @ 11:26a
Ah - so you want more of the process, then?
Yeah, the Robin Williams one, while entertaining, was draining, especially coming from a Julliard-trained actor.
5.13.05 @ 11:29a
That's my problem with the show. Seeing Brad Pitt talk about his relationship with Aniston or his friendship with Clooney is entertaining, I guess, if you like that crap, but there's nothing to it. The show used to have substance. Now it's just stars doing publicity.
5.13.05 @ 2:45p
My wife and I have been complaining about this same thing for months. The J. Lo episode took the cake. And yeah, I thought Jamie Foxx was a bit much. What did they talk about, anyway? Booty Call? The Players Club?
Although I did enjoy the Simpsons episode, it would've been nice to have a sit down with the writers and producers. They need to talk to James L. Brooks. Now THAT man has had an amazing career.
5.13.05 @ 2:51p
Jamie Foxx is a perfect example. Yes, he's good in Ray. But he's done NOTHING else. The show no longer has any standards, they only exist to get ratings. Lipton must be beside himself with rage. I bet he has his wife whip him with a cat-o-nine tails every nite when he gets home.