Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
Summary: From WNYC Studios, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin takes listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by going inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people we want to understand better: Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Roz Chast, Chris Rock and others. Hear what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios
Writers Kaitlyn Tiffany and Ashley Fetters may be the country’s most astute observers of modern romance. Fetters even wrote the definitive history of Tinder. Alec discovered their jointly written article, The ‘Dating Market’ Is Getting Worse, published in February, 2020, and knew he had to talk to them. The writers talked to historians and sociologists to analyze the use of concepts like “market value” and “supply and demand” in thinking about romance. They conclude that our sense that we can measure and control the "numbers game" makes us less happy and perhaps less likely to find true love. They bring their own personal dating experiences and their deep research to a funny and fascinating Zoom conversation with Alec.
Filipino-American filmmaker Ramona Diaz says each of her films is a “yearning for the motherland.” She’s in a unique position, as she says, able to “decode” the Philippines for the rest of the world. Her most recent film, A Thousand Cuts, tells the story of Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa and the struggle for a free press and the crackdown on news media in the Philippines under President Duterte. In 2018, Ressa was an honoree when Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue focused on “The Guardians and the War on Truth.” Alec sat down with director Diaz to talk about her newest film as well as her other documentaries. Diaz draws deep portraits and her subjects vary -- from well-known figures like Imelda Marcos, to women who’ve just given birth at Fabella Hospital in Manila -- the busiest maternity ward in the world.
Alec and Stanley Tucci have only been on set together a couple of times, but they established a rapport deep enough to carry over into a Zoom interview more than a decade later. The two share stories from their families, discuss what they love about working with certain fellow actors, and the difference between working in Hollywood and the UK. Tucci also talks about how he gets into character for his most recent role, an 80-year-old woman in Apple TV's wonderful new animated series, Central Park.
Ingrid Newkirk is the co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. It may be America’s best-known animal rights organization thanks to legal sophistication, scientific seriousness, and off-the-wall publicity stunts like throwing fake blood on models wearing fur, or infiltrating a KFC chicken-supplier to publicize alleged cruelty. They're also famous because a lot of big-name vegetarians have lent them a hand, including Alec, who narrated a documentary for PETA about animal abuse in traveling circuses, among other collaborations. Newkirk tells the story of her transformation from the happily carnivorous daughter of an engineer in New Delhi, to deputy sheriff in Maryland, to the nation's foremost warrior against "speciesism." Alec and Newkirk also go through all the big contemporary questions in animal rights, from hunting to animal-testing to roadside zoos, and she shares insights from her latest book about animal psychology and cognition, Animalkind.
Micky Dolenz was a successful child-actor, but he became a full-fledged star at 20 in 1966 as the exuberant singer and drummer of The Monkees -- or rather, as the actor playing that character. At first, the band was a creation of NBC and only existed on the show The Monkees. For the first season, much of the backing music was played by a studio band. Eventually, that changed, and The Monkees' transition from a TV band to a real band is a fascinating story of hard work, perseverance, and marketing genius. Dolenz brings all the energy and humor he showed on The Monkees to this episode of Here's the Thing, telling Alec about the dynamics among the bandmates, his years as a successful TV producer in the UK, and what it's like touring -- and recording -- as a member of The Monkees 50 years after the end of the show.
Woody Allen's new book, Apropos of Nothing, starts with a portrait of his father, a tough-guy World War One Navy veteran and onetime gunman in a firing squad. It's the first of a series of surprising, fascinating stories from a life that went from working-class Jewish Brooklyn in the 1940s to movie sets in Rome and Paris. The book also addresses the accusation of an incident of sexual abuse leveled by Dylan Farrow. Allen and Alec cover it all -- plus how he's doing in the age of coronavirus -- in this candid and wide-ranging interview.
In the midst of a crisis it can be healthy to think of what comes after. In this episode of Here's the Thing, two of the most influential New Yorkers when it comes to long-term economic planning join Alec to discuss whether the current economic crisis will end quickly when businesses can reopen, or whether instead it's the start of a longer decline. Kathryn Wylde is a veteran of the urban renewal battles of the 1980s and currently the head of the city's elite business consortium, the Partnership for New York City. She worries that what makes New York special will now be associated with the spread of disease: its dense population and communal spaces like theaters, museums, bars, and vibrant workplaces. Tom Wright's organization, the influential Regional Plan Association, is reshaping its long-term vision for the city based on the potential for reduced growth -- but Wright says that New York is well positioned to get back on track thanks to its experience overcoming past crises like 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.
Over a 70-year career, Wynn Handman added sharpness and craft to the natural talents of actors including Christopher Walken, Allison Janney, Raul Julia, Richard Gere, James Caan, Anna Deveare Smith, Joanne Woodward, and Mia Farrow. The World War II veteran studied acting on the GI bill and fell in with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1946, when the "playhouse" was still two floors of an office building west of Times Square. In this remarkable conversation, Handman tells Alec about his experiences with Meisner, Lee Strasberg, and his many students -- as well as growing up in the 1920s in a Manhattan neighborhood where the streets still had not been paved. Handman died of complications from COVID-19 on April 11, 2020.
Brian De Palma's astonishingly diverse hits as a director include Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Raising Cain, Carlito’s Way, and Mission: Impossible. He wrote many of those screenplays, too. With his distinctive visual style and proven box office success, he's among the undeniable greats of both auteur and commercial filmmaking. In this live interview, he tells Alec about getting his start in directing as an undergrad at Columbia, and has stories from Blow Out, Scarface and Mission: Impossible. In 2019, the Hamptons International Film Festival gave De Palma its Lifetime Achievement Award; this conversation was part of the ceremony.
Hall & Oates is the biggest-selling vocal duo in history. "Maneater," "Rich Girl," "You Make My Dreams Come True," and countless other hits will be beloved for generations. So Daryl Hall has long been at the top of Alec's Most Wanted list for Here's the Thing. When the conversation finally took place this past December, it was on Hall's home-turf: Daryl's House, his restaurant and music-venue in Pawling, NY. In a conversation interspersed with some classic recordings, Hall talks about his teen years in suburban Pennsylvania singing doo-wop on the streets with his friends -- a far cry from the rock-star life he was leading 15 years later. For that transition to happen, he first had to meet John Oates. That happened in 1967 when a gunfight broke out at a club they had both been performing at. Their fate was sealed: the two kept up a rigorous concert schedule until this year, when coronavirus put a temporary end to public gatherings. You can still hear their later work on this new vinyl release of their masterful album of soul standards, Our Kind of Soul. Or tune in to AXS for Hall's hit show Live from Daryl's House. On each episode, he brings another big-name musician up to the club in Pawling and they jam together.
Alec and Patti Bosworth became friends serving together on the board of the Actors Studio. When Bosworth died of complications from COVID-19, it wasn't just a loss to the literary and theatrical worlds; it was also personal for Alec and the rest of Bosworth's wide circle of friends and family. Not just a legendary Hollywood biographer, Bosworth also released an impossible-to-put-down memoir in two parts about her glamorous, tragic personal life and her time with the biggest names in Hollywood and the literary world. Characters range from Marlon Brando to Mario Puzo to Robert Frost. When Bosworth published the second installment of that memoir, The Men in My Life, in 2017, it was natural for her to stop by Here's the Thing to tell some of the stories in person, including her transition from Hollywood leading lady to respected journalist. We're honored to re-release that conversation today.
Anjelica Huston has lived many lives, all with grace and charisma. As the daughter of John Huston (director of The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, and more) she was movie royalty from birth. But she grew up in rural Ireland and went to high school in Swinging-Sixties London. That meant she developed a set of values far removed from Hollywood high society. Her first career was as a high-end fashion model, a favorite subject of Richard Avedon and later a muse of Halston. But she had always wanted to be a movie actress, and she spent time in the trenches, working on her craft in classes and smaller roles before her Oscar-winning turn in Prizzi's Honor. Right as she was leaving the photo studio for the movie studio, she met Jack Nicholson: "he made me laugh," she tells Alec. The couple defined Hollywood cool for almost two decades. Huston tells Alec the story of all of her transitions -- romantic, professional, and geographic. Her two wonderful memoirs are A Story Lately Told and Watch Me.
Butch Walker is one of rock and roll's biggest talents, and on May 8th, he'll be releasing his new album -- a rock opera called American Love Story. You can preview one of the songs on today's episode of Here's the Thing, taped live last month (just before coronavirus made such gatherings impossible) at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. In the 1990s, Walker got major-label contracts and radio-play as the guitarist for the "hair band" SouthGang, and later as front-man of the edgy, grunge-tinged Marvelous 3. But Walker's career has evolved. Not only is he making beautiful solo work, but he's also become one of LA's most sought-after partners in music-making, having produced or written songs for artists ranging from P!nk to Green Day to Panic! at the Disco. It's been a long road from his life as an 8-year-old Kiss fan in rural Georgia, and Walker has accumulated great stories along the way, including what it was like to be the first American rock band to tour (and get kicked out of) China. Thanks to Zach McNees for mixing the music in this episode.
New York Times reporter Eliza Shapiro ranks high on the list of the most powerful people in education because "no one on the education beat is a sharper – or more effective – thorn in the side of city officials." Over the course of a lively conversation with Alec taped before the pandemic, she broke down all the major issues in education policy, from unions to charters to racial equality, and tackled Mayor Bill De Blasio's rollback of Mike Bloomberg's education reforms. But since they spoke, Shapiro has arguably become New York City parents' most important source of information about what's going on with the city's schools as they ground to a halt with the coronavirus pandemic. So we called her up yesterday and asked her what she knew and how school closures everywhere affect much more than just students' education. Plus she recounts her own likely bout with the virus!
Barry Sonnenfeld was among Hollywood's most in-demand cinematographers (Big, When Harry Met Sally, Misery) when he decided to make the switch to directing in 1991. The producers were nervous, but the proof was in the pudding: Sonnenfeld's directorial debut was The Addams Family, one of the year's most successful comedies. From there, Sonnenfeld went on to direct Get Shorty, the Men in Black series, and some brilliant TV like The Tick and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Now he's written a memoir, Barry Sonnenfeld Call Your Mother, in which he tells with humor and compassion the surprisingly harrowing story of his childhood -- and, of course, dishes on his colleagues in Hollywood. With Alec he goes beyond what's in the book about what went down on the sets of Big, Misery, Wild Wild West and Men in Black.