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
David Letterman began his Late Night gig as a self-described “gap-toothed, unknown smart ass.” But thirty highly successful years later, Letterman’s comedy formula has evolved: he no longer attends all the meetings or makes all the decisions and stupid pet tricks are a thing of the past. Letterman began his television career as a weatherman, but moved rapidly up to anchorman and talk show host. He left for L.A. and, after only three years on the comedy scene there, he found himself guest-hosting the Tonight Show. He talks to Alec about how a quintuple by-pass and the birth of a child have dramatically shifted Letterman’s priorities. Michael Douglas has lived in the same apartment overlooking Central Park for decades. Alec joins him there for a compelling conversation about what makes a great director and why playing the villain is so wonderful. Douglas reveals how competition with his father, legendary actor Kirk Douglas, shaped both his career and his life as a parent. He says he’s much more honest with his young daughter than he ever thought he’d be. Douglas explains how his father’s early brush with death, and his own cancer diagnosis affected them each in different ways.
Lorne Michaels had nothing to lose on October 11, 1975, when Saturday Night Live first aired. He doesn't pull all-nighters any more in preparation for the week’s show, but Michaels tells Alec he is still anxious on Saturdays at 11:30 pm. Michaels believes in the power of live performance and gives SNL hosts the best bits. But aside from the funniest lines, the irreverent Michaels offers little protection. Alec is no exception. Alec sat down with Erica Jong, author of the 1970s best-seller, Fear Of Flying, and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast. Erica talks candidly about coping with three divorces, and tells Alec she is certain her current marriage will be her last. Meanwhile, daughter Molly had no idea her mom wrote so-called “dirty” books. She does recall her mom being consumed by work and travel, but concludes that her mother’s legacy is about being honest.
Chris Rock is one of the greatest comic talents in the world, but when he arrived on Broadway to perform his first play, The Motherf***ker in The Hat, he did not yet know how to properly cross a Broadway stage. Rock says that his life has mimicked each role in the play—both the heart-breaker and the heart-broken—and he tells Alec that performing in the show was the hardest thing he has ever done. When Herb Alpert started playing trumpet with his band Tijuana Brass, Woody Allen and George Carlin were the opening acts. In 1966, The Brass outsold The Beatles. Alpert went on to co-found A&M Records, where he identified and signed some of the industries greatest talent: The Carpenters, The Police, and Cat Stevens. He and his partner sold A&M in 1989 for half a billion dollars. He says he’s looking for the same thing as everybody else—a life of purpose and meaning.
Kristen was in college when an Acting 101 class prompted a move to L.A. She had little experience, but a tremendous gift for improv, and she soon found herself in a room auditioning for SNL. Hundreds of personas later, Wiig is regarded by SNL creator Lorne Michaels as one of the three or four greatest SNL talents ever. Kristen’s expertise translated well to film, and she eventually won an Oscar nomination for her Bridesmaids screenplay. She joins Alec to talk about the arc of her career and the steps she hopes to take next. Dick Cavett shares some of his memories with Alec: meeting Orson Welles in the lobby of the Plaza; talking with Marlon Brando by phone—““I was told he would [call] at a certain time and we talked with the sun about 15 degrees above the horizon until well after the moon had risen;” and interviewing Laurence Olivier in the Wyndham Hotel when, Cavett says, he was feeling so depressed “I just want[ed] to go home and get under the rug.” Dick Cavett is the master of talk, a television legend; in this conversation, he shows Alec why his career has spanned nearly five decades.
Billy Joel has sold more records than The Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna—though the “rock star thing” is something he can “take off.” Joel started playing piano when he was about four or five years old, but he admits that he doesn't remember how to read sheet music anymore. He says it’d be like reading Chinese. That doesn't stop the third best-selling solo artist of all time in the U.S. from plunking out a few tunes with Alec. READ | Interview Transcript
James Toback and Alec joined forces to make the documentary Seduced and Abandoned, which began as a story about raising money for a film. However, it soon became a study of the tension between art and commerce and how difficult it has become to secure financing for independent films.
Chris Columbus has brought to the screen some of the biggest American family films in the last 20 years: Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire. He also produced and directed the first two Harry Potter films and produced the third as well. Despite this success, Columbus admits that he “always, to this day, [feels] like [he’s] gonna walk on a movie and get fired.” He reveals to Alec what it was like working with brilliant improvisers like John Candy and Robin Williams—and casting Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
Danny Bennett has spent the past thirty years managing the career of his dad, Tony Bennett and has produced a film following his father's life entitled The Zen of Bennett. It was Danny who helped bring his dad’s music to a younger generation, through appearances on SNL, The Simpsons, and Late Night with Conan O’Brian—and the series of Duets albums, which feature Tony Bennett singing with the likes of Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand and Amy Winehouse. Duets II debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making Tony Bennett—at 85 years old—the oldest living artist to do so. As Danny says, “I don’t just handle a career, I manage a legacy.” Last year Danny produced a film called The Zen of Bennett, which followed his dad throughout the recording of the Duets II album.
Dan Mathews is in favor of going naked instead of wearing fur. That makes sense considering he is Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He sits down with Alec to discuss his battles (and victories) with the fashion industry and he explains why PETA actually owns stock in Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Eric Fischl became known in the 1980s art scene for work that explores issues of sexuality and power and what it means to become a man. Alec talks to Fischl about his memoir, Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas, where the painter writes candidly about his youth, the art world, his own struggles with depression and substance abuse, and his thoughts about the creative process. Fischl started as an abstract painter, but as he explains to Alec, once he began to work with figures, he realized he was “doing the work that [he] was supposed to do, that [he] was built for.”
Former MLB pitcher Dwight Gooden earned the Rookie of the Year Award in 1984. He was 19 years old with a blistering fastball and a notoriously deceptive curve ball. His outstanding first three years in Major League Baseball were soon replaced by very public battles with alcohol and cocaine which continued for much of his professional career. At 40, Gooden served ten months in a state prison for drug-related charges. That was a decade ago. More recently he published a book, Doc: A Memoir. Gooden watches football now and hasn't touched a baseball or a drink in years. READ | Full Transcript
Josh Fox didn't set out to be a documentary filmmaker. And in 2008, when Fox was canvasing for Barack Obama, hydraulic fracturing meant nothing to him. Things changed when Fox’s parents were offered nearly $100,000 to lease their Pennsylvania land for drilling rights. After seeing people light their contaminated well water on fire, Fox made a film called Gasland, which explores the impact of hydraulic fracturing on everyday Americans. It showcased at Sundance in 2010. READ | Full Transcript
This week, Alec sits down with Rosie O’Donnell who says she “never wanted to be a talk show host … I wanted to be on Broadway…I wanted to be a Bette Midler backup singer, one of the Harlettes.”
David Simon cut his teeth as a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun. When the newspaper industry began to collapse, Simon started writing for television. The Wire was born, and Simon hasn't gone back. Simon has a much larger platform now for sharing his strong opinions on the U.S. war on drugs, but he admits he still misses reporting. READ | Full Transcript
Stacy Keach’s dad was an actor, director and a producer. He had hoped his son would be a lawyer. Keach eventually wore down his parents, abandoned his major of political science and economics to pursue acting. Keach started with Shakespeare, which took him from a festival in Oregon to studying classical theater in England. Today, Keach teaches acting via Skype and his only true regret is not experiencing more of the great outdoors. READ | Full Transcript