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
Dan Rather was the host and anchor of CBS Evening News for more than twenty years. He resigned the post in the wake of an investigation into then-President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era military service. A new film starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, 'Truth,' explores that period and the outstanding questions raised by Rather's journalistic inquiry. Host Alec Baldwin spoke with Rather at a recent screening of the film at the Hamptons International Film Festival, where they discussed Rather's days as a White House correspondent, recent attempts to re-assess Nixon, and the state of news today.
Carol Burnett's stage and screen career is one of the great showbiz success stories. From her early days on Broadway, to the 11-season run of The Carol Burnett Show, to her luminous big-screen turn as Miss Hannigan in Annie: Burnett's numerous Emmy and Golden Globe awards and nominations speak to her plasticity, her genius -- and her hilarity. Carol Burnett sits down with Alec Baldwin to talk about the unlikely origin of her show, recall her roster of A-list friends, and to explain how nudists dance.
William Friedkin is the director of more than twenty films, among them "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection." For the latter, Friedkin won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Director, based on the film's stunning action sequences and incandescent appearances by Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman. "I would like to tell you it was all my genius," Friedkin tells host Alec Baldwin at the Turner Classic Film Festival, "but I had nothing to do with casting the two leads in that picture." Friedkin goes on to explain why he doesn't audition actors, how knowing a Sicilian helps with location scouting, and why learning to play tennis killed his career.
Andy Warhol gained fame and notoriety as the godfather of Pop Art. His electric-colored screen prints of Coca Colas, Marilyn Monroes, and electric chairs are iconic pieces, despite their iconoclastic origins. But there's more to Warhol than Day-Glo portraiture: he was an author, commentator, filmmaker, sculptor, and socialite. Host Alec Baldwin talks to Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, about the hyper-inventive multimedia star, and learns about the surprisingly deep emotional basis for Warhol's obsession with Campbell's Soup.
"The Lion King" is now the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time. Julie Taymor hadn't seen the Disney film when she was approached to direct the project, but she had spent years studying the masks, mythology, and ancient ritual drama of indigenous peoples in Indonesia. She tells host Alec Baldwin how she incorporates theater's primal magic into her many stage and screen projects: from the Beatles-soundtracked cosmic narrative of "Across the Universe;" to the elemental brutality of "Titus;" to her recent hallucinatory production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
At 6'6" tall, Penn Jillette is a huge character. He's got a huge frame, a huge personality, and huge appetites. It's a trait that has occasionally gotten him into trouble; he weighed, until a recent diet change, more than 350 pounds. But his gregarious energy mostly expands to fill every moment of free time with professional success. He's an inventor, an entrepreneur, a podcast host, a TV show creator, a Twitter celebrity, a comedian. And for more than forty years, he's been the talking half of stage magic duo Penn & Teller. He talks to host Alec Baldwin about his lifelong atheism, what it's like to perform the same trick for four decades, and why he's committed to debunking nonsense.
Paul Simon is one of the great American entertainers—a mantle he's worn since he started singing harmony with grade-school friend Art Garfunkel in a duo called Tom & Jerry. In the following six decades, Simon has written dozens of classic songs. His partnership with Garfunkel produced numerous hits like "The Sound of Silence," "America," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." And Simon's solo career has been equally fruitful, as an engine of eclectic pop music (the gospel of "Loves Me Like a Rock," or the imported reggae of "Mother and Child Reunion"), and also as an ambassador of global sounds (the 1986 album Graceland, and 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints). He talks to host Alec Baldwin about how he has—and hasn't—changed after all these years.
David Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker magazine. It's a title he's held since 1998, and one that requires a tireless attention to detail, and an endless awareness of current news, trends, and ideas. In short, he keeps himself busy. Under Remnick's leadership, the magazine has addressed national events like September 11 and the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he has also transformed the publication into a nimble digital enterprise amidst a cratering media landscape. "We come out every week, and now we come out every second," he tells Alec Baldwin. Remnick has six books and numerous anthology credits to his name, and has worked with some of the leading literary lights of the last two decades. In this wide-ranging conversation, he talks about some of those relationships, about his early career — including four years in Perestroika-era Moscow — and about his lifelong love affair with the music and ideas of Bob Dylan.
Journalist Antonia Juhasz details the ongoing environmental disaster of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
A prestigious agent signed playwright John Guare before he had even graduated from Yale School of Drama, saying he showed promise. In the five decades since, Guare has been one of the most humane—and absurd—voices of American theater. He says "there's no such thing as a 'hit recipe,'" though if one existed, Guare would probably know about it; his acclaimed work includes The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the film Atlantic City. Lisa Dwan began dancing ballet with Rudolf Nureyev when she was just 12, and she carried that poise and fluidity with her as she evolved into an actor. She says nowhere is that more evident than in her recent interpretations of fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. Dwan gathered critical acclaim for a grueling one-woman show featuring three of Beckett's most intense works: Rockaby, Footfalls, and Not I. The last of these is a stream-of-consciousness monologue, with only Dwan's mouth visible hovering over a black stage.
The Graduate. Midnight Cowboy. Lenny. That's just the beginning of Dustin Hoffman's legendary Hollywood career. Over the last five decades, he's stretched and contorted himself into dozens of defining roles, earning recognition as one of the most talented actors in cinema history. Hoffman tells host Alec Baldwin that he savors each new opportunity like it's the first, and recalls his salad days when he was mis-cast, underestimated, and, on at least one notable occasion, sick on a co-star's shoe. Listen to a young Dustin Hoffman explain why he's scared of Hollywood in this WNYC interview from 1967.
When Gay Talese couldn't land an interview with Frank Sinatra, he wrote the profile instead by talking to Sinatra's tailor, stylist, valet, and other secondary characters in the pop star's world. The resulting piece for Esquire magazine, "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold," is a classic of New Journalism, which Talese helped pioneer. "I wanted to be a storyteller," he tells host Alec Baldwin. "I used my imagination to penetrate the personalities, the private lives, of other people." For more than six decades, those people have included mafia crime bosses, civil activists, literati, prizefighters—and innumerable "normal" characters, with their own secret desires, triumphs, and failings.
Ian Schrager is in the hospitality business. Hotels or nightclubs, uptown or downtown, Miami or Manhattan, Schrager defines luxury and leisure. When he and his late business partner Steve Rubell opened Studio 54 in 1977, the club quickly became the epitome of the disco era's cultural mores. It was Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Cher, and as Schrager recalls, "serious, sweaty dancing." Today, Schrager says nightclubs are a young person's business; he's long since reinvented himself as one of the inventors of the boutique hotel. The aim, he tells host Alec Baldwin, is essentially the same: make people comfortable, and change their expectations. At 68, Schrager shows no sign of slowing down; his heroes are Giorgio Armani and Clint Eastwood—passionate people who are inspired by work they love.
Edie Falco says she is nothing like Carmela Soprano. Nor does she have much in common with Nurse Jackie. But Falco made these characters two of the most identifiable and human women in television history. She has an armful of Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—and a cadre of dedicated fans—to prove it. Along the way, she's battled cancer, raised two children on her own, and is a recovering alcoholic. But Falco doesn't want your sympathy; she tells host Alec Baldwin that her greatest professional accomplishment is creating a fun, respectful atmosphere on-set. She credits her multiple successes to good luck, great mentors, and says there's no predicting which way her career could have gone—or will go yet.
Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Most recently, filmmaker Alex Gibney directed an HBO documentary based on Wright's reporting in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Unbelief. Much of Wright's work is about how religious belief animates personal action and political conflict. He has documented the Jonestown massacre, explored allegations of Satan worship, profiled brimstone-tinged gospel preachers, and, of course, tracked the histories of al-Qaeda and the Church of Scientology. Regarding the latter, he isn't necessarily sympathetic to the Church's claims, but he understands its appeal. "People don't go into it because it's a cult, they go into it because they're looking for something," says Wright. "It's like going into therapy; people do benefit from it." "But it's one thing to get into it, it's another thing to get out of it."