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 Blaine begins his visit to Here's The Thing by pushing an ice pick through his hand. He tells host Alec Baldwin that he began training his brain to overcome pain at a young age. Blaine grew up in Brooklyn, an only child with a single mother. He spent many afternoons at the local library and he channeled his isolation and loneliness into an early fascination with magic. Today, Blaine is an acclaimed street magician and sleight of hand artist, and also performs staggering feats of endurance: He has balanced on a 100-foot pillar for 35 hours; hung in a transparent box for 44 days; held his breath for more than 17 minutes at a time. He calls it magic, but says his work is mostly about mental toughness. "Anything I do, anybody could do... It's playing with that line of how far can you push yourself before you crack, live in front of an audience, that I'm intrigued by."
Roz Chast's cartoons exude warmth and whimsy, but often share more in common with the dark humor of cartoonists like Charles Addams or Gahan Wilson than they do with "Peanuts." When she broke into a regular gig as a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine in the 1970s, she had already cultivated the eccentricities that became the hallmark of her work. As proof, an adult Chast drew a cartoon that shows a young girl with her head stuck in the "Big Book of Horrible Rare Diseases." It's labeled "Me, Age 9." Chast has illustrated more than 800 cartoons for The New Yorker, as well as a number of books. Most recently, she published Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a sharply-observed memoir of her parents at the ends of their lives. In this episode of Here's The Thing, Roz Chast talks to Alec Baldwin about life with her parents, growing up in New York, and her neurotic pet birds.
George Stephanopoulos was only 35 when he left his post as a senior advisor to President Clinton, his rolodex full of contacts and his head full of political insights. He didn't know what he wanted to do next, but he knew he was wrung out from his time inside the D.C. bubble. "White House years are dog years, multiplied," he says. "I knew that in order to feel my age again, I had to start a different career." Today, Stephanopoulos is the chief anchor for ABC News, a co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, as well as the host of ABC's political interview show This Week. In this episode of Here's The Thing, he talks to Alec Baldwin about another prominent TV host, Brian Williams; the prospect of a Bush-Clinton presidential race in 2016; and how he's learned to be himself on national television.
From 1877 to 1950, nearly 4,000 black people were lynched in the United States. Bryan Stevenson says these stories aren't part of the collective historical memory of most Americans, but they should be. Stevenson is the founder and director of the Equal Justice Institute, an Alabama-based non-profit that fights for retrials, death-sentence reversals, and exoneration in the face of racially-charged legal practices and policies. The Equal Justice Institute's report about lynching, recently detailed in The New York Times, is one piece of Stevenson's work focused on "confronting the legacy of racial terror"—a legacy that is directly observable today in the record numbers of incarcerated black men and boys. In this episode of Here's The Thing, Stevenson tells host Alec Baldwin that he believes the history of slavery and violence needs to be radically acknowledged and addressed if Americans are to achieve the promise of an equal society.
After shooting the pilot for Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker told HBO she didn't want to go through with the project. But after the first day’s taping, she says, she "didn't want to be anywhere else." Parker is now indelibly associated with Carrie Bradshaw—one of the most prominent women in the history of television. She tells Here’s The Thing’s Alec Baldwin that she was surprised to be considered for the part. Sarah Jessica has a fully-formed casting philosophy: she confesses to Alec that she tends to overcompensate when a co-star brings less than ideal energy to a part. "You know what they won't bring," she says. "And you end up projecting onto the other person what you wish they were bringing into the scene, and you become a bad actor." htt (htt)
The massive protests after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City strained relationships among police departments, the neighborhoods they serve, and political leaders. Then, in late December, the assassination of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos further escalated the rhetoric and what was at stake. This week on Here’s The Thing, Alec Baldwin talks to two people with years of street experience. Both have compelling visions for improving the broken relationship between police and communities. John Eterno is a retired captain in the NYPD who once defended “stop and frisk” policies. Today he teaches criminal justice at Molloy College and worries about how many more people were singled out for aggressive police scrutiny during the Bloomberg administration. Eterno advocates for a more individually autonomous, accountable, and, above all, transparent police force. David Kennedy is the architect of Operation Ceasefire, a community-based approach to de-escalating inner city gang violence. Over the last three decades, his work has transformed relationships between law enforcement and communities in cities across the country, including South Central Los Angeles and Boston. Now, he’s working in New York City. Kennedy believes that the influence of families, friends, and neighbors has a greater impact on lowering crime than handcuffs, firearms, and courtrooms.
We often think of Julie Andrews as the prim nanny from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but her personal path may have the greatest resemblance to one of her Broadway roles: Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Andrews says she grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in a family strapped for cash during wartime, and her initial training as an actor was in the less than prestigious field of vaudeville. But right before opening night of her breakout role in The Boy Friend, it was producer Cy Feuer’s advice that we have to thank, in large part, for the level of excellence Andrews has brought to musical film and theater for generations. “Forget camp,” he told her. “Get real.”
John McEnroe is one of the most accomplished tennis players of all time, but he lives just as vividly in the public imagination for his volcanic interactions with line judges and umpires. It’s no surprise, then, that McEnroe wants line judges out of the game entirely (”they’ve already proven they can’t see anything”). To revive the sport from what he calls its current status as an elitist cult, tennis needs more than just the introduction of instant replay. And as McEnroe works to cultivate new talent with his tennis academy on Randall’s Island, he’s also focused on keeping his own six kids happy.
Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore are members of a select club. For them, names like "Edge," "Search," "Days," and "World Turns" mean something. They came of age at a time when soap operas were a big deal, and as they tell it, soaps provided an opportunity for some of their best raw acting. Now Moore, who has performed in everything from independent films to widely-released big budget classics like Boogie Nights and Jurassic Park, stars alongside Baldwin in the acclaimed drama, Still Alice. She plays a linguistics professor who starts forgetting her words as Alzheimer's sets in. This isn’t the first time the two have shared the screen—Moore’s also famous for her cameos as Baldwin’s high school sweetheart in 30 Rock. Hear two actors reveal why they do what they do, and how the decisions they’ve made have gotten them where they are today.
Alec Baldwin sits down with Ira Glass to compare notes on interviewing, the afterlife, and how to find one’s voice – with a microphone or a camera lens. Now the veritable kingmaker of public radio, Glass has revolutionized nonfiction storytelling by using a voice that's personable, modest, and emotionally engaged. In this extensive interview, Glass lays it all out: politics (he's a Democrat; finds the left insufferable), religion (went through Hebrew school; done with it), fact-checking (you can never be too careful), and that dog who went as him for Halloween.
Jerry Seinfeld was just 27 when he first appeared on Johnny Carson in 1981. And he stood out. His material wasn't about his upbringing or personal relationships. It was about our universal experience of small things. His unique comedy style eventually led him to create his namesake show with Larry David. After Seinfeld ran for nine seasons, he decided to go back to stand-up, and to his audience. As he explains to Alec, Seinfeld feels uniquely connected to his fans: “You have this relationship with the audience that is private between you and them.”
Debbie Reynolds has been in show business for over six decades. She talks to Alec about her big break in Singin' in the Rain. “I slept in my dressing room,” recalls Reynolds. “I didn't take any days off because I’d practice on Saturday and Sunday.” As host of Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne plays the role of ambassador to a bygone era. We hear the journey he took to get there—which could have been a classic movie itself. It all started when, as kid in a small town, he frequented the cinema and “fell in love with the movie business.”
Fred Armisen’s career has followed an unpredictable trajectory. Armisen spent nearly a decade drumming with Trenchmouth, a punk rock band remembered for its spirited cacophony. When he got tired of carrying his own equipment, Armisen picked up a video camera and began creating improvised characters. Fred relates stories from his years in the Los Angeles comedy club scene, drumming for the Blue Man Group, and working on SNL, where he met his idol, Steve Martin. And it’s true: Armisen really does love Portland. Paula Pell was having the time of her life singing and dancing at a Florida theme park when she got a phone call from SNL creator Lorne Michaels. She moved to New York, and two decades later, Pell was the show’s head writer. She says she’s still baffled by her charmed life. Pell calls herself “Nanny SNL,” because of her lengthy tenure on the show, but she says having a good night at SNL makes you feel 20 again.
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. The first time acclaimed director Stephen Daldry was expected to shout “Action!” he thought it was a joke. Alec met with Stephen Daldry in 2011, weeks before his intimate, post-9/11 drama, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, opened. Daldry’s work is precise and intimate, but in conversation with Alec he was passionate about a wide variety of topics, including communal living, the virtues of mass transit, and the Olympics.
Judd Apatow’s films—The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People—feature emotionally immature men forced to grow up after confronting sex, responsibility, and death. Of all Apatow’s movies, This is 40 may be his most personal; it stars his wife, Leslie Mann, their two daughters, and one of his long-time heroes, Albert Brooks. Apatow thinks of each movie he makes as a letter, telling him something he needs to know about how better to live life. 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.”