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
Barely out of college in the mid-1950s, Geoffrey Horne was a heartthrob TV star with acting chops to rival the greatest talents of his day. In '57 David Lean gave him a breakout role in his masterpiece, Bridge on the River Kwai and Otto Preminger followed up by casting him as Philippe in Bonjour Tristesse. Full Hollywood stardom seemed inevitable -- and yet, few roles followed. Horne didn't resurface as an actor of note for 25 years, in late-70s New York, when his scene-work at the Actors Studio attracted the attention of Method master Lee Strasberg. Strasberg invited him to teach some classes and the rest is history. Horne became one of the most brilliant and sought-after teachers in the history of his craft. Alec credits Horne's commitment to emotional honesty for much of his success. But the question remains: what happened to Geoffrey Horne the movie star manqué? The teacher and student discuss that question and much more, including the set and stars of River Kwai.
America’s most famous healthcare expert was actually born in Canada! The Vox reporter and all-around policy guru explains how, in a country with entrenched interests similar to ours, progressives managed to win coverage for every Canadian. Plus she gives her take on the remarkable unity in the Democratic Party over "Medicare for All," the political realities about what can actually get done, and tells stories from her year spent reading Americans’ terrifying, infuriating emergency room bills. One of the people who sent her his bill was a man in San Francisco who was hit by a public bus, taken to a public hospital, and had insurance -- but was still on the hook for $27,660.
The legendary violinist talks about his difficult childhood, stricken by polio in the war-torn early days of Israeli statehood -- and laughs about his early success, whisked away to the United States at 13 to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Plus, what makes a truly great instrumentalist? What makes a great teacher? Later, his wife Toby Perlman weighs in, too, so the interview becomes a family affair, topped with a spectacular Mendelssohn performance by eight students from the Perlman Music Program. Toby founded that summer school on idyllic Shelter Island to provide a safe space for young musical geniuses to develop their talents, and themselves.
Russia has glittering towers and a jet-set elite, but grinding rural poverty. It has one of the world’s great literary traditions, but throws dissenters in jail for a blog post. Who is Vladimir Putin, the man who created this new world power through force of will? New York Times’ correspondent Steven Lee Myers unravels some of this question for Alec. His book is The New Tsar. Myers talks to Alec about Putin’s early years, the Putin-Trump connection and how being the New York Times’ Beijing correspondent is different from -- and similar to -- being Moscow correspondent.
How can Earth Scientists and programmers really make predictions about the climate? What are the ethics of having kids in a warming world? How to combat the disastrous politicization of the issue? Dr. Peter deMenocal is the Dean of Science at Columbia, and a Geologist. As a research scientist, he studies how Earth's climate has changed in the past. Dr. Kate Marvel helps figure out its future by creating the world's most detailed and accurate computer climate-models. Together, they're the perfect pair to help Alec and listeners understand what scientists really understand about the climate and how -- and why there's reason for hope.
This episode talks about a movie whose premise might be disturbing to some. The Human Centipede wasn't in every multiplex when it came out in 2010, but the film is now firmly a part of American culture, the basis of parodies from South Park to Conan O'Brien. When it was released, the premise was so revolting that many reviewers wouldn't even summarize it. Roger Ebert declined to assign a star-rating, concluding, “It is what it is.” When Alec saw the movie for the first time, he wanted to meet its creator. Years later, this episode of Here's the Thing is the result. Fortunately, writer-director Tom Six isn't just warped; he's also a raconteur with a twinkle in his eye. He answers Alec's fanboy questions with humor and patience, and they break down the whole Human Centipede trilogy from critical, financial, and technical standpoints. Listeners will also learn about Six's pre-Centipede career in reality television and teen comedy, and what he has coming up in 2019. Six had a role planned in his new film for Alec. Hear why Alec's wife cut that off at the pass.
On January 27th, 2017, Donald Trump issued the travel ban barring visitors and migrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Becca Heller, founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), had seen it coming. She foresaw that it would catch people in planes, turning passengers into undocumented immigrants midair. She prepared by setting up a network of volunteer lawyers who would show up at airports to help travelers being held there. On the 27th, the lawyers came, followed by thousands of protesters. The Trump administration, facing legal losses and "chaos at the airports," gave up enforcing the ban until officials could draft a new version. For a while, the good guys had won. Two years later, with a MacArthur "genius" grant under her belt, the 37-year-old Heller is strategizing about where to take refugee-advocacy next. Serious stuff, but she's still one of the funniest people ever to come on Here's the Thing. The International Refugee Assistance Project is at https://refugeerights.org/.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to imagine the 1970s without Carly Simon. After opening for Cat Stevens at LA's Troubadour in 1971, she gained near instant fame, winning a Grammy for Best New Artist that same year. The daughter of Richard L. Simon, co-founder of publishing house Simon & Schuster, she grew up surrounded by greatness. But if her childhood was peppered with celebrities, her adult life was dripping in them. By her mid-20s she’d meet Bob Dylan, duet with Mick Jagger, and marry James Taylor. Still, the shy New York native was a superstar in her own right, one who battled a stammer and a severe case of stage fright. She tells Alec Baldwin about conquering them both to become a musician who shaped an era. You can learn more about Carly's life in her 2015 memoir, Boys in the Trees. WNYC is the producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media and Death, Sex & Money.
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. WNYC is the producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media and Death, Sex & Money.
Few musicians can compete with the encyclopedic musical knowledge that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson possesses—which is great news if you got to be a student of his at NYU. When not teaching music history, the 45-year-old drummer is directing the Grammy-Award winning group The Roots—a hip hop collective that rose from “everyone’s favorite underground secret” in the late 90s to Jimmy Fallon’s house band on The Tonight Show. Whether drumming, DJ’ing, or writing a book on food, Questlove is universally beloved. “The coolest man on late night,” according to the Rolling Stone. But there is one thing this genius of music can’t do: accept that he is one. He talks to Here’s the Thing host Alec Baldwin about a three year exile in London, Jimmy Fallon wooing the Roots, and how meditation saved his life. WNYC is the producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media and Death, Sex & Money.
By the time Emilio Estevez was 23, he'd starred in The Outsiders, Repo Man, The Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo’s Fire. As the son of Martin Sheen, he was Hollywood royalty, and as a member of the "brat pack" group of early-80s stars, he was a hot commodity. But he started turning down big roles to become the youngest person ever to write, direct, and star in a major motion picture. Estevez tells Alec that his script for that movie was "terrible," -- but it was risky, ambitious movie-making at a time when he didn't have to take risks. Estevez occasionally returned to "just acting" after that, for beloved performances in Men at Work, The Mighty Ducks, and more -- but his heart beats for his writer/director projects like 2006’s RFK masterpiece Bobby, nominated for a Best Film Golden Globe. His latest is The Public, about a fictional occupation of the Cincinnati Public Library by the city's homeless. Alec plays the police negotiator. The two actors discuss their collaboration -- plus growing up a Sheen, Francis Ford Coppola's brutal audition process, and whether actors should participate in the fan culture surrounding cult films like The Breakfast Club.
Debra Kletter's job is to be food-guru to some of the world's most discerning palates. Once one of New York theater's most respected lighting designers, Kletter found herself in the early 1990s disillusioned by budget-cuts and shaken by the loss of a generation of colleagues to HIV. So she pursued her second calling, far from the first: figuring out where you should eat dinner. After all, as she tells Alec, "reading menus was always my happy place." Now, years into her new business (which she conducts through her website, www.eatquestnyc.com), Kletter can tell you the best injera in Harlem or the oldest-school trattoria in Rome. But her real genius is an ability to match that encyclopedic knowledge with the needs -- and personalities -- of individual clients. One of those clients is Alec Baldwin, and you can tell from their teasing that the two go way back: all the way, in fact, to the stage of Prelude to a Kiss in 1989, which Debra lit, and where the two became friends.
Roger Daltrey put The Who together while working in a sheet-metal factory. The band took many forms before settling into the guitar-smashing, mic-swinging amalgam of testosterone and sensitivity that changed the world. But even before The Who began moving toward rock-stardom, Daltrey had walked a difficult path. Born into a working-class family, he spent his infancy evacuated from Nazi-bombed London, crammed into one room of a Scottish farmhouse with his mother and many others. He returned to a shellshocked father and real privation. But he tells Alec that the environment was "rich" with love and opportunity, and eventually he found himself in a grammar school with songwriter Pete Townshend and bassist John Entwistle. The rest is Rock history -- a history Daltrey helped define. He recounts it with humor and pride on this episode of Here's the Thing, and in his new memoir, Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite, out now.
In the late 70s, Ben Cohen was a rootless pottery teacher, laid off when his school closed down. Jerry Greenfield was a diligent pre-med, realizing he was never going to get into med school. They'd formed a deep friendship years earlier, as the two chubby kids in their middle-school gym class. Their joint reaction to their separate crises was to open a small ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont. That decision would change the face of the industry, and give America a model for a new set of corporate values. At the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington -- just a couple miles from the site where Cohen and Greenfield set up shop in 1978 -- Alec talks to Ben and Jerry in front of a crowd that idolizes their hometown heroes, and the energy is infectious. From their Long Island childhood to the tensions surrounding Ben & Jerry's acquisition by Dutch conglomerate Unilever in 2000, the conversation is open, honest, and brimming with the deep bond these two men continue to feel, 40 years after they first put their names together on a sign in Vermont. Thanks to Vermont Public Radio for making it possible.
As a staff-writer at the New Yorker, Susan Orlean has embedded with fertility shamans in Bhutan and profiled a dog (a boxer named Biff). Her book The Orchid Thief inspired one of the most successful art-house movies of the past 20 years. Her latest deep dive is the burning of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It is, to this day, the most damaging library-fire in U.S. history, but it's almost unknown outside of Southern California because national attention was focused on the Chernobyl meltdown. As with all Orlean's books, the nominal subject is a vehicle to tell human stories: those of the man arrested for the arson, of the cops who investigate, the librarians whose lives were changed, and the preservationists who insisted on rebuilding. It's a topic close to Alec's heart. He and Orlean discuss with warmth and enthusiasm the critical role libraries played in their respective childhoods (Alec is the son of a schoolteacher, after all), and their shared commitment today to the universal ideals of the public library.