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
Today, Alec plunges into the politics of real estate with two guests. The first is David Schleicher of Yale Law School, whose expertise is Land Use. He gets to the heart of gentrification and continuously surprises Alec with one idea after another through their riveting conversation. Later in the show, Alec talks with Elizabeth Kim, Gothamist Senior Editor and real estate correspondent for Gothamist, the New York-focused news website. She and Alec discuss “retail blight,” the hollowing-out of the ground-level boutiques that define New York neighborhoods. These conversations were recorded before the Coronavirus hit New York City.
As a singer, guitarist, producer, and manager, Peter Asher has been at the center of some of the most important music - and moments - of the rock era. In 1964, he was just 19 when his London-based duo Peter and Gordon released its first single, “A World Without Love.” It reached number 1 on the charts on both sides of the Atlantic -- and was written by his sister’s then-boyfriend, Paul McCartney. Later, after Peter and Gordon fizzled, Asher joined forces with the Beatles to launch Apple Records, where he discovered and signed folk icon James Taylor. Asher moved on from his role at Apple to become a full-time producer, working with legends like Diana Ross, Cher, and Neil Diamond, and producing multi-platinum albums with Diamond and Linda Rondstadt. More recently, Asher put all these stories into his book The Beatles A to Zed, An Alphabetical Musical Tour. He also hosts a weekly show about the band called From Me to You on Sirius XM.
Few actors are as deeply associated with a character as Davis Gaines is with the Phantom of the Opera. When the Kennedy Center honored Hal Prince, Phantom’s original director, they turned to Gaines to perform the musical’s signature song, “Music of the Night.” Gaines’ spine-tingling vibrato shook the risers more than two thousand times in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and eventually Broadway, where Phantom remains the longest-running show in history. Alec speaks with Gaines about how his childhood led to his prolific acting career, with 14 Broadway and off-Broadway credits to his name. Alec finds Gaines is remarkably unassuming for a Broadway leading man, but he’s got friends in high places -- including the entire Bush family, starting with the late President George H.W. Bush.
Jordan Klepper is a very funny person, and Comedy Central took notice, making him one of their go-to stars: he's hosted his own late-night talk show and two excellent documentary series for the network. But with about 90 million views on YouTube and Facebook, Klepper's work as the Daily Show's Trump-rally correspondent is what turned him into a political celebrity. He's been on the beat from the beginning: Jon Stewart hired him in 2014 and he started attending the rallies right as Trump was taking off in the Republican primaries. Man-on-the-street interviews are inevitably cherry-picked, but by turning on his mic and asking questions, Klepper creates an important document of this particular segment of Donald Trump’s base. He tells Alec why he thinks interviewing rally-goers isn't "punching down" -- and he traces his own path from college Math major in Kalamazoo, through improv star in Chicago, to one of the smartest and most reliable members of that very modern profession: advocacy journalists working through the medium of comedy.
The Tribeca Film Festival has launched a new podcast, Tribeca Talks, and we want you to know about it. Here's a conversation Alec had with director Guillermo Del Toro at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, covering Del Toro’s incredible career, the meaning behind his films, and prepping for shoots.
Alec looks at the art world from two angles -- from someone in it, and from someone who has observed the world from a distance. First, writer Michael Shnayerson -- his latest book, Boom, gives an exhaustive history of how today’s art market came to be. Shnayerson writes for magazines -- including Time and Vanity Fair -- and has written seven books. He has collaborated with Harry Belafonte, written a portrait of Andrew Cuomo, and unpacked General Motors and the electric car. Art dealer Richard Feigen, Alec’s second guest, spent his entire career in the art market. His New York gallery has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of the greatest works of art, from the Renaissance to Basquiat. He was the dealer to the newly minted millionaires of 1980’s New York who bought their art -- and their cultural cache -- from Richard Feigen.
Marc Kudisch is a Broadway staple. With three Tony nominations, he has played such roles as The Proprietor in Assassins, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, and the sexist blowhard boss in Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. On screen, Kudisch has carved out a niche for himself working for some of the greatest directors in TV, including David Fincher in Mindhunter and Barry Sonnenfeld in The Tick. His current TV role is Dr. Gus, the intense, love-to-hate-him corporate coach in Billions. Alec talked with Kudisch right before Broadway shut down due to the coronavirus, just a couple of weeks into his starring role in Girl from the North Country. They discuss everything from the start of his acting career to Sondheim to Dungeons and Dragons.
Today, Alec speaks with two colleagues he’s known for a long time, Brian Delate and Dick Hughes -- both actors whose lives were touched by the Vietnam War. Delate, Alec’s first guest, served in Vietnam after high school. He has performed on stage, in movies and on TV, and he’s also a playwright. His play, Memorial Day, tells the story of a Vietnam veteran on the verge of suicide over a Memorial Day holiday. Dick Hughes, Alec’s second guest, thought he was going to enter the priesthood as a young man, but decided to study theater. In his early 20’s, Hughes traveled to Vietnam as a conscientious objector, and ultimately opened a shelter for street children called the Shoeshine Boys Project.
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.