Steve Coogan on NPR discussing "The Trip"

I recently caught Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in "The Trip", the feature not the original TV series. I is a sorta sequal to Tristan Shandy a Cock and Bull story that also starred Coogan and Brydon playing a meta version of themselves. I haven't laughed so much in ages. Here is an interview with Coogan on American station NPR with Terry Gross.

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Patton Oswalt on Geek Culture in Wired

Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die.

This is an article Patton Oswalt wrote in Wired lamenting the death of Geek Culture.
Photo: Chris
I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something. I entered the ’80s immersed, variously, in science fiction, Dungeons & Dragons, and Stephen King. Except for the multiple-player aspect of D&D, these pursuits were not “passions from a common spring,” to quote Poe.

I can’t say that I ever abided nerd stereotypes: I was never alone or felt outcast. I had a circle of friends who were similarly drawn to the exotica of pop culture (or, at least, what was considered pop culture at the time in northern Virginia)—Monty Python, post-punk music, comic books, slasher films, and videogames. We were a sizable clique. The terms nerd and geek were convenient shorthand used by other cliques to categorize us. But they were thin descriptors.

In Japan, the word otaku refers to people who have obsessive, minute interests—especially stuff like anime or videogames. It comes from a term for “someone else’s house”—otaku live in their own, enclosed worlds. Or, at least, their lives follow patterns that are well outside the norm. Looking back, we were American otakus. (Of course, now all America is otaku—which I’m going to get into shortly. But in order to do so, we’re going to hang out in the ’80s.)

I was too young to drive or hold a job. I was never going to play sports, and girls were an uncrackable code. So, yeah—I had time to collect every Star Wars action figure, learn the Three Laws of Robotics, memorize Roy Batty’s speech from the end of Blade Runner, and classify each monster’s abilities and weaknesses in TSR Hobbies’ Monster Manual. By 1987, my friends and I were waist-deep in the hot honey of adolescence. Money and cars and, hopefully, girls would follow, but not if we spent our free time learning the names of the bounty hunters’ ships in The Empire Strikes Back. So we each built our own otakuesque thought-palace, which we crammed with facts and nonsense—only now, the thought-palace was nicely appointed, decorated neatly, the information laid out on deep mahogany shelves or framed in gilt. What once set us apart, we hoped, would become a lovable quirk.

Our respective nerdery took on various forms: One friend was the first to get his hands on early bootlegs of Asian action flicks by Tsui Hark and John Woo, and he never looked back. Another started reading William Gibson and peppered his conversations with cryptic (and alluring) references to “cyberspace.” I was ground zero for the “new wave” of mainstream superhero comics—which meant being right there for Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman. And like my music-obsessed pals, who passed around the cassette of Guns n’ Roses’ Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide and were thus prepared for the shock wave of Appetite for Destruction, I’d devoured Moore’s run on Swamp Thing and thus eased nicely into his Watchmen. I’d also read the individual issues of Miller’s Daredevil: Born Again run, so when The Dark Knight Returns was reviewed by The New York Times, I could say I saw it coming. And I’d consumed so many single-issue guest-writing stints of Gaiman’s that when he was finally given The Sandman title all to himself, I was first in line and knew the language.

Admittedly, there’s a chilly thrill in moving with the herd while quietly being tuned in to something dark, complicated, and unknown just beneath the topsoil of popularity. Something about which, while we moved with the herd, we could share a wink and a nod with two or three other similarly connected herdlings.

When our coworkers nodded along to Springsteen and Madonna songs at the local Bennigan’s, my select friends and I would quietly trade out-of-context lines from Monty Python sketches—a thieves’ cant, a code language used for identification. We needed it, too, because the essence of our culture—our “escape hatch” culture—would begin to change in 1987.

That was the year the final issue of Watchmen came out, in October. After that, it seemed like everything that was part of my otaku world was out in the open and up for grabs, if only out of context. I wasn’t seeing the hard line between “nerds” and “normals” anymore. It was the last year that a T-shirt or music preference or pastime (Dungeons & Dragons had long since lost its dangerous, Satanic, suicide-inducing street cred) could set you apart from the surface dwellers. Pretty soon, being the only person who was into something didn’t make you outcast; it made you ahead of the curve and someone people were quicker to befriend than shun. Ironically, surface dwellers began repurposing the symbols and phrases and tokens of the erstwhile outcast underground.

Fast-forward to now: Boba Fett’s helmet emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells. The Glee kids performing the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that took its name from a Monty Python riff, joining the permanent soundtrack of a night out at Bennigan’s. Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun. The Lord of the Rings used to be ours and only ours simply because of the sheer goddamn thickness of the books. Twenty years later, the entire cast and crew would be trooping onstage at the Oscars to collect their statuettes, and replicas of the One Ring would be sold as bling.

The topsoil has been scraped away, forever, in 2010. In fact, it’s been dug up, thrown into the air, and allowed to rain down and coat everyone in a thin gray-brown mist called the Internet. Everyone considers themselves otaku about something—whether it’s the mythology of Lost or the minor intrigues of Top Chef. American Idol inspires—if not in depth, at least in length and passion—the same number of conversations as does The Wire. There are no more hidden thought-palaces—they’re easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans. And I’m not going to bore you with the step-by-step specifics of how it happened. In the timeline of the upheaval, part of the graph should be interrupted by the words the Internet. And now here we are.

The problem with the Internet, however, is that it lets anyone become otaku about anything instantly. In the ’80s, you couldn’t get up to speed on an entire genre in a weekend. You had to wait, month to month, for the issues of Watchmen to come out. We couldn’t BitTorrent the latest John Woo film or digitally download an entire decade’s worth of grunge or hip hop. Hell, there were a few weeks during the spring of 1991 when we couldn’t tell whether Nirvana or Tad would be the next band to break big. Imagine the terror!

But then reflect on the advantages. Waiting for the next issue, movie, or album gave you time to reread, rewatch, reabsorb whatever you loved, so you brought your own idiosyncratic love of that thing to your thought-palace. People who were obsessed with Star Trek or the Ender’s Game books were all obsessed with the same object, but its light shone differently on each person. Everyone had to create in their mind unanswered questions or what-ifs. What if Leia, not Luke, had become a Jedi? What happens after Rorschach’s journal is found at the end of Watchmen? What the hell was The Prisoner about?

Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?

None of that’s necessary anymore. When everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole’s worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we’re all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted. We’re on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.

I know it sounds great, but there’s a danger: Everything we have today that’s cool comes from someone wanting more of something they loved in the past. Action figures, videogames, superhero movies, iPods: All are continuations of a love that wanted more. Ever see action figures from the ’70s, each with that same generic Anson Williams body and one-piece costume with the big clumsy snap on the back? Or played Atari’s Adventure, found the secret room, and thought, that’s it? Can we all admit the final battle in Superman II looks like a local commercial for a personal-injury attorney? And how many people had their cassette of the Repo Man soundtrack eaten by a Walkman?

Now, with everyone more or less otaku and everything immediately awesome (or, if not, just as immediately rebooted or recut as a hilarious YouTube or Funny or Die spoof), the old inner longing for more or better that made our present pop culture so amazing is dwindling. The Onion’s A.V. Club—essential and transcendent in so many ways—has a weekly feature called Gateways to Geekery, in which an entire artistic subculture—say, anime, H. P. Lovecraft, or the Marx Brothers—is mapped out so you can become otaku on it but avoid its more tedious aspects.

Here’s the danger: That creates weak otakus. Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie? The Shining can be remade into a comedy trailer. Both movie versions of the Joker can be sent to battle each another. The Dude is in The Matrix.

The coming decades—the 21st-century’s ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s—have the potential to be one long, unbroken, recut spoof in which everything in Avatar farts while Keyboard Cat plays eerily in the background.

But I prefer to be optimistic. I choose hope. I see Etewaf as the Balrog, the helter-skelter, the A-pop-alypse that rains cleansing fire down onto the otaku landscape, burns away the chaff, and forces us to start over with only a few thin, near-meatless scraps on which to build.

In order to save pop culture future, we’ve got to make the present pop culture suck, at least for a little while.

How do we do this? How do we bring back that sweet longing for more that spawned Gears of War, the Crank films, and the entire Joss Whedon oeuvre? Simple: We’ve got to speed up the process. We’ve got to stoke the volcano. We’ve got to catalog, collate, and cross-pollinate. We must bring about Etewaf, and soon.

It has already started. It’s all around us. VH1 list shows. Freddy vs. Jason. Websites that list the 10 biggest sports meltdowns, the 50 weirdest plastic surgeries, the 200 harshest nut shots. Alien vs. Predator. Lists of fails, lists of boobs, lists of deleted movie scenes. Entire TV seasons on iTunes. An entire studio’s film vault, downloadable with a click. Easter egg scenes of wild sex in Grand Theft Auto. Hell, Grand Theft Auto, period. And yes, I know that a lot of what I’m listing here seems like it’s outside of the “nerd world” and part of the wider pop culture. Well, I’ve got news for you—pop culture is nerd culture. The fans of Real Housewives of Hoboken watch, discuss, and absorb their show the same way a geek watched Dark Shadows or obsessed over his eighth-level half-elf ranger character in Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the method of consumption, not what’s on the plate.

Since there’s no going back—no reverse on the out-of-control locomotive we’ve created—we’ve got to dump nitro into the engines. We need to get serious, and I’m here to outline my own personal fantasy: We start with lists of the best lists of boobs. Every Beatles song, along with every alternate take, along with every cover version of every one of their songs and every alternate take of every cover version, all on your chewing-gum-sized iPod nano. Goonies vs. Saw. Every book on your Kindle. Every book on Kindle on every Kindle. The Human Centipede done with the cast of The Hills and directed by the Coen brothers.

That’s when we’ll reach Etewaf singularity. Pop culture will become self-aware. It will happen in the A.V. Club first: A brilliant Nathan Rabin column about the worst Turkish rip-offs of American comic book characters will suddenly begin writing its own comments, each a single sentence from the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces. Then a fourth and fifth season of Arrested Development, directed by David Milch of Deadwood, will appear suddenly in the TV Shows section of iTunes. Someone BitTorrenting a Crass bootleg will suddenly find their hard drive crammed with Elvis Presley’s “lost” grunge album from 1994. And everyone’s TiVo will record Ghostbusters III, starring Peter Sellers, Lee Marvin, and John Candy.

This will last only a moment. We’ll have one minute before pop culture swells and blackens like a rotten peach and then explodes, sending every movie, album, book, and TV show flying away into space. Maybe tendrils and fragments of them will attach to asteroids or plop down on ice planets light-years away. A billion years after our sun burns out, a race of intelligent ice crystals will build a culture based on dialog from The Princess Bride. On another planet, intelligent gas clouds will wait for the yearly passing of the “Lebowski” comet. One of the rings of Saturn will be made from blurbs for the softcover release of Infinite Jest, twirled forever into a ribbon of effusive praise.

But back here on Earth, we’ll enter year zero for pop culture. All that we’ll have left to work with will be a VHS copy of Zapped!, the soundtrack to The Road Warrior, and Steve Ditko’s eight-issue run on Shade: The Changing Man. For a while—maybe a generation—pop culture pastimes will revolve around politics and farming.

But the same way a farmer has to endure a few fallow seasons after he’s overplanted, a new, richer loam will begin to appear in the wake of our tilling. From Zapped! will arise a telekinesis epic from James Cameron. Paul Thomas Anderson will do a smaller, single-character study of a man who can move matchbooks with his mind and how he uses this skill to pursue a casino waitress. Then the Coen brothers will veer off, doing a movie about pyrokenesis set in 1980s Cleveland, while out of Japan will come a subgenre of telekinetic horror featuring pale, whispering children. And we’ll build from there—precognition, telepathy, and, most radically, normal people falling in love and dealing with jobs and life. Maybe also car crashes.

The Road Warrior soundtrack, all Wagnerian strings and military snare drums, will germinate into a driving, gut-bucket subgenre called waste-rock. And, as a counterpoint, flute-driven folk. Then there’ll be the inevitable remixes, mashups, and pirated-only releases. A new Beatles will arise, only they’ll be Iranian.

Shade: The Changing Man will become the new Catcher in the Rye. Ditko’s thin-fingered art will appear on lunch boxes, T-shirts, and magazine covers. Someone will write an even thinner, sparser, simpler version called Shade. Someone else will write a 1,000-page meditation about Shade’s home planet. Eventually, someone will try to kill the Iranian John Lennon with a hat, based on one panel from issue 3. A whole generation of authors under 20 will have their love—or disgust—of these comics to thank for their careers.

So the topsoil we’re coated in needs to wash away for a while. I want my daughter to have a 1987 the way I did and experience the otaku thrill. While everyone else is grooving on the latest Jay-Z, 5 Gallons of Diesel, I’d like her to share a secret look with a friend, both of them hip to the fact that, from Germany, there’s a bootleg MP3 of a group called Dr. Cali-gory, pioneers of superviolent line-dancing music. And I want her to enjoy that secret look for a little while before Dr. Cali-gory’s songs get used in commercials for cruise lines.

Etewaf now!

Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) is a comedian, actor, and author.

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Paul Howard on Tubridy

This is a great interview with the creator of Ross O'Carroll Kelly, Paul Howard when he was talking to Dave Fanning on the Tubridy show after the release of his book, We Need to Talk about Ross.

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Bill Bailey on Enough Rope

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ANDREW DENTON: Welcome to our distant shores.

BILL BAILEY: Thank you very much.

ANDREW DENTON: Not your first time to Australia.


ANDREW DENTON: Every comedian when they travel to another country they they get something from that culture. What, as a comedian what do you look forward to when you come to Australia?

BILL BAILEY: Well mostly the customs regulations.


ANDREW DENTON: Any in particular?

BILL BAILEY: They seem to become more specific every time I come. You know the first time I arrived it was just a basic you know arrangement of nuts, berries, wooden items, animals, bees.


BILL BAILEY: You know. Do you have any bees?


BILL BAILEY: About your person?



BILL BAILEY: You know like you you take bees on holiday you know like.


BILL BAILEY: Who are these people that can’t leave bees behind?


BILL BAILEY: We’re going to Australia, let’s take the bees. No. Let’s just take one.


BILL BAILEY: Steve, let’s take Steve.


BILL BAILEY: Pick me. Take me

ANDREW DENTON: For those looking at Bill right now and thinking where do I know him from, you may have seen him from Black Books and we’ll get to that in a minute. I want to show a little bit of Bill this is from one of your first shows called Cosmic Jam.

BILL BAILEY: Oh thank you very much.

[playing footage]

Laughter and Applause

ANDREW DENTON: It’s obvious when you play it like that. What’s the fascination with the Cockney music cause you do a lot of that.

BILL BAILEY: It’s kind of part of the London culture is this sort of pearly kings and queens and this sort of this round house piano style this [singing] da da da da oye and ing- and ing- you know. it’s kind of you hear it you know just it’s some sort of the pub style of piano and I just thought yes maybe there’s some Cockney light motives hidden in the classic repertoire.

ANDREW DENTON: Well you did an amazing job cause there’s Mozart and there’s Greig and there’s Bach.


ANDREW DENTON: Is it everywhere if you really look ?

BILL BAILEY: If you’re looking for it yeah.


BILL BAILEY: Yeah, it’s everywhere. I mean like the hallelujah chorus you know the Handles you know which is hallelujah mmm la la la.


BILL BAILEY: It’s actually not it’s if you think if you actually go back to the roots of it, it’s hale-da-da and then it goes yes we have no yes we have no.


BILL BAILEY: Yes we have no bananas.

BILL BAILEY: We have no bananas today.


BILL BAILEY: It’s actually yes we have no bananas.


ANDREW DENTON: You were classically trained in music.


ANDREW DENTON: Is that right? Yep. And is it true that as a child you could hear that the vacuum cleaner was in b-flat?


BILL BAILEY: Yes I could actually. That’s not just like some lunacy c-claim. I actually had perfect pitch and it’s . . .


BILL BAILEY: Ridiculous. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous.


ANDREW DENTON: I want to show you a man who I think probably had a huge influence on you.


[playing footage]


ANDREW DENTON: That of course is Victor Bourget.


ANDREW DENTON: What impact did he have on you when you first saw him?

BILL BAILEY: There’s something about music which actually has this this this power to sort of you know to to just to kind of cross all these boundaries.

ANDREW DENTON: He had this incredible skill. I remember seeing him once as a kid the sheet music he played this incredible piece of music and stopped and then turned it round the other way and played it in reverse.


ANDREW DENTON: I mean to be you were fortunate that you’ve actually got the perfect pitch and the skill to be able to muck about with music as much as you do.

BILL BAILEY: Mmm. Yeah no there’s yeah I think the thing is you you need to to know the what you’re doing and to sort of you know make fun of a genre of music you have to almost have an affection for it you know and understand the the the actual music very well but you know because that way in a way it’s sort of aids the joke. You know, it’s better you know you kind of understand it a bit more and people recognise it straight away.

ANDREW DENTON: People look at you and think of you as a hippie but in fact your musical background is punk isn’t it?

BILL BAILEY: Yeah. Oh yeah so I was I grew up in the 70s in the West Country and I remember vividly going to see band punk bands. We went to see the the Undertones and the Suzie and the Banshees and the Stranglers. It was a kind of a time when music had been very manicured and very sort of polished up to that point and punk sort of let you know that it didn’t have to be, you didn’t have to be very polished and properly played. You could actually just anyone could do it. You know you could just get a guitar and just form a band. And I remember getting a guitar, it was £14, 14 quid. It was called a Watkins Flyer.

ANDREW DENTON: Sounds like a bike.



BILL BAILEY: It was the worst guitar I’ve ever had. You know the strings were out here and the guitar neck was there and you had to ind of clamp it on with your elbow but it was it yeah it had a it had an energy which I was definitely attracted to.

ANDREW DENTON: I hope you don’t mind we’ve actually Al if you could bring out the instruments.

BILL BAILEY: Oh well blimey.

ANDREW DENTON: Cause we’re going to operate on you.

BILL BAILEY: Oh right.


ANDREW DENTON: Now look I just thought cause music is your second language.


ANDREW DENTON: We’ve got a guitar, a Watkins Flyer in fact, and some keyboards here for you. If at any time . . .


ANDREW DENTON: You wish to . . .

BILL BAILEY: What a performance.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah there you go. I’ve been up all night . . .

BILL BAILEY: Look that’s like . . .

ANDREW DENTON: making those.

ANDREW DENTON: At any time you wish to express yourself musically feel free.



BILL BAILEY: I feel the fluids upon me.


ANDREW DENTON: If you’d like to answer in jazz.

BILL BAILEY: Naaa oooh haaaa.


BILL BAILEY: Jazz. Hey I could answer in jazz. Want me to answer in jazz.


BILL BAILEY: Yeah. Hey you know what cause actually there’s a there’s a there’s a format which is very much maligned which is jazz scat.


BILL BAILEY: You know like kind of [playing music].


BILL BAILEY: People hate that but I really like it.


BILL BAILEY: People actually nooooo stop it.


BILL BAILEY: They actually cringe. I don’t know I kind of I kind of like it. [playing music] I think they should use it [playing music] you know what in in the news. You know like in the news item.



BILL BAILEY: You know. Take the edge off a nasty news item.


BILL BAILEY: And there was a huge bomb today in Baghdad. [playing music] Wow.

Laughter and Applause

BILL BAILEY: [playing music] Wow. The other the other use I have for the jazz scat is for my own personal use is because a lot of things I find very scary lot of theme tunes I’m sort of I’m nerved by.


BILL BAILEY: You know like you know like [playing music] the sort of the imperial march..



BILL BAILEY: From Star Wars you know which I had as a ringtone for a while.


BILL BAILEY: And also a doorbell but it’s a shocker as a doorbell.


BILL BAILEY: You just get a garden full of Ewoks you know.


BILL BAILEY: I used to go press it again press it again press it again.


BILL BAILEY: So no that’s no good. [playing music] And it goes Cockney no but you know what I mean.


BILL BAILEY: I actually I prefer it in the jazz scat form.

[playing music]

Laughter and Applause

BILL BAILEY: You know. Jazz. Awwe jazz.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m glad I said the word jazz.

BILL BAILEY: You see you see jazz you unleash this maelstrom of chaos.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m down with you man.

BILL BAILEY: Sorry good.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah that’s rock of course is another arena for you.


ANDREW DENTON: I want to show a little bit from Part Troll.

BILL BAILEY: Oh Part Troll.

ANDREW DENTON: This is your tribute to U2.

[playing footage]

Laughter and Applause

BILL BAILEY: You see they’re playing Jingle Bells.

ANDREW DENTON: I had no idea it was all done with an effects pedal.

BILL BAILEY: It’s just all effects. The Edge is playing Jingle Bells.


BILL BAILEY: Most of the time.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes so did he work again. Has he ever worked since you did that?


BILL BAILEY: No I haven’t heard from U2 or their lawyers so ah.


ANDREW DENTON: Can I take you to Edinburgh and your show Rock.


ANDREW DENTON: That on one occasion you played to an audience of one.

BILL BAILEY: You’re to bring that up.



BILL BAILEY: You had to bring that up.

ANDREW DENTON: Your psychiatrist asked if I would in a group situation.


BILL BAILEY: You Herbert Lonsdale twitch you know.


BILL BAILEY: Cluso yes that is true. I did, we did. It and it was it was another comedian, a friend of ours.


BILL BAILEY: So wasn’t even wasn’t even someone influential like a critic or you know someone no just a mate of ours.


BILL BAILEY: And the show started the show was a two-hander. I played a kind of rock star who’s got a bit befuddled and forgotten his songs and he disgraced himself at Live Aid you know the big charity thingy made a terrible mess of it and he’d gone into hiding for ten years and he’s this was his comeback gig and he couldn’t remember any of the songs, the chords and he had a loyal roadie with him who’d sort of stuck with him through the hard times and played by a mate Sean Lock who’s another comedian friend of mine.

BILL BAILEY: And so the show started with Sean going out and kind of geeing the crowd up a bit and then he’d say right ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bill Best, that was my name.


BILL BAILEY: The rock star’s name. Bill Best. And I would come out and I was a West Country rocker. Hello there alright you know.


BILL BAILEY: And the first song he says oh I can’t remember it. What was it Sean. What’s the first chord you know. and then all I could hear was Sean and he was going in character right he goes, ladies and gentlemen we’ve got lad- oh ladies and ladies and gent- and he went oh for God’s sake.


BILL BAILEY: All I could hear he just went what’s the point.


BILL BAILEY: Right. And then he said he just said Bill come out here mate.


BILL BAILEY: And I and I thought it I was still in character. What do you mean ?


BILL BAILEY: What come out, come out early? Yeah no Bill forget all that, just come out just come out.


BILL BAILEY: And I just kept on going what, I can’t come out yet.


BILL BAILEY: And he goes stop just stop it, forget it, we’re not doing it just come out mate. It’s not there’s no point. And we came out and there was a theatre, there was one bloke sat there.


BILL BAILEY: It was this comedian called Dominick Holland and he was sat there really sort of come on.


BILL BAILEY: And he just said and we said and we just stood there like totally no pretence of doing a show just like that just really kind of down like.


BILL BAILEY: And he said come on lads, just enjoy yourselves you know.


BILL BAILEY: And we just said no Dominick no no no we we we’ll take you to the bar and run you through the highlights if you like.


BILL BAILEY: We’re not doing the show just for you cause that’s weird. That’s kind of that’s just a bit uncomfortable yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: It must be hard to go away from something like that and still have faith in in what you’re doing?

BILL BAILEY: Yeah oh it did because I mean that was well I mean obviously financially it wasn’t a success.


BILL BAILEY: And . . .

ANDREW DENTON: Well who bought the drinks?

BILL BAILEY: Yeah well exactly yeah exactly. We just that was our last couple of quid because we ended up owing the promoters like loads of money. We owed them like 20 grand or something.


BILL BAILEY: So we had to sort of then work off this debt by touring around doing the show.

ANDREW DENTON: And you were doing like 320 something shows a year?

BILL BAILEY: Sometimes yeah.

ANDREW DENTON: I assume that you get to know the motorways of England really really well.

BILL BAILEY: Oh God yeah yes yeah you do. Yeah I mean we well we yeah we were 300 plus gigs a night a night oh.


BILL BAILEY: Now that would be a trick.

ANDREW DENTON: Laying it on a bit thick Bill.


BILL BAILEY: That’s right yeah. We were doing 17 gigs a second at one stage.


BILL BAILEY: 16 of them in other dimensions you know.


BILL BAILEY: I’m actually doing another show right now.

ANDREW DENTON: Is that right.


ANDREW DENTON: So as you’re travelling the motorways in the middle of the night . . .


ANDREW DENTON: It’s that’s I sense that’s a very lonely time.

BILL BAILEY: It can be yes. You can the mind can turn.


BILL BAILEY: And you end up yes in a lot of service I mean I don’t know what the equivalent would be in Australia. We have these well my name for them is cathedrals of despair.


BILL BAILEY: And what they are there’s this they’re 24 hour service stations where you just turn up and there’s congealed food waiting for you.

ANDREW DENTON: And you could probably get to rate them after a while. You’d know the good ones.

BILL BAILEY: Yeah of course yeah. You know the good you know the one where you get a nice cup of tea.


BILL BAILEY: A bigger cup of tea you could you know you pretend to be a lorry driver you get a bigger cup of tea.


ANDREW DENTON: How do you pretend to be a lorry driver?

BILL BAILEY: I don’t know just adopt a gruff manner.


BILL BAILEY: And talk about lorries.


BILL BAILEY: Tell you what ‘s hard work driving that lorry.


BILL BAILEY: Woooo. Big ol’ wheel there up in the lorry I was driving. Any chance of a tea?

ANDREW DENTON: That’ll do it.


ANDREW DENTON: Jokers South End Friday night.


ANDREW DENTON: Was a turning point for you.


ANDREW DENTON: Can you explain the venue first of all.

BILL BAILEY: Alright. Jokers South End had a kind of it took on this legendary status of being a really really tough. I used to be in a double act with Robbie Bishops and we used to do music parodies and such like. Anyway, this was before I went solo and the bloke phoned me up and said he said would you come and do a gig and I said well my mate’s on holiday and he said oh right and he tried a lot of other people. And then he came back to me and said no I can’t get anyone, can you do it on your own and I thought oh no so this was like a baptism of fire like doing one of my first solo gigs in this really tough environment cause this crowd they were I mean they were really smart. As well as it wasn’t just like a you know drunken rabble. They were quite comedy savvy and they were vicious hecklers. Like I saw this one guy and he came out as kind of hippie right with a smock on like this and he had a guitar and a strawberry sort of attached to the guitar and I don’t know why.


BILL BAILEY: He came out and I heard somebody he was starting in about five minutes in the act and somebody shouted out ah he said it was the most vicious thing and he just goes oy, he goes tell us a joke.


BILL BAILEY: Right. And the bloke started to tell a joke and then the heckler said I was talking to the strawberry.


BILL BAILEY: And I was really I was very nervous and all I could remember to do was this this act as I’ve been doing, this double act you know which was a very highly polished double act with you kind of chit chat and songs. It was punchy you know one two boom boom you know and then of course there there was no-one to bounce there was no punchy, there was no boom a boom boom a ding boom a boom it was just me you know and I realised I’d learned all the set-ups. I didn’t know the punch, he was the one who did the punch lines.


BILL BAILEY: So I had this kind of half an act in my head so I was kind of stumbling through this thing and then then this classic thing the bloke says oy tell us a joke. Oh no I don’t know any jokes, I couldn’t think of one single joke just my mind went a complete blank and so I started almost like as a kind of like a you know reaction I just went oh well three blokes go into a pub, that sounds like a joke.


BILL BAILEY: And suddenly the audience went quiet. Boom.


BILL BAILEY: He knows, he’s got one. So there was cause they’d been a bit sort of restless. Yeah look at this big hippie he doesn’t know what he’s talking about you know. Tell us a joke. Three blokes go into a pub. Ohhh.


BILL BAILEY: And they were right on it so I went oh I thought I can’t bottle out now I went right and then I just thought where do I go with this and I sort of thought I kept going I went three blokes go into a pub and I say three there was four there was actually four.


BILL BAILEY: I say four five it was ten, 50, a hundred, 500, a thousand blokes.


BILL BAILEY: They just kept going, a thousand blokes, 10,000 blokes goes into a pub. I say 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 500,000, ten million blokes go into a pub.


BILL BAILEY: Small town outside Rotterdam goes into a pub. No, say Rotterdam, Holland, hey all of Northern Europe, Eurasia, not the band obviously.


BILL BAILEY: The whole population of the world goes into a pub and the first bloke who’s at the bar says I’ll get these. What an idiot.

Laughter and Applause

BILL BAILEY: And I just kind of this whole sort of . . .

Laughter and Applause

ANDREW DENTON: And this is you were just running on panic . . .


ANDREW DENTON: At this time?

BILL BAILEY: Oh it was pure adrenalin.


BILL BAILEY: You know and I realise I actually oh hang on this is where I this is where this should be going really. I should just start off let go of this act that I’d been doing and just sort of free form jazz, jazz comedy but and that was it, that was a kind of a that was yeah as you say it was a kind of watershed moment.

ANDREW DENTON: Wow. Let’s talk about a meeting of two great comic minds. Yours and Dylan Moran’s. For many Australians will know this, this is an excerpt from Black Books.

[playing footage]

Laughter and Applause

ANDREW DENTON: That’s a great show. it’s lovely. You’re looking at that and laughing. A lot of people look back at their stuff and go oh yeah I’m over it now.

BILL BAILEY: No I had such fun doing that. It was and it was a while back now and it was was such a blast we had doing making that show. You know it was I mean there was wine in those bottles you know.



BILL BAILEY: And you had to we tried substituting it for blackcurrant cordial and we just it made us feel sick.


BILL BAILEY: So we said.

ANDREW DENTON: You got a lot of humanity into the character of Manny which is unusual in a sitcom. How did you do that?

BILL BAILEY: I always play that sort of slightly lower status character on stage in my comedy persona rather sort of you know the the kind of you know the guy who’s you know putting people down. So I fitted into that role quite well.

ANDREW DENTON: So cause you’ve described yourself as a nutter magnet. What sort of people do you attract?

BILL BAILEY: Yes well . . .


BILL BAILEY: Looking around and this is kind of pretty much the yeah demographic.


BILL BAILEY: I don’t know what it is. When I say nutter magnet I think nutter maybe is a slightly maybe it’s sort of a loaded term you know. I tend to use the word doze with no agenda.


BILL BAILEY: You know ah.


BILL BAILEY: You know seems to be less offensive and but you know all provisional members of the public that’s the other thing.


BILL BAILEY: I don’t know whether it’s the nutter or so much people just find me quite approachable so they maybe come up to me and start talking in a way that they probably wouldn’t do with other people they might recognise. People just come and just chat away to me and just start you know little conversation and they kind of I don’t know I get I audiences I get a guy just felt he needed to tell me something. He in a show in Edinburgh he says he jumped up in the middle of the show and he went he said hey son, it was I’m not very tall. I went . . .


BILL BAILEY: He wasn’t he wasn’t very tall but you know.


BILL BAILEY: He was I’m not very tall ahhh whoa.


BILL BAILEY: And I went oh no well you’re not but you know I didn’t really need to know that but ah.

ANDREW DENTON: Well maybe for him that was a coming out.

BILL BAILEY: Yeah maybe it was.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah maybe he hadn’t told anyone that before.


BILL BAILEY: That’s right yeah. He’d been in the sitting position his whole life.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah that’s right.


BILL BAILEY: Now’s the time. I’m not very tall.


BILL BAILEY: Whoo, got that off my chest.


ANDREW DENTON: You are a healer, Bill Bailey.

BILL BAILEY: I’m a healer.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah you are.

BILL BAILEY: People come to the front. Touch me, touch me.


BILL BAILEY: Touch the beard. The healing beard.



ANDREW DENTON: You have an effect on me.


BILL BAILEY: Anyone feel the need to . . .


ANDREW DENTON: You made a series on a show on Stonehenge which I want to show a little bit of. This is Bill’s theory on Stonehenge.

[playing footage]

Laughter and Applause


BILL BAILEY: It’s just as plausible.

ANDREW DENTON: Just as good as any other that’s.


BILL BAILEY: It’s as good as any.

ANDREW DENTON: What was it like for you to be at Stonehenge?

BILL BAILEY: Oh it’s fantastic

ANDREW DENTON: Does it have a real sense of history, mystery to it?

BILL BAILEY: Oh absolutely yeah. It’s yeah it’s because no-one really knows. I mean there’s all sorts of theories like when I was saying there you know there’s all kinds of theories about what why they’re there and even if you talk to the most eminent historians about it, they don’t really know why there. You know why on that particular hill. You know there’s all kinds of other places on that line that they could have been placed and particularly the fact that the the big stone, the huge stones were dragged 26 miles from a quarry you know north of the place and you think the guys that were dragging it you know once you’d dragged it 100 yards yeah here here’s fine you know.


BILL BAILEY: And somebody going no no no it’s 26 miles. You’re having a laugh aren’t you surely. What about just there. Just here. Next to the quarry. That’s where we want to do it.


ANDREW DENTON: I’d like to finish the interview. We’ve seen your virtuosity on various instruments but there’s one. A rare instrument which you have learned.


ANDREW DENTON: It’s the Theremin.


ANDREW DENTON: Can you tell us a little bit about the Theremin while this . . .

BILL BAILEY: Right well the Theremin was invented in 1920s by a Russian radio engineer called Leon Theremin and which gives it it’s name and it he invented it by accident. He was messing around with radio parts and suddenly he kind of put his hand close to the aerial and there’s the sort of thing like woooooo and he and he sort of thought oh maybe I’m onto something And it became a kind of used a lot by science fiction . . .


BILL BAILEY: Movie score writers like Bernard Herman and the Day the Earth Stood Still and then latterly the Beach Boys used it and then bands up until the present day use it you play it by by moving your hand closer and further away. You don’t actually touch it.

ANDREW DENTON: See I’ve often wondered after it’s gone wooo wooo is there anything else to do with the Theremin?


BILL BAILEY: What the after you’ve done the wooo wooo?


BILL BAILEY: Well you could you could just go woooo woooo like that.


BILL BAILEY: And save yourself a lot of hassle.


ANDREW DENTON: Well look I feel like I’ve undercut the performance now.


ANDREW DENTON: Would could you give us . . .


ANDREW DENTON: To close off . . .


ANDREW DENTON: Give us a burst of Theremin.

BILL BAILEY: I’ll try yes.

[playing Theremin]

BILL BAILEY: Sorry sorry sorry.


ANDREW DENTON: You still struggle don’t you.

BILL BAILEY: I no that’s the that stops it from sounding so that’s this is the [playing] that’s the volume, and this is the pitch so if I kind of you have to just kind of guess really here we go.

[playing Theremin]

ANDREW DENTON: Make the scary man go away.


BILL BAILEY: It’s how I get my child to sleep of a night.


[playing Theremin]

BILL BAILEY: Now is the time of robots and if you do not sleep the robots will come.


BILL BAILEY: And we will all be destroyed.

[playing Theremin]

BILL BAILEY: Sleep tight.


ANDREW DENTON: Bill Bailey ladies and gentlemen.


more ...

Tommy Tiernan talks to Dennis Miller

[![](]( "photo sharing") [Tommy Tiernan](, originally uploaded by [Onion Events NYC](

I was pleasantly surprised to find a interview with Tommy Tiernan on the Dennis Miller radio show this morning. It's awesome to see Tommy bring some of the more modern Irish humour to the world. I got his DVD, Jokerman, Christmas 2006, it was very interesting seeing him try and break America. It mirrored a little bit, I have to day, of my experience in America. Sometime people can't under stand a word you say, but think you're hilarious because you sound funny.
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Dennis Miller, I find, is excellent when he interviews comedians. Both here and on his former HBO TV show, Dennis Miller Live, he wasn't afraid to let the other comedian take over and let them be the funny ones. Most interviewing comedians have a tendency to take over and try and be the funnier one, Miller sets them up and lets them run. Check out the podcastwhen he has Dana Carvey on, nothing short of brilliant!

more ...

Jerry Seinfeld on Enough Rope

Jerry SeinfeldJerry Seinfeld on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton
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See Seinfeld in this BRILLIANT interview on *Enough Rope*

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

It is not often you get to meet someone who is both a student and a master of the same craft. Please welcome the comedians comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.

JERRY SEINFELD: Thank you very much.

ANDREW DENTON: Welcome sir.


JERRY SEINFELD: Wow. Thank you.

ANDREW DENTON: That’s it, time, thank you.

JERRY SEINFELD: Gee boy, I wish we had more.

ANDREW DENTON: Yeah but it’s been great.

JERRY SEINFELD: But we covered a lot.


ANDREW DENTON: It’s been, it’s been…



JERRY SEINFELD: See if it was me, I would walk, we, we should go, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: That would be the funny thing if we really left.


ANDREW DENTON: Well you know. But boy, the ABC would be upset.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah well, it’s worth it for a big laugh.


ANDREW DENTON: You’ve made a movie about bees.


ANDREW DENTON: Why is a bee funnier than say a moth?


JERRY SEINFELD: Are you seriously asking me that?


ANDREW DENTON: I’m seriously asking you that.

JERRY SEINFELD: You’ve seen moths.


JERRY SEINFELD: Not much to look at, right?


JERRY SEINFELD: You’ve seen bees.


JERRY SEINFELD: You know about the honey.



JERRY SEINFELD: You know about the flowers.


JERRY SEINFELD: You know about the hives.


JERRY SEINFELD: Well, there’s no comparison.


JERRY SEINFELD: The moth is a nasty dusty, just stupid little insect, is what it is, whereas the bee is this highly scientific, advanced, sophisticated, utopian.


JERRY SEINFELD: A bee lives in a future perfect world, which is a perfect setting for comedy.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m guessing.

JERRY SEINFELD: It’s like Australia.


JERRY SEINFELD: It’s a perfect place.



ANDREW DENTON: You say that to all the countries.


JERRY SEINFELD: Oh, no I don’t.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m guessing that at the end of this process you know too much about the bee, would I be right?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um I know a lot, but you know, when you’re doing this kind of thing, where you’re trying just to make a funny movie, you have to just make up whatever you want, for example in the movie bees drive cars.


JERRY SEINFELD: Now you would think if you could fly, why would you need a car?


JERRY SEINFELD: And that’s exactly the point, they just, because they live a very civilised life, they don’t want to get all sweaty and all exerted every time they go some place so they drive.



ANDREW DENTON: You said talking, that makes sense. You said talking to Time Magazine earlier this year they shouldn’t make comedy movies because comedy should be short, and the last third is always torture and all the energy is gone.


ANDREW DENTON: So why did you break your rule to make a movie?

JERRY SEINFELD: I didn’t realise actually how difficult it was until I got into it myself and having the done the TV show and having had success with it, naturally you know I was a little arrogant.


JERRY SEINFELD: …In thinking oh I could do that, that’s easy, you know, we’ll just do three TV shows and stitch them together, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: And, but it was, it was much more difficult than I thought and I have much more respect for film makers now. It is quite a challenging little racket to put one of these things together.

ANDREW DENTON: Let’s see a little bit of the movie, this is Jerry’s character Barry, meeting a mosquito.



ANDREW DENTON: I should have pointed out they’re on a windshield.




ANDREW DENTON: When you’re doing stand-up you can gauge how it’s working from audience response, when you spend four years making a movie, how do you have any idea what’s working?

JERRY SEINFELD: The night of the premiere, it’s a little um, it’s a little tense, you know. You’ve spent four years making this thing, and then you just kind of put it out there and kind of hope.

ANDREW DENTON: So what’s it like for you sitting in a cinema with an audience knowing that you can’t work the room?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um it’s uncomfortable.


JERRY SEINFELD: It’s very uncomfortable.

ANDREW DENTON: Were you right up the front in the premiere or right up the back like this or where were you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um I was in the middle.

ANDREW DENTON: That’s bad.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah it was bad cos it was a long way out anyway I was going to run.


ANDREW DENTON: And people are going to see you if you need to escape.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah, yeah but luckily it went very well.

ANDREW DENTON: When you first got the MC job at the Comic Strip, you were just 22.

JERRY SEINFELD: That’s right.

ANDREW DENTON: You said that was truly one of the greatest days of your life.


ANDREW DENTON: Why was that such a shining moment for you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well it was the end of working, you know what I mean, I was a waiter at that time and I was working at night as a comedian, not working. I wasn’t getting any money and when they made me an MC that was I think 25 dollars a night, and it was three nights a week and I thought - hey, I could live on this, you know and then I would just be a comedian. And that was, so I went back to the restaurant and I took off the apron and I gave it to the guy and that, I’ll never forget that moment, handing him that apron and going that’s it, that I’ll never work again.


JERRY SEINFELD: So like when people say to me “Oh four years to make the movie, it was so hard”, I can take that kind of whining, you know what I mean, it’s not hard, it’s fun, you’re, you’re in show business, I mean it’s like a dream.

ANDREW DENTON: The first time you performed stand up you bombed badly.


ANDREW DENTON: Why did you decide to go back?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um well I didn’t say anything was one of the reasons I bombed so badly.


ANDREW DENTON: What happened?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well I didn’t realise that when you get up in front of an audience that actually you know is scary right off the, right off the bat, you know. I’d watched other comedians and I thought - well only seems to kind of be laughing and then you just say things that that are funny and they laugh even more, and, but that’s not what it is, they don’t laugh at all.


JERRY SEINFELD: They just sit there, and you have to make them laugh, you know, so I wasn’t quite rehearsed and I went up on stage and I could not remember one thing that I was. All I could remember was the topics that I wanted to talk about.


JERRY SEINFELD: This is absolutely true. So I stood there, I was totally panicked and I just went, “The beach.”






JERRY SEINFELD: “My parents.”


JERRY SEINFELD: And I was on stage for about three minutes and I just said “Good night,” you know, that’s…


JERRY SEINFELD: “Those are the subjects, I don’t have of the jokes.” That was literally my first show.

ANDREW DENTON: So why did you go back?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well I thought I should at least try the jokes, before I quit.


JERRY SEINFELD: Before I give this all up, and the next time it went okay.

ANDREW DENTON: Your dad, Kel, we, a, a big influence on you, is that right?

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah, yes he was. He was a funny guy and he was a guy who didn’t function in a structured environment. So he completely related to me not wanting a job either.


JERRY SEINFELD: You know, he had worked for a few companies and just couldn’t get there on time and just couldn’t really handle it, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: So when he got, when he became a salesman, who, salesman you know they just go out and they kind of structure their own day, and he, you just wander from store to store selling whatever you’re selling, then he did well. So he really thought - well a comedian’s kind of like that and he loved jokes also, he used to keep a joke file himself. He used to tell me this joke, that he used to like, this joke about this guy who comes home and ah his wife is in the bathroom and he suspects that there’s some hanky-panky going on and he pulls back the shower curtain and there’s another man behind the shower curtain and he says to the man “What are you doing here?” And the guy goes “Well everybody’s got to be some place.”


ANDREW DENTON: And do you sometimes even when you perform now notice bits of your father in the way you perform?

JERRY SEINFELD: Yes, you do you know. It’s a funny thing about your parents is even when they’re gone, my father’s gone now over 20 years, but you’ve, you actually feel them in your body physically, you kind of do, things that they did. And I don’t know if that’s from watching them or it’s just DNA, you know. But see if sometimes when I’m performing I feel my feet or my posture, I feel like I look like my dad right now, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: And it’s a nice feeling.

ANDREW DENTON: What about your mum, was she funny or is she funny?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um kind of funny, not as, not really that funny.


ANDREW DENTON: What you do is, is what’s called observational comedy, you observe so are you, do you sometimes have to consciously switch yourself off just to live your life or are you forever sucking stuff in?

JERRY SEINFELD: No I don’t really turn it off, it’s just there, you know, just…


JERRY SEINFELD: I don’t know what it is but you just…



ANDREW DENTON: So as you’re talking to people, it’s stuff just flying into your head.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah. Don’t you find that happens to you too?

ANDREW DENTON: I’ve been treated for that.



ANDREW DENTON: Sometimes you know you do get that completely unbidden thought, but is it something you also train your brain to do or do you just trust the process?

JERRY SEINFELD: You kind of like pick things out as they go by, you know and you go - maybe I could do something with that, you know. I was in Florida recently and I noticed that they have a different type of walker that the old people are using now, you know these aluminium walkers that the old people have with their tennis balls on the bottom that ah.


JERRY SEINFELD: In case a game should pop up unexpectedly I guess.


JERRY SEINFELD: I notice now they have like a three legged walker with wheels on it and brakes.


JERRY SEINFELD: At the top and I thought if you need brakes on your walker…


JERRY SEINFELD: Perhaps you’ve been misdiagnosed.


ANDREW DENTON: Exactly right.


ANDREW DENTON: So you’ve been here a few times, what do you observe about us, what do you notice about Australians?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well Australia is comedy heaven.


JERRY SEINFELD: All comedians that I know love Australia because of the humour in the culture. Now humour is in certain cultures and it’s not in others, it just nobody knows why or what it is but this place when you come here to perform is like one of the greatest places because the people are funny and like to have fun and their laughter is always very near the surface. You don’t have to work too hard to get it and they, you know, comedians like to be around audiences that like to laugh.


JERRY SEINFELD: So this is, I feel like this is kind of like my comedy home outside of the US. If I was deported, I would move here.


ANDREW DENTON: I want to show a little bit from ‘Seinfeld.’


ANDREW DENTON: That’s fantastic.

JERRY SEINFELD: Thank you, thank you.

ANDREW DENTON: I always got the impression watching the show and watching that back then that you were about to burst out laughing.

JERRY SEINFELD: Always, always. I love the show.


JERRY SEINFELD: So I would be in the show and instead of playing my part, I’d be just watching it.

ANDREW DENTON: George and Kramer and Elaine were constructs and you were playing yourself.


ANDREW DENTON: So what about your character, wasn’t you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Ah well I don’t speak in a scripted format in real life.


JERRY SEINFELD: Um but other than that it’s pretty much me. I mean whatever I said I said it the way I would say it and I just reacted the way I would react, so you know for me it was a documentary.


ANDREW DENTON: That’s, that’s an awful lot of you to put out there.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah. But you see that’s the difference between comedians and actors. Actors want to dissolve into this character and have people not even know it’s them and have, see them in different parts and have them be unrecognisable and comedians are just the opposite, we’re trying to get rid of everything that is not exactly us.

ANDREW DENTON: You’re not a huge fan of the way we adulate actors, are you?


ANDREW DENTON: What is it about our adulation of them that irritates you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well you know I there’s a, some actors that are absolutely brilliant but most of them, you know they’re not writing the material, they’re you know, not directing, they’re not producing. They’re just kind of “Stand here, put this jacket on and say this when I point at you.”


JERRY SEINFELD: …You know, and then to have people go “Oh we’ve got some, we have to give this man a trophy, he’s a genius,” you know.


ANDREW DENTON: So we won’t tell Russell Crowe you said that.

JERRY SEINFELD: Russell Crowe is one of the people that you would not say that about. He…



JERRY SEINFELD: No, no because no, he really does, brings some magic to it that you go “I don’t know where that came from.” There are. there are actors that are geniuses.

ANDREW DENTON: When you finished ‘Seinfeld’ you decided, you went back to your roots to do stand-up.


ANDREW DENTON: But then you did something even harder, you threw out all the material that worked, the tried and true stuff and started all over again.


ANDREW DENTON: What prompted that decision?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um I had seen comedians do this, like Richard Pryor, I’d seen him do it, I’d seen Bill Cosby do it and as, as a young man I would watch them in awe of how they would. I mean Richard Pryor used to go to the Comedy Store in the 70s and he would just go on stage with absolutely nothing, no jokes, and he would just start talking and trying to create material and all the comedians would stand in the back watching him do this and then six months would go by and eight months would go by and people would be just shaking their heads going “Man, he’s lost it,” you know. And then ten months or a year and he’d have this incredible act because he refused to go backwards. He would only, you know, do brand new things. And I just thought that would be something that I would like to do someday and I thought after the TV series this will be a perfect time to try it.

ANDREW DENTON: You made documentary about the process of rebuilding your acts.


ANDREW DENTON: Called ‘The Comedian’.


ANDREW DENTON: And this is what it’s like when you’re starting with new material.



JERRY SEINFELD: What are you applauding for?


JERRY SEINFELD: That was absolutely excruciating.

ANDREW DENTON: I think it’s fantastic you showed that, why did you want to show that?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um one of the big questions I get as a comedian is people say “Where do you get your material?” And I thought I would show how you, how hard it is to get it. I thought some people might find it interesting.

ANDREW DENTON: Did you expect that to be the process, that you would go out there and sometimes…




ANDREW DENTON: So you were happy to put yourself through that pain?





JERRY SEINFELD: Prepared, yes, yes.


JERRY SEINFELD: That’s just what you go through, you know.

ANDREW DENTON: And after a night like that where it’s fallen over…


ANDREW DENTON: What are you like when you go home? I’m trying to put that nicely of course.


JERRY SEINFELD: Um, well there are many products that they sell in these situations.


JERRY SEINFELD: …That are perfect for an evening like that. There’s, you know, there’s pastries, there’s many alcoholic beverages that are sold and legally used, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: And once you’re at home nobody knows the quantities.

ANDREW DENTON: Your manager, your long time manger, George Shapiro’s here. Hello George.

GEORGE SHAPIRO: Hi, nice to see you Andrew.

ANDREW DENTON: Nice to see you too, EP of Seinfeld as well. George when Jerry is building new material and some of it isn’t working, as his manager, are you brutally honest with him or you’re just trying to…?

GEORGE SHAPIRO: Well you could ask him, sometimes I’ve gotten a whacked around a little bit for my honesty but I always, I’ve always been honest.



JERRY SEINFELD: George will tell you that I, and there’s no one tougher on my, on me than me.

GEORGE SHAPIRO: Yeah, I don’t have to be tough on him cos he’s tougher but I’m, I’m, I am honest with him.


JERRY SEINFELD: George, George by the way has been managing me for 27 years.


ANDREW DENTON: Cos Jerry you’ve said that you’re obsessed with the art of telling a joke.


ANDREW DENTON: What does it take to get it right?

JERRY SEINFELD: Sometimes you find yourself in the right moment with the audience and the audience, see the thing, the audience never knows, is, that they are making the performance. You can’t make an entire audience laugh if they don’t want to so they kind of will, if they’re in the right place or you can kind of manoeuvre them into the right place. They can make you give them a performance that’s better even than you thought you could give.

ANDREW DENTON: What’s not funny for you, what do you think, what do you consider bad taste?



JERRY SEINFELD: Um I, I don’t have any particular tastes, you know there’s only, I don’t find anything offensive as an audience member myself. To me I only care about what’s funny and what’s not funny. I have my own style that I like to work in, which is clean. I like, I don’t like to use any sexual situations or dirty words. It’s just, it just keeps me writing better jokes. You have to write a better joke to do well if you don’t use any of those things, so it’s just a thing that I, that I do for myself.

ANDREW DENTON: You’ve described comedy as ‘socialised aggression’, that if you’re not cranky…


ANDREW DENTON: You’re not funny.


ANDREW DENTON: Now you strike me as an extraordinarily happy guy with a great life.


ANDREW DENTON: So where does the cranky…?


ANDREW DENTON: Where does the cranky come from?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well you’re born with that.


JERRY SEINFELD: I mean, I was at a restaurant, a absolutely magnificent restaurant, I was taken to before the show today. We’re there and they didn’t tell me that I was coming to be on your show in five minutes and I’m wolfing down gigantic desserts and you know we’re playing with the appetisers and they go ‘Okay, we’ve got to go.” I go “Why?” “Well you’re going on TV in five minutes.” Well I got a little cranky.


ANDREW DENTON: And because I have a limited imagination, what are you like when you get a little cranky?

JERRY SEINFELD: [Laughs] I see why you call the show ENOUGH ROPE, I understand that now.


JERRY SEINFELD: Um well I try and I try and be funny in the cranky…


JERRY SEINFELD: Because you want to continue to entertain, although at this particular moment that I am describing to you, I was not being funny.


JERRY SEINFELD: I was saying things like “Oh good planning everybody.”


JERRY SEINFELD: Sitting there going I’ll have another chocolate cannoli — TV in five minutes.


JERRY SEINFELD: It, it worked out fine though didn’t it?

ANDREW DENTON: Absolutely. For you fun is at the core of being funny, that sort of sense of childishness.


ANDREW DENTON: Has having your own kids heightened that sense of childishness in you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um not really, around them it has. I will do anything to make my kids laugh, I don’t care how embarrassing it is and you know really I can’t believe how the ridiculous things that I will do to make them laugh, you know.


ANDREW DENTON: Do you throw yourself around, do you, are you a physical?

JERRY SEINFELD: I throw them around.


JERRY SEINFELD: And then I throw myself on top of them and you know, you know it’ll just do silly things, embarrassing things, you know, body function things are very funny with children.


JERRY SEINFELD: And to and to adults also.

ANDREW DENTON: Absolutely, yes.

JERRY SEINFELD: …You know. And even though I don’t feel it’s appropriate for a sophisticated audience like yours, I will in the privacy of my own home, I will, I will laugh at certain things.


ANDREW DENTON: I think we’re getting a mental picture here, which is perfectly sufficient.


ANDREW DENTON: Are you looking forward to them coming to see you when they’re old enough, cos they’re still quite young?


ANDREW DENTON: Coming to see you do stand-up?

JERRY SEINFELD: Yes, very much. Well my daughter is seven, I think she’s about ready to ah this year I’m going to bring her to a show. And I don’t quite know what she’s going to make of it, I think it’s going to be very interesting.

ANDREW DENTON: What does she think dad does?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well she knows that dad tells jokes, although most of them now think that dad’s a bee.


JERRY SEINFELD: …You know and they tell, I heard, we heard them talking the other day, one kid said “My dad’s a dentist. What does your dad do?” “My dad’s a bee.”


JERRY SEINFELD: Cos that is what I’ve been for most of their life.



ANDREW DENTON: Four years, that’s right.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah, four, you know I have a son who’s four, so you know I’m, I’ve been a bee his whole life.


ANDREW DENTON: You’re, you’ve described marriage as like ‘the greatest comedy gold vein in history.’


ANDREW DENTON: What is it about marriage that amuses you?

JERRY SEINFELD: Well it’s, you know, it’s an untenable situation.


JERRY SEINFELD: …That people volunteer for.


JERRY SEINFELD: And then have to figure out - how am I going to survive this?, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: Well that’s what you call a good comedy premise.


JERRY SEINFELD: You know, what if four people made a bet that they could restrain themselves for, you know, as in a wager. Well that’s an absurd situation and you volunteer for that. It’s the same thing, it’s funny.


ANDREW DENTON: You’ve always said you’d never do another sitcom after Seinfeld but there must be a part of you that’s quietly writing one about marriage.

JERRY SEINFELD: Ah there is, there I cos I, all my friends are married and, and I always think of - gee if all the stuff that we do, you know, I would love to do it in a sitcom. And I guess if I did another sitcom it would be about marriage, I’d just call it ‘Mrs Seinfeld.’


ANDREW DENTON: When you look back on your single self, cos you were famously single for a long time, what do you think?

JERRY SEINFELD: Um well to me the funny thing about being single, see I had married friends and I wouldn’t visit them when I was single because I thought their life was so pathetically depressing.


JERRY SEINFELD: And then, now that I’m married and I, I have single friends and I feel I, I don’t really like to be with them now cos I find their lives trivial and meaningless.


JERRY SEINFELD: And I think in both cases I was correct.




JERRY SEINFELD: Do you know I always make this joke about how, you know, married, single guys will say “Oh we can hang out, you know we can talk.” Cos I don’t want, if you’re married you want to talk about your wife when you’re with another guy.


JERRY SEINFELD: …You know, and single guys are, “Well I have a girlfriend, I got, that’s wife-able?” You know, th-that’s, that’s not, I, I’m in, you’re playing paintball and I’m in Iraq.


ANDREW DENTON: On a tour of emotional duty, yeah.


ANDREW DENTON: When George Burns died, you went and lit a cigar and sat outside his house.

JERRY SEINFELD: Andrew, you know everything.

ANDREW DENTON: And your, I, no, that’s why I’m asking.



ANDREW DENTON: What was it about him you wanted to pay tribute to?

JERRY SEINFELD: He is a master of enjoying life, which as you grow I think you find is a very rare quality amongst the human species, that we kind of go through this experience and we struggle with various things and we often times fail to stop and go - you know what, this is pretty great, just on a basic level. And George Burns was one of those people who just appreciated “Hey, I’m in show business, life is great.”

ANDREW DENTON: You gave a talk at a New York school, Tony Bennett I think asked you to speak and you gave them…

JERRY SEINFELD: I am absolutely…


JERRY SEINFELD: Stunned at the detail of research.

ANDREW DENTON: I know and I know it’s um…



JERRY SEINFELD: Do you do like one show every six months and just study…

ANDREW DENTON: That’s right, yeah.

JERRY SEINFELD: And study and study this person.


JERRY SEINFELD: Every aspect of their life?

ANDREW DENTON: …You are the most anal man in show business. You said that you sat with every animator for every frame?


ANDREW DENTON: I mean you can’t accuse me of being anal.


JERRY SEINFELD: No I guess not.

ANDREW DENTON: Although I appreciate the compliment.



ANDREW DENTON: Do you remember the rules of life? You had three rules of life.

JERRY SEINFELD: I never accused you of being anal. Um


JERRY SEINFELD: I said you were impressive researcher.

ANDREW DENTON: Oh I, in that case I apologise for hearing…

JERRY SEINFELD: Ah, my three rules of life and this is, you know, I’d never spoken at a school, you know, they get invited, when you’re a celebrity to, it’s sometimes, ah to be a speaker at eh commencement ceremonies. And I’d never done it and I, I never do, what, what would I say, you know. And I just sat down with a pad and paper and I thought - well what are my three rules of life? And I came up with bust your ass, pay attention and fall in love. And so I talked to the kids about these are the three things you need to know to succeed in life. And bust your ass is a just basically whatever you do just kill yourself. Work as hard as you can, they eh, only good can come of it. And pay attention is just, people just don’t notice enough about what’s, you know, about what’s going on around them and just, you can absorb and learn from everything around you all the time, you know, ask people questions all the time. And fall in love wasn’t, isn’t really a romantic love, cos I think there are, and this kind of g-gets back to your George Burns thing, is like you, one thing I did kind of get from him is like if I get a really good cup of coffee I like to just go, you know, what, just hang on a second.


JERRY SEINFELD: This is a fantastic cup of coffee.


JERRY SEINFELD: Isn’t this a great, and I’ll ask everyone, isn’t this great coffee? Cos you know, it’s not always great. This one is great, you know.


JERRY SEINFELD: And I kind of, and that is one of the things that I really did learn from him. And why I had such respect for him is that I will stop and make that moment, you know, you will enjoy life more if you do that. You know, you get a great parking spot, just go…


JERRY SEINFELD: Hold it a second, I mean look at that spot.


JERRY SEINFELD: I mean it’s, we could have been blocks away and we’re right here.


ANDREW DENTON: See, that to me is wisdom.


ANDREW DENTON: I think you’ve learnt wisdom which is a, a rare quality.

JERRY SEINFELD: It’s, it is a kind of wisdom, yes.

ANDREW DENTON: So having invested so much of your life in this movie, what does its success or failure mean to you?

JERRY SEINFELD: What it is to me is that I feel I did my best and to all I, all I want to do, I feel like all I, I’m supposed to do. And I don’t know why I think this is, I feel like I’m supposed to make people laugh. And a lot of people do ask me, you know, “You’ve done so much comedy and why don’t you write something that’s a little deeper or a little more emotional?” Or “Why don’t you try…” And I just don’t feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do, I don’t know why. So it was very important to me to come here with the movie and show it to the Australian audience. I would not have missed that and so I sat in the theatre last night and I listened to them laughing and I thought - well that’s it, you know, that’s it, you know. I don’t care about the grosses, I don’t care about, you know, and, and then they will come to me and tell me “Well here’s how much money it made and this in Melbourne.” Say “Yeah, fine, whatever.” I heard them laughing and that, that’s it.


ANDREW DENTON: And that’s pretty good.


ANDREW DENTON: Well comedy is a high calling. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Jerry Seinfeld, thank you.

JERRY SEINFELD: Thank you Andrew.

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Paul Howard on Ian Dempsey

This is an interview with the creator of Ross O'Carroll Kelly, Paul Howard when he was on the Ian Dempsey Breakfast show.

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Billy Crystal on Enough Rope

crystal01Billy Crystal on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

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Billy Crystal has stepped up to the Oscars microphone more times than anyone of his generation. His work in 'When Harry Met Sally', 'City Slickers', 'Analyze This' and a string of other films has endeared him to millions. Before movies, he was already a wildly successful stand-up comic and TV star. Next year, he'll bring his Broadway show, '700 Sundays' to Australia, reliving his childhood on stage every night.

ANDREW DENTON: Please welcome, via satellite from America, Mr Billy Crystal.

ANDREW DENTON: Billy Crystal, welcome, thank you for taking time away from your family to be with us tonight.

BILLY CRYSTAL: Andrew, is your head that big?

ANDREW DENTON: Sadly, yes.

BILLY CRYSTAL: From the opening, you've got a big head.

ANDREW DENTON: People say that about lots of parts of me, actually. Thank you for noticing. Billy, your family background, you sort of had a show biz up bringing. Your uncle ran a - was a record producer, and your dad ran a record store, booked jazz acts for New York. Can you tell us about the day you were introduced to the movies?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Well, it's also a scene from the show. The show, '700 Sundays', is really about my life with my dad, and my uncle is a big character in the show. This little music shop that you referred to, it was called the Commodore music shop, and it was in the centre of New York, and really in the 30s, 40s and 50s it was the centre of jazz actually in the world. My uncle created this little jazz label called the Commodore Jazz Label, and one of the stars of the label was a wonderful woman and singer named Billie Holiday. My dad produced some of her concerts, and when I was about five years old, I went to see my first movie, and she took me, and I sat on her lap and we saw the movie 'Shane', which is a classic Western. That's when I realised I wanted to be in the movies.

ANDREW DENTON: What a remarkable story, because Jack Palance, who became your co-star many years later was in that film, wasn't he?

BILLY CRYSTAL: It was the first movie I saw, and he was actually known as Walter, Walter Jack Palance, and in the movie he was Billy. Later, of course, we did 'City Slickers' together, and he won an Oscar, I didn't. That's the night he did the one-arm push ups on stage and actually gave me the greatest set up that anybody has ever had to do jokes on the Oscars, so, Jack, wherever you are, thank you for that.

ANDREW DENTON: We're going to see a little bit of 'City Slickers' later. What I'd like to show now is a little bit from '700 Sundays'. This is you talking about one of your great loves and object sessions as a kid - baseball.

BILLY CRYSTAL: I hope it's me, because there is no understudy.

ANDREW DENTON: Here we go.


ANDREW DENTON: When you were about eight years old, your dad took you to Yankee Stadium, he filmed it to immortalise the experience. Was it the sort of religious experience he made out it would be?

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, it's an interesting thing, because I'm not sure it's just an American thing, because I've talked about this all over the world, and people seem to understand about baseball and fathers and sons and Yankee Stadium. It was, it was that once in a lifetime experience. Whatever you do for the first time, you remember it, and if it happens to be with your dad, then you write about it. It's actually a very vivid scene in the show.

The show, the background of it is a lot of home movies that my father took, so throughout the show you see these actual movies that he took. The set of '700 Sundays' is the house I grew up in. So the front window of the house and other windows become projection screens, so all of these movies that he took and family pictures come on to the house itself, so it becomes like a living documentary.

But going to Yankee Stadium for the first time still is one of the great remembrances I'll ever in my life. You know, they call it - baseball stadiums they refer to as cathedrals. To me, it was the biggest synagogue of baseball I've ever seen in my life.

ANDREW DENTON: You wanted to be a baseball star, but about the age of nine you thought, "No, no, no, comedy for me".

BILLY CRYSTAL: Plus I stopped growing.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes, outwardly, anyway. A couple of years ago, Mel Brooks was on this show and he referred to himself as the 'King of Corner Shtick', that he did all these routines on the sidewalks of Brooklyn. Who did you practice your routines with?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Well, it was the relatives, it was the family. Our house was the Comedy Central. Everybody was always over, it was an eclectic group of strange and interesting and funny people who loved to be entertained. So I'd have 40 or 50 over every weekend, so that to me it meant show time. My room was always the room where the hats and coats were put, so that made it the wardrobe room. So I would wear their Persian coats and their hats with the veils, and they always wore like this animal around their necks, it was some kind of ferret or a weasel, and they had claws and glass eyes, it was terrifying. The clasp was this animal biting its own foot. So I would perform for them and imitate them, and that's where it really started for me.

ANDREW DENTON: Did it ever get you in trouble, the ability to mimic your relatives?

BILLY CRYSTAL: It has happened, but it happened to me, actually, recently, playing in a golf tournament with former President, Bill Clinton, where he was talking throughout the first nine holes, and he just wouldn't stop. He was the most powerful man in the world, but he thought he was the President of Golf, and he just wouldn't stop. So we go into the restroom in between the nine holes, which men our age do a lot, and I was imitating him to the fellow I was playing with. Because Clinton kept saying on every hole, "What you got to do, Bill, is this", "What you got to do is keep your head down", "What you got to do", he kept saying, "What you got to do". My friend is in the bathroom, and I was at the urinal and I go, and I go, "Right, now listen, what you got to do, is just get your legs together", and Clinton walked in, and I know, I know, he heard me, because I'm being audited.

ANDREW DENTON: If I may, I'd like to step through a little bit of your career then talk about some specific stuff of '700 Sundays', because it is a very powerful show. You moved on to a very successful career in stand-up comedy, and then in the mid-70s you got a shot at 'Saturday Night Live', which was the launching pad for so many careers - Chevy Chase, Bill Murray - but, it didn't turn out to be the break that it could have been, why was that?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Well, what happened, Andrew, was on the very - the premier of the show, the first night of 'Saturday Night Live ', I was a guest on the show. There was Andy Kauffman and myself, and we were sort of the 'Saturday Night Live' comedy discoveries, and I was going to do a five to six minute routine. The dress rehearsal the night before, the show was too long, and there were pieces that weren't working. You know, it was the first show. And my thing actually did very well, but they asked me to cut like three and a half, four minutes out of it, which left me with like two minutes to do. I couldn't do that routine in two minutes, because I'd be talking like this, and it just wouldn't work. So I didn't have anything. I ended up getting what they call bumped from the very, very first show of 'Saturday Night Live'.

But nine years later I went back there, hosted the show a few times, and then joined the cast, along with Christopher Guest, Martin Short, and we had one of the best years that SNL has ever had. That first night was a tough thing to get passed for me because I thought this was going to be the beginning of a whole different career, and so I didn't end up on 'Saturday Night Live', but that's when I started doing 'Soap' about a year later after that.

ANDREW DENTON: But then you did make it back to 'Saturday Night Live' to huge success. I have here an extraordinary impersonation from those years. This is you as Sammy Davis Junior.


ANDREW DENTON: That is quite brilliant.

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, I was Sammy Davis' opening act for a while, so I would come to the show about two hours, Andrew, before I would go on, because Sammy was already in his dressing room, and we would talk and he would tell me all of his stories. You can't leave a dressing room after talking to Sammy Davis Jnr for that long and not feel that you just want to be him, you know, and that's how that thing started, and I mean that.

ANDREW DENTON: He once got your impersonation of him on your answering machine, is that right?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Oh my God, this was weird. Well, once I fell in love with the voice, I started calling people at home, I'd leave messages as Sammy Davis Junior, so I did the show and it went really well, so I came home and the red light was beeping on my message machine. Well the message on my phone machine was me - as Sammy - with some music in the background and you simply heard me say, "Hay, Babes, can't talk right now, I'm in the studio. Peace and love, and I mean that. I'll get back to you". I had pressed the message, and you hear Sammy Davis Jnr actually go, "What the hell is this?" and hangs up. So Sammy called and Sammy answered, and he just didn't know what to do.

ANDREW DENTON: He must have had a total out of body experience.

BILLY CRYSTAL: He said, "Listen, I don't mind you doing it on the show, but just skip it from your life, okay?"

ANDREW DENTON: I want to show another clip of you now. We mentioned Jack Palance earlier and 'City Slickers'. This is a much-loved movie and a great scene from it.


ANDREW DENTON: He's got presence.

BILLY CRYSTAL: That face is so terrifying, even now, and he's the sweetest man. He's well in his 80s now. He still rides horses. I hear from him occasionally. But, especially what we talked about earlier, seeing him in my first movie, and then getting to act with him was a thrill, and the fact that he got the Oscar made me feel even better, because when we were writing the movie, I was very much Jack's voice in the writing room with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, I would improvise a lot, and I actually wrote that line, "I crap bigger than you". When he said, "Do you think he'll say it?" and he wanted to actually make it worse than it was. We ended up with "crap", but you can imagine.


BILLY CRYSTAL: He was an extraordinary guy.

ANDREW DENTON: Did you tell him about the impact he'd had on you all those years ago when you saw your first film?

BILLY CRYSTAL: I told him about Billy, I told him I'd seen the movie, and he said, "Great, I'd like a Mai Tai".

ANDREW DENTON: Isn't it frustrating that no matter how hard you write, you can't write a line as good as that?

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, that's what this show is about, it's about their humour, their habits. The show is very much about how you end up becoming who you are. It is not about my career, it's about these great moments with these great people throughout my life.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes. Speaking of which, Robert de Niro, of course, in 'Analyse This', that was probably the first time he was regarded in a comedy sense. What was it like for you approaching him to do that film?

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, I had written the first draft of the script with a great writer named Peter Tolan. So I call him and I said, "Bob, I got something that might be great for us. Would love you to read it". Two days later he called my office, " Bill, I like this, I like this a lot, I like it a lot, I like it a lot, I like this. I like this, I like it a lot, I like this. I like it. I like it a lot, I like it a lot. Did I tell you that I liked it? I like this. I like it a lot".

So it took me about a year and a half to convince him to do the movie. I was like a pit ball on his pants just, "You gotta do it, Bob, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. You should be funny in a movie, people will love it if you're funny, you know. You're an icon, you're different from us, you've got to do it". He finally said okay, and it was such a real - Bob was amazing to work with. What he does, Andrew, when he's working, he repeats everything when the camera is on him. So, like the camera is on me now, I'm de Niro, you're me, okay?


BILLY CRYSTAL: So his first line was, "Do you know me?" He walks into my office, right? So this it what happened the first day of shooting. "Do you know me? Do you know me? Do you know me? Do you know me? Do you know me? Do you know me? You don't know me. Do you know me?" Now I don't know when to start. So he finished, "Do you know me?" So he gets the one that he wants, he gives the editor about 30 choices, then he sort of nods and goes, "Okay, your turn".

ANDREW DENTON: You must have been so tempted just to say, "Are you talking to me?"

BILLY CRYSTAL: You don't approach him that way. He is a really charming, funny man, and we've been great friends now since those movies that we did together.

ANDREW DENTON: As you say, you've worked with some very intense men. You've said the scariest experience was working with Kenneth Branagh on 'Hamlet'. Was what was the fear there?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Well, listen to my voice.

ANDREW DENTON: It's very Shakespearian.

BILLY CRYSTAL: This is going to be in Hamlet? "Hey, what ho! ".

ANDREW DENTON: Tony Curtis made it work.

BILLY CRYSTAL: That's true. Kenneth asked me to play the grave digger in his rather brilliant production of 'Hamlet', and I was so nervous to do that. Because, you know then you run the risk of sounding like Tony Curtis, you know, in 'Spartacus'? "My name is Antonius. I'm a singer of songs. I also juggle. I love you Spartacus, like the father I never knew".

So, to play the grave digger in Hamlet, every night rehearsing with my wife, she's played every character, because we rehearse together, so she's been Sally, now she's got to be Hamlet and I've got to be the grave digger. For three weeks I wanted to get the Bronx and New York out of my nose, my chops, my everything. I had to get rid of it.

To me, that was terrifying to walk on to that set in England the first day and being in a grave with Yorrick's skull. Because I handed the skull, which he says, "Alas, poor Yorrick, I knew him well". That, to me, was the most frightened I've ever been in my life, to be believable at Shakespeare. Fortunately it worked.

ANDREW DENTON: One of your favourite films is 'Mr Saturday Night', which you wrote, starred in and directed, about an old, old Jewish comedian. Did you ever have a time in your career where you felt as Mr Saturday Night did, that people may not think you're funny anymore?

BILLY CRYSTAL: You mean, like now?

ANDREW DENTON: No, not now. It's all right.

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, I think, Andrew, everyone who does funny runs the risk of that day where you think, "I'm done. Do I have it? Do I have anything to say anymore?" I actually took a 20-year break in touring and doing stand-up from 1986 to when I started preparing to do '700 Sundays'. I mean, I would do the Oscars and I would do other specials, the Comic Relief that I do with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, and charity events here and then, but not on a steady diet, because I felt I didn't have much to say. And so that kind of writing sort of went into my movie work. That's what I was doing then. So it took that long. I just felt, well, I didn't want to wake up that day and go, "At eight o'clock tonight I have to be really funny". I just didn't like that pressure, so then, as I got older, and things happened and you go through some hard times in my life, which I did, I decided to write about it. That became '700 Sundays', about the loss of my dad when I was 15 and then later my mum in 2001, and that's what the show is about. It's about becoming an orphan in our lives and how we have to end up standing on our own two feet.

ANDREW DENTON: It's called '700 Sundays' because you calculated that's roughly the amount of time you spent with your dad before he died of a heart attack when you were 15. Can you explain what happened that night? You argued with him, didn't you?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Well, my dad had held two, sometimes three jobs, and he ran this music store during the day and did these jazz concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, tonnes of jazz benefits for ailing musicians around the country, so he wasn't home a great deal. He wasn't a workaholic, he just had to. We didn't have much. Sundays was our day alone. When he died, it hit me very hard. I was the youngest. My brothers were away at school. So I had him alone for the first time, and that only lasted a month, and then he died suddenly of a heart attack.

I was in love with this girl. I just loved this girl. I was failing subjects because I just was so in love with this girl, and she had dumped me. We got into an argument about that, about this girl, and he walked out, and an hour later he was gone. And I thought for a long period of time, "Oh, did I make this happen?" When you're 15 and your father dies, you don't know what to think. You're just out of your orbit.

ANDREW DENTON: That's a very tough thing to happen to a young boy or a young man. Did you have any idea how to process that sense of guilt?

BILLY CRYSTAL: Not then, I mean, you don't have the skills. You know, you don't know what to say. I was left all alone with my mum. She was an amazing survivor and taught me how to, you know, get through your grief, and then lead your life and get through it. We had a fantastic relationship, and she kept us all together. But you don't know what to think, and it wasn't until my 30s that I started to slowly undo the knots that had been done to me in my teenage years.

ANDREW DENTON: How do you undo those sorts of knots?

BILLY CRYSTAL: That, you know, you just have to do a lot of introspection. I have a wonderful wife of 36 years, I met her when I was 18, and we have two great kids, and you appreciate what's the best in life. Now we have two grandchildren - I can't believe I'm actually saying that, because I don't even have a walker in front of me. They are the love of our lives, these two little beautiful girls. We're sort of starting all over again. You pick them up, you play with them, and then you hand them back and go to a movie.

ANDREW DENTON: It's absolutely perfect. Just going back to your dad for a minute, after he died, he actually had a heart attack in a bowling alley. You weren't just guilty about it, you were angry that that's where he'd died. Why was that?

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, you're not talking about a rational person at the time. You're 15 years old and you're mad. It was because it was a tiny little town that we lived in. It was sort of the talk of the town. I think that, you know, one of the feelings is that you want to be there when that happens, if it's going to happen. They were there when you came in, shouldn't you be there when they leave? It's an awful thing, but we all have to face it some day, we say goodbye to our parents. You feel like you want to be there to say, "I'll see you soon, it's going to be okay, and thank you". I never had that chance. It was such an angry ending that, you know, I think that the fact that it was in this public place - he didn't plan it. It was just, God said "Now". So I was angry about that. It was not the way life should be.

ANDREW DENTON: How did what happen with your dad affect you as a parent? Were you shy about shouting with your kids or did it affect your parenting in any way?

BILLY CRYSTAL: I think when it affects your life, Andrew, you say, "Alright", you've got to live every moment to the best it can be because you never know what's going to happen to you. None of us do. You just have to live life to the fullest every day and be as happy as you can and don't let things get to you and just spend as much time as you can as long as it's good time, you know.

Janice said to me something - it was part of why I stopped also in 1986 touring around. I was away a lot and on the road, and I was making a nice living and things were good and she said, "You know what? Maybe you should stop touring. You’re becoming Uncle Daddy". And I said, "Okay, I got you". So I just shut it down. So then I never missed a game, I never missed a play, anything like that, I car-pooled. If you met the girls - I hope they are able to come down with me - you'd see why. They've had a very wonderful, normal upbringing because their mother is Janice.

ANDREW DENTON: And their father is you.

BILLY CRYSTAL: You know, I think I value so much the commitment it is to raise a child. It is the toughest take-home exam you'll ever have in your life, to have this responsibility for his human being and raise them well. I think we did a great job, and I haven't missed anything in my life.

ANDREW DENTON: Billy, I can't let you go without asking you a couple of questions about the Oscars. How do you deal with nerves realising that you're about to perform to a billion or more people?


ANDREW DENTON: Excellent answer.

BILLY CRYSTAL: No, back on track. As I kid, I would practice. I would go into the bathroom. I lived in New York, so the Oscars were on very late, and I never realised why this show was so long until I started hosting it. I would have my toothbrush in the bathroom and I would make this speech in the mirror thanking all the little people, of which I was one, and I always remember that this was my Oscar, the toothbrush. The first time I hosted the show, I was in the dressing room, had my tuxedo on and everything, and I was brushing my teeth, the last thing I do before I go out there. I took the toothbrush, and put it inside my tuxedo jacket, and I walked out in front of two billion people - it's not the same toothbrush, I'm doing okay - and every time I fronted the show, I had that toothbrush in my jacket there. I think that calms me down. I get very ready, Andrew, for the show. I walk out with a little bit of nerves, which I like, I think you need a little bit of edge.


BILLY CRYSTAL: And then I'm just sort of at home there. To me, I may be walking out on stage, but in many ways I'm walking into that living room where I started as a kid. I think, you know, the shows that we hosted were relaxed, and making a very uncomfortable crowd comfortable. That's my job on the show.

ANDREW DENTON: You said the Oscars were a long night. I think this was your line, and it's always summed up awards night for me - the Oscars are one hour of entertainment crammed into four hours.

BILLY CRYSTAL: I'm not sure it's my line, but it's a good one, so I'll say it is.

ANDREW DENTON: You go with it. We watch it for the dresses - not me, but a lot of the women - and for the over-emotional speeches. What are the outstanding memories for you of Oscar nights? What are the things you're in it for?

BILLY CRYSTAL: For me, we hope that something bad happens. You hope that something screws up somehow. Hal Roach, who is one of the great, legendary producers who started Laurel and Hardy and the 'Our Gang' kids, and he was the legendary film producer in the beginnings of Hollywood, alongside Charlie Chaplin, and he was 100 years old. He was in the audience at the Oscars, and he was supposed to just wave to the crowd.

So I introduced Mr Roach, "He's a pioneer of Hollywood movies, and here is in the audience. He's 100 years old". And he started talking, but he didn't have a microphone. So he sounded like, you couldn't hear him, and they raced to give him a microphone and I knew the camera was on me, and there's two billion people watching, and I just looked at him and I looked at the crowd and I said, "It's only fitting he got his start in silent films". To me, those are moments that you hope happen, and, you know, that was a pretty fun night.

ANDREW DENTON: As you say in Mr Saturday Night, the sheer power of being up there totally on your game with comedy, being able to drive the audience mad.

BILLY CRYSTAL: It's a great feeling. I have it every time we do it show. I can't wait to bring it to Australia. As you said earlier, I've been there only once. I had such a great time. And when they said, "What do you want to do with this now?" we were on Broadway, we won the Tony as the best show and all of that stuff, and we took it around the country to the best theatre cities in the country, and we thought about going to London and I said, "You know what? I want to go to Australia. I had such a great time there. Let's see if the family values that I talk about, that the relatives that I talk about, these quirky people, does that translate down there?" and I can't wait. The times I was there doing some television, I guess it's about 10 years ago, I had a wonderful time. The people are great, it's beautiful down there. I'm very excited that we're bringing the show there.

ANDREW DENTON: We look forward very much to seeing it. Billy Crystal, it's been charming. Thank you very much.

ANDREW DENTON: Thank you Andrew, goodbye everybody.

more ...

Lily Tomlin on Enough Rope

tomlin01Lily Tomlin on Enough Rope

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Over a career stretching back more than 40 years, Lily Tomlin has established herself as one of the legends of American comedy. With an astonishing body of work, from 'Laugh In' to 'Sesame Street', from the movie, 'Nashville', to the TV series 'The West Wing', Lily Tomlin's characters have consistently shone light on the human heart.

ANDREW DENTON: Here's a sample.


ANDREW DENTON: It's her first time in Australia. Please welcome Lily Tomlin.

LILY TOMLIN: Thank you. Thank you.

ANDREW DENTON: It seems remarkable to me, over such career, that this is your first time here. Why so long to visit us?

LILY TOMLIN: I wanted to come several times. I had two shows on Broadway, I never took them to Australia because I always had a dog. I never wanted to leave my dog for any length of…

ANDREW DENTON: We accept dogs in Australia.

LILY TOMLIN: Don't you have to quarantine?

ANDREW DENTON: There is that. But couldn't you have arranged a dog sitter, though?

LILY TOMLIN: You mean at my home?

ANDREW DENTON: It seems a feeble excuse, Lily.

LILY TOMLIN: No, no, no. Did you ever look in your dog eyes deeply and say you're going away for six months?

ANDREW DENTON: I do, yes. They always know you're seeing someone else.

LILY TOMLIN: That's right, yes. That's true.

ANDREW DENTON: You're going to do an evening of classic Lily Tomlin. Now many Australians know your career, but some don't. Who are the sort of characters, because you've done so many over the years, that people are going to meet?

LILY TOMLIN: Well, certain characters that are really popular from television, particularly from 'Laugh In'. I just saw young woman back stage, Polly. She said, "Oh I know Edith Anne from 'Sesame Street'." That's about 20 years later or something - not really, but quite a difference from seeing it on 'Laugh In'. So Edith Anne is from 'Laugh In' and Ernestine the telephone operator is from 'Laugh In'.

ANDREW DENTON: Actually we have a little bit of Ernestine.

LILY TOMLIN: You do? Okay.

ANDREW DENTON: I remember watching Ernestine when I was about as tall as I am now.


ANDREW DENTON: This is a little bit of Ernestine - a classic from 'Laugh In'.


LILY TOMLIN: Yes, see…

ANDREW DENTON: That would have been about '68. What do you think when you look back on that?

LILY TOMLIN: I think, "Gosh, I look young." I think Ernestine looks young and I look young, too.


LILY TOMLIN: Then I realise - I don't know, I remember back doing, because we had great fun doing things like Mr Fubuckley. That was always part of the American television pursuit, was to get the 'f' word as close as you could on television.


LILY TOMLIN: Americans live for that.

ANDREW DENTON: It's what made them great.

LILY TOMLIN: Right. I mean we didn't have "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" for nothing on that show.

ANDREW DENTON: You corrupted me as a child, I can tell you.

LILY TOMLIN: I bet, yes. Stunted your growth.

ANDREW DENTON: That's alright. That's absolutely - I look up to you, quite literally.

LILY TOMLIN: I only did it because you seemed like such a good sport about it. You'd done it yourself, and I don't know why you'd be so self demeaning, but…

ANDREW DENTON: It's the difference between self deprecation and just cruelty.

LILY TOMLIN: That's right.

ANDREW DENTON: You were a fairly bohemian, certainly, teenager. You and your brother would stay up really, really late. Is that right? When your parents had gone to bed.

LILY TOMLIN: My brother is fantastic. When he was 13 he actually sawed our mother's couch into three pieces, so that we would have sectional furniture. I do that as a line, but it's the gospel truth.

ANDREW DENTON: Was your mother appreciative?

LILY TOMLIN: No, she was horrified. She was a nice, working class woman who didn't expect her sofa to be in three pieces.


LILY TOMLIN: She wanted it up against the wall in one piece.


LILY TOMLIN: My brother wanted it scattered in the middle of the room.

ANDREW DENTON: You would stay up late, until two or three in the morning, the two of you, when you were young.

LILY TOMLIN: We did, yes, and my brother had a smoking jacket, and in fact. I had a lot of gown kind of things, too, that we'd get at the thrift shops.

ANDREW DENTON: What would you do at two in the morning?

LILY TOMLIN: We'd pretend we were drinking vodka, we'd drink water in a shot glass or in a champagne glass or something and pretend we were drinking whisky or some kind of alcohol. My brother was the best, my brother far exceeds me. That's when he moved that sectional furniture around because he was very good at - he could have - he literally sawed it in three pieces with a handsaw. I mean this a real commitment to style, you know. He wanted that style. Then he would put sheers at the windows and he would put a fan down below, so the sheers would blow. It would be like, here we are living in this second floor apartment in Detroit and he would pretend he was living in a penthouse in New York.

ANDREW DENTON: That's fantastic. You'd be pretending to drink vodka - the next morning would you have a pretend hangover?

LILY TOMLIN: I think we believed it so much that we did have a hangover.

ANDREW DENTON: One of our viewers that was at college with you sent us a photo of you as a cheerleader. There we go.

LILY TOMLIN: Yes, there I am down the front there.

ANDREW DENTON: That's you.

LILY TOMLIN: I was the co-captain.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you remember the cheer?

LILY TOMLIN: Sure, I'm a great cheerer. We were like, because we were much more - we weren't like an all white school that just did like rah, rah, rah, we did - (Lily singing).

ANDREW DENTON: I'm so glad I asked you that.


ANDREW DENTON: That was fantastic.

LILY TOMLIN: I'm better at stuff like that than talking about something that makes sense.

ANDREW DENTON: I think when you were 14, is it right, you hitchhiked from Detroit to Chicago without telling your parents.

LILY TOMLIN: No, no, my mother still didn't know. My mother died not knowing.

ANDREW DENTON: Did she not wonder where you were?

LILY TOMLIN: I was pretty independent.


LILY TOMLIN: So I never had to answer to parental authority. I had learned long ago that my mother has been a child.

ANDREW DENTON: How did you discover she'd been a child?

LILY TOMLIN: Well I had a picture of her as a baby, it was just a little thing, and I couldn't quite get it together. How could my mother have been a baby? But my mother was a baby. In those days they didn't have children lay their heads against their mother's stomach, they were covert about where babies from.

ANDREW DENTON: Yes. So when the realization…

LILY TOMLIN: So then, by transference, my teacher had been a baby and my father had been a baby, and the neighbours were babies. Everybody was a baby.

ANDREW DENTON: So it's hard to respect people that know as little as you do.

LILY TOMLIN: Exactly. That's exactly it. I said, "They know nothing." It's liberating and it's destabilising, too, but…

ANDREW DENTON: Yes. Who is in charge here?

LILY TOMLIN: Nobody is in charge. My mother was adorable and she only died last year and she was very witty and engaging, people adored her. So in spite of that - and I was charmed by her, too, but I knew that she really didn't have the answers.

ANDREW DENTON: Which is kind of good and kind of bad.

LILY TOMLIN: It's kind of bad.

ANDREW DENTON: You said your mum Lily May, she was witty - my mum was like that, too, and she died last year. My mum was sort of witty up to the end. Was your mum like that?

LILY TOMLIN: Yes, that's what I am saying. Even though she was in bed, she had osteoporosis and she really couldn't stand any longer by herself, but she read the paper every day, she was very engaging, she loved company. She was very hard of hearing, too, she was almost totally deaf, but somehow she seemed to always have the right witty answer, even though I'm sure she didn't know what she said.

ANDREW DENTON: Now that's skill.

LILY TOMLIN: My mother was very endearing. People just liked her.

ANDREW DENTON: You won a Tony some years ago for "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life", which was written with your partner, Jane Wagner.

LILY TOMLIN: She wrote it.

ANDREW DENTON: She wrote it?

LILY TOMLIN: Oh yes. She's really much brighter than I am.

ANDREW DENTON: That was a very generous thing to say, because in fact most artists prefer not…

LILY TOMLIN: To pretend that they did write it. I'd like to, but she won't let me.

ANDREW DENTON: I guess that's the thing about living with your…

LILY TOMLIN: I would like you all to think that I was that brilliant, that I not only performed it, but I could write it. That would be saying a lot.

ANDREW DENTON: How tricky is it living with a partner who writes a lot of your material? If you have an argument, isn't she eventually going to write a way to win it?

LILY TOMLIN: Well, she doesn't go to the theatre often, so I do whatever I want once I get there. I mean, we have jokes in the company, you know, especially when we're doing 'The Search', we'd say, "There are fans who have seen 'The Search' more often than Jane has."

ANDREW DENTON: Is that right?

LILY TOMLIN: Yes, she doesn't have the least bit of vanity about going in and basking the applause and the laughter and the stuff. She can't bear to have to go.

ANDREW DENTON: The thing is, you and Jane have been together 35 years, she writes a lot of your material.


ANDREW DENTON: Often, in a relationship, the work can cannibalise the rest of your life. How do you manage to separate the two?

LILY TOMLIN: Because she doesn't work that much. Writers don't like to write a whole lot. I mean, I guess they do if they're compulsive or they need the attention, but she - people always say, "Well how do you and Jane work together?" And I drop to my knees and say, "Please write, please." Because I can't get her to write that much.

ANDREW DENTON: So you don't have to constantly draw the line between life and material?

LILY TOMLIN: No. We're really the same person. People have rarely seen us together. That's what some people say because Jane absolutely has her own satellite dish on the roof, and she doesn't…

ANDREW DENTON: Is that a metaphor, or she actually has her own satellite?

LILY TOMLIN: Oh God, Andrew, you are a card. Would you prefer, she marches to her own drummer?

ANDREW DENTON: No, that's good. I like it.

LILY TOMLIN: And she has no fear of public obligation.

ANDREW DENTON: So it's a perfect combination - you're the one that goes out there…

LILY TOMLIN: I have to go out and face the public and do all that, be on this show, things like that, and she just takes a rest.

ANDREW DENTON: The thing with you and Jane is that you actually - I think you were in your 50s before you came out as a gay couple. Why did you wait that long? Was it because it was just not a great career thing to do?

LILY TOMLIN: Everyone knew, so it was sort of grandstanding, in a way. In '75 Time offered me the cover if I would come out. I thought, "Well that's just…" They just, out of the blue - do you know what I'm saying?


LILY TOMLIN: It was sort of like opportunistic or something, and it would have been on my part. I got on the cover two years later anyway, because of our first Broadway show. But it seemed, sort of - I didn't even come out at that time, it was just because someone finally wrote it.

ANDREW DENTON: So when you look at the way it works now, with Melissa Etheridge or Ellen de Generes, do you admire the way they've gone about it, or do you think, "Thank God I don't have to go through that climate?"

LILY TOMLIN: Well, it's another time. I don't like it when people in our community leave their partners and don't take care of them. I mean then they become just as bad as heterosexuals. Or they have children and they split up and stuff like that. I think they should be more circumspect about producing children, just like I think straight people should. Just don't even bother, just like marriage, is a bit imitative.

ANDREW DENTON: Marriage is a peculiar institution, don't you think, in that the expectation that people will stay together all their lives, is that necessarily a…

LILY TOMLIN: The whole thing is a little nutty, so I don't - I'm not really - I'm more antisocial than I appear. I'm not crazy about - I'm not terribly involved in society except - I just don't get it. I've never gotten it. I've never gotten the whole deal of being a human being and being born and everybody dying - evolution of life. I'm not keen on it. I'm not afraid of it and I'm not…

ANDREW DENTON: No, no, and in fact you have little option in the matter. But does this mean…

LILY TOMLIN: So what I am saying, even though I have an engaging personality.

ANDREW DENTON: Mm, and a winsome smile.

LILY TOMLIN: And a winsome smile, and I was just blessed to have that smile, because most of the Tomlin's have it, and they're mean as hell. They're not…


LILY TOMLIN: I got mother's charm gene and my dad's smile. I'm making it all up. I don't know what the hell I'm saying.

ANDREW DENTON: I got to call you on this because you don't strike me - you say you don't get the whole thing about being human. Does this mean you feel disconnected from the human race…

LILY TOMLIN: I don't feel disconnected, no, I feel so empathetic that it's almost painful. I'm probably sentimental about the species in fact. It's kind of a terrible admission to make, but…

ANDREW DENTON: 'Sentimental', that implies then in the past tense.

LILY TOMLIN: Oh, does it?

ANDREW DENTON: Yes. Is that how you look at human beings, like, "Gosh, they were great. I miss them."

LILY TOMLIN: He's clever, isn't he?

ANDREW DENTON: But it's interesting because…

LILY TOMLIN: Maybe saccharine is the word.


LILY TOMLIN: It wouldn't be in my work necessarily, but I'm saying - it's just I've known they were babies. When I knew they were all babies, I felt I could only take them to my arms, you know. I felt terribly sorry that they had to be in this predicament.

ANDREW DENTON: This seems like a good time to talk to your good friend, Helen Caldicott. Welcome back, Helen. You've known Lily for about 20 years now.


ANDREW DENTON: 30 years, sorry.

LILY TOMLIN: 34. I met her in '71.

HELEN CALDICOTT: I don't remember meeting her in '71.

LILY TOMLIN: She doesn't remember, but I do.

HELEN CALDICOTT: Where was it? The Hollywood bowl?

LILY TOMLIN: Yes, at an anti-nuke rally in the early 70s. I was terribly mesmerised and taken with her speech.

ANDREW DENTON: What struck you about Helen?

LILY TOMLIN: Just her passion, her commitment, her intelligence. I knew she was a physician, and a paediatrician at that, and just that she was really making a wake up call to the world, that nuclear power, nuclear energy, nuclear armaments were not such a good idea.

ANDREW DENTON: Helen, it's a long friendship, it obviously goes beyond the political. What is the connection for you? What do you see in Lily?

HELEN CALDICOTT: Well I love her. We've spent quite a lot of time together on planes and talking and getting quite personal, getting to know each other. Our history - Lily did pre-med, I mean she's extremely intelligent, as you can see.

LILY TOMLIN: That frog never did recover.

HELEN CALDICOTT: I'm sure. We used to boil our frogs and then stick the skeletons together, yes.

ANDREW DENTON: That sounds like the basis for a friendship right there. It's always a tricky things when celebrities commit to causes, because there is reason for scepticism, is there not?



HELEN CALDICOTT: Not at all. That's an awful thing to say. The celebrities I've worked with have been most committed, the kindest people, who would do anything. That's to a person, all the way through, Rosie O'Donnell and Richard Gere and Lily and Sally and everyone.

ANDREW DENTON: Is it an effective contribution?

LILY TOMLIN: That's the good question.

ANDREW DENTON: I'm not belittling the contribution of anyone…


ANDREW DENTON: …I'm actually suggesting that an audience looks and goes, "What do I need to know from Richard Gere?"

HELEN CALDICOTT: Lily and I had the same publicity person, Pat Kingsley. Pat was quite keen to get me on all these shows to talk about the medical effects of nuclear war because Reagan was in and things were scary. They didn't want to take a woman in a Fletcher Jones suit, with a doctor with a stethoscope round her neck, that's boring. So Pat would say, "I'll give you Lily Tomlin and Sally Field, if you'll take Helen." That's the way she did it. She got me on all the shows and Vogue and Time and Life. Pat actually orchestrated the nuclear weapons freeze and helped to win the Cold War. I really do believe that.

ANDREW DENTON: Lily was one of your Trojan horses?

LILY TOMLIN: That's right, I was. That good, that's true. But, you know, that's what guys like you demand.

HELEN CALDICOTT: That's right.

ANDREW DENTON: Are you suggesting that the only I would have Helen on the show is to talk to you. How dare you. We've seen Lily on show and we know Lily on show, but what's the private Lily that you know? Is she a different person?

HELEN CALDICOTT: She is one of the most generous, kindest people that I have ever met. Lily has done so many fundraisers for me, I can't tell. She will do her show, 'Search', for instance, and it will be a fundraiser. She will say she's so tired, she will stay and talk to everybody, have her photograph taken with everyone until everyone has left. She is - I do - Lily. Sorry, but you are one of the most generous…

LILY TOMLIN: It comes from working class roots, you know, I think. I really do. I think…


LILY TOMLIN: Yes, because when I'd be on 'Murphy Brown', I knew every extra on the set and I knew their names and I'd be friends. Candice would say to me, "How do you know everybody's name?" Because Candice was really very Patrician, she came from Hollywood royalty, you know, and it wouldn't be her nature. But me, I'm out on the streets all the time, you know, friendly with everybody. People approach me, I'm not the least bit - there is no real barriers up around me or anything. That's what it is when you come from a blue collar family and a big urban city like Detroit, where there is a big mixed neighbour. It's a very leveling kind of thing and you're kind of looking out for one another.

ANDREW DENTON: You won the Mark Twain Award for American humour, which is probably the most prestigious award in American comedy. Mark Twain used to refer to humour as the saving thing, the great placing of mankind. Do you feel blessed at this ability you have?

LILY TOMLIN: Well I feel blessed that people receive me that way. I don't feel like I'm particularly - I don't know how it's happened, truthfully, you know. Whatever it is that's impelled me along this way and given me a career and made people respond to me or…

ANDREW DENTON: But just the ability to make people laugh.

LILY TOMLIN: Of course, yes, but I'm not trying - I feel like it's what I do. With the help of many other people, it's like how I've come to this place. Why did I make a character to do this or to do that? I don't know why and I don't even know how it happened. But, yes, I feel joyful and excited when I'm on stage. That's why I still do it.

ANDREW DENTON: You've recently made a movie with Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan which is coming out later this year. Speaking of the movie experience, there you were with Lindsay, the teen sensation of the moment. What was that experience like? What did you see?

LILY TOMLIN: Well, I was telling somebody earlier today that Meryl was pretty maternal with Lindsay, because she has three daughters herself in that age range, and I will never grow up. I thought I should be out clubbing with Lindsay. It never occurred to me, I thought, "Surely she sees that I'm just as hip as she is, that I'm just as current." But, no, she didn't at all. She looked at me as like an old school icon. I mean she liked me, I'm sure, but she'd look at - it would be like a kid in your family who looks at their older aunt or their grandmother or something and they get a kick out of them because their kind of old school, or they're from another time, and they think, "Geez, that's weird that they were like that."

ANDREW DENTON: As you get older, does life get funnier?

LILY TOMLIN: Kind of, in one way they do and in one way they don't. Because life is getting more and more finite, and that's not terribly funny. But, yes, things get - because you're easier with yourself and with other people. So it's easier to find something funnier to laugh about it, or blow it off or whatever. I mean, unless you're still committed to some kind of - things have got to be a certain way or not. Although I think you can draw a consensus, a pretty strong consensus about when big things are not right. I know enough about human beings and being a human myself that it's not a good idea to approach problems in a violent, domineering way. It would be better to be cordial. It would be better to try to reach out, say why, at least ask, "Why do you feel this way? Why are you behaving this way? Why do you want me to die? Why do you want someone else to die?" Let's create some kind of dialogue.

ANDREW DENTON: So you're saying the answers to the world's problems is more chat shows?

LILY TOMLIN: Oh God, yes. Why can't I say what you say?

ANDREW DENTON: We've reached…

LILY TOMLIN: Couldn't you just, when you go back into production, put your words into my mouth.

ANDREW DENTON: It would sound a little weird, but we'll try. We've reached a philosophical endpoint here - from one baby to another, Lily Tomlin, thank you very much.

LILY TOMLIN: Just think, every kid on earth had to be potty trained.


LILY TOMLIN: Thank you, Andrew.

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