At the same time, some of the questions in his towering stack of blue index cards are thoughtful and probing and make for really compelling interviews. For example, the episode with Sean Penn was brilliant. Ditto for the Meryl Streep and Paul Newman installments. In fact, when the show first started, the caliber of interviews on that show week after week was truly stellar.
In recent years, the roster of guests has become decidedly less impressive. Jennifer Lopez? James, you're joking, right? Billy Joel? WTF? WTF? WTF?!?! Recently, the show tumbled to an all-time low with its booking of one Rosie O'Donnell.
I actually used to like Rosie. I enjoyed her on Star Search and VH-1's Stand-Up Spotlight. I never really thought she was hilarious but she was likeable and earnest and gave it her all. It's those very same qualities that made her talk show succeed, particularly in the early seasons. Her show really worked well in the beginning because she was a huge fan of her guests. She was excited and giddy and asked the questions that most of us wanted to ask. Every member of her audience could relate.
And then stories started to surface about her backstage shenanigans. At the time, I worked for an industry publication where I was in contact with her show's production company. The list of staff changes they sent me week-to-week and month-to-month was astounding. Rosie's ratings were slipping and she cleaned house. What she failed to realize was that her appeal was waning not because of her associate producer but because she was now a bigger star than most of her guests. The novelty wore off. Gone was her wide-eyed admiration of her favorite celebs and in its place was plain old schmoozing.
Her public persona started to change too. Rosie was quoted as saying that people over a certain age who wanted an autograph "[needed] to get a life." In most cases, I would agree with this assessment but not when the advice is coming from the same woman who so famously fawned over Tom Cruise and bawled incessantly in the presence of Barbra Streisand. And didn't she love to tell everyone how, as a youngster, she would wait at the stage door after shows to meet the actors and get autographs? Rosie was getting a bit too big for her Lane Bryant britches, it seemed. The seed of distaste was planted within me.
It bloomed into full-blown dislike after Rosie's truly insufferable post-Columbine anti-gun crusade. I understood her emotional response to the tragedy but her subsequent rants were shrill, misinformed and completely misguided.
And then there was the Rosie magazine debacle. I particularly loved how she turned the bitch switch on full blast and cut her hair into an asymmetrical mess just as she confirmed to the world that she was a big ol' dyke. Nice, Rosie. Thank you.
But back to Inside the Actors Studio... She was recently on the show and I watched it. Dude, I set my DVR and recorded that bad boy so that I wouldn't miss a second and could rewind if need be.
Now you might be asking yourself why I even subjected myself to such a painful hour of television. Well, it's the same reason I watched Rosie in Riding the Bus With My Sister. I see the entertainment value in my own outrage and discomfort. Same logic applies to my viewings of Brown Bunny, Jersey Girl (the Jami Gertz version) and the Today show (fuck you, Al Roker!)
I watched the interview expecting to be amusingly annoyed by Rosie. Instead, I felt a little bad for her. As Lipton prattled through her anemic list of acting accomplishments and accolades, Rosie looked uncomfortable. With each passing second she realized she didn't belong there. And she didn't.
Yes, she's an entertainer in her own right but she's not equipped to teach graduate-level students about acting technique. If the New School were to unveil courses such as "How to Run a Beloved Magazine into the Ground," "The Finer Points of Drake's Cakes" or "When In Doubt, Decoupage!" then maybe Rosie could step in and give us a few pointers. Until then, it's best to leave the heavy theatrical lifting to the big guns.
You know, I have a few student films under my belt and I performed in Christmas and spring pageants from kindergarten through eighth grade. That puts my resume at about the same level as Rosie's, no? While it won't (and shouldn't) get me booked on Inside the Actors Studio, I do think it at least entitles me to answer those questions Lipton poses at the end of every interview. All agreed? Good. Take it away, James!
James Lipton: Curly McDimple began lip-syncing and singing off-key at a young age. She was bitten by the theater bug in high school and quickly won self-appointed critical acclaim with her rousing renditions of "Bui-Doi" from Miss Saigon and Hair's "Colored Spade."[APPLAUSE]
McDimple's unique take on standards and showtunes often courted controversy. For example, her flat-yet-spirited retelling of Annie was censored by the McDimple Family. But the young McDimple thumbed her nose at the nay-sayers and continued honing her own unusual, some would say poor, brand of belting. Her efforts earned her a "For the Love of God, Please Shut Up!" nomination and several other citations.
Curly McDimple can next be seen perfoming selections from Stephen Sondheim's Company in her bathroom mirror in Downtown Brooklyn. But first, Curly will take part in the questionnaire created by the esteemed Bernard Pivot for Bouillon de Culture...
Curly, what is your favorite word?
[Ed Note: What I really want to say: Sassy]
What is your least favorite word?
I'm not too keen on the word "chinos" lately.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Equal parts humor and intellect.
What turns you off?
Dry, wit-free, overly literal types.
What is your favorite curse word?
"Fuck" for emphasis and/or flavor. "Dickhead" for a putdown. And "ass" always comes in handy.
[Ed Note: I HATE HATE HATE when the actors pretend like they're surprised by this question. Oh, fuck off with that mock surprise! You knew it was coming and you prepared for it so drop the charade.]
What sound or noise do you love?
My own laugh. It took me a long time to find it so I never ever take it granted.
What sound or noise do you hate?
[Ed Note: The sound men make when they hoch a loogie and spit.]
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I would love to create props and sets for movies. I remember seeing From Star Wars to Jedi when I was younger and I really wanted to work in the studio where all the puppets and models were made. I'm still intrigued by the behind-the-scenes movie magic.
What profession would you not like to do?
Proctologist. Seriously, how does one develop a passion for this line of work? Even if you're an ass man/woman, it's not like you're not doing anything fun back there. Call me overly fussy but I don't stick my finger in just anyone's butt... unless you buy me dinner first.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"See? I told you not to believe those judgmental assholes who you said you weren't allowed in. Now let's you and Me go drop shit on their closed-minded heads."