Book Report: Inside Inside

Once you get past the math and the science engineering is, at it’s core, a creative exercise.  Depending upon your specific vocation you might utilize properties of physics or Java or electromagnatism, but fundamentally you are presented with a problem and use all the tools at your disposal to craft a solution.  This is why I’ve always liked Inside the Actors Studio, because the guests on that show create something too and it is the only interview program that gets to the heart of the process they use to do so.  It almost always involves a lot of research and hard work, both of which are directly applicable to finding engineering solutions, but often envolves working through emotional conflict, personal networking, natural talent, and randomness/luck.

Because of this, I was excited on Christmas Day when I opened a copy of Inside Inside, written by the show’s creator and host James Lipton.

Anybody who has ever watched that show has probably asked themselves the same question: “Who is this James Lipton guy and what credentials does he have to be doing these interviews?”  The answers lie within.

The book you would think this is about really starts on about page 250.  From that point on, it chronicles different guests, famous moments, and behind the scenes stories.

However, the first half answers that question everybody asks about Lipton’s credentials and, while it got dry at times, I was in awe of the man’s achievements completed long before the concept of the show that made him famous was hatched.  They include:

  • Providing the voice of the Lone Ranger’s nephew on the popular radio program in the 1940’s
  • Actor on the soap opera Guiding Light, which funded his arts education in acting, writing, and dance
  • Student of legendary method acting teacher Stella Adler, who’s most famouse protoge was Marlon Brando
  • Producer and writer of Broadway plays
  • Head writer and executive producer of 5 different soap operas during the 1950’s
  • Author of the best selling An Exaultation of Larks
  • Executive Producer of President Carter’s Inagural Gala, which included appearances by, among others, John Wayne and Muhammad Ali
  • Executive Producer of 12 Bob Hope specials, including the first American TV show to shoot inside China

The man routinely dined with Georg Plimpton and Kurt Vonnegut.  He had Ali create poetry before his eyes for Jimmy Carter’s benefit.  He negotiated shooting the first moving pictures ever broadcast of the Great Wall of China to the western world.  He sat in John Waynes’ living room and watched the legend weep.  He listened to Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope swap dirty stories with each other in the Lincoln Bedroom over drinks.  For a short time in 1950’s Paris, he was a pimp.  Yes, a pimp.  The man has lived.

The Actors Studio spent its first 50 years being largely concerned with teaching at the complete expense of finance.  In the late 1980’s the organization was going broke and needed to make some changes or the place that produced Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and a host of others would cease to exist.  Enter James Lipton.

He came up with the idea of turning the Studio into a formal master’s program and called upon all the teachers at various satellite branches to relocate to New York City to form a school that would be attached to the New School University in order to issue post-graduate degrees.  He knew that there were some alumni of the program in it’s previous incarnation that could only give them one night of their time and the idea for Inside the Actors Studio was hatched.

It has gone on to be nominated for 13 Emmy’s over its 200+ episodes and put the Bravo cable network on the  map.  It has become a springboard for Oscar success as well.  As Lipton writes (p. 312 of the paperback edition):

“In 2000, the Inside the Actors Studio episodes of three of the four Oscar winners, Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, and Benicio Del Toro, had been broadcast by Bravo durin the Academy voting period; in 2003, all four of the acting honors wne to guests we’d aired during the voting period, Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Tim Robbins, and Renee Sellweger; in 2004, I celebrated at the Vanity Fair Oscar party with three of the four winners, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, and Cate Blanchett, all of whose episodes we’d aired when the Academy members were casting their votes; and in 2007 ten of the Golden Globe winners and ten of the Academy Award nominees were alumni of Inide the Actors Studio whose episodes were aired during the voting period.”

That’s quite a record and a lot of stories behind those names, how they go about their creative process, are captured in this book.

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One Response to “Book Report: Inside Inside”

  1. Certification Basics | MCSE Certification Prep Says:

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