"Inside the Actors Studio" - who the hell is the Actors Studio?

Skimming around the channels today, I happened upon “Inside the Actors Studio.” Kate Winslet was doing an imitation of Harvey Keitel acting like a dog, which, believe me, was every bit as weird as it sounds.

So I’m watching one of the best actors in the world clown around and complain about how she hates Enya music - you had to see it - and it suddenly strikes me - just who the hell is James Lipton and where the hell is this Actor’s Studio? I mean, they must be important that Kate Winslet showed up, right? And that’s nothing. I’ve only seen this show five times or so, and so far the actors I’ve seen are Winslet, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Glenn Close. I mean, we’re talking some A-list talent here, people who command enormous sums of money to so much as spit on you.

I consulted Wikipedia but it’s actually a bit short on fact, though it does list many guests (and I do see that some, such as Jennifer Lopez, do not have, shall we say, the thespian resume of a Hanks or a Winslet.)

So, how did this little acting school or whatever it is rook all these great actors into answering such dumb questions?

If you look at the list of Actors Studio alumni included in the Wikipedia article, you’ll see that dozens of the finest actors in the history of motion pictures studied there. Nothing succeeds like success.

As to why James Lipton, whose main claim to fame seems to be that he wrote soap operas, ended up dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School, well, some mysteries resist the most persistent of plumbing.

The Actors Studio is just that: an acting school that came to prominence under the leadership of Lee Strasberg, who popularized the whol Stanislavsky Method approach to acting.

A lot of very famous and successful actors studied their craft there, so the place commands a lot of respect in show biz circles. Actors who went there are usually glad to do the old alma mater a favor and appear on Lipton’s program, and actors who didn’t still respect the establishment enough to be flattered when asked to do an appearance.

Another reason you find top-name talents on the show is because the “interview” is more like a love letter to the celebrity. All such guests get final cut approval over the edited interview, and it’s about the only place they can go to be interviewed and be sure that they’re going to be presented in the most positive light possible. Considering the prevalence of crap-gossip TV and magazines, I suspect most celebrities would jump at the chance to have the host sincerely gushing over their body of work, especially knowing that they’ll have approval to snip any and all portions that don’t portray them in the best way. [sorry, no cite; I got this from a New York Times Magazine cover story on James Lipton from a few years ago]

I love the series, but it seems like every time I run across it they’re showing yet another re-run of the Robin Williams episode, which I just can’t watch lest I blow my brains out.

I saw this James Lipton fellow in one of Ali-G’s segments. He came across as quite a tight-ass.

Another thing is that it’s quite a popular show (for basic cable, obv.) with, I understand, a large “inside” viewership, and so the invitation to the show is something people jump at for publicity’s sake the same way they might an invitation to Larry King or Leno; that in itself has nothing to do with the fact that it’s run/sponsored/managed by the Actors’ Studio.

Back when the show was just starting out and it was in an actual classroom with a blackboard, they tended to get people who were Studio alumni or otherwise knew people who were connected to the school. (Of course, given that it’s the Actors’ Studio, that’s everybody who’s anybody in Hollywood that doesn’t have an English accent.) But now, it’s the show that’s popular independent of the place where the show is shot.


Lipton is the Man Who Never Saw a Performance He Didn’t Like. Perhaps my favorite Will Ferrell skit is any where he affectionately portrays the fawning windbag (though in all fairness, he rarely comes across as self-important, and is open to making fun of himself in various interviews and comedic shows)

I used to think Inside the Actors Studio was pretty good but he lost a lot of credibility with me when he had an interview with Martin Lawrence and called his performance in (I think) Nothing to Lose a ‘Tour de force’.

I think Nothing to Lose is as funny as the next guy but Tour de force? Really? Come on!

I’m really dying for them to do an episode sometime in which Lipton interviews Jon Lovitz as “The Master Thespian”.

James Lipton is one masterful, uh, flatterer (possibly NSFW epithet dropped). I mean, who wouldn’t want to go and have him make you feel good about your worst bombs for an hour?

Heck, when I win the lottery, I’m hiring him to come interview me – not about acting, just about all the important events in my life, not for broadcast or anything, just for the ego-massage it would give me.
(excerpt JL: "After that, Quercus, came your triumph in 7th grade soccer. Your goal against the blue team has been compared to Pele, or to stretch a metaphor like Michael Jordan driving to the basket, in it’s determination, yet almost lyrical movement and touch. Tell us how you felt as the ball met its final resting place secure in the net. "
Quercus: “Well, the goalie fell down trying to catch the ball, and it stopped right in front of me. I missed the first time I kicked at it, but had enough time to kick it again. I think it was going to miss the goal, but a defender tried to kick it, and accidentally knocked it in.”
JL: “Magnificent! They say it’s the true masters of a craft who can make things sound so simple. )”

Lipton is a master-grade asskisser, yes. But he’s perfectly capable of making fun of himself, too. His turn as the prison warden on Arrested Development was pure self-mockery, and it was funny as hell.

I hated that guy until I saw him on AD, as jayjay mentioned. Hilarious. And didn’t TDS or Colbert have a parody Actors Studio ep? altho I guess that was probably creative editting without Lipton being involved.

I have nothing to add except that James Lipton is older than dirt.

I’ve been a fan of this show for years. It’s on the Bravo network.

For all of his softball questions, Lipton makes fun of himself and was “killed” on a Simpsons episode.

Lipton also regularly shows up on Conan O’Brian’s show to make fun of himself and to participate in the “In the Year 2000” bit.

Yeah, I looked him up on imdb and he was in the original cast of Guiding Light, 1952-1962 ! Assuming he played an adult, he doesn’t look as old as he is.