You may know me from 30 Rock, or movies like Still Alice, Blue Jasmine, or The Departed.
My podcast Here’s The Thing is a series of intimate and honest conversations. I talk to artists, performers, and policy makers about what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.
Some of the people I’ve talked to include: David Letterman, Lena Dunham, Billy Joel, Thom Yorke, Ira Glass, Kristen Wiig, Chris Rock, Lorne Michaels, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
You can find every episode here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/
I’ll be here for an hour to chat about those things. Victoria from reddit is helping me out via phone.
Let’s get started!
What is you favorite way to make people laugh?
Uh… favorite way to make people laugh… that’s a good question.
It’s different for different kind of people.
The people I like to make laugh most are children. So when I can make children laugh, my little daughter laugh, that’s priceless. If I pretend I’m a lion, and I’m mauling her, and she just starts laughing, if I do it the right way – my favorite way of making people laugh is to maul them like a lion, while they’re in bed.
I come into their bed and maul them like a lion.
I should try that on older people to see if they like it. I will try it on my wife. Who knows? She might like it.
How did you get to be asked back to SNL so many times? How do you keep it fun after so many times hosting and years back?
I think if you come on the show, and you demonstrate to them that you want to – you’ve thought about them, you want to be another member of the cast – and get along with everyone and try to do a funny show, they’re very keen on having you come back. Which is what I try to do. I just try to make it like I’m one of them.
How do you feel about your portrayal on Team America: World Police?
I was honored.
To be chosen, from the ranks of tens of thousands of Hollywood Actors, to be the head of the Film Actors Guild.
For me to be the head of the F.A.G. was one of the most meaningful honors of my career.
You and Walburg riffed back n forth (momma jokes) in The Departed – scripted or improvised? It was genius either way.
Um, I think it was probably scripted. I don’t remember. Probably was scripted, yeah. Because with Marty, you don’t want to do a lot of improvising. You want to do the script as written. Because usually that’s pretty good.
What was your favourite season and/or episode and/or scene in 30 Rock?
Well… I don’t think I could pick one, but among the many that I liked, I liked when Tina and I got married inadvertently because the French yacht captain married us by mistake, and I could never quite understand what he was saying. I thought that was funny. And probably anything with Elaine Stritch, who played my mom.
Do you have any funny story from working with Tracy Morgan?
Yeah, I mean, Tracy was a very sweet guy.
He was always watching really WEIRD TV shows on his TV. He’d have DVDS, or these tapes, he’d transfer them to DVD of like – the JACKSON FIVE special. And he’d be listening to the Jackson 5 from like 1970. He just had very weirdtaste. He was into wild, crazy, alternative programming.
What were your favorite movies of the past year?
I loved BOYHOOD. And I was sorry it didn’t win more awards. I loved BIRDMAN, I liked BIRDMAN. CITIZEN FOUR. I liked FOXCATCHER. I thought it was really great to see Carrell move from doing a sitcom to doing a more serious role, that’s always thrilling for actors to have that chance… and I’m trying to think of some less well-known ones… I went to Sundance this year and everyone was raving about the Nina Simone documentary, and the documentary about Scientology, which is coming out on HBO.
What’s the average day for you like?
Well, my average day is pretty ordinary.
I wake up, and I walk my dogs. I do the morning shift with my dogs. We have a dog walker in the afternoon, but in the morning, I’m out there in the snow, the rain, the freezing cold, I gotta walk my dogs.
Then I feed my dogs. I walk and feed the dogs. My wife takes care of my kid while I walk and feed the dogs.
Then the rest of the day is trying to remind people why they would come see me in some project. You are always trying to fan the flames of your career. It’s very competitive out there. Like I’m going to do a TV show for HBO, or I’m gonna try, we sold a pilot to them, and to compete in the TV market, where there’s such a fracturing of the market, with netflix and cable and streaming – getting an audience to watch your show is really tough.
I do a lot of writing for the show.
Developing the TV show, prepping for the podcast, reading scripts for things I might do but I don’t do that many films any more because I want to stay home with my family. I really don’t want to leave my wife and my kid. Like if I get offered a film, and I can’t bring along my wife and kid, then I probably won’t do the film.
And when I come home, my wife and I have dinner and we go to bed very early. My daughter gets us up VERY early – kicking us in the face, saying If I’m up, you’re up! She wants her cereal, she wants her pancakes, and she speaks spanish by the way – she wants her huevos, she wants her leche, she is the boss. So my wife and I, we go to bed very early – like at 10, I go to bed at 11. Early to bed, early to rise on the farm!
If you could act in any on-stage theatre role of your choosing, what role would it be?
If I could choose any onstage role?
God, I would probably… well, sing, I can’t sing. I wish I could sing. And I would sing some huge lead in a Broadway musical, like GUYS & DOLLS or something. That would be my dream.
Who is your favorite Superhero?
My favorite Superhero… I guess I was more of a Batman person, if I had to be honest with you. I’ve never been one who was into comics or superhero writing. I never was much into that. But I did watch the TV show of BATMAN when I was a kid. I also watched BIONIC WOMAN, because Lindsay Wagner was so beautiful.
But that’s not a superhero reason.
How will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s day tomorrow?
I’m going to fly to upstate New York to see my mom and my sister. I’m not much of a drinker or partier, you know, so I don’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s day in the way that many people do with a big bacchanal, some big party, but my family is Irish, so we have – I guess we have some moment to reflect on the meaning of what it means to be Irish.
Any chance you’ll be in another Wes Anderson movie?
I wish I could be.
I don’t know.
Those things are always delicate. Because those guys – like P.T. Anderson, and Scorsese, and Wes, people like that, they could have ANYBODY in their movies if they want. They have all the actors lined up to wanna work with them.
So if that happened, that would be great, but I’m sure he has no shortage of people that wanna work with him.
In 30 Rock, your silent expressions and facial reactions to Tina Fey’s ‘Liz Lemon’ ramblings always cracked me up. How long would your takes last when they were filming your ‘reactions’, and did you ever feel that you’d just plain exhausted your expressions library?
I think when you’re a professional actor, you never exhaust your expression library.
That’s almost impossible. That’s the difference between an amateur actor, and a professional actor, is that I have an inexhaustible store of expressions in my library.
But to answer your question with what I think you’re asking… 30 ROCK was so well written that it was pretty obvious every day what we needed to do to make that material sing, and so I’ve said this before, the writing was what really made the show so great.
What did you have for breakfast?
I had gluten-free Cheerios. I had my special granola that I had shipped in from the ski lodge in Park City, Utah. It’s one of my only indulgences. I don’t live in a penthouse, I don’t drive a Range Rover, but I have my granola flown in from the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah.
What is working with Tina Fey like?
Working with Tina was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She’s really very special. Very rare talent, very rare.
What was your fondest memory of Elaine Stritch?
Elaine is – was – a really amazingly talented woman. And everybody knows, she was this blazingly talented woman. And she was also a really crotchety, and really difficult person to deal with. And she knew that. That was her persona. She built her career around that persona. That she was really really tough to work with. She could really wear you out. And I got along with her because I gave it right back to her. She liked people who would fight back.
What is your fondest memory while working on the set of “Beetlejuice?”
Well, I remember Tim is SUCH an inventive filmmaker. And that was the beginning of Tim’s career, or it was around the beginning, so I think he had done the Pee-wee Herman comedy before that, and after that I believe he did Batman. So to be around Tim when he was first getting started was really interesting. And the cast, all of them were very lovable people – Winona was a little girl, she was 16, she was just starting out in the business. I remember we just had a really sweet time making the film, I mean the film is just ludicrous, ridiculous, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
What was it like working with Sean Connery in “The Hunt for Red October?”
Oh, when I did that film, it was one of the first films I’d ever done, especially the first lead role in a film I’d ever done, and Connery was obviously someone I grew up knowing him as a huge movie star. And so that was probably one of the first jobs I ever did, with someone who was that famous, you know? Every movie I’d done before then was with people who were my peers, people from my generation, and it was the first time I’d worked with someone who they themselves were a giant moviestar from my childhood. It was very intimidating, because I know that Connery was someone – I was going to pretty much become invisible the moment he showed up, he’s such a regal presence. But he was very nice to me, very kind and generous to me.
Of all the people you listed that you’ve talked to, which of them is the absolute funniest / made you laugh the hardest, and which are totally different in real life as opposed to what we see on tv/film?
A lot of them are funny. Letterman, and Chris Rock, and Rosie O’Donnell, and we have a new show coming out tomorrow – with Roz Chast, a cartoonist with the New Yorker magazine, she’s FANTASTIC, she draws all these crazy, neurotic New Yorkers, and she’s great. Letterman, Rosie, Kristen Wiig, Chris Rock, Seinfeld – all funny people are usually very funny.
That’s a good question.
Again, Letterman was a bit more forthcoming than we imagined he would be. He’s a guy who talks every day, but it’s more about the other person, and Letterman was very self-disclosing on our show. And we had a very meaningful conversation, it was great.
If you could put anyone in a dunk tank for 3 hours, whom would it be and how much would the tickets cost?
If I could put anyone in a dunk tank… probably Mitch McConnell.
I’m really feeling like Mitch needs to go in the dunk tank right now. For a good six months to a year.
It would be to fight the Keystone pipeline, where else?!?
I wouldn’t charge much. Because I want everyone to experience the joy of flinging Mitch McConnell into the dunk tank. That isn’t something to be reserved for the wealthy.
What does it feel like to be so good looking? Especially what did it feel like in the 90s?
Hahaha! Uh… well, I feel like I was good looking for about 6 weeks back in the late 80’s – 88, 89? It was all coming together, it was all good.
And then all downhill from there in the 90s, and the 2000’s. It was one season – like the fall of 1989. Or the fall of 1988.
But of course it’s great. It’s magical. Every door is opened for you. The answer is always yes.
But it hasn’t been that way in quite a while now. I have to work for everything now. I have to work hard. I’m not young and beautiful anymore.
Who is your dream guest for the podcast?
My dream guest… well I mean Obama would be one. I want to ask him what it’s like to be the President, and how was it not what he thought it would be, you know? What were his preconceptions of it, and how was it different, because I have a lot of suspicions about that, for all presidents, regardless their background. And you want to confine yourself to people who are alive, because if you include people who are dead – all these movie stars, John Lennon, people you wanna talk to. I would say probably Obama would be one. And the other one would be… Harper Lee, who wrote TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and she has a new book coming out. She’s completely press averse, but probably her, to talk to her.
Is Woody Allen really that neutoric? How did he managed actors and how was it working with him? Do you plan to make more movies with him?
Well, I mean Woody’s another example of what we just talked about – someone who could have anybody work with them. The main reason people want to work with him is because of the writing. He’s a very famous and successful director. He’s a very famous and successful actor. But the thing Woody’s best at is writing. He’s very good at those other things, but what he excels at is writing. If you send me a script, and I read it, and it’s original and well-done, then that’s what drive people.
Most of the films I do – the first question is “When do we start re-writing?” Like there will be an idea that’s a good idea, but it needs re-writing.
So when people like Woody come along – he’s probably the best example of someone who come along, they offer you a film, and if you’re available, you say yes.
How did “Here’s The Thing” get started? Did you have any pre-HTT history with WNYC? Any favorite WNYC shows or other public radio shows?
Well, radio is becoming more and more popular, because of podcasts.
Radio is becoming more dynamic, because you can stream. There’s a lot of great radio programming out there. I listen to On The Media, I love that. I like Bob Garfield, he’s very smart. I like RadioLab, I like those 2 guys, they’re very funny. I’m addicted to This American Life. I never speak to my daughter, or my wife, when we’re in the car now. I put my headphones on, and I listen to show after show after show of This American Life.
What’s really embarrassing is when you listen to an episode of This American Life from 18 years ago, and you meet the person whom it’s about, and you say “Oh wow! That show that you did 18 years ago, it’s very good!”
So there’s a lot of good radio out there.
And WNYC reached out to me. They called me and begged me. They said “We need something fresh and original and smart. PLEASE, please, please come and work with us.”
And finally, I caved and I did it.
If you could have dinner with 3 people, alive or dead, who would it be?
Uh… I’d say Jesus, but you’d have to have an interpreter, so that would kill a second seat at the table. Jesus would speak Aramaic, and that would wipe out one slot. So as much as I’d love to have dinner with Jesus, if he had to bring his interpreter, that would wipe out 2 seats.
Bob Dylan, I find him very unusual and very interesting, would love to talk to him.
Someone from a drug cartel, someone from Carlos Leder or Pablo Escobar, I want them to tell me all about their career, their life’s work.
So Jesus… Bob Dylan, and Pablo Escobar.
What is your workload like when recording Here’s The Thing? In terms of research, editing, etc.. is it several hours a week? What kind of equipment do you use to record?
What kind of equipment do I like to use?
I can’t be bothered with figuring out what equipment’s used! I’m too busy, talking to famous people! Even when I’m on the phone, talking to them on the show! I can’t concern myself with what equipment is used, the microphones, and things! Is that a serious question?
I’m just kidding.
I have 2 producers, one front of the house. And she’s Kathy Russo, she takes care of funding, she talks to WNYC, and she talks to all the people that I don’t wanna talk to.
And then there’s Emily Botein and she does EVERYTHING else. She’s back of the house. She slaves and slaves. She has a child, she barely gets to see her little daughter, because she’s doing so much research, and editing…Emily does all the work, and I take credit for it.
By the way, I use NEUMANN MICS! NEUMANN!
Doesn’t everyone know that?!
How do you always seem to keep your hair so perfect?
Um… that’s really something that is from the gods, you know.
It’s not something I’m responsible for.
It’s like the Grand Canyon, or Kilimanjaro, or… you know… the beaches of Florida.
You either have fantastic hair, or you don’t. It’s a gift.
What is your favorite fruit and vegetable?
That’s a very personal question!
If I tell you what kind of fruit I like, that might alienate a huge section of your audience and then they won’t like me! You have NO idea how much you’re asking me. I would rather talk about my sex life than my favorite fruit.
My favorite fruit is blueberries. I like blueberries in my soy yogurt, I like blueberries in my cereal. I’m pretty much a blue-monster.
My favorite vegetable? If it’s the summertime, I love corn. I live in Long Island, we have great native corn out there.
Otherwise, I like broccoli. I know it’s going to piss off a lot of your fans out there, but I like broccoli.
What is a project you’ve done that you don’t think got the attention or acclaim it deserved?
Well, I’d say probably 3/4 of the ones that i’ve done didn’t get the acclaim or attention they deserved, I mean, good god aren’t they all overlooked?
I did a movie once… a movie with this guy called Derek Martini, called LYME LIFE. And it was with Tim Hutton, and Jill Hennesy, and Cynthia Nixon, this weird family drama. A very cool movie. And I loved Derek Martini, like the drink, and it was a really cool, quirky, weird – Emma Roberts was one of the children in the movie, and Rory Culkin was the other one, and Kieran Culkin, and it had a great cast, and was a really great, strange little film.
I think people should go back and watch ALL of my films. They are all under appreciated, and were all ahead of their time.
If you were stuck on a desert island and have to bring three items what would they be?
One would be a book about drug cartels. That’s a book I never get tired of.
The others would be my lion costume – because you never know when you might have to do some mauling to make people laugh.
But seriously – these types of questions are not great. You’d pick 3 things to save your life.
Probably a mirror, so I could make a fire, or sign a mirror so a ship could come save me as they went by, something reflective… some music, like an iPod filled with good music, that would probably run out of a battery though, I’d have to figure that out – imagine when it ran out of battery, and you’d know that the last song you’d ever hear… you’d hope it wouldn’t be a shitty song…and the third thing would be a photograph of someone that you love. Probably a photo of me with my daughter, pretending to maul her as a lion.
A picture of me with my family.
How did you get into podcasting, and what was the biggest challenge for you in suddenly being on the other side of the interview chair? Did you get any particularly helpful tips from journalists that you’ve gotten to know over the years?
So the idea was I was going to do a radio show. It was a completely different style of show, it was going to have more comedy to it. And we were going to do a Howard Stern type bullpen of people talking about news, and social topics, and hopefully some funny material. And then that died an ugly death. That show did not survive. We had an idea for some funny stuff on that show. And then someone came to me and said “Would you like to do a straight up interview show?” Like what I’m doing now. And I guess the person who influenced me the most was Cavett, Dick Cavett, because he took his time, he wasn’t really in a rush, there wasn’t a lot of his show that was canned, he was always spontaneous. And Cavett is someone – although my show’s a radio show, and it’s very different, I don’t have a band, or audience – but Cavett’s way of talking to people, where he let it breathe, was what influenced me the most I think.
Why did jack not end up with Liz Lemon?
Well, I think… they could never end up together you know? That’s the way those shows were made. They’re smart enough to know that it would be a bad idea. So they avoid it. They like each other, and it works perfectly, so long as you keep that aspect out of it. A lot of television shows are built around that, where you have people wondering and guessing when they’re going to get together that way. And I’m not saying that always ruins everything, but it ruins it enough of the time to give you pause.
You’ve come from a big family full of actors. Can you introduce them to us from your perspective (i.e. which film do you have connected with each of them) and provide us some order so that we would know who is who?
Well, I think my brothers have all had very different careers. I guess my brother Billy is best known for BACKDRAFT, a big successful film that was a really great thing for him. My brother Stephen is best known for the movie BIO-DOME, which is an idiotic comedy but I always used to say I’d love to do my own BIO-DOME one day, because those types of movies make more money than the serious films I seem to do. My brother Daniel is mostly directing now, he acts from time to time but not as much as he used to, he’s best known from HOMICIDE on NBC, but he does mostly directing now.
Does Alec Baldwin exist in the 30 Rock universe?
Well, I think everything that they did on the show – a lot of it was making fun of us, you know? Like whatever you said, or what was said about you on the set – or in the universe of the show – was fair game for the show, you know.
Like there were things that happened to my character on the show that were based on things that happened to me.
And so they would make – I can’t think of an example – I was dating a woman once, while I was doing the show, and so they had my character date a woman who looked almost exactly like her in the show, like my girlfriend at the time- they had my character show up in a car with a woman who was a total double for my girlfriend. ANYTHING was fair game with Tina.
Why have you and Ice T not been on each other’s podcasts yet?
Well, you know, the podcast world is very prickly. I already have a podcast. So to be on someone else’s podcast, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would I want to be on someone else’s podcast when I have my own podcast? The last thing I want to do when I’m done talking to people when I have my own podcast is go out and talk on another podcast. And I want to be part of a small group of people who are successful in podcasts. So I have no intention of helping out other people’s podcasts. I want to dominate the podcast market.
Is there a film you’d love to do/see a sequel for?
Uh… wow. That’s a good idea.
I’m going to go on both ends of the spectrum here.
I want to see a sequel to FREE WILLY. Whatever happens to Willy. So on one end, a brighter FREE WILLY.
And the other is DRUGSTORE COWBOY.
Some people in the room are nodding. What happened to those characters? I wanna know.
So FREE WILLY on one end, DRUGSTORE COWBOY on the other.
I was wondering what your favorite book is?
Oh, I see! Well, when I was a child, my favorite book was THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. I loved that book. And now, any biographies. I liked the biography of John D. Rockefeller, I liked Lindbergh’s biography, any of David McCullough’s books, I liked the biography of Joseph Kennedy that just came out. I like books that tell the stories of any drug cartels – Pablo Escobar – how these guys live these lives of complete craziness, but they get it in the end like a Warner Bros movie.
And I don’t know why.
I will read ANY book about drug cartels. You name it! I’ve read ’em all!
And as we wind down here- I want to pose MYSELF a question. The question is: So what new things are you working on, Alec?
And I did the movie MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:5 with Tom Cruise that’s coming out soon… And I did this movie, CONCUSSION, with Will Smith, about the NFL concussion policy, and then, if you go on Twitter @Vessel, that’s a streaming service like YouTube, that streams short comedy content. And I have a new show with them that I’m doing called “Alec Baldwin’s Love Ride” and I get in the back of a car and give people relationship advice.
It’s going very well. We just filmed some episodes in Pittsburgh.
And then, on the podcast, we have Edie Falco coming up, we have David Blaine coming up, a lot of good shows coming up.
We’ve got the podcast, these crazy webisodes on @Vessel, these movies, I’m mixing it up!