James Lipton

James Lipton prepares for a promising Spring.

on Apr 6, 2009

It’s that most promising time of year. At last. And, given the global stresses of the past few months, not a moment too soon.

My wife and I live in a town house on the upper east side of Manhattan. Yes, we know how lucky we are. And, if you’ve read my book “Inside Inside,” you know how far I’ve come, and how many reasons I have to be grateful for this urban bounty.

I mention our house because this is the season when a miracle happens there.

To digress (but not really), one of the facts of my life is that it takes me two weeks to prepare the hundreds of blue cards with which I await each guest. That’s two weeks, seven days a week, twelve or more hours a day, without exception and with only two days off, Christmas and New Year’s, from the moment the school-year begins in September until it ends in June.

Inside the Actors Studio and my life are bounded by the school-year because, as you know if you watch the show or have read its history in “Inside Inside,” what you see on your screen at home is a classroom in the Actors Studio Drama School of Pace University, of which I was the founding dean.

The result of that timetable is a life I wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world: I prize the school, its students and our show, which takes us into 89,000,000 homes on Bravo in America and 125 countries around the world. But sometimes the schedule and its deadlines can be daunting.

Which brings me – and you, if you’ve stuck with me this far – back on the track of the miracle I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

The twelve or so hours devoted each day to preparing for my next guest are spent in my study on the second of our house’s four floors. The study is a large, wood-paneled room with a marble fireplace and very tall ceilings. And best of all, it’s quiet because, though our environment is mostly townhouses and therefore surprisingly peaceful for a city street, my study, facing the garden, is utterly, blissfully silent.

In Chapter Seventeen of “Inside Inside,” when I offer the reader several pages of the best (and unbleeped) answers to the Pivot Questionnaire with which I conclude every episode of Inside the Actors Studio, I reveal (finally) my own answers. And my response to “What is your favorite sound?” is, “The most underrated quality of contemporary life: silence.”

I suspect that that answer is prompted by the fact that I’m a writer, and for every writer, alone with his or her coy, elusive muse, distracting sounds are the enemy, and deep, velvety, enveloping silence is the friend.