What Is It Really Like?

Sting's Greatest Hits!

The Magical 250th Episode

A Mad Mad Mad 'Mad Men'

Just Get Me There

Making History

The Eighteenth Season

'Inside' the Oscars

Cheers and Tears

A Surprising Discovery

Some Words About Some Music

Unforseen Pleasures

A Bloomin' Miracle

Some Midwinter Fireworks

The Joys Of Kitsch

A Parade Of Guests

How It All Started

Scarlet Fever

The Horny Manatee

The Strike Is Over!

I Believe I Can Fly

My First Night In Paris

Christmas Past

What About Bob?

My First Blog. My First Confession.

What Is It Really Like?

Mr. Lipton turns to Andre Gide and Mike Nichols for some inspiriation.

This is my seventeenth blog. Hard to believe. And even harder to believe is the heartwarming array of responses from you.

As I write this, it’s a Sunday evening, and I’m alone in my study. It’s utterly silent – which is my favorite “sound,” as those of you know who have heard my responses to the Pivot Questionnaire. You’re somewhere out there, your names and thoughts unknown to me until you elect to make them known by responding to whatever will pop up on this screen in the next few minutes.

At this moment, I have no clearer notion of what it will be than you do. You’re busy with your own lives, blissfully unaware that somewhere in Manhattan, I’m reaching out to you. And I’m facing a nearly blank screen with a nearly blank mind, which for a writer is a pleasanter state than you may think – because anything is possible.

In his novel “The Counterfeiters,” André Gide, created a character named Uncle Edouard, a writer who kept a diary. In short order we discover that Edouard is in fact Gide, performing a remarkable triple task: creating the novel, playing a character in it, and, through the diary, describing the process of doing both, thus giving us, in addition to a masterful work of art, one of the greatest essays ever written on the literary craft.

I recall, from some distance (it’s been years since I read the book), an observation by Gide which has influenced me profoundly, and which I paraphrase here (without Gide’s inimitable gifts). What Gide is telling us is that he is never happier than when he becomes less writer than reader, when the characters, enchained in their own dialectic, seize the reins from him and gallop off in entirely unexpected directions, saying and doing things that amuse him, touch him, surprise him, even dismay him – with Gide running as fast as he can to keep up and record these utterly unexpected words and occurrences.

I doubt that there’s a writer in the world, neophyte or master, who wouldn’t say amen to that. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the writer’s probably on the right track.

So…back to my blank page – which isn’t blank anymore! It happened, just as Uncle Edouard – and Gide – said it would. Gide, bless his soul, wrestled the keyboard out of my hands and gave me the subject of this blog: the creative act, barely significant in my case and monumentally important in Gide’s. But the process is the same.

Here, in my book “Inside Inside,” is the great director Mike Nichols on our Inside the Actors Studio stage, addressing the matter:

“Look, there’s only one question. ‘What is this really like?’ Never mind the conventions and the decisions we’ve all made together—and never mind, in fact, the script. What is it really like when this happens, when somebody seduces someone, when somebody kills someone, when somebody loses someone? What is it really like?”

So endeth the lesson. Thank you, Mike, thank you, Gide. My screen – and my grateful heart – are overflowing.

Now back to work preparing for my next guest, Hilary Swank – who shows us what it’s really like each time she steps in front of a camera.

The Magical 250th Episode

James lets you know how you the viewer can shape the show's record-shattering episode.

The amazing journey of Inside the Actors Studio continues at an accelerating pace.


We are entering our Nineteenth Season, shattering our own record for cable TV longevity.

We have received out fifteenth Emmy nomination, another record.

We are celebrating these milestones with yet one more record: our 250th Episode.

And just to add another layer of icing to the cake, this will be an Inside the Actors Studio episode unlike any of the preceding 249.

Why? Because this time, you, our viewers in 94,000,000 homes across America on Bravo, and in 125 countries around the world, are going to cast it.

Over the years since 1994, we've had thousands of viewer responses to the show, on the internet, in the media and even -- and often -- on the street and in every conceivable public space, where I'm approached by kind strangers with, "My favorite show was. . ." "My favorite moment was. . ." "My favorite guest was. . ."

So, when my Bravo colleagues and I gathered around a table to ask ourselves, "How do we celebrate the 250th?" we realized the answer was staring us in the face: "Let's let those good people who have shared this amazing journey with us take over and pick the best moments, episodes, and guests of the past eighteen years, and we'll reprise them on the 250th, with full on-air credit to the viewer whose proposal we've selected."

Victor Hugo said, "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come" and clearly this is an idea whose time has come.

And the social networks of cyberspace, another idea whose time has come since we began the series, enable us to reach out to. . .you out there, wherever you are and whatever you think.

So we invite you to share your all-time favorite moment, guest or episode, and the reason for your choice, by commenting here at, on Bravo’s Facebook page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #IAS250. If we choose your response, it will be read on the show, as the introduction of the moment, guest or episode you’ve proposed, signed and certified by you.

It’s as simple as that: you, our viewers are the casting directors of this historic 250th episode -- and your wishes will be our commands.

We await your responses and decisions. Then you and your friends and family can gather before the electronic hearth later this fall to watch an unprecedented cavalcade of stars, chosen -- and presented -- by YOU and your fellow viewers.

In the meantime, happy reminiscing. We’re sure this will be our best show ever because it’s now in your capable hands.