'Inside' the Oscars

Sting's Greatest Hits!

The Magical 250th Episode

A Mad Mad Mad 'Mad Men'

Just Get Me There

Making History

The Eighteenth Season

Cheers and Tears

A Surprising Discovery

Some Words About Some Music

What Is It Really Like?

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.

'Inside' the Oscars

James Lipton discusses the Oscars, and Bradley Cooper's emotional return to the Actors Studio.

Did you watch the Oscars? Inside the Actors Studio was "there," as it is every year. This time five of the nominees, and two of the winners, were Inside the Actors Studio alumni. During the weeks when the Academy voters were marking their ballots, we shot and aired James Franco and Colin Firth, and previously we had shot and aired Natalie Portman, Jeff Bridges, and Mark Ruffalo.

All of them were nominated, James co-hosted the Oscars, and, as you know, Colin and Natalie took home the Best Actor honors. We take a certain amount of pride in this. And the common wisdom in Hollywood is that we're entitled to some of the credit. Some movie studios and PR firms have expressed the view that our show is the most reliable path to the Oscar because of the number of Academy voters who watch it.

Maybe I'm exaggerating our importance, but the fact is that every November the calls and emails start coming in to our office: "Can we get Ms. X or Mr. Y on Inside the Actors Studio during the Academy voting period?" We do everything we can to accommodate them, and they usually win. One year, when the names were announced, it turned out that we had aired all four acting winners, Leading and Supporting, so maybe there's a connection. I hope you'll forgive me for thinking there is.

Most of all, I hope you enjoyed these remarkable artists on our show. And I hope that you'll take the time to watch Bradley Cooper on March 14. I wrote about the "Cooper experience" in my last blog. If you read it, you know that he's a graduate of the Actors Studio Drama School which is the setting, and the heart, of our series. And he is the first graduate to come to our stage as a bona fide star.

Once upon a time, ten years ago, Bradley was one of those master's degree candidates out there in our audience questioning the guest in the classroom session that concludes each show. I hope I'm not giving away too much of the upcoming episode when I tell you that you'll see a clip of Bradley posing questions to some of the guests who appeared when he was in the student audience. One of them is Robert De Niro, who responds to Bradley with, "Good question."

And now Bradley's episode concludes with clips from his new film, Limitless in which he co-stars with. . .Robert De Niro.

So, it seems that our school can be as rewarding to our students as our show is to our guests.

A word to those of you who take the time and trouble to respond to this blog. I read (gratefully) every one of your communications. I wish I could respond to each of you, but time doesn't allow it. Here, however, are a few responses.

To singleindixie: My wife agrees with you. The last thing she says to me as I leave for the taping is, "Smile!" The fact is that all my life people have been asking me, "What's wrong?" when I'm perfectly content, which has led me to the conclusion that my face in repose is as gloomy as Will Ferrell sees and portrays it. I know it does no good to insist that I'm happy, no matter how somber I look. I should just smile more. So, next time you see me smile on the show, singleindixie, you can take credit for it.

To DJW: The Inside the Actors Studio you see on Bravo is pretty much uncensored. The network's good about that -– within limits. You can find the unbleeped, uncensored answers to my "What's your favorite curse word?" question, in my memoir Inside Inside. It's pretty steamy, especially when the women cut loose.

To Mejc from Slovenia: How do you "know for a fact" that the substance Ricky Gervais was referring to was snuff? Is snuff commonplace in Slovenia? I've never encountered any here, and wouldn't know whether to light it, inhale it or chew it. What Ricky was referring to was a blackcurrant pastille for the throat. Grether's makes them in England, in the little "golden shiny box" you admired, so you can probably get them in Slovenia.

To Melanie A. Stinson: I'm glad you're enjoying Inside Inside, and especially glad that we shared the Benjamin Harvarvy ballet experience. I agree with you that he was a remarkable teacher. You mention a connection to Detroit and a "divine mystery." Right on! Write on.

Until the next blog…

A Mad Mad Mad 'Mad Men'

James Lipton discusses the intense preparation he (gladly) underwent to interview the cast of 'Mad Men.'

The title of this blogs tells the story. On May 14th you'll see the largest cast ever assembled on our stage. Eight -- count 'em, eight -– members of the Mad Men cast arrayed in front of me and our students and you the viewers.

If you've been watching our show you know we've interviewed casts before -- The Simpsons, Law and Order, Will and Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family, Family Guy, Glee -- but this one breaks the population record: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Kiernan Shipka and the show's co-creator Matt Weiner, lined up and ready to go.

And bear in mind that when I have groups like this on stage, I prepare for each member of the group as if he or she were my only guest. Since it normally takes between seven and 14 days to prepare for a single guest, this show took. . .well, you can do the math. And you know what? I loved every minute of it. I normally watch everything a guest has put on film. In the cases of television series, I watch selected episodes from each season. In the case of Mad Men, I watched every frame of every episode, from their premiere to the night they walked on our stage -- 54 episodes. Not because I was obliged to do so, but quite simply because I was hooked.

In a little more than three years, Mad Men has won three Best Drama Emmys and three Best Drama Golden Globes, and for good reason. It's that good. The writing, the acting, the direction -- every element of the series is fresh, different, and constantly surprising.

Over the years, I've said on Inside the Actors Studio that nothing impresses me more than the ability of an actor -- or a dramatic work -- to stay ahead of the audience. What lay at the heart of Marlon Brando's great gift was the ingenuity and brilliance of his choices. You could never outguess him, never anticipate him. You simply surrendered to the utter unpredictability -– and ultimate inevitability -- of his choices.

For me, the collective creators of Mad Men possess that ability to first startle, then persuade us, drawing us deeper and deeper into the lives of the series' characters. And that's what Matt Weiner and his cast brought to our stage, laying bare their characters' -- and at moments -- their own souls for our students -- and you.

If you watch the episode you'll learn how alike Jon Hamm's and Don Draper's stories are. Look at the faces of his co-stars as he reveals the source of Don. Time and again the groups who've come to us have expressed their astonishment at how much they’re learned about each other on our stage, secrets they hadn't learned in years of intimate daily contact. This night was no exception.

There were lighter moments, too, as when Vincent Kartheiser revealed the similarities between himself and his character, Pete Campbell. Both, he lamented, "are creepy." Jared Harris described his stepfather Rex Harrison with a dry and revealing "He wasn't that fond of children." And Matt Weiner revealed -- to us and Jon Hamm -- that the reason Jon had to audition seven times for the role of Don was that someone at the network kept complaining he wasn't "sexy enough."

Twelve-year-old Kiernan Shipka revealed that she isn't allowed to watch any of the show's scenes but her own, for obvious reasons -- and for the same reason, she was confined to her dressing room with her mother as the cast and I discussed the events and storylines that would have made her presence on stage inappropriate. Since the cast, in their fervor, spent a generous six hours with our students, it was midnight before Kiernan was allowed to come to the stage to be interviewed -- whereupon she, in the words of Entertainment Weekly, stole the show -- by responding to my frequently expressed invitation to dance for our students with a balletic display that brought the house down.

There was more -- much more -- but you'll have to tune in on May 14th to see and hear it. Not exactly a hardship.