The Eighteenth Season

Sting's Greatest Hits!

The Magical 250th Episode

A Mad Mad Mad 'Mad Men'

Just Get Me There

Making History

'Inside' the Oscars

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.

The Eighteenth Season

James gives you a peek into the show's next season, discusses Bradley Cooper's sexy pedigree, and answers a few questions.

A splendid New Year to you all -- healthy and exciting and, if possible for every one of us, prosperous.

2012 marks one more significant milestone, not just for us at Inside the Actors Studio, but for television: we're entering our eighteenth season, which places us near the top of the list of the longest running series in television history. That is, to me, nothing short of miraculous when you consider that we began as a master-class in a Master's Degree program, the Actors Studio Drama School. . .and we are still a master's class in the Actors Studio Drama School, happily housed in New York's Pace University.

It's no secret that television has been famously wary of shows set in academia -- but in our case, the Bravo Network, and our viewers in 94 million homes in America and 125 countries around the world, have generously defied the taboo -- and the odds -- so, here we are, happily celebrating our eighteenth year by welcoming George Clooney to our stage for the first time, with more exciting guests to come as the season rolls on.

You'll be able to see the Clooney episode at 8 pm, January 31 on Bravo, and I urge you to join us for an in-depth conversation with a star of the first magnitude and an actor of great scope and skill, as both The Ides of March, which he wrote and directed and in which he stars, and The Descendants, in which he gives what some critics have called his greatest performance, head full-speed for the award season.

As always, I welcome these blogs as an opportunity to respond to some of you who have been kind enough to comment in the space provided by Bravo with my blog.

To Hobbits: Your response to the Bradley Cooper episode mirrors my own and that of our students, which was, I think evident when you watched it. You weren't alone, Hobbits. Few of the more than 250 episodes of Inside, with its roster of stars, have equaled the explosive public response to Coop's appearance -- on the very stage before which he sat mesmerized when he was a student in our school.

He is our first, and surely not our last, student to vault into the stratosphere of our profession, but he is the first to be declared The Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Lest anyone reading this misunderstand, our school doesn't offer a course in "Sexiness," but, as his fellow students will attest, that's something that arrived with him when he crossed our threshold, and nothing we taught him in any way diminished it.

Mainly he's a hugely gifted, and we maintain superbly trained, actor who proves the common wisdom that when you combine natural gifts and strong technique, what comes out is. . .well, Bradley Cooper.

To Phyllis Apple: Needless to say, I'm glad you enjoyed my memoir Inside Inside. In answer to your question, the fact is, you can hear quite a number of the songs I've written in the cast album of my musical, Sherry!, starring Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Tommy Tune, and Mike Myers, which we recorded a few years ago after the score, which had been lost for more than three decades, turned up in the Library of Congress.

As for my nightclub act, I'm afraid you'd need a time-transporter to take you back to the heyday of the nightclub Bon Soir where, once upon a time, Barbra Streisand sang for the ages, and I sang briefly, and memorably only, I'm afraid, to me.

But many thanks for asking.

To Tim B.: Whom would I like to have interviewed if I could avail myself of the time-transporter mentioned above? Well, Charlie Chaplin, to begin with; and reaching way back, a couple of actors and playwrights named Shakespeare and Moliere; and reaching way way back, a Greek guy named Euripedes, and, for a few laughs, a fellow named Aristophanes. Why not dream big?

Until the next time, please continue responding to my blog. I learn a lot from your correspondence.

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.