James Lipton’s Actor Studio Interviews: If only I could be there!

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Tell the truth!

How many of you have not secretly wanted to be on The Actor’s Studio, answering those famous questions James Lipton presents, with fanfare, a certain level of humility, and an appropriate attribution to the source?

• What is your favorite word?
• What is your least favorite word?
• What turns you on?
• What turns you off?
• What sound or noise do you love?
• What sound or noise do you hate?
• What is your favorite curse word?
• What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
• What profession would you not like to do?
• If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

How many times I’ve sat there with my wife, Janet, listening to the questions, recognizing fully that the interviewees know what they are going to be asked and yet are often times sluggish in answering the questions as if the questions were totally novel and they had never thought about them at all before that very moment.

It’s obviously an impressive sight in its own right as pure “James Dean in the moment acting”  and, at the same time, it still represents a window into their souls as to what they find worthwhile in life.

Well, my chances of ever being interviewed by James Lipton start at a strong zero and degrade swiftly thereafter.

Yet, on the other hand, who could I possibly imagine would ever want to ask me the questions or even bother to listen to the answers than my own true Life in Business.

So, here goes. I am envisioning myself in front of a stage of hungry students. They are studying what makes a true entrepreneur and they are wondering how much of it represents all of the classic clichés about entrepreneurs and how much of it represents a soulful understanding of what makes an entrepreneur human.

You can hear the proverbial pin drop.  As they listen,  James Lipton begins his very famous intro, setting up the questions…and then they begin.

[Lipton]:   “What is your favorite word?”

[LJP]:  “Reciprocity.”

[Lipton]:   “What is your least favorite word?”

[LJP]:  “Cruelty.”

[Lipton]:   “What turns you on?”

[LJP]:  “Sexy intelligence.”

[Lipton]:   “What turns you off?”

[LJP]:  “Self centeredness”

[Lipton]:   “What sound or noise do you love?”

[LJP]:  “Children laughing and playing on a playground.”

[Lipton]:   “What sound or noise do you hate?”

[LJP]:  “The sound of human beings bickering…especially those who should know better!”

[Lipton]:   “What is your favorite curse word?”

[LJP]:  “S-h-i-t.”

[Lipton]:   “What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?”

[LJP]:  “I’d want to be a singer or a great pianist.”

[Lipton]:   “What profession would you not like to do?”

[LJP]:  “Undertaker.”

[Lipton]:   “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”

[LJP]:  “Nice job, Larry.”

And, ordinarily, that pretty much does it.  The applause goes up as the lights go down…and the shot fades to a commercial.  When they return, of course, the students begin their Q & A.

But, in my particular case, and for whatever reason, James Lipton had another question that took me by complete surprise…even moreso because it is supposed to be my own personal rhapsody, after all, and it’s not supposed to be controlled by someone or something else.

After looking at me sternly, the conversation continued.

[Lipton]:  “Larry, I usually end with those same questions.  But I have one more question which, in your particular case, seems appropriate.  Can I ask you for an honest unrehearsed answer now in front of these students and a national audience of interested souls?

[LJP]:  Internally trembling at this point, I said, “…of course…!”

[Lipton]:  ”Excellent.  So here it goes.  When you reach those Pearly Gates and your life is now behind you, what, in your gravest of fears, are you most afraid Peter will ask you?”

Good God.  The question shocked me.  It shook me.  And it took my breath away.  Not only did the question disrobe who I am, but it also disrobed where I had been.  Shocked, with shallow breath, but with the need to be honest, I  responded.

[LJP/for Peter]:  “Good job, Larry.  Truly.  But do you think if you had been a little bit more patient and deliberate, you could have done even better?”

Ouch.  That…from Peter…when it’s all over anyway, and I have no chance to make amends?

Is that Heaven? . . . Purgatory? . . . or Hell? . . .

As the lighting fades, the camera politely retracts from an emerging reflection of my eyes tearing up.

Yet, I’m left with the relief of knowing that, with God’s will, I do have the time to make amends and I intend to be patient and deliberate enough to do just that this time around.