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Actor Alec Baldwin Plays Not My Job

Actor Alec Baldwin speaks to the media at Talking Tough & Singing Soft at The Museum of Modern Art on June 21, 2010 in New York City.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

We love to encourage people who are just getting their start in public radio, so we're happy welcome our guest today, the host of WNYC's Here's the Thing, a new podcast that features interviews with artists, writers and thinkers. The host, Alec Baldwin, has also done a bit of acting of his own.

We've invited Baldwin to play a game called "You must be mistaking me for one of my less talented brothers." Baldwin comes from a famous family of acting brothers, but they're not the only notable brothers out there. We'll quiz Baldwin on three other bands of brothers.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we ask important people about unimportant things. So one of the things we like to do on this show, when we can, is encourage people who are getting their start in public radio. So we're happy to have joining us today, the host of a new podcast, produced by WNYC in New York. It's called "Here's the Thing."

You know, it's an interview show with various artists, writers and thinkers. The host is, apparently, an actor of some kind. Alec Baldwin, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ALEC BALDWIN: Thank you, Peter.

SAGAL: It's great to have you.

BALDWIN: Public radio changes everything, doesn't it?

SAGAL: It really does. So I have to ask you - I've followed your career for a long time; movies, TV, theater - and I have to ask, a podcast?

BALDWIN: Yeah, yeah. Well, I wanted this to end. And I thought - I'm tired, you know; I've been working a lot.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BALDWIN: And I thought, what was the quickest way to kill my career? And I thought, podcast host.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's interesting because, you know, podcast is usually how people with no hope and no future begin, you know.

BALDWIN: Yeah.

SAGAL: When they run out of other options.

BALDWIN: I'm bringing it full circle, Peter, full circle.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. That's exciting.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did you study like, public radio? I mean, of course, you're famous for the classic Schweddy Balls routine on "Saturday Night Live" some years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BALDWIN: Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: Did you study...

BALDWIN: That's going to be on my tombstone.

SAGAL: Absolutely.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did you study like, public radio persona in order to sort of make it in this competitive world of public radio?

BALDWIN: Carl Kasell is pretty much the Marlon Brando of public radio.

SAGAL: He is, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

LUKE BURBANK: He does - he lives on an island.

BALDWIN: Carl, why don't you do me a favor? Carl, I want you to yell out Stella.

CARL KASELL: Stella!

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I wanted to ask you about this because back in the '80s and '90s, you were playing leading men and villains. But now, we're seeing you - you know - in comic roles, like on "30 Rock." You're really funny. Was that there all along?

BALDWIN: Well, I think that it's really as a singer-songwriter thing for us here - which is, we have the best writers.

SAGAL: You're talking about "30 Rock," of course, the TV show.

BALDWIN: Yeah, "30 Rock." The writers are fantastic.

SAGAL: But yes, but then there are all the times you've hosted "Saturday Night Live." I'm going to argue with you because there are some moments that...

BURBANK: Don't do it, dude.

SAGAL: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Because he will kill me.

BURBANK: Have you seen "Glengarry Glen Ross"?

SAGAL: I know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But really, no, you were really skilled - you're actually very good at voices. Is that a skill you always had?

BALDWIN: Well, you know, I watched a lot of TV as a kid. And, you know, when I was younger - I'm older now, but when I was younger, let's face it, I took a lot of drugs, Peter.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And that helped?

BALDWIN: I took so many drugs. And it does help; it opens up your mind quite a bit. It frees you up creatively. I'll send you some stuff, don't worry.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Thank you. Thank you so much. We read that you were the kind of actor - when you're doing big features, that did all the research for the role. Like, when you were in "The Hunt for Red October," you researched how to drive a sub.

When you took the role of Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock," did you decide to research it by hanging out with powerful Republicans and drinking orange scotch?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Yeah. No, there was - there's a little bit of that. But the character, really, in terms of his behavior, is modeled largely on Lorne Michaels. When - I have a line in the early seasons, where I say - she says, why are you wearing a tuxedo? And I say, It's after 6. What am I, a farmer?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: That line really embodies the whole thing. That's Lorne. Lorne is one of those guys that has a tux in his glove compartment, you know. He's....

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: He's out every night with the most famous swells in New York.

BURBANK: I noticed on last week's episode that apropos of nothing, there was just a photo on your desk, behind you, that was you and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes, very good. I'm so glad you noticed that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: That's one of the most fun things - is every season, we pick the most outrageously inappropriate people for me to be friends with.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: We have Strauss-Kahn. We have me with - my other favorite is Galliano. We have me with the designer Galliano.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Do you call them up and go, hey, we have a cameo for you on "30 Rock" - because Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I'm sure he's never turned down an invitation to a party, right? He'd come over.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I wanted to ask you - we haven't mentioned this so far but you are, of course, from a famous acting family. Do all your brothers actors or just...

BALDWIN: Well, I'll be the judge of that.

SAGAL: I understand.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You act. Some of the others profess to have acted at some point - in the future; we're not quite sure. Was there any - only because I have brothers - was there any sense of competition in this? Oh, he's going to be an actor; I'll go be an actor, damn it.

BALDWIN: Well, I think my brothers were home. And in the early days, when I was working in television, I did a soap opera in New York. And then I went to L.A. and did serious TV. My brothers were home, you know, drinking a beer, watching me on TV. And they finally just looked at each other and said, if Schmucko can do this, we can do this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? I mean, I imagine that, you know, you have - what, four or five famous actors in one room. You must drop so many names, the floor gives way - would be my expectation.

BALDWIN: Well, my brothers are all - they're from a different generation than I was from. When I first came into the business in the late '70s, I came to New York to study acting. There was still that very strong emphasis on having roots in the theater.

And whenever I've done a play in New York over the last 25 years, my brothers would come and see me. And they would have a very - the theater, to them, is very quaint. They were like, well that was a nice show; good for you.

SAGAL: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: Are you trying to besmirch...

BALDWIN: I love when you do those things; what do you call them? Plays.

SAGAL: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: What are you trying to say about "Biodome 2"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I had a movie out the same time as - my brother had the movie "Biodome" come out at the same time I had a movie come out. And "Biodome" made more money.

SAGAL: Really?

BALDWIN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, what was your movie?

BALDWIN: "Ghosts of Mississippi" with Rob Reiner.

SAGAL: Oh.

BALDWIN: The civil rights movie, the Medgar Evers murder trial movie. Yeah, they made more money than us. So, you know, who knows, right?

SAGAL: You know, it's funny, because I actually had a choice to bring my date to either "Biodome" or the Medgar Evers movie.

BALDWIN: Yeah.

SAGAL: And I went for the Medgar Evers movie...

BALDWIN: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...because I'm a public radio guy.

BALDWIN: The weekend after that, I took your girlfriend to the "Biodome" movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well, Alec Baldwin, we are delighted to talk to you. And we've asked you here to play a game that this time, we're calling...

KASELL: "You Must Be Mistaking Me For One Of My Less-Talented Brothers."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You, as we have said, came from a family of famous brothers. But the Baldwins are not the only notable band of brothers out there. We're going to ask you about three other sets of brothers. Answer these questions correctly - at least two of them - you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home voicemail. Carl, who is Alec Baldwin playing for?

KASELL: Alec is playing for Barbara Taylor of Marshfield, Massachusetts.

SAGAL: All right, ready to do this?

BALDWIN: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: Here we go. Now, many people are unaware of this, despite the fact we once discussed it on our show. But the rival Puma and Adidas athletic shoe companies were founded by brothers who hated each other. In fact, from 1947 until their deaths in the '70s, Rudolph and Adi Dassler refused to speak to each other.

What was the reason for this split? Was it A, they had a fight about who got to use the family bomb shelter during a raid in World War II; B, Adi Dassler wanted three stripes on their shoes - Rudolph wanted four; or C, Rudolph Dassler disagreed with Adi Dassler's dream of making a thigh-high sprinter's shoe?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: B, the three stripes versus the four.

SAGAL: So he said three stripes. No. Tri. Vier. Tri. Vier. And they just yelled at each other and walked away, and never spoke to each other?

BALDWIN: I'm going with that.

SAGAL: No, it was actually the bomb shelter.

BALDWIN: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This is the story...

BALDWIN: Oh, my God.

SAGAL: So Rudolph and his family was in the shelter, and Adi and his family climbed into the shelter. And Rudolph said, quote: The dirty bastards are back again. And Adi got insulted. Rudolph insisted he meant the allied bombers. But Adi was not buying it. And they ceased to speak. That is a true story.

BALDWIN: I'm going to tell that at every party for the next six months.

SAGAL: There you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You have two more chances. Here we go. Some brothers work, shall we say, in different fields than their more famous siblings, such as which of these - A, John Wayne's brother Remy Wayne, who was a florist in Des Moines; B, Jerry Falwell's brother David, who was a Wiccan priest; or C, Al Capone's brother James, who was a federal prohibition agent?

BALDWIN: Oh, mercy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I'm going to go with Capone, with C.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was, in fact, Al Capone's brother James.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BALDWIN: All right.

SAGAL: He was a federal agent.

BALDWIN: Oh, I feel so much better now.

SAGAL: Right, this is great.

BALDWIN: I'm feeling loose now.

SAGAL: All right, feel loose - you're relaxed; you're ready. You're ready to play. Here we go, last question. You know about the Marx Brothers. You may know about Zeppo Marx. He was the fourth brother, who played straight man to the other three until he quit.

Well, he went on to be a businessman and inventor. Among his inventions were which of these - A, a clamp that was used, among other things, to hold up the first atomic bomb before it was dropped out of the plane; B, the valve used in the modern rubber whoopee cushion; or C, a mail-order shoe company called Zeppos?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Oh. Damn you, Peter Sagal. Damn ye.

SAGAL: Yes, I'm feeling quite damned.

BALDWIN: I'm going to say A.

SAGAL: You're going to go A, the clamp used to hold up the first atomic bomb?

BALDWIN: Yes.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right; that's what it was.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It's called...

BALDWIN: This is the greatest moment of my life.

SAGAL: It's called a Marman clamp - not a Merman clamp; a Marman clamp. And it was used, among other things, for the atomic bomb in the Enola Gay.

BALDWIN: The Merman clamp was used for brassieres.

SAGAL: Exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And to hold down Ernest Borgnine for about a month, but that's another story.

BALDWIN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did Alec Baldwin do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, congratulations, Alec. You had two correct answers, so you win for Barbara Taylor.

BALDWIN: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I just want to say one thing before we let you go - is that I'm actually kind of annoyed that you got into radio because we - this was for us, the unattractive people.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And now, like you're screwing up the curve for us. We looked up your IMDB profile and your bio starts with the phrase raven-haired and suavely handsome Alec Baldwin blah, blah, blah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You're the only person in radio who's ever been called suavely handsome.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Well, thank you so much for having me. This is fun.

SAGAL: Alec Baldwin, ladies and gentlemen. He is...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...the host of the brand-new podcast; it's called "Here's The Thing." It's from NYC. Find it. Alec Baldwin, thank you so much.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Peter.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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