Book Tells Of Life As A Perennial Co-Star, Almost Famous

NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Judy Greer about the pitfalls of semi-celebrity, as depicted in her new memoir, I Don't Know What You Know Me From.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Judy Greer's name might be unfamiliar but her face, you'd probably recognize. Over the course of her 20-year career, she's been in 40 movies and dozens of TV shows. Maybe you know her as Katherine Heigl's best friend in "27 Dresses," George Bluth's assistant in "Arrested Development," or the voice of Cheryl Tunt in the animated series "Archer."

Then again, maybe you don't. In her new memoir, "I Don't Know What You Know Me From," Greer gives us a glimpse into what life is like when you are a perennial co-star who's kind of famous. She starts by telling us about her first time at the Oscars. It was 2012. She was there as a cast member of "The Descendants." And Greer says the evening got off to a bit of a rocky start.

JUDY GREER: I got taken up by the publicist to the bar, where I was told to wait for the rest of my cast. So I'm sitting at the bar, and I'm sitting and sitting. And I don't know anyone there. And I'm sitting there for so long 'cause we got there really early.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

GREER: And I'm drinking champagne, and I'm waiting to see anyone who looks familiar to me. And I was starting to feel really bad, and then I ran into a girlfriend of mine, Arianne Phillips, who was nominated that night for costume design. And she comes up with her parents, and she's like, Judy, don't you just love the seat-filler bar? Isn't it so great up here? And I was like, the what bar? She's like, the seat-filler bar. This is where all the seat-fillers hang out and have drinks before the show.

MARTIN: Like normal people...

GREER: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...who are invited to the Oscars to just fill the seats.

GREER: Yeah, while celebrities go to the bathroom.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

GREER: I was like, there's another bar? And she says, yeah, downstairs. That's the main bar. That's where everyone is. That's where all the celebrities are. That's where people go.

MARTIN: (Laughter) You're a celebrity. You're a star. You get recognized all the time, but it's this odd place you write about - of not being the megastar, but famous enough that people know that they know you from somewhere.

GREER: Yes.

MARTIN: And that becomes this very awkward conversation. I'd love if you could read a little bit from the book, this chapter that kind of illustrates this.

GREER: Sure. (Reading) there is a funny thing about being slightly recognizable but not immediately able to place. It happens to me every day of my life, if I leave the house. Someone wants to know how they know me. I can go about my business, run errands, get drinks at a bar, floss my teeth in a public restroom, read a book in a park, walk my dog in my jammies; and maybe I have to answer one of these questions, but I still have my privacy. Every once in a while, a weird thing happens, though, that is uncomfortable for everyone involved. It's when neither the fan nor I can figure out what they know me from.

MARTIN: So what happens then? You do something you call fan profiling. What are those conversations like?

GREER: Well, the first thing I do is I check out this fan. And I sort of look at their age, their sex, if they have an accent - where they're from. I feel like in the Midwest a lot of times, it's "Two and a Half Men." Usually, I try to name a few things I think that this person would like, that they have watched.

MARTIN: So you engage. You try to help them.

GREER: I do try to help because I'm Midwestern myself.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

GREER: And I'm just - I get to be, sometimes, maybe too nice. But I'm like, OK, well, what about "The Wedding Planner"? - let's say. And then the person will be like, no. Sometimes I will ask immediately, like, do you tend to watch television or movies more often? And I love when people are like, I don't watch anything. I'm like, OK, well, then you can't know me if you've never watched anything.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

GREER: It's nice when I can just, like, name a thing and people are like, yes. Thank you. Awesome. You were great. Thanks. Bye. But that doesn't often happen.

MARTIN: Does this ever happen when you're in a bad mood, and you don't want to play the game?

GREER: Well, I said to a barista at Starbucks recently - there was, like - it was the morning run, the coffee run. So like, the whole place was filled with people in line. And she was like, just tell me a couple things; like, just name a couple things. And I'm like, I don't think all these people behind me really want me to tell you what I'm in right now. She's like, OK, whatever.

MARTIN: (Laughter)

GREER: But I was shocked at her not being more stressed out about the line behind me. Like, she was like, I don't care.

MARTIN: You wrote in the book about playing the best friend, the perennial best friend...

GREER: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...to the star of the movie. If someone tomorrow comes to you with another kind of classic trope like the best friend role, do you take it?

GREER: Yeah. I would. I mean, really would always hope to play Sandra Bullock's best friend in a movie. So, you know, I did three Jennifers. And then I was working my way through the Kates and Katherines. And so I was like, Aniston and Garner and Lopez. And then I did Heigl. And I was like, OK, so now I need to - like, I need to be Kate Hudson's best friend and Kate Blanchett's best friend and Kate Winslet's best friend. But I feel like the prize would be Sandra Bullock's best friend.

MARTIN: Judy Greer. Her memoir is called "I Don't Know What You Know Me From. She joined us from our studios at NPR West. Judy, thanks so much for talking with us.

GREER: This was awesome. Thank you.

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