Not My Job: 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner Gets Quizzed On Glad Men
BILL KURTIS: Among the many tragedies of 2015 was the end of the TV series "Mad Men." A tale of a time when men were men and everybody was drunk. Just as the last season began, we talked to the man who created the show, Matt Weiner. We began by asking him about the travel aspect of the show.
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Some of the appeal of the show when it first began, see - I remember everybody talking about - look at these crazy people. They're pregnant and smoking and their kids are playing with drycleaner bags and they don't know anything. It's just - I mean, there was a certain kind of, like, anthropological curiosity to it.
BRIAN BABYLON: But it was the good-old days a little bit though, wasn't it?
MATT WEINER: Oh, I don't know if it's the good-old days, but, you know, there is a whole generation of people brought up in that environment that did OK.
SAGAL: Yeah. You and I are exactly the same age...
SAGAL: ...And did your parents ever say to you what my parents have often said to me? Well, we drove you around all the time without a car seat and you're fine. I don't understand what the big deal is?
WEINER: Yeah. I mean - although there are moments of honesty. You know, my father's a physician and my mother said one day, you know, I smoked all through my pregnancy with you. We didn't know it was bad. And my father said, that's not true.
BABYLON: I think I know why people liked the people in "Mad Men," because everyone is dressed so nicely. Did you guys like get in the DeLorean and go back in time and actually get those clothes or - how do you guys have them looking so sharp?
WEINER: Some of them are, we went back in time and got them, yes. But some of them, no, we - we, you know, we rented some of them and some of them are made. And I have this incredible costume designer, Janie Bryant who found the right things. But I will say not everybody is dressed great. You know, Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete, has allowed me to gradually make his hairline receding, to bring in a comb over, to make him look fatter and cruddier every single season. And he's a young, handsome, like movie star-looking guy. But they like it because they feel like it's part of the character. This whole thing runs on conflict, and super-confident people with no problems and great marriages and great parenting are not good entertainment.
SAGAL: And did anybody ever say to you, how are we supposed to care about these people when they're cheating and lying and doing all these manipulative things?
WEINER: No, no because I was lucky enough that in between when I wrote the pilot and when AMC was looking for a project, there was something called "The Sopranos" on.
SAGAL: Heard of it.
WEINER: And that was a multi-billion dollar industry that had resonated in the culture beyond many - higher than expectations for anybody for their art form.
SAGAL: Right. Just to give you credit where credit is due...
SAGAL: ...You ended up, I think I think in the last four seasons of "The Sopranos," one of the producers, writers and...
WEINER: I ended up as a writer on it - yes. And the "Mad Men" script got me my job.
SAGAL: Well, I have to ask - 'cause, I mean, let's face it - compared to the people in "Mad Men," the Sopranos were, like, a happy-go-lucky crew of small businessman, you know? They were awesome.
WEINER: (Laughter). It was a lot worse when you get fired on "The Sopranos" though 'cause you're in a trunk.
SAGAL: That's true. Oh, I wanted to ask you about that because, of course, on "The Sopranos," the stories were that the actors were terrified that they'd go in, you know, as they're doing a new episode, and that they'd find out that they were getting killed that week. It happened a lot on "The Sopranos."
WEINER: Yeah. There was some anxiety about that. And actually, we had a law enforcement consultant from the District Attorney's - the U.S. Attorney's Office. And he said at one point, his advice to us was, you know, after living - working on organized crime all this time, his advice was never get in the trunk.
SAGAL: You mean if someone says, please, Mr. Weiner, I'd like you to ride in the trunk please.
WEINER: If they say they're going to let you out or whatever, you're never going to get out of the trunk. Don't get in the trunk.
WEINER: And then you are there as a writer telling an actor to get in the trunk. And they know this is basically their last scene on the show. And real life and career sort of intersect with each other.
SAGAL: How do you do it? How do you go up to a person, who, you as the writer, you have absolute control over the fate of their character and a tremendous amount of influence in their career, and you have to let them know they're going to bite it?
WEINER: Honestly, it's a little bit like "The Sopranos." We'd take them out - I'd bring them to my office and pour them a drink and say I have some good news and some bad news.
BABYLON: I would just give them the script and say here you go, read this, love you.
SAGAL: Matt, before we move on to the game, do you have any idea what you're going to do next?
WEINER: No. I'm working on a couple of things. I'm enjoying the experience of not working 24 hours a day on the show while the show's on the air. This is new for me.
WEINER: I'm reading and watching a lot of movies and, like, going on walks and enjoying the sunshine. And I'm a huge pain in the butt to my family.
SAGAL: I imagine now you're around all the time. Do you feel pressure to do some sort of...
WEINER: My major goal is to take my bathrobe off before the kids get home from school.
SAGAL: It's a lifestyle. Well, Matt Weiner, we are delighted to talk to you. And we have invited you here today to play a game we're calling...
KURTIS: Glad Men.
SAGAL: All right. So you know "Mad Men," the advertising executives with all their problems, what do you know about glad men? The people who try to help Americans cheer up, make friends, be happy? We're going to ask you three questions about these glad men. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Matt Weiner being for?
KURTIS: Sarah Rardin of Brainerd, Minn.
SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this, Matt?
WEINER: I think so.
SAGAL: All right. If you want to, you can have a scotch and stare off into the distance for a while.
WEINER: I'm totally prepared to do that.
SAGAL: All right, Dale Carnegie, I'm sure you know, he became famous for his books like "How To Win Friends And Influence People." But before he got into the self-help business, he was a successful businessman. In fact, in business, he had what distinction? A, he created a brilliant ad campaign, as it happens, for horse-drawn carriages called "Why The Automobile Is Doomed," B, he sold more lard in his region than anybody else in North America or C, he created Opi-cola, a competitor to Coca-Cola that included opium?
WEINER: (Laughter). I'm going to say lard.
SAGAL: You're right. It was lard.
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SAGAL: He worked for the Armour Company when he was a young man - you know, Armour meat products. And he sold more lard and other pork by-products in Nebraska than anybody else did anywhere else in the country.
Well, moving on. Here we go. That was very good. The king of the glad men in our view is motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Even he has faced controversy as when which of these happened? A, in 2013, he lobbied against legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado because quote, "it makes the motivation business pretty much impossible," B, at a 2012 Unleash the Power Within seminar, 22 people burned their feet after walking across hot coals at his instruction or C, his 2009 motivational seminar for cats failed to motivate a single cat.
WEINER: I have to say B again.
SAGAL: You're right. It was the hot coals. As you know...
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SAGAL: ...Tony Robbins out there convinces people to do the impossible, including walking across hot coals without getting hurt. In this case, they got hurt. He blamed them. He said they didn't do it fast enough. All right. That's very good, let's go for perfect.
WEINER: How could - I don't know how hard it is to walk really fast on hot coals.
SAGAL: Yeah, you'd think that that's something you'd be incentivized to go as quickly as possible. You know what happened - I'm sure this is what happened - they got across - halfway across, they pulled out their phone and started looking at Twitter. Next thing you know, oh, my feet are on fire.
All right, last question. One of the most popular happiness coaches today is a guy named Shawn Achor. He is promoted by Oprah Winfrey, who really sort of launched his career. But that career almost ended before it began when what happened? A, when he met Oprah, he mistook her for her friend Gayle King, B, when he met Oprah, he asked her when she was due or C, when he met Opera, he tried to hug her when she was offering a high five.
WEINER: Oh, these are all so horrible.
SAGAL: They're bad.
WEINER: It's true.
SAGAL: They scare us all.
WEINER: One of them is true. I'm going to go with him mistaking - I'm going to go with A.
SAGAL: I don't know if Oprah would mind that. It did not happen. What happened was he walked up to her and she raised her hands and he thought she was going to hug him, so he sort of tried to hug her, realized it was actually a double high-five, so he ended up kind of grabbing her hands awkwardly in midair.
WEINER: Oh, my God.
SAGAL: And he says they stood there for a while and he felt terrible. But it all worked out and things have gone on for him pretty well. Bill, how did Matt Weiner do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Matt, by our rules you're a winner - 2 out of 3.
WEINER: All right.
SAGAL: Well done.
SAGAL: Congratulations, Matt. Matt Weiner is, of course, the creator of AMC's epical show "Mad Men." Thank you for that television show, and thank you so much for joining us.
WEINER: Thank you so much, Peter.
SAGAL: Take care, Matt.
WEINER: All right, thank you.
SAGAL: That's it for our year-in-review. Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and the William T. Grant Foundation, supporting research to improve the lives of young people from diverse backgrounds and ensure that they reach their fullest potential. More information is available at wtgrantfoundation.org. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, developing solutions to support strong families and communities for America's children. More information is available at aecf.org. And the Lemelson Foundation, committing to improving lives through invention in the U.S. and in developing countries and wroking to inspire and enable the next generation of inventors. More information is available at lemelson.org.
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Thanks to Bill Kurtis. Thanks to all the panelists and guests you heard on this show. And thanks as always to our scorekeeper emeritus, Mr. Carl Kasell. And thanks to all of you for listening. I am Peter Sagal, and we will see you next week.
SAGAL: This is NPR.
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