Random Questions With: John Cameron Mitchell The Tony Award-winner is best known for creating the story of a transgender punk-rock star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In this game, we remove the make-up and discover the man under the wig.

Random Questions With: John Cameron Mitchell

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You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and with me is our puzzle guru Greg Pliska and our one-man house band, Jonathan Coulton.


EISENBERG: And joining us on stage, our very important puzzler - actor, writer, director Tony Award winner, John Cameron Mitchell.


JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL: I've never been introduced as a Tony winner before.


MITCHELL: I felt like Patti LuPone.


EISENBERG: So you won this Tony recently for "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" on Broadway.


EISENBERG: The revival.


MITCHELL: Best job I've ever had.

EISENBERG: And for any of our listeners who have not seen it, can you give a quick summary of "Hedwig And The Angry Inch?" It's a tough thing to - I mean, I can summarize it.

MITCHELL: Well, you know, it's about an East German punk rock singer who - to get over the Berlin Wall in the '80s, it used to be a boy had to become a woman so he could marry an American G.I. and escape to freedom. And then a year later is divorced watching the wall come down.

EISENBERG: Hedwig, the character, is based on a babysitter of yours? Is that right?

MITCHELL: Yeah, you know...

EISENBERG: Or partially based?

MITCHELL: It was - it was just - in Junction City, Kansas, we had a woman named Helga who'd take care of my brother. And she kind of looked, you know, what Hedwig kind of looked like. And she had a lot of dates, and me and my friend Brenda would go over to her house and - her trailer actually - and she had a lot of dates. She wasn't that good looking either, and we thought gosh, she's so popular. She has a different date every night and she doesn't really know what they're going to look like...


MITCHELL: ...When they come up the driveway. And we would, like, hang out with her and she'd give us cigarettes and stuff. And we'd sing, you know, songs for her like "Copacabana," and songs that had stories we'd act them out. And then when the date came up the driveway, we'd have to go out the back. But sometimes she'd look out the window and see the date come up the driveway and she'd go out the back with us.


MITCHELL: So only later did - my friend Brenda say, you know, I think she had another job.


MITCHELL: You know. And so she was sort of the beginning of Hedwig. And then we added the whole sex change and the rock 'n' roll stuff later. You know, my dad was the military commander of Berlin in the '80s before the Wall came down. And so I'd go to the East, you know, and it was - go to the gay bars in the punk rock areas - so it was, like, a lot of stuff came together to create him.

EISENBERG: And then when did you start to feel like wait a second, maybe there's more of a life to this piece?

MITCHELL: We never really thought that.

EISENBERG: You never thought that?

MITCHELL: No, we never got ahead of ourselves. It was like whatever people were ready for, you know, there wasn't - people said oh, maybe should do a movie. And we're like oh yeah, let's do that. And it was a - actually a flop originally and people discovered it more through DVD. And the Broadway production is the first time I've ever had an actual hit in my life.


MITCHELL: You know, we always were respected, but it was - you know, it's kind of amazing to be able to make a living - but, you know - you know, off of something. I made a living, you know, on commercials and voices. I did the - (Australian accent) how do you do your Dunkaroos? And, you know...


MITCHELL: Weirdly, I get that kind of response and I don't get that as much from my, you know, my work with Tony Kushner and other important people. But it's like Dunkaroos?

EISENBERG: Dunkaroos?

MITCHELL: You were on "MacGyver"? You know, it's like yes, but my Tony Award-winning turn on - they're like, "MacGyver"? So it's funny, you know, what remains in the mind.

EISENBERG: OK, we are going to talk more - all about this. And we're also going to subject you to your own ASK ME ANOTHER quiz later in the show. But right now, we're going to quiz somebody else about you. This is our grand idea. So let's welcome our contestant, Marisa Klages.


EISENBERG: Now last time when you were on the show, what worked against you?

MARISA KLAGES: The buzzer.

EISENBERG: The buzzer - common problem.


EISENBERG: Well, this time you don't need a buzzer.

KLAGES: I know. I was really excited to hear that.

EISENBERG: It's good. And this is a fun game because it's called "Random Questions" with John Cameron Mitchell, OK?


EISENBERG: So we - we have asked Mr. Mitchell some random questions and you just have to guess how he answered them. That's it.

KLAGES: That's probably harder than it sounds.

EISENBERG: I think it's going to be great. And if you get enough questions right, you're going to win some autographed Hedwig swag.

KLAGES: That would be awesome.

EISENBERG: Yes, it's some good stuff. I saw it and I kind of took the best stuff. No, I left it all.

KLAGES: I'll share.

EISENBERG: Thank you. You're sweet, Marisa. All right, here's the first question - we asked him which means the most to John Cameron Mitchell? "MacGyver," "Head Of The Class" or "The Equalizer?"

KLAGES: "Head Of The Class."

MITCHELL: That's right.


EISENBERG: Why "Head Of The Class?"

MITCHELL: Because I did two of them. I think I sang "White Boys."


MITCHELL: Or - or "Black Boys." They were delicious, whatever they were. And then I sang "Grease Lightning" for "Grease."



EISENBERG: Marisa, sequels or prequels?

KLAGES: That's really hard. Prequels?

MITCHELL: Sequels.

KLAGES: Bummer.

EISENBERG: There's a Hedwig sequel, right?

MITCHELL: Prequels are desperate. They're like - we've run out of sequels, we've got to do a prequel. I mean, what's something that started with a prequel and not a sequel?

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: "Air Bud 2" was a prequel.


EISENBERG: Was that a prequel?


EISENBERG: Well, puppies.

COULTON: Puppies.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Is there a Hedwig sequel? Is that the correct?

MITCHELL: I have been working on that with Stephen, yeah.


MITCHELL: It would never be on Broadway now, maybe in 15 years. It's all about death, but it's laughing all the way.

EISENBERG: OK, and finally we asked John if he prefers John Cassavetes or Nick Cassavetes As in "The Notebook" Nick Cassavetes.




EISENBERG: Well, we are going to talk more about new Hollywood films with you in a little while.


EISENBERG: Marisa, congratulations.


EISENBERG: And yeah, we'll see our VIP, John Cameron Mitchell, later in the show.

MITCHELL: All right, thank you.


DAVID BOWIE: (Singing) Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes. Just going to have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can't trace time.

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