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Alec Baldwin on why he was born to host a public radio show

As host of WNYC’s “Here’s the Thing,” actor Alec Baldwin has been criticized for doing too much talking. He counters that he’s trying to push guests, such as Andrew Weiner, Chris Rock and Molly Ringwald, to share something the audience doesn’t already know about them. Baldwin offers his Brief but Spectacular take on why his show is about conversations, not interviews.

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    Next, to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where interesting people talk about their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from Alec Baldwin, famous for his decades-long career in film and television. He is also now host of a WNYC Studios podcast, "Here's the Thing."

  • MAN:

    When I first started listening, I remember thinking he was born to host public radio.


  • ALEC BALDWIN, Actor:

    Good lord. Wow, I have never been insulted like that in my life.

    I don't need to be in some Batman vs. Superman kind of film anymore. I'm too old for that. But I was born to host? What am I, Leonard Lopate Jr.?

    Acting was like sex. And when I was young, I would do it with anybody. You get bedazzled by money and by other things. I always say to people, don't live a big life in your early career, so you can really, really have a career, like Liam Neeson or like Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, Kevin Kline, people that I really admire.

    The who succeed the most in the business, it's the most important thing in their lives, or at least during a very — kind of the halcyon years. Get out there and give everything you have got while you're young and beautiful.

    I gave this advice to Leonardo DiCaprio, and look what he's doing. It is just working like a charm for him. He's did everything I told him to do, and, look, he's got women jumping out of the trees on him and he's got an Oscar.

    So, you're welcome, Leo.

    This is Alec Baldwin. And you're listening to "Here's the Thing," my chance to talk with artists, policy-makers and performers.

    I don't view this show as an interview. I view it as a conversation. People have complained. They're like, "Oh, Alec, shut up," and that I'm intruding on the people there.

    But I'm kind of trying to push them toward something I think we don't already know about them. You leave them alone in the longer format, and 15 or 20 minutes goes by, and they're telling you everything that you had hoped that they would tell you. But it's their decision.

    One of the most interesting interviews was Paul Simon, who — if we had videotaped it, I mean, he just like stared at me. I would be like, so, what did you have for breakfast? He would be like, no, I'm not going to talk about what I had for breakfast.

    And it was like, he's so private, where there's other people who, you roll the tape and they just do an unbroken monologue for like an hour. I could get up out of — and leave the room and go have lunch and come back and they wouldn't even notice I was gone.

    It's really about people's feelings about what they do. Like, when you're Paul McCartney, do you ever sit up there and, like, you get really wistful and think, man, I'm still doing this 50 years later?

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr., what do you — when you see images of your dad, what do you think? The drama of your family, how does that play out in your daily life and who you are?

    And, of course, the biggest one for me I wanted — I wanted to get was Obama. How did it feel to do that job for eight years, the ups and the downs? I was dying to do that, but I don't think I'm going to get him.



    So, I remember Al Gore was on the set of "30 Rock" working with us. And I turned to him. And he said, "Now, Alec, you were interested in politics at some point in your life, if I'm not wrong."

    I said, "Yes, sir, I really was, but the presidency of the United States isn't what it used to be."

    And the look he gave me, he just stared at me and went, "No, it is not."

    Like, what an amazing thing to have him say, who had been in that world for so long. And it has changed.

    I had the desire to do something in the world of politics when I was young. And that waned and waned and waned. Over the last maybe 10 years, it's almost completely been extinguished. I don't have any desire for that at all anymore.

    You have got to give me a really good reason to leave my house, because I have got two little kids. And my wife and I are having another one.

    And so that's my big — my big production I'm working on now is my family.

    I'm Alec Baldwin. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on why I was born to host a public radio talk show.


    Reading between the lines, Judy, I think he wants our job.


    You think so?


    This is what I'm thinking.


    We need to talk further.


    You can find out by watching more of our Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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