Here’s my conversation with Alan Alda, who you may know from his 11 years on “M*A*S*H,” or his 11 years on “Scientific American Frontiers,” or his movies “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” and “Sweet Liberty,” or his Oscar-nominated role in “The Aviator.” He now runs the Alan Alda Center For Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, and writes about that experience in his new book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?”

Among the questions I asked him:

  • When did you discover that scientists were having trouble communicating?
  • When you started the Center, were scientists reticent to play theater games?
  • What do you mean when you say in the book that you made a mistake by being too over-prepared on the early episodes of “Scientific American Frontiers”?
  • You write about using visual cues to help you listen in a conversation — does doing this via phone make it harder?
  • Why is it important to training doctors to have more empathy?
  • Did helping scientists improvise to communicate better help you as an actor?
  • Are any of the scientists you’ve worked with good enough at improvising to go to Second City?
  • What is The Flame Challenge?
We also talked about why Alda hasn’t directed a movie since 1990, a writer’s revenge on “M*A*S*H,” and his relationship with George Plimpton while making “Paper Lion” in 1968.

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