I saw an item lamenting the fact that James Lipton is stepping down as host of “Inside The Actor’s Studio,” which will move from Bravo to Ovation next year. C’mon, give the guy a break. He started doing the show when he was 68 and is now 92 years old. I just hope he sticks around long enough to help me find out what channel number Ovation is on my cable system.
I’ve long had a lot of respect for Lipton’s interviews because they’re based on the enormous amount of research he does about each guest’s life and career. He’s never been interested in gossip, but rather the craft of acting, yet he’s gotten some big names to open up about their personal lives (I’ll never forget the night Jack Lemmon casually mentioned he was an alcoholic, something he had never discussed in public). Lipton and his producers have released some of his 24 seasons on DVD, but it would be nice if they were available for streaming on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime — or if Bravo reran some of the classic episodes, instead of leaving them on the shelf gathering dust.
The new network hasn’t announced Lipton’s replacement, but I’d suggest offering the gig to the best interviewer on the air today, Terry Gross, who has been hosting “Fresh Air” on NPR for 40 years and will, coincidentally turn 68 next year. I wonder what her favorite curse word is. I’d apply for the job, but I’m only 60.
I had the chance to interview the interviewer when Lipton appeared on my radio show in 2007 while promoting his book, “Inside Inside.” I didn’t ask him about Will Ferrell’s impression of him, but we got to a couple of stories from his life that you probably don’t know — Lipton’s days as a pimp in Paris and how his wife ended up as Miss Scarlet in the board game Clue. You can listen to that conversation here.