I have mentioned that I’m a fan of the Sundance Channel’s “Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter,” with Lacey Rose asking questions of a roundtable of television actors or Stephen Galloway doing the same with a roundtable of movie actors. I also enjoy listening to “Awards Chatter,” a podcast hosted by THR’s Scott Feinberg, in which he spends an hour of more talking with various stars from both mediums.
I just finished his conversation from June with Matt LeBlanc, star of “Friends,” “Episodes,” and “Man With A Plan.” I don’t recall seeing or hearing any interviews with LeBlanc that didn’t also include his co-stars, which is usually an indicator that the subject is a bad guest, and that’s how this one starts. From word one, LeBlanc is low-energy, answers in short sentences, and sounds like he’s not interested in being there. Things get better the longer they talk, and Feinberg manages to get some decent anecdotes out of him (e.g. I didn’t know that LeBlanc’s hair started turning gray in his twenties, so it had to be dyed more and more with each year he played Joey on “Friends”). It’s Feinberg’s skill as an interviewer that saves the discussion from being a bore as he gets LeBlanc to loosen up and share some longer stories.
However, there are a couple of points where LeBlanc responds to Feinberg with one of my pet peeves: “Well, I’ve told this story before….” This annoys me almost as much as something I wrote about in March in “The Pleasures And Pitfalls Of Interviewing Authors“:
I’ve also had instances in which I have asked an author a question specifically designed to lead them into a story I know they tell in the book, only to have them answer, “It’s obvious you didn’t read my book, or you’d know that….” How presumptuous. You’re probably right that I didn’t read your entire book before your appearance on my show. That’s because it would take me several days to get through every word you wrote, and I don’t have that kind of free time considering all the other things I need to consume to fill my head in preparation for a daily talk radio show — particularly since we’re only going to talk about your masterpiece for 10-15 minutes on the air. However, I did glance through the book and the publicist’s notes to glean the general idea and to find a few stories worth guiding you towards so that you can entice listeners to buy it and read more. I’m so good at my job that the listeners will believe I read the whole thing when, in fact, I came up with these questions by leafing through your book for less than a half-hour. Now tell the damn story I so professionally asked you to tell!
Imagine you’re at a party and someone asks you about something from your life. You tell them the story. Eventually, you work the room and meet other people, and someone else asks you the same thing. It would be rude of you to respond, “Well, I’ve told this story before….” The same etiquette applies here.
In LeBlanc’s case, when he says, “Well, I’ve told this story before…” he’s really saying, “I spoke about this in an earlier interview with someone else, and because everyone watches, listens to, or reads everything I’ve done, there’s no reason to tell it again.” As with my author questions, I guarantee you that Feinberg knows that LeBlanc has related that anecdote previously, and he liked it or thought it was an important enough part of the career story that he’d like LeBlanc to share it with his audience now. It’s not laziness that led to that question, it’s research and preparation.
As a guest, when you agree to do one of these shows, regardless of the length or reach, your job is to play along with whatever comes up — even if it means sharing the same reminiscence for the umpteenth time. The more famous you get, the more often you’ll have to sit for these conversations. There’s certain to be overlap from interviewer to interviewer, so you’d best be ready to tell those stories over and over again.
If you do so cheerfully, in return, you’ll get a happy host who will make you look/sound good and help you plug your projects. If you can’t agree to those terms of the interview compact, don’t do them in the first place.
Or don’t get famous.
Previously on Harris Online…