Lena's Reviews > Inside Inside

Inside Inside by James Lipton
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Sep 15, 09

bookshelves: memoir

James Lipton is the host of the Bravo network's Inside the Actor's Studio, a show in which performers and directors discuss their lives and craft. Inside Inside is Lipton's account of the events in his life that lead him to found the show and a reflection on some of the program's most memorable moments.

The subject matter of the book covers three primary sections. In the beginning, he discusses his relationship with the Actor's Studio and the founding of its Drama School, of which the show is a part. He includes here some historical information on acting and explains why the Stanislavski method in which the school is based was so revolutionary. These discussions were particularly interesting to me as they made sections of the show in which actors discuss these subjects more accessible.

From there, Lipton moves back in time to trace the events in his own life that led him to the position of founding the Actor's Studio Drama School. Lipton has led a remarkably charmed life, and the stories he tells include entertaining musings on the soap operas that supported him and many other Broadway actors, the odd series of events that led up to his writing of the best-selling An Exaltation of Larks, fascinating glimpses of careful cultural negotiations during his production of Bob Hope's Road to China special in the early days after Nixon's visit, and how he came to be married to Miss Scarlet from the Clue board game.

In the final section, Lipton revisits some of the 200 guests who have been interviewed on the show, telling behind-the-scenes stories of their visits and recapping some of the highlights. As an avid watcher of the show, some of these snippets were already familiar to me, but others came from segments of the four-to-six hour interviews that didn't make it into the 45-minute television program. This section also includes a particularly fascinating gender analysis of the answers to the Pivot question "What is your favorite curse word?"

Whether or not one will enjoy reading this book will depend on two things: their level of interest in the performing arts, and their tolerance for Lipton's particular quirks of self-expression. There is no question that the man has a lot of interesting stories to tell, but his writing can mirror the overwrought, fawning tendencies for which Will Ferrell has so infamously pilloried him on SNL. Lipton has learned, however, to turn these potential weaknesses into strengths; the sections in which he recounts his own interview by Ferrell-as-Lipton and explains the series of events that led up to him dancing with the Horny Manatee on Conan O'Brien are particularly entertaining. Whatever else one might say about James Lipton, it's clear he has a sense of humor about himself.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Deborah Edwards I actually love "Inside the Actor's Studio" and used to watch it religiously. In recent times, it seemed that the guests were more often "celebrities" than "actors" with a capital "A" but that didn't deter me from my enjoyment of the show and its talk of craft. In fact, often the people I least expected to be heady and intellectual about craft were surprisingly so (Mike Myers, for instance, who was also hilarious on the show). I would have been very interested to read this book on any given day, but your review makes me want to read it quite soon. Thanks!


Lena Thanks, Debi. I've had similar thoughts about the show, but am continually impressed by how much I learn from listening to accomplished actors talk about their craft. Reading the book gave me much more insight into how Lipton managed to create the kind of environment where those discussions can happen in spite of the original focus groups that advised him to do otherwise. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Lena I hear you, Sherri. I promised myself last week not to get any new books until I get the current pile under control; tall piles of books + cats = disaster waiting to happen ;-)


message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I've enjoyed the show the couple dozen or so times I've seen it, and great review Lena, but I'm not so interested in the book, I don't think. I'm always happy when that happens. At this point I'm trying to get books off my to-read shelf at least as often as I add them.


Lena Good luck with that goal, Lisa. Let me know if you figure out how to do that!


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Lena, I'm just in denial. It's, of course, a hopeless situation. I am delighted whenever I find a book I don't want to read!


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