James Lipton, the longtime host of Inside the Actors Studio, passed away in early 2020 at age 93. I never considered myself a regular viewer of his television show, but I would watch it if it was on and the guest was someone interesting.
Lipton was an interesting cat himself. The son of a Beat poet and a librarian, he became an actor, writer, lyricist and producer. For a time, in the 1950s, in Paris, France, he was a pimp. He was also a pilot and was married for fifty years, until his death, to the woman who was the model for Miss Scarlett on the cover of the boardgame Clue. This was all in addition to hosting Inside the Actors Studio for 24 years. Someone’s got to be trying to get a movie about his life produced.
Most of the show was a one-on-one interview conducted by Lipton, but was always followed by the host submitting the same questionnaire to the guest. Lipton always credited French television host Bernard Pivot, on his show Apostrophes, for the list of questions. Pivot, in turn, adapted them from the Proust Questionnaire, which was a form of parlor game popular in the Victorian Era. Questions, I should add, not written by Proust, but answered by him in something called a confession album
The Proust Questionnaire is longer and seems more dated, so I’m going with the Pivot/Lipton questions.
What is your favorite word?
What is your least-favorite word?
Hate, especially when used as an adjective
What turns you on?
Am I a Penthouse centerfold, all of a sudden? I guess I’ll go with A Sense of Humor, but Intelligence is a very close second-place. In fact, the two are interrelated in my mind.
What turns you off?
Stupid people who think they’re smart. There are millions of them out there, and many of them are trying to run things.
What sound or noise do you love?
Laughing babies always make me smile. They’ve also convinced me that cuteness is an evolutionary defense mechanism.
What sound or noise do you hate?
That prolonged screech of braking tires that you know isn’t going to end well for any of the parties involved.
What is your favorite curse word?
It’s [BLEEP!], of course. I’m talking about the f-bomb here. I know this is a safe place and I could have used the actual word. But, I honestly think it’s more effective if you use it sparingly. It’s one of the most versatile words in the lexicon, and can be used as a noun, verb, adjective or adverb with equal facility, as well as an interjection.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Since the bar has been sufficiently lowered, I’d think I’d make a good President of the United States. Just kidding. I wouldn’t survive the vetting process. I think I’d like to be a director. Doesn’t have to be big-budget feature films. Television is okay.
What profession would you not like to do?
Pretty much anything Mike Rowe does on Dirty Jobs. Specifically, I don’t want to do any job involving human excrement. That covers a lot.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
We cooked the pig in the ground, we got some beer on ice, and all your rowdy friends are coming over tonight.
Just in case God isn’t a Hank Jr. fan, how about this? Welcome Home.
I think the word “challenge” is tossed around too casually these days. So, I’m not going to challenge you to post your own answers to the Lipton Questionnaire. Instead, I’m going to subtly encourage you to grace us with your responses, if that seems like something you would enjoy doing.