Honoring James Lipton and the legacy of his 10 Questions
James Lipton, actor, lyricist, writer, teacher, and talk show host passed away Monday, March 2. He was most well renowned for his 22 seasons facilitating Inside the Actors Studio, a talk show dedicated solely letting the creators talk about their craft. James would often call it a masterclass for actors, but he leaves a legacy to anyone devoted to the human condition. Including those of us in advertising.
Even the strategists.
For James Lipton was a masterful moderator, facilitating incredibly intimate and sincere in-depth interviews with his signature style: a dignified yet welcoming personality, calm demeanor, and intense research. Often guided only by his iconic stack of blue notecards (and listening skills honed from years on the stage) he asked the same 10 questions of every guest when they came on the show. And like all master artists, Lipton’s final questions were sophisticatedly simple yet often provoked surprisingly revealing responses.
His mastery of the pause made him a powerhouse of interrogation. Lipton rarely asked why they gave a certain answer, but would never interrupt someone who explained their answer, giving each answer a reflective moment.
He knew the most important skill in interviews isn’t in your words but in allowing silence to illuminate the truth.
Chances are, your job requires you to interact with other people. And you’re more likely to find success if you know how to ask great questions. But more importantly, you will acquire immeasurable good will when you know how to listen intently.
Now a proper celebration of Mr. Lipton’s life and contributions to the art of the interview wouldn’t be just without recognizing the answers they provoked. Before sharing some of our own responses to the legendary 10 Questions, first let’s take a listen (or have a watch) to Lipton in his own words recall to Bravo TV his favorite moments from Inside the Actors Studio.
1. What’s your favorite word?
Awry, Hizzle, Mama, Kudos, Kumquat, Thanks, Lugubrious, Continuum, Wonderful, Massive.
2. What’s your least favorite word?
Anyways, Synergize, Loser, Decadent, Utilize, Plethora, (and of course, the victor by plurality) panties.
3. What’s something that turns you on?
Intelligence, words, Creative freedom, Selflessness, Movie references, Self-deprecating humor, A really-clean house, Eye-contact, Putting a smile on my face, and golf.
4. What’s something that turns you off?
Arrogance, Lack of self-control, Stupidity, Anger, Socks in bed (x2), Humiliation of the defenseless, Ignorance, People “dapping it up” and micromanagement.
5. What’s your favorite noise?
Belly laughter, Baby giggling, Steve Mitchell’s laugh, My dog snoring, Ocean waves, Praise, Rain on a roof, the synth at 5:45 in Innerbloom by RUFUS DU SOL, Crowd cheering and Silence.
6. What’s your least favorite noise?
Repetitive noises, Knuckles cracking, Anything chalkboard, Animals drinking water (you know who you are), Chewing (you too), Whispers, Baby screaming, White Noise, Public din of people, and Wet sneeze.
7. What’s your favorite curse word?
Shitballs and Fuck (by a shit ton of a majority).
8. What is a profession other than your own that you would like to try?
Free diving fisher, Coding, Goat farmer, Harlem Globetrotter, Singer, Librarian, Premier dancer, VO talent, Architect, and Secret Agent/Sleuth.
9. What is a profession other than your own that you won’t try?
Anything with a formal dress code, Executioner, Insurance salesman, Underwater cave surveyor, Doctor/Nurse, Bartender, Chef, Construction, Garbage collector and Politician.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear from God at the pearly gates?
You tried mostly. That’s okay, you’re still cool.
I told you I’m real, but you’re still cool
Go to Hell you know you want to.
Lucy’s been waiting for you!
*snaps fingers and points at me* AYEEEEE, MY MANNN!
Hey, you made it! We’ve been waiting for you!
It was promising, but my God, you made it!
Welcome, my son.
You earned this.
The bar is open.