Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Review: Hugh Laurie on Inside the Actors Studio

Hugh Laurie looked tired and older than his 47 years when he appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, the Bravo show hosted by James Lipton, on July 31, 2006. Greeted by thunderous applause, he smiled, waved them away, and said, "American audiences. I love them. An English audience wouldn't make that much noise if the building was on fire." This got a big laugh--Hugh Laurie is very funny--which James Lipton stifled quickly by saying the building was officially on fire tonight.

Anyone familiar with Lipton's approach knows that he starts at the beginning of the person's life. He made quite a bit of the many names given to British males (James Hugh Calum Laurie is actually shorter than his father's and brother's names). Lipton also dwelt on Laurie's upper crust education, poking fun at some of the public school slang.

All that was probably just fine for Hugh, who got a big laugh from singing the rowing song Lipton had dug up for him, but I have to admit I was uncomfortable with much of what happened next. Laurie is obviously a great admirer of his father but had a distant relationship with his mother. Asked about his statement that he never shed a tear for his mother when she died, Hugh went on for quite a while trying to explain that it didn't mean he didn't mourn her or miss her. During this time he teared up and actually had to clear tears from the corners of his eyes. Thanks to James Lipton, Hugh Laurie has now shed a tear for his mother.

Lipton's questioning was likewise uncomfortable when he raised the issue of depression. Hugh admitted he had been depressed and had gone to "shrinks," which he found "extremely helpful." I've read that Laurie regrets ever having mentioned the fact once to a reporter, because the issue won't die.

For someone as shy and funny as Hugh Laurie, it must have been excruciating for him to have to go through such personal questioning in complete seriousness. (Whatever happened to acting? Aren't they supposed to talk about acting on Inside the Actors Studio?) He also had to endure many clips from his career, beginning with a 1981 clip of him and Stephen Fry, a very silly Blackadder sequence where he clucked like a chicken, and three or four clips from House. Hugh winces when he hears his own voice, I can only imagine what his face looked like during these sequences. The camera did catch one look of great chagrin.

After the difficult parts, Lipton mentioned the piano in the room. "I thought it was left over from a wedding," said Hugh, before he sauntered over and said, "Awww, it's locked, what a shame!" He then launched into his 1986 song "Mystery." Done with not quite the youthful vigor of the original version, he none-the-less had the pitch perfect timing and delivery which made it very funny. (If you want to see a comparison of the two versions, head over to YouTube.com).

The program included three questions from the audience. The first was one about the plot of House: who would Hugh Laurie like to see House have a relationship with, Cameron, Cuddy, or Wilson? I couldn't tell if Laurie was aware of the desires of House/Wilson "shippers" (relationship advocates) on the web, but he took the question in stride. "Robert [Sean Leonard] might have something to say about it...but, you know, I'm game," he replied.

Being a Hugh Laurie fan with access to the Internet, where very article ever written about him and clips of everything he's ever recorded are available for viewing, I didn't learn much new from his appearance on Inside the Actors studio. I was sorry to see him appear uncomfortable and see him pushed about his personal life. All that being said, man I wish I could have been there!

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