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Review: ‘A Conversation with Alec Baldwin’ at Smithsonian Associates

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A sold out crowd Wednesday night enthusiastically enjoyed the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor, writer, producer, comedian, and political activist Alec Baldwin’s interview. Arena Stage’s Artistic Director Molly Smith engaged him at the George Washington University’s (GWU) Lisner Auditorium. Baldwin has a new memoir out entitled Nevertheless. During the talk, he discussed his time as a student at GWU and how it led to acting, his favorite and least favorite Saturday Night Live (SNL) moments, Trump (of course), and what he would be doing if he wasn’t an actor.

Alec Baldwin. Photo by Steve Schofield.

Baldwin looked much younger than his 59 years as he arrived on stage in a sharp suit. He comfortably interacted with the audience and Smith with his life tales. The event was fun, interesting and insightful. Highly recommend! The tantalizing conversation flowed and included a lot of humor.

Baldwin attended GWU in the 1970s when the Vietnam War was ending. It was a strange time. He was going to be a lawyer, but was talked out of it when he interned on Capitol Hill. On a whim he moved to New York City to study acting with no formal training. He gave himself a year to be successful and thankfully it worked out!

Highlights of the night included Baldwin’s story of working with the stoned-out Beastie Boys on SNL who couldn’t handle doing a promo because they had overindulged. Baldwin cracked he felt he needed to wear a gas mask as his dressing room was next to their marijuana infused room… pretty funny stuff! Baldwin did take after take of promos with The Beastie Boys and they replied with non-sequiturs. Baldwin told SNL creator Lorne Michael to let him complete the promo solo and he acquiesced.

According to Baldwin, there are two highlights to his career. The first involved working with SNL alumna, actress, writer, director, and improv queen Tina Fey on her show 30 Rock. The second was performing as Phony Bennett with the real Tony Bennett on SNL. For 30 Rock he remembered, “We weren’t very successful in ratings, but I believe TV executives watched it and that kept it afloat.” Fey was indefatigable, she did it all for the show (write, director, star in it). As for Bennett, he fondly recalled Bennett thanking the SNL staff after the show and saying (in his New York accent), “This has been a million dollar night.”

Baldwin turned political toward the end of the talk, which Baldwin stated his political views have “absolutely” hurt his career. Baldwin adroitly acknowledged most audiences want their entertainment free of politics and those entertainers who have done that have reaped the award.

His political views don’t line his pocket, befuddling a lot of his colleagues, but he is true in his views he claimed. Speaking of politics, Baldwin has met Trump several times, but doesn’t personally know him, but also doesn’t hate him. He shared how SNL does a great job studying people they are portraying to get the part right. Baldwin did a couple of Trump mean mugging which delighted the crowd. Hilariously, Baldwin highlighted how SNL staffers were listening to a rather graphic Paris Hilton video, not for salacious purpose, but to understand how she talks?!?!

Surprisingly, Baldwin would LOVE to be a classical conductor of an orchestra if he wasn’t acting. He grew up on the music and it means a lot to him. He is associated with the New York Philharmonic and he sometimes acts as an announcer/ narrator for them and donates money to them.

Anytime The Smithsonian Associates hosts these interviews with leaders in the arts, it’s always educational, fascinating and fun. I highly recommend going to these events any chance you get!!!

The Smithsonian Associates A Conversation with Alec Baldwin was a one-time performance on April 12, 2017, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. For tickets to future events, call (202) 633-3030, or purchase them online.

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