Skip to main content

Director Robert Altman Dies

Film director Robert Altman died Monday night at age 81. We play back a 1990 interview with Altman, whose work includes M*A*S*H, The Long Goodbye, Nashville and this year's A Prairie Home Companion. This interview originally aired on Dec. 20, 1990.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on November 21, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 21, 2006: Interview with Parker Posey; Interview with Joe Garden and Joe Randazzo; Obituary for Robert Altman.


DATE November 21, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Actress Parker Posey talks about her movie career,
including her latest film "For Your Consideration"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Parker Posey, became well known in the world of independent film for
her roles in "Dazed and Confused," "Party Girl," "Kicking & Screaming," "The
Daytrippers," "Henry Fool" and "Personal Velocity," but she also co-starred in
this year's big-budget film "Superman Returns." She's been in three
mockumentaries directed by Christopher Guest: "Waiting for Guffman," a satire
of community theater"; "Best in Show," a spoof of the dog competition circuit;
and "A Mighty Wind," a send-up of over-the-hill folk singers. Now she's
co-starring in the new comedy directed by Guest called "For Your
Consideration." It's about a group of not very talented actors making a film
who are stunned to hear that one blog is talking Oscars. The actors
prematurely prepare for their nominations. The film the actors are making is
called "Home for Purim." It's set during World War II in a Southern town where
family is reunited during the Jewish holiday when two adult children come to
visit their dying mother for the first time in many years. The son is in the
military. The daughter, well, she's a lesbian and she's brought her lover
home, which does not please her mother. Here's a scene from the film within a
film. Parker Posey plays the daughter. Catherine O'Hara plays her mother.

(Soundbite from "For Your Consideration")

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of coughing)

Ms. CATHERINE O'HARA: (As mother) What? What did I do that was so wrong? I
wanted my daughter to grow up to be a mama of her own, with a house full of
babies and a decent man to cherish and take care of her. You just didn't want
the boys around, Rachel. What kind of girl doesn't want to meet a nice
fellow? I only invited the best ones over, the ones whose daddies were
professionals. There wasn't a nebbish in the group. But you wouldn't have
it. You wouldn't have any of it. And so you ran. You ran and tore a chapter
out of your family's life and a piece out of my heart.

Ms. PARKER POSEY: (As daughter) I was screaming, Mama, but you couldn't hear
me. And you couldn't see me for who I was. I didn't want your life. I
didn't want to be in the kitchen with a brisket or the fish balls or the crack
pot or the cool or go out with the boys that...(unintelligible). I don't want
to marry. It was all...(unintelligible). I am not you, Mama, I am me.
Rachel Pisher.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Parker Posey, welcome to FRESH AIR. In the movie, you play an actress
who is making, you know, a movie within this movie, and that movie is called
"Home for Purim."

Ms. POSEY: Right.

GROSS: And it's kind of set in World War II, in a small town in, like, you

Ms. POSEY: It's a period film.

GROSS: It's a period film.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah.

GROSS: And, you know, the daughter and the son are home for Purim...

Ms. POSEY: That's right.

GROSS: ...and you're the daughter and...

Ms. POSEY: Yes. The mother is dying.

GROSS: And there's a bunch of kind of Jewish and Yiddish jokes...

Ms. POSEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: this movie within a movie. Did you need translations?

Ms. POSEY: Yeah, I did a little research or talking to my Jewish friends. I
was, you know--Chris Guest got kind of got this idea. He was visiting Jamie.
His wife was working down South in Georgia, and he's just hanging out, and
when you're hanging out in movies, there's not really much to do unless you're
working. So he had a friend there, someone that he met down South and he
said, `Let me taking you fishing,' and he's like, `OK.' And then they're
driving through town, and they're like, `Let's stop by the hardware store,'
and they stopped by the hardware store, and he's like, `Hold on a second,
Shlomo!' And he's like, he's like, `What? You coming?' They were these, you
know, Southerners speaking Yiddish, and he just--he thought that was--he
couldn't believe it, you know, this is happening, and so I think that's what
gave him the idea, and Chris and Eugene wrote the "Home for Purim" movie, and
I loved doing that movie within a movie stuff. And I think--and I play
someone who's gay as well. I bring home my lover to meet my parents.

GROSS: So you're playing an actor who is co-starring in this period film set
in the '40s, and when "For Your Consideration" opens, the characters in the
movie are watching a 1940s film to kind of get in character, to help get them
in the spirit...

Ms. POSEY: Right.

GROSS: ...of 1940s movies. Did you do that, too? Did you actually watch
1940s movies to see exactly what it was you were satirizing?

Ms. POSEY: Yeah, I forgot what movies I watched but, you know, when you get
the call from Chris, he's like, you know, `You're in this movie,' and you
know, `It's that kind of acting,' and you know, `You know it's that thing,'
you know. Everyone kind of watched these period films and did their own
version of it, and it was really fun, you know. It's just kind of a strange
acting when you come into the door, someone's about to open the door that
you're coming into, and then you do that kind of fake kind of stop, like
`Huh!' or surprise, you know. There are this different kind of like acting
kind of things that people did in those movies, in those melodramas that's
kind of funny.

GROSS: What else did you take away from those melodramas?

Ms. POSEY: I think it's funny that all the women in the '40s movies kind of
seemed gay and the men as well..

GROSS: In what way? In what way?

Ms. POSEY: They're, like, Joan Crawford or Bette Davis. It was a time when
the women were really standing up for themselves, you know, and the men were
still kind of, you know, light in the feet and dancing, and there was kind of
an intensity that was really great back then, especially, you know, my
character in the movie, Callie Webb, has written a one-woman show called "No
Penis Intended" so she...

GROSS: Because she's been a performance artist, as well as an actress...

Ms. POSEY: Yeah. A failed...

GROSS: ...and this is her performance art downtown New York club kind of

Ms. POSEY: Well, this is in LA. "No Penis Intended" was a one-woman show in
LA and she has an improv background as well and a comedy background, but she's
not very funny, and she's really angry.

GROSS: What were some of the qualities you wanted to make sure you got to
satirize when you did the one-woman show within the movie?

Ms. POSEY: Honestly, I'm taking it seriously. I know it's funny but as I'm
doing it, I'm meaning it, and then afterwards you start laughing, you know,
and then you just--because you're thinking about these people for months.
There's--you're developing empathy for them. It's not like you're going, `How
can I make fun of this person?' You're going, `How can I reveal this person?'

GROSS: How did you start working with, you know, the crew that you made "For
Your Consideration" with, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, etc.?

Ms. POSEY: I had--I think in 1991 or 1992, I auditioned for a movie called
"The Coneheads" that Lorne Michaels produced, and I met Lorne Michaels and I
knew that I wouldn't get the part of Connie Conehead but I thought that she
should have friends, and I convinced Lorne Michaels to give me and my friend
Joey parts as Connie's friends, and he did, and then a year or so goes by and
I get a call over the Christmas holidays, I was down South in Laurel,
Mississippi, to audition for a recurring part on "Murphy Brown," so I got to
fly out to LA and audition for the recurring part on "Murphy Brown," which I
did not get, but then that week I met Christopher Guest, and Christopher Guest
had called Lorne Michaels and asked him if he knew anyone who could improvise,
and Lorne Michaels had recommended me, and Chris met me and Reese Witherspoon
for the part of Libby Mae Brown in "Waiting for Guffman," and I basically just
sat down with Chris for about, I don't remember, half an hour, 45 minutes, and
he says he can get a sense of whether people can do this kind of work or not.

GROSS: You've been called by a lot of people, you know, like the Queen of the
Indies, Queen of Independent Films...

Ms. POSEY: Oh, I love how you say that.

GROSS: What? What?

Ms. POSEY: The Queen of the Indies.

GROSS: So...

Ms. POSEY: I know. It's so silly.

GROSS: Well, how did you start getting into independent films?

Ms. POSEY: I went to SUNY Purchase for acting school so I was doing student
films there, and it was around when I left in '91, that was kind of when the
whole independent film movement started, and I met Hal Hartley, who also went
to Purchase, and my first job out of college was a soap opera called "As the
World Turns." And I had worked with Hal, and then I got cast in Rick
Linklater's "Dazed and Confused," and I was just around New York at that time.
You know, now, with the community in New York, it's like, you know, the UCB
and Improvisers. Back then, in the early '90s there was an independent film
community, and I was around doing readings of scripts of directors and
writers, and I would go out to LA and audition for something and not get it,
or get an independent film while I was out in LA that shot in New York for
like 25, you know, days or something. So it's just kind of where my life was
leading me.

GROSS: When you started making independent films, did it hurt your indie cred
to tell people that you'd worked on "As the World Turns"? Was that something
you told people about or not?

Ms. POSEY: Oh, I think it's really cool that I worked on a soap opera.

GROSS: What did you learn from working on a soap opera?

Ms. POSEY: How to take naps?

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Did you not have a big part?

Ms. POSEY: Well, you would wake up incredibly early and you'd have a 7:00
rehearsal and then, you may not work until, you know, 11:00 and so I would
get, you know, full face of hair and makeup on and my wardrobe and put on two
robes, because it was freezing, and then I would get into bed and just like,
go back to sleep, so I learned how to relax in-between as I was at work. And
also, you know, the material is so hard to do because a lot of it just doesn't
make any sense, you know, and there's a lot of exposition, and you learn how
to work under pressure, and you couldn't even, like if something was bad, and
you were like, `Whoa! I barely even, you know, got that line out, like they
would air it,' and so then you go, `OK, now, if I want to do that again, I
have to like curse or something to get them to...'

GROSS: They couldn't run it that way.

Ms. POSEY: It would be like, `Waaaa!' Yeah. And it was, you know, sometimes
some of the directors would let me have fun with it and kind of make fun of it
at the same time as I was doing it.

GROSS: Well, this bed that you napped on, was that a bed on the set?

Ms. POSEY: No, it was in the dressing room, and there were these intercoms
that would, you know--they would call your name out over the intercoms, and
then you'd go downstairs and then you would act with another actor who like
slept on his face, and so like he had these sleep wrinkles on one side, and
you're like `Wow, late night, huh?' And then you switch places with him so the
other camera wouldn't see his sleep wrinkles.

GROSS: That's really funny.

Ms. POSEY: And he'd been on the soaps since he was like five years old.
You'd get some real good stories. I was amazed at the actors there, you know,
so early in the morning, and then they're just kind of walking through it, and
then by the time you get in front of camera, you know, Colleen Zenk, who
played my Aunt Barbara, would turn to me with a face full of tears, and she'd
be like, `Where did that come from?' It's a certain style that they're really
doing and some people are really good at it.

GROSS: My guest is Parker Posey. She's starring in the new film comedy "For
Your Consideration."

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Parker Posey, and why don't we listen to another scene
from one of your movies, and this is from "Kicking & Screaming," which was a
l995 independent film, and you play a senior in college. Your boyfriend has
graduated, and he's hanging out with a group of guys who don't have much in
the way of jobs or prospects, but he's been taking classes again, and here's
the scene.

(Soundbite of "Kicking & Screaming")

Ms. POSEY: (As Miami) You make me sad, Skippy. You know, with this big idea
about you learning and coming back to school and, mmm, taking all these
classes. You haven't done a stitch of reading since you've been here. You
get on my case about my studies. I mean, really.

Mr. JASON WILES: (As Skippy) God, I begged you to stay on Prozac.

Ms. POSEY: (As Miami) You used me to come back to school, that's what you

Mr. WILES: (As Skippy) Because I could care less about your stupid classes.
Is GI Joe a safe doll to give kids at Christmas? What's the effect of TV
weatherman on society?

Ms. POSEY: (As Miami) My classes? Let's talk about your classes, OK. Your
dinosaur classes and all that (censored by station). Let's talk about your
friends. Let's talk about how you guys are all in love with each other and
how sick you make me with your stupid games, those trivia games. Ding, Max
loves Grover. Ding, Skippy does Otis. Ding, they all do each other. And
you're driving me nuts. Ding that, Skippy. Get a (censored by station) life!

Mr. WILES: (As Skippy) Nice times to our psychoanalysis.

Ms. POSEY: (As Miami) You know what? I can't stand you. I can't stand
that, you know. Your shoes, your pants, that shirt you're wearing, your hair.
Your hair drives me crazy. Just get out. OK. I have homework to do. Just
get out. Get out. Get out. Out. Out. Go.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's my guest Parker Posey in a scene from "Kicking & Screaming." Do
you think in the '90s when you were making a lot of independent films and you
were really becoming known for those independent films that there was
something that was called like a Parker Posey role or a Parker Posey type?
Did you become identifiable in that way?

Ms. POSEY: Yeah, yeah, I did. And I remember someone told me that I was
like an adjective, and I was really hurt. I was in an elevator in Sundance,
there was another actor, and she goes, `You're like an adjective.' Yeah, there
was. And then there were other things that I read or someone would say, like,
`Yeah, there's a part in this script for a Parker Posey type,' and I would not
have heard what that script was. I wouldn't have gotten asked to do it.

GROSS: So what was a Parker Posey type?

Ms. POSEY: I guess sassy and funny.

GROSS: Kind of eccentric.

Ms. POSEY: I don't know. Funny, yeah.

GROSS: And kind of like funny-sexy.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah.

GROSS: Like sexy, but in a comedy.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah. Yeah. I guess. Mm-hmm. It's so weird. You know, movies
now really shy away from the women being funny, and you get like--I read
scripts and you're up for something, or there's talk about you, and you know,
this guy comedy, he already has a girlfriend that, you know, I'm not going to
play, but there's like another part for a funny girl, and they always end up
getting cut. Those parts get cut, and that's the Park Posey type that I would
have been right for.

GROSS: The kind of role that would get cut.

Ms. POSEY: The friend.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah.

GROSS: It seems like, you know, for many people but for young actresses that
independent films have such more variety in the kind of roles they offer than
the big, like, you know, multiplex movies.

Ms. POSEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Did you find--I mean, did you ever wonder like if you'd gotten started
in the multiplex kind of movies where would you have fit?

Ms. POSEY: Oh, yeah. I mean, I was heartbroken when I didn't get the part
in "Reality Bites."

GROSS: The Janeane Garofalo part?

Ms. POSEY: The Janeane Garofalo part.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. POSEY: And I was--you know, I was told that I got it, and then I was
told that I didn't have it, and I was devastated. But, you know, as you get
older and you see that your career, you know, takes its own shape and you have
your own path that is really not up for you, your will or what you want,
there's like a certain kind of design to it and, you know, and the periods
that I'm not working, I'm learning or I'm thinking about things and, you know,
these parts come to me, so I--yeah, I don't know, if there hadn't been an
independent film movement, where especially now--I mean, where I fit in. I'm
really grateful for that time. I feel really like I was a part of something
that was really great.

GROSS: I think one of the great things about a lot of the independent films,
particularly like when you were getting started was that, you know, many of
them were much more literary than...

Ms. POSEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: could find. By literary I don't necessarily mean like about
books, but the writing was just like really sharp. There were smart people
talking to others so the dialogue wasn't just like a lot of witty retorts.
Take a film like "Daytrippers"...

Ms. POSEY: Yeah.

GROSS: That was so well written...

Ms. POSEY: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and performed, and its characters, you know, it's a family and
there's you know someone in publishing and someone who's like a wannabe
playwright, a little pretentious. Do you have a favorite scene from that

Ms. POSEY: I think when Mom passes out. I mean, we had such a good time on
that movie. Anne Meara could barely say anything without me just laughing in
her face. Like, I--and Liev. Like Liev and I are friends. We've done like
three or four movies together and Greg Mottola is just so lovely and smart.
There is one scene where Anne Meara goes running out of the car and she passes
out, and I say, `Don't go into the light, Mom,' and Liev is like--I was like,
`Greg, I want to say that line,' and Liev was like, `Oh, God, don't say that.'
I'm like, `What do you mean? It's funny.' He goes, `Oh, don't do it.' And
then, like the movie came out and Liev was like `You were right. You got a
really big laugh.' That was so fun.

GROSS: How did you know that you were right. You know, it's so easy to be
talked out of something?

Ms. POSEY: Right? I was like, `Just let me say it.' I had so much more
confidence then than I do now.

GROSS: Is that true? Why is that true?

Ms. POSEY: You just don't think that much when you're young. You don't
think that much before you speak. And your instincts are usually better than
anything you can really think about. But what else did I--you know that movie
was a like a seven or 18-day shoot, and Greg Mottola hasn't directed anything
since he went out to LA and, you know, directed some TV and got some jobs, my
God, but it's like really hard, that whole group of people. A lot of them got
coopted by the studio system and, you know, people waiting for Julia Roberts
to read their script in order to get their movie made, and then the $2 million
movie became a $19 million movie, and it's just kind of lost its place.

GROSS: Parker Posey is starring in the new comedy, "For Your Consideration."
She'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)



I'm Terry Gross back with Parker Posey. She's starred in many independent
films, including "Dazed and Confused," "Party Girl," "Kicking & Screaming,"
"The Daytrippers" and "Personal Velocity." She's been in three Christopher
Guest mockumentaries, "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty
Wind." Now she's co-starring in Guest's new comedy "For Your Consideration."
When we left off, we were talking about her success in the independent film

I always think like the reward you get for being a really good actor or
actress nowadays is that you get to carry a gun onscreen. You know, you get a
big high-paying role and you learn how to carry a gun. Have you ever like had
to do the gun thing on screen or have you been able to avoid all that?

Ms. POSEY: Oh, my God!

GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah, I was in like "Blade III." I don't know if you saw this
film, Terry.

GROSS: "Blade III"? I did not.

Ms. POSEY: It's a vampire film. It's part of the vampire trilogy that
Wesley Snipes is in and, yeah, I show up on set and it's just a bunch of
people like, pow, pow, pow, you know, a bunch of guys. And then we're going
to grr-grr-gree, and they start like playfighting. You're like, are we--I am,
like in--you know, it's like 11-year-olds. It's funny and charming but you
can't believe that money is being spent like this. And so then they're like,
`Here, you have a gun.' I got to hold a gun. I got to be a vampire, which was
kind of fun, you know. And I wore teeth and I had the fangs and the eye
contacts and sometimes I felt like I was in a B movie and sometimes I acted
like I was and sometimes I didn't. You know, it was like...

GROSS: Well, after...

Ms. POSEY: ...and some people would come up to me and some people love it,
you know. Like, `Yeah, you're really hot in "Blade." Oh, Lord!

GROSS: Now, you were in "Superman Returns," and you played Lex Luthor's
girlfriend. So what's it like after being on like so many independent films,
where you're cutting costs wherever you can and doing these like quick shoots,
to suddenly be on a like really big movie like a "Superman" film. What are
some of the differences in the way things are done and, you know, the
shortcuts that you have to take to save money on an indie film vs. the ways
things are done on say, a "Superman" set.

Ms. POSEY: Yeah, when you have $200 million, you're going to time out your
work in a particular way as a director and as a whole like group of people.
So there was like 800 on the crew in "Superman Returns," 800 people. It was
shot in Australia. And on an independent film, where you don't have a monitor
and the director standing by camera, and you have 20 days, you don't have to
lot of takes and you really have to think about your shots and you have to
time it out. So I'm used to doing takes, being good in the first, like, one,
two, three, four takes, and then like take four to seven will kind of be,
like, `I wasn't even there.' I don't know. And then maybe by nine, something
else starts to happen. When you do a big budget movie like "Superman
Returns," you're waiting around for like--you could be waiting around for the
entire day for Brian Singer, who's very talented, to figure out optically what
he wants this particular image to be and how much weight it's going to have.
So, it's like, you know, it's dealing with a comic book reality. And it was
like going into a huge costume dock, you know. The costume department on
"Superman Returns," we got to come up with a whole story of this woman, down
to her shoes. You know, I don't want pointed shoes, I want round-toed shoes
and just this kind of look. So you get to be creative in areas that cost,
like wardrobe on these big movies or look or design, but there's also
something. There is a stress factor that is present when you're making a $200
million movie that's not there when you're making a, you know, million-dollar

GROSS: Is the stress passed onto the actors?

Ms. POSEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: How? Like how did you feel the stress?

Ms. POSEY: You know, there's a certain amount of protection that you have to
kind of get ready for when you're working on a Hollywood movie that can get in
the way of creativity. I mean, that's the thing with like Christopher Guest
movies. He puts so much trust in the actors and he just lets them go off, and
when someone's kind of allowed to go off who's, you know, talented and all
that, it's just like so much more comes across, there's so much more that's
revealed. And sometimes I think with money, there's so much pressure, and so
many people kind of watching what you're doing that it can be a little

GROSS: Let's talk a little bit about your life. You grew up in Mississippi.
Tell us something about where you grew up.

Ms. POSEY: Well, I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. My dad was stationed in
Vietnam, and he left for that--he got drafted like when I was about one. I'm
a twin, and we lived in Baltimore till I was like three, and then we went
down--my mom, when my dad was in Vietnam, drove home to Shreveport, Louisiana,
where she was from, and then my dad got back, and we lived in Monroe,
Louisiana, and I was part of--that's where I started dancing in Linda
Lavender's school of ballet. She was my first ballet teacher and kind of like
the first kind of thing where I was like, `This is what I want to do. I want
to be on stage.' And my dad worked at a car dealership for his uncle Truman
van...(unintelligible)...and Louisiana has all these Cadillac dealerships, and
he got offered a job in Laurel, Mississippi, and when I was 12, we moved to
Laurel, which is a tiny, tiny town, much smaller than Monroe and there were
like eight girls in the ballet class, so it was kind of a sad time for me.
But North Carolina School of the Arts was doing some kind of thing in Jackson,
and I took a class with them, and then I applied for their summer program, and
I went there for ballet, and then I tried to get into the ballet department
for school, and I didn't get in. And my dad called the dean of the school and
said, `What do I tell my daughter? She's going to be really upset.' And he
said, `Tell her she's an actress" so...(unintelligible)...started acting.

And I had been told that before but it always kind of embarrassed me. I'd
been told by teachers because I was kind of a ham, kind of, you know, a
daydreamer. My parents thought I had a learning disability, and I was always
just kind of a head in the clouds.

GROSS: So when the school of ballet--when the person from the school who
turned you down said tell her she's an actor and not a dancer, did he actually
see acting potential in you or was he just trying to make you feel better?

Ms. POSEY: I think he was serious. Yeah, I was--he was like, `We almost
accepted her on personality alone,' like I was such a, like, teacher's pet, I
guess. I was--loved, loved, you know, the freedom that--you know, these
schools are amazing--Interlocken or NCSA, these programs where you can as a
kid be around other artists. I was thrilled...(unintelligible)...and when he
said tell her she's an actress, it made sense to me at the age of 12. I said,
that's it, you know. But my parents were always like observant and kind of,
you know, like really, you know, eccentric people, and I was always like
observing kind of my surroundings, because it's kind of--there's a lot to
observe in the South.

GROSS: Well, Parker Posey, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so

Ms. POSEY: Thank you. I hope I made sense.

GROSS: Parker Posey starring in the new comedy, "For Your Consideration."

Coming up, two contributors to the satirical newspaper The Onion read a couple
of their articles.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Joe Garden and Joe Randazzo, both writers and
contributors to satirical newspaper The Onion, discuss how they
got started working at The Onion and read couple of their favorite

The satirical newspaper, The Onion, has a new anthology called "Homeland
Insecurity," collecting articles from late 2004 to the end of 2005. My guests
are two members of the Onion staff. Joe Garden is a writer and the features
editor. Joe Randazzo is a writer and assistant editor.

Joe Randazzo, Joe Garden, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Messrs. JOE RANDAZZO and JOE GARDEN: (In unison) Thank you.

GROSS: I'd like to start by asking you to each read a thing or two that you
wrote. This new Onion book includes The Onion's, you know, quote "coverage"
of Hurricane Katrina. Do you have a favorite from the post-Katrina coverage
in The Onion that you'd like to read for us.

Mr. JOE GARDEN: Sure, actually we had a story that we ran about three weeks
later, and it was "Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country."

(Reading) "Washington, DC. In response to increasing criticism of his
handling of the war in Iraq and the disaster in the Gulf Coast, as well as
other issues, such as Social Security reform, the national deficit and rising
gas prices, President Bush is expected to appoint someone to run the US as
soon as Friday. `During these tumultuous times, America is in need of a bold
resolute person who can get the job done,' said Bush during a press conference
Monday. `My fellow Americans, I assure you that I will appoint just such a
person with all due haste.' The Cabinet level position to be known as the
Secretary of the Nation was established by an executive order September 2nd,
but has remained unfilled in these intervening weeks."

GROSS: Joe Randazzo, your turn to read another submission that you wrote for
The Onion.

Mr. RANDAZZO: Sure. This one is called `10 Percent Tip Teaches Waitress
Valuable Lesson."

(Reading) "Concord, New Hampshire"--where I'm from. "After receiving subpar
services and experiencing an unusually long wait for his $4.75 lunch at a
local Beefside Family Restaurant Monday, customer Gus O'Connor opted to give
waitress Carla Hyams a reduced 10 percent tip in an attempt to communicate his
dissatisfaction and raise awareness of the areas in which he felt her
performance was lacking. Hyams, 49, who had been serving tables at the
popular eatery for 13 years, expressed enthusiastic gratitude for the immense
personal growth the gesture will afford her, adding that in the long run, the
experience will make her a better waitress. `Maybe I was a little short with
him when I told him to "hold on a sec," but in the future I'll do my best to
ensure a situation like that never ever happens again,' said Hyams, who put
O'Connor's order slip in as the understaffed cooks dealt with a large
complicated meal for a busload of senior citizen tourists. `It's days like
this that I thank God that I get paid less than minimum wage and can rely on a
built-in economic incentive to keep me motivated during those 16-hour double
shifts.' Hyams added that she now knows she should always bring a glass of
water without any ice cube every time someone orders a diet Coke, and that the
phrase `When you get a minute' is in fact a polite way of indicating that the
customer wants his request filled in under one minute. `If he hadn't withheld
that 50 cents, I'd make these same mistakes over and over for the rest of my
career,' she said. `Even at my age, it's amazing to think you can still learn
something new about a low-paying menial labor job.'

GROSS: That's really funny. Have you worked as a waiter?

Mr. RANDAZZO: I have. I did that for one summer.

Mr. GARDEN: Really?

Mr. RANDAZZO: Yeah, and that was enough, but I had to stress so much over
like Reuben sandwiches, you know. It wasn't worth it for me, emotionally, to
be a waiter.

GROSS: How did you each first get into The Onion? Did you just send things
over the transom?

Mr. GARDEN: I started in 1993, so nearly, oh, my, nearly 14 years ago. I
was actually--I knew--when I was in Madison, Wisconsin, I loved The Onion. I
was a big fan, and I knew everybody--I knew some of the people that worked
there, and so I was just sitting in the liquor store that I worked at, minding
my own business, where I was making signs for the window, which were--they
started out with a product, like a beer, and then it's like a little joke at
the bottom. And then there was sort of an equilibrium struck with the beer,
with the product and the joke taking up equal space. And then it became
almost all joke and no product at all, and finally, one of the--I just did it
for my own personal benefit so I wouldn't go crazy working in a liquor store,
and the assistant editor at the time, Dan Vebber, came by and asked if I
wanted to--said he was a big fan of the signs and wanted to know if I was
interested in contributing to The Onion.

GROSS: And, Joe Randazzo, how did you get started at The Onion?

Mr. RANDAZZO: For doing some improv comedy here in New York, a young lady in
my class named Amy Berdale was in the position that I currently occupy at The
Onion, and then Amy left to go to India for a while, and when she left, she
suggested me for the job, which I thought was very sweet but that I would have
no chance, and then Scott Dikkers, the editor in chief, sent along a story or
two for me to test edit and called me and left a message on my voice mail
telling me that I had a job at The Onion, and I was working at a fruit basket
company at the time.

Mr. GARDEN: Oh, I forgot you were.

Mr. RANDAZZO: Yeah, so I left--I got this call on Thursday, and I started on

Mr. GARDEN: Oh, so you...

Mr. RANDAZZO: ...and I'm still paying the bar tab from that weekend.

GROSS: Can I ask you each to read something that's a favorite of yours, a
favorite headline or story from The Onion?

Joe Randazzo, do you want to read a favorite?

Mr. RANDAZZO: Sure. So this one's great. It's titled "Long-Awaited Beer
with Bush Really Awkward, Voter Reports."

(Reading) "Warren, Pennsylvania. Although respondents to a Pew poll taken
prior to the 2004 presidential election characterized President Bush as the
candidate they'd most like to sit down and have a beer with, Chris Reinard
lived the hypothetical scenario Sunday afternoon and characterized it as
`really uncomfortable and awkward.' Reinard, a father of four who supported
Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, said sharing a beer with the president at
the Switchyard Tap gave him `an uneasy feeling.' `I thought he'd be great,'
Reinard said, `but when I actually met him, I felt really put off.'"

GROSS: I'm glad you wrote that. I always wondered for the people who said
that they were voting for one candidate over another because they'd preferred
to have a beer with them, like, did they really think they were going to have
a beer with either of them?

And, Joe Garden, I'd like you to read one more of your entries.

Mr. GARDEN: OK. The article is called "National Gonzo Press Club Vows to
Carry on Thompson's Work."

(Reading) "Las Vegas. During a Tuesday press conference at the National Gonzo
Press Club, members of the nation's foremost organization of Gonzo journalists
vowed to carry on the mission of its founder, Hunter S. Thompson, who took
his life last month. `Now that the whore beasts and the scum-sucking
degenerate rat bastards in Wall Street and the White House are hell-bent on
turning us all into pliant scripture-mewling puppet-slaveys, we must take up
Hunter's fallen colors and charge into the fray,' said NGPC president, Gene
Zolonga, who was a national affairs and shark-hunting editor for the
Philadelphia Enquirer."

GROSS: That's funny. Did you follow Thompson?

Mr. GARDEN: I don't know, necessarily, that I was a huge Hunter S. Thompson
fan, but I admired the fact that he was a character. You know, he had--you
know, he was a very singular person, and that is something I found very

GROSS: Well, thanks for reading that. Thank you both for talking with us
about The Onion and for reading highlights of the new Onion anthology, "The
Onion Presents Homeland Insecurity." Thank you, Joe Randazzo and Joe Garden
for being with us.

Mr. GARDEN: Thank you, Terry.

Mr. RANDAZZO: Thanks, Terry.

GROSS: Joe Garden is a writer and features editor for The Onion. Joe
Randazzo is a writer and assistant editor.

Coming up, we listen back to an interview with the filmmaker Robert Altman.
He died last night at the age of 81.

This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript


I'm Terry Gross.

We're closing with music from the soundtrack of Robert Altman's film, "The

(Soundbite of music)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue