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'Fiddler' Composer Jerry Bock, 1928-2010

Jerry Bock, the composer of the score for shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello! and She Loves Me, died Nov. 3. He was 81. Fresh Air remembers the composer with highlights from a 2004 interview conducted with Bock and his writing partner, lyricist Sheldon Harnick.

20:42

Other segments from the episode on November 5, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 5, 2010: Obituary for Jerry Bock; Interview with Mark McKinney; Review of the 1972 concert film "Ladies and gentlemen...;" Review of two fims "Due date" and "127…

Transcript

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'Fiddler' Composer Jerry Bock, 1928-2010

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting in for
Terry Gross.

Jerry Bock, who wrote the music for such Broadway hits as "Fiorello," "She
Loves Me" and "Fiddler on the Roof," died Wednesday of heart failure. He was
81.

Today, to pay tribute, we'll listen back to an interview Terry recorded with
Jerry Bock and his songwriting partner, lyricist Sheldon Harnick. They spoke in
2004, the year a new revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" was being produced on
Broadway. It starred Alfred Molina as Tevye, the role originated by Zero
Mostel. The original production of "Fiddler" opened on Broadway in September,
1964 and ran for 3,3242 performances. Here's how Zero opened that show.

(Soundbite of song, "Tradition")

Mr. ZERO MOSTEL (Actor): (As Tevye) A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?
But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a
fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without
breaking his neck. It isn't easy.

You may ask: Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous? We stay because
Anatevka's our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one
word: Tradition.

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) Tradition, tradition,
tradition. Tradition, tradition, tradition.

GROSS: Jerry Bock, when you were writing the music for "Fiddler on the Roof,"
how Jewish did you want the music to sound? How much did you want it to sound
like klezmer music, and how much did you want it to sound like Broadway music?

Mr. JERRY BOCK (Composer, "Fiddler on the Roof"): It never entered my mind in
either case. I knew the ambience was going to be Russian and that it took place
in a shtetl, but I had no compulsion to research either early klezmer or
particularly Russian music at the turn of that century or just before the turn
of the century.

What happened was that for some inexplicable reason, the music that I hadn't
been able to write with all our shows was something that I had silently
deposited in my creative mind. And the opportunity to now express myself with
that kind of music just opened up a flood of possibilities for me.

GROSS: So let's hear Zero Mostel from the original cast recording, doing "If I
Were a Rich Man."

(Soundbite of song, "If I Were a Rich Man")

Mr. MOSTEL: (As Tevye) Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize of
course that it's no shame to be poor, but it's no great honor either. So what
would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?

(Singing) If I were a rich man (unintelligible) all day long I'd
(unintelligible) if I were a wealthy man. I wouldn't have to work hard,
(unintelligible). If I were a bitty-bitty rich (unintelligible) man.

I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen right in the middle of the
town, a fine tin roof with real wooden floors below. There would be one long
staircase just going up and one even longer coming down and one more leading
nowhere just for show.

I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks for the town to
see and here, squawking just as noisily as they can. And each loud (makes
animal noises) will land like a trumpet on the ears, as if to say here lives a
wealthy man.

If I were a rich man (unintelligible), all day long I'd (unintelligible), if I
were a wealthy man. I wouldn't have to work hard, (unintelligible). If I were a
bitty-bitty rich, (unintelligible) man.

I see my wife...

GROSS: Sheldon Harnick, the yiddle-deedle-diggi-diggi-do(ph) part, did you
actually write out the syllables that you wanted Zero Mostel to sing?

Mr. SHELDON HARNICK (Lyricist, "Fiddler on the Roof"): Well, it wasn't that I
necessarily wrote them for Zero, but what happened was this: When Jerry played
me the music he wrote, he did the whole song in that kind of a Hassidic chant.
And we decided that it would be great fun to preserve part of the chant and not
just to write wall-to-wall lyrics for the song.

But my problem was I don't come from a background where I was comfortable
chanting in that fashion, and I thought, okay, I'll have to create some kind of
syllables which give the effect of that kind of chanting. And I came up with
the diddle-deedle-diddle-digga-digga-deedle-diddle-dum, which I thought was
kind of fun and sounded a little like the chanting.

But when we played the song for Zero, he said: I come from a background, I
don't want to do the syllables you've written. Is it okay with you if I do it
the way I think it should be done? And I said absolutely. I said: I can't sing
it that way.

So Zero did it with his – stylistically, it sounded quite...

Mr. BOCK: Authentic.

Mr. HARNICK: Authentic, yeah. So when I perform the song, I have to do it with
the syllables because that's the only way I can sing it.

Mr. BOCK: By the way, if Sheldon had said no, absolutely not, you must do the
lyric, he would have done it his way anyway.

Mr. HARNICK: Right.

GROSS: Was he hard or easy to work with?

Mr. HARNICK: He was...

Mr. BOCK: Both.

Mr. HARNICK: In terms of music, he was - although he was not a singer, he was
extremely musical so that in that sense he was very easy. And as a matter of
fact, he did me a huge favor.

After he started to learn "If I Were A Rich Man," I got nervous about it
because I thought most of the song is rather droll, and then I went for a
serious ending. And I began to worry whether I should change the ending and
make the ending droll also.

So I suggested that in a conference we had one day. I think Hal Prince was
there and Jerome Robbins and Zero. And Zero looked at me, he said Sheldon, he
said, don't change the ending. If you want to – this is the man. He said the
jokes in the song are terrific, but this is the man that you've described, the
man who wants a seat by the Eastern Wall, who wants to be able to pray. This is
the real Tevye. So he – we kept the ending, and I'm glad we did.

Mr. BOCK: I'm glad too.

GROSS: Now, I want to go to another song, and that is "Do I Love You."

Mr. BOCK: "Do You Love Me."

GROSS: Yeah, "Do You Love Me."

Mr. HARNICK: No, no, do you love me?

Mr. BOCK: We're very flattered.

GROSS: Do you love me, do I love you, yes.

Mr. BOCK: Will you please answer that question?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And this is a song, you know, all of Tevye's daughters, like, they want
to fall in love. They don't want their father Tevye to decide who they're going
to marry. They don't want the matchmaker to decide it. At this point they want
to fall in love, and at least one of them already has, and she wants to marry
the man she loves.

And this is leading Tevye to wonder, well, what about his relationship? Does
his wife love him? What is love? And he sings this song. And it's a lovely
song. Sheldon Harnick, can you talk about the lyric?

Mr. HARNICK: Yes. During rehearsal, when we were in New York, I began to feel
that there was a song that would develop out of Tevye's saying do you love me.
I always thought when Golde would say: Do I what? Because that was – love was
not something that people married for, generally, in those days. They married
for security. They married for economic reasons, you know, companionship, but
not love.

So when I pictured her saying do I what, I thought that's very funny, but I
couldn't figure out where the song went from there. And when we got to Detroit,
our pre-Broadway tour, I used to take long walks every day and try and figure
out what they would say. And the lyric came very slowly and in a kind of
unconventional form.

When I finally finished it, after about a week, I gave it to Jerry, very
uncertain about what I had, and I said: I know that it's, it looks more like a
scene than a song.

So do what you can with it, and if I have to rewrite the lyric, I will. And I
was absolutely delighted when Jerry set the lyric exactly as I gave it to him.

Mr. BOCK: I just wanted to add very quickly, Terry, that the difference between
Zero's "Do You Love Me" and Alfred's is astonishing. Zero did get laughs. He
approached it as almost a kind of incredulous question to ask and took
advantage of every humorous possibility.

Alfred does it most sincerely in terms of a true and real question. He wants to
know the answer, and as a result it's a very moving moment, rather than a
humorous one in this current production.

Mr. HARNICK: Yeah, and while we're on that subject, I just have to put in a
word that our Golde, Randy Graff, is – in her own way she's as wonderful as
Fred Molina is.

Mr. BOCK: Yes.

GROSS: Well, let's hear Alfred Molina and Randy Graff from the new cast
recording of "Fiddler on the Roof." This is "Do You Love Me."

(Soundbite of song, "Do You Love Me")

Mr. ALFRED MOLINA (Actor): (As Tevye) (Singing) Golde, do you love me?

Ms. RANDY GRAFF (Actor): (As Golde) (Singing) Do I what?

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) Do you love me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) Do I love you? With our daughters getting
married and this trouble in the town, you're upset, you're worn out. Go inside,
go lie down. Maybe it's indigestion.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) Golde, I'm asking you a question. Do you love
me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) You're a fool.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) I know. But do you love me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) Do I love you?

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) Well?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) For 25 years I've washed your clothes, cooked
your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After 25
years, why talk about love right now?

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) Golde, the first time I met you was on our
wedding day. I was scared.

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) I was shy.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) I was nervous.

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) So was I.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) But my father and my mother said we'd learn to
love each other. Now I'm asking: Golde, do you love me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) I'm your wife.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) I know. But do you love me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) Do I love him? For 25 years I've lived with
him, fought with him, starved with him, 25 years my bed is his. If that's not
love, what is?

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) Then you love me?

Ms. GRAFF: (As Golde) (Singing) I suppose I do.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Tevye) (Singing) And I suppose I love you too.

Ms. GRAFF and Mr. Molina: (As Golde and Tevye) (Singing) It doesn't change a
thing, but even so, after 25 years, it's nice to know.

BIANCULLI: Alfred Molina and Randy Graff from the 2004 revival of "Fiddler on
the Roof." Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick spoke to Terry
Gross in 2004. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2004 interview with composer Jerry Bock
and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who collaborated on the musicals "Fiorello," "She
Loves Me" and "Fiddler on the Roof." Jerry Bock died of heart failure this week
at the age of 81. Here's "To Life," from the original cast recording of
"Fiddler on the Roof."

(Soundbite of musical, "Fiddler on the Roof")

(Soundbite of song, "To Life")

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) Here's to our
prosperity, our good health and happiness, and most important: To life, to
life, l'chaim(ph), l'chaim, l'chaim, to life.

Here's to the father I tried to be, here's to my bride-to-be, drink l'chaim, to
life, to life, l'chaim, l'chaim, l'chaim, to life. Life has a way of confusing
us, blessing and bruising us. Drink l'chaim, to life.

God would like us to be joyful, even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
How much more can we be joyful, when there's really something to be joyful for?

To life, to life, l'chaim, to Tzeitel, my daughter - my wife. It gives you
something to think about, something to drink about, drink l'chaim, to life.

Le Morta. Yes, Lazar Wolf? Drinks for everyone. What's the occasion?

GROSS: This is the only song that actually has a Yiddish word in it, l'chaim,
which is a toast to life. So Sheldon Harnick, when you were writing the lyrics,
it seems to me you intentionally avoided using anything Yiddish, with the
exception of this song.

Mr. HARNICK: Well, there is one other song. "The Dream" uses the word mazel
tov.

GROSS: Oh, that's true, a blessing on your head, mazel tov, mazel tov.

Mr. HARNICK: Well, there was a reason for that. Not too long before we went
into rehearsal, I went to see a comedian named Lenny Bruce. I'd heard that
Lenny Bruce was controversial because he used a lot of profanity and
obscenities in his act, and I was curious.

So I went to see him, and it turned out that the obscenities and the
profanities were all done as characters that he portrayed and - so that they
sounded like things those particular characters would actually say.

And I wasn't disturbed by the profanity or the obscenity at all. What did
disturb me was that when he wasn't doing the characters, and he was just
talking, he would throw in Yiddish words. And they would elicit laughter from a
few people here and there, but many of the other people in the club turned to
each other and said: What'd he say? What'd he say?

So I thought: It'll be probably useful to use a couple of Yiddish words in our
show, in the dialogue and in the lyrics, just a couple for flavoring. But if
anyone laughs when they're used, then they come out. And also, when they're
used, they have to be used in a way that the audience will know what they mean.

So of course in "To Life" there's an explanation that goes along with...

Mr. BOCK: You defined it.

Mr. HARNICK: Right: To life, to life, l'chaim. L'chaim – nobody can miss that.
And the word mazel tov is usually used in a setting where it's pretty clear
that it means congratulations, you know.

Mr. BOCK: Yes, good fortune.

Mr. HARNICK: Unhappily, after the show was running, the original show was
running, our dear star Zero would occasionally go into a matinee and use more
Yiddish than we ever could have dreamed of in certain performances to sort of
make him a confidante of what he thought that kind of audience was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HARNICK: We all thought that was naughty, to put it mildly.

GROSS: Well, we're almost out of time here. I have to ask you the "Sunrise,
Sunset" question. It's a song that became a terrible cliché for quite a while
because everybody was doing it at those emotional moments when your child is
finally grown up.

Mr. HARNICK: My favorite cliché.

GROSS: Exactly, and probably one of the most lucrative clichés too. Did you
ever think when you were writing it the kind of life the song was going to
have?

Mr. HARNICK: No. Jerry had written the music first. He sent it to me on a tape,
and I thought, gee, that's a lovely song. I think that would be perfect to sing
at the wedding.

And as I've said in an interview previously, the lyric kind of crystallized on
the melodic curve of the song. When we finished it, Jerry was living in New
Rochelle at the time, we called his wife down to the studio and we played it
for Patty. And when we looked at her at the end of the song, she was crying.

Mr. BOCK: She had tears in her eyes, yes.

Mr. HARNICK: And then I played it for my sister shortly after that, and she was
crying. And we thought, ooh, this song probably, this has more effectiveness
than we imagined.

Mr. BOCK: Mind you, we didn't that they were tears of joy or that's awful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Jerry Bock, what did you listen to when you were writing this show? Did
you listen to much music?

Mr. BOC: Not really. Somehow, as I said, I had unknowingly, unwittingly stored
a lot of the sound of it without having been able to express myself with it.

I love Russian music. I love Romanian music. Minor is my major key.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOCK: And so with all that in mind, it just – I think Sheldon and I
probably wrote maybe three to one. For every song that was used, we wrote at
least three, and if we were asked to write 10 or 15 more, we probably could
have because it was the kind of show that allowed us to express ourselves as we
had never expressed ourselves before.

GROSS: I want to thank you so much not only for talking with us, but thank you
for all the great songs you've given us. Thank you so much.

Mr. HARNICK: Oh, thank you.

Mr. BOCK: Thank you, Terry.

BIANCULLI: Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, speaking to Terry
Gross in 2004. As a writing team, their Broadway musical credits include
"Fiorello," "She Loves Me," and one of the most popular musicals in history,
"Fiddler on the Roof." Jerry Bock died this week of heart failure at age 81.
I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.
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Mark McKinney: Comedic 'Slings And Arrows'

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Slings And Arrows")

Unidentified Actor: (as character) Enter Hamlet.

Mr. PAUL GROSS (Actor): (as Hamlet) To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the minds to suffer the stings and arrow - sorry. The
slings and arrow - whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and -
and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea
of troubles, and by opposing, end them?

BIANCULLI: Ouch. That's a Hollywood heartthrob rehearsing "Hamlet" in a scene
from the TV series called "Slings And Arrows." It's set backstage and onstage
at a dysfunctional Canadian theater company that produces an annual Shakespeare
festival. "Slings And Arrows" originated in Canada and has been shown on the
Sundance Channel. A complete series DVD boxed set has just come out on Blu-Ray.

Our next guest, Mark McKinney, co-created and co-wrote this series And plays
the role of the company's chief administrator, Richard Smith Jones. Richard has
to deal with two temperamental directors. One is troubled but brilliant; the
other is a pretentious egomaniac. Mark McKinney was a cast member of the
Canadian sketch comedy series "The Kids in the Hall," and went from there to
"Saturday Night Live."

Here's another scene from "Slings And Arrows." Richard, and one of the
company’s funders, have just come out of seeing a production of ABBA musical
"Mama Mia." The funder is played by Jennifer Irwin.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Slings And Arrows")

Ms. JENNIFER IRWIN (Actress): (as Holly Day) You’re fantastic.

Mr. MARK MCKINNEY (Actor; Comedian): (as Richard) That was fantastic. Oh, was
grand, the dancing and the singing. I understood every word.

Ms. IRWIN (Actress): (as Holly Day) I know. I swear to god, it gets better
every time.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) Thank you. It just goes to show you’ve got to keep
things in your perspective, you know? You know, I saw "Chorus Line" when I was
16 on Broadway and I - I was blown away, you know, I cried.

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) I love that show.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) That's what made me want to go into theater. I used
to sing to all those albums. You know, with "Damned Yankees," "Kiss Me Kate."
My parents thought I was gay. How the hell did I wind up in New Burbage? What
happened?

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) Look, do not torture yourself. Come on, let's go for
a drink.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) You know what they are? Pure entertainment.

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) Mmm, that's right.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) I'm so sick of hearing it's a dense play, oh, it’s a
difficult play. I've never seen anyone come dancing and singing out of the
"Swan Lake" we just did.

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) I know. And why do you think that is?

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) Because it's Shakespeare. Shakespeare's like...

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) Four hundred years old.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) And I don't even think he was that good. There, I
said it. I mean, you know, in entertaining people. I mean I’m not saying that
like ABBA, we're better writers.

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) No, no. No, no, no. I know what you mean.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) I don't like Shakespeare.

Ms. IRWIN: (as Holly Day) Nobody does, Richard. That's the thing. You put on
plays that nobody wants to see. God, what a waste.

Mr. MCKINNEY: (as Richard) You’re right.

TERRY GROSS: That's Mark McKinney in a scene from the first season of "Slings
And Arrows."

Mark McKinney, welcome to FRESH AIR.

One of the things I love about "Slings And Arrows" is it gets to some of the
things that are most wonderful about good theater and most cringe-inducing
about that the theater. So I thought we'd get - we'd start with some of the
cringe inducing stuff.

Mr. MCKINNEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Don McKellar, who is a really good Canadian actor and I think director
too, does he direct?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Director and writer. Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. So he plays a very pretentious director who is originally brought
in to direct - to take over a production of "Hamlet." And this is a director so
pretentious and so wanting to put his like own touch on everything - his own
creative touch - that he did a version of "The Tempest" set in Nazi Germany.

Mr. MCKINNEY: Right.

GROSS: So let's hear a scene from episode three of the first season of "Slings
And Arrows." And this is how this very pretentious director introduces itself
to the cast of "Hamlet" when he takes over the production.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Slings And Arrows")

Mr. DON MCKELLAR (Actor; Director): (as Darren Nichols) Hello everyone. I am
Darren Nichols. Deal with that. All right. Re: "Hamlet," "Hamlet." This play is
dead. It has been dead for over 300 years. It has been strip-mined for
quotations and propped up like Lenin in ice cave. I don't worship dead text,
but that doesn't mean I don't find interest in them. Now, as to my vision, I'm
taking the word rotten, as in something's rotten in the state of Denmark, very
seriously. I want a rank and foul-looking, foul-acted, and if possible, foul-
smelling Hamlet - a decomposed vessel somewhere between the swamp and the
sewer. Anyway, that's the general idea. Questions? Okay. Let's read this
corpse.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's so great. That's Don McKellar in a scene from "Slings And Arrows"
playing a very pretentious director. And my guest, Mark McKinney, is one of the
writers of the series in one of the stars. This character must have been so
much fun to write. So what are some of the awful traits you gave this director?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, he's completely self obsessed and he's, you know, he's the
second son. And Geoffrey, played by Paul Gross, is clearly the gifted one. And
I think he goes around with just this hanging resentment, this bitterness that
he knows he can't, you know, dare to get it right, so he just derides, and
mocks, and that's where his creativity comes from, is putting down the very
thing that he should be embracing.

GROSS: In the final season of "Slings And Arrows" there is a production of the
"Lear" that the Shakespeare festival is doing and the actor playing Lear is a
leading Shakespearean actor who is secretly dying of cancer. And when this
production happens at the end, that's after they have totally run out of money,
they're only going to do it once. And so this performance that they actually do
give is incredibly moving, And the actor who plays the actor playing Lear is
really great. Tell us a little bit about that actor and the circumstances
surrounding this performance.

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, William Hutt who played the character Charles Kingman, was
the dying actor who's the heroine addict and who plays the Lear in the third
the series, had actually given a legendary Lear at the Stratford Festival a
couple of years before the series. And for some reason this had never been
taped and so this is the archive of at least pieces of that great performance
and we were lucky to get it, as he actually died last year.

GROSS: So the actor who played the actor playing Lear died not long after
making the show.

Mr. MCKINNEY: No. No. He died, yeah, in the fall.

GROSS: I'd like to play just a clip of that performance of "Lear," the play
within the series.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Slings And Arrows")

Mr. WILLIAM HUTT (Actor): (as King Lear) O, you are men of stones. Had I your
tongues and eyes, I'd use them so that heaven's vault should crack. She's gone
forever. I know when one is dead, and when one lives; she's dead as earth. Lend
me a looking-glass, that If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, why,
then she lives.

Unidentified Woman: (as character) Alex 57, go. And standby for curtain call
everyone.

GROSS: That's a scene from "Slings And Arrows," and my guest Mark McKinney is
one of the co-writers of the series and one of the stars, and he didn't write
"King Lear," however.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, bits of it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Bits of it. Yeah. In a series about really, you know, creative directors
and actors, why did you cast yourself as the suit - the money guy who kind of
wants to be creative but maybe really isn't?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, I don't know, maybe because I sort of look at actors as
something other than what I am. Do you know what I mean? And I think I was kind
of brought up to expect people to be reasonable and I think artistic behavior,
particularly tantrums, used to scare me when I first got into the business and
so I always had this part of myself that was wrestling with the reasonable
versus the impulse. And I see that conflict in Richard, like not sure what lane
he should take here.

GROSS: So I take it you're not the kind of actor who brings the theater into
real-life. You know, like some people are so theatrical offstage as well as on
and they always seem to be in some kind of performance.

Mr. MCKINNEY: No. I think on the street you'd mistake me for a
horticulturalist.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Now, one of the movies you were in "Spice World," the Spice Girls movie.

Mr. MCKINNEY: Do you want me to sign your DVD?

GROSS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNEY: You got every one with me? Yes, I...

GROSS: What was your part in it? I didn't see the movie. What was your part in
it?

Mr. MCKINNEY: What?

GROSS: What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, why are we doing this interview?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNEY: My part was that George Wendt and I played sort of a producer-
writer team and he was my producer and I was his writer, and so we're to trying
to concoct the movie within the movie for the Spice Girls.

GROSS: But you've written so many things that you've been in. You didn't
participate in the writing in this, did you?

Mr. MCKINNEY: That? No. No.

GROSS: Did you wish you had? I mean or do you sometimes end up performing in
something where you feel like you could make it much better if you were
rewriting it?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Not often. No, I've been really lucky. Unless I'm completely
myopic, I haven't been in a lot of junk and I'm lucky that way.

GROSS: You’re a writer and you’re an actor. Do both of those jobs draw on
different parts of who you are?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Yeah, completely. And in fact, they affect your lifestyle. On
"Kids in the Hall" it was very traumatic because we would go through cycles -
three, four, five weeks of writing, then sort of a slow breath towards
performing. And when I was writing I would be up at eight o'clock, my place was
neat, my dishes were done, I wasn't living to excess, and then as we sort of
folded and became actors, you know, the laundry would pileup and the nights
would get later, the behavior more irresponsible until the whole thing would
sort of roll through again. And I think it does trade-off completely different
sides of your personality.

GROSS: Why would the actor part be more like sloppy or irresponsible?

Mr. MCKINNEY: Well, I, because I think you're tapping into sort of an
impulsivity and I think that there's more - there's more of a certain type of
adrenaline released when you're performing that, you know, makes you stick
around for an extra beer or, you know, watch three hours of CNN before you go
to bed.

GROSS: Well, Mark McKinney, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. MCKINNEY: Thank you so much for having me on your show.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Slings And Arrows")

Mr. GRAHAM HARLEY (Actor): (as Cyril) (Singing) Cheer up, Hamlet. Chin up,
Hamlet. Buck up, you melancholy Dane. So your uncle is a cad who murdered dad
and married Mum. That’s really no excuse to be as glum as you’ve become. So
wise up, Hamlet. Rise up, Hamlet. Perk up and sing a new refrain. Your
incessant monologizing, fills the castle with ennui. Your antic disposition is
embarrassing to see. And by the way, you sulky brat, The answer is to be.
You’re driving poor Ophelia insane. So shut up, you rogue and peasant. Grow up,
it’s most unpleasant. Cheer up, you melancholy Dane.

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of cheering)

BIANCULLI: That's from the Canadian TV series "Slings And Arrows." Mark
McKinney, co-creator and co-star of the show, spoke to Terry Gross in 2008.
"Slings And Arrows" was just released as a complete series DVD box set on Blu-
Ray.

Coming up, Milo Miles reviews a new DVD release of an old concert by The
Rolling Stones.

This is FRESH AIR.

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Looking Back At The Rolling Stones, Live In Texas 1972

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

In 1972, when The Rolling Stones toured the United States for the first time
since their disastrous free concert at Altamont, they decided to film four
performances in Fort Worth and Houston, Texas for a theatrical release. The
band was promoting its ambitious double album "Exile on Main Street." The
finished film, "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones," was rarely shown and
has never been officially released for home viewing, until now.

Music critic Milo Miles has a review.

(Soundbite of song, "Tumbling Dice")

Sir MICK JAGGER (Singer, The Rolling Stones): (Singing) Hey, women think I'm
tasty, they're always trying to waste me. Make me burn the candle right down.
But baby, baby, I don't need no jewels in my crown.

All you ladies, you low down gamblers, cheating like I don't know how. But
baby, I go crazy, there's fever in the funk house now. This low down
bitching...

MILO MILES: Of the films that feature The Rolling Stones in concert, there are
two that matter. One is "Gimme Shelter," but that Altamont documentary isn't
really about the Stones, is it? The other one was more talked about than seen
over the years, but you can finally enjoy "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling
Stones" in the comfort of your own flat-screen TV, rather than in the hit-and-
miss quadraphonic setup in which it was originally released in a few theaters.

But wait - what about Martin Scorsese's 2008 Stones movie, "Shine a Light,"
certainly the most cinematically rich documentary of the band ever? I think the
difference between "Ladies and Gentlemen" and "Shine a Light" is captured in a
moment before the music even starts. In "Shine a Light," Bill and Hillary
Clinton greet the band before the show - and, in fact, the two performances
were a benefit for the ex-president's Foundation and a celebration of his 60th
birthday.

It's hard to get across what a scandal it would have been in 1972 if any high
government official, let alone an ex-president, had such an intimate public
connection with a Rolling Stones concert. Yes, presidents are more comfortable
with rock 'n' roll these days, but the Stones are fundamentally transformed -
they're not dangerous anymore. And not all the fancy camera angles and inspired
lighting and steely professionalism in Scorsese's movie can make up for that.
When Mick Jagger performs "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in "Ladies and Gentlemen," he's
not merely invoking a world-famous rock 'n' roll classic - he's incarnating it.

(Soundbite of song, "Jumpin' Jack Flash")

Sir JAGGER: (Singing) Yeah, I was raised by a toothless, bearded hag. I was
schooled with a strap right across my back. But it's all right, woo, in fact,
it's a gas. But it's all right, I'm Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a Gas. Gas. Gas.

EDELSTEIN: "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones" reflects an early-days
concept of what a rock show should be - an almost punk-like spareness to the
stage set, 15 songs in a punchy 82 minutes, and a furious, almost deranged set
of final numbers. It's also clear by now that this was the most varied and
cohesive set of players for the group - sidemen were Bobby Keys on saxophone,
Jim Price on horns and Nicky Hopkins on piano. But the crucial regular band
member was guitarist Mick Taylor, looking like a pre-Raphaelite cherub dropped
into a nest of gargoyles. Unlike his ultimate replacement, Ron Wood, Taylor did
not sound or solo like Keith Richards - he was gritty enough, but a subtle,
lyrical bluesman.

This is Taylor's climactic solo on Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain"

(Soundbite of song, "Love in Vain") (Instrumental)

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of cheering)

EDELSTEIN: For The Rolling Stones, I think the most fundamental change of all
since 1972 is that bluesmen aren't what they used to be. Once, the blues was
the voice of outsiders who wouldn't sugarcoat love or tell you lies about work
and success. Because the Stones were bold when they turned the language of
blues-based rock to contemporary youth and events, they seemed like fearless,
ravaged realists. But if the Stones never became aristocrats, they did become
plutocrats and supreme show-biz insiders.

The blues faded as a living music language, and though they tried and tried and
searched everywhere, the Stones never found as durable a style as the blues to
tell hard truths or at least deliver indelible threats like "Midnight Rambler."
But in "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones," Mick, Keith and the boys
were fluent in the blues like nobody else.

For established pop-music icons, the Stones have been uncommonly reluctant to
look back. By all accounts, the big impediment is Jagger, who feels the vintage
material doesn't meet his standards. This release of "Ladies and Gentlemen"
includes a new interview with Jagger in which he grants his seal of approval,
saying the band sounds on and together. The cagey old codger is underselling a
masterpiece.

BIANCULLI: Milo Miles reviewed the concert film "Ladies and Gentlemen: The
Rolling Stones," now available on DVD.

Coming up, film critic David Edelstein reviews two new movies, "127 Hours" and
"Due Date."

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)
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..TIME:
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..NIEL:
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..NTWK:
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..SGMT:
'Due Date' and '127 Hours' Aim Low, Hit High

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Two big studio movies will vie for an audience this weekend. The comedy "Due
Date" is the latest from Todd Phillips, who had a smash hit with "The
Hangover." "Due Date" stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as a
mismatched pair who end up taking a road trip together.

And the movie, "127 Hours," is Danny Boyle's first feature film since "Slumdog
Millionaire," and stars James Franco as a hiker pinned by a boulder in a Canyon
in Utah. It's based on a true story.

Critic David Edelstein reviews them both.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "Due Date" and "127 Hours" will be huge hits, in part because
they aim low and hit their targets, in part because - like the number one films
of the past few weeks, "Jackass 3D" and "Saw 3D" - they're relentlessly in your
face.

Todd Phillips's "Due Date" has a premise so tired I'm bored even recounting it
- two mismatched men thrown together on a desperate road trip - but at every
point, Phillips gets nastier and filthier. Another filmmaker would have the
uptight straight arrow annoyed by, say, his slobby companion's snoring. Here,
Robert Downey, Jr.'s Peter tries to sleep in the back seat of a car as, up
front, Zach Galifianakis's Ethan - well, trust me, he's just gross. Like
Phillips's other comedies, this one begins with its protagonist repulsed by a
heavy man's sweat and other excretions and ends with him trumpeting his love.
Bromance is in the air, la-la.

At least they're a classy pair of bromantics. Downey has perfect pitch: Like
the funniest slow burners he looks truly capable of murder. Galifianakis makes
Ethan disarmingly matter-of-fact; the more chaos he engenders, the more
exquisite his dignity. Sitting opposite Peter in a diner while mysteriously
clutching a coffee can, he can't fathom his traveling companion's hostility.

(Soundbite of movie, "Due Date")

Mr. ZACH GALIFIANAKIS (Actor): (as Ethan Tremblay) Peter, what brought you to
Atlanta, business or pleasure?

Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (Actor): (as Peter Highman) Business.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Business. What kind of business?

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Architecture.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) How did you get into architecture?

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) College. Anything else? Because I am trying
to...

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) I'm sorry, Peter. We're going to be
traveling for the few days and it wouldn't hurt to get to know each other.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Ethan, what brought you to Atlanta, business or
pleasure?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) My daddy died. I went to Atlanta to go to
his funeral.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Gee. I didn't know. I'm sorry.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) He's the one who kind of motivated me to
get on the TV.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) I have a friend, he's in the industry.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Does the work on "Two and a Half Men?"

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) No. He...

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Oh, man, that's too bad, because "Two and
a Half Men" is the reason I wanted to become an actor.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Right.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Especially the second season.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Why do you even have this?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Oh, because this is my Daddy. These are
his ashes.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Peter Highman) Why are your father's ashes in a coffee can?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (as Ethan Tremblay) Because he's dead, Peter.

EDELSTEIN: What happens to those ashes is genuinely riotous, but at journey's
end, "Due Date" is still a formula mismatched buddy comedy that goes nowhere
you haven't been. For all its naughty-boy touches, it's all too happy to hug
the Interstate.

The come-on for "127 Hours" is an even mightier gross-out. Based on a memoir
called "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the film recounts how Aron Ralston,
played by James Franco, is pinned under a boulder in an isolated Utah canyon
and forced, after nearly five days with no hope of rescue, to cut off his arm.

I read the book and knew going in the movie would be rough - but not that
director Danny Boyle would be such a tease. At one point, Aron gazes on his arm
- turning black and clearly doomed anyway - and you think, here we go. But no,
not yet. And then, later, here - it - comes. Nope. But the third time, that's
the charm.

Boyle is a panderer par excellence. I don't mean that to sound quite as
unflattering as it does, because it's an art to know when to tease and when to
deliver. But in his work we're rarely left with much beyond the fading memory
of sensations: jump-cuts of a young man running from a drug dealer in
"Trainspotting," a low-angle view of a falling drop of zombie blood in "28 Days
Later," a music video of young people dancing on a train platform in "Slumdog
Millionaire."

"127 Hours" has a music-video syntax all the way through. Boyle opens with
random people in motion, multiple split screens and pictures-in-pictures; and
Franco's Aron is so energized he practically climbs the walls before he hits
those Utah canyons, whereupon Boyle's camera swoops over the mighty cliffs. And
once his protagonist is wedged, Boyle doesn't entirely settle down. The real
Aron had a video camera with him and taped goodbyes to his parents, and those
bits in the movie are compelling; Franco stops mugging and talks to someone
other than himself. But Boyle also strives to evoke Aron's mental landscape,
which means dreams and visions and flashbacks and lots of whooshing camerawork
and pop music. The only time he stays in one place is for - you guessed it -
that arm-severing.

When it comes, it's a test of our endurance. I failed. I opted to watch in
Finger Vision, through a web of digits that opened and - mostly - closed. It's
a long four minutes or so, and there's sound, too. "127 Hours" leaves you
jittery, crazed. I hated every minute, but its combination of Jackass-style
gross-outs and never-say-die American uplift looks to me like box-office gold.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

(Soundbite of music)
..COST:
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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.

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