Dame Helen Mirren is a winner of the Oscar, the Tony, the Emmy, and the BAFTA, and is in the middle of an illustrious career in which she played the great roles of Shakespeare, Catherine the Great and Queen Elizabeth, to name a few. And yet she still begged to be cast in the Fast and Furious franchise. Helen tells Marc why she finds film acting powerful, challenging, and uniquely fulfilling compared to her stage work. They also talk about her breakthrough on Prime Suspect, her job at an amusement park, and bears.
John Legend is a multiplatinum recording artist, a winner of the coveted EGOT, a loving family man and, as Marc found out in this conversation, a tremendously nice guy. The combination of John’s talent and his kind disposition is what makes him the type of artist who works with a wide variety of collaborators. John talks about how collaboration defines his professional career, from his first gig working with Lauryn Hill to his new record Bigger Love. He also discusses his marriage to Chrissy Teigen, his work on criminal justice reform and his relationship with Kanye West.
George Lopez says much of his career is driven by spite. He talks with Marc about how the people who told him he wasn’t going to make it served as fuel for his ambitions, especially coming from a background where his opportunities were limited. George remembers what it was like to get on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, develop a hit sitcom with Sandra Bullock as his producer, and become a late night talk show host. He also sets the record straight on what happened between him and Carlos Mencia.
From 2013, Marc talks with Carl Reiner about his journey from writing to acting to directing, as well as his collaborative relationships with Sid Ceasar, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Martin and, of course, Mel Brooks. Carl died on June 29, 2020 at age 98.
One thing Alan Zweibel learned by being a writer for so many funny people is you have to set your ego aside. In doing so, Alan was able to have a career spanning decades and criss-crossing with multiple generations of comedy history. Alan tells Marc about his days selling jokes to comics in the Catskills, being part of Saturday Night Live in its first five years, finding a comic partner in Gilda Radner, creating a beloved sitcom with Garry Shandling, making his way to Broadway with Billy Crystal and more.
As Marc dealt with personal grief, he looked around the Internet for some guidance on coping with loss. He found a TED Talk by Nora McInerny, who spoke about losing her father, her husband and her unborn child within the span of a few weeks. Since that time, Nora has been able to move forward with her grief, not move on, as she began a career as a published writer, a public speaker, and podcaster. Nora and Marc talk about processing the harsh realities of life while maintaining the ability to find new beginnings.
Janelle Monáe is not going to stop creating, but right now she feels the urge to use her creativity in the service of action. Marc talks with Janelle about the social and political unrest in the country today and why no one has an excuse to remain silent. Janelle explains how her fears of emotional abandonment when she was younger laid the groundwork for her music career and her acting, including her most recent performance in Homecoming. They also talk about Prince, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, androids, and Kansas.
It's been five years since President Obama joined Marc in the garage and WTF is marking the occasion not with Donald Trump, but with comedian J-L Cauvin, who talks to Marc about his Trump impression going viral and reinvigorating his standup career. Then Marc talks with comic Amber Preston who, like J-L, held down a day job in Corporate America while her career in comedy took shape. Amber and Marc talk about North Dakota, Scandinavians, having Dead Head parents, and trying to shake her Fargo mindset of rule-following and passive aggression.
Joe Pantoliano is widely known for playing bad guys, lowlifes and disreputable characters. He even has his own pseudo-Mafioso nickname: Joey Pants. But Joe tells Marc the reason he got so good at playing bad guys is because he was always bullied when he was younger. Tapping into that helped him with his acting, but he had to wait until later in life to tap into the cause of his depression, which was tied up in his complicated parentage and inescapable genetics. They also talk about some of his best known roles from The Sopranos, The Fugitive, Midnight Run and more. This episode is sponsored by Tournament of Laughs on TBS, HBO Max, and Ben & Jerry's.
Stacey Abrams believes deeply that the problems facing America today - police brutality, racial discrimination, economic inequality, Covid-19, creeping authoritarianism - all require the same solution: Free and fair elections. As the only Black woman ever nominated for Governor by a major party, Stacey tells Marc how she maintains hope that obstacles can be overcome and change can be achieved. Stacey also talks about how her family traditions of faith and service shaped her political identity and how her interests in acting, physics and writing romance novels made her who she is. This episode is sponsored by HBO Max, Space Force on Netflix, and SimpliSafe.