James Lipton, for all his easily parodied, hyper-serious fawning over his vaunted guests on "Inside the Actors Studio," is a pretty funny guy himself.
He once went chin-to-chin with Will Ferrell, whose imitation of him on "Saturday Night Live" helped make Lipton a pop culture figure far beyond the fandom of those looking for acting tips. Lipton later honed his comic chops with his, um, breakout role as Warden Stefan Gentles on "Arrested Development."
The warden desperately wants to be a screenwriter, perhaps just as much as Lipton wants to be a comic actor. He showed as much with inspired performances that included a classic "Arrested Development" line: After Gentles’ crush, Lucille Bluth, suggested he swap out one STD reference for another in a script, he deadpanned, "I can’t say ‘no’ to the woman who gave me chlamydia.”
On Thursday, Lipton welcomes "Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz and most of the cast to his Bravo program. But instead of playing a gushing interviewer gripping blue index cards and asking about heaven, this time Lipton also gets to be a guest of sorts on his own show. He’s in on the joke, and finally one of the gang.
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The mini-reunion featuring Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawkat, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jessica Walter comes nearly six months after the oddball comedy returned for a long-awaited fourth season. While some were disappointed by the new episodes on Netflix after a seven-year gap, those of us still recovering from the marathon of laughter were left aching for more.
Hurwitz recently said he hopes another season and a movie will be in the offing. We'll take the casts’ "Inside the Actors Studio" appearance as another sign there's still life (if not necessarily money) in the banana stand.
Lipton, who appeared in the initial Fox "Arrested Development" run and the Netflix comeback season, has earned a spot in any future "AD" ventures with a performance that Ferrell’s version of the host might have deemed “so scrumtrulescent, I can barely move.”
Not that Lipton’s stopped auditioning, even after nearly 20 years on “Inside the Actors Studio.” The 87-year-old TV fixture shed his last vestige of solemnity to celebrate the “Arrested Development” get-together with his unique version of the show's "Chicken Dance." Check it out below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.