SEASON 2: EPISODE 9
In this episode, Neil talks to the one person he’s not isolating from: his husband, actor and comedian Jeff Hiller, from TV’s 30 Rock, Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, solo shows at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, and many, many others. The podcast has always been about the everyday, and right now our everyday is coronavirus.
ABOUT THE GUEST
Jeff Hiller is an actor and comedian has appeared in guest roles on television in “30Rock”, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend“, “Broad City”, “Difficult People”, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, “The McCarthy’s”, “Community”, and a lot of shows that no one remembers. Jeff was a regular on Ali Wentworth’s series Nightcap, and played Maggie’s new work friend on the third season of “Playing House“. At the movies, Jeff played a snooty waiter to Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne in “Adam”, a pissed off waiter in the Netflix comedy, Set It Up and got fancy as the head waiter opposite Chloe Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert in “Greta”. Jeff also played the Naked Ghost opposite Ricky Gervais in “Ghost Town”. As a stage actor, Jeff originated the role of John Quincy Adams in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway. Off-Broadway, they took over Bright Colors, Bold Patterns from creator Drew Droege and have performed as part of Shakespeare in the Park in Midsummer Nights Dream and Love’s Labours Lost. Recently they have been presenting solo storytelling shows their solo storytelling show, “Grief Bacon”.
ABOUT THE HOST
Neil Goldberg is an artist in NYC who makes work that The New York Times has described as “tender, moving and sad but also deeply funny.” His work is in the permanent collection of MoMA, he’s a Guggenheim Fellow, and teaches at the Yale School of Art. More information at neilgoldberg.com.
ABOUT THE TITLE
SHE’S A TALKER was the name of Neil’s first video project. “One night in the early 90s I was combing my roommate’s cat and found myself saying the words ‘She’s a talker.’ I wondered how many other other gay men in NYC might be doing the exact same thing at that very moment. With that, I set out on a project in which I videotaped over 80 gay men in their living room all over NYC, combing their cats and saying ‘She’s a talker.’” A similar spirit of NYC-centric curiosity and absurdity animates the podcast.
This series is made possible with generous support from Stillpoint Fund.
Producer: Devon Guinn
Creative Consultants: Aaron Dalton, Molly Donahue
Mixer: Andrew Litton
Visuals and Sounds: Joshua Graver
Theme Song: Jeff Hiller
Website: Itai Almor
Media: Justine Lee
Interns: Alara Degirmenci, Jonathan Jalbert, Jesse Kimotho
Thanks: Jennifer Callahan, Nick Rymer, Sue Simon, Maddy Sinnock, Sharon Marcus
NEIL GOLDBERG: We’re coming to you live from our living room. That sounds like a really boring concept already, doesn’t it?
JEFF HILLER: I don’t know. I feel like I’d like to see lots of people’s living rooms.
NEIL: But they’re not seeing it. They’re just hearing it.
JEFF: Well, I guess if you were going to pick one sense, hearing it is not a very thrilling one.
JEFF: Did you tell people that we’re married?
NEIL: Not yet, but anyone who listens to She’s A Talker knows because I’ve frequently referred to my husband, Jeff. I feel like a cliché.
JEFF: I have to tell you that the only reason I’m the guest is because there’s a worldwide pandemic. It’s a little insulting.
NEIL: Takes a pandemic to get on the show. Hello, I’m Neil Goldberg and this is She’s A Talker. If this is your first time listening in this podcast, I use a collection of thousands of index cards with thoughts I’ve been jotting down over the past million or so years as prompts for conversations with guests and listeners. These cards tend to focus on the everyday, and right now our collective every day is coronavirus. So, starting now we’ll be changing the show up a little bit. We’ll be doing remote interviews, we’ll be following up with old guests about how they’re doing. And we’ll be talking about cards that relate to what we’re going through right now directly or indirectly. If that sounds grim, I’d say one thing that is consistently true about my guests and that I love about them is that they bring intense humor to sometimes heavy material. Before the virus hit, we had started talking with New Yorkers on the streets about the cards. I loved it, but since that’s no longer an option, I started a card of the day hotline, where you can call in here a card. Maybe leave your thoughts if you feel like it, and we may use them in a future episode. The number is 314-635-0555.
NEIL:Today’s episode takes place with the one person I’m not limiting my contact with. Actor and comedian and my husband, Jeff Hiller. Jeff has been in a million TV shows including 30 rock, Ugly Betty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broad City, Difficult People, Unbreakable, Kimmy Schmidt, The McCarthy’s, Playing House and Nightcap. They were on Broadway and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and have done Shakespeare in the Park a bunch of times and lately have been doing solo shows at Joe’s pub at the Public Theater. We talked in our apartment on the Lower East Side in New York City.
NEIL: I’m going to proceed as if you were just any other guest.
NEIL: What’s something you’re thinking about today? I should say we’re recording this on Tuesday, March 17. St. Patrick’s day, my sister’s birthday.
JEFF: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
NEIL: Happy birthday, Sandy.
JEFF: It’s a very different St. Patrick’s Day than normal.
NEIL: Yeah. Really. And we’re locked in. We’re locked out. We’re locked down whatever the fuck it is. So what are you thinking about today?
JEFF: Oh, I know what I’ve been thinking about. Oh my god, I feel like I’m wasting my pandemic. Oh, that’s right. I can’t stop thinking about how I’m wasting my pandemic time. Like I should be writing a great American novel or like repainting or purging my closet or just doing a really deep cleaning in the kitchen. And instead I’m like, I don’t know watching Netflix.
NEIL: Yeah. You think you should be writing your great American novel?
JEFF: It’s a turn of phrase.
NEIL: No, I hear you. Wasting the pandemic. I hear that, I hear that, but I feel like we’re still adjusting. We’re going to be in here for a long time, girl.
JEFF: I know.
NEIL: I mean, there is a pandemic, always. It’s just called lifespan or mortality.
JEFF: Right. Yeah, but I would also say, I feel like I’m wasting my life, even if there weren’t a pandemic happening, so. I think I’m on brand, that’s what I’m saying.
NEIL: Yeah, okay. What is the elevator pitch for what you do?
JEFF: Well, first of all, when people ask me what I do, like on a plane, or sometimes I will lie. Because I don’t want to get into it.
NEIL: What’s your lie?
JEFF: Elevator patch is like comedian and actor. But when you say that, people come back at you with a lot of things and I’m a little fragile. And the worst thing in the world is telling someone you’re an actor, and then they’re like, what have you been in and you have to list your credits. It makes you feel like you’re begging them to recognize the validity of the work you do. Also, it’s just like, so harsh. Like, you’ll be like, “I was on 30 rock.” And then they’re like, “I don’t watch that show.” Nasty and I’m like, “Well, I was on this.” And they’re like, “No, never heard of it.” And it really makes me feel very small. So when I lie, I just say what my old day job was, which is that I work at the College Board.
NEIL: That’s interesting, of all your previous day jobs.
JEFF: It’s a real stop.
NEIL: That’s a hard stuff.
JEFF: Yeah. Nobody likes to ask about it.
NEIL: Oh, really, they don’t want to talk about their kids SAT scores or something like that?
JEFF: Well, I always just say, “Oh, I don’t work on the SAT side.” Which was true. I didn’t.
NEIL: And before that you were a social worker, I would think you’d go for that.
JEFF: I know. But I have a little bit of shame about leaving social work. And so I feel like if I claim social work now that I am not a social worker, it feels like I’m bragging at the expense of my former clients.
NEIL: Uh-huh, right. It’s like, who cares if you used to be a social worker? Why aren’t you one right now?
NEIL: So your mom who sadly passed away three years and change now, Mary Hiller, such an amazing, one of a kind person. What did she say to her friends about what you did?
JEFF: God I have no idea. I feel like she probably said, “Oh, he’s trying to be an actor. He’s an actor. He was on a television.” And then she lists the credit.
NEIL: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JEFF: Yeah. But my family’s loath to seem braggy so she’d also probably say like, “He’s married.”
NEIL: Your mom really came heavy on the acceptance of gayness. Like I felt very embraced and truly in all kinds of occasions down in San Antonio, Texas, your mom would meet someone and just lead with this is Jeff’s husband, Neil.
JEFF: When we were growing up, she was sort of just like a passive Republican. Because we lived in Texas. So I think like everybody voted Republican. So that’s just sort of what she did. But then once I came out, my mom is a real she led with her heart. So she found a lot of empathy around gay rights. And then that led to empathy around immigration concerns, because we lived in San Antonio and then that led to Black Lives Matter and Occupy San Antonio and she became like a real lefty. Went to protests and stuff.
NEIL: I love, she’s a beautiful person who also looks like she’s from Texas, I’d say.
JEFF: Her hair is not small.
NEIL: Right. But I love the idea of her at Occupy San Antonio.
NEIL: Okay, first card. It just says lockdown cuddle duds. Because that’s what I said I was going to get into. Because we’re on lockdown and I put on my cuddle duds.
JEFF: Right? People don’t know what cuddle duds are. I think that’s us relationship specific.
NEIL: Really? I think that’s out in the world.
JEFF: Cuddle duds I think is a name brand of something right?
NEIL: No, I just think it’s what people say.
JEFF: I think it’s a name brand of something.
NEIL: And that’s what you get into when you want to get snuggly and be at home.
JEFF: I know, but I believe I co opted that. I think somewhere in the ether I pulled the word cuddle duds out and I’ve said that about you and your sweatpants but your sweatpants are not cuddle duds TM.
NEIL: Got it. Okay. Well by cuddle duds I’m talking about what you wear when you are in for the night or in for the next 45 days. And want to just be snuggly. And lockdown cuddle duds, I just said I was getting into my lockdown cuddle duds. Really this is just a wrong way of saying I think that would be a great name for a…
JEFF: A band?
NEIL: A band or a DJ lockdown cuddle duds or no.
JEFF: I don’t know maybe. But I always think about my grandmother and how when she went to the nursing home they were like it’s bad she’s not putting on lipstick anymore. And so in my mind, it’s very important that you like put a show of I still believe in what I look like is good or what have you. So I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I change out of my sleeping cuddle duds into casual cuddle duds to wear around during the day. And then I changed back into my sleeping cuddle duds in order to make a show of proving to you that I am not profoundly depressed.
NEIL: That’s interesting, whereas I’m just going day into night here.
JEFF: I also have been doing some teleconferencing. And I like to get my teleconference look, my look.
NEIL: What’s your teleconference look?
JEFF: Well, it’s sweat pants on the bottom. And then just like different options for the top, it’s something different for every different teleconference.
NEIL: Have you ever been fully bottomless for any teleconferences yet?
JEFF: No, but you fully know that I have been fully bottomless for more than one self tape.
NEIL: Yeah, that’s true. This you are prepared for this teleconferencing situation. Because as an actor, you often have to do self-tapes. Describe for our audience what a self-tape is.
JEFF: Even before the pandemic, sometimes casting directors didn’t want me to come into their office. And so you put your audition on tape yourself and email it in. And so it’s like, if the auditions are in LA, I can put myself on tape and send it in. Or if the casting director is like, “I don’t believe it, I don’t see it. I’m not wasting my time on that audition.” Your agent might say, “Put yourself on tape and show them what you can do.”
NEIL: Right. So I spend a fair amount of time being your reader. Which I guess is like the non porn equivalent of being a fluffer. Like I read the other people’s part while you sit in front of your computer much as you would if you were having a zoom conference and do the part. And there have been many a times when you’ve been wearing a suit top depending on what’s required of the role.
JEFF: And just fully boxers underneath.
NEIL: Yeah, absolutely.
JEFF: It’s like-
NEIL: Maybe if you post one of those to Insta because I have taken enough free snaps of you.
JEFF: It’s like Billy Porter at the Oscars that year. When he had the tuxedo on the top and the huge ballgown on the bottom. Except for me, it’s suit on top, just straight up boxers on the bottom.
NEIL: This card is thinking about all the water being used to wash hands.
JEFF: I know it’s so weird when like the rule of good changes in the society. So like, when I was last living in California, you weren’t supposed to use any water ever. Even like washing hands, it was like do it once and then that’s enough. And now it’s like change to this radical thing of like, always wash your hands. And I am washing my hands like 60 times a day. It feels like maybe that’s crazy. But I’m also like when people are buying water at the grocery store I’m like, “But wait, why would you need water?” And the toilet paper is…
NEIL: That’s a biggie.
JEFF: That’s just about like, if I can get the grocery I’ll just have a dirty butt so I have to have a lot of toilet paper.
NEIL: Yeah, it’s primal. I mean, there’s a lot of easy conversation or easy like New York Times, reporting about like, people hoarding toilet paper, but I think there’s so much more to be talked about there.
JEFF: Put it on the card.
NEIL: Yeah, really. I don’t know what to say about it except like I think it’s people’s fear of having a dirty ass I guess. Is that it?
JEFF: Maybe so and maybe also like, everything feels like it’s dirty now. When you hear about this disease, you’re like, everything’s gross. I have to wash I have to wash I have to wash and it’s like a little trigger that’s switched off like, also my butt hole I got to clean my butt hole.
NEIL: Or just also my butt hole exists or my butt hole as a metaphor for…
JEFF: For what?
NEIL: I don’t know. What isn’t it a metaphor for? At all times, I feel.
NEIL: Next card. Previously overlooked sci-fi detail. A pandemic, but there’s a shortage of masks.
JEFF: Oh, yeah. Well, I’ve been seeing a lot on Twitter. People are like, “It’s so hard to end a TV show that has been nothing but huge surprises. So I want to give it up for the writers of 2020 for creating this truly unexpected ending.”
NEIL: Oh my god, that is funny. But has it… As far as in sci-fi has that specific detail been…
JEFF: Not having enough masks?
JEFF: Not having masks really feels like the smarter sci-fi, but the black mirror.
JEFF: Like in Black Mirror when they just like they’re very casual about the future things and they don’t like to spend a lot of time explaining it. It’s something I couldn’t have predicted. It does sort of feel like one of those things where it’s like, well, there’s just always masks just, we have masks.
NEIL: Right. The thing I keep thinking about is when this is over all these masks are garbage. They’re just going to landfill. It’s like, just makes me think maybe some dumb conceptual artists would do something with all those masks or something.
JEFF: Maybe you can be that dumb conceptual artist.
NEIL: Oh God. I had a job in college. You know this I think.
NEIL: You definitely know this.
JEFF: By the way you know how they always say like, before you do an exercise class, they like focus on a goal. And then they constantly be like, just think about that goal. My goal for this podcast was to mention something that you don’t know about me.
NEIL: Oh, really?
NEIL: Have you done it yet?
JEFF: Oh, well, you tell me.
NEIL: Not yet. Not yet. Maybe I’ll take that as a goal. Did that in the summer of my Sophomore year in college, I spent the summer-
JEFF: Working at Brown in the big heating unit things.
NEIL: In the boilers. Yes. Yeah.
JEFF: I did.
NEIL: Oh well. This was the only job that I almost walked off of. I should have walked off a lot of other jobs but you had to wear like a full bodysuit. Is that what it’s called?
JEFF: Oh, like Dickies, coveralls?
NEIL: Coveralls yeah, I guess. But also a mask. And you would go inside these boilers. They had the students do it because they were the ones who could fit inside the opening of these boilers.
JEFF: Such slim hips.
NEIL: I had very slim hips back in the past. And you’d crawl into the boilers, you’d be in the fetal position, and you would be there scraping the rust off the inside of the boilers.
JEFF: When they were nightmare.
NEIL: I feel like if I get cancer, it’s because of that. And, you wore a mask for that. And then you worked in teams of two another person was at the mouth of the boiler blowing air in. There was an air blower. Yeah, just vigorously, vigorously. Also, you take off that mask and you would see these trails of rust leading-
JEFF: Into your nose holes.
NEIL: Yeah. And it was weird because they started us in the smallest boilers. At the beginning of the summer, which were the hardest and then you ended up at the end like you ended up in like the cafeteria boiler where like two of us could be in there at the same time and it was kind of collegial. You’re sitting on the heating core or whatever the fuck it was, sitting next to each other and you could like have like a little chat while you’re scraping off the rust on the-
JEFF: But this one talk about when scraping rust off of the cafeteria boiler.
NEIL: They were boys and so they would be talking about…
NEIL: No, it’s like girls. And I couldn’t relate. Even though I don’t, I guess I was out then but not to them. I remember there was a guy, we were supervised by this guy who was part of the physical plant team at school. And he would say to us on Mondays, “Smile if you got some bussy this weekend. Did you get some bussy?”
JEFF: That’s supposed to be boy pussy.
NEIL: Oh, well, he’s he said pussy with a B. Bussy.
JEFF: But I also feel like that is like a term for like, gay sex like…
JEFF: Yeah. Like a butt hole is a bussy?
JEFF: I agree. Well, I think it’s like, fuck that bussy.
NEIL: Oh God, can you imagine?
JEFF: I don’t know anyone who does it on ironically. I mean, maybe I do. I just I don’t know them in that way.
NEIL: But fit in that context. Yeah. Okay, next card. The casual way performers come on stage talking to each other in improv. That kind of drives me crazy? It’s like, “Yeah, we’re just coming on stage. We’re talking to each other.” You know what I’m talking about?
JEFF: I do, I do. I would say I’m guilty of it. Okay, so here’s the thing. Unless you’re performing for a group of people who are already familiar with you, you have to gain their respect rather immediately, because in an improv group, everyone’s like, “Oh, I bet that fat guy’s funny. And I bet that girl is probably just pretty and not funny. I mean, these are all like, horrible things that they immediately think. But they are immediately thinking it. And so there are two ways to go about it. Either one going out and just screaming and copying and dancing and being like, “Woo-hoo!” Or you come out and you’re trying to not seem like that. “Woo-hoo! I’m right. I’m so excited.” Because when you do that, I think you seem…
JEFF: Yes. And people think, oh, you’re not funny. You’re just high energy. Whereas if you’re like, I’m not desperate for you to clap for me. I’m just like casually coming out. You’re going to be like, that person doesn’t need me. So they’re probably Good.
NEIL: Oh, interesting. I hear that. So you say they usually go like, okay, the fat guy is funny. The pretty woman is there because she’s pretty.
JEFF: Well, it’s these archetypes set up from Second City and Saturday Night Live. And it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all. But that is where they go. And I think for me-
NEIL: Yeah, what do they think about you?
JEFF: Well, I think what they probably think about me is generic white male. And then when I talk and they’re like, Oh, he’s the queer. And I also fear now that they’re like, “Oh, how sad. This old person is still doing improv.” That’s my greatest fear.
NEIL: Oh, God.
JEFF: That they’re like, “You never got a job that allows you to not have to do these shows for free on a Saturday night.”
NEIL: I don’t think that that’s what people are thinking. Okay, next card. Jeff’s gestures make him more likely to knock things over, but make him a better performer. Like you have these really expansive gestures which I’m so jealous of. Like, you really open your arms wide. And I do feel like in that open-gesturedness, some things have gotten knocked over.
JEFF: What, like lamps?
NEIL: I don’t think you’ve ever knocked over a lamp but probably a glass or two.
JEFF: Yeah, I don’t think of myself as really having big gestures when I’m just myself. I only think of it when I’m performing. Like when I will do Bright Colors, those were very different gestures than I would normally use. Like, I would feel tired in my arms.
NEIL: Jeff did a show called Bright Colors, Bold Patterns written by Drew Druggy. A solo show.
JEFF: But it was a solo show and so those I was like very broad and big gestures.
NEIL: But you were tired at the end of the show from your gestures?
JEFF: My armpit area would be tired.
NEIL: Oh, really? I never, see that’s something for sure I never knew about you.
JEFF: There you go.
NEIL: Interesting. I love that you had a game for this. You have big gestures at home too. Interestingly, you have them especially in the morning. Like you like to make a big entrance. Because we often, like I’ll get up first and I’ll be in the living room having coffee and you’ll make a big entrance that often involves a big gesture.
JEFF: I don’t know. I feel like maybe I’m too close to that one.
NEIL: Yeah, I’m, I’m fully jealous of it. Because I feel like my way of going into the world gesturally is very cramped and internal and, shoulders hunched. Yeah, I wish I had-
JEFF: And yet you had in your dating profile that you didn’t want to date actors.
NEIL: Did I have it in my dating profile? I don’t think so. I think it was just something I knew. Yes, while I was dating, I don’t think I shared it publicly except with my friends, there were two deal breakers: actors and Geminis. And Jeff is not a Gemini. I would not make an exception for the Geminis. Love you, but not for a relationship. But I did make an exception for the actor. Why?
JEFF: You always love to say, “The fear is the wish.” Maybe this is that because you’re saying like, I’m jealous of your expansiveness of the thing and you’re getting more into performing now. And so maybe you are… Maybe you just secretly wanted to be an actor and so you were like, “No, no actors.”
NEIL: Right. I think that that’s super accurate. I mean I was an actor in high school.
JEFF: Exactly you were in Godspell.
NEIL: I was in Godspell. That’s right. I got class. I was voted class thespian for Jericho High School.
JEFF: Do you know what I was voted in my high school?
JEFF: Nothing. No one cared about me.
NEIL: This card just says improv wiping scenes. And I think that comes from your do-
JEFF: I know exactly what it comes from.
NEIL: Tell me.
JEFF: I told you this like on one of our first dates, and it was the first time I ever saw you be like, fascinated.
NEIL: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right?
JEFF: Because I’m going to say something you’re going to be like, “I think you’re funny.” But like, my sense of humor is not the sweet spot for you.
NEIL: It’s not my default setting.
JEFF: Right. It’s not like-
NEIL: It’s become more my default settings.
JEFF: Sure. But so it was very hard for me the first few dates because, normally the one thing I got is I can make people laugh. And I did not make you laugh. And I remember having conversations you were like, “I don’t even know if he’s interested in me because he doesn’t think I’m funny.” And I don’t know what that means.
NEIL: That’s deep.
JEFF: So I remember telling you about the swiping thing and seeing how you were like, so fascinated and you genuinely laughed. And it was the first time I made you genuinely laugh.
NEIL: That’s interesting.
JEFF: So it was very big to me.
NEIL: Well share with the listeners what it is.
JEFF: Okay, so I for many years taught improv at the UCB theatre. And I always noticed that when somebody would get into a scene where they were sitting on the toilet, we would get to see what you do on the toilet. And you can’t fake it because it’s not like we have a ton of movies where people are wiping their ass on camera so that you can be like, well, this is sort of like what we assume people do. You have to show what it is you do and like, some people stand up, some people sit, some people go around the back, some people go straight in between their legs. Some people I can’t think of any other options. I was going to say like some people use…
NEIL: You don’t have-
JEFF: I don’t remember anybody ever using a bidet in an improv scene. Although, you should. What a gift. I’m going to do that next time.
NEIL: I know you will. I know you will. The thing I really started to think about after your telling the wiping story is that like, at least up till this point in this culture the approach to wiping must be matrilineal. Like, I don’t remember my dad teaching me that kind of thing.
NEIL: So I have learned to wipe like my mom wiped. And my mom learned to wipe how her mother wiped. Back on the shtetl. Oh my God. So I mean I guess that’s all different now. Thank the Lord.
NEIL: Yeah, I think dads might teach their kids.
JEFF: For sure, for sure. This is just in the olden days of my childhood.
NEIL: Let’s, on She’s A Talker, do something new. I had this like fucking huge stack of cards that I haven’t gone through. And let me just do a lightning round with you. The cotton pad with a stringent after I’ve used it at the end of the day feels like a journal entry.
JEFF: I relate to that. I definitely feel like I’ve accomplished something when I see the dirt on the cotton. The dirt that was once on my face.
NEIL: When you go to pay something, and something unexpected is in the clipboard.
JEFF: Oh. It does feel like a type of like, a little shock, isn’t it? Like, oh. Like I often will like gasp.
NEIL: You’ve gasped at things that have come out of your clipboard?
JEFF: Yeah, because especially like with our password manager, like I’ll try and copy that. And occasionally it doesn’t work, I think as like a security measure. And so like you’ll go into put the password in it and it’ll be like someone’s email and you’re like, “Oh, that’s not my password.”
NEIL: Next card. Is there anything more domesticated than an N apostrophe? Like fuckin, n apostrophe?
NEIL: Yeah, it’s like N apostrophe is meant to be like, badass. But it’s actually proving just the opposite.
JEFF: Oh, it’s like cutesy.
NEIL: Well, or it’s just like, if you were really breaking the rules, why just leave the fucking apostrophe off and like, drop the G. You don’t have to like have a…
JEFF: Put a little apostrophe there. Yeah, yeah good point.
NEIL: Next card is I hate a whistling teapot.
JEFF: I know you do. You specifically don’t have a whistling teapot. You have a kettle.
NEIL: A kettle. That’s how my dad would say it.
JEFF: And I did not grow up with tea.
NEIL: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JEFF: I actually went to a psychic and she was like, Your mother’s holding a cup of tea, does that mean something to you?” And I was like, “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean a thing.” Because we never grew up with tea. She was a hot coffee person. She used Mister Coffee. So for me like, I don’t really have a lot of history with it. So for me, it’s sort of like fun and camp.
NEIL: A whistling teapot?
JEFF: Yeah, it’s like, ah, wacky.
NEIL: It is kind of wacky. And it’s so hack. I don’t like an inanimate object kind of bossing me around. It’s like, “I’ll get to it. I know. I haven’t forgotten. Or even if I have forgotten, it’s so low stakes.” It’s not urgent that I get to the water while it’s boiling.
NEIL: Interview folks on pedal tavern about Anne Frank’s diary. You know what a pedal tavern is? I wrote this when I was in Milwaukee. It’s like this touristy thing where everyone sits around.
JEFF: Oh yeah.
NEIL: You know what I’m talking about?
JEFF: It’s like a big round bicycle and everyone pedals?
NEIL: Yeah, and they’re drinking beer. And it’s like this weird fucking Uber tourist activity and I thought, I just want to kind of like be part of that, but I want just ask everyone their thoughts on Anne Frank’s diary.
JEFF: I think that’s good. I think that’s a good project, do it.
NEIL: I also want to… Actually-
JEFF: It is a little cruel?
NEIL: Is it?
JEFF: Yeah, it’s a little cruel because also, it’s like, there are times when you and I are just having fun doing something silly and dumb.
NEIL: Right, exactly.
JEFF: Doesn’t mean that we don’t revere the sadnesses of the world.
NEIL: Right. True. True. True. You know what, I really want to do it for-
JEFF: I’m yuckin’ your yum.
NEIL: You are yuck and I’m yum. What I really want to do it for on is Santa’s con. I’ve wanted to do this for years to go out with a camera and asked like all those people dressed as Santa to talk about Anne Frank’s diary.
JEFF: That feels more appropriate because there is that weird…
JEFF: Christian, Jewish, right. And also the people at Santa-con deserve to be made fun of.
NEIL: That’s true. Absolutely. All right, whatever card this is, is going to be the last card in our lightning round, okay?
NEIL: This is it. Artists who are reluctant to part with their work, I feel just the opposite. I’m reminded of my OBGYN friend who said, “Nearly every person in labor says some variation on, “Get it out of me.” Does this in any way apply to you as a performer?
JEFF: My artwork is ephemeral because most of the work I do is improv. So I’m definitely not one of those actors who’s like, “You stole my joke.” or whatever. I’m like, “You so one joke I got billions of them.” So yeah, I’m not precious about my work. But I don’t know it’s different when you’re like, have a thing. It’s a physical thing. So like your dad’s hearing aid piece, you would sell that?
NEIL: That’s different just because it’s connected to my dad. But I would sell it, sure. If anyone wants to buy a cast of my dad’s hearing aid in gold. It feels a little bit cheesy at this point. As does all old art, except a couple. But…
JEFF: What are the ones that aren’t cheesy now?
NEIL: Surfacing. The people emerging from the subway orienting themselves. What else isn’t cheesy? I fear this podcast is cheesy. And it is cheesy. It’s based on the cheesy concept but I hope it goes to a place that transcends its cheesiness.
JEFF: You think you actually wish that this was cheesy?
NEIL: The fear is the wish. No, I don’t wish it’s cheesy, I really don’t. That I know for sure.
NEIL: Are there any cards you’ve heard in previous episodes that you either took issue with that may be concerned you or that you want to clarify the record on?
JEFF: The big one that people are always asking me about, your friends who listen are asking me about the, uh, about how you farted. And I said. You have bad breath. But I don’t really have anything more to say about it.
NEIL: I know. God that really sticks with people. For those listening for the first time, yeah, there was this time I farted in bed silently, and Jeff was like, what’s going on with your breath? And I swear for as long as I have memory, that one will haunt me. Is my breath really that bad? Does my breath ever even approach that, or is it even of the same, like it’s a different species of smell.
JEFF: I think what you’re not taking into account is that the fart happened underneath the covers and was seeping out slowly and that was the first thought. It wasn’t necessarily like a very well-synthesized thought.
JEFF: By the way, that’s such a big deal. We have a relationship that is close enough that I can say, what’s going on with your breath? Like you, I feel like, are more primed to be like, I’m going to give you some constructive feedback. I’m going to give you some criticisms here, and I do not have that skillset. I’m not good at it. So what we really should take away from that is not whether or not your breath smells like a dank fart, but that I have grown close enough and have enough trust with you that I can say, “There’s a bad smell that I don’t want to smell anymore.”
NEIL: All right, what’s a bad X you’d take over a good Y?
JEFF: I would take a bad romantic comedy over a good war movie. Basically, I would take a bad movie with a female protagonist over a good movie with just men in it.
NEIL: Definitive. And what keeps you going?
JEFF: This question is always so sad. When I turned 40, I had like a little midlife crisis. And I think it’s because I no longer had hope. Because it felt like if I hadn’t had any sort of magical success by that time that I wasn’t going to have any anymore. But somehow I’ve gotten that back. So, for me, it’s all about, I mean, I don’t think this is healthy, but it’s about hope that more exciting things are coming along. Not just about career but also about personal growth too. I mean, is that sort of like too generic a response?
NEIL: It’s real. I mean, I think the only thing that could keep anyone going forward is a type of hope. Just what is the hope for?
JEFF: So it’s like saying, like, “What do you like to drink?” And I’m saying like, “Liquids.”
NEIL: Exactly. But that’s okay. I see-
JEFF: Well, then, I would say, career hopes specifically is often the thing that keeps me going. Because I always wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be an actor. At four years old, I told my mom, she said, “Child actors can’t be tall.” And I’m tall. And then she said, “But it’ll be really good for you when you’re a grown up and you can do acting then.” So then, when I was a social worker, I was very depressed, because I wasn’t performing, and then I found improv and I was like, “Oh, this is feeding that hunger for me.” And so then when I moved to New York, and even though I was working in this terrible job, I had this hope that eventually I would become an actor. And then I actually became an actor. And now I have this hope for other things still to come. So I think really, it is career hopes. That’s what keeps me going.
NEIL: All right. Well, I’d love to say thanks for being on, well, I can say thanks for being on the show, but we’re not going anywhere. I’m just going to turn off this microphone and we’re just staying here.
JEFF: We’re going to go waste our pandemic together.
NEIL: Exactly. A wasted pandemic. Maybe that’s what we can call the episode.
NEIL: All right. Thank you for being on She’s A Talker, Jeff.
JEFF: Thank you for having me, Neil.
NEIL: It’s always weird, in a relationship, calling each other by name.
NEIL: I always feel freaked out when you say, “Hey, Neil.”
JEFF: Right. But I don’t want to say what our pet names are for each other. But I wouldn’t want to share them on a podcast.
NEIL: No me neither.
JEFF: Just because I’d be embarrassed.
NEIL: Right, exactly. On that note, back to the pandemic. Thank you so much for listening to this social distancing episode of She’s A Talker. If you have anything you’d like to share about a card on the podcast, send us a voice memo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or message us on Instagram at shesatalker. You can also call our new number 314-635-0555, and hear the card of the day, and leave a response there. As always, we’d love it if you’d rate and review us on Apple podcast or share this episode with a friend. This series is made possible with generous support from Stillpoint Fund. Devon Guinn produced this episode with lightning speed. Thank you, Devon. Special shout out to our interns Alara Degirmenci, Jonathan Jalbert, and Jesse Kimotho who got their school year interrupted but had been plugging away intensely from their respective locations with Jesse pulling a near-all-nighter in Nairobi. Molly Donahue and Aaron Dalton are our consulting producers. Justine Lee handle social media, our card flipper beats come from Josh Graver, and my husband, Jeff Hiller, also sings the theme song you’re about to listen to. Thanks to all of them, and to you for listening. Be well.
JEFF: (singing) She’s a talker with Neil Goldberg. She’s a talker with fabulous guests. She’s a talker, it’s better than it sounds, yeah!