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Sunday, August 25, 1996

Mary Steenburgen

Harris: We welcome to our guest line actress Mary Steenburgen, whom you know from the new CBS television show Ink, and you also know from big time movies like Philadelphia, Parenthood, Back to the Future III, Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, the extremely underrated Time After Time, and of course the movie she got the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1980, Melvin and Howard. Good Morning, Mary!

Steenburgen: Hi! How are you doing?

Harris: I'm doing great. Welcome to the show. That's a pretty impressive list there, and I mentioned Time After Time, which you did with Malcolm MacDowell, which is one of my all time favorite movies.

Steenburgen: I love that film.

Harris: It really is wonderful and a great take on the old H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine. Just a really nice job.

Steenburgen: Thanks. The funny thing about that movie as you look back now is that it was done just before special effects got very sophisticated, but also it was done on a budget. So, the movie is fantastic, but the special effects are a little bit like a Tom & Jerry cartoon (laughs).

Harris: (laughs) That's why you and Malcolm had to carry it with your acting, and I think you did. Anyway, I know Washington is a town that you visit quite often because you have some pretty good friends here in town, don't you?

Steenburgen: I do.

Harris: Over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You're from Little Rock, is it that you knew Bill Clinton growing up, or how did that friendship start?

Steenburgen: Actually, it started in his first month of his first term as Governor, which is now about 18 years ago. He actually met my dad first, and became friends with my dad, who was a freight train conductor.

Harris: How does that happen? How does the governor run into a freight train conductor?

Steenburgen: I'll tell you, he was speaking before a group of retired railroad workers, and he was talking to them about a sort of mentoring program of senior citizens with the youth. He was talking about the potential in our community for people, and he had just heard about this young woman who came from a real working class family in Arkansas who had been discovered by Jack Nicholson and cast in a film. He's telling this story and the importance of really being there for the young people, and he hears this sobbing in the audience. He keeps talking and realizes there's this real weeping going on, and he's thinking what a great job he's doing talking. After he finished his speech, he went down into the audience and went up to this man who's wiping tears from his eyes, and he said, "I see that my remarks have touched you and I wanted to meet you. My name is Bill Clinton." And he said, "Well, my name's Morris Steenburgen and if you're going to talk about my daughter, I think you ought to meet her!"(laughs). So Daddy introduced us. One of the only regrets I have in my whole life is that my dad did not live to see him become President. My dad died when I was making "Parenthood" in 1989, and Daddy really, really thought a lot of Bill. I would have made him very happy and it makes me sad that he didn't live to see it.

Harris: Now, when you and Ted Danson got married, didn't the President and the First Lady come to the wedding?

Steenburgen: Yeah, they did.

Harris: How does that work? Do you just send an invitation to the White House?

Steenburgen: (laughs) Well, I'll tell you what was great about it. The press, of course, was very curious about the wedding and tried everything they could to get out there. We actually did the same thing, in our own way, that JFK Junior just pulled off. There were absolutely no photographers and no press at our wedding. They were all over the island and down at the bottom of our driveway trying to get up there, but because of the Secret Service, they couldn't really get up.

Harris: Oh, sure! You pulled rank!

Steenburgen: (laughs) At one point, one poor shmuck who was silly enough to come up there popped up out of the bushes and about ten guys in fatigues popped up out of the bushes and he was gone in an instant. He never got his camera out.

Harris: That is not the right wedding to pop out of the bushes. When the Secret Service are there, you're not popping out of bushes.

Steenburgen: No, no. So, I told Bill that was the ultimate wedding gift, that we got to have our wedding in peace, which was great.

Harris: Yeah. Can we hear the Jack Nicholson story? Where did he discover you? How did that happen? I heard it wasn't a casting couch, but it was a casting office kind of thing.

Steenburgen: No, I managed to avoid the casting couch in my career, although I have some friends who have complained about it. I just met him when he was looking for a leading lady for a film called "Goin' South", and I was a young actress and a waitress in New York. I started reading for him, and he started cancelling all of his interviews. He started asking me where I had been and I said, "Well, I have been here for six years."

Harris: If you had only come in to the coffee shop, we could have done this earlier!

Steenburgen: Yeah.

Harris: And at what point does he tell you you're the one, and you say to yourself, "Homina homina homina....Jack Nicholson!"?

Steenburgen: It was a few days later I came out to Hollywood for a screen test, and so did a lot of other people. So, I really didn't think I would get it. I was definitely the one that was least likely to get it, because everyone else was an already established star. I was this person with this weird last name from New York that no one had ever heard of. But my screen test I guess, according to him, was the best. So I got the part, which was incredible.

Harris: That's a great story.

Steenburgen: He's a great friend.

Harris: You going to work with him again?

Steenburgen: I'd love to, but right now I'm busy working with my husband on Ink.

Harris: I know. You see, right there would be the stunt casting promotion of all time for February sweeps. You and Ted are in the newspaper office and all of a sudden, Nicholson comes in bitching about a subscription.

Steenburgen: Well, we have a few ideas for that kind of thing. We've got some pretty interesting people planned to come on. But the show is working so great now, with the cast that we have, which is wonderful.

Harris: I know you had some trouble, but you got off to a great start in the ratings. It's on Monday nights on channel 9 here in Washington, and all over the country on the CBS television network. Mary, we're out of time, but we'd love to have you back on sometime, maybe next time you're here in town visiting the President. Bring Ted along and play around with us in the studio!

Steenburgen: That sounds like fun.

Harris: There's not a chance in hell of it ever happening though, is there?

Steenburgen: Maybe. You have my number. We'll see, but right now we're too busy with the show.

Harris: Well, thanks for taking a few minutes to be on with us today on Harris In The Morning, Mary!

Steenburgen: Thanks a lot, Paul.

Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Rhyan Jones

Thursday, August 08, 1996

Jeff Cesario

Harris: Joining us now on our guest line is comedian Jeff Cesario, who is out in Los Angeles where he works on the Larry Sanders Show, used to work on Dennis Miller Live...has a pretty big connection there at HBO, I think you'd have to say. And tomorrow night he has his own HBO comedy half-hour. It'll be on at midnight tomorrow night. Good morning, Jeff.

Cesario: Hey man. I am SO glad that I got the Washington traffic, 'cause I'm actually driving there. This morning. And I'm going to be able to avoid the Beltway, and just completely scoot around 270.

Harris: Yeah. No problem coming in today, my friend.

Cesario: I am SO relieved. Because I've got the Bullet Car warming up, and if I would've gotten snagged somewhere out there...ugh.

Harris: Yeah. You better watch out for the Olympians when you do come to town. They were here yesterday, and we had them on the show, and they were over at the White House yesterday, and I think they're all scattering out today to go to some amusement park somewhere, so be very careful.

Cesario: Yeah, you know I figured they'd be going to an amusement park. I mean, I think that whole Kerri Strug thing is a big fake.

Harris: What do you mean?

Cesario: I think she's fine. You take a camera out to that amusement park, I bet she's all over that place. You're not going to see her limping or any of that crap. She's fine.

Harris: Just faked it to become America's sweetheart, huh?

Cesario: Now, was Michael Johnson with them?

Harris: No, he's not here.

Cesario: That was an amazing...I mean, he wins the 400, then he wins the 200 in a world record time, and I love that complete expression of ecstacy he had when he crossed the finish line in the 200, sets a new world record. Right there, if I were his trainer, I would've come out of the stands with a quart of Jim Beam and a chocolate pie.

[riotous laughter ensues]

Cesario: Just start him immediately. He should've been on the medal ceremony awards stand with just a big chocolate pie. He should be about 210 already.

Harris: Don't bother training anymore, you've set the unbreakable world record.

Cesario: Absolutely. Cigars, heroin, and chocolate pie. What does he care? It can't even possibly damage his image at this point.

Harris: That's right. You know, that's the thing I don't understand about a lot of these Olympians. You ask them "What are you gonna do now?" "Well, I have a meet next week." "What do you mean you have a meet next week?!?! You were just in the OLYMPICS!!! Relax for a second!"

Cesario: Yeah, take it off. Although there was the one night of the Olympics that was...there was definitely...it was definitely the Gay Olympics that night. Wow. You know, I tuned in and it was Rhythmic Gymnastics, Men's Floor Exercise Exhibition...

Harris: Right.

Cesario: ...Synchronized Swimming...and then I believe there was a hairstyling thing. I'm not sure. But, oh my goodness. They gotta change that. Maybe it's time to get one of those, like, the rollerskating on the halfpipe thing.

Harris: Uh huh.

Cesario: What do they call...? That's in the X Games. Get one of those in there.

Harris: Well they had the skateboarders and the incline skaters in the big closing ceremonies, that three and a half hour festival of boredom.

Cesario: Oh yeah! With those poor kids that they had those kangaroo outfits strapped to? How would you like to volunteer for Olympic Ceremony duty? "OK, you're going to be the 300 foot white spermatozoa man, and then YOU'RE gonna be a kangaroo." No! I don't wanna be a kangaroo!

Harris: Yeah, but in retrospect: kangaroo, spermatozoa man...I would go with kangaroo.

Cesario: Yeah, but which one do you remember? You remember the spermatozoa man.

Harris: That's true.

Cesario: That's huge.

Harris: Very true. Any thoughts on politics? Got the Republican Convention coming up next week. You been following the campaign?

Cesario: Boy, you know, that was one of the smoother transitions I've heard.

Harris: Well, thank you...I mean, how else am I going to go from Spermatozoa Man to Bob Dole?!?!

Cesario: Exactly. "He's out of Olympic material!" Boom, just a hard left.

Harris: That's it.

Cesario: Well, when do the Republicans start? They start this coming week in San Diego?

Harris: Right. Monday.

Cesario: Dole is...Dole is still taking money. He took money from, what was it, the tobacco people?

Harris: Yeah, tons of it.

Cesario: He doesn't care anymore. He'll just take money from anybody. I think the rap guys should get in on this, you know? Snoop Doggy Dogg should just drop Bob Dole about 500k. Dole would change his tune like that! "C'mon, this Snoop Doggy Dogg's fine. Don't nit-pick his lyrics, he's a good kid!"


Cesario: Dole would actually take money from the Democrats. Just amazing. And Clinton, he's just in bliss. Because he knows so long...I mean, how much worse could he step in it and still win this election?!?! It's just, he's got that look on his face...Bill Clinton is like the guy you pick to play right field in the softball game. He just doesn't care. He knows he's that bad, but he knows he has the lead on cheap beers! So we just keep electing him.

Harris: Yeah.

Cesario: He's amazing, man.

Harris: Let me get some plugs in here for you, Jeff. As always, we never have enough time for you on the Harris In The Morning show.

Cesario: Yeah, because we talk every, what, four years?

Harris: I know.

Cesario: And you know, the time goes by...

Harris: Jeff, if you just would come to town every once in a while...

Cesario: I gotta work D.C. I gotta work that one club...is it still above a strip place?

Harris: No, that place, the Comedy Cafe, closed down.

Cesario: Oh it did?

Harris: Yeah. And it was really disappointing to me, because it was the week after I was named "Mr. Tassels" downstairs.

Cesario: Oh really? They had a special...wow.

Harris: Yeah. The Improv is here, though. You should come play there.

Cesario: You moved up from "Mr. G-String," I believe.

Harris: Yes I did.

Cesario: From "Mr. Tassels."

Harris: Yeah. Well Jeff is very busy. Used to work on the Dennis Miller show. You know, Miller is here in town working on a movie with Wesley Snipes.

Cesario: Oh wow!

Harris: It's called "Murder at 1600."

Cesario: [snickering] Uh oh.

Harris: That's seriously what it's called.

Cesario: That sounds like Dennis wrote the title. Instead of "Murder at the White House," it would be "Yeah, Murder at 1600, Babe."


Cesario: He's something else, I tell you. I had a blast working for him, and now working for Garry Shandling over at "The Larry Sanders Show."

Harris: Greatest show on television.

Cesario: And you know what it's like? People always say "Do you get sick of writing jokes for other people?" Well, certainly not those two guys! It's like being a great side-man in jazz. It's like being Herbie Hancock and working for Miles Davis. And then when you get a shot to do your own album, you know? Herbie Hancock, I'm sure, when he got a chance to do a solo album, didn't say "Well all right. Let me hire Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats." No, he went out and he hired good people! So it's a ton of fun to work for both of those guys.

Harris: That's great. And when do we see the new Larry Sanders stuff?

Cesario: In early November it'll go on air, and we start shooting next week.

Harris: Terrific. Good luck with it, and tomorrow night the HBO Comedy Half-Hour, Jeff Cesario, friday night at midnight. Always great to have you on. And come by every once in a while. Once a decade if you can make it.

Cesario: Thanks. Actually, I think I have a gig there in 2001.

Harris: Well, good! We'll look forward to seeing you.

Cesario: And listen, I'm gonna call you and get the traffic.

Harris: Sounds good. You have my home number, call me there. I have it piped in. That's Jeff Cesario live from Los Angeles. Back after this.

Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Joel Begleiter.