The Epic of James Lipton

Millions of people know James Lipton as the host of the popular Bravo series "Inside the Actors Studio." Millions have also enjoyed his recurring guest role on the late, great Fox sitcom "Arrested Development." But how many fans know just what a varied and colorful artistic career he's had? From acting in soap operas to performing ballet, from composing epic poetry as a youngster (it was "terrible," he now admits) to compiling the definitive study of English-language collective nouns ("An Exaltation of Larks"), Lipton has established himself as a modern Renaissance man.

In his Big Think interview, Lipton recalls his struggles as a fledgling actor and writer, a path he chose instead of a career as a "stolid, bourgeois lawyer." A former student of Stella Adler, he shares an illuminating capsule history of Method acting as well as advice on the thespian's craft from the likes of Paul Newman and Alan Alda. He also discusses the thrill of the art he's best known for: that of the interview.

Finally, Lipton offers a glimpse into his non-artistic interests, including piloting planes and show-jumping horses—each of which, like acting, requires a bone-deep love of risk.

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