tv Amanpour Company PBS December 29, 2018 12:00am-1:01am PST
♪ >> hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co." during the christmas holidays, we're dipping into the archive and looking back at some of this year's highlights. here's what's coming up. [ siren wailing ] idlib province in syria was destined for a bloodbath. can one woman change history? the incredible story of how a syrian-american doctor lobbied president trump. plus... >> what can i play? oh, here. [ piano music plays ] >> his acting career already has a cult following. now jeff goldblum hits the keys for his debut jazz album. and... >> that was clear that would never change. [ laughter ] >> the comedian mike birbiglia settles in for an honest conversation about fatherhood. ♪
>> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically -- multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today, that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by... and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. half a million dead, 12 million
who fled their homes, lives, cities, history destroyed. it is hard to get a grasp on just how devastating the war in syria has been for nearly eight long years. dr. rim al-bezem never set out to be an activist. she left her native syria long ago to pursue her medical degree in the united states. but even from afar, she knew that she had to get involved. first, as a doctor, she traveled to bring humanitarian aid to refugees on the turkish border. but this summer, when it looked like yet another bloodbath was imminent, perhaps bigger than any before, as the assad regime and his allies were poised to launch an offensive on idlib province, is the last rebel stronghold, dr. al-bezem and her friends launched into action with the most classic of democratic playbooks. they lobbied their elected leaders right up to the president of the united states. now, we first learned about it from the president himself at
the united nations in new york. and that's where i recently met the doctor to discuss her highly unusual, highly personal foreign-policy intervention with president trump. dr. rim al-bezem, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> so, tell me how it happened. how did you one day think, "i have got to be able to get my plea for syria to the highest levels of power in this country," and how did you get to meet president trump? >> well, it started with a few syrian-american doctors thinking that, you know, you cannot just continue to transfuse blood to the patients who's bleeding -- you have to take care of the source of bleeding. and we live in a democratic country where people are heard and we decide, "okay, we must become active, politically active, and maybe we can bring foreign policy in united states and make it local."
so, we got engaged with the congress and the senate, and we grew the syria caucus in congress from zero members to 52 members, bipartisan who are friends of free and democratic syria. so, instead of our organizations, you know, issuing press releases that nobody read except syrian-american, we have now members of congress who are writing op-eds, who are going on mainstream media, who are writing letters to the president and advocating for syria. and that's how it all started. and we dream big, and we try to do some work with the media and, also, with the lobbying company as well as we try to reach the president. and that's how i actually met with the president. >> what did they advise you, then, about how to get to the president? >> well, the advice was based
on substance -- that you cannot, you know, ask the president or the administration to be engaged in another war in the middle east, and you cannot ask for nation-building. however, we have leverage as the mightiest nation in the world that we can use to affect political transition in syria. >> and did they tell you that you need to get in the room with the president? >> that opportunity presented itself from our work with supporting a republican senator candidate. >> right. >> mike brown in indiana -- you know, members of our group supported him and hosted him in one of our friend's house, in a syrian-american house in indiana few months earlier before i met the president, and they kept a good relationship with this campaign. so, the campaign e-mailed my friend and asked him if you are interested in attending a roundtable
with the candidate and the president and rally in support of the president, and my friend, of course, grasped the opportunity and said, "sure. we are very interested." and he asked -- he called me and he asked me, "would you come to indiana and meet the president and meet mike brown? and maybe you will have a chance to speak to the president." >> so, you thought, "this is my chance. this is a chance in a lifetime"? >> yes. >> i mean, a fundraiser, you don't just get in the door for free, right? >> no, you don't. you were asked to attend the roundtable. and we -- the community, we have a large group, and the community decided that, "let's go there, and let's see if we can, you know, speak to president trump." >> and let's raise the money to get in? >> right. >> can i ask you how much it was? >> actually, you can ask. it was less than $10,000. >> really? >> yes. it's not like what everybody is saying -- hundreds of thousands of dollars. >> so, here you are. you've got this opportunity,
you get in the room, and then what happens? because i'm asking you this based on the following sound bite that the president uttered during his september u.n. press conference. >> i'll tell you what happened where i was at a meeting with a lot of supporters, and a woman stood up, and she said, "there's a province in syria with 3 million people. right now, the iranians, the russians, and the syrians are surrounding their province, and they're going to kill my sister, and they're going to kill millions of people in order to get rid of 25,000 or 35,000 terrorists." >> so, he stood up and said that, and we all went, "whoa. who is this woman? what happened?" and then, he went on to say that he had instructed his secretary of state and others to make sure that they rallied the international community against any attack on idlib. >> i put out on social media and elsewhere -- i gave mike pompeo, john bolton,
everybody these orders -- "don't let it happen." >> that's pretty amazing. >> it is. >> how did the discussion go in that room? what were you able to say that clearly affected the president? >> so, before the president arrived, i asked if there was a moderator, and they said no -- it's a free-flowing discussion. there is no moderator. so, i asked -- you know, there were like 15, 17 people inside the room, and i told them, "if you wouldn't mind, guys, i would like to start that free-flowing conversation with the president." so, when the president came, he shared a few things with us, and then he said, if anybody has any comments, please feel free. so, all the eyes, you know, looked at me, towards me because i have taken their permission to start that free-flowing discussion. so, i spoke. i brought to the president's attention the impending human disaster that was going to unfold in idlib over the next 24, 48 hours.
and i asked him to give me a few minutes to explain how it all happened. and i explained how it all happened. seven ago, when a group of schoolboys in daraa city painted on the wall that the regime should fall. >> this, of course, was at the beginning of the arab spring. >> 2011. >> yeah. and all these movements had moved across tunisia and egypt, and, finally, they came to syria. >> yes. and that arab spring blended with the schoolboys who were painting on the walls. they did not really realize at that time that this will, you know, be the catalyst for what happened in syria. so, in response to that, the secret police threw them in jail and pulled out their fingernails. and the mayor of daraa city, who is the cousin of president bashar al-assad, told their parents, "forget about your children. go have new children. and if you can't do it, if you cannot make your wife pregnant, we can send our own men. they can, you know,
make children for you." as a result, a demonstration erupted all over syria. people were chanting for freedom and dignity, and the regime responded violently. and plan was to unleash industrial-scale killing to force people either to surrender or displaced. and i explained to the president, "i am not making things up. this is not a humpty dumpty story from a syrian woman. this is what's really happened. we watched in horror how, you know, the regime systematically targeted breadlines, residential neighborhoods, marketplaces." i mean, of course, he unleashed chemical weapons against his own people -- he declared war on his own people. >> you were telling all this to the president of the united states? >> i was, and the president of the united states graciously was listening attentively to all this and even some more. and then i explained how the people who survived the massacre
were given a choice -- either surrender, submission, or forced displacement to idlib. the plan was clear. you know, the writing is on the wall -- idlib province is marked for death. assad is going to have his, if you will, final solution, and the largest massacre is going to happen within the next 24, 48 hours. >> you said it like that? >> i said it like that. >> and how did he respond to that? >> he said, "that can't happen. the world is watching, that can't happen. we will not let this happen." and i said, "it's happening. they are ready to launch a massive strike and probably chemical attack against the 3 million in idlib under the context of 10,000, 20,000 nusra fighters." >> the terrorist group? >> the terrorist group. and wiping out the whole city. and this is the final solution. assad will then declare victory and...that's what's gonna happen. >> so, when you finished
making this presentation, then what happened? >> well, he said -- it -- he did not really believe it maybe that much. i don't know because i heard him in the news conference... >> that's right. and -- >> ...as he went back to the white house, and he picked up a new york times, and he read about the same subject. >> let me play what he actually said. >> i came back to new york, and i picked up the failing new york times. i hate to admit it, it was the new york, yes, but it was the failing new york times. and i opened it up, not on the front page, but there was a very big story. i said, "wow, that's the same story that the woman told me that i found hard to believe because why would -- how would anyone do that with 3 million people?" and it said that they were being surrounded and they were going in and starting -- literally, the next day, they were going to drop bombs all over the place and perhaps kill millions of people in order to get 35,000 terrorists.
>> the president had listened, he had said that can't happen, and then the meeting ended. what did you think was going to happen next? >> i didn't really know, but i knew he listened attentively to all what i have to said. but then i watch president trump talking about it, and 24 hour or 48 hours later, you know, i read the tweet and then, subsequently, i watched the news conference in the united nation about syria. >> and the tweets, of course, was, "president bashar al-assad of syria must not recklessly attack idlib province. the russians and iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. don't let that happen!" and it hasn't happened. >> correct. >> how do you feel about that? >> i am ecstatic. i'm very happy. i think he literally saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. >> and what do you think
will happen? i mean, is it going to -- is it a temporary pause, do you fear, in the attack on idlib? >> well, i think the tweet had significant impact in holding the mass atrocity in idlib. i think it was the right time, and i think putin and russia did not want to confront the president head on. >> so, you must have pretty complicated -- or maybe uncomplicated -- views of the united states with regard to the syrian tragedy. i mean, how were you all feeling during the obama years, particularly when the red line was crossed and there was no reaction here? >> i think syria will stain president obama's legacy forever. i think future generations will judge him harshly because of his ineffectuality and his passiveness towards mass slaughter. assad quickly understood that this red-turned-pink line was a bright a green light to kill with impunity.
>> so, when you saw within the first few months of president trump's inauguration that he did respond to that first use under his watch of chemical weapons, what did you think after all these years of waiting for something to happen? >> i mean, the whole syria-american community were rejoicing. we were trying so much during president obama to bring, you know, the humanitarian light to what's happening with syrians, and we were, you know, getting nowhere. >> you know, one question a lot of people have -- let me read -- the wall street journal said your success in influencing mr. trump's foreign policy "offers a roadmap for advocacy groups in the trump era." but people are asking, what happens if advocates for putin or -- i don't know -- kim jong-un or -- i don't know -- any names come and try to influence the president, who's clearly influenced by passionate, articulate storytelling
on this kind of humanitarian and human level? >> i don't worry because the president did not just heard my story and tweeted -- he heard my story, he gave me the time, he was gracious enough to listen to the whole thing, he went back, he read it in new york times, he spoke to pompeo, he spoke to john bolton, he spoke to all his advisers, he verified the fact, and they discussed it. so, was i the one who affected or changed policy? i don't think so. i think the president just heard my story, verified and discussed with his advisers, and tweeted, and people listened because he already has established his own credibility on the world stage and that he means what he says and that he deliver his promises. and putin blinked, and president erdogan was empowered by the new position of the united states, and they both reached a diplomatic alternative
to the war. >> you realize how extraordinary it is, right? this is not usual. >> i do. i do. but it's hard work of a whole group of people who are burned by all the atrocities that they have watched and felt that it's time to do something. >> dr. rim, thank you very much for joining me. >> thank you very much for having me. >> she may be modest, but if that assault is held off, it is not a modest accomplishment. now, for some solace, where better to turn than to culture? from "the fly" and "jurassic park," "independence day" to "thor," jeff goldblum is a familiar face to movie lovers. but his latest project may come as a surprise -- a jazz album with goldblum at the keyboard. since playing local jazz clubs at the age of 15, he has always had a love of music. and now, that passion has transformed into a new album. i sat down with him in london's
famous ronnie scott's jazz club to discuss music, movies, and to get a little private performance. jeff goldblum, welcome to the program. >> thank you very, very much. it's thrilling to be here. >> it's great to see you here because i see you on the silver screen, and i had no idea -- actually, my ignorance -- did not know that you were a jazz... tell me what brought you to jazz. how long have you been doing jazz music? >> i will tell you, christiane. i grew up in pittsburgh -- i bet you've been there. you've been to pittsburgh? >> i have. >> so, my parents -- my dad was a doctor, and our parents gave us music lessons, us four kids. me -- the piano around 10 years old. and that was the story, you know? around the same time, he would get -- he would bring home, my dad, erroll garner records, who is also from pittsburgh. some people know wonderful jazz pianists, and he kind of liked jazz -- my dad. so, i -- it was -- i was exposed to it.
then i had lessons, and i was kind of a poor student and wouldn't really... i had a facility for it, you know. >> i could you want to do something here. >> well, no, i like to touch the piano. >> you're itching to play. okay. >> well, this is the first time -- you know, we're going to play here, like i was telling you. >> it's ronnie scott's, the legendary. >> and this is the first time i'm sitting at this piano. i've never been at this piano before except now in the last three minutes, since we've been setting up, and we're going to play here in about a week. and -- yeah. how about that? >> does it -- is it always awe-inspiring? i mean, is it slightly intimidating? >> well, i'm too stupid to be intimidated. and piano and music never had -- i never had -- like acting was. i want to be an actor in the worst way when i was a kid and had this sort of i knew i had to make my way and make a living and -- but it was a passionate odyssey, romantic adventure, wild adventure to me. at the same time, piano was this thing i was doing that i just loved doing. and it's remained kind of that. so, i'm a little -- i'm still a humble student of it and it -- but it's all fun.
and this record that we did just kind of happened accidentally through the great people at decca, and i'll tell you all about that, but, you know, like that. >> give me a little riff. >> oh, what would you like to hear? >> sing to yourself. >> i'll sing to you. ♪ i fall in love too easily, christiane ♪ ♪ i fall in love too fast ♪ i do >> ♪ christiane >> ♪ i fall... et cetera, et cetera -- that's a little riff. >> that's a little riff. so, i just -- you said you wanted to be an actor. >> yes. >> but you, from what i read... >> yes. >> ...were afraid of that ambition. you thought perhaps your parents or people wouldn't approve of it. i read that you wrote, "dear god." where did you write it? >> on my shower door. well, i kept it as a secret. not that i thought they'd be disapproving, although my dad was a doctor, but he had flirted with the idea of being an actor himself. but, no, it was so -- he had said to us that, if you find something you love
doing that may be a lighthouse or the compass for your vocational choice. around 10 years old, i also -- not only did i start piano, but i did this part in a camp thing -- went to camp, and they were there, and they said, "did you like doing that?" i said, "yeah. i did." and i got the seed of an idea, but kept it secret 'cause i think i was kind of embarrassed about it. nobody i knew was an actor and da-da, da-da, da-da. and then it sort of developed into this obsession by the time this shower business started around 9th, 10th grade. i went to carnegie mellon university. and around that time i was -- i really was, "i must be an actor." and every morning, i would take a shower and the door would steam up and i'd say, "please, god, let me be an actor." but then i'd wipe it off because i still hadn't told them. >> you didn't want anybody to read it? >> no, i did not. >> so, in the meantime, music, you were -- i mean, as you said, you started getting lessons at eight. and then, didn't you make your own band when you about 15 or something? >> well, here's what happened.
i didn't make my own band. i -- because it was this -- well, it was -- you know, i was playing at home. i'd gotten on to jazz a little bit and could play a thing or two. [ piano music plays ] "misty" was something that i learned -- it was my dad's favorite song. and i started to -- i got the idea that i wanted to call cocktail lounges around pittsburgh. and i did, and i got a couple of gigs. so, it really wasn't a band. no, it was just me going to some cocktail lounge when i was 15. my parents drove me. and there would be a piano in a kind of a cheesy place in pittsburgh. there are other good places in pittsburgh, i think. but this is a cheesy place. and there was a bar built arou the thing and there would be patrons. and they'd, you know, suggest things -- you know, they'd request things. anyway, i played, and i met a couple of lady singers around that time, and they drove me to a gig or two. so, i played. it's kind of like the seeds of what doing now... >> and -- >> ...just kind of happened into it. >> because you actually now do have a band, and it's called the mildred snitzer orchestra.
>> mildred snitzer orchestra. >> how -- i mean, it's a strange name for a band. >> it's a strange -- it's a funny name. my -- we had started to play. so, i played. i started my acting career in new york. i kept a piano around, kept playing all the time, every day, snuck it in a movie or two, and then, about 30 years ago, i started to play out and about with some real great musicians. and whenever i wasn't working, started to do that. oh, and then -- but we did it under the radar. i was just doing it for fun, and i showed up, and i'd play, and, you know... and then a few years after that, we were invited to be part of the playboy jazz festival at hollywood bowl, believe it or not. and they said, you know, "we go put your -- a name in the program." and i said, "well, there was this lady in pittsburgh, a friend of the family, mildred snitzer, who is a wonderful woman -- lived to be 103 or something. and i said, "it's a funny name. i like that name."
and i said, "maybe we're the mildred snitzer orchestra," and we're not really an orchestra. and it's stuck -- that's our name. >> and we found a clip from 2001, in fact, of mildred talking about it. >> i know that clip. >> and we're going to play it. >> oh, really? oh, that's so funny. here's mildred snitzer. oh, that's so funny. >> i know when him when he was 12. in those days, he played the piano and even had a small orchestra going. "that's another person -- you know, jeff would never think of me." well, then, there was a little blurb in the mercury news about it -- it was mildred snitzer, and she had lived in pittsburgh. i said, "my god! that must be me!" >> that's so funny. >> so, that must have given her a huge amount of pleasure. >> i wonder. i was not in touch with her through -- you know, i left pittsburgh when i was 17. until i did see her -- we were playing at different places around los angeles. we were playing a place one night. and they said, "hey, guess who's here. mildred snitzer is here."
i said, "you've got to be kidding." because she had since moved from pittsburgh to, like, northern california, found out where we were playing, and showed up and came. we were in the middle of a song, and she came kind of dancing. she's probably in her 90s around this point, wearing some sequinsy kind of dress, and she just said, "hey, you know, this is my band. you know, how about that?" and now, we took our face. we were making some band merchandise recently, designing it, and they said, "hey, what if we put a picture of mildred snitzer, a drawing that we do, on the front of it?" so, we have some shirts -- it says "mildred snitzer orchestra" on the back, and then it's her face the front. >> it sounds completely mad, but it works. >> yes. it's mad, yes. >> so, let's go back just a little to the main thing that you're known for, which, obviously, is film. it's 25 years since "jurassic park." >> yes, ma'am. >> what does that mean to you? >> well, i'm -- about my whole acting endeavor, i'm wildly grateful. it's uncommon that a guy like me can work over the -- a course of time like this.
and i'm trying to get better. i had a great teacher, sandy meisner, and i'm a kind of a late bloomer and a humble student, i like to say, which is true. and i feel like i'm on the brink of my better stuff but i'm thrilled. you know, i wanted to do it in the worst way, like i said, and i was thrilled to break into it quickly. slowly get things that i could get better at, and then worked with great people over the years and was in some things that were -- you know, that pleased people like the movie like -- >> and steven spielberg, obviously, was the creator. >> i worked with steven spielberg on that, yes. >> you had to persuade him not to cut your part, right? >> there is that story. i met him -- when i met him for the meeting, they had said, "hey, wants to meet you for this part in the book that they're making into a movie." i read the michael crichton book, read that character, ian malcolm. and then by the time we met, he said, you know, "i didn't want to cancel this meeting because i like you in this." and i said, "let me read to you." he said, "but there's a move afoot to excise that part out of the screenplay,
kind of make it part of this other character, alan grant." and i, you know, remember, if i think i did, i said to him, "mr. steven, i don't know. i think -- don't you like that? that could be a good character." da-da-da-da-da. i'm sure i didn't persuade him. but, anyway, it came around, so that i got back into the movie. >> and do you recognize this? >> what? i like this -- so sweet. >> do you recognize this inflatable picture of you -- or not pictures, like a statue. >> yes. it was a statue. >> it's a reclining you. >> yeah, it wasn't inflatable. people said afterwards -- and i knew nothing about that. the people sent me on the day that it appeared, "what?" this is -- you know, it took me by surprise. i think they were promoting their showing of the movie after 25 years. and -- but then, i must -- then i read the description of it. it's not -- wasn't a balloon, it was -- it's kind of big. [ both laugh ] >> it's huge. >> big and heavy, yes. no, i had never saw it, except i was on "the graham norton show" recently. they had decapitated it, and they brought the head on. >> he's very good, isn't he, graham norton? >> well, it is a good show. >> yes.
>> he's lovely. in fact, he's the reason we have this album and that i'm here talking to you right now because, a year ago, gregory porter, if you know him, a wonderful singer -- i'd run into at an airport -- loved his music. he was the musical guest -- a great singer. he was the musical guest when i was promoting "thor: ragnarok." and they said, "hey, do you want to accompany him just on the piano, playing 'mona lisa'?" he's singing... ♪ mona lisa, mona lisa, men have na-- ♪ 'cause he does this nat king cole record. i says, "uh, yes. we did it." and then, his label was decca, tom lewis and rebecca allen. and they said, "hey, maybe we should do something with jeff," and that's how the whole thing came about. >> this big statue... >> so, the statue. >> ...suddenly became, apparently, the most popular, most important, most whatever they call it, used meme on the internet, and you've become a major millennial star -- you're a happening for the millennials. >> well, i can't even really... >> yes, of a certain age. >> yes. well, how about that? >> but how does it feel? >> well, it's lovely, you know. >> because -- i ask you because,
you know, you sort of are young in that you're 66, but you started to have kids for the first time... >> i have a... >> ...at 62. >> that's right -- i have a 3-and-some-months-year-old boy, charlie ocean. >> and how does that work? >> and then a -- a 19-month-old, river joe. well, you know how it works, the traditional way. >> i know it works. >> yes. >> but how does it work for you as a dad? >> for me? >> i mean, you never wanted to have kids. >> not really. >> how was it changed your life? >> oh, that's a good question. that's a big question. you -- do you have kids? >> i have a kid, yes, a son. >> you do. you do. >> 18. >> well, its life-changing, everybody says. >> mm-hmm. >> and as i sit here and think about it right now, tremendously changing. it's lovely. i have a wonderful wife, emilie, and -- >> who used to be a gymnast -- is that right? >> yes. she was for the canadian olympic team. >> yes. >> she was in the olympics for rhythmic gymnastics, then she went on to do aerial work and contortion and this and that. she doubled emma stone in "la la land." >> so i read. >> yeah, yeah, yeah. >> that's pretty amazing. >> yeah. but we were together
a couple of years and she said, "gee, this is so lovely. what if we had a baby?" and i -- we thought about it for a year and talked about it and we got married and had these two babies. in fact, the first one, we -- once we decided, "hey, let's start to try to have a baby." and we did for the first time -- i'd ever done that before. i was 61, 62, like you say. and the day before our wedding -- i haven't told anybody this -- the day before our wedding, she said, you know, "a couple of days ago i found out something -- i'm pregnant." >> she showed you the stick? >> you know, she showed me the -- did she show me the stick? she had a little box wrapped up, and the stick was in it and a little picture, a little picture. she said, "that little thing --" sonogram? >> sonogram, yes. >> "that little thing..." >> ultrasound, yes. >> "...is the beginning of our baby." >> wow. and you haven't told this story before? >> no, not really. maybe peripherally -- no, not to somebody important like you. and then, so, the wedding,
the next day, can you imagine? >> yes. it must mean seriously fantastic. >> it's seriously fantastic and kind of magical. and then we had another one after that. and now they're together, two boys. >> fantastic. >> oh, boy, it's life-changing. they're here. they say me off from the hotel coming to do today's work. >> and "thor." you've done "thor"... >> i did "thor." >> ...which is the marvel -- based on the marvel comic. >> the marvel thing, yes. we shot that in australia. and the kids came, just like they're here on this tour with me now. i don't want to be separated from them at all. and they came to australia. it was the first time charlie went in the ocean. >> oh. >> how about that? >> and he's called "charlie ocean." >> that's right. >> but here's the question. stan lee just died at the wonderful old age of 90-plus. tell me about stan lee. >> well, you know, marvel is -- i had a great time with that movie. taika waititi was the director, brilliant director. and we improvised a lot of that. kevin feige and louis d'esposito, the people at marvel, have a wonderful way of making these big movies
but kind of creatively and adventuresomely and deliciously. but that was my brush with the marvel universe. so, stan lee -- i did meet once. we took a class picture. you could look it up and see it, so-called. we all went to atlanta, at one of the compounds of the marvel people, and all the casts of the last 10 years were gathered. you can imagine sam jackson, with whom i've done some things, robert downey early on there, scarlett johansson. anyway, we were all there on stands, and we took kind of a class picture, and he was there, already very old, but, you know... >> he really changed it, right? i mean, he changed contemporary culture. he's really put his stamp on it. >> i guess he did. did you read a lot of comic books? >> i read a lot of comic books. >> you did? i'm surprised. >> yes. but -- no, i did. you know, growing up, i did. i like comic books. >> i didn't read comic books that much, in fact. >> i did, but i read a lot of "archie" and, you know, all of those things. >> oh, yeah.
oh, you know what comics i got into? i was not into superhero comics. i got into -- in the '60s, i got into r. crumb comics. >> i don't know that one. >> you don't know r. crumb comics? >> no, no. >> really? >> no, i don't. >> that's so interesting and revealing. >> you know, you've had a long career in all of this, particularly in the movies. and i just want to know what you make of the kind of the whole me too movement, the idea of working with women who you know, you know, have had an unequal playing field and unlevel playing field. they've been subjected to all sorts of harassment and abuse often and, also, unequal pay. tell me where you stand on this issue right now and how you feel, you know, the culture is shifting or not. >> thank you for asking me that. well, of course, i'm ferociously in favor of equal treatment, equal pay, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. there's so much to be said about this, of course -- not authoritatively from me.
but in my experience, i'm interested, engaged in it, and would do anything that i could to move the ball forward so that women -- i am not being, you know, i'm not trying to insinuate myself panderingly. but, anyway, i feel sincere about it, and i'm glad that a huge wrong and many wrongs over a long period of time maybe, hopefully, will be transforming itself. the world cannot succeed -- america cannot succeed when we as a globe cannot succeed without the potential being realized of all of us, particularly women. >> mm-hmm. half the population. how do you feel about the political climate
we live in right now? and it's not just in america -- it's here in brexit, britain. it's across europe. it's in many parts of the world. i wonder whether it preys upon you and whether, perhaps, your art -- your music, particularly, is a balm -- is a way out of what some people feel is a pretty dark moment in history right now -- not everybody, by the way. some people are thrilled about what's going on. >> not me. although, are you familiar with -- you know, here again, what do i know? but i was exposed to a book whereby, over the long arc, things are getting better in many ways on the planet. but, certainly, we're in a period now where it's no secret where i stand. i campaigned fully as i could for hillary clinton. i'm -- would be excited about progress and the progressive way
and sensibility -- it's in my bones, really -- toward global family connection and the success of all in the human race and all creatures on the planet. and i abhor ugliness, bigotry, stupidity, coarseness of all kinds, especially othering all manner of underdogs. beyond that, there's much to say in detail, and i'd love to talk to you about it particularly, but i'm engaged. what did you say -- "vexed" or...? >> yes. >> yes. and now, with two children coming, the world that we're leaving them, and, you know, it interests me greatly. and some of the big questions that we can only tackle as a global family --
climate change -- there are no borders to the challenges that the planet faces and, also, nuclear weapons and nuclear war. we must tackle those all together and with the openest of hearts and smartest of approaches. and music, yes, does ease me here and there when i get too overly stimulated and disturbed. but, also, not that it's anything i claim as anything important, but i do -- my life has been devoted to musical stories, human stories that may provide some kind of mysterious tonic. there you go. >> give us a little tonic. play us out. >> well, i will. i will. let me see. what can i -- oh, what can i play? oh, here. [ piano music plays ] ♪
♪ [ vocalizing ] ♪ [ vocalizing ] ♪ ♪ [ vocalizing ] ♪ et cetera. [ vocalizing ] et cetera, et cetera. >> wonderful. >> oh, thank you so much. >> jeff goldblum, thank you so much. >> i can't tell you what a privilege it is to talk to you. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. >> some genre-bending virtuosity there. jeff goldblum isn't the only one, though. the comedian mike birbiglia has helped redefine the boundaries of confessional
comedy with his funny and brutally honest style, whether onstage, in print, or on the mega-hit radio show "this american life." you may recognize him from one of his many jobs onscreen, in "orange is the new black," showtime's "billions," or the movie "trainwreck." he's now debuting on broadway with "the new one," which is a one-man show. and as our alicia menendez discovered, the exact topic, well, it's hard to pin down. >> thank you so much for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> one of your rare moments off. >> yeah. it seems like i'm doing all shows right now. >> i would call "the new one" a show about fatherhood. do you feel like that's a fair description? >> i think yes, and... it is a show about fatherhood and change, i think. i think, you know, one of the things that, when i was developing this show, is i wanted to make sure that it wasn't just about being a parent, but, rather, it was about how all of us,
regardless of our age, have things that were we're hostile to doing or hostile to changing in our lives. and for me [laughing] it just so happened i never want to have a kid, and then i flipped. >> your wife was a big part of that flip. let's take a listen to this clip from the show. >> okay. >> she said i was clear i didn't want to have a baby at the time but that i might change. i said i was clear i would never change. [ laughter ] she said, "if you don't want to have a baby, maybe i'll have one on my own and we can stay married." and i said, "oh, that'll be a good look." [ laughter ] just you and me and this kid that's a cross between you and some grad student jacking his way through suny purchase. i mean, you can't -- you can't have a kid on the side, like, "we keep him in the shed!" i mean, people do it. i've seen the documentaries. it's just not what i aspire to. and then people will be like, "you guys have kids?" i'm going to be like,
"she does." [ laughter ] >> in this show, you tick through your various reasons for not wanting to have a child, including your various physical maladies. >> oh, yeah, yeah. that's a big part of it. i have a sleepwalking disorder where i jump through a window. if people haven't seen my movie "sleepwalk with me" or read the book, i had cancer when i was 20. i was very lucky -- they took it out. it didn't come back. and there's just, yeah, lyme disease, diabetes -- [laughing] i just have a lot of -- i have a lot of stuff. >> one of the things i felt as a relatively new mom watching the show was i wonder what will happen when, one day, your daughter oona either reads or sees this show. >> is she going to have access? >> yes. >> [ laughing ] yeah, i know. that's why it's sort of -- i always think of it as sort of a magic trick of sorts because the first half of the show is this argument for why one would never want -- why one should never want to have a child.
and the second half is i had a child, and i was right, but here's how it turns on itself. and if it doesn't turn on itself, truly and authentically and in an emotional way, the magic trick doesn't work because, like you said, oona's going to see this show someday, and it's going to have to be convincing that i did change. and jen always laughs, my wife always laughs because she's like -- people asked jen about that a lot and she's like, if you saw the two of them together, you'd realize that oona would never believe that i wrote this show. >> because there's some really i would say dark but, certainly, a provocative moment in the show. >> i would say dark and provocative -- both of those i think are true. >> you say, "i understand why dads leave." >> yeah, that's a hard one out of context. i mean, people really have to see this show to understand that 'cause it's an expression of a very low point
for my character and in his journey of just -- and, of course, i say i'm comfortable saying that because i'm not gonna leave -- i'm never gonna leave. but there are these low points, i think, in parenting and i get all these e-mails from moms and dads saying, "wow, like, thanks for writing this thing. it made me understand my husband more. it made me understand my wife more." i wanted to write a show where people -- where someone says all the things that people won't admit to saying when they're parents because i think, you know, the sort of the old idiom of, like, we're only as sick as our secrets. i think that with parenting, there's a lot of them -- there's a lot of secrets. there's a lot of things you can't say. >> what has been the most surprising response to the show? >> there's this really brilliant set designer who came to the show who was off-broadway, and she said -- she had read this one review
that was so, like, personal and, like, sort of hurt by the show, sort of and in a certain way. and she said it's because you're -- i think it's because you're being so vulnerable that she feels like she can be vulnerable in her response to it, and that makes a lot of sense. but i -- my feeling about the show is that the goal of it is precisely that, it's opening up so that the audience can open up about their own lives. >> and it's not just that you're sharing -- it's that you're sharing personal failures. i mean, "sleepwalk with me" looks at a failed relationship. >> they're not failures -- i thought they were successes. no, just kidding. >> most of us are spending our lives trying to cover up our failures. >> right. >> and here you are onstage, reliving them. >> well, my take on it is, like, you know, we're all naked all the time whether we realize it or not. >> hm. what does that mean?
>> like, in other words, if you think you're keeping a secret, you're not. and so owning your own is -- can be... a really cathartic experience. and then, it's really cathartic, particularly cathartic when people experience that in the audience. it's by far, of any of my shows, it's the most that the audience has ever literally thanked me. like, i get e-mails all the time, which, is as a performer, just like the greatest thing i've could ever experience ever. >> one of the running jokes of the show is how people with kids try to convince other people to have kids, and i walked away from the show wondering now that you have a daughter and you love her so much, have you become one of those monsters? >> yeah. you're the first person who's asked me that question. i've become one of those monsters. my best friend from childhood... came the other night. and i was like, "you have to --
yeah, you have to do it now, you know?" >> and not in a "misery loves company" way? >> no, it's not misery loves company. it's -- i mean i say and i joke about it in the show but it's the -- people say to you it's the most joy you'll ever experience and it just is. and it's not -- there's no way to describe it because it's like the equivalent of describing like, you know, when your aperture just opens and you just go, "oh, i didn't know it could be like that." and then it's my brother -- my brother joe, who contributed writing to the show and his own lines -- his character says in the show, he says -- you know, i go, "what's it like to be a parent?" he says, "it's relentless." i said, "what do you mean?" and he says, "you know how you go to the gym and you push and you sweat and it sucks?" and i go, "yeah." he goes, "when you have a kid, you can't even go to the gym." and then he says, "but it --" he goes, "the thing you should
know it's not gonna be better or worse -- it's just gonna be new." >> you begin to play with a riff about your couch... >> yeah. >> ...and why your couch is so important to you. let's take a look. >> i think the reason a couch is so expensive is that it's just a deceptively sophisticated piece of technology. [ laughter ] it's a bed that hugs you. [ laughter ] it's like, "you want to watch tv?" [ laughter ] "you want to eat pizza? you sure do like eating." [ laughter ] "but i like that about you." and beds are comfy, but they know it. [ laughter ] they're like, "i'd like to be called a king. i'm going to need a box spring." i'm like, "for what?" they're like, "i don't touch the floor." [ laughter ] "get your hands off that tag.
i'd like this room named after me." [ laughter ] couches are humble. they're like, "this is about you. want to take a nap? be my guest. you want to have sex with my arm? i'll think about it." [ laughter ] >> so, last night, the crowd was in stitches over this, but the couch actually ends up being a really critical... >> it's critical. >> ...part of the show. what is the takeaway? >> well, i don't want to tell people what their takeaway should be, but the -- i'll tell you the reason the couch entered into the show was, you know, the show is a lot about becoming a parent. and i was doing some college shows about a year ago in the development of this show and i found that college students weren't connecting to that version of the show. it didn't have a couch in it. and i was like, "oh."
it occurred to me they don't even know anyone with kids. [ laughs ] >> they're closer to being a child. >> they're closer to being a child. they don't even know -- not only do they not have kids, most of them, they don't plan to have kids, most of them, and they don't know anyone with kids, most of them. and i was like, "wow, that's a quandary with this show." and so i started to think about, like, what -- when i was their age, what was my relationship with being an adult? and i thought about my couch and how like when i was in college, you just get a couch on the street, you know, and it built from there. and then, i swear to god, once i put the couch metaphor -- and the couch, of course, becomes a metaphor in the show. once i put the couch metaphor in the show, it kills the college kids. like, they totally get it. there -- like, if you start with the metaphor that's in their universe, they'll go anywhere.
it's just getting them in. >> it would have been very easy, arguably, to do to "the new one" as a stand-up routine. >> sure. >> why did it need to be a play? >> "sleepwalk with me" was a play i did 10 years ago. >> that you then transposed, right, into film? >> well, yeah. i made it into a film and a book, actually, after that but that was my first solo off-broadway play that nathan lane presented in 2008. then i did "my girlfriend's boyfriend" at the barrow street theatre -- 2011, and then, "thank god for jokes" in 2016. and, so this is my fourth one. >> you know, women can be cops. [ laughter ] it's sort of part of the whole thing. [ cheers and applause ] >> what's interesting to me when i work with my director seth barrish is what -- we like to think of it as an experience. and it's like, i love stand-up, certainly, and i started out as a door person at a comedy club
in washington, d.c. and i really admire stand-ups. what i'm interested in is that you can tell stories and ultimately have an arc and have staging and have lighting. it creates a full experience. i don't know. it's just what i l-- it's just what i love. you know what i mean? like, at a certain point, you -- i decided in my life that i was going to try to do things i love instead of doing things i like. and then -- >> yeah, when did you make that decision? >> three months ago. [ both laugh ] no. like about 10 years ago. about 10 years ago, i was -- i did, like, a sitcom pilot for cbs. and it was one of those like a dream come true for a comedian, they get their own sitcom. and it was -- it felt actually sort of bad because it felt like there were so many chefs and there are so many people that by the end of the process -- and it didn't go to
air -- but by the end of the process, it didn't feel like me, and i didn't feel like what i do best. >> you must have been relieved that it didn't go to air. >> yes, i was so relieved. i think it's like the greatest bullet i dodged in my career. and so after that, jen and i moved back to new york and we just said, "let's just take this show, the 'sleepwalk with me,' and let's just put all the bells and whistles on it and produce it with the same vigor that they produce network television." >> one of the most memorable parts of "sleepwalk with me" -- you, given your sleep challenges, actually walk through a window. >> jump, jump. >> jump. >> jump through a window, yes. >> when did you realize that could be funny? >> [ laughs ] that's a good question. i feel like i -- as a comedian, i sort of knew right away -- this is nuts. >> hello. i'm staying at the hotel. i had an incident wherein
i jumped out my window, and i'm bleeding, and i need to go to the hospital. >> it did take me about 8 or 10 months to come to grips with talking about it onstage 'cause there was some degree to which i thought, "well, if i tell people this, they might just lock me up against my will." like, "there just might -- i might end up in a hospital. and this might really..." what's so crazy looking back on it is i thought this might slow down [laughing] my career. i mean that's -- yeah, that's the headspace i was in at that moment in time because, you know, in a lot of ways, "sleepwalk with me" is about this young guy at the time who's trying to achieve his dreams, and he was, you know, in denial about the serious sleepwalking disorder i had -- rem behavior disorder. and i would think -- you know, i think the line in the show is i would think, "maybe
i should see a doctor." and then i thought, "maybe i'll eat dinner." and i went with dinner for years, and i never dealt with it until i jumped through a window. and then i finally went to a doctor, and i was diagnosed. and, yeah, it's -- i mean what's wild about the sleepwalking disorder is that there's no cure for it. >> right. >> and so it's just something -- you know, i sleep in a sleeping bag. and i, you know -- i don't do this anymore but i used to wear mittens so i couldn't open the sleeping bag. and then, lately, because i have a daughter and i bring it up in the show, i created a fitted sleep sheet. it's totally real. fitted sleep sheet that has a hole for my head. [ laughs ] and the joke is, "and one for my wife, though, she never uses it." and then i secure the sheet under the mattress with a rope and a camping clasp. so i'm like a relatable hannibal lecter, but it's all real, man. i mean -- but i -- what's so funny is that's an extreme, right? like, that's a really extreme thing -- to have a sleep sheet and to your holes in --
your head in a hole. but what's interesting is, and this harkens back to what we were saying earlier, people relate to it. there's a recognition laughter. and the reason is not because they sleep in a sheet that has holes in it, but because everybody has their thing. everybody has their thing they're embarrassed about and they don't want to talk about it. and then they see you talk about it, they go, "oh, i guess i could talk about that." >> mike, thanks so much. >> [ laughing ] thank you. >> yes, indeed, everyone has their thing. some refreshing honesty to end this week. and that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour & co." on pbs, and join us again next time. ♪ >> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams,
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♪ -next, a "kqed newsroom" special on the arts. -♪ his love -sometimes it takes more than a 90-minute, intermissionless play to kick somebody out of their 40-hour workweek. -an entertainer's take on american history and a world-renowned artist tapping the global refugee crisis. -you know, they all have families, have children, and we cannot pretend we are naive on those issues. -plus the joy served up by the coolest museum in town focused on something sweet. -when you see the power of human connection in such a simplified form, i think it can be a great example of how we should move forward as a country. -hello. i'm thuy vu. welcome to a special edition of "kqed newsroom" about arts and culture. on this program, we're revisiting stories from our archives with innovative and influential figures in film,