A slightly different change of pace this time around, which may mark the beginning of a slightly expanded definition of the word "artist" than I originally intended. This month's Spotlight is on veteran actor (he's often referred to as a character actor–I don't really like that term) and storyteller Stephen Tobolowsky.
You may remember him from his small but memorable roles as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day, Sammy Jankis from Memento or Captain of the Guard from Spaceballs. These are just some of my favorites; according to IMDb, he's been involved with over 200 projects. Looking over his resume, it seems like little exaggeration to say the man has been in most things.
DESPITE this, I have to admit I would have been perfectly content without knowing his name and just thinking of him as "that guy" who pops up in a ton of movies and television shows and is frequently typecast as a weirdo. That is, until I came across The Tobolowsky Files, now a mainstay of entertainment news website /Film.com. The Tobolowsky Files is a podcast created by David Chen, managing editor of the aforementioned site. [A podcast, for those of you who don't know, is a series of video or (more commonly) audio broadcasts released periodically on the web. Typically my favorites, such as TTF, are released on a weekly basis and run for about an hour at a time.]
Stephen Tobolowsky has led an interesting life, to say the least. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a good anecdote, he is also a masterful storyteller with a wicked-good memory. Each week Stephen delivers a series of true-life stories in vivid detail.
In addition to colorful tales about family, friends and his adventurous childhood, we are given a glimpse into how a level-headed, genuinely nice guy can thrive in showbusiness without losing his soul. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes surreal, humble Stephen verbalizes his life in a way I find totally engaging.
There's the story about playing Klan leader Clayton Townley in front of a crowd full of real-life white supremacists in the film Mississippi Burning... the story of his nightmare professor who did everything in her power to keep him from graduating... his recounting of his courageous and steadfastly good-willed friend's experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz... The stories really run the gamut, but are always told with great heart and adoration for his audience.
So now instead of thinking "It's that guy again," when I see him, I'm happy to say "Stephen Tobolowsky!" aloud and make sure everyone in the room knows exactly who he is. Sorry, everybody; it's bound to happen because he's in EVERYthing.
I recommend the show to virtually anyone. There's some coarse language, some stories involving the use of drugs, but I can assure you it's always through a warmhearted tone you might expect from a family member sharing stories over dinner. I've subscribed to The Tobolowsky Files on iTunes because I'm an iTunes junkie, but I believe you can find it through any "podcatching" software. The movie which the podcast was inspired by can be found here.