Archive for March, 2010

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Rachel Dratch…The Dog

March 31, 2010

Rachel Dratch, who created so many memorable characters on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons (“Debbie Downer” being  my personal fav) has a new role.  And it’s not quite human.

Dratch is playing a dog..albeit a thinking, talking dog…in the play “Sylvia,” by A. R. Gurney, a comedy running at George Street Playhouse. I saw it last night, which was the first preview performance.

Actually I’m preparing to interview Dratch next week for ON THE SCENE. I can’t wait. She’s so identified with her characters that I don’t have a sense of what she is like. So, we’ll find out. She’s also coming back to SNL for a Mother’s Day special May 8th with Tina Fey and Betty White so we’ll be talking about that, too.

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Oscar Winner Geoffrey Fletcher Is ON THE SCENE

March 24, 2010
John Bathke and Oscar winner Geoffrey Fletcher

John Bathke and Oscar winner Geoffrey Fletcher

Last night we taped an interview with Geoffrey Fletcher…just a couple weeks ago he won the Oscar for writing the screenplay of “Precious.”

To catch an artist in the pivotal moment of their life is an amazing thing. There’s been a sea change in his world, he told me, going from a disinterested agent hanging up on him not that long ago, to winning an Oscar for the most talked about film of 2009. Now he says people are pitching projects to him.

Fletcher is gentile, articulate and Ivy League educated. There’s not much in his own life that mirrors the experience of the characters he was writing in “Precious” but as he told me…you don’t need to be an astronaut to write a story about space travel.

He just might be the only person with an Oscar to not realize he’s won the award, though. I believed him when he said it just hasn’t sunk in, yet, that he’s discovering day by day how to manage this new period in his career when more people are paying attention to him than ever before, when so many of his dreams seem to be within reach.

I love meeting people who’ve just achieved a dream, who are breaking into new horizons. These are life stories that bring encouragement to everybody. The bottom line seems always to be: keep going.

Within a week interviews with Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and Geoffrey Fletcher…now that’s what I call a  diverse line-up for the next ON THE SCENE.

We keep going.

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I Interviewed Joy Behar Tonight

March 20, 2010

I just finished a backstage interview with Joy Behar, she was performing her stand-up comedy at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Comedians are my favorite interviews because they are smart, fast thinking and fast talking. They cover as much ground in five minutes as most of us do in a half hour.

And so it was with Behar. To-the-point answers (and not just tossing out one-liners) and  some interesting thoughts from her on comedy, and of course politics.

She has a brash in-your-face-image, I think, based on her comments on “The View” or her CNN Headline News show, and so I asked her, “is there anything that you’re afraid of?”

“God, John, I don’t know, what do you mean like dying or something?” I’d say it was my philosophical side showing itself, maybe it was a little, but what I really was asking, is there any area that she’s leary of going, any subject matter, in her comedy or her talk shows. That’s how I should have asked it, I suppose. But my first try did get a funnier answer.

It turned out to be a really enjoyable  interview to do, but more importantly I think people watching ON THE SCENE will like it.

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It’s All In The Prep

March 13, 2010

I called-up Bill T. Jones yesterday. He was getting ready to fly off to Europe last night but he took a few minutes to chat about an artist he recently worked with to great acclaim, and who I am about to interview: Duncan Sheik.

They both won Tony Awards for the  musical, “Spring Awakening.” Jones did the choreography and Sheik wrote the music. I wanted to know more about Sheik’s work and Bill T. Jones is brilliant when it comes to synthesizing the creative process…his own and everyone around him. (Jones is the most eloquent person I have ever interviewed. He was an ON THE SCENE guest four years ago, when the show was in it’s early days).

Anyway, I learned some interesting background on “Spring Awakening” and Sheik’s contributions which will be helpful Thursday evening when he and I sit down for a conversation.

It’s all in the preparation, you know. The more I understand about the person I’m interviewing, the more it becomes a conversation about interesting topics, and not some ol’ standard Q&A.

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It’s The Work, Not The Award

March 4, 2010

One of the most interesting artists I interviewed last year was Keb’ Mo’, the singer and guitarist most often put into the category of Contemporary Blues, though he’s not crazy about that label. I interviewed him before sound check at a theatre and we had quite a wide ranging talk. (Check out bonus features for a clip from that interview.)

I’ve been thinking about Keb’ the past couple days since I’ve had time to reflect on the recent Emmy nominations I recieved…and with all the hoopla about the Oscars on Sunday.

I asked Keb’, “what was the biggest moment in your career so far.” He put his head down, thoughtfully repeated my question…”what was the biggest moment so far…” Then suddenly looked up and said, “hangin’ with BB King!”

I said, “I thought you were going to say winning your first Grammy.”

“No,” he said, “a Grammy is an accomplishment but the Grammy itself doesn’t mean anything. What it means is everything you did to get there.”

Dead on.

For me, the satisfaction is in building the work and the collaborations that make it possible…striving to make it the best from the interview to writing and editing…and putting it out for everyone to see (especially that part!)

These days I am thinking about how far ON THE SCENE has come, how this project has enabled me to grow beyond what I once thought possible, and all the amazing artists and entertainers we have gotten to know.  

But for me the Emmy nominations aren’t just about what I did to get here, but moreso what I still want to do.  There are  a million more people I just need to interview, there are shows to host, and viewers to reach.  The nominations remind me, in a gratifying way, there’s a purpose and a passion in what we do.

But I wouldn’t turn down an Emmy, either!