DATE April 30, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Lisa Kudrow talks about her roles in "Wonderland" and
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily News
sitting in for Terry Gross.
Next Thursday NBC presents the finale of "Friends," a 10-year-old series that
ranks currently as the most popular sitcom on television. The network has
stretched out its goodbyes for months airing a long string of re-runs so that
the final episodes, one shown last night, the other next week along with a
retrospective special, would be saved for the all important May ratings
sweeps. But after a long period of teasing the loose ends in "Friends"
finally are starting to be tied. As in a scene last night when Jennifer
Aniston's Rachel is leaving to take a job in Paris, gets a farewell gift from
her good friend Phoebe played by Lisa Kudrow.
(Soundbite of "Friends")
Ms. JENNIFER ANISTON: (As Rachel Karen Green) Oh, Phoebes, I don't even know
where to start.
Ms. LISA KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) OK, well, before you do.
Ms. ANISTON: (As Rachel Karen Green) Mm-mm.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) I know we weren't supposed to get you going
away presents, but I do have something for you.
Ms. ANISTON: (As Rachel Karen Green) Oh, oh, oh, what is it?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Well, it's a cotton swab with a bit of my
saliva on it so that if they perfect the cloning process while you're over
there you can use the DNA to create your own Phoebes.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Ms. ANISTON: (As Rachel Karen Green) I'm going to throw this away.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Ms. ANISTON: (As Rachel Karen Green) But thank you so much for the gesture.
BIANCULLI: Even if Rachel gets to Paris she's not likely to stay there
anymore than Carrie was destined to stay there in the finale of "Sex and the
City." It's no secret and a no-brainer that Rachel belongs with Ross, played
by David Schwimmer. Ross has had a thing for Rachel ever since "Friends"
started. In fact, thanks to flashback prom videos viewers know his crush on
Rachel began long, long ago. And even early in the series when Ross was
pining for Rachel, Phoebe said then they were destined to end up together.
(Soundbite of "Friends")
Mr. DAVID SCHWIMMER: (As Ross Geller) I don't know, I don't get it. I mean,
like two months ago Rachel and I were this close. Right now--What?--I'm
taking messages from guys she meets at the movies. I mean, this Casey should
be taking down my messages, you know, or Rachel and I should be together and
we should get some kind of message service.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Hang in there, it's going to happen.
Mr. SCHWIMMER: (As Ross Geller) Well, OK, how do you know that?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Because she's your lobster.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Mr. MATHEW PERRY: (As Chandler Bing) Oh, she's going somewhere.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Oh come on, you guys, it's a known fact that
lobsters fall in love and mate for life. And, you know, you can actually see
old lobster couples walking around their tank, you know, and holding claws.
(Soundbite of laughing)
BIANCULLI: Before playing the ditsy, yet outspoken, Phoebe on "Friends," Lisa
Kudrow played an even more air-headed character, a waitress named Ursula
on another NBC sitcom, "Mad About You." Not long after "Friends" began, it
was established that Phoebe was Urusula's sister and Kudrow has played that
role several times on "Friends," often sharing screen time with herself.
On the larger screen Kudrow has appeared in such films as "The Opposite of
Sex" as a very uptight and very smart woman. In "Analyze This" as Billy
Crystal's understandably frustrated wife. In "Romey and Michelle's High School
Reunion" as a flashy valley girl slightly past her prime and in "Wonderland"
as the estranged wife of porn star Johnny Wad. She's got lots of range and is
a master at getting mileage of an offhand or nonsensical remark. It's her
10-year stint as Phoebe though that has made her not only famous and wealthy,
but has most strongly defined her public persona. Terry spoke with Lisa
Kudrow last year and asked her about the side effects of being so strongly
identified with such a popular TV show and role.
TERRY GROSS, host:
Now "Friends" has been TV's most watched sitcom. How does that translate to
how viewers respond to you, because, you know, let's face it, lots of people
watch it. It's really easy to be on TV now and feel like nobody's watching,
'cause there's so many stations, but I mean, that's certainly not true of
Ms. KUDROW: Oh, you know, in the beginning, people would meet me and just
treat me like I was this--like a performer at their kid's birthday party sort
of. You know what I mean? Just, `Oh, hey,' and `I know you'll want to do
this,' like, dying to perform any opportunity I can. `Hey, do that
smelly--the smelly kitty song,' you know, every time I met someone. That was
always funny to me, just thinking that I would love to, I can't wait to.
GROSS: So, what's a nice way of diplomatically telling them, `Not a chance?'
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, just giggling and say, `Oh, no, I can't do that.' And
sometimes, when they'd get really persistent, I'd make up something about,
`You know, I'm really not allowed, because that's property of Warner Brothers,
and I'm not allowed. I'll look into it, you know what, 'cause people, this
comes up a lot. I need to find out if I can do this or not.' I don't know.
GROSS: What was the character like at the very, very start, when you were
given the script, you were told about the character?
Ms. KUDROW: Well, what I liked about the character and what was written was
they had this monologue in the pilot where she talks about how she left home
when she was 14. Her mother had killed herself. Her stepfather was in
prison. She lived in an abandoned car. All these things that were not even a
little bit funny. And I just thought, `Wow, the only way this works is if
this girl doesn't think any of these are a problem or, you know, they weren't
traumatic to her.' It's that, you know, other side of denial where
everything's OK. It's all just OK. And if you sell it as OK, everybody will,
you know--no one will feel sad about it. And that was interesting to me. I
loved that, that there is this person who had these horrible things, and
that's not the part of reality she's living in, you know, the horror of it.
GROSS: I think the word probably most often used to describe her is ditsy.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, that came up a lot perhaps.
GROSS: Does that word work for you?
Ms. KUDROW: Sure. Sure. Not so much now. I don't know why. Now I feel
like there's just so many more times that she's being sarcastic and calling
people on their stuff, making fun of them, whereas before, she took everything
at face value, and that's where some of the comedy came from, you know.
GROSS: So she's gotten smarter in that sense?
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, and it makes sense to me, because since the beginning of
the show, she's met her real mother, dealt with her father, done a lot of
GROSS: How do you feel about this being the last season of "Friends"? Is
that a good thing for you?
Ms. KUDROW: It's a mixed bag of emotions, you know, I love TV. I like a TV
schedule a lot, and I love everybody I'm working with, and it's a good show.
People like it. People watch it. That's all good. But it's fine that it's
time to move on. I mean, honestly, I can't see doing this for another 10
years, you know. It has to end at some point. This is as good a time as any.
GROSS: What are some of the things that you think you'll miss and some of the
things you won't?
Ms. KUDROW: I'll miss, you know, those five actors and, you know, the
executive producers I've become, you know, friendly with. I don't know that
I'll miss--and I think I'll even miss Phoebe, being her, you know, like
putting on that person.
Ms. KUDROW: 'Cause that's what it feels like, you know. I'd want to say
putting on those clothes, but I'm not--literally 'cause I actually hate the
clothes. But just putting on that skin of Phoebe, I'll miss that.
GROSS: What do you hate about the clothes?
Ms. KUDROW: How unflattering they are maybe, number one. It's not my style
at all. But--and it's always tights, you know. I hate pulling up tights.
It's very silly, little things, but I don't know. I'll miss it. And in a way
I've missed the Phoebe that she started off being, to be honest. Anyway, I
miss being so, you know, unreasonably optimistic and cheerful about absolutely
everything 'cause that was nice. That was a nice thing to do every day.
GROSS: This is kind of a relief from yourself to do that?
Ms. KUDROW: Yes. And a little of it seeps in, and I think it helps you cope
with other things in your life better.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. Yeah. That's why I actually have a hard time, you know,
defining anyone as stupid or, you know, ditsy or any of that because it's an
easier life, and it may be isn't so stupid.
GROSS: Is there anything in your life that you feel really connects to the
lives of the characters on "Friends"? You know, like did you ever have, like,
friends walking in and out of your house all the time? And a small group of
people that knew everything about each other and that were lovers with each
other and all that stuff?
Ms. KUDROW: No, not even in college. That was never part of my experience.
To be honest, no.
GROSS: Did you have lots of friends or were you more on your own?
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. Not on my own. I've always had like a few good friends
at a time and then some acquaintances, you know. But, no, I never really had
that core group of men and women, you know, that were just friends because I
actually never really believed that--I honestly don't know that men actually
like to be friends with women. Maybe they do now, maybe they're different,
but, you know, back when I was in college, it seemed like men were really only
friends with women if there was a chance of, you know, some sex.
Ms. KUDROW: But, so, no, it really was never my experience.
GROSS: Do you know how the series is going to end?
Ms. KUDROW: No, I don't. But I just read something where Marta Kauffman,
one of the creators, said she hopes--I think she said she hopes everyone's
going to be happy, the cast. I mean--the cast--the characters where all these
people that we've known for 10 years are going to be happy. So it won't be
like everyone dies or, you know, one of those `it was a dream.' No, I think
everyone's going to end up being happy.
GROSS: You know, there's been like a whole industry of shows inspired by
"Friends". And, I mean, there are times--and it's been like this for
years--when you put on the TV and you feel like every half hour there's a new
group of people in their 20s or 30s sitting on a couch talking to each other
and having affairs with each other.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah.
GROSS: Is that bizarre for you to watch?
Ms. KUDROW: In the beginning it was. Not bizarre, I just thought, `Wow.' It
was flattering; to be honest, it was flattering and then a little sad because
I think TV does this all the time. I just read something the creator of
"Everyone Loves Raymond" said, that they think that you're establishing a new
formula for a TV success. And you're not. You've just hit on something with,
you know, the casting and they click with the writer's sensibilities and
you've created people and lots of back story for these people so they feel
flushed out. And that's what it is. It's not just, `Oh, let's just put six,
you know, young people in a room, see what happens.'
GROSS: Right. Right. Now you got the role of Phoebe on "Friends" after
initially getting the role of Roz on the show, "Frasier." She's the
producer of Frasier's radio show, the role now played by Peri Gilpin. And
then you lost the role before the series actually started. What happened?
Ms. KUDROW: Hm, I'm still not sure. I'm still not sure what happened. I
got fired before they even--we shot the pilot, before we shot the pilot. And
I was really devastated because I loved that part of Roz. I think that's a
great part. And I was excited to do something that wasn't, you know, an idiot
girl 'cause I had been playing a lot of idiot girls in, you know, guest spots
here and there. So, no, that really hurt. But Peri Gilpin is so great and I
knew her. We auditioned together, so I actually was happy that she was doing
GROSS: Boy, how do you end up being happy that she's doing it when she took
the role that you wanted? I mean, that's a hard...
Ms. KUDROW: Well, I...
GROSS: ...posture to maintain, I think.
Ms. KUDROW: Well, you know what? She knew all those producers. She had
worked with them before when we were both auditioning for it. And I took the
role she wanted and that was really due her, to be honest...
Ms. KUDROW: ...you know. And it was nice to see it go back to her. And it
was hard, but at the same time, I am a firm believer and I have a lot of
friends telling me, `You know, the truth is when something like this happens
it's because it wasn't meant to be and it's saving you for something else that
you're supposed to be doing.'
BIANCULLI: Actress Lisa Kudrow speaking last year with Terry Gross. We'll
hear more in a moment. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview with actress Lisa Kudrow who
plays the character Phoebe on "Friends," the most popular sitcom on
television. "Friends" will be wrapping up its 10-year run next Thursday.
GROSS: If we can talk a little bit about your formative years. Your father
was a neurologist, and he studied migraines. Did you ever have migraines?
Ms. KUDROW: Well, first, my father is an internist who...
GROSS: Oh, OK.
Ms. KUDROW: ...then specialized in headache and did research in headache,
important research. And my brother is a neurologist...
GROSS: Oh, I see. OK.
Ms. KUDROW: ...who treats headache--yeah.
GROSS: Thank you.
Ms. KUDROW: Sure. And, yeah, once in a while, nothing--I didn't have chronic
headaches growing up. But I've experienced what a migraine is, yeah.
GROSS: No, I think I read that you had worked with your father doing research
on migraines? Do I have that right?
Ms. KUDROW: Yes, you have that right. When I was in college, you know, I
was a biology major, and my plan was to do research, not in the area of
headache, but that was part of my plan. So after college, I worked with my
father helping him with research, 'cause I hadn't decided to be an actress
yet, but it was creeping in at that point. And we actually did do a study.
We looked at hemisphere dominance and was it related to the various headache
GROSS: So did you consider medicine instead of acting?
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, medicine was brief, you know, in the beginning of college,
but then I was really looking into doing--to studying evolutionary theory and
more specifically, areas of sociobiology. And the bottom line for me, I was
really interested in the evolution of human psychology, seeing how environment
and biology work together to inform the changes over time in our--my God--in
GROSS: So how did acting win over that?
Ms. KUDROW: You know, I had always--when I was little, I wanted to be an
actress. It's so weird. I always wanted to be an actress, and I've sort
of--I just put it on a shelf when I was in high school, in college, really
squelched any of those desires. And whenever I'd come back from college on a
break, I'd get these little, like, whispers or feelings about, `Yeah, I want
to--I could do this. I think you could do this.' Like, `Yeah, but you can't,
you know, be an actual person that you'd respect and do this, so just put it
away again and go back to school, do something honorable.' And when I moved
back, it just overtook me. I don't know how else to say it. It just overtook
me that I had to pursue acting. I could do it and I wanted to do it.
GROSS: Where did you start?
Ms. KUDROW: I started with Jon Lovitz, who I grew up with. That's my
brother's best friend and like a brother to me. And I'd seen him struggle,
you know, for a long time. And finally he was working, he got on "Saturday
Night Live," and I just finally let him know, I think I'm going to pursue this
now. And he said, `Great. Go to the groundlings.' So I've taken a lot of
acting classes. I studied it in college. I've never learned more than I
learned from the groundlings and doing improvisation.
GROSS: When he told you to go there, did they just, like, let you in?
Ms. KUDROW: No. Absolutely not. No, they called up and said, `What's--when
I called them, they said, `What's your experience?' I said, `Well, I'm junior
high.' Aye. And so they said, `Yeah, we're going to refer you to this teacher
who we work with a lot.' And she was a godsend. Her name is Cynthia Szigeti.
And she was the best thing that could have happened to me.
GROSS: How come?
Ms. KUDROW: Because she didn't take no for an answer, and embarrassment was
not an option. You just had to do it. And it was the best thing that ever
happened to me. And you know, it's improvisation, and that could be scary and
some of the exercises look really silly, like lifting a disc, you know. And I
thought, `That's so actory and embarrassing. I just can't.' And the second
class, I came in late, and she was just, you know, talking everyone through
it. She wasn't, like, warm and nurturing, although she was warm, but she was,
`Come on, do it. You can do it. Stop laughing. We'll laugh. We'll tell you
when it's funny.' You know, just how to stay committed. She just forced you
with sort of like a gun to your head, you know...
Ms. KUDROW: ...on being louder and staying committed. And I'm watching
these people lift a disc, and I'm so embarrassed for them except for one guy
who's doing it and now I understand what being committed is. He was so
committed that it wasn't embarrassing. He looked like he was lifting a disc.
He wasn't overdoing it. He wasn't embarrassed. He wasn't commenting on it.
He was just there acting like he's lifting a disc, and I understood what
commitment was from that, you know.
GROSS: Isn't a disc like a discus thrower?
Ms. KUDROW: It's--there's nothing there.
Ms. KUDROW: You're pretending, like--no, everyone's standing around in a
circle, and you're all working together to lift a disc.
GROSS: Oh, I see. I see. So it's a group exercise.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. But there's this one guy who's doing it and he's not
embarrassing to me. And I thought, `All right, well, I've got to be friends
with that guy, that's for sure.' And it was Conan O'Brien.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. So we became friends, you know, from that class on. We're
very close friends.
GROSS: Oh, that's interesting.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, and so I just kind of stuck with him, 'cause I thought,
`OK, he's got a handle on this.'
BIANCULLI: Actress Lisa Kudrow speaking with Terry Gross. Kudrow plays the
character Phoebe on the sitcom, "Friends." There's more of their interview
coming up, but now a scene from the fifth season of "Friends." In this
episode, called the one where Phoebe hates PBS, Joey always scraping for
acting jobs, enters the apartment with good news.
(Soundbite of "Friends")
Ms. COURTNEY COX: (As Monica Geller Bing) What you up to Joe?
Mr. MATT LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Well, I'm doing this telethon thing on
TV and my agent got me a job as co-host.
Ms. COX: (As Monica Geller Bing) Oh, that's great.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Oh, great.
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Yeah. A little good deed for PBS plus some
TV exposure. Now that's the kind of math Joey likes to do.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Ugh, PBS.
Ms. COX: (As Monica Geller Bing) What's wrong with PBS?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) What's right with them?
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Why don't you like PBS Phoebes?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) OK. It was right after my Mom killed herself
I was in this really bad place, you know, personally. I just thought that it
would make me feel better if I wrote to "Sesame Street" because they were so
nice when I was a little kid. No one ever wrote back.
Mr. PERRY: (As Chandler Bing) Well, you know, a lot of those muppets don't
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) All I got was a lousy key chain and by that
time I was living in a box. I didn't have keys.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) I'm sorry Phoebes. I just, you know, I
just wanted to do a good deed like you did with the babies.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) This isn't a good deed. You just want to get
on TV, this is totally selfish.
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Whoa, whoa, whoa. What about you having
those babies for your brother? Talk about selfish.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) What are you talking about?
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Well, yeah, it was a really nice thing and
all, but it made you feel really good, right?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Yeah, so.
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Well, it made you feel good so that makes
it selfish. Look, there's no unselfish good deed. Sorry.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Yes, there are. There are totally good deeds
that are selfless.
Mr. LeBLANC: (As Joey Tribbiani) Well, may I ask for one example?
Ms. KUDROW: (As Phoebe Buffay) Yeah. It's--yeah, there's--no you may not.
(Soundbite of laughing)
BIANCULLI: A scene from the fifth season of "Friends." We'll hear more of the
interview with Lisa Kudrow in the second half of the show. I'm David
Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BIANCULLI: Coming up, more of our interview with actress Lisa Kudrow and
David Edelstein reviews the new film, "Mean Girls," written by and co-starring
Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live. Also, Ken Tucker reviews "Musicology,"
the new recording by Prince.
(Soundbite of music)
BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry
We're returning to Terry's interview with "Friends" co-star Lisa Kudrow,
recorded last year. "Friends" is completing its 10th and final season next
week on NBC. When we left off, Kudrow was telling Terry how she found her way
as an actress by identifying and exploring her comic side.
GROSS: How come you saw yourself as comic actor? How did you know that at
least at the beginning it was going to be about comedy for you?
Ms. KUDROW: Because I thought, `Wow, you know, the people in comedy don't
seem to take themselves as seriously. I could handle that. I think I could
handle that being around those people.' A lot of it was just about who would
I have to deal with if I'm going to do this career? And you know, that was
also a big deterrent for so many years before I decided to do it.
GROSS: What were you afraid of in terms of the people?
Ms. KUDROW: Just, oh...
Ms. KUDROW: Not so much a pretentiousness as too other-worldly, too--you
know, because I feel like they're genuine in their erroneous beliefs. That's
how I felt about it, you know.
GROSS: What were the erroneous beliefs?
Ms. KUDROW: Just--I don't know, a little too just `anything goes,' because I
was a really rigid kid and, you know, young adult--really rigid. And I'm not
saying I was right back then, but that's just how I felt, like, you know,
these people are idiots, and I don't want to be one of them and I don't want
to be associated with them. What I came to find out was that they're not
idiots, and everybody--I, more than anyone else, could use a little lightening
up, you know.
GROSS: Was one of your fears about actors, was that sense of, like, elevating
craft to an almost, like, religious level?
Ms. KUDROW: Yes, thank you. That's exactly--that was exactly what it was,
GROSS: And what was your problem with that?
Ms. KUDROW: It didn't ring true to me at the time. It just felt like
somebody trying--yeah, I mean, I think you were right when you said
pretentious. I don't know why I rejected it so quickly. That was unfair.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, I don't know what made me so angry at you. No, maybe that
was part of it. It just didn't ring true. It was something that I just
always rejected, and you know, I just lumped--I'm very black and white, and
especially then. So I'd see an actor or an actress on a talk show and hate
them, you know, and hate all their divorces and hate, you know, just how
messed up they were and not seeing it, you know, behaving as if--and, of
course, everyone would aspire to be me, you know. It just really bothered me
GROSS: You became really famous for your role on "Friends." I want to ask
you about a movie role that you had a few years ago in "The Opposite of Sex,"
and it--such a great performance in this movie.
Ms. KUDROW: Thank you.
GROSS: And it's a terrific film in general. And it's an interesting
character for you because it's a comedic character. It's comedy, but your
character is really smart. What she isn't is very kind of emotionally
Ms. KUDROW: Right.
GROSS: She's got a lot of, like, emotional problems, but she's very
perceptive and very smart and very articulate. Can you talk a little bit
about that character?
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. Oh, I loved playing Lucia. You know, I recognized so
much of myself in her because of that rigidity, you know, I was talking about
in myself as a teen-ager and young adult, just--I had all these rules and just
sort of like an emotional disconnect, you know. And I don't know where in
hell Don Roos saw that in me, but you know, he just offered me that role based
on, I don't know what, "Romy and Michele"? How? "Friends"? How?
Ms. KUDROW: But somehow he just thought, `Yeah, you could be her,' and I
still am not sure why.
GROSS: And you know, in the movie, she's in love with a guy who turns out to
be gay and falls in love with her brother, and before the movie opens, her
brother has died of AIDS, so she thinks maybe there's still a chance with this
other guy, which, of course, there isn't because he really is gay. And then
his sister, played by Christina Ricci, comes to town, and she is really nuts.
Anyway, so you think of yourself in the movie as the real, like, sane person,
not realizing, like, what your own craziness is.
Ms. KUDROW: Right.
GROSS: Do you have a favorite scene from the film?
Ms. KUDROW: In terms of the script, there's a lot of them I like. I really
like that moment where she's kind of fed up with Bill when they're in Palm
Springs and talking about how her mother was so sad for her gay brother
because how alone he must be, what a lonely life it is to be gay, which she's
saying to her single daughter, who's more alone than he is.
Ms. KUDROW: I don't know, you know, but, oh, there's so much going on in
that scene. It's just chock-full of stuff.
GROSS: Well, let's hear it. This is Lisa Kudrow and Martin Donovan in a
scene from "The Opposite of Sex."
(Soundbite of "The Opposite of Sex")
Ms. KUDROW: (As Lucia) I mean, I could, like, dance around you naked.
Vagina, vagina, vagina. Does that word do anything for you?
Mr. MARTIN DONOVAN: (As Bill) I don't think it does much for anyone, gay or
straight. It's too clinical. It's like dentifrice for toothpaste.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Lucia) God, some (censored) you're ironic. Do you know what
my mom said when she found out Tom was gay? She said, `It's such a lonely
life.' She said that to the single, straight girl. Isn't that funny? I
don't know, I just don't--I don't get sex.
Mr. DONOVAN: (As Bill) You should get out more.
Ms. KUDROW: I mean I don't understand sex. I don't get it, get it? It's
just it seems like a lot of trouble for not much. Am I the only one that
Mr. DONOVAN: (As Bill) I don't think you're the tip of an iceberg, frankly.
Ms. KUDROW: (As Lucia) No, I would rather have a back rub, you know? It
lasts longer and there's no fluids. You know, what's so great about that?
That's like, `Hi. I'd like to blow my nose on your face.' You know, you
wouldn't like that, would you?
Mr. DONOVAN: (As Bill) And after they do it, they never phone you.
GROSS: That's a scene from "The Opposite of Sex" with Martin Donovan and my
guest, Lisa Kudrow.
Now you've become a mother since working on "Friends," which means that, you
know, part of the time you were pregnant on...
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah.
GROSS: ...the set. Was that difficult to deal with, either from, you know,
the technical point of view or just, like, the physical aspect of it?
Ms. KUDROW: That was hard technically and physically. In those days, you
know, we were also shooting the show. We wouldn't be done till 1 or 2 in the
morning sometimes, and I was just exhausted the whole nine months. That
was--you know, my pregnancy ailment was exhaustion and a little nausea. But
that part was really hard. And also, no one seemed to understand that I
really had to sit down a lot, you know. I felt like I was always trying to
remind people, like, `But I need a chair.'
Ms. KUDROW: But it's hard for me to stay up this late, and sometimes feeling
like if I'd ask, and it's asking a lot because there's six of us, `Can't we
just--can I shoot out my scenes and then I can go home?' Sometimes yes, a lot
of the times no.
GROSS: So it's hard to draw the line between taking care of yourself and
feeling like you're acting spoiled in asking for special treatment.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah. Yeah. And so it was hard. It was really hard. And then
also just how you look, and they didn't really play the Phoebe-is-pregnant
thing. I was still hiding it or trying to hide it for a while, and you know,
in the beginning, you just look like you've just gained a lot of weight.
Ms. KUDROW: So that was hard.
GROSS: Do you think that the other women characters on "Friends" have been
more sexualized than your character has been?
Ms. KUDROW: Absolutely. Sure.
GROSS: And is that because yours is the more kind of comedic?
Ms. KUDROW: No. I think it's because I'm not as sexual as they are. I
mean, I'm not as--I don't project that as much as they do.
GROSS: So you think it's about you the actress, not about the character?
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, I really do. I really do. You know, there's no end to
the amount of dating and, you know, sexual experiences that Phoebe refers to.
So the opportunity was definitely there, but it's--I'm not comfortable doing
that. It's not any kind of, you know, like, moral belief or I'm against it;
it's not that at all. I'm personally not comfortable with that. So, you
know, I don't like photo shoots. We did one early on where this one
photographer who does stuff, and he did that famous shot of Jennifer on the
cover of Rolling Stone where you see, like, a fuzzy, blurry ver--you know,
part of her tushy. And it's just about the sexiest thing I'd ever seen, and I
thought it was beautiful. And so we were all doing a shoot, the three girls,
and one of the--it was that same photographer--I think it was before, you
know, Jennifer's Rolling Stone cover. But he had us all doing different
things that were kind of sexy and asked me to unbutton my top and keep
unbuttoning it and opening it up just a little more, and as I was doing it, it
felt awful to me. I didn't like the way I felt at all. I felt, like, taken
advantage of. I just did, and I thought, `What is this? All of a sudden, I'm
like a--I don't know, it didn't feel right, you know.' I'm like a sex
performer right now.
GROSS: Yes, right.
Ms. KUDROW: I have to be a sex performer for this photo shoot, and I wasn't
comfortable with it.
GROSS: So what'd you do? Did you say you're not comfortable and then button
your shirt back up? Or did you say, `Well, you know, they're asking me to do
this, and I'll be a good sport even though I don't feel comfortable'?
Ms. KUDROW: I was trying--it was more of `Get comfortable with this, Lisa.
Come on. Don't--you know, stop that prejudice you have against everything.
Maybe this is part of your old way of thinking,' you know. And I tried and I
unbuttoned it and opened it a little and I tried. And, you know, it just
didn't feel comfortable. And the kind of face you have to make to look sexy,
GROSS: Oh, yeah.
Ms. KUDROW: ...you know, opening your mouth a little and your eyes get
really big and you purse your lips; that's like a comedy bit to me. And I've
even done it as jokes in photo shoots or Polaroids. I always, as a joke, do
this. To me, it's a crazy face, and it looks OK. It doesn't look crazy.
GROSS: That sexual pout.
Ms. KUDROW: Yeah, and it doesn't look crazy. It looks like what all these
women look like when they look really sexy or doing these photographs. So now
when I see those, I think, `Wow, they--the amount of contortion it took me to
achieve that, I can't believe that's what you do without even thinking twice
about it.' Huh! You can't...
GROSS: That's really funny. Do you know people who do that naturally, or do
you think that whole style of sexual allure is almost always pure acting?
Ms. KUDROW: Oh, I think there are people who it's pretty natural for. I
mean, my husband has a pout to him, and he's sexy, and that's natural, can't
help it. Everyone in his family, they're all French, you know, they just are
sexy and it's no act. But, yeah, so there are people like that, I know there
are. But then there are others who, `Come on, like, I know what you had to do
to achieve that face and that arch.' And it's just, like, so unnatural to me
unless you're in, you know, a bedroom.
GROSS: Well, it's just been such a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you very
Ms. KUDROW: Thank you.
BIANCULLI: Lisa Kudrow, speaking to Terry Gross last year. She plays Phoebe
on "Friends," the NBC sitcom ending its 10-year run next week.
Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews "Musicology," the new album from Prince. This
is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Latest album by Prince, "Musicology"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:
Prince was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame late last year and gave a
widely reported, galvanizing performance of some of his greatest hits. He's
followed that up with a current tour that surveys his career, and he's getting
rave reviews for it. After spending a decade either releasing experimental
music only on his Web site, or refraining from public performance entirely,
Prince is putting himself back into the marketplace with a new album,
"Musicology," distributed by a major label, Columbia. Rock critic Ken Tucker
has this review.
(Soundbite of "Musicology")
PRINCE: (Singing) Ooh, uh, oh, OK. Heard about the party now just east of
Harlem, Dougie gonna b there, u you got to...
Backup Singers: (Singing) Call him.
PRINCE: (Singing) ...call him. Even the soldiers...
KEN TUCKER reporting:
Prince starts off his new album with that song, "Musicology," whose chorus is
a call to, quote, "kick the old school joint for the true funk soldiers."
This is a lousy idea for a couple of reasons. Professing to be teaching the
current generation of consumers that he's conducting a lesson in proper
musicology makes Prince sound like the old fogy he's trying to avoid elsewhere
by dropping a hip-hop name like Dr. Dre. And referring to us longtime fans as
"true funk soldiers," well, I enjoy the genre, but bridle at being dragooned
into an army whose commander went AWOL on me more than 10 years ago.
Much of this new music has some snap to it with a heavier bottom of percussive
emphasis. Clearly, for a guy who tends to play all the instruments on his
records and used to showcase his guitar, for a guy who throws down the
challenge, `Take your pick--turntable or a band,' Prince has been listening to
the turntables and now thumps his drums harder.
(Soundbite of "Life O'the Party")
PRINCE: (Singing) We're doing our own thing...
Male Backup Singers: (Singing) Own thing.
PRINCE: (Singing) ...until the sun come up...
Male Backup Singers: (Singing) Until the sun come up.
PRINCE: (Singing) Sweet Candy gonna b there, yeah, it's gonna b rough. She
ain't got no off switch and neither do eye. When u read it in the paper
2morrow, u gonna hang ur head and cry.
Backup Singers: (Singing) We gonna have us a party, all r welcome to come.
We ain't down with nobody that don't party like we do. Once we get it
started, we got 2 go all night. This is the life of the party. We gonna do
it right. Why party in your own yard...
TUCKER: "Musicology" is heavily into Prince's nostalgia for himself, and he's
a man of peace. Happily married, a situation he sings about frequently here,
and a Jehovah's Witness, a conversion that doesn't quite seem to have taken
hold with convincing sincerity, when he sideswipes a fellow Witness, Michael
Jackson, on the song I just played, "Life of the Party," by boasting, `My
voice is getting higher and I ain't even had my nose done.'
The worst that can be said of the Prince of "Musicology" is that he doesn't
sound like he has much fire in his belly. He's no longer the defiant funk
rocker I saw get pelted with garbage and racist taunts when he opened for The
Rolling Stones in LA in 1980. I guess we've all come a long way.
(Soundbite of "Cinnamon Girl")
PRINCE: (Singing) As war drums beat in Babylon, Cinnamon Girl starts 2 pray.
Eye've never heard a prayers like this 1, never b4 that day.
Backup Singers: (Singing) Tearful words of love 4 people she had never met
b4, asking God 2 grant them mercy in this face of a holy war. Cinnamon
PRINCE: (Singing) Cinnamon Girl...
TUCKER: That's Prince's "Cinnamon Girl," not Neil Young's. If the current
Prince sometimes sounds like a henpecked hubby--an entire blues song begging
his missus not to make him sleep on the couch?--he still has the goods when it
comes to going into the studio and laboriously constructing, track by track,
pieces of music that sound as though they were bursts of spontaneous joy.
(Soundbite of "If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life")
PRINCE: (Singing) If Eye was the man in ur life Eye'd make u happy, Eye'd
treat u right, Eye'd buy you flowers every single day, give u power, Eye'd do
whatever u say. Eye heard a rumor that ur man said he'd do u wrong, and ur so
vain ud think that ur the 1 behind this song. Sure u know he got plenty
lyrics, yeah, up his sleeve, and after he got what he want he just go up and
leave, and Sunday chocolate on the room right after his game, he like the
Lakers but the Sixers on when he came. If he's with another now u best
believe the party's crackin'. Ur getting played, girl, u better get ur mack
on and do unto others as they do unto u. U call me on the day the u and him r
just 2 through. Ooh-hoo-hoo. If eye was the...
TUCKER: "Musicology" is, as we used to say, a mixed bag, full of spunk and
wit one moment, weighed down with self-importance and irrelevance at others.
It sounds like the greatest hits tour coming to your town is a gas, but then
energetically played nostalgia can always seem like a lot of fun, for the
first few numbers, anyway. Then you remember that the reason you loved rock
music in the first place was for its shock of the new.
BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.
(Soundbite of "Musicology")
PRINCE: (Singing) Don't touch, yeah, touch, musicology, musicology.
Backup Singers: (Singing) Everybody get down, oh, kick the old school joint 4
the true funk soldiers. ...(Unintelligible), get goin'. Keep the par, keep,
keep, keep the party goin'. Keep the party, keep, keep...
Unidentified Man: Don't stop dancin'.
Backup Singers: (Singing) Keep the party goin', keep...
BIANCULLI: Coming up, David Edelstein reviews "Mean Girls." This is FRESH
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: New Lindsay Lohan movie, Mean Girls"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:
"Mean Girls" is a new high-school movie, from a girl's point of view. It's
written by Tina Fey from "Saturday Night Live." In "Mean Girls," she plays a
math teacher. Fey based "Mean Girls" on the non-fiction best-seller, "Queen
Bees & Wannabes," a how-to survival guide for teen-age girls. The film
stars Lindsay Lohan from "Freaky Friday." Film critic David Edelstein has a
DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:
Teen movies, the good ones, have a kind of buoyancy. They bob along on the
newest slang, on this year's cute teen models, on up-to-the-minute music,
actually covers of old songs by faddish new bands. That's appropriate, since
they revolve around putting old-fashioned morality plays into hip new packages
that play like dispatches from the youth front lines. The latest, and one of
the jolliest teen packages in years, is "Mean Girls," a good-natured hybrid of
pop sociology and satire, written by the 33-year-old head writer of "Saturday
Night Live," Tina Fey.
She began with a non-fiction best-seller, "Queen Bees & Wannabes," by
Rosalind Wiseman. The book is subtitled, "Helping Your Daughter Survive
Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence," and it's a
scattershot mixture of classifications--the queen bee, the floater, the
pleaser--and graphs, maps, tables and lots of anecdotes about girls getting
trashed by other girls. That's followed by tips on how to empower your
daughter--I hate that word, but nothing else fits--to transcend her
peer-designated role, and navigate successfully through that scary place that
Wiseman calls `girl world.'
The good thing about this how-to manual as the basis for a screenplay is that
it grounds Fey's work in observed human behavior rather than, like most
"Saturday Night Live"-affiliated movies, a limited performer's limitless ego.
Fey is not even the star. She plays a frazzled but good-natured teacher who
turns into a Rosalind Wisemanlike counselor.
The protagonist is 16-year-old Cady, played by Lindsay Lohan, from last year's
"Freaky Friday," a newcomer to American high school after years of being
taught by her research zoologist parents in Africa. That means Cady can look
at teen rituals from an anthropological, or really zoological, perspective.
Those kids around the fountain at the local mall--they're like the beasts
mating by the water hole. The subtle one-upmanship and sabotage, it would
happen on the veldt, with claws and fangs.
The early part of "Mean Girls" is like a mixture of "Heathers" and
"GoodFellas," complete with journalistic narration. The non-conforming
outcast Janis Ian--not the singer/songwriter, by maybe an allusion to
her--lays out the various cliques and draws a map of the caste-segregated
cafeteria, and it's at lunch that Cady meets the popular and exclusive
Plastics, two blondes and a brunette, led by the so-called fount of all evil,
(Soundbite of "Mean Girls")
RACHEL McADAMS: (As Regina George) Why don't I know you?
LINDSAY LOHAN: (As Cady Heron) I'm new. I just moved here from Africa.
McADAMS: (As Regina) What?
LOHAN: (As Cady) I used to be home-schooled.
McADAMS: (As Regina) Wait. So you've actually never been to a real school
before? Shut up. Shut up!
LOHAN: (As Cady) I didn't say anything.
McADAMS: (As Regina) Home-schooled. That's really interesting.
LOHAN: (As Cady) Thanks.
McADAMS: (As Regina) You're like really pretty.
LOHAN: (As Cady) Thank you.
McADAMS: (As Regina) So you agree.
LOHAN: (As Cady) What?
McADAMS: (As Regina) You think you're really pretty.
LOHAN: (As Cady) Oh, I don't know.
Unidentified Actress: (As Karen) So if you're from Africa, why are you white?
McADAMS: (As Regina) Oh, my God, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're
Could you give us some privacy for, like, one second?
LOHAN: (As Cady) Yeah, sure.
(Soundbite of whispering)
McADAMS: (As Regina) OK. You should just know that we don't do this a lot,
so this is like a really huge deal.
Unidentified Actress: (As Karen) We want to invite you to have lunch with us
every day for the rest of the week.
LOHAN: (As Cady) Oh, it's OK.
McADAMS: (As Regina) Coolness! So we'll see you tomorrow.
Unidentified Actress: On Wednesdays, we wear pink.
EDELSTEIN: Actually, I found these Plastics surprisingly likeable compared to
the ones I knew in junior high and high school, where were less cliquey but
more mean, or maybe they just seemed more mean because I was so horribly
vulnerable to them. It's in these scenes that Fey's comic gifts mesh
beautifully with Wiseman's firsthand research, and the director, "Freaky
Friday's" Mark Waters, dotes on the long-limbed actresses who play the
Plastics--Rachel McAdams as the tigress Regina, Amanda Seyfried as the
apotheosis of all dumb blonde jokes, and the dark one, Lacey Chabert, as the
low girl on the totem pole, the one who labors almost hysterically to maintain
Lindsay Lohan has a natural red-headed, Irish-American prettiness that makes a
nice contrast to these wiggly Barbie dolls, who magnetize Cady even as she
tries to bring them down. Will Cady become the new queen bee, or will she
recover her healthy zoological perspective? Not a lot of suspense there, and
"Mean Girls" is more of a premise than a plot. It runs out of steam toward
the end when Fey's teacher gathers the girls together in the gym and tries to
get them to recognize the patterns of envy and aggression that rule their
Yet even at its squarest, that mixture of parody and therapy feels sort of
hip. Maybe it's that Fey, who has triumphed in the male-dominated world of TV
comedy, wants to lampoon her female subjects as a way of making them more
aware and more connected. What is it like today to grow up in a world in
which the social caste system of American high school culture is openly
acknowledged instead of mindlessly acted out? I would hope it would be
BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.
BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
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