Quotes From Hank Azaria on the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron
Here are some of Ben W’s fave quotes from Hank Azaria on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron (I added emphasis in bold to parts that I particularly want you to see – LK):
Hank Azaria (HA): To me, I wanted to be an actor to be not myself, you know, and to my tremendous chagrin, discovered that in order to be a really good actor, you have to actually display yourself to people in one way or another, and I was profoundly uncomfortable doing that. And it took Roy [London] years to kind of nurture me through—
. . .
Marc Maron (MM): And how did he do that?
HA: You know, it was…I had this crazy thing as an actor where–first of all, I’d have to be myself, I couldn’t like be a character, I’d have to just play something close to myself, not gussy it up with a voice or whatever, and then I’d do this thing where I’d be kind of going along okay for three-four lines in a scene and then I’d kind of hear myself–like a line reading sounded tinny or I’d feel like I wasn’t authentic enough in that moment and I would shut down. You know, I’d just be like–and he be: “There!” You know, it took him a year or two to like, “What just fuckin’ happened to you there? You were going along in the scene and then all of a sudden you’re like, you’re like nowhere. Your like, energy’s all pulled back…” And I said, “Well I kinda heard myself suck and now I can’t go on.” And I’m not going to bore you with the details of how we worked through that, but it took him a while to sort of like–
MM: And that’s an interesting moment, because in the moment you were basically going, “You idiot!”
MM: And, “What’s wrong with you? You can’t do this!”
HA: Right. Right.
HA: That is what it was.
MM: So you were that hard on yourself almost immediately.
HA: Yes. And that still…I can only say that it’s recently, in the last few years, that I’ve gotten over that kind of perfectionism to the point where you beat yourself up and can’t enjoy what you’re doing. You know, I’ve done whole movies that I didn’t enjoy because I was just so overwhelmed with,”Oh I’m screwing this up,” or, “it’s not going to be good enough.”
MM: But have you figured out where that comes from for yourself?
HA: Uh it’s, to bring it full circle, it’s directly related to things like eating disorders and anorexia.
MM: I know the control thing is.
HA: It’s perfectionism.
MM: But where did that come from? I mean, I’m no therapist, and I was awfully hard on myself and I still am and I know that there are control issues at hand, but something must, it must come from…you know, we get something out of it, you know, and I’m not sure what the hell it is.
HA: I think that I felt like, for whatever reason, I had such a low opinion of myself, I didn’t like myself so profoundly, that I had to performperfectly to sort of compensate for that. I had to do it exactly right or else I, you know, the stakes where so high, like, if I made a little mistake, then I’m shit. And that got so bad that I couldn’t audition anymore, I’d like get paralyzed and [my therapist] made me realize that what I’m afraid of in auditions is not so much being judged by other people, but the number I’m gonna do on myself afterwards. I’m afraid of how much I’m gonna mentally beat myself up for days.
MM: Did you do it before too, I mean leading into you it? Were you like, “Ugh I’m gonna suck. This is gonna fuckin–“
HA: Oh yes.
MM: It’s the worst, man. It’s draining. I mean, it’s just exhausting.
HA: It’s horrible. It’s miserable. I had to actively, like, really work on not doing that anymore. And when I kind of got ahold of that, that’s when, you know, a lot of behaviors got better too and I got happier.
MM: What tools do you use day to day to shut that fuckin’ voice up?
HA: You know, these are some cliché naratives–I meditate. To me exercise is a lot for that, you know? If I go for a run it’s very hard for me to be bummed out or down on myself after a run.
MM: You did something.
HA: The endorphins, the chemical..it’s a very healthy form of addiction that works.
MM: Right, but a voice comes in your head, you know, you just did a thing–
HA: About, like, performing?
MM: Sure, you just did a scene: “CUT!” And you’re like “I’m a fuckin idiot.”
HA: Listen, [my therapist] had a whole routine for that. I teach young actors how to deal with this. There’s a thing called the afterburn, after a scene or after an audition, that’s that moment where you’re raw and you’re ready to kill yourself. You do, first it’s called the Principle of Validation, which is just what we forget to do, acknowledging yourself for the good things you did and not just like, oh I did that moment in the scene well or that joke went well, but just, I showed up. I had the courage to try this. I put myself out there. Just that is quite a…we shouldn’t take that for granted that we’re doing a good thing there. Then, whatever you did do right, okay this one went well, okay, professionally. Then you get the Principle of Correction, which is, alright I’m going to take the time now, 20 minutes or half an hour, to really look at what I fucked up. I dropped that line, I blew the timing on that joke, that wasn’t particularly believable the way I did that line, etc. And you’re allowed three times to go through it. You try to imagine what you might do better next time, what you can learn from it, what you can take from it, what is there positive to grow out of that. And then after that 20 minutes or half an hour is up, your job–your jobin life–is to let it the fuck go. You’re not allowed to think about it anymore.
MM: Don’t use it as a bat to hit yourself with.
HA: Nope. You can’t. And preferably, go reward–like if you want an ice cream cone…whatever it is, go do something kind to yourself…
MM: Go jerk off sadly at home…
HA: Exactly. Anything. Porn. Anything is good, just leave it. And if you find yourself thinking about it again, as [my therapist] would say, “Yer in fuckin’ violation and you have to fuckin’ stop.” And that’s it. And I literally practiced that and eventually got pretty good at like taking the time to look at what I did and take 20 minutes to beat myself up, like what I can do differently next time, and then my job is to be nice to my girlfriend and have a nice day.
HA: Don’t underestimate how much I can–in the early days of the Simpsons I’d get so angry at myself even though I tried it 58 different times. And just as an actor I took it as a big moment of growing up once I had the courage to just try it a bunch of different ways. You get sort of fearfully locked into “THIS IS THE ONE RIGHT WAY TO DO THE SCENE,” and I used to get really obsessively locked into, “I GOTTA KEEP TRYING TO GET THAT PERFECT TAKE,” as opposed to, “No take is going to be perfect. Let me try it this way this time and that way that time.” It took me a long time to just–some of it might be just old age–you just get tired of fighting yourself.