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John Lithgow on His One-Man Show, TV Obsession, Dream Dinner Date, and More

January 9, 2018 by William Ivey Long
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Illustrated by William Ivey Long

The legendary actor is making his return to the stage — all by himself. His one-man show, “John Lithgow: Stories by Heart,” is playing at the American Airlines Theatre through March 4. The Tony winner shares what he’s nervous about, who he turns to in a crisis, and who would be his ideal dinner date.

What excites you most about doing a one-man show?
Working with my favorite actor.

What scares you most about doing a one-man show?
The occasional stab of fear that I’m boring the crowd, with nobody else to blame.

What’s your favorite story that you had to cut from the show?
I miss the stories about my grandmother, but eventually, she had to go.

What was the best piece of advice you received when you were starting your career?
Don’t be an actor.

What’s the best piece of advice you received recently?
Retire. (Note: I ignored the above piece of advice, and I intend to ignore this one too.)

Who makes you laugh the hardest?
Zach Galifianakis. But he’s also pretty great when he’s not being funny.

What’s your greatest height of creative satisfaction?
Painting a picture that I think is actually good.

If you’re in trouble, who’s the person driving the getaway car?
My brother, Dave.

Who inspires you?
My wife Mary, because her standards are so damn high.

What is the last frivolous thing you bought yourself?
A certain brown fedora.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
A five-string banjo from my wife (now sadly neglected).

What was the last play or musical you saw that you loved?
“Springsteen On Broadway,” of course. Although, “The Band’s Visit” was right up there.

What are you watching on television right now?
Season two of “The Crown”! So good I don’t even miss myself.

Who would you like to have dinner with — living or dead?
FDR.

Describe your favorite meal.
Pasta at Da Lucia in Trastevere, Rome.

What’s one thing you want audience members to take away from the show?
Seek out great stories, including your own.

Pick up a complimentary copy of The X Magazine with your next order of concierge-delivered tickets in New York City, or buy an issue at CultureLivesHere.com.

Enter the daily mobile Lottery for a chance to win $25 tickets, or get tickets now from $39 to “John Lithgow: Stories By Heart.”