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The Devastating War in Syria; Impending Human Disaster in Idlib Province; Jeff Goldblum Releases a Jazz Album; Comedian Mike Birbiglia Talks Fatherhood. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 16, 2018 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Idlib Province in Syria was destined for a bloodbath. Can one woman change history? The incredible story of how a Syrian-American doctor lobbied
Plus, his acting career already has a cult following. Now, Jeff Goldblum hits the keys for his debut jazz album.
And, the comedian, Mike Birbiglia, settles in for an honest conversation about fatherhood.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Half a million dead, 12 million who fled their homes, lives, cities, history destroyed. It is hard to get a grasp on just how devastating the
war in Syria has been for nearly eight long years.
Dr. Rim Al-Bezem never set out to be an activist. She left her native Syria long ago to pursue a medical degree in America. But even from afar,
she knew she had to get involved. First, as a doctor, she travelled to bring humanitarian aid to refugees on the Turkish border.
But this summer, when it looked like yet another bloodbath was imminent, perhaps bigger than any before, as the Assad regime and his allies were
poised to launch an offensive on the Idlib Province, which is the last rebel stronghold, Dr. Al-Bezem and her friends launched into action with
the most classic of Democratic playbooks. They lobbied their elected leaders right up to the president of the United States.
Now, we first learned about it from President Trump himself at the United Nations in New York. And that's where I recently met the doctor to discuss
this highly unusual, highly personal foreign policy intervention.
Dr. Rim Al-Bezem, welcome to the program.
RIM AL-BEZEM, SYRIAN DOCTOR: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me how it happened. How did you one day think, "I have got to be able to get my plea for Syria to the highest levels of power in
this country" and how did you get to meet President Trump?
AL-BEZEM: Well, it started with a few Syrian-American doctors thinking that, you know, you cannot just continue to transfuse blood to the patients
who is bleeding, you have to take care of the source of the bleeding.
And we live in a democratic country where people are heard and we decide, OK, we must become active, politically active, and maybe we can bring
foreign policy in United States and make it local.
So, we got engaged with the Congress and the Senate and we grew the Syria caucus in Congress from zero member to 62 members, bipartisan who are
friends of free and democratic Syria. So, instead of our organizations, you know, issuing press releases that nobody read except Syrian-American,
we have now members of Congress who are writing op-eds, who are going on mainstream media, who are writing letters to the president and advocating
for Syria. And that's how it all started.
And we trend big and we try to do some work with the media and also, with the lobbying company as well as we try to reach the president. And that's
how I actually met with the president.
AMANPOUR: What did they advise you then about how to get to the president?
AL-BEZEM: Well, the advice was based on substance that you cannot, you know, ask the president or the administration to be engaged in another war
in the Middle East and you cannot ask for nation building.
However, we have leverage as the mightiest nation in the world that we can use to effect political transition in Syria.
AMANPOUR: And did they tell you that you need to get in the room with the president?
AL-BEZEM: That opportunity presented itself from our work with supporting a Republican senator candidate.
AL-BEZEM: Mike Brown in Indiana, you know, members of our group supported him and hosted him in one of our friend's house, in a Syrian-American house
in Indiana few months earlier before I met the president. and they kept a good relationship with this campaign.
So, the campaign e-mailed my friend and asked him if you are interested in attending a roundtable with the candidate and the president and rally in
support of the president, and my friend, of course, grasped the opportunity and said, "Sure. We are very interested." And he asked -- he called me
and he asked me, "Would you come to Indiana and meet the president and meet Mike Brown and maybe you will have a chance to speak to the president."
AMANPOUR: So, you thought, "This is my chance. This is a chance in a lifetime"?
AMANPOUR: I mean, a fundraiser, you don't just get in the door for free, right?
AL-BEZEM: No, you don't. You were asked to attend the roundtable and we - - the community, we have a large group and the community decided that let's go there and let's see if we can, you know, speak to President Trump.
AMANPOUR: And let's raise the money to get in?
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you how much it was?
AL-BEZEM: Actually, you can ask. It was less than $10,000.
AL-BEZEM: Yes. It's not like what everybody is saying hundreds of thousands of dollars.
AMANPOUR: So, here you are, you've got this opportunity, you get in the room. And then what happens? Because I'm asking you this based on the
following soundbite that the president uttered during his September U.N. press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'll tell you what happened where I was at a meeting with a lot of supporters and a woman stood up and she said there's
a province in Syria with 3 million people. Right now, the Iranians, the Russians and the Syrians are surrounding their province and they're going
to kill my sister and they're going to kill millions of people in order to get rid of 25,000 or 35,000 terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he stood up and said that and we all went, "Whoa. Who is this woman? What happened?" And then, he went on to say that he had
instructed. his secretary of state and others to make sure that they rallied the international community against any attack on Idlib.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I put out on social media and elsewhere, I gave Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, everybody these orders, "Don't let it."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's pretty amazing.
AL-BEZEM: It is.
AMANPOUR: How did the discussion go in the room? What were you able to say that clearly affected the president?
AL-BEZEM: So, before the president arrived, I asked if there was a moderator and they said no, it's a free-flowing discussion. There is no
moderator. So, I asked -- you know, there were like 15, 17 people inside the room and I told them, "If you wouldn't mind, guys, I would like to
start that free-flowing conversation with the president."
So, when the president came, he shared a few things with us and then he said if anybody has any comments, please feel free. So, all the eyes, you
know, looked at me, towards me because I have taken their permission to start that free-flowing discussion. So, I spoke.
I brought to the president's attention the impending human disaster that was going to unfold in Idlib over the next 24, 48 hours. And I asked him to
give me a few minutes to explain how it all happened. And I explained how it all happened. Seven ago when a group of school boys in Daraa City
painted on the wall that the regime should fall.
AMANPOUR: This, of course, was at the beginning of the Arab Spring.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And all these movements had moved across to news Nissa (ph) and Egypt and finally, they came to Syria.
AL-BEZEM: Yes. And that Arab Spring blended with the schoolboys who were painting on the walls. They did not really realize at that time that this
will, you know, be the catalyst for what happen Syria.
So, in response to that, the secret police threw them in jail and pulled out their fingernail. And the mayor of Daraa City who is the cousin of
President Bashar al-Assad told their parents, "Forget about your children. Go have new children. And if you can't do it, if you cannot make your wife
pregnant, we can send our own men. They can, you know, make children for you."
As a result, a demonstration erupted all over Syria. People were chanting for freedom and dignity, and the regime responded violently. And plan was
to unleash industrial scale killing to force people either to surrender or displaced.
And I explained to the president, "I am not making things up. This is not the Humpty Dumpty story from a Syrian woman. This is what's really
happened. We watched in horror how, you know, the regime systematically targeted breadlines, residential neighborhood, marketplaces." I mean, of
course, he unleashed chemical weapons against his own people, he declared war on his own people.
AMANPOUR: You were telling all this to the president of the United States?
AL-BEZEM: I was. And the president of United States graciously was listening attentively to all this and even some more. And then I explained
how the people who survived the massacre were given a choice, either surrender, submission or forced displacement to Adlib.
The plan was clear, you know, the writing is on the wall, Idlib Province is marked for death. Assad is going to have his, if you will, final solution
and the largest massacre is going to happen within the next 24, 48 hours.
AMANPOUR: You said it like that?
AL-BEZEM: I said it like that.
AMANPOUR: And how do he respond to that?
AL-BEZEM: He said, "That can't happen. The world is watching, that can't happen. We will not let this happen." And I said, "It's happening. They
are ready to launch a massive strike and probably chemical attack against the 3 million in Idlib under the context of 10,000, 20,000 Nusra fighters."
AMANPOUR: The terrorist group?
AL-BEZEM: The terrorist group. And wiping out the whole city. And this is the final solution. Assad will then declare victory and that's what's
going to happen.
AMANPOUR: So, when you finished making this presentation, then what happened?
AL-BEZEM: Well, he said -- it -- he did not really believe it may be that much. I don't know because I heard him in the news conference --
AMANPOUR: That's right. And --
AL-BEZEM: -- as he went back to the White House and he picked up a "New York Times" and he read about the same subject.
AMANPOUR: Let me play what he actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I came back to New York and I picked up the failing "New York Times." I hate to admit it, it was the New York, yes, but it was the
failing "New York Times." And I opened it up, not on the front page, but there was a very big story. I said, "Wow, that's the same story that the
woman told me that I found hard to believe because why would -- how would anyone do that with 3 million people."
And it said that they were being surrounded and they were going in and starting to -- literally, the next day, they were going to drop bombs all
over the place and perhaps kill millions of people in order to get 35,000 terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The president had listened, he had said that can't happen and then the meeting ended. What did you think was going to happen next?
AL-BEZEM: I didn't really know, but I knew he listened attentively to all what I have to said. But then I watch President Trump talking about it and
24-hour or 48 hours later, you know, I read the tweet and then subsequently, I watch the news conference in the United Nation about Syria.
AMANPOUR: And the tweets, of course, was, "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians
would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let
that happen." And it hasn't happened.
AMANPOUR: How do you feel about that?
AL-BEZEM: I am ecstatic. I'm very happy. I think he literally saved the life of hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think will happen? I mean, is it going to -- is it a temporary pause do you fear in the attack on Idlib?
AL-BEZEM: Well, I think that we had significant impact in holding that mass atrocity in Idlib. I think it was the right time and I think Putin
and Russia did not want to confront the president head on.
AMANPOUR: So, you must have pretty complicated or maybe uncomplicated views of the United States with regard to the Syrian tragedy. I mean, how
were you all feeling during the Obama years, particularly when the red line was crossed and there was no reaction here?
AL-BEZEM: I think Syria will stand (ph) President Obama legacy forever. I think future generations will judge him harshly because of his
ineffectuality and his passiveness towards mass slaughter. Assad quickly understood that this red turned pink climb was a bright a green light to
kill with impunity.
AMANPOUR: So, when you saw within the first few months of President Trump's inauguration that he did respond to that first use under his watch
of chemical weapons, what did you think after all these years of waiting for something to happen?
AL-BEZEM: I mean, the whole Syria-American community were rejoicing. We were trying so much during President Obama to bring, you know, the
humanitarian light to what's happening with Syrians and we were, you know, getting nowhere.
AMANPOUR: You know, one question a lot of people have, let me read -- the "Wall Street Journal" said, "Your success in influencing Mr. Trump's
foreign policy offers a roadmap for advocacy groups in the Trump era." But people are asking, what happens if advocates for Putin or I don't know, Kim
Jong-un or I don't know, any names come and try to influence the president, who is clearly influenced by passionate, articulate storytelling on this
kind of humanitarian and human level?
AL-BEZEM: I don't worry because the president did not just he heard my story and tweeted, he heard my story, he gave me the time, he was gracious
enough to listen to the whole thing, he went back, he read that in "New York Times", he spoke to Pompeo, he spoke to John Bolton, he spoke to all
his adviser, he verified the fact and they discussed it.
So, was I the one who affected or change policy? I don't think so. I think the president just heard my story, verified and discussed with his
adviser and tweeted and people listened because he already has established his own credibility on the world stage and that he means what he says and
that he deliver his promises. And Putin blinked and President Erdogan gun was empowered by the new position of the United States, and they both
reached a diplomatic alternative to the war.
AMANPOUR: You realize how extraordinary it is, right? This is not usual.
AL-BEZEM: I do. I do. But it's hard work of a whole group of people who are burned by all the atrocities that they have watched and felt that it's
time to do something.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Rim, thank you very much for joining me.
AL-BEZEM: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: She may be modest. But if that salt is held off, it is not a modest accomplishment.
Now, for some solace, where better to turn than to culture. From "The Fly" and "Jurassic Park," "Independence Day" to "Thor," Jeff Goldblum is a
familiar face to movie lovers. But his latest project may come as a surprise, a jazz album with Goldblum at the keyboard since playing local
jazz clubs at the age of 15, he has always had a love of music.
And now, that passion has transformed into a new album. I sat down with him in London's famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club to discuss music, movies
and to get a little private performance.
Jeff Goldblum, welcome to the program.
JEFF GOLDBLUM, ACTOR AND MUSICIAN: Thank you very, very much. It's thrilling to be here.
AMANPOUR: It's great to see you here because I see you on the silver screen and I had no idea -- actually, my ignorance did not know that you
were a jazz impresionaro (ph), patsionara (ph). Tell me what brought you to jazz? How long have you been doing jazz music?
GOLDBLUM: I will tell you, Christiane, I grew up in Pittsburgh, I bet you've been there. You've been to Pittsburgh?
AMANPOUR: I have.
GOLDBLUM: So, my parents -- my dad was a doctor and our parents gave us music lessons, us four kids. Me the piano around 10 years old. And that
was the story, you know. Around the same time, he would get -- he would bring home, my dad, Erroll Garner records, who is also from Pittsburgh.
Some people know wonderful jazz pianists and he kind of like jazz, my dad.
So, I -- it was -- I was exposed to it. Then I had lessons and I was kind of a poor student and wouldn't really -- I had a facility for it, you know.
AMANPOUR: I could you want to do something here.
GOLDBLUM: Well, no. I want to --
AMANPOUR: You're itching to play. OK.
GOLDBLUM: Well, this is the first time -- you know, we're going to play here, like I was telling you.
AMANPOUR: It's Ronnie Scott's, the legendary.
GOLDBLUM: And this is the first time I'm sitting at this piano. I've never been at this piano before except down the last three minutes since we
have been setting up and we're going to play here in about a week. And -- yeah. How about that?
AMANPOUR: Does it -- is it always all inspiring? I mean, is it slightly intimidating?
GOLDBLUM: Well, I'm too stupid to be intimidated. And piano and music never had -- I never had -- like acting was. I want to be an actor in the
worst way when I was a kid and I had this sort of I knew I had to make my way and make a living and -- but it was a passionate odyssey, romantic
adventure, wild adventure to me.
At the same time piano was this thing I was doing but I just loved doing. And it's remained kind of that. So, I'm a little -- I'm still a humble
student of it and it -- but it's all fun. And this record that we did just kind of happened accidentally through the great people of Decca, and I'll
tell you all about that, but, you know, like that.
AMANPOUR: Give me a little riff.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, what would you like to hear?
AMANPOUR: Sing to yourself.
GOLDBLUM: I'll sing to you. I fall in love too easily, Christiane. I fall in love too fast, I do. I fall -- et cetera, et cetera. That's a
AMANPOUR: That's a little riff. So, I just -- you said you want to be an actor.
AMANPOUR: But you, from what I read --
AMANPOUR: -- were afraid of that ambition. You thought perhaps your parents or people wouldn't approve of it. I read that you wrote, "Dear
God." Where did you write it?
GOLDBLUM: On my shower door. Well, I kept it as a secret. Not that I thought they'd be disapproving, although my dad was a doctor but he had
flirted with the idea of being an actor himself. But no, it was so -- he had said to us that if you find something you love doing that may be a
lighthouse or the compass for your vocational choice.
Around 10 years old, I also, not only did I start piano, but I did this part in a camp thing, went to camp and they were there and they said, "Did
you like doing that?" I said, "Yes. I did." And I got the seed of an idea but kept it secret because I was thinking I was kind of embarrassed
about it, nobody I knew was an actor and on and on and on. And then it sort of developed into this obsession by the time this shower business
started around 9th, 10th grade. I went to Carnegie Mellon University.
And around that time I was -- I really was, I must be an actor. And every morning, I would take a shower and the door would steam up and I'd say,
"Please, God, let me be an actor." But then I wipe it off because I still hadn't told them.
AMANPOUR: You didn't want anybody to read it?
GOLDBLUM: No, I did not.
AMANPOUR: So, in the meantime, music, you were -- I mean, as you said, you started getting lessons at eight. And then, didn't you make your own bank
when you about 15 or something?
GOLDBLUM: Well, here's what happened. I didn't make my own band. I -- because it was this -- well, it was -- you know, I was playing at home.
I'd gotten on to jazz a little bit and could play a thing or two. Misty was something. But I learned it was my dad's favorite song. And I started
to -- I got the idea that I wanted to call cocktail lounges around Pittsburgh.
And I did and I got a couple of gigs. So, it really wasn't a band. No, it was just me going to some cocktail lounge when I was 15. My parents drove
me and there would be a piano in a kind of a cheesy place in Pittsburgh. There are other good places in Pittsburgh, I think. But this is a cheesy
place. And there was a bar built around the thing and there would be patrons. They'd say, you know, suggest things, you know, they'd request
Anyway, I played and I met a couple of lady singers around that time and they drove me to a gig or two. So, I played. It's kind of like the seeds
of what doing now --
AMANPOUR: And --
GOLDBLUM: -- just kind of happened into it.
AMANPOUR: Because you actually now do have a band and it's called the "Mildred Snitzer Orchestra."
GOLDBLUM: "Mildred Snitzer Orchestra."
AMANPOUR: How -- I mean, it's a strange name for a band.
GOLDBLUM: It's strange, it's a funny name. My -- we have started to play. So, I played, I started my acting career in New York. I kept a piano
around. Kept playing all the time, every day, snuck it at a movie or two.
And then about 30 years ago, I started to play out and about with some real great musicians. And whenever I wasn't working, started to do that. Oh,
and then -- but we did under the radar. I was just doing it for fun and I've showed up and I play and, you know.
And then a few years after that, we were invited to be part of the Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl, believe it or not. And they said, you
know, "We go put your -- a name in the program." And I said, "Well, there was this lady in Pittsburgh, a friend of the family, Mildred Snitzer, who
is a wonderful woman. Lived to be 103 or something. And I said, "It's a funny name. I like that name." And I said, "Maybe we're the "Mildred
Snitzer Orchestra," and we're not really an orchestra. And it's stuck, that's our name.
AMANPOUR: And we found a clip from 2001, in fact, of Mildred talking about it. And we're going to play it.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, really? Oh, that's so funny. Here's Mildred Snitzer. Oh, that's so funny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILDRED SNITZER: I know when him when he was 12. In those days, he played the piano and even had a small orchestra going. That's another person, you
know, Jeff would never think of me. Well, then, there was a little blurb in the "Mercury News" about it, it was Mildred Snitzer and she had lived in
Pittsburgh. I said my, you know, that must be me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDBLUM: That's so funny.
AMANPOUR: So, that must have given her a huge amount of pleasure.
GOLDBLUM: I wonder. I was not in touch with her through -- you know, I left Pittsburgh when I was 17. Until I did see her, we were playing at
different places around Los Angeles. We were playing a place one night. And they said, "Hey, guess who's here. Mildred Snitzer is here." I said,
"You've got to be kidding." Because she had since moved from Pittsburgh to like Northern California, found out where we're playing and showed up and
We were in the middle of a song and she came kind of dancing. She's probably in her 90s around this point wearing some sequins you kind of
dress and she just say, "Hey, you know, this is my band. You know, how about that."
And now, we took our face. We were making some band merchandise recently, designing it and they said, "Hey, what if we put a picture of Mildred
Snitzer, a drawing that we do on the front of it?" So, we have some charts that says Mildred Snitzer Orchestra on the back and then it's her face the
AMANPOUR: It sounds completely mad but it works.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. It's mad, yes.
AMANPOUR: So, let's go back just a little to the main thing that you're known, which, obviously, is film. It's 25 years since Jurassic Park.
GOLDBLUM: Yes, ma'am.
AMANPOUR: What does that mean for you?
GOLDBLUM: Well, I'm -- about my whole acting endeavor, I'm wildly grateful. It's uncommon that a guy like me can work over the -- a course
of time like this. And I'm trying to get better. I had a great teacher, Sandy Meisner, and I'm a kind of a late bloomer and a humble student, I
like to say, which is true. And I feel like I'm on the brink of my better stuff but I'm thrilled. You know, I wanted to do it in the worst way, like
I said, and I was thrilled to break quickly.
Slowly get things that I could get better at and then worked with great people over the years and was in some things that were -- you know, that
pleased people like the movie like --
AMANPOUR: And Steven Spielberg, obviously, was the creator.
GOLDBLUM: Steven Spielberg.
AMANPOUR: You had to persuade him not to cut your part, right?
GOLDBLUM: There is that story. I met him when -- I met him for the meeting, they had said, "Hey, wants to meet you for this part in the book
that they're making into a movie." I read the Michael Crichton book, read that character, he and Malcolm. And by the time we met, he said, you know,
"I didn't want to cancel this meeting because I like you in this." And I said, "Let me read it to you." He said, "But there's a move afoot to
excise that part out of the screenplay. Kind of make it part of this other character, Alan Grant."
And I, you know, remember, if I think I did, I said to him, "Mr. Steven, I don't know. I think. Don't you like that? That could be a good
character." I'm sure I didn't persuade him. But anyway, it came around. So, I got back into the movie.
AMANPOUR: And do you recognize this?
GOLDBLUM: What? I like this. So sweet.
AMANPOUR: Do you recognize these inflatable pictures you -- or not pictures, like a statue.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. It was --
AMANPOUR: It's a reclining you.
GOLDBLUM: -- a statue. Yes. It wasn't inflatable. People said afterwards, and I knew nothing about that, the people sent me on the day
that it appeared, "What?" This is -- you know, it took me by surprise. I think they were promoting their showing of the movie after 25 years.
And -- but then, I must -- then I read a description of it, it's not -- it wasn't a balloon, it was -- it's kind of big.
AMANPOUR: It's huge.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. No, I had never -- expect I was like on "The Graham Norton Show" recently. They had to capitated it and they brought the head.
AMANPOUR: He's very good, isn't he, Graham Norton?
GOLDBLUM: Well, this is a good show.
GOLDBLUM: He's lovely. In fact, he's the reason we have this album and that I'm here talking to you right now because a year ago, Gregory Porter,
if you know him, a wonderful singer. I'd run into an airport, loved his music. He was the musical guest, a great singer. He was the musical guest
when I was promoting "Thor: Ragnarok." And they said, "Hey, do you want to accompany him just on the piano playing Mona Lisa." He's singing Mona
Lisa, Mona Lisa men -- because he does this Nat King Cole record. I say yes.
We did it and then his label was Decca, Tom Lewis and Rebecca Allen. And they said, "Hey, maybe we should do something with Jeff," and that's how
the whole thing came about.
AMANPOUR: This big statue --
GOLDBLUM: So, the statue.
AMANPOUR: -- suddenly became, apparently, the most popular, most important, most whatever they call it, used meme on the Internet and you
become a major millennial star, you're a happening for the millennials.
GOLDBLUM: Well, I can't even really --
AMANPOUR: Yes, of a certain age.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. Well, how about that.
AMANPOUR: But how does it feel?
GOLDBLUM: Well, it's lovely, you know.
AMANPOUR: Because -- I ask you because, you know, you sort of are young and that you're 66 but you started to have kids for the first time --
GOLDBLUM: I had.
AMANPOUR: -- at 62.
GOLDBLUM: That's right. I have a three and some months year old boy, Charlie Ocean.
AMANPOUR: And how does that work?
GOLDBLUM: And then I -- a 19-month-old, River Joe. Well, you know how it works, the traditional way.
AMANPOUR: I know it works.
AMANPOUR: But how does it work for you as a dad?
GOLDBLUM: For me?
AMANPOUR: I mean, you never wanted to have kids. How was it change your life?
GOLDBLUM: Not really. Oh, that's a good question, that's a big question. You -- do you have kids?
AMANPOUR: I have a kid, yes, a son.
GOLDBLUM: You do, you do.
GOLDBLUM: Well, its life changing, everybody says. And as I sit here and think about it right now, tremendously changing. It's lovely. I have a
wonderful wife, Emilie, and --
AMANPOUR: Who used to be a gymnast, is that right?
GOLDBLUM: Yes. She was for the Canadian Olympic team.
GOLDBLUM: She was in the Olympics for rhythmic gymnastics then she wanted to do aerial work and contortion and this and that. She doubled Emma Stone
in a La La Land.
AMANPOUR: So, I read.
GOLDBLUM: Yes, yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: That's pretty amazing.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. But we were together a couple of years and she said, "Gee, this is so lovely. What if we had a baby?' And I -- we thought about it
for a year and talked about it and we got married and had these two babies.
In fact, the first one, we -- once we decided, "Hey, let's start to try to have a baby." And we did. For the first time I'd ever done that before.
I was 61, 62, like you say. And the day before our wedding -- I haven't told anybody this, the day before our wedding, she said, you know, "A
couple of days ago I found out something, I'm pregnant."
AMANPOUR: She showed you the stick?
GOLDBLUM: You know, she showed me the stick. She had a little box wrapped up and the stick was in it and a little picture, a little picture. She
said, "That little thing --" sonogram?
AMANPOUR: Sonogram, yes.
GOLDBLUM: "That little thing --
AMANPOUR: Ultrasound, yes.
GOLDBLUM: -- is the beginning of our baby."
AMANPOUR: And you haven't told this story before?
GOLDBLUM: No, not really.
Maybe peripherally, no, not just somebody important like you. And then, so, the wedding, the next day, can you imagine?
AMANPOUR: Yes. It must mean seriously fantastic.
GOLDBLUM: It's seriously fantastic and kind of magical. And then we had another one after that. And now they're together, two boys.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, boy, it's life changing. They're here. They say me off from the hotel coming to do today's work.
AMANPOUR: And Thor. You've done Thor --
GOLDBLUM: I did Thor.
AMANPOUR: -- which is the Marvel -- based on the Marvel Company.
GOLDBLUM: Yes. We shot that in Australia. And the kids came just like they're here on this tour with me now. I don't want to be separated from
them at all. And they came to Australia. It was the first time Charlie went in the ocean.
AMANPOUR: And it's called Charlie Ocean.
GOLDBLUM: That's right.
AMANPOUR: But here's the question. Stanley just died at the wonderful old age of 90-plus. Tell me about Stanley.
GOLDBLUM: Well, you know, Marvel is -- I had a great time with that movie. Taika Waititi was the director, brilliant director. We improvised a lot of
that. Kevin Feige and Louis D'Esposito, the people at Marvel have a wonderful way of making these big movies but kind of creatively and
adventuresomely and deliciously.
But that was my brush with the Marvel Universe. So, Stanley, I did meet once. We took a class picture. You could look it up and see it. So cold.
We all went to Atlanta, one of the compounds of the Marvel people and all the casts of the last 10 years were gathered. You can imagine Sam Jackson
with whom I've done some things, Robert Downey early on there, Scarlet Johansson.
Anyway, we were all there on stance. We took out of a class picture and he was there, already very old but, you know --
AMANPOUR: He really changed it, right? I mean he changed the contemporary culture. He's really put his stamp on it.
GOLDBLUM: I guess he did. Did you read a lot of comic books?
AMANPOUR: I read a lot of comic books.
GOLDBLUM: You did? I'm surprised.
AMANPOUR: Yes. But -- I did. You know, growing up, I did. I like comic books.
GOLDBLUM: I didn't read comic books that much in fact.
AMANPOUR: I did but I've read a lot of Archie and, you know, all of those things.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, you know what comics I got into? I was not into superhero comics. I got into, in the '60s, I got into R. Crumb Comics.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I know.
GOLDBLUM: You know what R. Crumb comics?
AMANPOUR: I know.
GOLDBLUM: That's so interesting and revealing.
AMANPOUR: You know you've had a long career in all of this, particularly in the movies. And I just want to know what you make of the kind of the
whole Me Too movement, the idea of working with women who you know have had an unequal playing field and unleveled playing field. They've been
subjected to all sorts of harassment and abuse often and also unequal pay. Tell me where you stand on this issue right now and how you feel, you know,
the culture is shifting or not.
GOLDBLUM: Thank you for asking me that. Well, of course, I'm ferociously in favor of equal treatment, equal pay, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
There's so much to be said about this, of course, not hortatively for me. But in my experience, I'm interested, engaged in it, and would do anything
that I could to move the ball forward so that women -- I am not being, you know, I'm not trying to insinuate myself ponderingly.
But anyway, I feel sincere about it and I'm glad that a huge wrong and many wrongs over the long period of time maybe hopefully will be transforming
itself. The world cannot succeed, America cannot succeed when we as a globe cannot succeed without the potential being realized of all of us,
AMANPOUR: Half of the population. How do you feel about the political climate we live in right now? And it's not just in America, it's here in
Brexit, Britain, it's across Europe. It's in many parts of the world. I wonder whether it preys upon you and whether perhaps your art, your music
particularly is a bomb, is a way out of what some people feel is a pretty dog moment in history right now. Not everybody by the way, some people are
thrilled about what's going on.
GOLDBLUM: Not me. Although, are you familiar with -- you know, here again, what do I know? But I was exposed to a book whereby over the long
arc, things are getting better in many ways on the planet. But certainly, we're in a period now where it's no secret where I stand, I campaigned
fully as I could for Hillary Clinton.
[13:35:00] I would be excited about progress and the progressive way and sensibility, it's in my bones really, toward global family connection and
the success of all in the human race and all creatures on the planet. And I abhor ugliness, bigotry, stupidity coarseness of all kinds, especially
othering all manner of underdogs.
Beyond that, there's much to say in detail and I'd love to talk to you about it particularly but I'm engaged. What did you say VAX (ph) store?
GOLDBLUM: Yes. And that was two children becoming the world that we're leaving them and you know, it interests me greatly. And some of the big
questions that we can only tackle as a global family, climate change, there are no borders to the challenges that the planet faces and also nuclear
weapons and nuclear war. We must tackle those all together and with the openness of hearts and smartest of approaches. And music, yes, does ease
me here and there when I get too overly stimulated and disturbed. But also, not that it's anything I claim as anything important, but I do -- my
life has been devoted to musical stories, human stories that may provide some kind of mysterious tonic. There you go.
AMANPOUR: Give us a little tonic. Play us out.
GOLDBLUM: Well, I will. I well. Let me see. What can I -- oh, what can I play? Oh, here. Et cetera, et cetera.
GOLDBLUM: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Jeff Goldblum, thank you so much.
GOLDBLUM: I can't tell you how good it feels to talk to you. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Some genre bending virtuosity there. Jeff Goldblum isn't the only one though.
The comedian Mike Birbiglia has helped redefine the boundaries of confessional comedy with his funny and brutally honest style, whether on
stage, in print, or on the mega-hit radio show "This American Life". You may recognize him from one of his many jobs onscreen, in "Orange Is the New
Black", Showtime's "Billions", or the movie "Trainwreck". He's now debuting on Broadway with "The New One" which is a one-man show. And as
our Alicia Menendez discovered, the exact topic, well, it's hard to pin down.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you so much for being here.
MIKE BIRBIGLIA, COMEDIAN: Thanks for having me.
MENENDEZ: One of your rare moments off.
BIRBIGLIA: Yes. It seems like I'm doing all shows right now.
MENENDEZ: I would call "The New One" a show about fatherhood. Do you feel like that's a fair description?
BIRBIGLIA: I think yes and it is a show about fatherhood and change I think. I think, you know, one of the things that when I was developing
these shows, I want to make sure that it wasn't just about being a parent but rather it was about how all of us, regardless of our age, have things
that were we're hostile to doing or hostile to changing in our lives. And for me, it so happened I never want to have a kid and then I flipped.
MENENDEZ: Your wife was a big part of that flip. Let's take a listen to a skit in the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: She said I was clear I didn't want to have a baby at the time but that I might change. I said I was clear I would never change. She
said, "If you don't want to have a baby, maybe I'll have one on my own and we can stay married." And I said, oh, that will be a good look. Just you
and me and this kid that's across you and some grad student jogging his way through (INAUDIBLE). You can't have a kid on the side like you keep him in
the shed. I mean people do it. I've seen the [13:40:00] documentaries. It's just not what I aspire to. And then people will be like, "You guys
have kids?" They're going to be like, "She does."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: In this show, you tick through your various reasons for not wanting to have a child including your various physical maladies.
BIRBIGLIA: Oh, yes, yes, that's a big part of it. I have a sleepwalking disorder where I jump through a window. If people haven't seen my movie
Sleepwalk With Me or read the book, I had cancer when I was 20. I was very lucky to take it out. It didn't come back. And there's just, yes, I'm
diseased, diabetes. I just have a lot of stuff.
MENENDEZ: One of the things I felt as a relatively new mom watching the show was I wonder what will happen when one day your daughter either Oona,
either reads or sees this show.
BIRBIGLIA: Is she going to have access?
BIRBIGLIA: That's why it's sort of I always think of it as sort of a magic trick of sorts because the first half of the show is this argument for why
one would never want -- why one should never want to have a child. And the second half is I had a child and I was right but here is how it turns on
itself. And if it doesn't turn on itself, truly and authentically and in an emotional way, the magic trick doesn't work because like you said,
Oona's going to see this show someday and it's going to have to be convincing that I did change.
And Jen always laughs, my wife always laughs because she's like -- people asked Jen about that a lot and she's like if you saw the two of them
together, you'd realize that Oona would never believe that I wrote this show.
MENENDEZ: Because there's some really I would say dark but certainly a provocative moment in the show.
BIRBIGLIA: I would say dark and provocative, both of those I think are true.
MENENDEZ: You say, "I understand why dads leave".
BIRBIGLIA: Yes, that's a hard one out of context. I mean people really have to see this show to understand that because it's an expression of a
very low point for my character and in his journey of just -- and, of course, I say I've (INAUDIBLE) because I'm not going to leave, I'm never
going to leave. But there are these low points, I think, in parenting and I get all these e-mails from moms and dads saying, "Wow, like thanks for
writing this thing. It made me understand my husband more. It made me understand my wife more."
I want to write a show where people -- where someone says all the things that people won't admit to saying when they're parents because I think, you
know, the sort of the old -- we're only as sick as our secrets. I think that with parenting, there's a lot of secrets. There's a lot of things you
MENENDEZ: What has been the most surprising response to the show?
BIRBIGLIA: There's this really brilliant seat designer who came to the show who was off Broadway and she said -- she has read this one review that
was so like personal and like sort of hurt by the show, sort of and in a certain way. And she said it's because you're -- I think it's because
you're being so vulnerable, she feels like she can be vulnerable in her response to it and that makes a lot of sense. But I -- my feeling about
the show is that the goal of it is precisely that, it's opening up so that the audience can open up about their own lives.
MENENDEZ: And it's not just that you're sharing, it's that you're sharing personal failures. I mean Sleepwalk With Me looks at a failed
BIRBIGLIA: Yes, I'm a failure. Sometimes, very excessive. No, just kidding.
MENENDEZ: Most of us are spending our lives trying to cover up our failures.
MENENDEZ: And here you are on stage reliving them.
BIRBIGLIA: Well, my take on it is like, you know, we're all naked all the time whether we realize it or not.
MENENDEZ: What does that mean?
BIRBIGLIA: Like in other words, if you think you're keeping a secret, you're not. And so owning your own is -- can be a really cathartic
experience. And then it's really cathartic, particularly cathartic when people experience that in the audience. It's by far, of any of my shows,
it's the most that the audience has ever literally thanked me. Like I get e-mails all the time which is as a performer just like the greatest thing
I've could ever experience ever.
MENENDEZ: One of the running jokes of the show is how people with kids try to convince other people to have kids and then walk away from the show
wondering now that you have a daughter and you love her so much, have you become one of those monsters?
BIRBIGLIA: Yes. You're the first person who's asked me that question. I've become one of those monsters. My best friend from childhood,
[13:45:00] (INAUDIBLE) and I was like you have to -- yes, you have to do it now, you know.
MENENDEZ: And not in a misery loves company way?
BIRBIGLIA: No, it's not misery loves company. It's -- I mean I say and I joke about it in the show but it's the -- people say to you it's the most
joy you'll ever experience and it just is. And it's not -- there's no way to describe it because it's like the equivalent of describing like, you
know, when you're aperture just opens and you just go oh, I didn't know it could be like that.
And then it's my brother -- my brother Joe who contributed writing to the show in his own lines. his character says in the show, he says -- you
know, I go what's it like to be a parent? He says, "It's relentless." I say what do you mean and he says, "You know you go to the gym and you push
and you sweat and it sucks." And I go, yes. He goes, "When you have a kid, you can't even go to the gym." And then he says, "But it isn't --
here is the thing you should know, it's not going to be better or worse, it's just going to be new."
MENENDEZ: You begin to play with a riff about your couch. Why your couch? It's so important to you. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: I think the reason a couch is so expensive is that it's just a sophisticated piece of technology. It's a bed that hugs you. It's like
you want to watch TV? You want to eat pizza? You sure do like eating. I like that about you. And beds are comfy but they know it. They're like,
"I like to be called a king. I'm going to need a box spring." I'm like for what? They're like, "I don't touch the floor. Get your hands off that
tag. I like this room."
Couches are humble. They're like, "This is about you. Want to take a nap? Be my guest. You want to have sex on my arm? I'll think about it."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: So last night, the crowd was in stitches over this but the couch actually ends up being a really critical --
BIRBIGLIA: It's critical.
MENENDEZ: -- part of the show. What is the takeaway?
BIRBIGLIA: Well, I don't want to tell people what their takeaway should be but the -- I'll tell you what the reason the couch entered into the show,
was, you know, the show is a lot about becoming a parent. And I was doing some college shows about a year ago in the development of this show and I
found that college students weren't connecting to that version of the show. They didn't have a couch. I was like I said oh, it occurred to me they
don't even know anyone with kids.
MENENDEZ: They're closer to being a child.
BIRBIGLIA: They're closer to being a child. They don't even know -- not only do they not have kids, most of them, they don't plan to have kids most
of them, and they don't know anyone with kids most of them. And I was like, wow, that's a quandary with this show. And so I started to think
about like what -- when I was their age, what was my relationship with being an adult. And I thought about my couch and how like when I was in
college, you just get a couch on the street, you know, and it built from there.
And then I swear to God, once I put the couch -- and the couch, of course, was the metaphor of the show. Once I put the couch metaphor in the show,
it kills the college kids. Like they totally get it. There -- if you start with the metaphor that's in their universe, they'll go anywhere.
It's just getting them in.
MENENDEZ: It would have been very easy arguably to do to The New One as a stand-up routine.
MENENDEZ: Why did it need to be a play?
BIRBIGLIA: Sleepwalk With Me was a play. I did 10 years --
MENENDEZ: You then transposed, right, into film?
BIRBIGLIA: Well, yes. I made it into a film and a book actually after that but that was my first solo probably play that Nathan Lane presented in
2008. Then I did My Girlfriend's Boyfriend at the Barrow Street Theater 2011. And then Thank God for Jokes in 2016. And so this is my fourth one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: You know women can be cops sort of part of the whole thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: What's interesting to me when I work with my director Seth Barrish is we like to think of it as [13:50:00] an experience. It's like
saying I love stand-up, certainly and I started out as a door person at a comedy club in Washington D.C. And I really admire stand-ups.
What I'm interested in is that you can tell stories and ultimately have an arc and have staging and have lighting. It creates a full experience. I
don't know. It's just what I love. You know what I mean? Like a certain point, you -- I decided in my life that I was going to try to do things I
love instead of doing things I like. And then --
MENENDEZ: When did you make that decision?
BIRBIGLIA: Three months ago. No. Like about 10 years ago. But 10 years ago, I was -- I did like a sitcom pilot for CBS. And it was one of those
like a dream come true for a comedian, they get their own sitcom. And it was -- it felt actually sort of bad because it felt like there were so many
chefs and there are so many people that by the end of the process -- and it didn't go to air. By the end of the process, it didn't feel like me and I
didn't feel like what I do best.
MENENDEZ: You must have been relieved that it didn't go to air.
BIRBIGLIA: Yes, I was so relieved. I think it's like the greatest bullet I dodged in my career. And so after that, Jen and I moved back to New York
and we just said let's just take this show, the Sleepwalk With Me and let's just put all the bells and whistles on it and produce it with the same
vigor that they produce to network television.
MENENDEZ: One of the most memorable parts of Sleepwalk With Me, you give in your sleep challenges actually walk through a window.
BIRBIGLIA: Jump through a window, yes.
MENENDEZ: When did you realize that could be fun?
BIRBIGLIA: That's a good question. I feel like I -- as a comedian, I sort of knew right away this is nuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: Hello. I'm staying at the hotel. I had an incident where I jumped out my window and I'm bleeding and I need to go to the hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIRBIGLIA: It did take me about 8 or 10 months to come to grips with talking about it on stage because there was some degree to which I thought,
well, if I tell people this, they might just lock me up against my will. Like there just might -- I might end up in a hospital. And it's like
really what's so crazy looking back on this, I thought this might slow down like -- I mean that's, yes, that's where the headspace I was in at that
moment in time.
Because, you know, in a lot of ways, Sleepwalk With Me is about this guy at the time who's trying to achieve his dreams and he was, you know, in denial
about this seriously walking disorder I had, behavior disorder. And I would think -- you know, there's a line on the show was I would think maybe
I should see a doctor and then I thought maybe I'll eat dinner.
And I went with dinner for years and I never dealt with it until I jumped through a window. And then I finally went to a doctor and I was diagnosed.
And yes, it's -- I mean what's wild about the sleepwalking disorder is that there's no cure for it.
BIRBIGLIA: And so it's just something, you know, I sleep in a sleeping bag. And I, you know, I don't do this anymore but I used to wear mittens
so I couldn't open the sleeping bag back. And then lately, because I have a daughter and I bring it up in the show, I created a fitted sleep sheet.
It's totally real. Fitted sleep sheet, there's a hole for my head and the joke is in one for my wife as she never uses it. And then I secure the
sheet under the mattress with a rope and a camping clasp. So I'm like a relatable Hannibal Lector but it's all real, man.
I mean -- but I -- what's so funny is that's an extreme, right, like that's a really extreme thing to have a sleep sheet and to your holes in -- your
head in a hole. But what's interesting is in this inspectoral (ph) we're saying earlier, people relate to it. There's a recognition laughter. And
the reason is not because they sleep in a sheet that has holes in it but because everybody has their thing. Everybody has their thing they're
embarrassed about. They don't want to talk about it. And then they see you talk about it, they go, "Oh, I guess I could talk about that."
MENENDEZ: Mike, thanks so much.
BIRBIGLIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed, we all have our thing. As some refreshing honesty to end this week.
And that is it from us for now.
Thanks for watching. Remember you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Goodbye from London.