I almost never listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the goofy NPR talk-radio game-show, but I happened to catch a replay of the December episode whose celebrity guest was Jeff Daniels. It reminded me what a great talker he is, voluble and hilarious and pretty unfiltered. He’s appearing on Broadway now in David Harrower’s play Blackbird, which he first performed a few years ago at Manhattan Theater Club’s Stage I at City Center, whose aged subscription audiences left something to be desired. Daniels quoted Amy Sedaris as saying about that particular theater, “It sleeps 300.”
I interviewed Daniels in 1985 for Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to Face, the book I did with photographer Susan Shacter. (That’s her portrait of him above.) He was one of the liveliest of the 55 men I interviewed for the book. You can read the published interview online here. There’s one story he told me that I didn’t include in the book. He always talks about revering the playwright Lanford Wilson and meeting him on his first day ever in New York City. What he doesn’t always tell people is that when he first met Wilson, the playwright greeted him by immediately sliding his hand down the back of Daniels’ pants, slipping a finger into his butthole for a quick goose, and saying, “Hi!” That’s one way of saying Welcome to New York!