Events — 29 February 2012
The Tobolowsky Files at The Bell House

It’s always refreshing to find out that someone whom you respect and take pleasure in watching in one medium, exists in the another. Legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky has provided the bricks and mortar to many films and television shows which I hold dear. Be it as the titular, smarmy Ned Reyerson in the classic ‘Groundhog Day,’ or the shady Hugo Jarry in ‘Deadwood’ – Tobolowsky takes these supporting roles and elevates them to be notably classic performances.

More recently, Tobolowsky has found a niche in podcast form with his series aptly titled,”The Tobolowsky Files” a serial storytelling program where he reveals true stories about his life, love, and his works on screen. It was even more of a surprise to find out he would be performing some of these stories in a one off New York show in Brooklyn. Accordingly, Tuesday night we traveled to The Bell House for a sold out performance of ‘The Tobolowsky Files.’ It was a night where the conversation was introspective and entertaining at once, where my respect and knowledge about the actor grew by leaps and bounds.

The Bell House presentation was my first actual encounter with Tobolowsky as a long form storyteller. Throughout the hour long performance the actor managed to interweave a handful of true stories into a one man show type presentation. His vigor and method of connecting with a packed room appeared to be an innate trait. The man was simply born to be an actor, and anything that involves projecting himself to the masses. Tobolowsky reminisced that as a young man he spent time with a woman named Beth, with whom he would enjoy cheap wine and chicken dinners with. On a routine trip to the grocery store he would run into a lunatic brandishing a gun while picking out mangos, a fruit relatively new to his native Texas. Stephen took us on a trip through his horror, uncertainty, and even the humor of this unimaginable situation and how he personally extricated himself from its clutches.

The Tobolowsky Files as a podcast would not be possible without the good people at Slash Film, the highly popular film and television blog. Author David Chen works with Tobolowsky directly in the production of the show and is an author himself. Chen, like everyone in the packed Bell House views Tobolowsky as a master thespian and a brilliant storyteller. Following the actor’s narrative, the floor opened up to an interactive Q&A period where the questions were focused and well rounded. One particular audience member questioned Tobolowsky about how much of his own personality goes into each of his roles, especially during the audition period. And like that favorite professor you had in college, the actor revealed that it is necessary to draw from one’s self without attempting to guess what the director or writer wants. This response drew a loud applause because of its fearless amount of truth.

Needless to say, Tobolowsky’s live performance sent me racing home to download the entire series of his podcasts. As an actor he has always impressed me, and I will continue to seek out his work but it is the ‘Files’ which will become my new audio obsession. It is both engaging and relatable and is always interesting. Fingers crossed that with the success of The Bell House performance that they will take this show on the road to show the masses how terrific it and Tobolowsky are.

- Jay Rubin

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