Are Performers Stupid?

Are actors and actresses stupid?

Are performers dumber than normal people?

Like most people, I just assume this is so, because actors tend to say stupid things when not following a script. The actress Meryl Streep took to the stage at some awards show to say Donald Trump gave her the sads. I’ve watched it a few times trying to figure out what it is she was trying to communicate. Streep is a great actress so it was well choreographed, but it contained nothing more than some hyperventilating about imagined bogeymen. My take away from watching it is that Mx. Streep is not spending her free time working math puzzles.

Even more obvious examples were on display at the Waddle in Washington this past weekend. Ashley Judd went on a deranged rant that suggested she needs to be in a nervous hospital again. Madonna of all people was carrying on about respecting women and committing acts of treason. Madonna, like all other performers, degrades herself for a living. Other than being a cautionary tale, she should stay out of any discussion about respecting women. Yet, this was lost on her and her fellow performers.

That brings us back to the original question. Is Madonna stupid? Judd apparently has had a lot of mental problems, but Madonna and Streep have no history of mental illness. Short of handing out IQ tests, there’s no way to know if performers are unusually stupid, but perhaps there are other cognitive traits that performers have in abundance that present as a low IQ when displayed outside the narrow realm of the stage. Quants are super smart, but lack social skills, so they are often assumed to be retarded.

The first thing that springs to mind is that you need a near total absence of self-respect to be a performer. It is, at best, a degrading way to make a living. Anyone who has stood in front of a crowd to give a speech knows it is not as easy as it looks. Imagine standing in front of cameras, pretending to be someone else, while a crowd of people watch you play make believe. Often times, the job requires the performer to make a fool of themselves or do degrading things for the amusement of the crowd. Most people will not do it.

Even if you put limits on how much you will degrade yourself in public in order to be a performer, it is a humiliating road to success. Even the greatest thespians started out as complete hacks, often being laughed at and yelled at for being dreadful on stage. Movie and TV people get their start in terrible shows or making commercials for things like hemorrhoid cream. Then there is the casting couch, which is a feature of the business for both sexes. Male actors spend their youth biting a pillow or something else.

There’s something else that is universal to being a performer and that is a near total inability to judge risk. About one tenth of one percent of people who go into show business end up with a productive career as a performer. Most struggle for years and drop out or go into some other part of the business. New York and Los Angeles restaurants are famously staffed with the next big stars of stage and screen. Going into show business is about as logical as spending your life savings on lottery tickets.

This is probably why performers have money woes and tax problems. Just google actors and tax problems and you get half a million hits. People who are terrible with risk assessment are probably never going to be very good with their money, no matter how much they make. Nicholas Cage has probably earned half a billion dollars in his career and he is broke. People with any sense of risk assessment will not waste their life chasing a dream that is unlikely to materialize, but that’s what it takes to be a star.

Of course, the big key for any performer is their ability to draw attention to themselves over the others, who are also good at getting attention. The world is full of pretty blondes, who know their way around a penis. In order to gain the attention the star makers, you better be really good at standing out in a crowd of beautiful people with the same dream as you. This is why famous performers often have some weird tick or skill. Samuel L. Jackson got famous because he is a living satire of the militant black man.

There’s something else. Performers are much more likely to make it when young than old and young is defined as teens and 20’s. It’s why so many of the top starts are people who literally grew up in the business. Their parents were in the business in some capacity. This means that the typical star is someone who has had little exposure to the world outside acting. Even those who left home and went to Hollywood to become stars as young adults have had little experience with the normal world.

Most Americans have never been to Africa so they only know about the place from books and television. As a result, Americans talking about Africa sound like morons to people who have lived in Africa. This is the problem for performers. They talk about America as if it is a foreign country to them. That’s because it often is a foreign country. How much does Meryl Streep know about America at this stage of her life? She has been cooped up in a museum for decades. Death row inmates have a better feel for America than actors.

That brings us back to where we started. Are performers stupid? The safest answer is yes, they are very stupid. Being stupid makes it easy to not notice the long odds of being a performer. Being stupid lets these people avoid thinking about the moral dilemmas that are inevitable in the business. Those who are not stupid are so divorced from reality that they can no longer apply their intelligence to the normal world as it has become a foreign place for them. This means that most of the stars are both stupid and ignorant, which is why they so often sound like drooling idiots when speaking off-the-cuff.

108 thoughts on “Are Performers Stupid?

  1. They’re stupid people with an unusual amount of narcissistic based drives for popularity.

  2. I wonder if one reason most actresses seem like idiots is their diets. An actress can’t hope to get good roles if she’s larger than about a size two, and for most women, staying that thin means a near-starvation diet. Could nutritional deficiencies be starving their brains and making them stupid?

  3. Well yes, Truman Capote said so, and directly, on the Johnny Carson tonight show. Capote said all actors are stupid and even named names. He said, ” look at Marlon Brando he’s stupid” and Johnny almost swallowed his tongue. Carson tried to smooth over Capote’s comment. Carson said “look at (giving an actress’s name) she’s smart.” Without missing a beat Truman replied “that true she’s smart but she’s a lousy actress”

  4. The first person I heard make this point was Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
    He was talking with Truman Capote, and he made the point that actors and actresses are dumb.
    Capote said, “Well, Jill St. John is smart!” (St. John reportedly had an IQ of 162)
    Carson replied “And she’s a lousy actress!”

  5. An actors most important gift is the ability to lie convincingly, to fake any emotion and do it well. They can make you believe them even in unbelievable situations, Merryl isn’t intelligent, but she has played an intelligent person convincingly in film, she lacks the intelligence to realize the difference.

  6. You could substitute the Sunday morning pontificators for actors in your piece Z and it would be essentially the same. Clueless George Will and Bill Kristol come immediately to mind.

  7. ZMan – Thank you! I’ve been silently enjoying your blog like no other for almost a year, but I’ve made it a point to keep a very low online profile for many reasons. Today’s column compelled me to finally chime in.

    Are Performers Stupid? I don’t know if the word is stupid – many of them are…but to me the prime traits and worst traits of the actors I’ve worked with include a deadly combination of narcissism and estrogen (including the men). I’m a playwright – but neither a feminist nor a progressive – so clearly, I’m not getting much work produced. But one of my plays did get produced in Chicago where I lived (until about 8 months ago) and it was an indictment on 60s radicals. During the production, I was employed as a researcher for one of the two major papers in the city and I was asked to write an op-ed about BHO’s relationship with Bill Ayers in ’08 before the election. I guess the editor who saw my play saw what she wanted to see but my op-ed in the Sunday edition was an equally scathing indictment and I was never asked to write for the paper again (and the IRS introduced themselves to me the following December – just sayin’). I only bring this up because writing the play involved extensive research on the Symbionese Liberation Army whose members were almost all actors coming out of the Bay Area theatre scene – Kathleen Soliah, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia Soltysik. In fact, when the FBI finally caught up with Soliah (living as a Sarah Jane Olsen, a Minneapolis doctor’s wife), she was well-known in the Twin Cities theatre community (and they probably protected her identity from the Feds as well).

    Actors+Leftist Politics+Psychedelics=Symbionese Liberation Army. If it were just that simple.

    Since the election, I’ve been working with actors on two separate productions and the general sense I get with every encounter is that every damn one of them is clearly unhinged. It’s almost a psychotic break…and I’m constantly reminded of the diaries of the SLA members I poured through in my research…they fed each other’s psychosis and their world was very small. What happened was bound to happen. At some level I suppose I could laugh but the SLA even at its height of membership was probably never more than two dozen and still caused a lot of damage. What we’re talking about now is a generation of people who are feeding on their psychoses in much the same way. It’s quite simply terrifying.

  8. I think Theodore Dalrymple was on to something when he said: “Actors who spend their lives imitating others are unlikely to have firm principles or even personalities of their own.”

    That part of the quote: “or even personalities of their own” is telling. Actors spend their whole life looking for a persona to temporarily inhabit. Some, it is recorded, even spend an entire movie shoot “in character.” Unemployed actors are always on the lookout for their next fix: another persona to wear between movie roles. They can often be seen at political rallies. You know the ones: loudmouth idiots, full of sound and fury, desperate to fool their audience into believing that they are people of courage and wisdom.

  9. The ancient Romans of the republican era would not allow actors or performances within the city. The famous Roman theaters were built just outside the walls of the city during the republican era. When the Aurelian wall was built, it incorporated the theater district. But by that time society had become so decadent it made no difference.

  10. In the mid 1970s I had a friend who experienced dozens and dozens of young stars to be. He had been a cosmetic dentist who capped the teeth of aspiring movie stars. When he finished dental school he had a job for more than two years at a clinic that fixed the teeth of these aspirants who were in the Studio System. This was in the late 1950s. At a cocktail party he told a group of us his story. Many had heard it before and egged him on to tell it. This is what I recall.

    The Dentist said the following. The girls were breathtakingly gorgeous and young and the men were equally handsome. Someone asked but what were they like. The Dentist said think back when you were in college or high school. In either, remember the group of girls there; randomly take say a hundred. Of that hundred how many were really knock out beautiful, really beautiful? Answer perhaps one. Now of that group of girls how many had talent, real talent. Talent where they could sing well or dance well or had some other skill that was off the chart. Again the answer was again one. Lastly in that group of girls how many were really smart, super smart. Same answer, one. Well, he said, that is 1 in 100 times 1 in 100 which gives 1 in 10,000 of having both super good looks and special talent. Now to include brains, it is 1 in ten thousand times 1 in a 100 which gives the answer 1 in a million for a girl to have the combination of looks, talent and brains. The same held for the guys. These movie stars had the looks and talent but were dumb as rocks.

    And that is why, he said, Hollywood is filled with stars whose lives are a mess.

    DAn Kurt

  11. Back in film school, one of my professors — a long-time industry vet — liked to say that actors and actresses were basically just “beautiful children,” and if you were smart, that’s how you should treat them. They live in a beautiful make-believe world, he said, and that’s why they’re so good at what they do. But as lovely as their world may look from the outside, you (meaning us aspiring filmmakers) really can’t join them there unless you’re prepared to give up on being a serious grown-up.

    • And our educational system works to make sure that all of their graduates live their lives as “children”, the “beautiful” part being optional.

  12. In the 19th century, “actors” were generally disdained. They were considered sleazy and immoral, and only fit to associate with drunks, gamblers and whores.

    Then Thomas Edison made them rich and influential. Instead of audience sizes in the hundreds or few thousands, they could now reach audiences of millions, with commensurate compensation.

    With Edison’s invention they acquired wealth and influence. They and the core of their industry were still sleazy and immoral, but now they had the means to indulge themselves and make society indulge them also.

    And here we are today.

  13. I can tell you from extensive personal experience that you truly nailed it today. I attended law school at the University of Southern California and 70% of my classmates were 21-23 year old kids who grew up in the “90210” (or nearby) and had parents who worked in the entertainment sector. I have a good friend who is a stand-up comedian/wannabe actress who I met when I lived in NYC and we’ve been good friends for years now. EVERYTHING you wrote above matches my observations of those who work in and around the entertainment and sports industry. Stand-up comedians as a group are the worst of the lot but they are all pretty much equally flawed. Literally 90% of them have alcohol and drug abuse issues, in addition to an inability to really do honest work. The one thing that actors/actresses/comedians can do well is network for gigs since that is about the only way you really get a decent-paying gig if your family is not connected in the industry. My aforementioned friend is a prime example. While she doesn’t have the substance abuse issues, she is the kind of person who blew a good-paying gig with Forbes doing some writing and could not turn that paid project into a long-term employment, in large part because it “interfered” with her late-night comedy gigs that didn’t pay very well and the after parties where the comedians all hang out bitching about the industry and their lot in life. Because she’s fairly attractive, she has been able to network her way into a once-a-month appearance gig on Fox News’ “Red Eye” show but otherwise she relies on comedy gigs/road trips to LA, Vegas, etc.(plus some healthy financial assistance from her wealthy parents) to get by. She’s one of the 5% of comedians who make a working living doing comedy, which really is a low bar. Our conversations about politics, finances, economics and science sometimes leaving me shaking my head but she at least has the virtue of knowing what she doesn’t know and not trying to pontificate on such matters. Her counterparts, male and female, have no such reservations and often sound off on political or other issues with nothing more in their heads than the “facts” they read in the NY Times or saw broadcast on CNN. Actors and actresses are no better. And that’s just the struggling entertainers. The successful actors and actresses are even worse for the reasons you articulated above. Success makes them believe they are smarter than they really are and so they feel the need to use their fame to share their brilliance on topics outside their wheelhouse.

    “A dancing bear is still nothing more than a dancing bear.”

  14. Just another fine post from Zman. Leaning off-topic (sorry), while we speak of performers, let’s not leave out our punditocracy. Especially enlightening has been the unmasking of so many Responsible, Principled Conservative talking heads on TV, radio and online. The Trump phenomenon has shown vast segments of them to be nothing but bad actors and showboaters. How many of the Never Trumpers have, to this day, remained utterly oblivious to their failure at prediction and analysis? It’s new talent outside of the elites, like Zman, that brings intelligent thought in this era.

    How many well-remunerated pundits have found it impossible to steer away from their defunct scripts? Consider Krauthammer, Medved, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Kevin D. Williamson, Hugh Hewitt, George Will, all sorts of people at the Hoover Institution, and the like… They all failed to recognize how the old Republican model had failed, and simultaneously most if not all of these people actually wanted Hillary to be in the White House now. Many probably voted for her. Why should anyone take these third-rate thespians seriously ever again? It would be one matter if these talking heads came forth and acknowledged their myopia and displayed some fresh thinking or even humility. However, this seems to be beyond their ken.

    Even many lesser-known online writers who saw Trump as the Sour Meteor of Death haven’t the honesty to admit they were wrong and misevaluated events. For example, when “Pussygate” happened, a usually tough-minded guy like Robert Stacy McCain flatly declared the Trump candidacy was a plane crash – done, over. The post in question even featured a photo of a plane crash. I may have missed it but I don’t recall seeing a recantation or even an admission that this assessment was not only wrong, but wrong as wrong could be. “Pussygate” as a tactic fell flat on its face and Trump is president now.

    There are very intelligent people on the Right like Victor Davis Hanson; he was understandably skeptical of Trump in the beginning, but he observed reality as it unfolded and correctly came around not only to think Trump could win, but was on the right track as well. His candor and lucid observations remain refreshing. We need more men like him.

    Perhaps the insight here is that the punditocracy largely consists of people also reading scripts, playing at checkbox conservatism; court jesters in the larger Cult Marx entertainment machine. Thoughtful people like Zman, Ryan Landry at 28 Sherman, and Audacious Epigone have far more to offer than Conservatism Inc. mummery. And let us never forget: many of our putative allies in the True Conservative punditocracy *wanted Hillary to win.* Dispense your trust accordingly.

    • I am taking a wild guess here, but my impression is that Zman treats this site (at least so far) as a form of entertainment and intellectual stimulation, rather than as a paycheck, which makes all the difference.

      Most of the people George Orwell mentions strike me as people who do the work for a paycheck. This means that they are constantly monitoring which way the wind is blowing, and trying to position themselves to keep the pay checks coming, which has almost nothing to do with what they really might believe, or any relationship to some sort of underlying philosophy or belief system.

      • Absolutely. Many (but certainly not all) of our talking heads on both the Left and Right who are lucky enough to be on TV or radio know very well that Career Comes First. By the same token, it’s hard to understand why so many of them on the Right cannot sense the wind blowing in the direction of Trump. Heaven only knows what sort of errant drafts now breeze down the dingy hallways of the National Review.

        • I would add it’s perilous to ascribe motives to others, however. Perhaps a given talking head espouses X on air or online, yet personally believes Y. There is no way to prove this. Someone can even state their motives yet merely be lying about them.

          What is more puzzling is how stupendously wrong so many of our pundits were about 2016, and how few of them have either acknowledged it or expressed a change in their thinking to address their past misapprehensions.

          • The failure to move towards Trump puzzles me, too. I am watching Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell reluctantly shuffle a bit in Trump’s direction lately. Perhaps the media higher-ups have made it abundantly clear that they will brook no opposition to their party line from their foot soldiers.

            Off topic a bit, but it is fascinating to watch Trump divide the private sector unions from their own leadership (Trumka), and also it looks like the private sector unions are going to be pitted against the public sector unions. Trump is a master at skills many can’t even identify. Gives new meaning to “they never knew what hit ’em”.

          • The Left Mainstream has thrown away the proletariat- white male laborers- and is marketing to raw numbers- nonWesterners, nonwhites, and women.

            Trump is a master. Soon we’ll question why these diddy bints are holding us and our country hostage.

            I actually laughed out loud hearing the uber-cuck, Medved, guide us through our dire future.

            Zman’s next piece should be on the intelligence of our revered legislators.
            So august! Comedy gold.

    • Actually, RS McCain freely admitted his error. He is one of our most pointed critics of modern feminism, and a mensch.

      • If you get Trump wrong to start with, like McCain, then your opinion on anything aint worth $0.02. Even if you “come around”. He might be a good guy, but he isn’t worth reading.

  15. Similar in many ways to musicians who opine at length from their stage about all things “social justice” instead of making the music for which they are being paid handsomely.

  16. My observational cohort consists of the ones I went to college with, several of whom are household names. The ones that became famous were not stupid (couldn’t have gotten into the school), but elements of their education were very narrow. Actually admired the serious theater majors– most were in class, rehearsal or studying close to 18 hours per day. But as a result they socialized mostly with each other, took very few classes outside the major and did live in a bubble of sorts. Post graduation, really the same thing. If you wanted to succeed at acting there was little time for optional reading, hobbies or anything else. One of my roommates had to write and perform a 45 minute monologue one year. Try doing that…it was every waking hour he was not in class. And the rest of us often got to be the rehearsal audience. In the end, I think they are simply narrow people and the successful ones have huge egos. And their life experiences simply run on an entirely different path than the rest of us. And they have good platform skills. So are well equipped to deliver their self delusion to the rest of us.

  17. Actors are good at acting. Why success at acting would equip them with valuable insights on any other subject is very puzzling. As has been repeatedly pointed out by Zman and the commentariat, many, if not most, actors have no real family life or substantial normal human experience worth mentioning. Which is why, in my experience, meeting actors in person has been a depressing and eye-opening experience. Away from the script, there is nothing there. Nobody’s home. Just like many race car drivers and pilots, they are absorbed in their craft, and the rest of human experience gets pushed to the side.

    • I met the tall guy from KISS once. I forget his name. He was a pleasure to speak to and very well informed. I had no idea who he was so maybe that helped. But, he has been the exception. I’ve met a lot of famous people for some reason. I rarely recognize them or even know who they are after the fact. Most are forgettable. That said, it must be weird being recognized all the time. I was in Miami recently and people in the lobby thought I was someone famous. It was very odd. I can see how that could make a person go a little nuts after a while.

      • Fame must be an odd thing. But the “don’t you know who I am” response is typically used by actors, sports stars, and politicians, when they don’t get their way. Which makes me suspect that those three groups are fairly hard-wired to seek fame and recognition, and also the three groups most likely to fall into the bubble where reality fails to intrude.

        • I don’t think I’d enjoy being famous. I get mistaken a lot for famous people, probably because I’m a typical white person. I don’t know why that is, really, but it happens often. Knowing that I’m a nobody makes it humorous, especially since I never know the people I allegedly resemble. But, if I had to deal with people staring at me on public, i think that would get tiresome. But, maybe you just get used to it.

          • Gene Hackman once demonstrated in two short walks on a Manhattan street how very differently people would react to his presence depending on his body language. I once passed John Lennon sitting at a slot machine in Las Vegas and nobody seemed to know he was there, including security. Elvis, that would not have happened, but most of them can do with less if they want to.

          • In New York, I passed by Willem Dafoe coming from the deli. No big deal, nobody bothered him.
            Shortly after that, we passed by a car. Robert DeNiro and Johnny Depp were sitting there, reading their lines.

            My co-driver- a full-blown redneck truckdiver, baseball cap, sleeves torn off, missing teeth- pounded on the hood, waving with a big goofy grin.

            I honestly thought I was going to die of sheer embarassment, right there.

            (Another seedy, hilarious co-driver yelled, “Hey, Bruno!” At Bruce Willis at a shoot in Baltimore. He came over! Used to buy joints in high school from my friend.)

          • Hell, since I’m dropping names, my best friend worked out with Schwartzenegger at Gold’s gym in Venice, Muscle Beach.
            Arnold walked over and said, “Come verk out wit me, dese guys are a bunch of poosies!” In the Pumping Iron days.

          • Although I wouldn’t know personally due to innate lack of talent, acclaim/fame must be more addicting than crack for the susceptible ego. The few acclaim addicts I knew who aspired to be big time entertainers (musicians mostly) lived miserable lives on the edge of it, always reaching out for the ring they thought was surely within reach, this time, while getting just enough acclaim to feed their jones: Always a bite but never a meal. So they couldn’t let it go.

            The cruelest situations I’ve seen were where the aspirant really was pretty damn good but just not quite good enough to break out. The mediocre figure it sooner or later, get tired of playing the Indian Casinos, finally give it up and then get on with the rest of their lives. But not the true addict: A couple of them I knew spent 40+ years living on the fringes instead of the satisfying life their other abilities could have provided were their expectations more in line with their abilities.

          • “Acclaim addicts”, bingo. Extended family members were acclaim addicts. They were hurt if they were NOT recognized and praised in public situations. Going out in public was a quest for demonstrations of acclaim, as surely as the leggy young blonde goes out in a short skirt and expects looks and attention.

            The other sad element is that having experienced a moderate level of local fame for decades, the handlers (agents, bookers, legal retainers) did not see fit to say anything when the principal began to beclown himself from age and senility, and the principal either did not recognize it in himself, or knew it but just could not leave the stage. Sad all around. Knowing when to step away must be the most difficult decision of all.

      • Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley? They were the two bright / sober ones. I think Simmons is taller or else he wore higher platform boots.

        • Gene Simmons. Looking it up I see he had a TV show too. Tells you how disconnected from pop culture I am.

      • I was once begged by some young kids for my autograph because I looked like a then famous football (soccer) player, but I did point out to these lads that they really should ask themselves what a very well-known — for those who might care, I looked like George Best — and very rich sports star should be doing on a bus in another part of the UK, especially when the man was known for owning many fast cars. I think they then understood i wasn’t just being shy: I really wasn’t this great player.

        On the subject of fame, by the way, I find it interesting that a lot of people love media ‘stars’ because they see them on TV in their own home in full colour, so they think these people must somehow know them too. As a consequence they love a star’s stupid statements because, hey, they must be my friend because they have been right there in my home so I gotta like what they say.

  18. They also lack a fixed identity. That’s what makes Leftism so appealing — whatever you are today (and we all know that the Party Line changes daily), you are with all your heart and soul, and spouting today’s catechism makes you not just a good person, but the best person that could ever possibly be. A word in their defense, though: People think you are who you pretend to be. This happens even with bush-league performers like teachers – I have former students who are convinced I’m a liberal, a conservative, a Communist, a Nazi, a union organizer, gay, straight, pro-abortion, anti-abortion… You play the role to present the argument, and every time some half-hungover knucklehead who picked that one day to attend class comes away convinced you really believe whatever it is. (Yes, my performance reviews are always a hoot). That’s not to excuse the Ashley Judds of the world, but I do have the tiniest sliver of sympathy for them.

  19. Yes! The answer by and large is a resounding YES!

    Most of these people, with the exception of musicians who have song writing and musical talents, are like trained monkeys. They are told by their Directors what to do, how to do it and when to do it. It is the rare exception to see an Actor who has the chops to improvise and give performances that people can fully absorb and forget who is portraying the subject. On the subject of the “performances” at the marches, it was interesting to see these “actors” reading from a script. Wow! Such real emotion and deep feeling. Couldn’t you just feel it?

      • Which is why Mr. May is playing that guitar rather than driving a cab with all the other astrophysics PhDs

        • I’m told that in the pop music space, people who play instruments are usually smart. Not geniuses, but above average. The exceptions are drummers. Singers tend to the stupid side, but not always.

          This would make sense since music is math. Drums are simple compared to other instruments so drummers being dull compared to strings and horns makes sense too. Singers are probably a lot like stand-up comic. often very smart, but often very crazy/narcissistic.

          Most people thought Mohamed Ali was bright, but he was as dumb as a hamster so it is hard to know.

          • I’m not sure about that, zman. I know which end of a guitar to hold, and I know something about the way the math works in music. Beats to a measure, that sort of thing. But in country and blues/rock, a feel for the flow of the music is far more important than any technical knowledge. You have to have a sense of time to feel when you can play several notes, hold one, leave a space, etc. If you are writing music, writing it down on paper, yes, the math knowledge is an asset, but if you are creating with an instrument in your hands on the fly it isn’t worth much.

            The rock group Jethro Tull performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta once. Some time later an interviewer asked Ian Anderson, Tull’s singer, songwriter and flautist, how he liked working with Mehta. Anderson said he didn’t like it. He said, ” He was surprised we couldn’t read music, and we were surprised he expected us to. “

  20. Based on my experiences, I would say that successful performers are of reasonable intelligence, with an occasional James Woods, who is extremely intelligent. But they are usually poorly educated, extremely insecure because you are no better than your last performance, fearful of aging, and accustomed to venting their emotions on the set. Many, including Marilyn Monroe, have serious problems of identity. The clever and grounded ones, like Woods, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and Arnold, save their money, are very wealthy, and skew strongly conservative.

  21. There is another problem with performers. Most have never been what we would call “middle class” a single day in their lives.

    They start out poor – playing gigs at bars or waiting tables to earn enough to eat. Then, the lucky and talented <1% get a big break and rocket to the top. Suddenly that dirt poor idiot is a now a millionaire idiot. S/he never spent years working towards a promotion, saving for a car, paying a mortgage, trying to balance work and family, etc… They skipped it all.

    The idea of such a person lecturing me on my lifestyle, voting habits, or beliefs is ludicrous.

    • How about the likes of James Woods?

      Kris Kristofferson?

      Dolph Lundgren?

      Jodie Foster?

      Upon what basis would any person capable of ratiocinating deem the above to be idiots or stupid?

      • Stupidity has a small advantage for people in show business, while intelligence has no obvious benefit. That does not mean all performers are morons. It simply means the probability of an actor being stupid is higher than in other trades where stupidity has no benefit or is a detriment. When you add back in the other qualities needed to succeed in the business, it is not hard to see why the stupid would dominate the business.

      • My main point was that most of them have not experienced anything like middle class life as adults. There are of course exceptions to that observation and some exceptions who are not stupid.

        Kris Kristofferson is most certainly an exception on both counts as he was an Army Officer and helicopter pilot (where stupidity = death) before pursuing a music career.

  22. Stupid? Ya the kind of psychotic stupid you can’t fix. They are legends not only on the screen but in their own minds. Narcissism has to be a component of their sociopathic tendencies. Legends in their own minds as living myths built on a foundation of disingenuousness and moral perversion as an admirable attribute within their make believe world. After all, they are actors. It is a self appreciation club, where the customers who provide their mind blowing income are the enemy. Like the political class, no different, it is oligarchy and your not invited, but your paying for it.
    Streep after all, gave a standing ovation for Roman Polanski when he received in absence an industry award, a sexual predator who drugged and raped teenage girl, he used his fame to sodomised the young lady and get off scott free. A piece of human garbage who escaped his crimes by going to a country with out extradition.
    Take Matt Damon, as the character Jason Born, he plays a great and moral hero against the PTB, but to here him open his filthy pie-hole in public, he is a vile creature almost deranged with hate for Sarah Palin never mind his statist mindset and beliefs when it comes to guns. he uses them to enrich himself and fight evil, but the rest of us dirt people should be disarmed. In a way, Hollywood, as the legacy media, is allegory for what is trying to replace the fabric of our Republic.

  23. What’s odd is why people like Streep don’t hire writers to trail along after them in real life and feed them their lines. Hollywood writers are cheap, 500 in a roll. People like Streep are rich….hire a roll of writers and appear smart.

  24. I would agree with everything said. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for movie stars making the jump to politics….

  25. Why are the best actors and actresses so good? My take is that because, at the very bottom, where you and I are someone, they are not. They have no basic personality; they are not really anybody. So they can become whatever the character is required to be on film or on stage. Being stupid goes long with this. As for Madonna, she has been mentally ill from day one. We would only have questions about her if she started showing signs of normalcy.

    • I’ve wondered about this. Why did Meryl Streep rise to the top, while tens of thousands of others never make it? Luck is a big part of it, perhaps biggest part. She was born with a certain set of characteristics that fit a particular part. If you look at her career, she got parts on Broadway and off-Broadway as soon as she started acting. Her film career got going when Robert De Niro saw her in a play and got her the role in Deer Hunter. In other words, her career is based mostly on serendipity.

      I think the way to think of it as a set of filters. The first big sieve eliminates those lacking the shamelessness to be an actor. The next sieve eliminates those who lack the self-discipline to stick with soemthing that is unrewarding for most. The final filter is dumb. Some are in the right place at the right time and they hit it big.

      • Yes – I give them no more credit than a Powerball Winner. Dumb enough to play, and lucky enough to win.

      • I’ve always kind of thought Streep’s success came from being “cocooned in her museum”. You know, like the crazy cat lady in that old 2 story “haunted” who never ventures outside but when she does she’s got everyone’s attention?? By avoiding any sort of OVER exposure to the tabloids and to the public she gives folks a bigger bang for their buck. Not any of my $ but I’m guessing that is how Streep has played it. And us.

      • Some wise blogger (can’t remember who — maybe Bookworm?) wrote a rather psychoanalytic piece some time ago connecting the huge role of luck in the star-making process with film and music stars’ constant spouting off on political issues. The upshot was that deep down, all these superstars KNOW that it was mere luck that elevated them over thousands of other equally talented people. And that subconscious GUILT over their good fortune propels them into the “social justice” wars — as if speaking up for the “oppressed” or “the Earth” or whatever will atone for their being very, very, VERY privileged.

        • That could very well be, though the opposite could be true too: “Stars” may feel destined for their well-deserved fame, and feel justified in speaking from on high. Either way it feels like pathological attention seeking

  26. Doctor Johnson’s definition of an actor: “A fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling.”

    I think the whole concept of entertainment “stars” is an antique holdover from the big studio era of movie-making. The studios created the stars, and carefully cultivated their images. “Singing in the Rain” is partly a satire of the way stars were cocooned to keep them from exposing themselves as obnoxious airheads. Nothing but the most elegant behavior and proper sentiments were fed to the press, so that people could believe their beloved stars were also thoughtful, gracious people.

    The studio system finally broke down in the 70s, but the star system persisted. But the same technological advances that have undermined music and publishing are catching up with movie-making. Movies can now be made by anyone. It no longer requires a huge acres-large studio soundstage, with thousands of unionized backstage employees. And as the technical side of movie-making is being democratized, I think we’re going to see the talent side of it become so, too.

    Put simply, acting is just not that rare or difficult a skill. We think it is, because we know that only a few actors become stars. But that’s because the “star” is an artificial creation, made by feeding thousands of actors through a narrow funnel and building up the 2 or 3 who successfully pop out the other end. Is Meryl Streep really the ONLY actress who could successfully play her roles? Of course not. She’s not the best, she’s just the one who successfully navigated the Hollywood maze.

    I think within 10 years, Hollywood will be focussed exclusively on making a few mammoth special-effects spectaculars a year – things that actually DO need the large soundstages and giant superstructure. But there will be lots of independent films made by people who know how to use cameras, lighting and sound, and can do so affordably with equipment that’s available to anyone. They’ll be able to hire perfectly competent local actors to perform for them, and they’ll be making the human-scale dramas and comedies that USED to be a staple of Hollywood, but which have practically disappeared now.

    • This is a good point. Culture is often a lagging indicator. Think about the most popular video entertainments of the last decade and they mostly featured unknown talent. Breaking Bad was an excellent long form drama and none of the stars of it were stars before the show was created. At some point, the star will not long be a reasonable investment for the financial backers so they will instead invest in the writers and producers with a record of making profitable shows. That was the norm for a long time.

      • Bryan Cranston, AKA Dr. Tim Watley, wasn’t a star, but he was at least an “Oh, THAT guy!” before Breaking Bad. Same with Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk.

        • Up to that point, Cranston was probably making 50K a year as an actor. Seinfeld was his big years, but otherwise he was working odd jobs to make ends meet.

          I know a guy who had a brother in a 90’s hit TV show. Up to that series, he was living in a ghetto apartment with roommates. Then he got his big role and bought a house in Hollywood. Then his role ended, he declared bankruptcy and now lives in a trailer park.

          • The poor financial habits you are speaking of are a marriage of a constant, the worst elements of actor DNA, being unbound in modern times. Performers of an earlier era often came out of true poverty and actual economic depression. Some were famous for holding onto every dollar. When W. C, Fields decided to test his fortune in Hollywood he took the 300K he’d saved from his stage work in New York, pinned it inside the lining of his greatcoat, and took the train to Hollywood. Others were obsessive and excellent investors, like Hope and Crosby. No doubt in my mind they feared a return to poverty no differently than my dad did.

          • Hollywood also provides the current crop of coddled stars with their own brand of welfare. When these actors need some money, well, they call their friends, get a script and make a movie together, ala, The Expendables, or a cast of Used to Be’s. Still makes for some good action but for box office draw, they have to pool their collective brands to make it a hit. It really is funny and sad to see all these “old” guys getting together and making jokes, in the movie itself, about the old days!

          • I have heard that James Garner used the Rockford Files (one of the all time great shows, IMHO) as an employment agency for his pals.

          • Fields was much more obsessive than that. He opened bank accounts in most of the towns he went to. There’s no telling how much money he stashed and forgot about.

            That could be part of the problem here. Actors used to realize that the fans were responsible for their lifestyle. They seem to have forgotten that these days.

          • Of course, when you are a “Star” you have to look and comport yourself like a “Star”, hair and dress, wheels, and shoes, just so. Lots of bling and accessories, and that takes money. Every day you stick your head out your front door you are on public display. This must affect both attitude and economics.

          • A possibly apocryphal or stolen story: a friend of a friend is friendly (whew!) with Wayne Knight. When out to dinner one evening this FOAF, in response to the seemingly hundreds of people who came to the table and bellowed “Hello, Newman,” and then laughed hysterically, asked- “don’t you get sick of this?” Knight supposedly answered something like “yeah, but in ten years when I’m sitting in a doorway drinking Drano it won’t seem so bad.”

          • Before Reagan became head of the union and won residuals for performers, it was different.
            Ma and Da were thoroughly blue collar and bought a trailer park. Actors were their most common tenants, such as Ed Asner and the dad from Beverly Hillbillys. (Brain lock, cant remember the name. Buddy…?)

            We were accepted (a regular family) for a TV show called “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”.
            Everybody in this town has an industry story.

        • Very disappointing to see Odenkirk in one of those change the Electoral College vote videos. Until then I had no idea he was a looney Regressive.

      • I’m working my way back through Babylon 5. They used a number of Yugoslavian actors. There is a global pool of actors we can use. Maybe the American actors might change their minds about globalism, if they have to compete.

        The entire culture is dumbed down. Witness the article in The Atlantic where they call Kasich the governor of Indiana.

      • Hollywood product, like much of American industry has been globalized. I think 95% of all TV and movie programming is designed to impress fellow professionals, the government, and other countries. They have ignored us for so long, I don’t think they understand us at all. I work in radio. Ever since the Clintons allowed Wall Street to gobble up all the stations they could in 1996, jobs have been sheared (although the stations serving the illegal alien market are doing well), debt is up, and local content is gone. It will collapse soon because digital equipment has lowered the barrier to entry knee high to a bug. Intensely local radio that serves small businesses will re-emerge until the transmitter is extinct.

    • Probably well over 90% of what we now see in movies and on TV shows is ‘faked’, as different shots and a background are mashed together electronically in what we view. This practice is much more apparent nowadays with the advent of high-definition screens.

      Actors think that their computer-generated alt-reality IS reality, and that imagery is all that matters.

  27. On Hollywood’s intelligence level generally (not just actors), recall Herman J. Mankiewicz’s famous telegram to Ben Hecht: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

    • And who is Chelsea Handler that I would care about her thought on anything? Did God go on vacation and leave her in charge?

      • She’s one of the celebrities that this post is about. She regularly reaches and presumably influences millions of people.

        • Yes, I understand that. The question was rhetorical. After all, I’m here reading zman’s blog, not Chelsea Handler’s. 😉

          • I’ve only seen the name in headlines recently. I assumed it was someone paid to manage Chelsea Clinton and try to keep her from making a fool of herself.

  28. In the ancient world actors and other entertainers had the same social status as beggars or slaves. Not hard to see why.

    • Into the 20th century, carny folk were considered the lowest. My grandfather was always amazed that actors had gained in social status as he grew up thinking of them as scum.

        • I don’t know. I can’t think of an example. Most people admire star performers and give them way more credit and consideration than they give to their family. I suppose there are people who hate actors because they are jealous of them in some way. I can’t think of anyone that fits that description though.

          For me, performers and entertainers are like the sewer system. You don’t want to get too close, but you know it is a vital necessity. Humans crave entertainment.

          • i bet there isn’t one person working in hollywood that doesn’t have herpes pouring out every orifice in their bodies.

          • Sure, there are lots of folks who will accord far more props to a celebrity than a friend or family member. That is also human nature.

            Two questions for you:

            (1) Do you concede that there may be some exceptions to your overall assessment of the brainpower of performers?

            (2) Do you include Reagan and Trump?

          • 1) Sure. Jodi Foster is very smart.

            2) Reagan was an actor, but he was many other things too. He also came along in a different age than today. Calling Trump an actor or performer is ridiculous. Clearly his TV work was part of his business empire, which relied on his “brand” to move units.

            There are exceptions to everything, but the mean IQ of performers is probably one SD below the national.

          • Matt LeBlanc probably has the IQ of a goldfish. As I said, there are outliers and exceptions. That’s true in all areas of life. Federal prisons house some true geniuses, but most criminals are quite dumb and the mean IQ of criminals is below average.

            As an aside, the general rule in Hollywood is that stupid people play smart characters better and smart actors do better with playing dumb characters. This applies to other attributes as well. Whether this holds up to scrutiny is unknown to me, but it is a commonly held belief.

          • Stage actors are less stupid than film ones, because it takes a certain amount of brains to memorize a full play role and then do it 7 times a week for months on end. They also tend to be more “together” in general because there’s a limit to how dissolute you can be and show up and function on stage in front of a live audience nightly. This is why there are so many Brits doing the arty and highbrow movies in Hollywood. British drama schools won’t take anyone that can’t do Shakespeare on stage.

          • Woods is balanced by Leonardo, he is a high school drop out, currently trying to teach climate science, he is a handsome devil.

          • Hedy Lamarr invented a jamming proof frequency hopping communications system for torpedoes during WWII.

            She and George Antheil designed and patented a frequency hopping spread spectrum radio system that was adopted by the US Navy in the 60s.

          • social status gets reproductive rights- visual stimuli is the most powerful, followed by auditory, etc. movies and television have captured the baboon troops attention with faux alpha males and females. signalling what the alphas are upto gets the fux from the other pretenders. “entertainment” provides a virtual world for those who no longer have a tribe/ troop to be part of. too little space here to expand on.

      • Supposedly in the early 1960s Jimmy Stewart’s assistant was turned down when he telephoned for a reservation at a 5-star Madrid hotel. Stewart told him try again using General Stewart and that worked. (He was a US Air Force general, inactive at the time.)

Comments are closed.