82 Animated Interviews with Living, Dead, Celebrated & Sometimes Disgraced Celebrities

Who wants to live in the present? It’s such a lim­it­ing peri­od, com­pared to the past.

Roger Ebert, Play­boy 1990

Were Ebert alive today would he still express him­self thus­ly in a record­ed inter­view? His remarks are spe­cif­ic to his cin­e­mat­ic pas­sion, but still. As a smart Mid­west­ern­er, he would have real­ized that the corn has ears and the pota­toes have eyes. Remarks can be tak­en out of con­text. (Wit­ness the above.)

Recent his­to­ry has shown that not every­one is keen to roll back the clock—women, peo­ple of col­or, and gen­der non-con­form­ing indi­vid­u­als have been reclaim­ing their nar­ra­tives in record num­bers, air­ing secrets, expos­ing injus­tice, and artic­u­lat­ing offens­es that can no longer stand.

If pow­er­ful, old­er, white het­ero­sex­u­al men in the enter­tain­ment busi­ness are exer­cis­ing ver­bal cau­tion these days when speak­ing as a mat­ter of pub­lic record, there’s some good­ly cause for that.

It also makes the archival celebri­ty inter­views excerpt­ed for Quot­ed Stu­dios’ ani­mat­ed series, Blank on Blank, feel very vibrant and uncen­sored, though be fore­warned that your blood may boil a bit just review­ing the celebri­ty line up—Michael Jack­sonWoody Allen, Clint East­wood hold­ing forth on the Pussy Gen­er­a­tion 10 years before the Pussy­hat Project legit­imized com­mon usage of that charged word….

(In full dis­clo­sure, Blank on Blank is an oft-report­ed favorite here at Open Cul­ture.)

Here’s rap­per Tupac Skakur, a year and a half before he was killed in a dri­ve by shoot­ing, cast­ing him­self as a trag­ic Shake­speare­an hero,

His mus­ings on how dif­fer­ent­ly the pub­lic would have viewed him had he been born white seem even more rel­e­vant today. Read­ers who are only pass­ing­ly acquaint­ed with his artis­tic out­put and leg­end may be sur­prised to hear him trac­ing his alle­giance to “thug life” to the pos­i­tive role he saw the Black Pan­thers play­ing in his sin­gle mother’s life when he was a child.

On the oth­er hand, Shakur’s lav­ish and freely expressed self pity at the way the press report­ed on his rape charge (for which he even­tu­al­ly served 9 months) does not sit at all well in 2019, nor did it in 1994.

Like the major­i­ty of Blank on Blank entries, the record­ing was not the interview’s final form, but rather a jour­nal­is­tic ref­er­ence. Ani­ma­tor Patrick Smith may add a lay­er of visu­al edi­to­r­i­al, but in terms of nar­ra­tion, every sub­ject is telling their own undi­lut­ed truth.

It is inter­est­ing to keep in mind that this was one of the first inter­views the Blank on Blank team tack­led, in 2013.

Six years lat­er, it’s hard to imag­ine they would risk choos­ing that por­tion of the inter­view to ani­mate. Had Shakur lived, would he be can­celled?

Guess who was the star of the very first Blank on Blank to air on PBS back in 2013?

Broad­cast­er and tele­vi­sion host Lar­ry King. While King has stead­fast­ly rebutted accu­sa­tions of grop­ing, we sus­pect that if the Blank on Blank team was just now get­ting around to this sub­ject, they’d focus on a dif­fer­ent part of his 2001 Esquire pro­file than the part where he regales inter­view­er Cal Fuss­man with tales of pre-cell­phone “seduc­tion.”

It’s only been six years since the series’ debut, but it’s a dif­fer­ent world for sure.

If you’re among the eas­i­ly trig­gered, liv­ing leg­end Meryl Streep’s thoughts on beau­ty, har­vest­ed in 2014 from a 2008 con­ver­sa­tion with Enter­tain­ment Weekly’s Chris­tine Spines, won’t offer total respite, but any indig­na­tion you feel will be in sup­port of, not because of this celebri­ty sub­ject.

It’s actu­al­ly pret­ty rous­ing to hear her mer­ri­ly expos­ing Hol­ly­wood play­ers’ pig­gish­ness, sev­er­al years before the Har­vey Wein­stein scan­dal broke.

For even more evi­dence of “a dif­fer­ent world,” check out inter­view­er Howard Smith’s remark to Janis Joplin in her final inter­view-cum-Blank-on-Blank episode, four days before here 1970 death:

A lot of women have been say­ing that the whole field of rock music is noth­ing more than a big male chau­vin­ist rip off and when I say, “Yeah, what about Janis Joplin? She made it,” they say, “Oh…her.” It seems to both­er a lot of women’s lib peo­ple that you’re kind of so up front sex­u­al­ly.

Joplin, stung, unleash­es a string of invec­tives against fem­i­nists and women, in gen­er­al. One has to won­der if this reac­tion was Smith’s goal all along. Or maybe I’m just hav­ing flash­backs to mid­dle school, when the pop­u­lar girls would always send a del­e­gate dis­guised as a con­cerned friend to tell you why you were being shunned, prefer­ably in a high­ly pub­lic glad­i­a­to­r­i­al are­na such as the lunch­room.

I pre­sume that sort of stuff occurs pri­mar­i­ly over social media these days.

Good on the Blank on Blank staff for pick­ing up on the tenor of this inter­view and titling it “Janis Joplin on Rejec­tion.”

You can binge watch a playlist of 82 Blank on Blank episodes, fea­tur­ing many thoughts few express so open­ly any­more, here or right below.

When you’re done with that, you’ll find even more Blank on Blank entries on the cre­ators’ web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Alfred Hitch­cock Med­i­tates on Sus­pense & Dark Humor in a New Ani­mat­ed Video

Joni Mitchell Talks About Life as a Reluc­tant Star in a New Ani­mat­ed Inter­view

The Out­siders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thomp­son, and Frank Zap­pa Reveal Them­selves in Cap­ti­vat­ing­ly Ani­mat­ed Inter­views

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Decem­ber 9 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates Dennison’s Christ­mas Book (1921). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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