Alan Alda at 82: Done with cartwheels, on to podcasting

In his new podcast "Clear and Vivid," Alan Alda tries to help people learn to listen better, communicate better and maybe make people a little happier.

'It's a whole other look at communication'

(Richard Drew/AP Photo, Alan Alda Facebook)
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"He's the world's oldest millennial."

That's how one of his younger colleagues describes Alan Alda.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, screenwriter, writer and TV host is now the host of a new podcast called Clear and Vivid.

Alan Alda at work recording and mixing his new podcast, "Clear and Vivid." (FB/AlanAldaFanPage)
"We made a little ... comical video where all the young women who work with me on producing this new podcast are, like, discombobulated because they don't think I'm sticking to my own generation," Alda explained to Day 6 host Brent Bambury, with a laugh.

At 82, Alda is still as curious as ever.

"I just follow my nose," he said.

That includes fixing computers for his friends and family.

"My friends tell me, they write me and they say they have this problem, so I fix the problem — sometimes just by thinking about it and then emailing them," he told Bambury.

"So I have this make-believe technical support company called Celebrity Tech Support, and the slogan is: 'Why let a nobody touch your stuff,'" he said, laughing again.

Communicating and connecting with one another

Alda is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H. He's appeared in films and on television's The West Wing and The Good Fight.

He also hosted Scientific American Frontiers on PBS for 12 years, and that show, in part, led to Alda's new podcast venture.

This way of relating and communicating can actually make our lives better.- Alan Alda

"When I did my science show on public television in the States, I interviewed hundreds of scientists and I found out that the interviews really worked if they weren't interviews; if they were conversations between two actual people," he explained. "And one of them — me — was trying to understand what the other one was saying."

So Alda set to work helping scientists explain their work in a conversational, understandable way.

It prompted him to help create the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

"And then we realized it didn't just apply to scientists and doctors. It applied to everybody. Scientists were saying this training is helping me save my marriage," said Alda.

"So the podcast and the last book I wrote is an attempt to help everybody see that this way of relating and communicating can actually make our lives better, whether we are at home with the family, or at the office at work, or with a doctor. It can save lives and just make your life better."

Alan Alda, right, and Norman Lear pose after winning Special Founders Awards at the 40th International Emmy Awards in New York. (Henry Ray Adams/Associated Press)

'Clear and Vivid'

Alda's podcast launched on Tuesday and includes interviews, or as he prefers to call them, conversations with celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

"The first one is Sarah Silverman, who has a fantastic story to tell about how she made a friend out of an enemy — someone who hated her," Alda explained.

Silverman was being trolled on Twitter, but then wrote back to a user who was particularly critical of her. She didn't attack him, but rather expressed sympathy for whatever was causing so much anger in his life. And then, he wrote back.

The man who had criticized Silverman opened up, explained that he suffered terrible back pain. She replied, explaining that she could relate.

The two of them still keep in touch, now as friends rather than Twitter enemies.

As Alda notes, all it took was a bit of empathy for the two to connect.

Alan Alda attends the 40th International Emmy Awards on November 19, 2012 in New York City. (Getty Images)

"And the next one is just a great violinist Itzhak Perlman, who is wonderful and funny and talks about how he communicates with the audience, sometimes through his instrument and sometimes just plain talking to them."

"It's a whole other look at communication. We've got Judge Judy and George Mitchell who brought peace to Northern Ireland," Alda said. "And they all have something in a different way to say about communicating."

On a personal note, Alda says acting helped him learn to be a better listener and communicator.

"On the stage, when the other actor says something to me, I let that affect me so that changes the way I'm going to say my next line. I'm not just reciting a line or saying it in a way I decided to say it last night, or last week in rehearsal. I'm saying it in a way that is completely in response to the other person," he said.

We have to learn to talk to one another, even if we don't agree so vehemently that we can't stand to hear what the other person is saying. - Alan Alda

"And if our conversations have that quality, they'll be more alive, more honest, more direct, more open and will arrive at something together rather than having dueling monologues in which nobody really hears anybody else."

When asked about launching his podcast at a time when some say civil discourse is at an all-time low, Alda laughs and says, "It's lucky for me that the world is in such terrible shape because this really fits right in."

"We have to learn to talk to one another, even if we don't agree so vehemently that we can't stand to hear what the other person is saying. There is a way."

The Emmy that led to a cartwheel

On Thursday, the 2018 Emmy nominations were announced. There had been rumours that Alda might be nominated for the 35th time for his role on The Good Fight.

Alda has won six Emmy Awards so far, five for acting, writing or directing for M*A*S*H. He won the sixth for his guest role on The West Wing.

He says he still remembers his first Emmy win in 1974.

"It was thrilling."

"And ... because writing is so important to me — I wanted to be a writer all my life — I remember even more winning an Emmy for writing for the first time. And that was the time I was so excited, on the way to the stage I did a cartwheel."

When asked if he'd consider doing a cartwheel for another Emmy win, Alda laughs and says, "I don't think so."

"When I was 80 I said to myself, 'I wonder if I can still do a cartwheel?' So I did one and my grandson Jake videoed it and I put it on Twitter, because it's one of the most pathetic things you have ever seen," he said laughing.

"I actually made it all the way around. But not very gracefully."

He ends by saying that in addition to being the world's oldest millennial, "I'm also the world's oldest acrobat."


To hear the full conversation with Alan Alda, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.