Talk Shows

The lovely Wayne Brady, the hilarious Caroline Rhea, and my first time sparring with the delightful Graham Norton. Then Conan. And giving an award away with Rachel Griffiths at the Independent Spirits

Oscars 2002

I was asked to go on the BBC's coverage of the Oscars and discuss my thoughts with Jonathon Ross. I was in LA anyway shooting Zero Effect, so I did, and had a real laugh with Jonathon.

Eavesdropping - Gwyneth Paltrow

I was asked by Dori Berinstein if I'd like to do a talk show for the then new channel, Oxygen.  I'd always loved chatting and the idea appealed to me, though I was wary of staying away from more conventional formats which I didn't think would suit me.  So we came up with Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming.

The idea is that the audience would basically be voyeurs.  I would meet up with someone, usually someone I alredy knew, and we would wander around together, get in a car and drive to a restaurant, and then eat. Pretty simple and not exactly ground-breaking but it actually made for some really interesting material.

On most talk shows, you are performing. I always say that when I come out and sit on the sofa I feel as though I am playing a version of myself: Alan Cumming, the chatty celebrity. I genuinely do enjoy most TV talk shows (the lack of ability for them to editorialise as well as the opportunity to counter any nonsense on the spot has a lot to do with it), but there is a format which you must adhere to: regurgitate the anecdotes you have been briefed to do per the pre-interview you have had with the show's producer.  So there is a pressure to be funny and witty and brief - attributes that are usually incidental to why you are actually on the show on the first place! .  Some hosts, of course, are confident and skilled enough to be spontaneous and to have a genuine conversation, but mostly it is a series of pre-arranged funny stories.

So the great thing about the Eavesdropping format, despite the fact that we were aware of being tailed by three camera teams and we had to stop occasionaly for technical reasons, was that there was no pressure to be funny or to tell anecdotes. It was quite rambly, and when it worked best, a genuine conversation between two friends.

For me the best bits are in the car.  There we used two tiny cameras at either side of the front windshield (they're called lipstick cams) and although there was a cameraman out of sight in the back seat behind us, it really was the most self-conscious you could possibly get whilst being interviewed on a TV show! I think this section in the first show with Gwyneth Paltrow proves my point. 

I also get Gwyneth to come off her macro-biotic diet and have french fries. Beat that, David Letterman.


Talk shows

I appear to have been something of a media whore in 2001.

Well, I did have Design For Living, Spy Kids, The Anniversary Party and Josie and the Pussycats all happening. Some of the shows i whored myself to were MTV's Hot Zone, The Kirsty Wark Show, E! Daily News, Access Hollywood, CNN Lifestyles, Live with Regis and Kelly, Conan, Today in NYC! 




The Weakest Link

in October 2001 I was asked to appear on a celebrity edition of The Weakest Link, entitled Scene Stealers.  Now first of all I have issue with that phrase. I sort of think that if you are stealing the scene then in some way you are diverting attention from what the scene should be about, and I think it infers a level of showing off and pulling focus. However sometimes I think it can mean that the scene demands a sort of bravura performance, which the writer intended, and the actor is justified in his or her flourishes.

So I got over it. And it meant I would get ten thousand dollars for a charity of my choice (in this case Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS), and they'd fly me to LA and put me up at my favourite hotel, The Chateau Marmont, and I could have fun with my LA peeps.  So I did it.

It was insane!! First of all it took about 9 hours from start to finish, and secondly Anne Robinson was scary! Well, not really. She is very nice when she is not being Anne, and I have seen her out of Anne drag with her daughter and she is a darling, but her whole scary head mistress persona is very formidable!  The video here shows me very nervous but still fighting back!

The funniest thing was all the alliances that were being made in the make-up room, and how everyone got quite aggressive.  Ice T was very scary.  I was in an alliance with the lovely Kathy Najimy and Anthony Anderson amongst others, and I was feeling very good about myself having won several rounds but then it was down to just the three of us and as the man says 'statistically Alan was the strongest link' and so they bumped me!  It was quite a life lesson i can tell you.



Baby, It's ColdOutside

I recorded a duet of Baby, It's Cold Outside with Liza Minnelli for an album of Christmas songs entitled Home For The Holidays, though I always thought it should have been called Homo For The Holidays as it was the gayest thing ever.

The album benefitted Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the 9/11 Firefighters Fund.


Cinemagique was made for Disney Studios theme park in Paris.  (It's the park just next to Disneyland , Paris.)

I play a wizard who weaves his magic and transports Martin Short's character from the audience into the actual film, whereupon he takes part in various famous films from history. Julie Delpy is the love interest. It's great fun spotting all the different films, and of course it's pretty cool going to Disneyland and being able to see yourself in one of the attractions.


I made a video diary documentary for BBC Scotland's Ex-S series.  It actually began at the end of 2000 as I was finishing up The Anniversary Party in LA, and then it focussed on my time in NYC doing Design For Living.  There is a very scary sequence in which I have everything shaved for an article I wrote for Marie Claire magazine!

It's so funny to look back at things like this and see what was going on in my life in such detail.  I don't feel I have changed, and I was still having fun, so hoorah!

American Theater Wing Seminar

A discussion about performance for City University TV

Lucille Lortel Awards

With Brooke Shields I hosted the Lucille Lortel awards