I have to make a confession…


I don’t know if you watch Inside the Actors Studio?  It took me many, many years to appreciate the host, James Lipton – as a kid, when my parents would tune in to the show, I would retreat to my bedroom to count the threads in my carpet.  But over the years I’ve developed a sort of affection for his academic interview style and awkward jokes.  More than anything though, I like the questionnaire he does at the end of the show.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch the compilation video I found below of several famous actors answering James’ questions a few years ago.  And, if you can stomach more Lipton, here he is answering his own questions – I really enjoyed hearing his responses for the first time!

What I didn’t realize is that Lipton “borrowed” his questionnaire from the famous French TV host, Bernard Pivot.  (How I never came across this fun fact in 5 years of playing bar trivia in college, I’ll never understand. I want my tuition back.)  If you haven’t heard of Pivot, you’re not alone – I hadn’t either, but apparently he’s a big deal in France.  As one article put it, “Pivot is to France what Oprah is to America.”  Interestingly enough, the basis for Pivot’s questionnaire was one completed by French writer, Marcel Proust, in the 1800s…ZzzzZzzzzZzzzz….sorry, fell asleep in the middle of this never-ending essay on the family tree of the Lipton Questionnaire.

Where was I?  Oh right.  In the 1800s, there was a popular kind of autograph book passed between friends called a confession book that contained a formulaic set of questions on each page.  Proust’s answers in a young female companion’s confession book went on to be discovered in 1924 and later sold at auction in 2003 for nearly $140,000 (remind me to look into the market value of my junior high diaries), and also became the basis for both Pivot and Lipton’s questionnaires as we know them today.

Lipton’s Questions are:

What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favorite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Next week, I’ll be sharing my first Wonderist interview with a photographer whose work I really admire.  I thought it would be fun to start a tradition of ending interviews with our own Proust questionnaire, so I will be taking submissions of your favorite questions at thewonderistblog@gmail.com or in the comments section below until Sunday, May 5th, at midnight EST.  Let’s breathe new life into these questions with a more playful approach (a spin-the-bottle meets actual journalism vibe)! Can’t wait to read your suggestions – I will announce the winners on Monday!

Some of my favorite questions:

Where do you feel most at peace?
If you could only eat one more meal, what would it be?
What scares you?
What or who occupies most of your thoughts?
What is your favorite possession?
What is the most important piece of praise you’ve ever received?
What hurts you?
What makes you laugh uncontrollably?
What advice would you give your younger self?
What do you hope to see when you look back on your life from the end?
What is one thing you think people are wrong about?
What is the single most important event in your life to date?



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