Meeting Famous People
One of my favorite questions to ask somebody is, “If you could have a sandwich and a conversation with anyone on earth… but you couldn’t tell anyone else about it, who would you pick?” I like that question because I think it gets right to the heart about what it means to have a meaningful moment with someone you admire. Is that moment about them, or you? Are you excited to learn more about that person, or are you excited about how much more interesting you’ll seem to everyone else?
I got the opportunity to interview Melissa Joan Hart last week. The timing was so odd. Not long ago here I confessed my secret that I’d been binge watching Clarissa Explains it All on Hulu. I had just wrapped up watching the last episode on Tuesday, Thursday an e-mail shows up at work in my Inbox. “Interview Melissa Joan Hart”. Well that’s… weird. There’s a lot of long odds from the beginning to the end of this scenario. Whoever is doing publicity for Melissa Joan Hart has stumbled onto some sort of fifth dimensional wavelength that apparently I was tuned into.
I was pretty excited at the opportunity. Surely nothing would come of it. But what if it did? What would I ask her? What would she be like? How weird would it be to hear her voice and know that she’s talking to me? All of a sudden that sandwich question was the furthest thing from my mind.
It was a busy day that day. I had a live broadcast to do and plenty of work around the station. The interview opportunity was for the next morning and with every refresh of my e-mail inbox, and every hour that passed by, the chances of getting to talk to her at all were fading away.
Then as I was pulling back into the radio station that afternoon my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. It was from California, and usually I just let numbers like that go to voice mail… but this was the kind of day I answered calls from the farthest possible strangers. 2 minutes later, I had 10 minutes reserved for the interview. Weird how you go from metered disappointment, to throttled jubilation.
As the reality started to set in about what was happening, the REAL REALITY really started to set in about what was happening. First thing I wanted to do was I wanted to be respectful. Why is this happening in the first place? An alarm didn’t go off on MJH Headquarters saying, “Matt just finished watching Clarissa!”… she’s promoting her new movie. Gotta talk about that. Gotta make sure I AM ABLE talk about that. Then you start to put yourself in their shoes. I’m the first of probably at least 10 radio interviews she has to knock out in 2 hours where everyone is going to ask her the same questions. And having been known for her TV shows dating back 20 years, probably asked the same questions she’s been asked for the last 20 years. Suddenly this sounds like one of the most dreadful things I can possibly imagine. Now I was less excited about how cool it was going to be to talk to Melissa Joan Hart, but more thinking about how I can get through my interview without making her want to blow her brains out. I decided I wasn’t even going to bring up Clarissa or Sabrina unless she did. Spoiler alert: she didn’t.
I researched her movie and wrote down enough questions to fill 10 minutes on my own… just in case. Right on time, the phone rang. After the briefest of pleasantries with the interview coordinator, I said “Hi”. She said “Hi”. And it was time to roll.
“What was it like?” everyone later asks. This is the part where I’m supposed to be cool because Melissa Joan Hart talked to ME. Here’s the truth. I had fun. It WAS cool. But I am completely cognizant to the fact that she was just doing a job. I would have loved to have gone deep on Clarissa questions and things that would satisfy my thirst for more information. I guess at the end of the day to ask all the questions I really wanted to ask seemed selfish and rude.
So the sandwich question turns out to be an interesting thought experiment, but a real life impracticability. We want to meet celebrities because we feel like we have a relationship from the stories they help tell, or what they share through social media. But turn it around, and how many sandwiches do you want to have with complete strangers who know more about you than you know about them? Most of us won’t even say “Hi, how ya doin’?” to a stranger.
I suppose we should worry less about how interesting our lives are and appreciate more the people who just genuinely enjoy our company for being normal boring old us.