Everyone who has no clue who Stephen Tobolowsky is, raise your hand. For those of you with your hand still down; congratulations! You have earned a gold star. For those of you with your hand still in the air, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that you actually do know Stephen Tobolowsky, just not by name. Do you watch television? Stephen has been in a multitude of roles; from Californication, Heroes, and Glee, to CSI (both Miami and Las Vegas), to animated roles such as King of the Hill. Perhaps you know him instead from his numerous movie roles like Spaceballs, Thelma and Louise, Memento, and more current films like Magnificat. He has over 200 credited roles listed on IMDB, plus more credits as writer, director, and even a voice acting role in the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. Still don’t recognize him? Ok then, let’s try one final time. Most will recognize him in his role as…
“Ned. Ryerson! ‘Needle Nose Ned’? ‘Ned the Head’? Come on buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate? Bing again! Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times until you told me not to anymore? Well?”
His Role as Ned Ryerson, the annoying and unremitting insurance salesman from Phil Connors (Bill Murray) recurring personal hell, is where a vast majority of people will recognize Stephen Tobolowsky. If you haven’t seen Groundhogs Day, then stop whatever you are doing and go find a way to watch it post-haste.
What makes this prolific actor so unknown to a large portion of the populace, is that he is so incredibly ordinary. His look is that of anybody you would see on the street in almost any town in the U.S.A., and perhaps that’s why he so often plays the supporting roles without being recognized by most. Much of The Tobolowsky Files is about his life, which, while having some crazy moments (like being held at gun
point… twice; and playing in a band with teenage Stevie Ray Vaughn) is pretty humdrum like most of ours. What catches the ear about this podcast is Stephen’s story telling abilities, and also his incredible ability to find lessons in the mundane as well as the extraordinary.
Honestly, I have no idea where to tell you to start on this one readers. Take your pick, because every episode is a great one to start on. All the same, let me narrow down your search a bit, and point out some good highlights to listen for. While there is a sort of timeline within the series, it is not necessary to listen chronologically. Stephen does a great job of referencing a past episode and not making a listener feel left out for not hearing it yet. However, I recommend starting at episode 26. Why 26? I would love to recommend an earlier episode, such as episode 1, but, they aren’t available to listen to! Now, given the depth of the internet, I’m sure episodes pre-26 are around, but I haven’t dug that far yet. As it is, only 26-60 are available.
The Tobolowsky Files’ tag line “Life, love, and the entertainment industry, as told by legendary actor Stephen Tobolowsky”. It is quite spectacular how Stephen manages to take those 3 elements and combine them into stories that manifest into more than one actor talking about good days and bad days on the set of any given movie/TV. Each show begins with host David Chen greeting the listener and introducing Stephen via one of his many acting credits. After that, something interesting happens. Most podcasts I’ve listened to involve an interview style format, and it seems like that is how this will start. Suddenly you’re listening and realize that David (the host) has not spoken in 30 minutes, and there is no sign of him coming back. Instead we find ourselves hearing Stephen talk about his life and his deep introspections that typically transcend the situation he is referencing to something we can all relate to in some way. Stephen, whether it’s intentional or not, is a great motivational speaker, as well as an excellent entertainer.
As we enter a fresh new year, many of us think about ways to refresh ourselves. Many see new years as a time to start over. However, life does not always (or even usually) chug along in nicely cut yearly increments. In episode 35 we follow Stephen as he starts his “new year” at the age of 36 when he and his girlfriend of many years, actor Beth Henley, break up. Stephen must then move forward and find out what works for him. As you move forward in your life, and the New Year, consider this quote that Stephen gives us from Van Cliburn “that you only need 3 things in life: mathematics, physical education, and music. Mathematics to plan the journey, physical education for strength to make the journey, and music to make the journey worthwhile”. And lastly I would like to apologize. Apologize for getting you hooked to this podcast which may change your life, only to have it stop short. While the series was moving along at a good pace, it suddenly stopped and left us hanging with a 9 month gap between the latest episode and the one before it. What does this mean? I can’t tell you, but I’ll be looking every day for the next installment of the Tobolowsky Files.
Joel Simler- Born in Seattle, raised in Bellingham, Joel is a real cloud loving, tree climbing, North Westerner. He can be found living by a Troll in Seattle, often exploring a vast array of breweries, and music happenings. He works as an audio/video technician in Redmond giving him a perfect drive for listening to podcasts. He is also a professionally certified dance instructor, and produces his own local concerts in his spare time.
How do I gain access to all these podcast’s you ask? I will tell you…
The good news is that finding and listening to podcasts’ is easy; the bad news is that… wait a second, what am I saying… there is no bad news! The most convenient way to get a podcast is to download episodes on your smart phone. Windows, Apple, Android, and most any other phone on the market now come with a podcast app already on it. There are also many podcast playing apps available in your phones market place that will give you control over what you download.