Dear Mr. Tobolowsky—
My wife and I listen to podcasts before falling asleep every night. I just
learned of yours and wanted to tell you that I was still up at 1 am last
night after devouring episodes 34 and 29. Big fan of Groundhog Day, so when
I saw that you did a podcast, I was intrigued.
You tell a great story and I was both moved and entertained. I was reminded
of when the red sox won in 2004. I was that moved and that entertained. I’m
sure you understand.
Thanks so much. Art lives in unlikely places. I feel that I’m now full
circle from when I was a boy listening to my transistor radio late at night,
and one magical night heard Cleveland—-impossibly far from Connecticut, but
accessible via the magic of late night AM radio—and felt a new seam in the
fabric of life give way to something more expansive and fully realized.
Dear Mr. Tobolowsky—
I wanted to write to you about an experience I had regarding my first encounter with The Tobolowsky Files. To say I am a struggling actor here in Los Angeles is an understatement. The last 12 years has been a harrowing existence in rejection and sacrifice that should have sent me packing long ago, however since I grew up here in LA, quitting was never really an option. Sometimes, when chasing my dream of being a working actor would start to lose its luster I would imagine my self stepping off a bus in some distant long forgotten small town like so many others before me, and walk to that imaginary home with my tail between my legs, and hear the bellow of “I told you so’s”, and “Finally came to your senses, huh?” from the fictitious friends and family, I had conjured up in my head. The irony being, my real family has been nothing but supportive in my acting pursuits.
For the past two years I have gone agentless which, as you’re well aware, is nothing new for an actor. I have run the gambit of losing representation many times, and naturally you would think it would have to do with ones talent, but I assure you each time it’s has been out of my control. I’ve been through the ringer with incompetence, getting lost in the shuffle, not being informed that they were leaving town to change careers, to waking up one day and realizing the new agent that signed me had just got arrested for embezzlement! I know, shocking! Anyway I digress, along the way I’ve been lucky to have a few supporters, advocates in my corner who’ve thrown me a bone from time to time, one of them being a sweet little casting director who calls me once in a Plutonian cycle with an audition. So you can understand my enthusiasm when she called me about a month ago, She said I had a straight to director audition and told me the sides were in my inbox and that they were looking for a real funny guy, and I was perfect for it. After thanking her over and over again I kicked my girlfriend off the computer and with the fervor of a puma hunting its lunch I began downloading the sides. It was a small part, actually it was a mere morsel, three lines, and they were indecipherable! I began to panic, the one page I received revealed nothing about my character, only one small clue, the name they had given the character was THIEF.
Included in the email was the name of the director. I couldn’t believe my luck. The guy is somewhat of a powerhouse right now in the industry and 5 years ago cast me in my first national commercial. My mind began to relive that night shoot. I would never forget it. It was the first time I felt I had finally made it. While I was on set filming my scene, I kept hearing the crew and the director laughing hysterically between takes. When I was wrapped he came up to me and asked if I was a comedian. I didn’t know what to say, except that I considered myself a character actor, who loves comedy. He gave me a pat on the back and said he couldn’t’ have been happier with my performance! Such lavish praise was foreign to me, especially coming from the real deal. I went home that morning and couldn’t sleep I was absolutely elated with joy. All my hard work was about to pay off!
Now 5 years later, the universe was aligned and after the driest of all dry spells, our paths were going to meet again, and he was certainly going to remember me let alone cast me as the roll of the THEIF. I immediately texted my agent and relayed the good news that I should be a for sure shoe in because of my previous history with him, she texted back, “That’s great!” My only hurdle now was trying to make sense of this part, I couldn’t find anything remotely funny about it and was starting to get concerned that maybe she emailed the wrong sides. No she had not.
I decided to knock on my neighbor’s door, he too is a fellow actor, and I hoped he could help me make sense of the gibberish that was now beginning to haunt my every move in how I was going to prepare. I told him the situation and then handed him the sides, five seconds later he handed it back to me and laughed. I stood in his living room waiting for some of his sage advice to start to depart from his mouth when I heard a familiar voice coming from his speakers. I asked what he was listening to and he started to laugh some more. He said it was a podcast that a friend had recommended to him called the The Tobolowsky Files, again he laughed a little more. I started to feel like I had caught him at a bad time and told him I’d come back later when he was a little less high. He assured me he wasn’t, he was just a little taken back at the course of events that had just transpired in the last few minutes. He then jogged my memory as to how I would remember you and told me to sit down and relax, he was going to restart the episode for me to listen as well. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea; I had too many things going on in my head to sit and focus on the ramblings of an actor who probably hasn’t had to worry about auditioning for anything for the past 10 years. He persuaded me to stay, and am forever grateful he did. My first Tobolowsky Files experience was episode 33 The X Factor!!! Wow! Serendipity at its finest.
After listening to the episode I called my casting director friend back and insisted she get me a copy of the script! She told me that it wouldn’t be possible, that it was under lock and key. I told her how essential it was for me to have clarity about the scene and the only way I could deliver exactly what they wanted was going to be reading that script! I told her I would drive to her and read it front of her if it made her feel better, I guess I must have been pretty persistent, she sighed and told me she’d forward the script to me but if it got out, she’d hunt me down and murder me where I stood. I believed her.
For the next hour I read the whole thing, I began to wonder why they felt the need to protect the contents of the script, nothing stood out as groundbreaking, or relevant for such precautions, it was amateur at best, in fact I was disappointed in the quality and lack of substance, but I wasn’t going to let that keep me from giving my best. I finally had clarity on the scene and was confident in the character I created to wow the director, again.
I never got the part, in fact, he wasn’t there for my audition like I was told he would be, but I did get to impress my little casting director friend who told me she could tell I’d been improving more and more each time she’s seen me. It’s funny, when I learned that the part went to someone else, I didn’t mind, normally I would sulk for a minute or two, but this time I didn’t really care. If nothing else I gained a new friend. I hope you don’t think that too formal, but I’ve now listened to all your podcasts and can’t help but feel you were talking to me each time. Your stories have been a joy to listen to, and am deeply appreciative for your insightful trials and tribulations, they have been very cathartic to this struggling actor, and I eagerly await your third installment of the files.
On a recent 2000-mile road trip between tiny Socorro, NM and even
tinier Pointe Au Baril Station, Ontario, I conducted an experiment to
determine the effect of continuous immersion in the Tobolowsky Files
on human subjects. The subjects were: my two teenage sons (13 and 17)
and my wife — confined to a minivan. I started Episode-1 south of
Albuquerque, and introduced it in a unenthusiastic manner, fearing
that any significant enthusiasm on my part might prejudice them
against it. After that I played a few non-Tobolowsky podcasts, and
then asked them what they would like to listen to, giving them a large
number of options, including music from their own iPods. They all
wanted more Tobolowsky! This continued until we had gone through
Episode-35 (near Toronto). One after another, for hours, for three
days. They kept wanting more Tobolowsky.
Despite the rather extreme conditions of the experiment, the subjects
exhibited no significant ill effects, other than a desire to view as
many films featuring Stephen Tobolowsky as possible, including the one
with the notorious Alien Detector.
I am late to the Tobolowsky Files and am currently playing catch-up, but I wanted to thank you. You are a very talented writer and I appreciate the thought that you put in to your stories.
I also want to thank you for saving me on a recent road trip. I had to drive my mother (who is about your age) from Arlington, Texas to San Antonio. I love my mother dearly, but we talk fairly often and we are often out of conversation by Waco. She likes talk radio as long as it isn’t religious or conservative or NPR, which makes finding acceptable radio a bit tough in Texas.
So I decided to play your podcasts during the trip. She grew up in the Metroplex and I thought she might enjoy some of the stories from Dallas, and I hoped I wouldn’t stumble upon one that had too much language or drug references. Luckily, I started with Miss Hard to Get.
You won my mother over when you mentioned that your mother would sit in the car during your piano lessons. “That woman was a saint,” she told me. I asked, “Because she took her son to piano lessons?” “What does your dash say the temperature is?” “105.” “Yeah. She sat in the car in 100 degree heat so her son could play. She’s a saint.”
And then you talked about crashing a concert a McFarlin Auditorium. All you mentioned was that there was a grand piano, and my mother said, “Van Cliburn.” When it turned out to be true, I asked how she knew. She said that if you lived in Texas in the 1960s and 70s, and went to a piano concert, you were likely seeing Van Cliburn. She’s only seen him play once—at the Opening Day of the Ballpark in Arlington in 1994—but she and I go to at least one session of the Van Cliburn piano competition every four years. We’ve been going since the early 1990s when it was at TCU and now we go to Bass Hall. We only spend the money on the qualification rounds because, to our novice ears, all the pianists sound extraordinary. We were lucky enough to hear one of the eventual winners, Nobuyuki Tsujii, in an early round last year.
We listened to several more episodes, and we enjoyed them immensely (at one point you talked about taking a Greyhound to Mt. Vernon, TX, to which she exclaimed, “Heavens to Betsy, why on earth would anyone willingly go there?”). Thank you again for sharing your wonderful stories and for making my road trip something my mother and I will remember for a long while.
first of all the usual praise that has to be repeated over and over again because you deserve it: Your show is the best thing that could happen to the media “Podcast”. Keep it up, no matter what other people might say. I really hope for many many many more new stories.
But now to the topic of my mail:Every Friday evening when I start iTunes and see a new file downloading I know what to expect… and sometimes what not to.
See, I’m German and I really love history and stories. From history (especially the German but far from exclusive) and stories (even fictional ones) all people can learn… no, HAVE to learn. Some things should never happen again and some things have to happen. So I saw the name of the episode and hesitated. “Could he mean it?” and “Will there be some weird story about some movie that has been shot in/about Auschwitz?” where my first thoughts.
I hesitated. I was afraid I couldn’t listen to you anymore. Yes, maybe I’m a bit naive and emotional about some things. Its something I really have to work on.
Normally I listen to your stories on my walk to work on Monday after the release. I got a 20 minute walk each way so your 40 minutes episodes fit perfectly. Not this time. At first I didn’t want to listen to it. Today (Tuesday) on my way back home I had no podcasts left, only your episode was still marked as “new” on my iPod. So I started it.After 20 minutes I came home and I didn’t stop listening. I stand there, my shoes still on, my bag over my sholder the remaining 20 minutes until the episode finished. I didn’t even really realize I was at home already. And it wasn’t even your story! But the way you tell your (and others) stories is something that has to be described as a gift… or maybe magic. I even don’t care anymore if they are real or not. Thank you SO much for sharing your and others stories. I really really hope they’ll never end.
And of course thanks to Dave for making this whole project possible. Keep it up!
My name is Matthew, I am a student filmmaker at ________ College. Naturally my love and interest in all things film has led me to Slashfilm.com, and for the past few months I have been checking /film everyday and once a week seeing this thing called the Toblowsky files pop up. Never checked it, and didn’t care. I had listened to many of the other /filmcasts and found them to be pretty boring. Finally I decided to check out the Tobolowsky files and have absolutely fallen in love. I apologize for not knowing who you were before but when you live your life you learn things… and the time before you learn those things don’t really matter.
Anyway it takes me about 2 days to get through each podcast because the only time I can listen is right before I go to bed and I usually fall asleep before getting through them. And trust me it’s not because they aren’t interesting. Regardless of why, I just finished listening to Ep. 34 and I felt absolutely compelled to write an email and let you know how much I appreciated that entire episode.
I teared up at points. I laughed at others. Ran the whole gambit. I want to thank you so much for sharing that story with everyone else. Whether or not anyone else takes anything at all from Abe’s story I will most likely never know, but really that doesn’t matter. Not to me at least, may to you though. All I know is in about 5 hours I’m going to go into my job that is normally a great source of sheer frustration and all the reasons why I have little hope in human beings, and I’m gonna think about Abe’s story, and my job and my, as of right now, trivial life probably won’t seem so bad.
Thanks again for all of your wonderful stories. And please please please keep them up because the days of the masterful raconteurs such as yourself are all but faded away.
A few months ago I got a new iPod, a fact I am not proud of. I was looking for podcast to fill my idle time driving and at work. I saw a picture of you standing on a beach with your knife hand poised in front of you. I thought, Its Sammy Jankis/Tor Eckman! So I clicked subscribe. That was one of the best decisions I have made. After playing catch-up, you were somewhere in the teens when I started, I began to eagerly awaiting the Friday afternoon release of another glimpse into your astonishing life. One would think as eagerly as I await the release of a new file, that I would listen to it right away. But no, I wait until distractions have passed, so I can listen and transport myself briefly into your world. It is a fantastic interlude along my path of life. I thank you for it, my hope is that you continue your weekly stroll down memory lane.
The recent “Nighttime on Mars” was again brilliant. The tale of Honesty and Truth was so powerful that I may have done a bad thing. I attempted to transcribe it and post it on my blog. Full credit went to you, and hopefully you will get a few listeners/fans out of it. Of course I would immediately take it down if requested, I’m not sure how copyrights work, I’m just a Midwest guy with a weight loss blog. But your story was too good for me not to share.
I have been listening to your podcasts for several months now and I feel compelled to let you know how much I have enjoyed your stories.
They have, as you have pointed out, taken an interesting side road from your original podcast format; a side road that becomes unexpectedly beautiful, one that allows you (and us) to savour the views and reflect a little, without the hurried rush to end the drive.
I listen to you each week as I drive, my roads are the highways of southern Alberta and the British Columbia interior, my views are often spectacular but my days are generally 12-16 hours, as I am a long-haul trucker.
I don’t know how much thought you have to go through when you put together a story, or do they end up writing themselves? I have to say, whatever the process, the outcome is highly entertaining, funny, and very often moving.
Mr. Stephen, you are also a natural story-teller and I encourage you to keep going as long as the inspiration will allow you…..thank you for a quality show and a real work of art.
I wanted to say thank you for your stories. I’ve been listening to them with my son since not long after he was born - he’s eight months old now, and he recognizes your voice. It makes him smile.
Your joy for life is an amazing thing. The wee man and you seem to be on the same page, everything interesting and exciting and life a great adventure to tug me along to. I look forward to him being able to grow up around your stories. I hope he will get to meet you some day.
Possibly not soon. At the moment he would slobber on you. He slobbers a lot.
I thought I’d add to what I’m certain is a torrent of appreciative and grateful emails, and let you know what a pleasure it has been to listen to your stories.
I’m a bit a of a latecomer to the podcast and have managed to listen to the entire first season in around 5 or 6 days. And what a joy. What a diamond in the rough this show is.
It’s strange; I have never felt compelled to write in to a podcast or radio show before, but your stories put such a smile on my face, I had to let you know. In the last couple of years I have never felt so alone. My father died and I moved cities to try to start afresh elsewhere, but this only made things worse. It was a dark time in my life, and in a strange way, since I began listening to the Tobolowsky Files I seem to have been smiling and laughing more than I have for a long time. Your stories inspire me in many ways, but mostly they inspire me to appreciate the little things. I get so bogged down with the state of the world and the apparent futility of life that I forget to enjoy the things right under my nose. And for this, I thank you.
It has been a great pleasure to hear your stories, and long may they continue.