Tony Hale: Gentleness for Our Awkward, Anxious Selves - Kate Bowler

Tony Hale: Gentleness for Our Awkward, Anxious Selves

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podcast banner Tony Hale: Gentleness for Our Awkward, Anxious Selves

Tony Hale: Gentleness for Our Awkward, Anxious Selves

What if we never fit in? Or always miss the script that everyone else seems to so easily understand? From Arrested Development’s Buster Bluth to Veep’s Gary Walsh or Toy Story 4’s Forky, Emmy Award Winning actor Tony Hale is an expert in awkward. In this episode, Kate and Tony talk about:
  • How acting is an act of empathy
  • What it feels like to feel outside of the Acceptable People
  • Having grace for our most awkward moments
This conversation will offer you a little gentleness for our awkward selves, our in-pain selves, our out-of-step selves, our misunderstood selves. Bonus: it will also make you laugh.

Guest

Tony Hale

Tony Hale is an American actor and comedian. He is known for his role in the Fox comedy series Arrested Development as Buster Bluth. Hale played Gary Walsh on the HBO comedy Veep from 2012 until its conclusion in 2019, for which he won the 2013 and 2015 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Hale has provided voice-work for The Tale of Despereaux, The Angry Birds Movie, The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Toy Story 4 as Forky. He has also appeared in the Disney+ original The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Transcript

Kate Bowler I’m Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens. When I was little, I was absolutely unable to adapt to my circumstances. If all the children were ghosts that year for Halloween, I dressed up as an enormous pair of corduroy pants with just my eyeballs sticking out the front, which was disconcerting. And then another year, I was a Spanish dancer, but also a lamp. It helped that my sister volunteered to be Socrates. If the kids were listening to Motley Crue, I was singing along to the soundtrack of the Sweating to the Oldies album. You remember the old aerobics series starring Richard Simmons? It’s absolutely my jam. I worked out that videotape for years and still have the ability aerobicize besides a strong grapevine, right, grapevine left at any time. It sounds low key, adorable now, but none of it was particularly charming because I just could not figure out how to move in sync with the world. I was unadaptable, which is a nice way of saying awkward. I thought it might be nice, given that the world is especially painful and hard right now to engender a little love for our tender selves, our awkward selves, our never quite in step selves. C.S. Lewis, the famous writer and theologian, had something to say about the importance of overcoming that embarrassment for our humanity. He wrote, I sometimes think that shame, mere awkward, senseless shame, does as much toward preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as any of our vices can do. Which is to say, sometimes embarrassment about being a human might stand in the way of a lot of good. So let’s create a little gentleness for our awkward selves, our own pain selves, our out of step selves, our misunderstood selves, and let’s do it with the person that all my friends agree is the kindest person they know. Tony Hale is an Emmy Award winning actor and comedian. You will know him and love him as Buster Bluth from Arrested Development or Gary Walsh from Veep or Forky from Toy Story Four, or from his newest show, which I watch religiously with my son, The Mysterious Benedict Society, where he plays both Mr. Benedict and his evil twin. You can watch it on Disney+ and contemplate all the truth of unlikely and awkward heroes. Tony, I’m so grateful to be doing this with you today. Thank you so much!

Tony Hale Thanks for having me. It was that first story you told, I made the joke earlier of like, hey, do you want me to read it? And you- we were laughing. And then as I heard it, I was like, I actually could read that. And it would match my life. It would be- it would be pretty close to home.

Kate So now that you know what kind of kid I was, what kind of kid were you?

Tony I was- I like when you said obviously the awkward, Shane Powers, a lot of things. Well, first of all, I was I grew up in the South, so I was I was not a kid of sports. That was not I was not gifted in that area, so I went into the theater and I, I just in high school, I just wanted to be liked by everybody. I just wanted attention and to be liked. And I kind of became all things to all people, whatever, you know, I get the attention. Yeah. You see how something like that, which starts off pretty sad. It’s not the it’s not the most healthy picture, but then it kind of grows into being used for, you know, I guess good and in a career. So that’s kind of cool.

Kate Yeah. The ability to be all kinds of different people.

Tony All kinds!

Kate Do you look back on it either when you’re like that one in particular never landed.

Tony Never. Oh I’m sure, I think I was so probably arrogant I was like, this is landing.

Kate Yeah. They’re going to need more.

Tony Oh yeah. They want a reprise of that.

Kate And you’re your dad was in the military like you had a lot of transient, adaptable moments.

Tony Yeah I was. Let me think it was before the seventh grade. I think we moved like seven times. My dad was, my dad was in the Army and my my sister who connected me to you, Kim, who lives in Raleigh, she’s eight years older than I am. And so we kind of we lived in Germany for five years. And we and it was really we had each other. So we were you know, my sister and brother and I were really close and but yeah, we moved around a lot. And then the seventh grade is where we landed in Tallahassee, Florida. That’s kind of where I kind of grew up, went through high school and stuff. And that’s when I learned, oh, in the South football is a faith. Football’s a religion.

Kate I could be someone people believe in, but I’m not. So I’ll go do this.

Tony I don’t think I’m a believer. I don’t think I’m a part of this congregation.

Kate Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. I’m going to have to find something, something else.

Tony Yeah. Yeah.

Kate When you found your home in acting, you, you have this really unbelievable ability to play wonderfully eager, excited, like endlessly anticipating and awkward characters. And you became a household name when you played Buster on Arrested Development. Who is- for the people have not watched the show is one of my most treasured and

Tony probably healthier and more balanced state in their life.

Kate This is cinematic masterpieces, really. He has this never pleasable, corrupted dad and just wildly manipulative mom who he just loves so much. And it’s it’s like it feels hard to to summarize just how awkward Buster could be, just as like camouflage on a wall. Yeah. I kept trying to remember the line that they would give like “nobody knows”

Tony He’s never seen or heard. He goes, I think he went to a school where the motto- I think was- oh it was the the Millford Academy. And the motto was, they’re neither seen nor heard. And Buster took that literally. He would wear shirts that matched the wallpaper and he was very proud of that.

Kate He would like his long period of disorientation and confusion about whether he had a hook for a hand and continue to try to give people back massages like unwanted

Tony and some back story on my my hand was eaten by a seal. So that’s- and my mother’s name was Lucille, and I was screaming in the water “there’s a loose seal.” And she thought I was screaming to her. And so it’s a yeah, it’s a it’s a very colorful show. And also I was talking about somebody mentioned the other day about the whole family’s like chicken dance. Everybody had a chicken dance. And they said, Tony, why didn’t Buster have a chicken dance? And I thought about it, I was like he I think he had too much respect for chickens. He just loved chickens. He was like, no, I’m not going to disrespect the chicken, but I’m making fun of them through a dance.

Kate Yeah.

Tony Oh, my my parents to this day don’t get arrested development. They they said there was one time that my mom called me. I said I said to somewhere, I apologize if I’m repeating myself. But she says, yeah our friends really like Arrested Development. We still don’t get it. Until this day, the only the only time they thought it was funny was when Martin Short was on and they were like, and this this is exactly the words they said he you know, he was funny. He’s funny. I’m like, all right. All right, all right you seal.

Kate That is so funny.

Kate I don’t always be sort of endlessly existential about Buster, but like when I watch him, I just wonder if he’s like naming some kind of longing in us when we watch him continue to almost express an emotion, desperately hover on the edge of circumstances.

Tony I mean, so many things I loved about Buster, but he- I remember going up to to Mitch Hurwitz, who’s the who is the creator of the show, and I said, you know, I asked a very actory question, you know, what does Buster want in life? And he goes, Oh, I think all he wants is safety. That’s all he wanted. So if you look at Buster’s physicality, he was always in the state of defense like he he would have his hands back here. And he was always waiting for somebody to attack. And like, you know, he was just constantly afraid and in the state of fear. And he had obviously this incredibly codependent relationship and dysfunctional relationship with his mother. And which let me tell you right now, there’s there is I think it was the fourth or fifth season where there’s a picture of the of the dysfunction that so perfectly matches the relationship where Jessica, okay, Jessica Walter, who recently passed away, she was a brilliant actress and she played Lucille. She was on house arrest and she couldn’t smoke. And so she asked Buster to inhale the smoke from her mouth like a baby bird and then exhale the smoke outside on the patio. And I was, I remember watching that episode and I was like, oh, my God, this that is such a picture of codependent dysfunction, just like beyond.

Kate Yeah, yeah. I think, you know, he elicits so much like compassion. You know, when you when you watch him. Just, I used to play house with my sister and the girls down the road. And my sister always used to play these characters that were very much like Buster that were very concerned for their safety. And her character couldn’t get a lot of development because she was always like wearing a life jacket and a bike helmet and was under the pool table. And so, like, you could involve, you know, whatever her name was, only if you chose to be in the pool room. But there at the time, yeah, she was going to have to miss it.

Tony So she’s like, I hear you, but I’m gonna be-

Kate I hear you.

Tony I can tell you Buster, he didn’t really, because, I mean, everybody said, you know, he was very fearful, but he was very selfish. Like, he just really cared about himself, just his safety. You know, he was a very love hate relationship with the mother. But he was just he was terrified. It was just everybody else could die. He was like, but I’m going to keep my life jacket on.

Kate You know, I obviously don’t know much about acting. My sense is from others that you develop a lot of empathy for these characters. And given that Buster has these very unlikable qualities, like he’ll save himself over others or he’ll run screaming from a moment in which people might genuinely need him. Yeah, yeah. How do you go about embodying somebody which you can sort of like, love and hate them at the same time?

Tony I remember doing this movie years ago. I won’t say the name of the movie because I don’t think it was my was.

Kate Now I need to know.

Tony I’ll tell you in a second.

Kate Battleship!

Tony It was Battleship. It was me and Rihanna. No, it was, it was, it was me. But I was playing a character who was kind of a douchebag and manipulative and kind of a player. And I just remember thinking, oh, I just hate people like this. You know, I, I really can’t stand people like this. And I went to this acting coach named Diana Castle here in L.A. and she says, Tony, you have to realize that those things are inside of you. And when I woke up to the fact of going, God, she’s right, because the fact is I’ve been manipulative in my day. I had moments of being a douche bag. I’ve had moments of being a bit of a player in my past. I’m not proud of, you know, and it’s like the more that you see that in myself, the more that I’m bringing myself to the character rather than playing an idea of a yeah. I think if you’re playing an idea of the character, you’re not there’s plenty of people that can play an idea. But if you bring it out of yourself. Yeah, nobody not only can nobody else do that, but that to me is the most authentic version of playing it. And so carrying that over into life, you know, you take like an evil character or think of somebody that we all can’t stand or whatever. Yeah. And I think about traits about that person. Oh, I can’t stand… But if I’m honest, those are in myself and even though I might not want to have lunch with that person, it might actually build a little bit of compassion for that person. If I can see myself in it.

Kate Yeah, that reminds me of something that Malcolm Gladwell said,.

Tony Him and I think a lot. I give him a lot of advice.

Kate Oh, like tomato, tomato. Oh, did he say that or did I say that?

Tony We have so many conversations.

Kate I feel that way about Jesus. I’m like who said love your- was that me?

Tony Malcolm, Hale. Oh my God. One in the same.

Kate But Malcolm Gladwell was saying that there was some kind of dissociation we have about other people’s motive. In his book, Talking to Strangers, and we were just kind of unpacking it together and I was like, well, then what does that mean when we we meet someone who is other like they have- and he said, well, apparently it means that we are much more likely to attribute really flat and narrow causality to their behavior. But like rich and nuanced, you know, but I didn’t mean to say it like that or I actually had five reasons for not picking you up yesterday or yeah.

Tony Yeah, but it it really is true. Like when you can find when you can stop looking at it as an other Yeah. I’ve had moments like that. It’s, I don’t know, there’s a connection. And you mentioned we were talking about Buster and looking back on that, that was my very first gig because I’d done many commercials before and I said that sounds arrogant, I’d done commercials before. Yeah. And then I got that gig and I had never been on a studio lot, I had never I didn’t know anything about anything with Hollywood. I was very overwhelmed. And thank God I wasn’t playing a confident character because I don’t think I could have done it. I was very overwhelmed myself. And so it kind of naturally came. I naturally connected to Buster. I think I was in kind of in my own state of paralysis. And so that was definitely an easy connection. But many times I you have to find that it might take a little work to find the similarity in yourself.

Kate And normally talk to people who are like nurses or like a psychologist or something. But I did have.

Tony They’re doing good in the world.

Kate I’m just describing my insecurity about asking you questions about acting. I know you don’t

Tony You don’t typically talk to narcissistic people that just want more attention. Oh, that’s weird. What you don’t talk to people who sell themselves for a living. Oh, God, it’s so much fun. I can’t wait to see how many hits we get on our, how many hits we get on our post. This fame is so fulfilling.

Kate Fame is its own reward, wait is that the saying?

Tony Fame ins’t empty at all!

Kate I am so I, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I remember something that the indomitable Alan Alda said about he first started imagining, he was explaining to me that, like when we imagine actors as playing roles, like a highbrow form of pretending it took him a while to start believing that he wasn’t just, you know, an actor playing his own roles, but that he was getting better and better at identifying the other roles in his regular life, that people were playing like cranky dad, tired mom. I play the role frequently of grateful cancer patient. And and then he became really invested in and trying to teach people improv skills because he thought it would make us more, especially doctors actually in health care providers. He has this amazing institute where he uses actors to teach health care professionals. But I liked the idea that in their in recognizing the roles that we play, that it it might make us a little bit more nimble with the empathy that you’re describing.

Tony I love that. I love Alan Alda, but I love that. And there’s also something to be said about we’re all kind of playing a game. Yeah, this sounds super. Yeah. Maybe too spiritual, but I many times I’m just walking around. I’m like A. we’re spinning on a planet and I’m just going to Trader Joe’s acting like nothing’s weird about that. Yeah. You know, and it’s like we’re all kind of playing a role to manage. Yeah. No, it would be very it’s very easy for me to come to find the judgment and go, oh, that’s that role or that person’s playing that role to survive. I’m playing my own role. We’re all playing and I think there’s something beautiful about being honest about. Yeah, I’m falling into this role today just to kind of manage. Yeah. Because this is crazy. Yeah. We’re all going to die. Yeah.

Kate What?!

Tony I know today is the day you find out we’re going to die.

Kate It would be amazing if I learned about finitude at this very moment.

Tony Forget Malcolm.

Kate Yeah that sounds really upsetting and I honestly can’t believe that, like my publisher lets me publish books with the titles that I give them because they’re so depressing

Tony No that title is so good.

Kate But my new one is such a bummer is just called No Cure for Being Human. I know. It just feels like something I whisper like a toddler’s birthday party, like into her ears as she’s blowing out the candles.

Tony Happy birthday.

Kate No cure Kaitlyn.

Tony Okay (blows).

Kate I guess one of the commonalities I’ve always just loved about your characters is is like this really the wonderfully animating neuroses. And I mean even in the in the new role of Mr. Benedict, which is just it’s such. So lovely, compassionate look at how our like our little unlikely kids know and remember the truth and are able to, like, see through the media, especially the like the intense feeling of endless anxiety. I just love it. But all your characters are these sort of heat seeking missiles of anxiety and overstimulation and I just, I just wondered if maybe we could develop a little compassion for our anxious selves. So I thought you would be interested to know that when I asked all of our mutual friends – and this is actually an episode of what’s the show? Where they bring in horrible people from your past.

Tony Oh, this is your life.

Kate This is your life. This was your news worker, your postal- postal worker

Tony You just brought in my bully. I’m like, oh, my, no, no.

Kate This was your second grade teacher. Miss Linda.

Tony I don’t even remember you because I was in such a traumatic state.

Kate You never listen to me. I am. I did ask your friends the most common quality about you. And honestly, you know what they said.

Tony Oh, uh kind of toxic. No, no, that’s not it.

Kate They said that you are genuinely the most compassionate listener they know.

Tony Oh!

Kate I’m serious.

Tony No, that’s nice.

Kate They were like, no, he really cares about my dumb problems. He really he does really listen carefully and apparently my stuff seems really interesting all of a sudden. So I, so in light of that, I asked, we have this adorable community at the Everything Happens project that have just a lot of, like, painful humanity. So I asked if they wanted to send in some of the-

Tony Which is the reality of it all.

Kate Which is, no, we’re not running. We are tripping down those stairs. And so I asked them, I thought maybe we could give them a little bit of reassurance, but I asked if they wouldn’t mind sending in some of their most awkward, oh, human moments. Sure. And I thought maybe we could give them a little freedom to be a little less burdened by our collective absurdity.

Tony Sure! I love it.

Kate I asked some people, sent in some voice memos and if I can figure out how to play them, then then we can then we could hypothetically listen to them. Alright let’s see what I can.

Listener 1 A few years ago, when I was working at a church, I went to take my sweatshirt off and accidentally also pulled off my shirt. There I stood and only my bra with my male coworker in the room. It took me a few minutes to untangle my shirt from my sweatshirt because I was kind of stressed about the whole thing. But I just kept standing there in my bra. My poor coworker thought it was safe to turn around, but. I was still not redressed. I’ve never seen him so awkward before.

Tony My favorite is, and yet I was still not redressed. Aw. Thanks for sharing. That’s really oh, man.

Kate I love a good especially like purity church story where like I’m so I’m so sorry to show you my my body, Adam and Eve style. I’m sorry that by

Tony By the way, I think the last time I really took off my shirt I was maybe five years old. Like, I think that’s I mean, I’m the guy when people like at a pool party, like, let’s jump in I’m like, go for it. I’m not taking my shirt off. I’m going to hit crossfit for about five years before I do something like that. It’s amazing, the nonverbal and not that story, but if you’re really good, because we all need that that community in our life there were really honest with. Yeah. And you pick those people because they don’t have that reaction because those people that have had that reaction where you so very honest and you can even nonverbally see him go, oh yeah. You know, it’s oh it’s like, whoa, man, you got to really it’s not just words. You got to, like, calm your face when you’re hearing some truth.

Kate Yeah. You got to tell your face to tell me it’s OK.

Tony Yeah. Because it’s like if it’s high, especially if it’s highly sensitive material that you got to kind of be careful.

Kate I can always tell when people are scared of me because of my I guess like my cancer situation. But I can tell when they’re afraid that I will say something that makes them feel sad or and there’s just kind of a natural like so I think that’s partly why I love people who kind of are scary because they’re never scared of me.

Tony Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kate And then I get to feel safe.

Tony Especially when you were in the thick of it too. Yeah. Did people just kind of not, just try to every which way to not discuss what you were going through?

Kate I mean they either went right for it, which was I mean a lot of attempts to be loving.

Tony Let me lay my hands on you.

Kate Yeah, there was a lot of that. I know you have a lot of experience with Pentecostals.

Tony Yes.

Kate As well. Yeah. So you know that it can get really.

Tony Yeah. It’s an intense. Yeah.

Kate Yeah. And some of that I always experience as love. Like thank you for having hope for me. Thank you for you know, not being, I don’t know, I work in a mainline context like, you know, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and sometimes their faith is so polite that I that I was always felt like they were a little bit more worried about feeling embarrassed. Mm. Than they were about necessarily kind of getting in the in the mix.

Tony That’s interesting because I think yeah. That’s a really good point. And I think I’m guilty of this myself. I think many times in my life I’ve been more afraid of the community rather than what God would- like I was much more afraid of the community than I was of God. Yeah. You know, so it kind of put me in this kind of defensive state rather than just, you know, this is this is everything about me is my faith. Yeah.

Kate And you, I mean, engendered incredible community, right, of you like, seek out other Christians who are in acting to like live some.

Tony I don’t know if it’s that specific. Well, and when I was in New York.

Kate Yeah, I guess that’s what I was thinking of. You had this group called, like the Haven?

Tony Yes. Yes. When I was in New York and I moved there in ’95 and I was meeting a lot of artists who they probably intended to be, a lot of people who maybe weren’t doing necessarily they were all people of faith, but they were it wasn’t necessarily maybe their art wasn’t supported by the church or it wasn’t necessarily “Christian art” or something like that. So we would just kind of get together to see each other’s work and encourage one another. And we had this time of thankfulness where people just stand up and say something we were thankful for. Yeah. So, yeah, that was in New York. And it was if I’m honest, it was pretty selfish because I just I was looking for friends.

Kate If you’re a Christian, you have to be my friend. Yeah. Yeah. We’re all Christians here.

Tony Here, though, I mean, I have a lot of friends who are, their faith is important to them, not necessarily directed towards just finding kind of people. Yeah. But it’s not such a focus of the arts. But just I mean, I think the older you get, you’re just like finding that authenticity. Yeah. Like, this is crazy life, huh.

Kate Yeah. You know. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. You don’t mind getting in the deep end with me.

Tony Yeah, yeah, yeah. That made me think of one of my favorite movies is um Lars and the Real Girl. Did you ever see it?

Kate Yes. That is one of my favorite movies as well.

Tony And I think it is such a beautiful picture of community because for those of you who don’t know, I love that I’ve never had a podcast, but I kind of feel like I have one right now.

Kate Welcome in Invisible Listener.

Tony Thank you. But Ryan Gosling plays this character that falls in love with a blow up doll. And, you know, at first it was a little strange, but this community, it was it was there was nothing sexual about it. It was just he was a very lonely man and needed connection and stuff like that. And there’s community of support formed around him. And he got to this place where he had to let go of the doll because he was beginning to see what real community was that. He lived in isolation and stuff like that in. The most beautiful scene is when he is putting the doll to death and and they’re just in his living room just knitting because they just they they they have no words. They’re just around him. Yeah. Just in his space. Yeah.

Kate Yeah.

Tony And I’m sure you can appreciate just like what you went through, just having that presence around you of just like, OK, I’m not alone in this, but I don’t need any more of your words, you know.

Kate Yeah. They brought casseroles,.

Tony They brought casseroles and just sat.

Kate They would would take her to get her hair done just to give him a break. 

Tony And you know, they had to have had plenty of opinions about this man who has this friend that’s a doll.

Kate Very lewd looking sad doll that he just has it unbelievably chaste relationship where I honestly think if every like especially Lutheran church in the Midwest could play the movie Lars and the Real Girl, just to show what it’s like to bubble wrap somebody with presence and love. Yeah. And when especially when we are every

Tony I think every denomination actually not just Lutheran. I include all churches, if we could.

Kate I think it was just really I think it was a I think everybody could get it. Yeah. Yes. That is such a tender portrayal of of like giving someone lily pads out of loneliness.

Tony Yes, yes. Yes, yes.

Kate Especially in their awkwardness.

Tony Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, there’s nothing more awkward than that, you know. But we’ve all been there. I have five of them at home. What I don’t need right now is judgment Kate. So let’s just take a step back.

Kate It started.

Tony I can see your nonverbal. I have five of them and it’s all right.

Kate First it started out, which is the thing for the carpool lane, and then it became something so much more.

Kate I guess I got ideas and I’m concerned about that. That one lingering thought.

Kate My sister, who is a massive, almost stalker level fan of yours,.

Tony What’s her name?

Kate Amy.

Tony Hey, Amy. Nice to meet you, Amy. I wish you were here to share Durham’s toffee with me.

Kate Like instead of Kate.

Tony I wish you were here instead of Kate. Can I say that out loud?

Kate She does look almost exact same as me it’s eerie. Yeah. She she wrote this really sweet thing.

Tony She said my sister beat me up when I was five. And today is the day I’d like to share

Kate In front of this mutual idol.

Tony This was the first time I ever read this, Amy.

Kate We really cannot cut it out in editing. You can’t tell people how I really am.

Kate She said disability is such a reliable source of awkwardness because there’s a gap between what you can deliver and what people expect. And she was trying to explain what it’s like when she has ADHD and she can’t, she was like trying to make new friends at a church, but she struggled so much with names just kind of slipping out of her memory. So she said, so I designed this pin, which I actually wear, and it’s this super cute thing of a goldfish and it just says, hi, I have trouble remembering names. I hope we can still be friends.

Tony Oh that’s really sweet.

Kate Oh, which feels like the cutest thing in the world.

Tony I also love it is good for her, but not a really sweet picture to focus on and not focusing on the fact that she can’t remember names because I need that distraction. If I’m if I meet someone that I’ve met 10 times before and I remember the name I love a distraction like that. Look at this goldfish.

Kate Yeah, don’t look at me, don’t look at me, don’t look at me. All right, here’s a here’s here’s another one from from Cameron.

Listener 2 Hmm. So my freshman year in college, there was this girl that I had a massive crush on. And every time I saw her, I got nervous and didn’t know what to say, but figured, well, why not conquer that fear? So it was her birthday and I went to go wish her happy birthday. And when she said thank you, I was thinking of either saying you’re welcome or no problem. But in the moment, of course, you know, me being all clumsy and awkward at actually combine the two phrases and said, no, welcome your problem. So it was extremely awkward. She didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t really know what to say. I’m just kind of walked away. And that was the last conversation that we ever had.

Tony Oh, man, that’s great.

Kate No, no, thank you. Your problem,

Tony by the way, that that needs to be in a script. Oh, hey, hey, hey. No, thank you. Your problem. Yeah. OK, ok. Yeah. I didn’t just say that.

Kate My mom used to have that problem as a professor at the School of Music at the University of Manitoba, where they had to sign up for these little courses between semesters and they were called intersession courses.

Tony Oh gosh.

Kate So just right away everybody’s asking for intercourse. And my mom, it’s just managing orientation. And she’s like, oh, Brad, please.

Tony Also like think about it like just who’s who’s writing this stuff, you know, like just take a step back and just think about it. Now, I’m coming out super judgmental to that person. Come on. Nobody does that. I can’t relate to you. You know what I did today, actually, and I, I, I think this is just me. I was coming out of the bathroom and I was reaching for something and my nose is so big I hit it on the you coming out of the bathroom. And I thought, oh my God, my nose is so big that I hit on and I have never been in a fight. But damn, I was like, this is what a fight feels like because it was like someone just knocked my nose.

Kate Oh, no.

Tony And I was I literally had a thought of, like, I’m gonna have a black eye for this wonderful woman’s podcast.

Kate Because it’s a visual medium. OK, what have we got here. This is Amy, a different Amy.

Listener 3 How about that day, that Saturday when my daughter and I spent an entire day meandering around our town only to end up at a high end boutique with a white glossy floor, only to ask the sales clerk to help us with something, only to feel the presence of something around my feet, only to realize it was my underwear that had been riding on me on my brown skirt with static cling the entire day. And when the salesclerk came over, I did not have a game face, I knew my daughter was going to recognize these underwear from the laundry. It had stripes. I still have them as a memento of this day. And the salesclerk came over and I just looked at her and I said, what is that? I don’t know how I thought I was gonna pull this off and she looked down and she said, I don’t know, but I’ll get it. And I said, no don’t it’s my underwear!

Kate She told on herself at the end,

Tony So was it, it was obviously another pair of underwear than what she had on.

Kate Yes, OK. I doubt that it came off and then went on the other side.

Tony Yeah why I was confused, I was like how are you walking if it’s okay I got it.

Kate Yeah. Yeah, I think it was bonus underwear. Got it right.

Tony Got it. Right. Again, that dialect man brings me back and “I tell you I walked into that store and I thought that glossy floors and I thought, I thought, what is that? And that that person came to me and said, What is that? I said, That’s my underwear.” I love it. I could listen to it all day long.

Kate In your, in the show that you just that that just came out the the Benedict, The Mysterious Benedict Society. When I watch it with my kid and what I what I feel like he’s getting out of it-.

Tony How old is he?

Kate Seven. With like wide fish eyes, just lots of learning that’s happening at all times when acute sense of oh, and he’s watching these little kids are like going into a dangerous, dangerous scenario. And they’re they’ve all been unliked for most of their little lives. And they’re but they’re able to see something that other people don’t see.

Tony What I so appreciate and I apologize again if people have heard this, but not that anybody listens to what I talk about. I don’t know who cares? But I, I, I love, love, love that those kids are on the outskirts. You know, they didn’t have these magical superpowers, that their superpower was his his empathy, her creativity, his intelligence like those and after this year we’ve had those are superpowers! Like that is and for a kid to see that and go, hey, I actually have that superpower, even though I might not have the Umbrella Activity Academy. You know, it’s not to not to, you know, whatever that. But it’s like that is a real superpower. Yeah.

Kate The way that you allow us to embrace the friction of our humanity so that we all feel like we can join the club of acceptable people in the world is, I think, one of your great spiritual and comedic gifts.

Tony That’s very nice.

Kate And I feel really lucky that we got to do this today

Tony Me too, thank you for having me.

Kate Thanks Tony, you’re the best.

Tony I love it. Do you know what I always like to say to people is what I always want to hear is it’s going to be OK. Yeah. Do you love hearing that? It’s like even though life is going to go crazy, I think there’s a lot of assurance that’s going to be OK. Just keep walking. Yeah. Oh, I like I like to say that I think your podcast is the place to say it.

Kate Yeah. Speaking to me, thanks for saying that.

Tony Hale It’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be OK.

Kate I don’t know about you, but this conversation was an ode to my awkward, glorious self, our awkward, glorious selves. So if you’re someone who needs to give yourself a little grace for your perfectly awkward moments, here is a blessing for your regular, lovable, awkward self. Blessed are we the awkward ones, the ones who can’t stop replaying that one horrible moment over and over and over again, never mind, it’s been several years and that person definitely doesn’t remember what you said. Blessed are we as we shake off the embarrassment of being human again today in all our cringe worthy foot in mouth moments, in our old school photos, the crooked smiles and the out of places we felt or still feel. Blessed are we remembering with more and more compassion that this is us in all our unwieldy humanity. Maybe humility is something like this: compassion for our awkward self, because there are no preconditions to being loved.

Listener 4 I brushed my teeth with my cousins, Monistat seven, one bleary eyed morning before church, I only realized it because it didn’t break up in my mouth. It was solid gel, not a paste. I was hollering so much I had to tell on myself.

Listener 5 I’m at a ski resort with my girlfriend, who is now my wife and her family, they got us ski tickets and ski school I had never been before. They also got us ski pants and I didn’t even know those were a thing. Not only did I not pass ski school that day, my hips couldn’t do the pizza thing. But on my second to last ride down and I was trying to stop, I ripped my pants all the way through. Everything was hanging out. At this untimely moment. My wife goes, Hey, we’re going up one more time not knowing I ripped my pants. And so of course I go up again because I don’t really have a choice at this moment. We get to the top, I pull our side and I show her the damage. She goes, Yeah, this is our last ride. I was like, yes, it is. So I went to the coffee shop, tried to cover the the damage that had been done and drank coffee with a embarrassed and clumsy body.

Kate Bowler Our work on the Everything Happens podcast and with the Everything Happens initiative is made possible because of our partners and generous donors Lilly Endowment, the Duke Endowment, Duke Divinity School and Faith in Leadership, an online learning resource. And a huge thank you to my team who makes this work not only possible, but fun. Jessica Richie, Harriet Putman, Keith Weston, Gwen Heginbotham, Katie Mangum, AJ Walton, C\Katherine Smith, Mary Jo Clancy, JJ Dickinson and Jeb and Sammi. And if you’d like to be a human with me, come join me online at KateCBowler. I also have a weekly email that might be the right dose of love and courage you need. Sign up at KateBowler.com/newsletter. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.

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One thought on “Tony Hale: Gentleness for Our Awkward, Anxious Selves

  1. I just found out about you from Alli Worthington’s podcast and you’re officially my new favorite.

    If I had been one of your friends calling in with an awkward story, it would have gone like this:
    I was out walking on a lovely October morning. Neighbors were out and about, walking their dogs, getting in some exercise, waiting for the school bus and the like. I was listening to Kate Bowler’s podcast featuring Tony Hale (who sounds nothing like Buster Bluth). I found myself transitioning back and forth from crying to laughing (almost without warning) as I listened. I realized I was unsuccessfully suppressing my laughter and releasing tiny snorts as I passed my neighbors who were unaware of what I was hearing in my ear – things like, “Hi Amy. I wish you were here (instead of Kate)” and “We’re all gonna die.” “What?! It would be amazing if I learned about finitude at this very moment.”

    Talk about awkward. Pretty sure I’ll be getting a notice from the Neighborhood Association. Totally worth it…

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