Episode 1176 - Michael J. FoxWTF with Marc Maron
- 743 views
- 19 Nov 2020
Michael J. Fox didn’t intend to be an inspiration but he’s glad he can help out. As Marc learned from talking with him, Michael maintains a perspective on life filled with gratitude and optimism as he lives with the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Recently, after a run of health setbacks, that perspective faltered. But Michael tells Marc how he got back on track, how he maintains strong bonds with his wife and children, how he felt about giving up show business for a second time, and what he realized about mortality while spending several months on the couch watching re-runs.
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OK, all right, fine. Let's do the show. Lock the gate.
All right, let's do this. How are you? What the fuckers, what the fuck buddies? What the fuck? Nix what's happening? How's it going? Could you just not just don't get the covid before the cure? Not not well, not the cure. But it seems like there's some promising things on the horizon here. Maybe we'll get a handle on this. It's a very weird thing. I recently had an experience. Let me let me get some business out of the way because I'm very excited about our guest.
Michael J. Fox. Everybody loves Michael J. Fox, rightfully so, you know him from back to the future. Family Ties, Spin City, and he's he's been very publicly living with Parkinson's Disease since the 1990s. He's written several books about it. And his new memoir is called No Time Like the Future An Optimist Considers Mortality.
I met Michael once, I met him once at a bar at one of the comics come home performances with Denis Leary met him and his wife.
And it's it's a very heavy thing how we handle. People who are living with real problems, physical problems, sicknesses, illnesses, how the the natural compulsion or the natural reaction that someone has a lot of times is like, oh my God, what a what a tragedy. What you know, that's so sad. And Michael J. Fox has pushed back against that for years and has really kind of taken on his Parkinson's, his disease, as sort of an unwanted but accepted partner in his life and worked with it.
It's pretty fucking amazing and metaphorically and literally on all levels. Whatever your struggle, even if they're just psychological, the idea of like accepting and working with your liabilities, your insanity, if you're able to. Very inspirational, and I was nervous to talk to him, because you wonder when somebody has a condition that is that compromising, like, is it going to be difficult? Is it going to be difficult for him? A lot of worrying and sort of instinctually co-dependent activity goes on in my brain.
But like. Right, this guy's been living with this and talking with it and embracing it. For decades. And once I got comfortable with him, it was just it was this there is no way around it. It's inspirational and it kind of gives you a fucking reality check. That's coming up, I talked to him. Because, look, I've been very public about, you know, what I'm going through, because that's what it's what I do.
And the weird thing about being public, about what I'm going through and I have this platform and I speak fairly openly on Instagram live, and I have shared my life fairly candidly for years. You know, tapering at certain ways has not to involve or offend or disrespect other people in my life, but for the most part, being pretty straight, you know, just I make some edits to protect some privacy. But, you know, all I've been dealing with outside of this stuff that we've all been dealing with, which is a pig person in the White House who has destabilized the entire fucking world.
And pitted against each other. We're all dealing with that. And we're still dealing with it. I guess we're going to be dealing with it until Biden puts his hand on that fucking Bible in January. And probably after that, obviously, but I am hopeful. Somehow and we've all been dealing with this plague and there seems to be reason for some optimism on that front, but for me, you know, I've been dealing with this fucking. Vohs of.
A person I loved and some animals I loved and. And I've been public with that, and it seems to be. Helpful, it's not unlike the stigma. A disease. There's something about the way that Michael J. Fox lives with his illness publicly. And destigmatize stigmatises it. Mental illness is another thing that is stigmatized. Grief is another thing that is stigmatized, aging is another thing that is stigmatized. Class. Stigmatized. I mean, the list goes on, but I can't speak to all of them.
I can speak to mental illness. I can speak to grief at this point. But these are things that. All human beings go through, everybody's going to go through it. And as long as things stay stigmatized. Then we think when we have the feelings that we have the sickness that we have to. We have to hide. We have to lie, we have to cover. We have to blame I don't know, man. Things are just weighing on me a little bit.
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OK, all right. OK. So I guess I've been kind of serious, kind of raw. And still dealing with this these waves of this. There's nothing good. About greif. But it's something. That everyone is going to have to reckon with. And I know that when I talk about it, I was recently accused of like using my grief. To add to what? It kind of drops off there, doesn't it? You're just exploiting your grief.
You're exploiting the death of your of the person you love. It's like, are you fucking out of your mind? Why would I want that? I just don't know how to make things up, really, and I talk about my feelings and what I'm going through, and I'm a creative person.
I wrote, for some reason, I've been able to write anything about any of it. I've been able to write in my fucking notebook at all, I'm just sort of like dealing with feelings, talking about them sometimes to whoever will listen. And leaning on people to move through this, because that's what people do for each other. We're built to carry each other's burden a little bit, and sometimes it's as easy as fuck and listening. But as I was saying, I haven't been writing about this stuff because I don't know what to do with it and I don't feel the pressure.
I definitely do not want to like people like you got to write about what you're going through. Why? Why? This is what I do. I talk. And I don't want to sell books about whatever it is I'm going through this horrible. It's horrible. But for some reason. The other day, a few days ago, I started writing a song I started writing a song about. What I was going through now, I always play music at the end of this thing and I'm not a songwriter, but I just took an honest approach to it.
And I play guitar and people have said you should do something. I never write songs. I've written maybe three songs in my life and I've only played I've never played them.
But for some reason. The experience I'm going through out of my heart translated into this song, and it was relieving to me and it's like writing a poem or it's like journaling or anything else.
Anything you have to do. You know, without hurting other people to get through the weight. To the other side of it, or at least to get it so it settles in you. You got to do it, there's no right way or wrong way to deal with this stuff.
Keeps coming, but anyway, so I did I wrote I wrote a song and I, you know, despite my hesitation, despite knowing that, like, you know, any time I put any time you put your heart out there in any sort of real way, you know, someone's going to start kicking it around.
But I put it at the end of the show, so I shared it with you.
If it inspires someone to write a song or to express themselves, great. I'm not looking for anything from it. It's just what I did and I'm sharing it. I am a guy who makes things and I'm sharing it. And I know these are trying times. But you don't have to go through it alone if you think you may be depressed or you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, better help. Online counseling offers licensed professional therapists who are trained to listen and to help for anxiety, loss, depression, relationship, conflicts, anger, self-esteem and more.
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I talked to a therapist every week. So Michael J. Fox was great to talk to you, funny and inspirational, and I'm sure he gets that a lot. The book, No Time Like the Future An Optimist Considers Mortality is available now wherever you get books. And this is me talking to Michael J. Fox last week.
Nice to see you, Michael. You see antifreeze? Yeah, it's nice what is in there, what's in that drink?
That's actually this Gatorade type concoction. OK, OK, electrolytes. Electrolytes.
Yeah, yeah. It sparking in the morning. Yeah, sure.
I think we met once. I don't know if you're I think we met in Boston. Denis Leary thing. Right.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. And we're doing the show. Oh I'm glad. Yeah.
I was trying to remember where because I knew I had the memory but it was, it was in the haze of my life of all the memories.
And I'm in the same haze. Yeah. I mean well you've got the double whammy of of I'm 57, you're fifty nine. And on top of that you've got the Parkinson's.
So I imagine it's quite a jungle up there and you've got to whatever you got. Yeah.
Whatever the fuck I have.
Which is just you know my I was, I don't know the memory start to if you lived enough places, if somebody says they knew you from somewhere you got to be like, all right, what year and what town. And you remember and you go, oh yeah, you're that guy.
You see a bar. Yeah I know that, but. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Did I do what. Oh yeah. Can't I didn't want to remember that.
Yeah I didn't realize that like like I'm a recovery guy and I talk kind of openly about it and I don't know where you're at with it, but you talk about it in the book.
But I didn't realize that, you know, the dark night of the soul that lasted a few years was directly related to to your your Parkinson's diagnosis.
That's when you started drinking? No, I started drinking at twelve.
Oh, yeah. I was at the party and partying and then I got diagnosed and it became of medicinal. And I directed the last few years. But two or three years after my diagnosis.
Right. Oh, so you were going out a pretty heavy the whole time.
Yeah, I was diagnosed, was diagnosed in ninety one ninety. I can't remember now and and I quit drinking in ninety two. Prospero's birthday June 20th.
But you've been building towards that. You were going to get there either way. Probably saved a seat for me. Yeah. Yeah. Because I was trying to figure out like you know, when you were shooting you back to the future and running back and forth to do family ties, I was like, you know, how the hell did you do that? I was just curious.
I didn't need anything to get me going. I needed to put me to sleep. So I drink. I drink. Beer is on the way home. OK, I can get up in the morning. So you're always kind of wired as well as I was a twenty three year old and I was doing a TV series and Steven Spielberg movies. I had a lot to do with me. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So so like when you I guess what this book is about is the sort of second kind of collapse of your, your, your, your sort of disposition in relation to all the work you've done on maintaining a disposition that got you through life, that it kind of got dark again.
And some of the tools that you had once relied on stopped working, but I guess in the first time. Wait, how how much from did you really draw from those ideas in recovery to to kind of get you through?
Well, the big thing in recovery for me was always kind of the acceptance and surrender. Right? I got too big for me to kick my ass. I give up. Right. Says I mean, I would say, like you said, something doesn't mean you can't endeavor to change it. Right. The first you have to deal with it is a fact. And I mean, it's like it's like a six pack deficit we've been dealing with in the country for the last eight weeks.
This is what it is you lost. Yeah. Yeah, right. This is the reality. Step up to it. Get into it. Right. So it was my mind kind of thing was that I had always, um, with alcohol. Alcohol does have all those things out. Berries, it gets out of your mind thinking about it and you remember it like you remember it six months later. Right. Whereas with this with this would just to give you a thumbnail, what what happened was that headquarters destroyed 30 years when I had to deal with that next year that we like I said in the book, we can reach detente.
It gave me the room to do what I wanted to do. It took the room that needed to take me and the glasses. But there were gains. And and then I had this final thing, tumor on my back and was fine. I had to get that removed. I was going to be paralyzed. So it was a chance with the surgery to be paralyzed. But I was I was learning to walk again. I had to learn actually the kinetics of walking, and I still don't do it that well.
But so I went to all this and then I still get walking again. And I kept stressing nobody wanted independence. Let them leave me alone and let me get better. Yeah. So I finally got inspired to have a night in my apartment by myself and my family went on vacation. I was waking up this morning to go do a cameo and a Spike Lee movie and Spike Lee movie is producing. And so I was jazz and I got up in the morning and I got out of bed and I walk into the kitchen.
I think I feel really good. I took a little spin on that tile. Yeah. Shattered my head in my awareness. Yeah. So that was the thing that was the most that I dealt with. That was the thing that I have sitting on the floor waiting for the ambulance to come, just going, what an idiot, what a fucking idiot. Insights into this whole thing about all this optimism. You have to say chin up, you know.
Yeah, this is this broken arms. You level with misery and people have misery index have so much worse. Right. You're like saying OK, yeah. OK, ok, bullshit. Yeah. I'm out of the lemonade business. OK, yeah.
It just seems like everything converged on that moment from, you know, all the things that you had sort of framed a different way. It was just that moment where you kind of blamed yourself and then it just collapsed from there.
Yeah, I just went once. It's on me. I just felt very easy to blame myself and go after myself.
Yeah, but it's amazing you held that off for as long as you did. Yeah. I hate to have a really annoying me. I get pissed at myself earlier. Yeah. Yeah.
But like in the beginning, you know, it was sort of amazing that you were able to write like the way you talk about your wife Tracy is it's just a profound relationship that, you know, from the beginning, from that moment where you've got your diagnosis, you've had tremendous success, you're relatively newly married, but you're you're listless and self pitying and just, you know, drowning yourself in booze. And it was a moment where she basically said, you know, there's this how you want to be.
Yeah, it's it's it's this.
What you want is a horrifying moment on the couch. Yeah. On the couch rather than on the west side. So the sun was streaming and I was on the couch sweating. I could tallboy that that thing is still living in the carpet is on the side. My son was kind of climbing on me, poking me, was two years old and I kind of woke up and I saw my wife's feet and I look up and I go to face, expected to be really pissed at me.
The two is just bored. He said, this is what you want is if you want an instant, I want no. And I was in a meeting and two days later.
That's amazing. You were prepared for anger, which you could just that that would just add to your self-pity. But sort of the boredom that was too much to handle just like this.
You know for sure this is over. Any serious excuse, really, Frank, about it? That's what she said in that moment she said she wanted to do, but she's ready to go.
And this is the kind of pain and it's interesting that she comes from sort of a legacy of self-help, right? I mean, she comes from a family of self helpers, right?
Well, certainly the person personally motivated people. That's right. Right, right. The competition and address issues.
Her brother is Michael. Right. But. There's Michael Pollan, who wrote the Bible and hallucinogens and didn't he writes, didn't he write something about food, too? Am I missing a lot about food? In the most recent book? Is the sort of Micro Dosing of Evolution is a really cool book.
And he also he wrote a book, my favorite book they wrote. So The Burning of Desire, which is how it's a natural history science. And it's a book about how plants manipulate us into making them better, like apples, apples. They play the whole game on us to make apples for apple cider. And we get all these apple trees and like marijuana, how can we twist this? We'll get better. It would get higher. We get stronger.
Yeah, it was all the serve the plants because they knew in their deep primal heart on a global level that they'd be left after us and they needed to it with us.
So the beginning when when she calls you out and you go to meetings and you get off the booze and that sort of that, the idea of powerlessness is certainly a good place to start with. Sort of anything out of your control?
Well, not to scare anybody when I say it's over, but the first you get sober and then the first two years of sobriety are like a knife fight in the closet. Yeah. Because it's like it's no fun. You trust no one. You believe no one. I would I would wear the same thing with jeans and a white t shirt and sunglasses and just go sit in the back and write angry, you know, fuck you people.
It is like it gets better.
Yeah. Yeah. That's that moment where, you know, you finally share and you're pissed off and you hate everybody. And some old timer comes up to you and says, you sound great, keep coming back.
You're like, what are you talking about?
You know, I mean, it's been a long time for me too. It's been like twenty one years or something longer for you, I guess.
Wow. Twenty eight. Twenty eight. Are you still in touch with people in the in the rooms or.
Yeah, I still am not to the extent that I was, but I tried to show up every now and then to make sure to get a feel of gratitude.
And that was the sort of the interesting thing about this particular, you know, dark period that you went through after you broke your arm.
Was that, you know, that your gratitude somehow dissolved and you started to question, you know, the impact you had on other people by actually being, you know, optimistic and sort of proactive in living with your disease. That struck me as kind of interesting that you felt guilty somehow.
I felt that I felt that I had, uh and I was going to feel that I had a lot of things in my life and a lot of luxuries and a lot of perks. Yeah. A lot of people are going to get and I try to keep that in my mind when assessing my situation compared to other people's situations. So I thought I to think, wow, how easy was it for me to say, I'm sure I feel great, it's all good and all of that is real.
I mean, the most real I felt all of it was real until that moment end of the phone. And then I went, oh, no, there's another level here. Discovery is quite another level of anger and not accepting it, like not being willing to accept it. So I said, oh, this only thing is it's like I look at this. I got to look at what I've been what I've been offering up. Optimism is panacea.
Like, you know, I've been I wish I was sincere in what I said, but. But at risk sounding glib, you know. Yeah, right. So so I really so I can open my mind. They said, well, you'll see this next period and I'm just going to take notes. And just like you aware, when I'm doing when I'm watching on television, I'm interacting with what message I'm sending them, what message will get it back from them.
And I just started the gratitude thing became a theme that it picked up on and realized everything good came back. Gratitude and this notion of optimism being sustainable when there's gratitude. Right. That gratitude is what makes our optimism sustainable. Right.
And also, I think like alongside of of that realization or that questioning process. I mean, we're also in our mid to late fifties here. I mean, that's a natural.
Yeah, I'm I'm fifty seven. I'm getting late.
Not much happens in the next two years. Not even a soul searching crisis. Exactly. Everyone is. Yeah. That's what I recommend. Take notes. You get a book out of it.
I that's. Yeah. It's been a tough couple of years you know. But but yeah. But I think that, that, that's also a natural time for you to go through that shit on top of whatever you were going through. Right.
Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned Tracy Long. I been to Tracy, but I got to think about this morning. I was having a hard time walking this morning. Yeah. Getting in my house in Long Island and getting in the car. And she's helped me get down the stairs and. You can I guess life just gets better and they said, you got a piece of this, so you got a piece of me, but you got you got you got whinged.
And I apologize for that. This is you. I realized that what she does was asked me what she does and what's so cool back and why it works so well. And I think it's because it's especially as it relates to the Parkinson's, is that she she can feel it. She can understand what I'm going through without assuming that taking on is something she's going to she makes me feel like because I added she has a G and she says it's totally the opposite.
She kind of goes, I can understand it more fully than any other human being, you know, but I don't understand it as well as you do. And she always allows me that room that I know, that extra little piece that she can't know. And she puts up with that. Right. So she got a piece of it, but she has boundaries around it.
That's good. I mean, if she was more co-dependent, you guys probably would have spiraled out years ago.
Yeah. We'd be sitting together with guess over overlaps on it, but wait for someone to bring food.
But did she have that part?
Did she have to go through that part of your process to kind of detach or was it always natural that she had that ability to have the boundaries as I think she learned it when I think she adapted?
Yeah, I think she always had the predisposition to it. I mean, she always. Yeah. You know, when even when I was, like, spiraling out of control, she gave me that edict and then they sent me a strong hit. Yeah. I had to change my ways and and that it was cool. Like we had this thing with a son. It was three. And I went to the time that he was about five or six.
I said to him, and have another baby and you and your mind, that's ridiculous. You got to have another child. And then then then one day she said he could use that.
He could use a brother, sister and the twins a year later. It's kind of cool and validation.
Yeah. And then he had another one. Now you got a full full crew for the great.
Yeah, it's all adults too. So the great thing is, you know, shit is smarter than oh that's good.
And it seems like you all get along and like that was really the heartbreaking part of the struggles that you're entering in mid-life was this idea that, you know, when you see yourself as a liability or as a chore and have to, you know, kind of way that stuff against it, because I would think that in thinking that, you know, it's almost selfish to think that in terms of of how your loved ones love you.
So, like, it must be a very difficult balance to sort of navigate that.
Yeah, it's hard to it's hard to try to explain why you're outside of person on that side, who the people are just a natural coming together when you're in a certain place and someone wants to help you, assist you, grab you, catch you, remove you or help you. It is something that, yeah. When you learn and then you have to think it through and think, well, I see where they're coming from and I see what they, what they need from this and I see what I get from it.
And I have to admit that I get from it and then we can go forward. But it takes it takes some adjusting because people say when I'm walking sometimes over my my momentum will get carry me, I go faster. I talk about in the book the Heisenberg principle that you can't measure location and speed at the same time because you see if you're measuring the speed of it, it's moving location, see it. So it's the same thing like I don't know where I am half assed.
I'm going to give it kind of like it, calculate those two things. So I'll start to actually fast and trip over something in a set of fall. People are going to say, be careful. Yeah, it's too, too late. I'm already I'm going down. I mean, I appreciate the sentiment, but. But you missed the bus. And the other thing is, when you go slow down, it's like if I know I want to walk with my head four feet in front of my feet and like a kitchen angle like this going thirty miles an hour for a bank door, that's my choice.
That's the direction I'm going in, in my life. So so it gets frustrating. But but by then it was family especially. He comes into things filter out and you get down to the place where he just sitting on the couch watching TV and you lean over your head on a shoulder and you you as you say. Yeah, yeah.
And that love is deep and real. And the understanding is is intrinsic to the family unit.
There is really wild during this whole pandemic. Yeah, we are a lot. In the house in Long Island and then weekends, the summer where we're doing that in March and kind of hunker down and the whole family lives there and you get all the things we do, jigsaw puzzles and phone conversations. Did you cook dinner? And we have these long conversations about social justice and the government and all this stuff. And it was just amazing. And then we thought about the fact that the people pressed up against the glass trying to see their loved ones in hallways of the corridors of hospitals and people that died alone.
And in the dichotomy, say the sad irony of so many people's family and unity and joy and awful pain and suffering. And again, so this was writing this book. Yeah, writing this book about myself and my interview, looking at myself with a little meter of navel gazing and stuff. And the world is falling apart. Yeah. And it actually really focused me because I do. I can relate to. I put my pain in perspective. Hmm, helped me write about it in that you were able to, I guess, like it was sort of like trying to kind of come out from under a massive self-pity episode.
Yeah. So for you to find some people who had more pain to compare yourself to on a on a large level in the world we're dealing with gave you a little space.
You know, it wasn't even an active choice to myself. So I didn't go like my usual issues with the world. Right. So you get a sense. You just feel it. It's like it's like it's like this. I'm thinking about this. But when I think like this meeting with this. Right. And look at it from this angle and actually it freed me up in a lot of times. I mean, me get silly because it just because it's just I mean, sometimes you just have well, you're in the business, you know, so they transcend occupation, food within a year.
The end is to piss them off. Yeah, right. You have to look at things through different lens. And it was really strange to I had I was I don't write, I can't type write, I can write a with a Rosetta Stone to figure it out. Right. So I dedicate have this part of my part for Mary and she would be because she was locked down in her place in SAG Harbor and we would get on this thing and I'm, I'm a not I don't think it's really weird that I've been attached to this if I screw it up something.
And so I was really new to this whole face time thing. I said, look, the you get that we get ready. And I'd be sitting on, you know, the crow was in the treetop and. Yeah. And she's very loud. And then and then I go to the bathroom, go and I come back and I bring two glasses of water with her and they don't know you're not here.
You're in it long as. Yeah that's hilarious. Swirl of the world kind of being screwed up. And it was a nice place for me to step in and do my own little.
Wow. I mean, and so that was the writing process. That's something else. So you would sort of you would you would think it and then dictate it and then she would write it down.
You have notes and I would go like I would say, I'm going to I want to I want to talk about I always want to because it's such an odd thing. I write about television and radio golf, which is strange in my life. I'd say I don't want to talk about television. So then I just had these notes and the jumping off place and I'd write it. And it's funny when you speak it, if you speak it with with the intention that it be on the page, it's funny with humor.
I like the way we kind of joke. Right. Is there's a lot to do with ADFIS glargine. Right. Right. And that page that is yet somehow set that up on the page. Yeah, it's the ellipses are my favorite thing in the world that everybody's talking about. You can't use the fucking ellipses. I, I thought that was just my tie.
Yeah, that's the timing. Yeah. Well I mean it's there is you start to realize, I imagine that there is a like it's like joke writers, like the comedy writers. There's a beat to it. I mean you get you start because there's a lot of funny bits in the book, but you could see that eventually you learn that yeah, there's, there are these beats and it lands. It's just a different place to deliver it.
You know, there's a running joke. I with family ties back is where they're great. And Mallory Mallory says, my boyfriend I a great one. Mind and heart, one mind. And then he said, Who's using it tonight? They say, you don't have to be there. I know there's a beat there. I would go get me a glass of orange juice. What's at the proscenium stroll over to her, stroll back, put the juice back in the fridge, come back and say who's using it tonight to bring the house down?
You knew the physical timing don't right beat. Yeah, well, technically, there's a beat. There are.
Now, when you look at like, you know, the way you've handled your life. And it's because there is some really touching parts in the book, you know, in terms of, you know, your mother and Ireland. And then, you know, you had these two women who are your caretakers, who were Irish.
And I've got a fascination with Ireland. I'm a Jew.
But for some reason I feel very drawn to Ireland and I feels they're going to Judaism. Yeah, it seems like you're white, Jewish and my kids love.
And it's that I had to go to.
Great. But like, do you find that that do you find some some solace or some history in that kind of perseverance and ability for the Irish to kind of, you know, take the hit and remain sort of moving forward?
I love I love the survivors and representa. I didn't realize I said that. I like I will actually like alone. I like that show, that TV show. But the guys if they put up in Alaska by themselves. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And rock and eventually like this. Crazy, but I like that survivor mentality and I like that about the Irish, that they're indestructible and invincible and they carry on in spite of everything as against the election, Muslims, the Jews.
I mean, I have the same affinity for the Jewish people and the survivors just like that. Thank you, sir. Can I have another? Yeah, thank you, sir. Can to have another.
I think that the Jews are sort of more kind of. There's a different pitch to the complaining. Yeah. Yeah.
Well it's like they describe the various dialects but but accents. But, but there is a two and two nurses that I had. And when was the morning nurse who was very like Michael. Good morning Michael. And then I had the other one who I who had that kind of thing. They both from Galway. So there no religious different. I got different accents but but they did and they had everything was questioning.
Why do you think you're going what do you mean by that and what are you saying. Yeah, I love that.
I just love that she when I go to the Grand Canyon, she go to my father wouldn't let me go. Who wouldn't want to go, go go to the Grand Canyon. Did she ever go. I got a big coffee table book at the end of the coffee table book you'd find.
Oh, it's beautiful. Yeah. It seems like there has been like, you know, I'm not outside your family as well, but like I found that, you know, when you decided to quit show business because you didn't. You know, I mean, was that another moment of that you had to weigh, like, was it practical or were you feeling sorry for yourself? What was the dialogue initially?
There are two. There are two kind of quitting is one that's just been sitting, which is two thousand. Yeah, I retired and I said I'm going to start the foundation. And I started going and got legs real quickly. After a couple of years it was going well. So I was getting older. People were asking me if I want to do some acting and I belong to the scrubs, asked me to come and do Scrubs and the Boston Legal.
And I did I did commit to it and I did Dennis's show, Rescue Me, and that was great. And so a lot of potential Emmy nominations. So I was like, well, I have this second career that I didn't think about to do a good wife and did twenty six episodes of that. And it was a nice kind of career. There was no there's no financial imperative. There was no I love doing it. And I could I could find a way to add to similarly to use my.
To use Parkinson's in a way, the affect of it, if not the essence of it, in its play, I realized that I can't get my hands on moving. He gets up and hands and washing. It's the same thing. It's so sad because live that and apply that. And then I suppose I could get Parkinson's to work. I went in the family business and that made it I made it plus his ass and do some work and in with a good wife.
I played a guy who had of dyskinesia which is like Parkinson's, and he used to use it to manipulate people and then have the opportunity show that disabled people can be assholes to.
Yeah, no, I think that was, I think that whole lesson, you know, when when Denis Leary, you know, brought you in and, you know, challenged you to a certain degree to play a guy, you know, that wasn't a Parkinson's guy and he was kind of an asshole. And you know that your initial response was resistance. But it seems to me that, like not unlike many other episodes in your life, that, you know, that your brain was trying to to sort of work with this disease except the disease, you know, integrate it and have sort of a strange partnership with it of acceptance.
And it seems like those roles really helped you kind of see it for what it was, but also see the power of it. Yeah, exactly.
It's exactly right. And then what happened with what you're alluding to is that is the second quiting or the second in the tournament. I just I did it I did a couple of things just after my back surgery so that I've been somewhat. There is a different kind of disability than the Parkinson's it can write to that you don't get along really well because a person wants to move my body and freeze in different places on my spine, wants to not send energy to places.
So it's kind of dead. Energy is kind of weird to work with. So so I was doing other things that did for show that designated Survivor. I did. I did an episode of The Good Fight. Yeah. And I was there for some reason. I was when I did Family Ties and I did something, I could look at the script and I could look at it for five minutes and I got it and just download it before downloading was I would just download the shit I know it.
And it kind of always stayed with me that had that ability to spin city. And so I started doing the shows. I couldn't remember my lines and get them. I couldn't I couldn't when I was so busy trying to cover them that I couldn't speak them in the way that the way that I wanted to do what I had and what I had in mind for the character. Yeah. So I just it was about that time that that that I saw Once upon a time in Hollywood.
Oh yeah. And that great scene with Leo when he goes into it, can't remember his lines. And so he goes to the testimony, berates himself and I had them when I can guess. And I said to myself in the mirror, say, you fucking idiot.
I thought, this is where I'm at this anymore.
That's it. That's certainly better.
You waited till you fell on the floor and broke your arm to berate yourself that liberating myself and now was after, you know.
Yeah, but yeah, I can't like it's really hard for me, like when I read the book, you know, there are these this sort of, you know, your humor, your sense of humor. And you're, you're, you're, you're, you're sort of like, you know, almost desperate need to navigate and maintain this relationship with your body, you know, in an intellectual way. You know, you you know, the way you confront it, it seems, was never sort of like I'm fucked.
But it was sort of like, OK, this is doing this now. So now I've just got to do this to counter this and then I can walk.
You know, it's just it's an ongoing sort of vigilance of of working with this partner that is a degenerative illness.
And I've never like I don't know many people with these kind of illnesses, but but I mean that in and of itself. It would seem that, you know, the desire to sort of give up would be sort of always pending. But I never got that sense from the way you discussed it even. And also the fact that you just kept doing shit.
I mean, that trip to to get well before Africa, even just to Kathmandu, I was at Kathmandu is on the way.
I mean, it's like, what are you doing? Like, in my mind, like, I won't do that just because I'm nervous about food in other places.
But you're you're you're you're dealing with this disease and you're like you're on a plane to fucking Bhutan. I'm like, holy shit, I'm afraid to go to Arizona.
It's a little friendly, you know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just I just liked it better than the alternative. And so if I'm here, I'm going to enjoy it and I want to and I don't want it, but I don't want to over stuff and I don't want to like not acknowledge that it's real. Again, it's an acceptance and it's and it's an understanding what my situation is. And and so I just like look at it and like that's the thing.
I always when I put all that stuff up, it would never match how much I like life and how much I love the people in my life. And then and then it was that moment under the phone on the floor. I was told by me and I was on the kitchen floor and I just feel sorry for myself and Chris the morning. And I thought at that point, the plan to be said that not never participate. Now, now, now I know I don't like this.
I don't accept this. I don't want to take it. And I don't want to try to understand it. And I know and try to make it better. I don't appreciate any face on it. I just want I just want to be out from under this thrown off this floor and fucking better and then just does not have to deal with this shit anymore. But you deserve that.
I mean, you know, you have the right to be fed up at some point.
I mean, but what was great about it was that it led me to this place where I really thought about it and I and I just started to get it reorganized again and get it. Get it. But but it came from different places. It came from different things. It didn't come from. I want to feel better. I want to do better. I want to I want to be someone I like. We just want to make this put a good face on this, like.
If I listen to these if I listen to this message of gratitude that came from my father in law, who is a very influential man in my life and and and I listen to and look at relationships and to look at I look at things like like what if I what if I get dementia or what if I lose my mind, my cognitive abilities. Yeah. That means so much effort that I actually had this moment they talk about in the book the real wow moment.
I was watching an ad for for Duplantier, which is a Parkinson's drug for Parkinson's dementia. Yeah, yeah. And it's a drug. We were involved early on in the development of it. But this guy is in the season. This past will be part of this beautiful home and he's looking at his dog. And then he said to dogs, Yeah, and his wife is coming now. His wife's with the man who doesn't understand, you know, and so anxious and so that those kind of delusions and so much of the commercial insanity, my office, and we'll watch it.
And then I turn to my left and I said, the man who was there, what did you think of that?
Yeah, he did that.
You but, you know, like you talked a lot about some of the hallucinations you had in the hospital after the back surgery. But you don't deal with that. You don't deal with that stuff on a regular basis.
Do you know what? I want to get his label, which is peripheral stuff like like if I had my glasses on the frame with my glasses. Oh, I'll see it until someone's moving it. But then I notice my glasses. Right, right, right.
I also think, like, another thing that you seem to do, which is beautiful, is that from all your life experiences, you kind of build these metaphors that function for you, like with golf, with leopards, you know, with like the like I don't know how I never understood golf, but it seems like you have a passion for it.
But you drew some analogy, you know, between, you know, golf and and and and brain surgery. Like you you take lessons from it.
Yeah. Like I like I really like in my writing because I'm not a writer, but but I love metaphors and I love cliches and I love to just bust up cliches and bust up metaphors and make them all crazy because it's interesting to me and I always find I think I think in metaphors and I think like like it seems it seems to apply to things you wouldn't think they apply to. Like I might explain this, but like trying to learn to walk again.
So I had all these things right. Click the heels with the heel and bring with the weight from the thing and get the hips out front. And all this is just a list of things, right, that I think about every time I go to the fridge. Yeah. And then I really have to step in and made a pivot to put it on the counter, to go back, I think. And then my my daughter, my daughter Brisas, who grabs a coconut water because of the hip and bounce at the door.
Yeah. And and so so I think then I think about golf and golf. I have to get my feet set, get, you know, get my block out of the ball, get all that that list of things. Yeah. Then it's about golf. Right.
So what's more annoying like doing that with golf? If I had to do it for walking out, we'll do a golf.
Yeah, right. And the leopard thing was pretty scary. I like, you know, to be stuck in a watering hole in Africa and then realized the connection of the leopard in the tree and then realized, like, I could be food.
Yeah, I was just up just like my only my only my only hope is that I'm not that delicious. Yeah.
Because you're not going to be able to get away necessarily the back of the neck and you're up hanging from a tree in a second and licking your hair off. That's right.
Yeah. Well yeah. But the analogy you drew in terms of your life was that there's the leopard that you see and then there's the one that you can't see and then there's the one that prowls around in your dark place. Yeah.
You are the one who can't see that probably isn't there, but a city in and we talk about like be on the safari. Yeah. And I'm seeing all the animals and all the stuff we did. We had the same we broke down at the watering hole and I was thinking to take my family back and wait here for the and I'm thinking I'm going to die. Yeah, we've eaten by a leopard. We've got that tree. I can't see now.
And he's just waiting for because I'm so old one and move that well and I'll be easy to take in. So if those young ones to leave and they get me. Yeah. So, so but then this weekend we were rescued but we'll get back to the camp where these tents, these kind of. Glimpsing things, yeah, we have four poster bed and desk and first African horns and intelligent skulls, and I have to make a tent in the middle of that.
And I get to this to this thing at the end of the tent, which is just kind of the treeing thing. Yeah, that's not really relevant. And I have to serve through like the dark I have is reading from it and let it look like one of those fish in the Mariana Trench, the anglerfish. Finish feeling my way through this antique store and then and I realize I can't lean on anything. I can lean on the wolf and lean on the tent of my wife.
It comes down on me and the nearest hospital is like. In Kenya or something, yeah, and that's a serious one. Yeah, that's the most potentially lethal thing I do in that whole trip, is go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom at night.
And so I put that in perspective.
There's the leopard, you see, there's the chicken, really afraid of it. And you can see him and he's scaring you because you're in these big vehicles and you don't see individuals in a vehicle and see the vehicle, which is a big monolithic monster that they don't want to mess with unless you get out of the vehicle. Then you then you've exposed the fraud. You write, you become from lunch. Yeah.
So and then when I was stuck in the water hole, I was I was at precisely that position because I got out of the jeep because the jeep in the mud. Yeah, it was serious.
It was being intense at home and yeah. Just the practical thing.
So when you're awake, what do you think, what do you kind of see as the the thoughts that really got you out this last time?
Well, I had a few things, had a golf thing was cool, like a little side trips I took in the book, like golf with my buddies and people like that. Like I said, when I was in the Army. Hamako and the mystery writer.
Yeah, it is pretty strange little trio of guys that the government doesn't have phones and parties don't go head phones and Parkinson's don't go because my hand is flying around.
Oh yeah. I decided to stay with the mask and I finally said with the matter that the librarian thing like librarians glasses. Right. And these have been hanging down my paper. But but I would pull the chain. All of them.
Yeah. We might be able to finish it up without the headphones if they keep count. OK, so, so OK.
So you had good friends and that was a big thing. And that was, that was important. And in these moments in my family, that was just a little moments that I didn't write about when my daughter was the one thing. She was there the night the night before I had my accident. She begged me to let her stay and get me off in the morning. And I said, that was something silly. Go home, go. Yeah.
In the next one idea, they said she still is talking about it. All right. And and it was crazy. And and it was a big scene with my with my father. I was just he was always saying it gets better.
And he was always like with gratitude and and he was battling cancer right. Then cancer. And he was this moment I talk about in the book where I go over and visit him and have lunch and bring in a mystery novel. Yeah. And we just hang out and they had a cat come on his arm a little bit later out of the water glass, and we went into the room to clear the room, the TV room watching CNN, which I am Trump.
Yeah. And the doorbell rang at the service entrance and went back in with the guy from the hospice. Yeah, the hospice equipment. And I brought him in and it was awkward because because I know how I feel about this. And so I gave the tape and he gave us directions and he said, which would you do as a patient?
Is the last time I heard Steve really laugh.
Yeah, I think the point you make toward the end of the book about about what you what Steve said to you, about, you know, gratitude being the foundation of optimism. What exactly was it that he said?
Well, he was around that. And I in I expressed that of saying with gratitude is sustainable. But he would say that you you say you talk around that that that that that if you can't unless you get to those who are grateful for being there and you're grateful for what you what you take in, and you don't have to automatically be grateful, you find a way to be grateful. Right.
You have to.
Especially when you're an alcoholic. You know that, Gratiot. I have to you have to force myself to do it because I'd rather I'd rather be sort of miserable. Yeah. So, I mean, you have to make a choice to be grateful and make the list and all that shit and then it's worth it.
But yeah, it's much easier.
Just go fuck it together. I think it's a TV show where those people sit in a tent for ten months. Right.
Well, I thought that was interesting that, you know, because I found a little of that during the pandemic like that. You when you were in your most depressed this last time that you just fell into the rabbit hole of never ending television and you found some comfort in that. And you're sort of. Tripping out on all the different decades available and all the weirdness available, but there's that moment where you talk about like, you know, realizing that you're part of this world only survive rearing.
Listening to watch these game shows, game shows. Yeah. Those are which are horrendously racist and misogynist. And just like, you know, like Native Americans will come on the cheap one on one, we just like.
Are you kidding me. Hey lady, come on. It'll be worth listening to these initial misses. It misses.
Oh yeah. Right, right. Yeah.
And the thing I noticed was that everyone is dead. Yes. Oh it dead. Every talk show host. Every game show host was dead. Yeah. I think I said this is the best time to host a game show host of all time. Just what is a great guy. Yeah. Alex Yeah. House Gotanda. Yeah.
Well I mean but yeah. So it's sort of interesting that that kind of brought you up against your mortality because I would think that, you know, like the one thing I don't really hear or see from you are in the book is that this sort of impending sort of doom and gloom that you don't you know, I don't there's no real language around, like, you know, this is going to kill me or, you know, I'm afraid of death or any of that 30 years from now.
Dead. Thirty years in a dead thirty thirty five thirty.
But if it were, then I would say in the book, the last thing you run out of is the future. Right. The last thing you have its future and then you'll have it right in your notes. Right. So. So I'm not too worried about that, except to the extent that I have. My relationships are solid in my life and I haven't left anybody in messes to clean up or any any holes to fall into. And so, you know, whatever.
Yeah. Oh. About my dog and my dog. They're there.
Oh yeah. Oh they're. If you're more worried about your dog than your then your then your mortality and miserable life.
Is that the same dog that's in the book.
Yeah. You have it. You have that dog.
And then after, after I wrote the book and I wrote about worrying about his mortality, it was it is a sea urchin in the South Pacific that lives to be turning 50 years old. And my dog probably won't make it to twelve. Yeah, it's. What and how far is that crick?
Yeah, there's no I don't think there's there's not a lot of fairness to it all when you break it down.
No, I enjoy it just like so park it in a little brain spine paralysis. A little broken arm. A little too. Yeah.
Yeah it seems. Yeah it's very, very good. I mean you hear that all the time, but it is great to talk to you and it's inspirational that you're able to, to maintain this in the even reading your books. It helps me. And I think that that moment, like the one thing I know from doing a regular show where I speak my mind and deal with talk about sobriety or depression or whatever, is that there is an amazing moment where I didn't anticipate and I don't think you did either, that your experience can truly help people, not just sobriety, but your experience with Parkinson's, back surgery, brain surgery, spine surgery.
But but it makes a profound difference in some people's lives to know they're not alone with things and to know that that someone else can get through it. And that's just a byproduct of the lives that you're living and in some respects in the life I'm living. But it's an amazing gift, I think. And it's nothing I asked for.
I to tell you that I have to say this. I saw as comedy special was about three years ago. Forty four years ago. And that a lot of ways gave me to write the book. I mean, I saw you just bare your soul and still be funny and talk about shit that I didn't, I wouldn't talk about and talk about anything. Yeah. I just, I just, I said, this is great. This is so powerful.
And so it's so I really do so much because that the substance abuse and and just the craziness of being a mind that wants to and wants to get anything out of life, wants to embrace life and then in soaking everything there is soaking. But then there's this shit going on right up. All the slack is back and you can fight your way through it. It's just really inspiring it to. Thank you for that. Oh, thanks, man.
That means a lot. Thanks, Michael, and thank you for your book and thank you for talking to me. And and, you know, I'm glad you're still having a good time. Yeah.
Let's get take care, buddy. That was amazing. I hope it stays with me now that conversation with him and seeing him and having that time. The book is called No Time Like the Future An Optimist Considers Mortality. It's available now wherever you get books. And don't forget, simply safe home security is having a huge holiday sale, up to 50 percent off any simply safe system and a free security camera. The system has an arsenal of sensors and cameras that protect every inch of your home.
You can set it up yourself in about 30 minutes, get up to 50 percent off, simply safe. Plus a free security camera today by visiting simply safe dotcom, WTF, that's simply safe dotcom. So, as I said earlier, I'm not a songwriter, but for some reason one came out of me. I play music here all the time. There's a little more vulnerable. I know. It puts me it puts me into the zone of being ridiculed, criticized and hurt.
But I wrote a song and I'm going to play it. It's tentatively called I'm Done, and this is his workshop here, just me and a guitar and acoustic guitar, which I don't do much.
Who knows what it'll become? It may never become anything.
So, yeah, I don't do this. I don't do this. Your boots are still here. They're just here. I weep with relief when I wake up alone in a crater three. I go in there sometimes. Just open the blinds, see the two things and cry for a while. Now, I cling to your absence. Which will always pay to. Then there's.