James Lipton to Romney: ‘You can’t pretend to be what you’re not’


Inside the Actors Studio’s James Lipton joined the NOW with Alex Wagner panel to discuss his New York Magazine article, “How to Act Human: Advice for Mitt Romney From Inside the Actors Studio.” 

Lipton spoke with Wagner and the NOW panel about Mitt Romney’s inability to empathize and connect with the average American.

“One can be from an upper class background, of course, and still empathize with people,” Lipton said, referencing past presidents such as FDR and Kennedy—both who came from privileged backgrounds, yet connected with a broad spectrum of Americans.

“Mr. Romney is pretending to be a common man, the way kids pretend when they, ‘Bang! You’re dead,’” Lipton said on NOW.

Lipton added that even the most famous actor-turned-politician knew not to “play pretend” with his role as a leader. ”[Ronald] Reagan was always himself,” he said. “He was who he was—whatever his legacy, whatever his politics—he was precisely and always himself. He was very comfortable in himself, and unfortunately, Romney is not.”

In his New York Magazine article, Lipton wrote about Romney’s laugh, which he noted contains “no pleasure there, no amusement”:

Listen to his laugh.  It resembles the flat “Ha! Ha! Ha!” that appears in comic-strip dialogue balloons. But worse – far worse – it is mirthless. Mr. Romney expects us to be amused, although he himself is not amused. Freeze the frame, cover the bottom of his face with your hand, and study his eyes. There’s no pleasure there, no amusement. Genuine laughter is triggered only by, and is completely dependent on, shared perception. That’s why we say we “get” a joke.

But Mr. Romney is too busy working to share anything – like the vaudevillian tapping so desperately that he’s covered with what performers call “flop sweat.” In rehearsal, I once heard a director say to an overeager actor, “Relax, you’ve got the job.” Now that Mr. Romney seems to have wrapped up the nomination, that counsel may apply here.

Lipton’s criticism of Romney’s stiff and fake public persona is part of the narrative about Romney’s career in politics. From Saturday Night Live to an auto-tuned musical tribute, Romney has been portrayed as pandering and out-of-touch.

“He has some work to do,” Lipton said on NOW. “He is not convincing the American people that he is a common man.”


Mitt Romney

James Lipton to Romney: 'You can't pretend to be what you're not'