James Lipton, the host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” has died at the age of 93. His wife, Kedakai Turner, confirmed his passing when speaking to TMZ. Lipton retired from hosting the iconic show in 2018. The show premiered in 1994.
Prior to hosting his world-famous show, Lipton was an actor, writer and producer. In the 1970s, Lipton was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on the show, “The Doctors.” Lipton produced birthday television specials for Bob Hope as well as producing Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala.
Famously, Lipton would conclude his interviews by asking his subject 10 questions inspired by French talk show host Bernard Pivot. The final of which was, “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lipton’s Wife Said He Would Want to Be Remembered as Someone Who Had ‘Tremendous Respect for All of the People He Worked With
Turner told TMZ, “There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with.” Lipton had been the dean emeritus of the Actros Studio Drama School at Pace University. Lipton had been suffering from bladder cancer, reports the New York Times.
Lipton was a native of Detroit, Michigan, where he was born in September 1926. His parents, Lawrence and Betty Lipton were the descendants of Eastern European Jews. His father had been a beat poet who abandoned his family when he divorced Betty in 1932.
2. Perhaps the Most Famous Episode of the Show Involved Dave Chappelle
Perhaps the most famous episode of the show came when the roles were reversed and Lipton was himself the subject of an interview conducted by comedian Dave Chappelle. The special was done to celebrate the show’s 250th episode in 2008. During the interview, the pair found time to talk about the fact that they once went to a Jay-Z concert together. Chappelle himself had previously been a guest on the show.
The Wall Street Journal noted at the time that Lipton and Chappelle had become close friends following his first visit to the show. Following Chappelle’s appearance on the show, Lipton described him as being “emotionally and intellectually naked. Dave was unforgettable.”
3. Lipton Left the Show in 2018 Following 20 Emmy Award Nominations
Lipton retired in 2018 as the show he created moved from Bravo TV to Ovation TV. In a statement announcing his departure, Lipton said, via The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s very gratifying to see the legacy of Inside the Actors Studio being carried forward for a new generation to appreciate and enjoy. I made a vow early on that we would not deal in gossip — only in craft, and Ovation, as a network dedicated to the arts, will continue that tradition with the next seasons of the series. I’m excited to see the new hosts engage with the guests and students and continue to entertain viewers in the U.S. and around the world.”
The show had been Lipton’s brainchild, coming up with the idea while working with Pace University and the New School in Manhattan. Prior to the television series, Lipton had created a master of fine arts program that was divided between the two schools. Shortly after that program was created, the television series was conceived. During the show’s run, it was nominated for 20 primetime Emmy Awards. In 2013, the show was awarded the Emmy for outstanding informational series or special.
4. Lipton Did Not Like David Cross’s Impression of Him
Lipton infamously did not like comedian David Cross’s impression of him on MadTV. Lipton said in a 2007 interview that he had never seen in the impression but had heard about it. Lipton described it as being “not good-natured.” When Lipton appeared on “Arrested Development, he says that Cross came to see him in his trailer to express how “thrilled” he was that the talk show host was appearing in the show.
Cross responded by saying that he felt as though “Inside the Actor’s Studio” was “pretentious.” When the cast of “Arrested Development” appeared on the talk show, Cross did not attend.
In a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, Cross said, “I wouldn’t say that I was psyched to work with James Lipton because I had made fun of him so brutally before. But that turned out to be interesting if nothing else. And that’s what life is about.”
Cross said in a separate interview with the Hollywood Reporter, “I didn’t have any scenes with Lipton in this series, but I remember working with him before. I was really impressed with how he would just roll with it. I mean, I still can’t stand his show [Inside the Actors Studio], but he was great.”
For the record, Lipton did approve of Will Ferrell’s “Saturday Night Live” impression.
5. In 2013, Lipton Admitted That He Has Previously Worked as a Pimp in Paris
In a 2013 interview with Parade Magazine, Lipton admitted that he had previously worked as a pimp while living in Paris in the 1950s. Lipton told the magazine, “It was only a few years after the war. Paris was different then, still poor. Men couldn’t get jobs and, in the male chauvinist Paris of that time, the women couldn’t get work at all. It was perfectly respectable for them to go into le milieu.”
Lipton went on to describe the women as “beautiful and young and extraordinary.” He went on to mention that the prostitution was regulated and legal at the time in Paris. Lipton added that women were forced to go through regular health checks. Lipton went on, “I did a roaring business, and I was able to live for a year. . . I was going through my rites of passage, no question about it. It was a great year of my life.”