Alan Alda On Acting, Science, And Communication

Jul 6, 2017

Alan Alda’s acting career has spanned six decades, starting with an appearance on “The Phil Silvers Show,” an early network TV comedy hit, way back in 1953. In the years since, he’s appeared in countless television shows, including “The West Wing,” “ER,” “30 Rock” and many more. He’s been a star on Broadway and in dozens of feature films. But Alda is probably always going to be best remembered for his portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce, on the beloved television series “M*A*S*H.” The show ran for 11 seasons, and the finale, in 1983, broke the record for the most-watched TV series in history at the time - 125 million viewers.

But there’s another side to Alan Alda that most people don’t know about. He’s a genuine science geek, a passion which became even stronger during his years hosting a PBS series called “Scientific American Frontiers.” As you’ll hear in our conversation, that series taught him a lot about the difficulties many scientists and doctors have in communicating clearly to each other and to the rest of us. He decided to do something about that. He took the lessons he’d learned as an actor, especially in improvisation classes, and helped develop a program at New York’s Stony Brook University that’s taught thousands of scientists and doctors how to communicate more clearly.

And now he’s written a book which distills his years of studying how we talk to one another. Alda believes it can help all of us learn to communicate more effectively if we pay attention to what his experiences as an actor have taught him. The book is called “If I Understood You, Would I Have this Look on My Face?

A note from the TWS team:

If you like to listen to the broadcast edition of Two Way Street, we want to let you know that starting this week we’ve moved. The first run of our shows now air on Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m. We’ll continue to re-broadcast the show on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m.