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July 02, 2004 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-07-02

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wonderful," Tambor recalls.
ated the show]. I think it's smart. I
"The second day we're there, the
think it's funny. It doesn't talk
guy doesn't talk to me, nor does he
down. It's bold."
talk to my wife the whole day. The
Ironically, those are exactly the
things critics across the country have third day he comes up to me in the
bathroom and starts weeping on my
said. Then why aren't people watch-
shoulder about his family and his
ing?
money situation. On the fourth day,
"That would be a question,"
he's upbeat again.
Tambor concedes. "But I get the
"That's me. I'm a Hungarian wait-
sense that people are watching. I was
er. I still have the genetic structure
just in New York doing publicity. I
of a Hungarian Jew."
was walking along Madison Avenue
Then he talks about a favored
and [on] every block, people
grandfather. The family bought him
stopped me to say how much they
a bathtub/Jacuzzi combo. One day
liked the show. Maybe I'm just a hit
the family found him sitting naked
on the East Side [of Manhattan]."
in the bathtub pointing at the noz-
Tambor, 60, was born and raised
in New York. He began to study act- zles and all he said was, "Nu?"
"I get that," Tambor says. "I think
ing when he was 12, and majored in
theater at San Francisco State, where that is a particularly Jewish response.
That's why I respond to Philip Roth
he earned his bachelor's degree.
as a novelist. I'm a Jewish boy."
He jump-started his career in
He's a Jewish boy who has done
Detroit, where he received his mas-
remarkably well. His is a career
ter's degree in theater arts from
that's played out "exactly" as he
Wayne State University.
thought it would.
Tambor spent the early days of his
Tambor went bald very early, so
professional career, in the late
even in summer stock as a young
1960s, as a member of the Hilberry
man, "I played_ all the old roles. I
Theatre, WSU's repertory company,
became a character actor early in my
performing the classics. "It was the
career, and I've been very fortunate.
formative years of my life," he says.
I love to work. I love acting. I love
His grandparents were Orthodox
being a character actor."
Jews, his parents Conservative. "I
.
In addition to all his television
have so many memories [of the syn-
roles
(he
was
a
recurring
character
agogue]," he says. Yet puberty
on Hill Street Blues, The Ropers, L.A.
seemed to drain those emotions.
Law), Tambor has had a substantial
"I was bar mitzvahed at gun-
point," he says. "What happened? I - film career, starting with 1979's And
Justice For All, with Al Pacino, and
had sort of like questions and ... ."
continuing almost uninterrupted
His voice trails off as he tries to find
with
quality work in Pollock with Ed
the right words.
Harris; Never Again with Jill
. "I'm not making sense. I just did-
Clayburgh and many others. Most
n't quite get it. Like every young
recently, he was featured in Hellboy.
man, I rebelled. My Jewishness has
However, he is probably best
sort of come late. I'm more of a
remembered for his role as Hank
bagel-ly Jew than anything else, but
Kingsley, Ed McMahon to Garry
I am Jewish."
Shandling's Larry Sanders on the
In fact, he adds, "I do believe my
HBO series The Larry Sanders Show.
stroke as an actor is Jewish. My
"It's not true," he says, when asked
humor is Jewish. My sense of para-
if people constantly approach him
dox is Jewish. I grew up in a
and say, "Hey now," the catch
Hungarian Jewish family, so I have
phrase he used on theshow.
that sense of irony, that ability to
"Most people approach me with
turn tragedy into humor."
He illustrates his point with a cou- respect, trepidation and nausea, all
at the same time."
ple of stories.
Like the waiter on a good day,
Taking a break from filming in
Tambor can't resist shtick. ❑
Prague, Tambor and his wife trav-
eled to Budapest, where they were
served by a Hungarian waiter.
Arrested Development is airing in
"First day he came up to us, he
reruns 8:30 p.m. Sundays on
was the funniest guy. He was doing
Fox. Check your local listings.
accents and I thought him beautiful-
ly funny, charming, exotic and

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