Leslie Jordan Speaks at Google

Uploaded by Google on 16.07.2007


MALE SPEAKER: Well, everybody, I'd like to welcome Leslie
Jordan here to Google.
He's nominated for an Emmy.
Let's congratulate him on that.

He also has a show that's playing at the Lorraine
Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco.
And it is ending this weekend, and if you would like to go,
there's a discount.
If you want to go to Sunday night's show--
LESLIE JORDAN: Sunday afternoon.
It's 2:30.
MALE SPEAKER: OK, I'm sorry.
All right, well, at this point, I'm just going to turn
it over to Leslie.
Leslie Jordan, everybody.

LESLIE JORDAN: Some of you might know me from a
television series-- the one that I got the
Emmy nomination for--
Will & Grace.
Well, well, well, Karen Walker.
I thought I smelled gin and regret.
Some of you might know me.
I have this movie, that's really popular in the Bay
Area, that I did with Olivia Newton-John years ago calls
Sordid Lives.
Has anyone seen Sordid Lives?
You should go out and rent Sordid Lives.
In Sordid Lives, I play a man in the mental hospital who
thinks he's Tammy Wynette.
And he busts out of the mental hospital, and he shows up at
his mama's funeral in this very conservative little Texas
town in full drag, and shenanigans ensue.
So I'm very proud of that.
Some of you may know me from Boston Legal, which is a TV
show that I work on quite a bit, where Betty White--
I murder my mother, and then they get me off.
And then I murder the neighbor, and they get me off.
And then Betty White murders me with a skillet.
But what you may not know, and what my show is about, is that
I am the gayest man I know.

People ask me all the time, they say, "Leslie, when did
you come out?" And I think, "Come out?
Well, wouldn't I had to have been in?" To come out, I sort
of fell out of the womb and landed in my
mother's high heels.
And I have been on the prance ever since.
My daddy was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and I was
not exactly the son he envisioned.
He used to call me son as if he was in deep pain.
He would just say, "Oh, son."
One of my earliest aspirations, I wanted to be--
y'all are way too young.
This is a young company.
I cannot believe how young this company is, which is
really exciting, but I feel like somebody's sugar daddy or
something like that.
But there was a show on television years ago called
Hullabaloo, which was way before MTV, and it featured
these go-go dancers up on these white cubes.
And I decided, when I was about six or seven, that was
what I wanted to be when I grew up, was a go-go dancer.
And so I would push all the furniture back in the living
room, and I would get up on the coffee
table, and I would practice.
And my poor dad would come home with his army buddies,
and his firstborn son would be go-go dancing.

My favorite was "Wipe Out" by The Safaris.
Y'all are probably way too young to remember that.
Da da da da da da da da.
But then my mom was this really, really
sweet southern belle.
I think my mother and my grandmother took one look at
little Leslie, and they thought, "Oh, he's going to
need some help." So my mother and my grandmother created
this secret garden where it was OK for little boys to play
with dolls.
It was OK for little boys to read a Trixie Belden, a Nancy
Drew, instead of The Hardy Boys.
It was OK for little boys to sew doll clothes
and make pot holders.
I was very artistic.
So this little boy was allowed to do
whatever he wanted except--
we just didn't tell daddy.
Now my mom was this champion baton twirler who thought
nothing of getting her seven-year-old son out in the
front yard with a baton in the middle of summer,
and we would practice.
And I was really good.
I could throw it under my legs, I could spin,
I could catch it.
So there I am just going to town with my little baton, and
my dad comes pulling up with all of his army buddies.
And I remember my dad would just say, "Oh, son." I had
this really, really high, squeaky voice.
And I used to holler, "Daddy, daddy, watch me twirl," while
I paraded around the front yard.
But anyway, my dad would say, "Son, why don't you twirl in
the house?" And I said, "Well, mama's scared I'll break
something." He said, "I will pay for whatever you break."
But you know what?
I do a lot of talking around the country.
I do--
I don't want to call it new-agey talks, but what I'd
like to talk a little bit about today is how you measure
your success.
Because I'm in this industry--
first of all, eight years ago, I got two DUIs in one year.
They have very, very tough DUI laws in Southern California,
and I was sentenced to 120 days in the Twin Towers, which
is this horrible--
if any of you are having any problems with drinking and you
want to get sober, a little time in the
Twin Towers will help.
Trust me.
It's no place for someone 4' 11".
But anyway, I got sober about eight years ago--
I was very popular in the Twin Towers.
But it's not why you think.
It's more because I'm a big talker and everybody's so
bored there.
But anyway, I just decided that the jig was up.
I was a product of the 1960s smoking a lot of pot and
taking acid.
And then, all of the sudden, it was the '70s, and here we
were in our Elton John platform shoes taking
Quaaludes and going to discotheques.
And then it's the '80s, and it was making a whole lot of
money and doing a whole lot of cocaine.
And then it was just the '90s and I was just a mess.
And I kept this career afloat during all of it, but all of a
sudden, I'm 42 years old, and I'm completely sober.
And I was having a really, really hard time measuring,
was I a success?
And it's a lot like this industry.
You have people on one end of the scale making millions of
dollars, like your Tom Cruises and your Jim Carreys.
And then 85% of my union, on the other end, earns less than
$10,000 a year.
That's what you have to earn to get your insurance.
And so 85% percent of my union.
So I was having this really hard time-- just like in this
industry, you have the Sergeys and what's his name making the
trillions of dollars on that end of the spectrum.
And then you have people that are the nine-to-fivers.
And how do you measure, am I a success at what I do?
Especially with me because I worked all the time, but I
never, ever felt--
one thing I think people who have addiction problems like I
did, we have a disease of more.
And it's just never enough.
I could be Madonna in front of a huge, huge crowd, and I
never feel like it's enough.
I'm addicted to attention.
I'm addicted to anything.
Anything you throw my way that makes me feel good, I'm
addicted to.
But anyway, I had this really wise spiritual advisor, which
is what we have in LA.
We have spiritual advisors.

I had this spiritual advisor.
I kept asking him, how do I measure my success when you've
got some people making millions of dollars, and then
I'm on this other end of the spectrum where I work--
I'm a working actor, and it's slowly--
in 1992, I stepped off a bus from the hills of Tennessee.
I couldn't even afford Greyhound.
It was Trailways.
You don't even have Trailways anymore.
And I had $1,200 sewn into my underpants.
And I had this tiny little suitcase, and I ha had these
huge dreams. And that was 1982.
Well, it's now 22, 23 years later, and it's all starting
to come to fruition.
But even now, am I a success?
They say, OK, you're nominated for an Emmy.
Well, what about an Oscar?
That's just where my mind goes.
But something really interesting happened.
My spiritual advisor said to me, "Do you have a job coming
up?" And I said, "Yeah, I do.
I have a job coming up.
I'm on Caroline in the City, and it's a five-episode arc,
and I play the marriage therapist."
And he said, "I want you just to try something for me." And
this is going to sound so new-agey, but I'm telling you,
it worked for me.
He said, "I want you to show up at that
job to be of service.
And not just to be of service, but to be of loving service."
And I thought, "Oh, please." But I tried that.
I went to work on this Caroline in the City.
And I showed up and he said, "I want you to be of service
to the producer.
He has a budget.
That means you're on time.
You show up.
You have your lines learned.
I want you to be of service to the director.
It's not your vision, darling.
It's not your vision, it's his vision." You have these actors
that want to come in and-- he said, "You are just to be of
service to his vision.
And you are to be of service to your fellow actors.
You're 4' 11".
You have that southern accent and those big ears.
It's real easy for you to steal the scene." Until I met
Megan Mullally from Will & Grace.
And I'm telling you, that bitch, I love her to death.
She's the most brilliant comedian.
No matter what I threw her way, she hurled it back at me
faster, higher, funnier.
I have met my match.
There's no scene stealing from Miss Megan Mullally.
But anyway, he said to me, "Why don't you show up and
just be of service?" And the most amazing thing happened.
With that tiny little tweak, where it wasn't so much about
me anymore--
even in audition situations now, when I walk into an
audition situation, I'm not so driven like, "Oh, my god, what
can I get from this?
If I get this job, what am I going to get paid?" It was
more, "You know what?
Here I am.
I'd love to be of service.
This is what I can bring to the table.
You know?
This is what I can bring to the table.
And I tell you, the most amazing thing happened.
In the last eight years, I have been so successful.
Directors hire me time and time again because I don't
make waves.
I just show up, I do my job.
I'm on time.
I've got my lines learned.
I don't steal scenes from other actors.
And this really amazing thing has happened where now, at the
end of each job, I ask myself, was I of service?
What did I bring to the table?
And I'm a success.
I'm a huge, huge, huge success.
And it was something just that simple in my mind.

It's just amazing.
You wake up one morning, and all of a sudden, you think to
yourself, I am living the life that I
always dreamed of living.
It was just amazing.
I've got this Emmy nomination.
There's a new series that's going to be on HBO that Linda
Bloodsworth-Thomason wrote-- who wrote Designing Women--
called 12 Miles of Bad Road.
Which I just love the title right there, 12
Miles of Bad Road.
And it's going to be kind of like the white trash version
of The Sopranos.

Because you have that in the South.
When I talked to her about it, I said that's brilliant,
because every little Southern town has what they call the
"cornbread mafia," some little family that runs the show,
like you see in the movies.
But I've got that.
I just did this--
the guy that did Dawson's Creek, Kevin Williamson, who's
a good friend of mine, has written a wonderful new pilot
called Hidden Palms. The UPN and The WB are merging into
this new network called The CW, and I'm working
on that right now.
We just did the pilot and I've got that coming up.
I've got my one-man show.
But I really would love for you guys to come.
We're going to offer a Google discount.
I'm not sure how it'll work.
AUDIENCE: You just go to the website--
LESLIE JORDAN: My website is brotherboy.com.
B-R-O-T-H-E-R-B-O-Y. Brother boy.
And you go to the website--
AUDIENCE: Yeah, and when you go to buy tickets, you put in
the coupon code--
and you might want to write this down--
G-O-O-G-L-E. [INAUDIBLE] the box office, [INAUDIBLE]
that's good for $10 off per ticket for a Sunday afternoon
performance at 2:30.
LESLIE JORDAN: But I want to thank you for welcoming me
into your world.
We ate for free.
I thought, that's a bulimic's delight.
Just go through there and, woo, and go again.
I've never seen anything like that.
And everybody's so young and happy.
Do they give you drugs?
Is that it?
AUDIENCE: I think it's probably in the food.
LESLIE JORDAN: Is that it?
Some [UNINTELLIGIBLE] happy stuff that
they put in the food.
But you welcomed me into your world.
Do you have any questions about acting, or anybody have
any questions?
Because I'm kind of out of material.
I can keep tap dancing, but if anybody has any questions, I'd
love to-- yeah?
AUDIENCE: There's a microphone over there.
Can we use the microphone?
LESLIE JORDAN: Yeah, step up to the mic.
AUDIENCE: I'll start off with a silly question.
I'm wondering if you could comment on the demise of
Beverley Leslie.
Do you think it was a fitting ending for him, or is there
chance he survived?
LESLIE JORDAN: The question was about Beverley Leslie,
which was my character--
I'll tell you, on Will & Grace, that character was
written for Joan Collins, believe it or not.
But they had written this episode where Joan Collins was
going to steal Rosario away from Karen Walker.
And then they wanted a Dynasty bitch fight across a billiard
table where they pulled each other's wigs off.
So they did the table read, which is the first day.
We come in to a brand new script on Wednesday morning,
because we shoot in front of a live
audience on Tuesday nights.
So we come in on Wednesday morning to this brand new
script, and we just sit.
And I've figured out what the success to that show is.
Those four characters, who by the way, people
want dish and dirt.
I have none.
They are four of the nicest people.
I'm known them for all these years.
I've watched them get really famous.
I've watched them get really rich.
Yes, we're talking like, $700,000 a week they were
making near the end.
And they haven't changed at all.
But you know what I noticed in that table read was that
nothing matters except making the other of those four laugh.

In that situation, it's really high, high, high stress.
There's 50 people in suits.
I don't know who they are.
It's like here.
I just had this vision of Google where maybe when you
Google something, one of you guys grabs it and runs and
finds it or something.

I have no idea how it works.
Even MapQuest just floors me.
I thought, they must just have someone with Thomas Guides.
But there's all this pressure.
And those four, all they care about is
making each other laugh.
But they did this table read with Joan Collins.
And then her entourage left, and someone came back and
said, "There's one thing that Miss Collins will not allow.
You cannot pull her wig off." Now, my theory is, she had
just done this movie called These Old Broads that Carrie
Fisher wrote.
And Debbie Reynolds--
all these old movie stars got their wigs pulled off.
Debbie Reynolds got her wig pulled off.
And y'all are like, "Who?
Debbie who?" She was an old movie star
named Debbie Reynolds.
Shirley MacLaine got her wig pulled off.

Who's the fourth one?
Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine--
oh, Elizabeth Taylor got her wig pulled off.
But anyway, so Joan Collins said, "You can't pull my wig
So they fired her.
Bye, bye.
So my agent called me, and he said,
"They've made the character.
They want Southern.
They want kind of fey." And I said, "Well?" So my mother,
who is such a character, called me that morning.
I was on the way to the audition.
And John Ritter, who was a dear friend of mine, gave me--
I did a series with him years ago where I played a little
Southern lawyer.
And it was called Hearts Afire.
And I had a little white suit, like a
little, linen white suit.
And I put on my little, white linen suit.
And I was on the way out the door, and my phone rang and my
mother said, "Leslie, Wanda Slain has been shot." And I
said, "Who?" She said, "Wanda Slain from church.
She got shot."
And I said, "Mother, I'm on my way to a
really important audition.
I don't know who you're talking about." She said, "Oh,
you know, that woman had that little baby out of wedlock and
it looked like a pig.

And she'd put bows on it and little socks and bring it to
church, and we didn't know how to act.
It looked just like a little baby pig."
I said, "Mother, I've got to go." So I walked into this
audition in my white suit, and I said, "I'm "I'm really
sorry, but my phone rang, and my mother said Wanda Slain has
been shot." I told them that story, and they just sat
there, and they go, "You're it."
I got that.
We did one episode, and then we did-- but back to the
original question, I was so honored because I did years,
it got where they sort of trotted me out like
this aging show pony.
I wouldn't do every episode, but they would trot me out for
the big ones.
So I got to work with J-Lo.
I got to work with Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Matt Lauer.
Hoo, I'm the founder and the guiding light of the Matt
Lauer Fan Club for Middle-aged Gay Men.
I bet y'all didn't know that.

Oh, I'll tell you a funny story about Matt Lauer.
It's kind of off color.

On Will & Grace, when we would shoot, people think we were
But I learned a long time ago, film is a director's medium.
Stage is an actor's medium.
Television is a writer's medium.
I learned a long time ago, if you go into an audition for
television, you speak those words as written. because they
have 12 people around a table that have worked all night
long on those words.
But anyway, we shoot the script as written in front of
the audience, and then they progressively come in and make
it bawdier to try to keep the audience.
And then we always do one that's filthy--
and that, sometimes, is the one that gets on the air.
But we had this scene where the Eric McCormack character
forgot his pants, and he's walking out of the room, and
he ducks right back.
And he says, "In case anybody's wondering, Beverley
Leslie comes right to my penis." That was the line.
And then Debra, well we get this script, and then Debra's
line was, "So basically, you just tea-bagged a dwarf." That
was the line that was written.

So, of course, when we delivered it in the--
we have what's called a producer's run-through.
The censor just about shit and fell back in it.
He said, "No, whoa, whoa, no, no.
Tea bag can be a noun.
Tea bag cannot be used as a verb."
Well, Matt Lauer was standing next to me.
And he said to me, "Is that a term that is popular enough?"
And I said, "Well, it's like you take your balls and you
put--" He goes, "No, I know what the term means!" He said,
"What I'm asking is, is it a popular enough term that
people would get the joke?" I was so embarrassed.
But I thought, now, if I ever get on Good Morning America or
whatever it is he works on, I could tell them I taught Matt
Lauer about tea-bagging.

But OK, back to the question.

They called me up to do the finale, the big, big finale.
And I was so honored.
They've had Elton John, Cher--
every huge star in the world.
But they said, "No, no, no.
The big ending is going to be the four, Rosario, and you."
And I thought, "Wow."
And then my manager called, and he said--
I was in Atlanta doing a play--
and my manager said, "It's all cool.
They're going for the deal, and we've got
everything ready to sign.
But they're not going to fly you in."
And I said, "I have to pay for my own airplane ticket?" He
said, "Yeah." I said, "I'm not going to do it.
I'm not going to do it."
He said, "Leslie, come on.
This is television history." I said, "They pay them $700,000
a week and they cannot spring for an airline ticket to fly
me back?" But anyway, I did it.
I mean, come on.

I Googled and got on Expedia, whatever it is.
They got me this cheap flight and flew home.
But I will tell you this-- and I'll end with this because I
know you all have to go back to work--
for those that did not see the ending, I fly out the window.
A gust of wind just carries me away, and that's it.
I just blow out the window, and that was the end of
Beverley Leslie.
So they strapped me in this big sort of John Paul
Gaultier, straps and--
Google that, in case you don't know.
John Paul Gaultier.
Anyway, they had me in this harness, like Tinker Bell,
where I could fly.
And we rehearsed it a couple of times, and it worked.
Well, we got in front of an audience, and I don't know if
they pulled the lever too fast or what, but I flew.
I flew so fast my shoes stayed on the ground.
It pulled me out of my shoes.
There was Beverley Leslie's velvet opera slippers, which
was kind of funny, but it just pulled me out of my shoes.
Well it flew me--
I was literally 30, 40 feet up in the air, above.
Now, this would be like, you've worked somewhere like
Google for eight years.
You know everybody.
And this is the last day.
It was the last shot of the night.
It was the ending of Will & Grace for ever
and ever and ever.
And I'm floating.
And this weird thing happened.
It was like this out-of-body experience.
I'm just floating above everybody.
And here is Debra Messing.
And everything went kind of muffled.
And you see everybody clapping, it was almost like
slow motion.
And then, all of a sudden, it just went joomp!
And I was back in real time, and they lowered me.
Well, I thought it was very spiritual.
And I have this sister that's very pragmatic.
And I called her and I said, "You're never going to believe
what happened.
I just floated." She goes, "The blood rushed to your
head." I said, "No, I floated above everyone.
And it was like God saying--" She goes, "The blood rushed to
your head."
But that was the end of Beverley Leslie.
Do y'all have to go back to work?
Do you work?
I mean, what do you do here?
Any more questions?
Maybe one more question from anybody?
If not, I'll take on out of here.
Well, listen.
Thank you so much for having me.
Bye bye.
Is that what you wanted?

LESLIE JORDAN: Yeah, come see me Sunday.
You type in Google, brotherboy, type in Google and
you get a big discount.