Monday, March 24, 2014
The Night I Stared Down Jon Hamm
I stared down Jon Hamm.
It's one of those kinda weird career highlights, I suppose. On Friday night, while moderating the PaleyFest's "Mad Men" panel, an audience member asked the cast about the show's use of silence as a dramatic tool. I turned to Hamm, who decided to take the question literally and jokingly sit there -- staring back at me, in silence. I stared back. He stayed quiet. It quickly turned into a staring contest. "Oh, we're doing this!" I exclaimed.
A little bit of backstory: I never lose staring contests. For some reason, I don't blink. People tease me for my TV appearances, in which I never seem to blink. It's kind of weird. But handy when you're suddenly locked in a staring contest with Jon Hamm (who, I learned later, is also a bit of a master of the game). Seconds tick away. The audience starts to laugh, then cheer, as they realize that we're both in it to win it.
Finally, I ask the crowd, "Should we stop?" About a minute had passed, and they agreed the game was up. Still, I wasn't ready. But Hamm blinked -- and I moved on. Now, Jon Hamm being a superstar and me being a nobody, many of the write-ups about the panel declared him the winner. But I know the truth.
Of course, I should say it was more like a draw. Hamm knew it was time to move on. Later, "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner told me that Hamm is the most competitive person he knows, and that he would have "punched you in the stomach to win." Who would have really won? I guess that will remain unanswered.
Still, it was quite a highlight among all of the panels I've done over the years. Everyone on stage was great, by the way: Elisabeth Moss is warm, funny and truly nice; Christina Hendricks was great; Vincent Kartheiser stole the show several times; so did veteran Robert Morse; Kiernan Shirpka, who grew up on "Mad Men," is wise beyond her years; and Jessica Pare is a pro.
Here are more pics (courtesy the Paley Center) from my evening with MAD MEN:
A few recaps of the night: