have seen him on the big screen in Dumb and Dumber, if not The Squid
and the Whale.
But have you seen him on a small stage, singing witty and sometimes poignant
original tunes with an acoustic guitar?
Actor Jeff Daniels
Danielshas taken some road trips since he went public with his musical side a
few years back, but this fall he's going full tilt with a late summer and fall
tour through the eastern two-thirds of the nation and even into Alaska. It
stops next Wednesday at Radio Radio in Fountain Square.
hard to schedule something like this," Daniels says in a phone interview. "I
just decided, after four or five years of working around the movies and TV, to
carve out part of the year just to do this. That's why I'm going out and
from his fourth independent album, Live at the Purple Rose, patrons can expect a
relaxed, PG-rated evening that hovers somewhere between "Alice's Restaurant"
and Inside the Actors Studio. A scholar of rural blues and old-time music,
Daniels fingerpicks deftly while talk-singing about the perils of aging,
celebrity and life in general, offering Hollywood anecdotes as segues.
movies precede me – they're part of the reason why people bought a ticket
in the first place," he says. "I want to service that expectation, give them what
they want, and by the time they're done with me, I gave them more than that."
it turns out, has always been the private flip side of his acting career.
been 25 years of writing stuff that no one would hear, and that was fine," he
says. "When I moved to New York in 1976, I bought a guitar and took it with me,
knowing I'd be sitting in the apartment waiting for the phone to ring for weeks
at a time. The guitar became kind of the '70s answer to a prescription drug
— it kept me sane, and I worked hard on it. It was something that I could
do when my creative services weren't in demand, to kind of keep the motor
running between acting gigs. It was never intended to come out."
out, however, when Daniels wanted to raise some money for the Purple Rose Theatre Company
Theatre Company, a not-for-profit equity theater he founded in his hometown of
Chelsea, Mich. The mission of the Purple Rose, where he recorded his latest
disc, is to produce new American plays and provide opportunities for Midwestern
talent. Still married to his high school sweetheart, Daniels serves as
executive director and a contributing playwright for the organization, which
receives the proceeds from his CD sales and takes its name from the Woody Allen
film on his resume.
As for the
album, the titles trace its emotional range from goofy ("When You're Fifty," "A
Revisionist's 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'") to heartfelt ("The Michigan in Me,"
"My Old Dog, Fred"). "Daddy's Little Daughter" recounts teaching a teen to
drive while "she's taking every corner like an afterthought." "Allen Parkway
Inn" honors the seedy Houston motel that Daniels was relegated to while
shooting his 1983 breakout film, Terms of Endearment. Fellow cast members
Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine stayed at the Ritz Carlton.
doesn't apologize for the seemingly lighter moments in his music or his acting.
Humor can be serious business with an important social impact, he says.
where comedy is best, I think, whether it's Dumb and Dumber or something far more
sophisticated, Lewis Black or George Carlin or Mark Twain, guys like that," he
says. "As long as there's some truth to it, I think it's absolutely valid and
just as serious an art form as drama and tragedy are.
"I'm not a
standup comedian, I know that. Woody Allen was not doing standup on the movie
set. Rarely were there jokes. It was all business and seriousness, and how do
we make this funny, and how do we go about improving that move and that staging
and that line. The craft of it all has always been more interesting to me than
being able to hold up a tomato and do five minutes."
pursuing comedy, drama or music, Daniels adds, timing is crucial.
precision – that's what you learn when you work with guys like Jim
Carrey, Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Neil Simon," he says. "There's a precision
to comedy that is razor sharp. It looks like they're winging it, but it's as
musical as anything, finding the rhythm to make the joke work. There's
something very musical about landing a punch line. It's almost beat-ed out,
like a lyric or a chord progression. It's real connected for me."
planning the tour, Daniels has been focusing on his stage career with a role in
the dark comedy God of Carnage on Broadway. The production sold out every show
during its initial March-November 2009 run and won a Tony Award for Best Play.
Daniels was nominated for Best Actor, as were his co-stars, and he rejoined the
cast in a different role from March to June this year.
As for film,
Daniels has a minor role in the upcoming Allen Ginsberg biopic "Howl," but
otherwise there's nothing in the pipeline.
you're on Broadway for eight shows a week, there's not much time to do anything
else," he says. "So I don't see any movies coming out anytime soon."