Stump the Star: How well does David Hyde Pierce of 'Close Up Space' know his own career?
How well do actors and directors recall the details of their own work? We decided to put Emmy- and Tony-winning actor David Hyde Pierce to the test. The Frasier actor is now starring Off Broadway in Manhattan Theatre Club’s Close Up Space (opening Dec. 19) as a harried book editor with an estranged daughter, a scared intern, a useless office manager, and only one brilliant (if loud) author. But first, he must play Ken Jennings in our career Jeopardy! challenge. The category: his 30 years in showbiz.
1. In what theater did you make your Broadway debut in 1982’s Beyond Therapy?
The Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
2. What is the name of the bookstore where your character worked in the 1988 movie Crossing Delancey?
Oh, no way. No, no way. I honestly cannot tell you. It was based on Shakespeare & Co., which was a great bookstore that used to be on the Upper West Side. What did they call it? Oh, Lord.
Answer: New Day Books
3. In 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle, how does your character, Dennis, define attraction?
I don’t remember. [After learning the answer] Wow, that is so Niles, and that was the year before I started Frasier. What I remember is that not only is that a very Niles line, but I was also married to a very Maris-like woman in Sleepless in Seattle. So it all comes full circle.
Answer: “When you’re attracted to someone it just means that your subconscious is attracted to their subconscious, subconsciously.”
4. What Tony winner played Phil Patterson, the congressional candidate who believes he was abducted by aliens, on the second season of Frasier?
5. What were your exact lines when Niles proposed to Daphne?
I’ll have to guess and say, “Will you marry me?” [After learning the answer] Well, that’s so much better written than what I could have come up with. When I got engaged in real life, it was not as detailed or ornate. But when Niles proposed to Daphne they had known each other for, I think it would have been eight years. When Brian [Hargrove] and I got married, we’d known each other for close to 30 years. So it was less of a surprise, but no less of an event.
Answer: “Daphne Moon, will you and your beautiful toes and your exquisite ankles, and your precious knees, elbows, arms, and fingers, and shoulders, will you marry me?”
6. What was the name of the old-time mystery radio show that Frasier, Niles & Co. put on to celebrate KACL’s 50th anniversary?
I can’t tell you the name of the show, but I can tell you the name of the guy who wrote that episode, David Lloyd. He is one of the great, great television writers of all time. [After learning the answer] Oh God, was that a funny episode. Edward Hibbert is hysterical. I remember him going on and on about “romping in the fens and spinneys” or something ridiculous like that.
Answer: Nightmare Inn
7. In the opening skit of the 1990 Emmy Awards, what did you say is, without question, the highlight of every awards show?
Oh, the interpretive dance.
8. In a “More You know” PSA you made for NBC, what didn’t your dog Ralphie do?
Wait a minute…a dog? Because I did one that was all about families getting together for meals. That one I remember—the idea was that you should take time with your family and not always go off on your own. I have no memory of that other one whatsoever. And no, Ralphie was not my real dog.
Answer: Stay in school
9. In 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer, Henry and the geeky campers built a “Skylab tracking device.” What brand cereal box do they use?
Oh, no. What I do remember is those kids were amazing. It was such a well-cast movie. It was supposed to be the middle of summer but we were shooting in the really early spring in the mountains. It was freezing cold—like the Arctic. And all these little kids were running around in tiny shorts and t-shirts and pretending it’s summer. Cheerios?
Answer: Grape Nuts
10. According to one of the title cards at the beginning of the 2002 movie Full Frontal, your character Carl is afraid of what?
Independent film? [Laughs] No, what I love about that film is that it was such a great shoot. It was a relatively early use of digital camera and Steven [Soderbergh] does his own cinematography so there wasn’t a lot of lighting and then relighting, so it just really moved. It was so nice for the actors. What was he afraid of?
Answer: That his wife finds him boring.
11. According to the Broadway musical Spamalot, where did Sir Robin personally wet himself?
The battle of…oh, I don’t know. [After learning the answer] I was actually going to say Baden Hill, but I don’t really know what that actually is, so I kept quiet. It’s a very famous line about Sir Robin, so I wouldn’t have bothered to do research. It’s in my Monty Python lore from way back.
Answer: The Battle of Baden Hill
12. In the 2010 Broadway revival of La Bête, the acting troupe of your character, Elomire, performs a play by a foppish blowhard named Valere. What’s it called?
Now that you put me on the spot, I can’t remember. Go to the next one. Wait! The Parable of Two Boys From Cadiz.
Bonus question: In Close Up Space, what is your intern hiding in her desk drawer?
A Kindle. It’s a lot easier when you’re actually working on the show at the moment. Though, not only is that from a throwaway line, but it’s actually been cut [during previews], so it is really thrown away.
Final Score: 42%