Dec 11, 2014

An evening with Tony Hale

When I was in college, I hung out with a really fun group of people: THEATER TYPES. My roommate was in a performance group named Word Players, and several people we'd known in high school through our church's youth ministry were part of it, too. And some of the other Word Players were theater majors, so my roommate and these other friends of ours ended up auditioning for and earning parts in plays and musicals at Samford.

If they weren't IN the productions, they were often part of the crew. It was really fun for me to live on the periphery of that world, because I got to enjoy all of the fun parts of their personalities off-stage and see them perform on stage, without ever having to be in the spotlight myself. PERFECTION.

Through that group, I was fortunate enough to hang around Tony Hale from time to time.

See him up there, in the navy T-shirt? He had a lot more hair back then than he does now. WE ALL DID. #thankyou'90s

Anyway, this is a picture from one of my college scrapbooks, and this particular day we were over at our friends' Tre and Joe's apartment for a Bible study. In IT'S A CRAZY-SMALL WORLD NEWS, when I was looking at this picture in preparation to write this post, I thought to myself, "That kind of looks like Michelle sitting by me." As in, Michelle-who-should-be-nominated-for-Pope. As in, Michelle who went to Samford when I did but who I hadn't seen in about 20 years until we went to Hilton Head a few weeks ago with our mutual friend Honor.

I showed her the picture. IT IS SHE IN THAT STRIPED PONCHO THING. 

So unbeknownst to both of us, she's been sitting in a scrapbook in my house for the last 20 years, and this month her prayers most likely helped us land our dream house. Pretty sure that makes God a Detail Man.


{Ironically, he's sporting the same color story with his outfit on this poster that he was sporting that day at Tre and Joe's.}

So I knew Tony in college a little, but we weren't friends, really. At least, not like he and Michelle were, and not like he and the other Word Players were. I was a lot less confident in my stunning good looks and stellar comic timing back then than I am today. We were just acquaintances who found themselves in the same room a lot.

Cut to last month. Since he and I graduated from the same department at Samford (Journalism & Mass Communication), I had access to AND JUMPED ON a pair of tickets to a reception for and Q&A session with him, commemorating the release of his new children's book, Archibald's Next Big Thing.

Since it coincided with Jamie's birthday (my fellow pop-culture aficionado), I took her along. And aside from the guy who sat beside me AND TOOK OFF HIS CROCS MID-Q&A TO REVEAL BARE, STINKY FEET, we had a great time. Or as Jamie would say, "It was AH-MUHAY-ZWUNG."
Jamie was adorable and -- only plotting and planning this 49 minutes in advance and strategically voodoo-dolling every other woman in the room to make sure no one else did it first in the meantime -- asked Tony (as Gary from Veep) to hold her purse. It was perfection.

Jamie managed to snap a picture of me with Tony at the EXACT BAZILLASECOND that the professional photographer did, so here's a picture of two albinos, one in super-cute boots.

Luckily, when I walked up, Tony showed a flicker of recognition, complimented my hair ("Oh my gosh! You've got really incredible hair ... great job on that!"), and offered to take a selfie with me, so ultimately I ended up getting a way better picture than most people did. #blessed

And then what does a normal, sane person do next? Make her date take a picture of her good-job-on-that hair for posterity. OHYEAHIDID.

After Tony had signed our copies of Archibald and the reception was over, we headed into the auditorium for the Q&A. I can't express to you how charming, self-deprecating, honest and frank Tony was throughout the event. Most of the time was spent answering prepared -- but very interesting, relevant -- questions, posed by moderator Brad Radice, also a Samford grad.

If there were an Emmy awarded to the actor who's been the least changed by fame, Tony would have to win. 

He is incredibly humble, reluctant to name-drop and yet a wonderful storyteller ... and what an arsenal he has!

Whether talking about David Cross, Will Arnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Liza Minelli, his wife, his child or one of his college professors, his ability to weave a tale is a real talent.

When you possess that kind of natural humor, the rest, as they say, is gravy.

I'm proud to have known him even a little 20 years ago, and extraordinarily proud that he's a fellow alum of the JMC department at Samford.

And this post isn't sponsored in any way, but I encourage you to support Tony and pick up a copy of Archibald's Next Big Thing ... a story Tony wrote based on his own experiences, about being content with where you are in life.

A lesson we all need to learn.

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