Jim Parsons talks Twitter, God and acting on Broadway
The Big Bang Theory star opens up about his new play, An Act of God, and how it feels to return to New York
By David Javerbaum|
Congratulations, Twitter, you’ve birthed your first Broadway show! The idea for An Act of God, a new play by former Daily Show head writer and current The Late Late Show with James Corden producer David Javerbaum, dates back to 2010, when the comedian launched his hilarious, foul-mouthed, eventually 1.9-million-follower-strong handle @TheTweetOfGod, which is exactly what it sounds like. Now, Javerbaum is bringing the Almighty One to the Great White Way, with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, last seen on Broadway in Harvey, stepping into those made-of-clouds-and-dreams shoes and answering burning, age-old questions. Just before the comedy started rehearsals, the two (who have actually only met a few times) met up for a candid chat.
David Javerbaum: You’re well aware that during rehearsals God may come down and request that certain lines be changed. You’re prepared to deal with that? Jim Parsons: I don’t feel like I have any choice.
Javerbaum: Tell me about it. I haven’t had a choice for years. Parsons: Well, there you go. There’s peace in that, isn’t there? Where you go, “You know what? I give up. Jesus, take the wheel.”
Javerbaum: Yeah, just surrender to God. So when I [heard you were cast], it was like, Holy shit, Jim Parsons. It was the coolest. Parsons: There’s this wonderful opportunity for it to be one of the most fun times in the theater that I’ve ever gotten to have onstage. It’s very playful and it’s very—interactive isn’t exactly the right word—but you’re talking as God to his people, which in this case is whoever’s in the audience that night. The whole time.
Javerbaum: It’s hopefully going to feel like an interactive experience, so it’s not like a comedy monologue. Parsons: One of my very favorite things about it is the conceit of the whole thing, which is presented in the first page or so of the play: “I am God. I’ve taken on this personage, in this case Jim Parsons, to present this material.” We don’t even beat around the bush; we just say, “I’ve taken over him. He has no idea he’s here and on with the show.”
Javerbaum: Why did you get involved with the play? Parsons: Well, it made me laugh. And I felt that it was actually very thoughtful and poignant at times. In the last five years, I’m always saying, (a) I want to work this summer, and (b) if it happens to be theater, that’d be really swell—and specifically, doing it in New York. I spent so many years in New York, unemployed or between jobs. And getting to do a couple Broadway shows—this will be my third one—there’s really no comparison to the feeling. I mean, you worked at The Daily Show in New York. There’s no feeling like you’re contributing part of this pulse that is New York City.
Javerbaum: Yeah, I was at The Daily Show for 11 years, and it was the time of my life. But then for a few years, I had jobs here and there but I didn’t have anything regular. I didn’t feel like I was contributing, ’cause I didn’t have a job. Like, I was a leech sucking off the ripe tit of New York City. Parsons: But don’t you find that Manhattan provideth for the creatively wanting in a way that no other city does? I have been in L.A. for eight years. I’m here for [The Big Bang Theory] obviously. And oh, what a glorious place to live. You know, you get more space than you had, and the weather—it’s a beautiful thing. But that’s because I’m working. I’ve been here for pilot seasons for months at a time when I was unemployed, and oh, my God, what a lonely place it can be. Even at my lowest in New York, it never felt quite like that. At least you could get a newspaper or cigarettes and connect with somebody, even in some small way.
Javerbaum: You don’t feel like New York’s a one-industry town. It’s an every-industry town. Ironically, as soon as I got [to L.A.], things opened up back in New York. Parsons: You do have to go to the other coast to get the other coast calling again.
Javerbaum: This play started on Twitter. You’re not on Twitter, are you? Parsons: No, I’ve never been on Twitter.
Javerbaum: And you shouldn’t. Parsons: I shouldn’t say that. I was on Twitter for, like, a week seven years ago, and it wasn’t a very good relationship for me.
Javerbaum: It’s a terrible waste of time. It’s a time-suck. Parsons: I’m sure it’s a time-suck. You’re exactly the kind of person that made me convinced Twitter wasn’t for me. You knew how to utilize it in a way that’s entertaining and you could get to your point. I just couldn’t. I found myself tweeting things like, “Had oatmeal for breakfast” or whatever, and it was like, Who gives a shit? You’re not informing anything worth informing about and you’re not entertaining anybody. And I thought the only thing I could offer up that would be somewhat entertaining to those that cared to know would be extremely personal stuff that I wasn’t willing to go into.
Javerbaum: I would never want to tweet about myself. I have nothing interesting in my life. And if I did, I wouldn’t want to share it. Parsons: But you found a persona that you can tweet under.
Javerbaum: It’s an ideal format for comedy writers. It is a great way to get stuff out there and forces you to be concise. Parsons: It’s true.
Javerbaum: I can’t fucking wait [for the play]. When you shoot a TV show, the experience in the studio is not the final product. But at the theater, that is the final product. There’s nothing else. Parsons: Every night in the theater is basically a version of “one night and one night only.” It will never be that show again. It’s somewhat scary but very life-affirming.
Javerbaum: Is there anything you’d ask God if you could? Parsons: The problem is there are so damn many [questions]. It’s like one of those things when you’re hungry and you can’t think what you want a lot of the time ’cause everything sounds good. But in the midst of learning this play and so many things that get brought up, I feel a certain sense of: Why? For good and bad. Why so many good things? Why so many bad things?
Javerbaum: If I asked God a question, it’d be: Why’d he insist on cutting me out of the royalties? That burns me a lot. I don’t think that’s fair. Parsons: It’s selfish. I think he’s selfish.
Javerbaum: He doesn’t need the money. I need the money. I mean, have you seen the Vatican? He’s fine. Parsons: He raised his child already too. You’re still putting yours through school.
Javerbaum: Exactly. I could use it. So we’ll see how that goes. We have the same agent, so hopefully we’ll work something out. We’re both CAA. Well, I can tell you that God is very, very glad that you’re playing him. He told me that part of the reason is that he wants to meet Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. Parsons: Maybe she’ll come. I would hope that she would get to drop by this summer. Maybe God will get his chance.