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A family of creatives turned their TikTok-famous videos into a stage performance

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Gideon Grody-Patinkin, like many people, took up a hobby during COVID - not baking bread or crocheting socks. He began making videos, sweet little interrogations of his parents that he posted on social media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GIDEON GRODY-PATINKIN: What do you guys think you agree on?

SIMON: Gideon Grody-Patinkin's parents are quite noteworthy - Kathryn Grody and Mandy Patinkin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRODY-PATINKIN: What are the big things you agree on?

MANDY PATINKIN: Let's do it by process of elimination. We don't agree on what to eat.

KATHRYN GRODY: No. God, it's getting worse...

PATINKIN: We like different things to eat. We don't agree on what movies to go to.

GRODY: No.

PATINKIN: We like different kinds of movies. We don't agree on...

GRODY: But you don't like any.

PATINKIN: ...Evening activities. She likes to watch lots of things...

GRODY: Or listen to things or do some things.

PATINKIN: ...Or listen to podcasts or watch lots of things. I don't.

SIMON: Mandy Patinkin is a star of stage and screen, Broadway, "Sundays In The Park With George," the movie "The Princess Bride," TV's "Homeland." Kathryn Grody is a writer and Drama Desk nominee, Obie Award-winning actor. Maybe their finest production is 40-plus years of marriage and two sons. Inspired by the popularity of their son Gideon's videos, they're taking that relationship on the road and putting it on stage, with occasional appearances, like in the Washington, D.C. area on Valentine's Day, An Evening with Mandy Patinkin & Kathryn Grody, moderated by their son, Gideon Grody-Patinkin. We're joined now by the trio of Patinkins and Grodys and Grody-Patinkins, Mandy, Kathryn, and Gideon. Thank you so much for being with us.

PATINKIN: Thank you for having us.

GRODY: Thank you for having us, Scott. It's really thrilling for me.

SIMON: Gideon, aside from just, I think maybe the ennui so many people felt at various times during COVID, what made you start making these videos and decide to share them?

GRODY-PATINKIN: I think the first piece of it was feeling like I had this extra period of time with my parents and felt very close to the possibility that they might get this thing and die. So it kind of felt like an urgency of getting a record of them. And I really love the different layers and levels and colors that come out of them when they're being recorded. I can ask them a question that they've answered a billion times around the dinner table, and then if I make a little video, sometimes other things and memories are coming to light. So I really just started doing it as a kind of family archive. And then to our great surprise, people kept being interested in us just kind of hanging around and these two lunatics being themselves.

GRODY: Three lunatics, Scott. Let's be honest here.

PATINKIN: Are you referring to my dog, Becky?

GRODY-PATINKIN: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

GRODY-PATINKIN: Mandy, Kathryn and Becky, the dog.

SIMON: Does - despite the fact that it's your son and what seems a personal conversation, does a performer's instinct kick in when you know you're being recorded and other people are going to see it?

(LAUGHTER)

GRODY: I know what my husband's going to say. Go ahead, honey. I know exactly what you're going to say.

PATINKIN: Absolutely. We are entertainers at our - at the heart of the matter here. And my suggestion to anyone listening here, if you're having a little tension at home with your spouse, just ask anyone around to turn a camera on...

GRODY: (Laughter).

PATINKIN: ...And everybody's very nice to you. You're treated in ways you've just been longing for, you know?

GRODY: Well, it's also, Scott - at one point I said to Gideon, you got to show some reality here. Please show us with our usual daily annoyances and irritations with each other to keep it real, you know?

GRODY-PATINKIN: Which - we've gotten a handful of that. But when you guys are, like, really fighting, you don't really want me to film.

GRODY: No. That's true.

GRODY-PATINKIN: Though I've tried.

GRODY: You've got that - the fighting light version.

PATINKIN: No. But you have to keep in mind, we - Gideon is in charge of the ballgame. Nothing goes out without our OK. But there is a thing called editing and editors. And Gideon is the editing editor, and he takes care of us.

SIMON: I got to ask you about munching on matzo and taking a pop culture quiz.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRODY-PATINKIN: If you like it, you should have put a blank on it. Dad? Fill in the blank.

PATINKIN: If you like it, you should have put a hat on it.

GRODY-PATINKIN: OK. And, Mom, if you like it, you should have put a blank on it. Please fill the blank in.

GRODY: If you like it, you should have put a click on it?

GRODY-PATINKIN: OK. Hat and click. Very good. Next question.

PATINKIN: Were one of those right?

GRODY-PATINKIN: No. It is, if you like it, you should have put a ring on it from Beyonce. (Singing) If you like it, you should have put a ring on it.

You are the last two...

GRODY: Oh. Did I really think that anybody...

GRODY-PATINKIN: Would look at that?

GRODY: Would look at that, Scott?

PATINKIN: (Laughter).

GRODY: Being seen stuffing my face with a, you know, stick of butter and matzo was not my ideal way of introducing myself to President Biden and other people. But here we are.

GRODY-PATINKIN: I think the real shock behind that video is that it had millions and millions of views, and we were not sent one complimentary box of matzo.

GRODY: Yeah.

PATINKIN: I couldn't agree more. The painful part about the matzo popularity to me, even at this moment, as you bring it up, is I love it. And I love it with butter and salt, and it is not good for you. It is very fattening. And I want it 24/7, and I hardly ever do it, and it just makes me long for it. And people are always pointing to it. But we try to eat somewhat healthily. We fail.

SIMON: Yeah.

GRODY: Yeah.

SIMON: Why take this show on the road?

GRODY-PATINKIN: Well, I don't think any of us thought that it was taking the social media thing on the road so much as that there was sort of interest to have, you know, these interview evenings with my parents.

SIMON: Ah, yeah.

GRODY-PATINKIN: And they did that and had done that a couple of times in the past and then thought this would maybe be a little funner for us if Gideon was there asking the questions. And I kind of said, I'm kind of too busy doing other stuff. And they said, you know, you get paid. And I said, oh, great. Let's do it.

GRODY: (Laughter) Yeah.

PATINKIN: Yeah. May I? May I enter in? I'm astounded that people choose to come to this because we do nothing, Kathryn and I, to prepare. We do no preparation whatsoever. We have no idea what Gideon's going to say or do or ask. And Gideon is someone who cannot be creating 24/7, 365.

GRODY: Who cannot be.

PATINKIN: Who cannot be creating. That's what I said. Are you not listening to me?

GRODY: Yeah. I am listening, but I misspoke.

PATINKIN: So he always is making stuff up, and he really just says to us, listen, guys, you have to do nothing to prepare. Just try not to hate each other before we start.

GRODY: Yeah.

GRODY-PATINKIN: And I'm incredibly, very prepared.

PATINKIN: You know, we're theater rats, Kathryn and me. That's where we were born - to be with an audience. You can work your whole life to put something wonderful together. If nobody comes to sit there and listen, it's for nothing. The audience makes the evening. And so that was, I think, consciously or unconsciously, a tremendous appeal for us to take the risk of seeing, can we go out completely unprepared in front of a group of people to see if anything happens? And there's a risk to that that I think we live for. It's very exciting.

SIMON: With the onset of Valentine's Day, I have to ask some - I don't want to call them serious questions, but, all right - serious questions. The first one. Mandy?

PATINKIN: Yeah.

SIMON: Are you Inigo Montoya?

PATINKIN: Am I Inigo Montoya? Let me put it this way. A lot of people say I look like him. They say I sound like him. I can do a very good imitation of him.

GRODY-PATINKIN: You got less hair than him.

PATINKIN: I have much less hair than he had. But I do feel a kinship toward him and am unbelievably lucky. Even when you ask me this question - it never fails - I can't believe I'm the guy that got to be that guy. It's like, were you really the lion in the "Wizard Of Oz"? Yep, (laughter) you know?

SIMON: You know, I mean, I really wanted to take advantage of this to hear the line. But that's all right.

PATINKIN: Oh, you want to hear me do the line? OK, here you go. And the way I normally do this, Scott...

SIMON: Yeah.

PATINKIN: ...Particularly to children, I just lean right in the ear - 'cause these kids can't believe that their mom and dad are saying, that's the guy.

SIMON: Yeah.

PATINKIN: And I lean into their ear and I say, (impersonating Inigo Montoya) hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

SIMON: (Laughter).

PATINKIN: And these little kids look at mom and dad going, well, he sounds like him, but he doesn't really look like him (laughter), you know?

GRODY: I can tell you, Scott...

SIMON: Yeah.

GRODY: ...The reason I believe that has resonated through generations at this point is that he is the depth of that guy. And the truth of what he wants back and can't get has spoken to so many people. And I think that is the essence of Mandy's moral nature in some way.

PATINKIN: Well, you remind me of what I discovered when I was in Philadelphia. I was on the bike, and there was a TV thing on, and the TV had "Princess Bride" on, right near the end. And there's that moment when Robin jumps out of the window. I'm standing next to the Man in Black. She jumps out into Andre's arms, and the Man in Black asks me if I'd like to be the next Dread Pirate Roberts. And I say to him these lines that 36-year-old Mandy said and didn't really ever hear them until I was 50-something, and no one ever quotes them. And I think they are the unconscious and conscious greatest lines I'd ever heard that I didn't understand until I was in my 50s. Which are these words - (imitating Inigo Montoya) you know, I have been in the revenge business so long. Now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.

And when you think about it, how revenge pushes the buttons of the horrors we are watching every second, every day, globally, in our lives, across this planet. Inigo Montoya did not get his father back by killing the six-fingered man. You do not get anything back from revenge.

SIMON: What keeps love going?

GRODY: What keeps love going?

GRODY-PATINKIN: Tell him what Tim and you were talking about the guy in the other room.

GRODY: Oh, yeah (laughter). Years ago, when we were very young - mid-young, in our 30s - at one point, Mandy said - I guess I was talking too much or sharing too much - he said, I just want you to be the body in the other room. And I was so offended. I thought, go get one of those Japanese blow-up dolls. You know, I'm not the body in the other room. And you know what, Scott? I said to this great friend and director of mine, Timothy Near, the other day - I just said, you know what, Tim, it's really weird, I love being the body in the other room.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GRODY: And I love having my husband of 45 years being the body in the other room. I love knowing all aspects of that body. I love the company of it. I love that we don't have to entertain each other. I know that we know we'll still be the body in the other room, even if we're driving each other nuts or not. And that we are brave enough to be quiet together, I guess, which used to not be acceptable to me at all.

GRODY-PATINKIN: You guys are quiet together sometimes?

GRODY: (Laughter) Yeah. You're not privy to that very much.

PATINKIN: I think the power of love is - it's indescribable. I guess poets have tried to write about it forever. It's the time that passes that you can remember and that you can't remember, but you were there together. And I think it becomes overwhelming. And I know, Scott, you and I were born in 1952. We're damn near the exact same age. That you go, like, wow, I'm 71, and this person's been with me for most of my adult life or for whatever part of my life, and I haven't been alone. And I have a witness and someone to remember together with and share with and forget with and live with. And I wish it for everyone.

GRODY: That wants it.

PATINKIN: That wants it. And it's - you know, but I'm not talking about marriage.

GRODY: Yeah.

PATINKIN: I'm talking about a friend...

GRODY: Yeah.

PATINKIN: ...A partner. You know, just don't be alone.

GRODY-PATINKIN: Company.

PATINKIN: Company, period.

SIMON: Yeah.

PATINKIN: Yeah. Just, you know, when somebody says you want to get together and take a walk, or I need to do whatever? You know, just say yes.

GRODY: Yes.

PATINKIN: I got a perfect example of why it's so great to just be with someone. About a half hour before you called - Kath and I, we need to go to this carpet store to just pick out this carpet and make some decisions. And the guy called us and said, I'm available tomorrow. I'll be in your area. And I said, great, great. What time? Kathryn says, (imitating Kathryn) we can't go tomorrow. We can't go tomorrow. What's the matter with you?

GRODY: I don't sound like that.

PATINKIN: I said what - I'm a pretty good imitator. She said - she really cut my head off - we can't go tomorrow. But the reason she said we can't go tomorrow and made me call the guy back and say, what's a good time for you? - is - I said to him, listen, Chris - I said, we can't make it at that time in the morning because our grandson has been away with his parents on a little trip visiting friends. And they're coming back, and we put up a swing set for him. And she said, are you not going to be there when he first sees the swing set? Are you not going to be there because you're putting carpet down? And I went, OK, OK, OK. And I explained that to Chris, the carpet guy. And he went, I totally get it. And I said, so can we play it by ear, Chris? And once we're done with the swing set, then I'll let you know when we're free, you know (laughter)?

GRODY: Well, you get...

SIMON: That's wonderful.

GRODY: ...Very aware of the gifts of all these moments as you get older 'cause you don't know how many you'll have. It becomes not a, you know, metaphorical idea, but it comes very real, so...

SIMON: So just one last question for Gideon. What have you learned from your parents about love, life?

GRODY-PATINKIN: There was definitely a time watching them - these two complicated people - struggle to be together and with themselves, that I thought that, oh, maybe these two people shouldn't be together. And they kind of tried separating a long time ago (laughter) when I was a teenager. They were really bad at being apart. They were terrible (laughter) at being on their own. And so kind of by necessity, they kept working at it and kept trying. So while it seems arduous...

(LAUGHTER)

GRODY-PATINKIN: ...Even 45 years in, it's been amazing, especially these last couple years, having a front-row seat and getting to know them better as, you know, friends and a couple.

SIMON: Yeah.

GRODY-PATINKIN: Can I get a love song just to carry me through the day today?

GRODY: A love song to you?

GRODY-PATINKIN: No, a love song between the two of you, just about your undying love for each other and being married and how fun it is.

GRODY: (Singing) Oh, how fun it is to be married. Oh, how fun it is to be married...

SIMON: Gideon Grody-Patinkin will join his father, Mandy Patinkin, and his mother, Kathryn Grody, on stage Valentine's Day at the Strathmore right outside of Washington, D.C., and in New London, Conn., in April.

PATINKIN: (Singing) Where anywhere you go, anywhere you look, no one in the world like mom, mom, mom...

SIMON: Thank you, all three of you, for being with us.

GRODY: What a pleasure to be able to have a conversation with you.

PATINKIN: Be well.

(Singing) And she's so explosive.

GRODY: (Laughter).

PATINKIN: (Singing) And everything I say and everything I do...

GRODY: (Singing) And he's so emotive... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.