Star tells students he stole his first laugh line

October 12, 2009


Tom Hanks did not exactly tell Cleveland-area high school students Monday morning that theft would get them ahead in life.

But he sort-of did.

Hanks -- in town to help raise the last $600,000 in Great Lakes Theater Festival's $19.2 million campaign to renovate PlayhouseSquare's Hanna Theatre -- taped an educational PBS show at WVIZ Channel 25 Monday morning in front of about 290 students.

In answer to a question from "Backstage With Tom Hanks" host and NPR personality Scott Simon about the first time he remembered getting applause, the top-grossing movie star said that he was more interested back in grade school in another kind of response:

Laughter.

So, Hanks recounted, he borrowed a line from his older brother and told a schoolyard joke that got him a hardy round of har-hars.

Hanks said it was the first time he realized "how good it felt to make people laugh, and how easy it is to steal somebody else's material."

True to his word, Hanks stole his own material as well as that of others Monday night when he performed "Tom Hanks at the Hanna" for a sold-out crowd of more than 550 adults.

It was an amalgam of film clips of movies -- some that he made, others that he just loves -- punctuated by jokes about a wide variety of subjects.

The targets included the Cleveland Play House (where he said he was turned down at an audition), and late-19th and early-20th century Cleveland politician Mark Hanna (whom he called a "crook" in "the great tradition of crooked Cleveland politicians."

Taken together, the parts of Hanks' visit reflected his philosophy of film-making: Accurately portraying, through documentary truth or dramatic invention, the joys and sorrows of the human condition.

Hanks, who got his first acting job in Cleveland, in 1977-79, with Great Lakes, arrived in town Sunday by private jet in time to catch a performance of Great Lakes' latest show, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," followed by a party for donors to the Hanna project.

His Monday started around 9:30 a.m., when he showed up at the Idea Center, the home of WVIZ and local public radio station WCPN 90.3, to tape the show, part of a series sponsored by PlayhouseSquare, WVIZ and (in this case) Great Lakes.

(WCPN will broadcast audio clips from Monday's taping on today's "Around Noon" show, which starts around 12:10 p.m. A few audio clips from the taping will surface on WVIZ's "Applause" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. And an edited version of the entire taping will air in January.)

The rest of the day was a marathon of donor-meetings capped off by "Tom Hanks at the Hanna," a 90-minute illustrated chat.

The evening show started out with Hanks being introduced not only by Great Lakes producing artistic director Charles Fee, but also by the entire Great Lakes acting ensemble, of which Hanks said he was still a grateful member.

Working for Great Lakes, his first job at age 21, is still "officially the longest job I ever had," Hanks said.

The evening drew to a close with a question-and-answer period, during which a woman in the audience asked Hanks to repeat a line of his from the baseball movie "A League of Their Own," in honor of the team he became a fan of during his years here.

Hanks replied: " 'There's no crying in baseball.' Which as fans of the Cleveland Indians, we all know isn't true."

By Tony Brown

Source : Cleveland Live