The season has been a series of treasured experiences thus far, filled with engaging performances and conversations. As the SXSW festival is about to take the city by storm and grace The Paramount with a ton of cinematic delights, there is one more live event before the week of festival fun. It is another one-man show, but promises to be something extraordinary. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the likes of John Lithgow, Ira Glass and Garrison Keillor, it’s that one man on stage is all you need to make a memorable show.
The lone man coming soon is 7-time Emmy winner Ed Asner, and he really doesn’t need an introduction, does he? I mean, he was Lou Grant, for crying out loud. For you younger readers, that is not the guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral. You’re thinking of Hugh Grant. Lou was a character that began in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later got his own spinoff series. The two series may have featured the same character, but the tones were quite different. To this day, Asner remains the only person to win Emmys in dramatic and comedic categories for playing the same role. Do you realize how hard that is? Can you imagine if Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer suddenly turned comedic (and pulled it off)? Or if Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy in “30 Rock” turned dramatic and won an Emmy? Yeah, that’s how amazing the accomplishment really is.
Over the decades, Asner has established himself as a prominent stage, film, and television actor. In addition to the two aforementioned TV roles, audiences have seen him in the likes of El Dorado, “Roots,” JFK, and Elf (as Santa Claus, no less!). What’s even more impressive is that in addition to all these visible roles, Asner has also been a prolific voice actor in dozen of cartoons and video games. You’ll find his distinctive voice in Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Captain Planet (remember that one?), Spider-Man, Superman, Justice League, The Cleveland Show, The Boondocks and even two video games in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series. Who knew he was such a integral part of the Comic Con fanboy demographic?? Yet it is in this arena of vocal acting that Asner has perhaps forever stamped himself into the hearts of a whole new generation, as the voice of Carl Frederickson in the acclaimed 2009 Pixar tearjerker, Up. A movie that, if you’re not weeping openly within the film’s first 10 minutes, reveals you have a heart of stone. There’s sentiment behind that gruff exterior, and it’s powerful stuff.
For Asner, the power of his performances is matched only by the passion of his politics. I won’t go into the details of his left-leaning ideals, but I must say Asner is a true man of conviction. He stands hand-in-hand with his beliefs, and fully supports causes that would make a tea-partier’s head explode. Ed Asner is an advocate in the purest sense of the word. Some of the note-worthy principles that he actively champions for include: wildlife conservation, autism awareness and Racism Watch.
It is fitting then, that Ed is to appear in Austin in a one-man show called “FDR“, where he portrays the most progressive and (depending on your point-of-view) controversial American President of the past century. If anyone is to embody the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I can think of no better choice. Based on Dore Schary’s Broadway play “Sunrise at Campobello,” “FDR” is a show that reflects on the iconic president’s years in office.
Perhaps it is appropriate considering the current pendulum swing of our nation to revisit the man behind The New Deal. Too often, modern politics is concerned only with reshuffling the deck when we dislike the cards in our hands. The perpetual state of indecisiveness is a consequence of many dragging their heels and refusing to yield their myopic personal gain in exchange of what is best in the long run. These short-sighted acts rarely make for sound long-term decisions. FDR was one who knew that when the chips are down, you can’t just fold when you don’t like the cards dealt. One must move forward or get out of the way. Ed Asner also knows this, a man who has refused to rest on his laurels or sit on his hands. That’s why his solo performance is certain to show the audience why Roosevelt was loved and loathed by so many.
Watch him as he appears as FDR at The Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, March 9th at 8:00 p.m. It’s not just Roosevelt and The New Deal, it’s Ed Asner on stage. And that, my friends, is a big deal.