Etiquette

Alan Cumming Is NOT a Performing Poodle

The actor stuck around after his chat with Rico and Brendan to answer listeners' etiquette questions, and to tell us about the best. Wedding. Ever.

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Photo Credit: Steve Vaccariello

Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this week is Scotland’s own Alan Cumming. After telling us a few tales about his secret “Cabaret” club [aka his dressing room] and sharing insights about the sappy songs on his new album, he stuck around to tell our listeners how to behave.

DPD-BannerRico Gagliano: You ready for these questions?

Alan Cumming: Yes!

The go-to shutdown for not performing on command

Rico Gagliano: All right. Here’s something from Caitlin in Los Angeles. Caitlin writes: “I went to school for musical theater. It seems that at any dinner gathering, people ask me to sing something. What is your go-to shutdown for a guest or family member who begs you to ‘Do something funny!’ Or ‘Give us a song!’ Or do you just do it?”

Alan Cumming: I don’t do it, Caitlin.

Rico Gagliano: Really?

Alan Cumming: When someone says something like that to me… often people say to me, “Oh, say something in an American accent!” Because they know me from “The Good Wife,” and they can’t believe I speak like this in real life. Or, “Sing a song!” Or blah, blah, blah.

I say… there’s a variety of things I say. “I’m not a performing poodle.” That’s number one.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And you say that with a Scottish accent.

Alan Cumming: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: That’s quite attitudinal there, Alan.

Alan Cumming: Or else I say, “Oh, I’m not working right now!” That’s usually a good one.

Rico Gagliano: But this question involves a dinner party, where you’re surrounded probably by friends and family. This isn’t some random fan.

Alan Cumming: Oh, if I was with friends, I’d be: “Oh, come on, for fuck’s sake! You really expect… like, if you’re a doctor, are you going to like, operate on someone right now if I say so? How dare you!”

Or if people want me to do some lines from a film I’ve done, or… the number of times I get asked to sing “Willkommen“…

Rico Gagliano: From “Cabaret.”

Alan Cumming: Seriously, it must be thousands of times. People think, “Wouldn’t it be fun if you sang ‘Willkommen’?!” I’m like, “No.”

So Caitlin, to answer your question, I would slap them down in a humorous way. The use of the [term] “performing poodle,” they get the message.

Getting your guy to don a little eyeliner

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. This next question comes from Xaviera in Austin, Texas. And Xaviera writes: “How do I get my straight man to wear more eyeliner?”

Alan Cumming: Ooh! Well, I would say, show him pictures of boys who’ve got a bit of guyliner, bit of a smoky eye, and see what… you know, Google me. There’s a lot of…

Brendan Francis Newnam: You could Google Alan Cumming.

Alan Cumming: Me, David Bowie, lots of people. I think she needs to say to him that he looks so handsome when he does it. It’s a very, you know, masculine look.

It’s like people with kilts. I hate when people say “skirts,” it drives me nuts. But like, I just did a thing for NBC. I went to Scotland and made a film about visiting Scotland. And the guy, George, who’s lovely — George Oliphant, who’s the host of it — he had to get into a kilt.

And I could tell he was a little reticent about it. But when he was wearing it, he absolutely got how manly you feel, and how much fun it is to wear a kilt, and how… like, it’s nice to have a bit of air up there.

But you swagger in a kilt! And I think kilts and guyliner are two areas that — not just straight men — men in general need to wise up about.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, we should say: just start with one. Maybe not do both when he comes home tonight, Xaviera.

Alan Cumming: Yeah.

Terrified of Taylor Swift

Brendan Francis Newnam: Here we go: The next question comes from Genevieve in California. And Genevieve writes: “How should you proceed if you discover that you’ve mocked something — a band, a TV show, etc. — that your party host likes?”

Alan Cumming: Oh, well, I’ve done that many times. I… [laughs]

Rico Gagliano: Who was it?

Alan Cumming: Oh, I can’t tell you. I can’t tell this. This is terrible.

Rico Gagliano: Come on!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sure you can.

Alan Cumming: Well, like, it’s… actually I can, because I don’t think this anymore. But basically, when Emma Stone was in “Cabaret,” we were chatting about Taylor Swift. And I said, “Gosh, Taylor Swift scares me!” I just said that.

And then, I went to the dentist or something, and I picked up a magazine, and there was a picture of Emma and Taylor, you know, in her apartment!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, they were friends.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, no!

Alan Cumming: Yeah, friends. So, I went back to her. I was like, “Oh, gosh, Emma! I’m so sorry! I feel I’ve insulted your friend Taylor, because I saw the picture in the dentist.” And she was like, “Oh, no, it’s fine,” blah, blah.

But Taylor Swift, she used to scare me. Just because she was so kind of powerful and everywhere, and I felt like… I thought she could eat me. Do you know what I mean? [Rico and Brendan laugh.] But now…

Rico Gagliano: She could take over the country!

Alan Cumming: She could take over the country! But now, I don’t know. Something changed. I met her, and she’s absolutely charming.

But, anyway, the other person who used to scare me was Dakota Fanning.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Interesting. Really?

Alan Cumming: I used to be terrified of Dakota Fanning, yeah. Something about her… I think it was partly that she looked so together and older than she actually really was. There was just something about it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, I guess the answer, Genevieve, is you should maybe apologize, right? Because that’s what you did first, Alan.

Alan Cumming: I would apologize, but not change your… like, say, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you liked that person. I still don’t like them.”

Rico Gagliano: “I don’t want to insult you…

Alan Cumming: “I don’t want to offend you…”

Rico Gagliano: “…But I’m strong enough to stand by my opinion.”

Alan Cumming: Thank you. Yeah. Have balls.

Rico Gagliano: There you go. Cojones.

Alan’s most memorable wedding ever

Rico Gagliano: Here’s our last question. We ask this to everyone who does our etiquette segment. What is the most memorable get-together you have even been to? Who, when, and where? Details, please.

Alan Cumming: I think it would have to be the wedding of my lovely friend, Liza Minnelli, and David Gest in 2002. Because, first of all, she had all these bridesmaids, many of whom I thought were dead. Do you know what I mean? You see people that you think had already died…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, you mean iconic women?

Alan Cumming: Yeah. Like, Gina Lollobrigida walked down the aisle, and I was like, “Holy shit!”

And then, Michael Jackson was kind of like the matron of honor. So he was kind of futzing with her veil and everything.

And then, the whole thing was held up by a long time because Elizabeth Taylor had got into the car to come, and hadn’t realized she was wearing her slippers. So they had to go back to the hotel and get her shoes!

And so, we’re all hanging around, and Brian May played…

Rico Gagliano: From Queen!

Alan Cumming: … From Queen, he played — with this orchestra — played “We Are the Champions” on an electric guitar. It was absolutely… it blew my mind. At Liza’s wedding! Who’d have thunk?

Rico Gagliano: So, basically, you can never go to a wedding again and actually enjoy it. The bar is just too high.

Alan Cumming: It really is. It’s never going to be that good.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, man. Thanks, Liza.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, Alan Cumming, I think you helped with the greater good by answering our listeners’ etiquette questions.

Alan Cumming: That was fun! I liked them.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Alan Cumming: Thanks, boys.

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