Advice from Hollywood’s BFF, Actress Judy Greer

Actress Judy Greer has had a prolific career in Hollywood, mainly playing best friends and sidekicks. Her new memoir offers winning insights into the character of a 'character actor.' She stops by to offer some friendly, supportive advice.

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In the last two decades, actress Judy Greer has become a go-to supporting player, landing roles in projects including “Arrested Development,” “The Descendants,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “13 Going on 30,” and “Archer”.  Her new memoir “I Don’t Know Where You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star” documents the ups and downs of a career spent at the edge of the spotlight.

In this week’s etiquette interview, Judy tells us about the places she’s (allegedly) been, and about leaving an (ahem) unique mark on the Co-Star “Walk of Fame.”  And then, like any good friend — on-screen or off — she gives us some advice.  Today’s topics: mangled menus, third wheels, and trapping celebrities in confined spaces.


Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week, you send in your questions on how to behave and here to answer them this week is Judy Greer. She won wide acclaim for her role as the wife of a philanderer in the Oscar-winning movie “The Descendants,” but you’ve almost certainly seen her in one of her many, many, many character roles in movies and on TV shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “How I Met Your Mother.” She also appeared in ten episodes of “Arrested Development” playing the character Kitty Sanchez. Do you remember that, Judy? You’ve been in so much stuff you don’t even remember what you’ve been in.

Judy Greer: I didn’t know it was ten. I never counted them before.

Rico Gagliano: That’s what Wikipedia says.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Judy checks IMDB to see where she was last week. We’re happy you’re here this week and you’re here because you wrote a memoir, it’s called “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star.” Judy, welcome.

Judy Greer: Thank you!

Rico Gagliano: As the title suggests you’ve been in a ton of TV shows and movies, so you get a lot of puzzled looks of semi-recognition… What is the most surprising place a stranger thought they knew you from?

Judy Greer: Lake of the Ozarks, I think it was called. A very old woman who needed help off of the airplane and I were walking down the jetway together. She was like, “Do you live in Lake of the Ozarks?” And the answer is no, I don’t.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Your book, the subtitle is Confessions of a Co-Star, and there’s a common wisdom in Hollywood that it’s better to be a character actor and co-star because you have a wider range of roles available and a longer career than a headlining star. To what extent would you even want to be a marquee star at this point?

Judy Greer: I mean, I hear they get paid tons of money so that seems awesome.

Rico Gagliano: Money’s not too great, trust us. Trust these guys.

Judy Greer: I mean it, it seems awesome to have a bunch of money but like whatever, I’m into art too. I think that it’d be fun to star in things because I think a lot of times the starring roles are cooler.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, and also there’s not like a Hollywood Co-Star Walk of Fame, you know what I mean? Where you put your foot on what? Mud path?

Judy Greer: What if you sat your bare bum in the co-star walk of fame? It was an imprint of your bare bum?

Brendan Francis Newnam: People would sprain their ankles all the time and there would be lawsuits.

Judy Greer: Okay, that’s the worst idea.

Rico Gagliano: I have to say though, I disagree with the idea that co-starring roles are not as fun as starring roles. I dressed up as Han Solo, not as Luke Skywalker when I was a kid.

Judy Greer: Yeah, that’s a bad one for me because I never saw that movie.

Rico Gagliano: What?!

Judy Greer: I know!

Trapped in an Elevator with a Celeb

Rico Gagliano: Alright, we’re going to talk about that one later. Let’s get to our questions, shall we? This is from Gale in Los Angeles.

Judy Greer: Hi Gale!

Rico Gagliano: Gale writes: if you are in an elevator with a famous person, someone whose work you like, like maybe Judy Greer, do you nod, make small talk, or ignore them? I feel like something about the tight space makes it awkward. I guess it’s that both parties can’t escape one another for a few seconds.

Judy Greer: She’s right about that. I have an answer for this.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s convenient.

Judy Greer: Okay, good. I like it personally and I think other actors would too, or performers or whoever you’re in the elevator with, if when the door opens, you say it then, quickly, I really enjoy your work.

Rico Gagliano: When the escape hatch is available.

Judy Greer: Yes. Because it’s always nice to get a compliment that’s simple and straightforward and again, like Gail said you don’t have to sit in the elevator for three awkward minutes making weird small talk. Unless you wrote a screenplay in which case you should definitely tell that person the plot of your screenplay, I’m just kidding.

Rico Gagliano: So you say you enjoy it because you know the other option here would be to say nothing and let that person get on with their day without being harassed.

Judy Greer: I think you’re right that that’s a good option if you’re really that nervous about it but I think in general people like to be complimented, especially actors. I mean, we like it.

Rico Gagliano: You have egos? That’s crazy.

Judy Greer: I know. Don’t tell anyone.

Birthday Party of Three

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, our next question comes from Robin in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Robin writes: what do you do when a friend out of the blue offers to take you to dinner to celebrate your birthday then at the last minute announces “Dave” will be joining us. When I asked who Dave was she said, “Oh, my new boyfriend of three weeks.”

Judy Greer: I think that you enjoy the fact that you’re getting a free dinner and tell Robin about it maybe a week later.

Rico Gagliano: Really? But it sounded like Robin just wanted a one on one time with her friend on her birthday. Does she have to be subjected to the stranger?

Judy Greer: Well I have so many more questions for Robin, like, to really give a good answer to this question. Like, are there more people at this dinner or is it just her and Robin? And like, why not meet someone that your friend is dating for three weeks? You know you’re going to have to meet him eventually and, as long as you’re still getting your dinner paid for, I don’t totally understand what the big deal is.

Rico Gagliano: The bottom line is the dinner. You’re really into this dinner.

Judy Greer: I’m into a free meal. You could also ask, or Robin could ask the friend to meet before dinner for a drink just the two of you and then Dave could meet you at the restaurant for dinner after if it’s so important.

Brendan Francis Newnam: At a really small place with only two seats.

Entrées for Editors

Rico Gagliano: Perfect, so there’s a middle path for you, Robin. This is from Kate in Maui, Hawaii – speaking to somebody who was in “The Descendants,” set in Hawaii – my fiancé and I, writes Kate, recently went to a very nice restaurant and had a lovely dinner. The giant blotch on the evening was a glaring spelling error on this otherwise nice restaurant’s menu, namely it advertised pieces of bruschetta, p-e-i-c-e-s. When and how is it appropriate to point it out to the establishment in question?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh man. Kate is obviously a public radio listener.

Rico Gagliano: Absolutely.Sounds like one of ours.

Judy Greer: Yeah, Kate is, seems maybe a little high strung. I’m curious about how her relationship is going if she is at a fancy dinner with her fiancé and this is practically ruining her meal.

Rico Gagliano: Poor Kate.

Judy Greer: But I get it because one time I was standing in line at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and they’d spelled Colombia c-o-l-u-m-b-i-a when referring to coffee and I was like “Guys, you spelled it wrong,” and they were like “Huh?” I said:  “Colombia is with an O, look at the bag of coffee you’re holding in your hand right now.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: And the guy’s like, “No, that’s where I went to school.”

Rico Gagliano: He’s showing it off the only way I know how.

Judy Greer: Eek. But I think the way to handle this is to simply call the restaurant the next day and ask to speak to the manager and point it out to them because probably they didn’t even notice.

Rico Gagliano: There you go.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, is it really going to be a blotch on your?

Rico Gagliano: I think Kate’s hyperbolic about this.

Judy Greer: Yeah. I can’t imagine.

Brendan Francis Newnam: How do you spell hyperbolic?

Rico Gagliano: We’re going to have to, that’s an etiquette that will have to wait for another time. Judy Greer, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Judy Greer: You’re welcome, thank you for having me.