5 stories from Stephen Tobolowsky's 'The Dangerous Animals Club'

Prolific actor Stephen Tobolowsky looks back over his life in his collection of essays.

3. Extra or actor

Sang Tan/AP

When Tobolowsky was in Vancouver, a man came up to him in a bar while Tobolowsky was reading a script and asked him if he was an extra. Tobolowsky told him he was the main villain in the film in which he was acting. "Extras always say they're actors," the man told him, according to Tobolowsky. "I can't think of any other profession publicly hammered to the extent that acting is on a regular basis," Tobolowsky wrote. "I would never go up to someone and say, 'So you say you're a waiter? What restaurant do you work at? Nice place, or just a McDonald's? If it's a McDonald's, then you're not really a waiter. Do you do dinner or just lunch? Do you have a jacket with your name on it? Oh, you don't have a full bar – just wine, okay, okay. I get it.'"

3 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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