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M*A*S*H star Alan Alda jumps headfirst into podcasting

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Six-time Emmy award and Golden Globe award winning actor Alan Alda knows a thing or two about effective communication. For the past two years, he’s hosted “Clear & Vivid with Alan Alda,” a weekly podcast about how we can become better communicators with one another, featuring Alda’s conversations with icons of popular culture, including Paul McCartney, Tom Hanks, some of his former M*A*S*H castmates and more than a hundred others.

Next month, Alda will introduce a spin-off series called “Science Clear & Vivid” that brings clarity to the groundbreaking work of some of the planet’s top scientists.

In December, Alda will launch “Soldiers of Science,” a series he co-wrote for Audible about doctors during the Vietnam War era who changed the face of medical research forever.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Alan Alda about his podcast work, and once I heard his unmistakable voice on the other end of the phone, I envisioned him calling from Crabapple Cove, Maine – birthplace of Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – with a very dry martini in hand.

The Maine Edge: You don’t do anything halfway. You’ve jumped headfirst into the podcast world, haven’t you?

Alan Alda: I love it so much, I’m doing three podcasts right now. “Clear & Vivid” is devoted mainly to how we communicate and relate to one another. Sometimes it’s how we relate in marriage, sometimes it’s how we relate in business, and how sciences can communicate better to us so we can understand them. I speak with a lot of different people, including iconic people from popular culture like Paul McCartney, Yo-Yo Ma, Tom Hanks and over a hundred others. I’m having a ball talking to these people and discovering things about them.

The Maine Edge: What have you learned over the last two years of recording your “Clear & Vivid” podcast?

Alan Alda: One big thing is the importance of empathy. I think I knew it before I started doing the podcast, but it has certainly been reinforced: It’s more important to listen when you’re speaking than it is to say the right things. The right things you’ll say are better formulated, not by consulting your own head, as much as consulting what the other person is going through.

What are they feeling? What are they thinking? Are you getting through to them? Are they rejecting it? If so, why? What can you bring out of them that helps you both get on the same wavelength? Talking is dependent on good listening, I think. I’ve seen it over and over again and it’s been reported to me by people who are really good at it.

The Maine Edge: Could you give me an example based on one of the guests of your “Clear & Vivid” podcast?

Alan Alda: One of my guests was Chris Voss, a former FBI chief hostage-release negotiator. He had techniques to get these hostage-takers to release their hostages. His techniques involve paying careful attention to the troublemaker, finding out what they believed in and repeating it back to them, not countering or arguing with them. He said his techniques for getting a bad guy to release a hostage are also very useful in a marriage (laughs).

The Maine Edge: In November, you’ll launch a 10-episode spin-off podcast called “Science Clear and Vivid” that focuses on the latest work from leading scientists, and yet another show – “Soldiers of Science” is coming from Audible in December. What can you tell about this one?

Alan Alda: I love every moment that I get to talk to these people. “Soldiers of Science” is one that I wrote with journalist Kate Rope about a period during the Vietnam War that changed medical research forever. I got these doctors to talk from the heart about what it was like.

During the Vietnam War, doctors had to join the military, there was no lottery for them. As soon as you graduated, boom, you were in the army. If they were tops in their class, the cream of the crop, they had the option to apply to become researchers at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and very few doctors were chosen.

They did research where they were taking care of patients on one side of the hall, and on the other side, they had labs where they would work on creating medicines that hadn’t been invented yet to help their patients. That’s where they came up with statins that have saved millions of lives. Of the doctors that were in that program, nine of them became Nobel prize winners. It’s an extraordinary story that very few people know about.

The Maine Edge: Some of your recent guests on “Clear & Vivid” include Dr. Anthony Fauci and actress Goldie Hawn, and both were fascinating for the listener and for you. There is almost a giddiness in your voice when you learn something new. You still love to learn, don’t you?

Alan Alda: You know that’s true and I don’t manufacture it. To learn something that is true and real makes me excited to find out I’m in closer touch with reality. In my life I have found that the more I accept reality, or the best approximation of reality I can find, the easier life is for me because then I can do something about it.

(“Clear & Vivid with Alan Alda” and “Science Clear & Vivid” are available from Apple, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.“Soldiers of Science” will be available in December only from Audible.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 06:43


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