Photo of David Duchovny with the podcast name, Fail Better, written in a serif font

Ben Stiller and the Curse of the Sequel

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Believe it or not, Ben Stiller has failed. (Remember Zoolander 2? He’d probably rather you didn’t.) As it turns out, Ben has had his share of flops — a man after my own heart — and we chat for a good while about those times in his life, including how they sometimes led to something better. In my first-ever interview, he keeps me on track, answers questions I forgot to ask, and overall makes me feel like I’m actually succeeding at being a podcast host.

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Ben Stiller, David Duchovny

David Duchovny  00:06

Okay, I’m starting to record something for you. I just gotta say off the bat, I’m so bad, with anything technological. I’ve spent the last 10 minutes fucking this up and out, man. It’s so frustrating to me.


David Duchovny  00:23

All right, all right, I think I got everything working now. You’re hearing my voice, right? We’re making a podcast. It’s called Fail Better, and I’m David Duchovny. Why am I making a podcast? The best answer I can come up with is that I felt like I’ve been failing my entire life, so on some level, I can speak from plenty of experience. I’ve had personal failures. I like we all have I’ve had professional failures like we all have. I have things that I’ve been called as an actor. I had a high profile divorce, I had a magical mystery tour through rehab. You don’t have to get into specifics now. But stay tuned, maybe we will. There’s a sense in which failure looms over us. And I want to know what’s good about that. And I want to know what’s bad about that, what’s inhibiting about that? What is pushing us forward to be better and what is holding us back and shame. That’s what I want to get into. That would be a wonderful result of this. If even a little bit of shame in our lives could fall away.


David Duchovny  01:54

You know, one of my most painful professional failures is kind of what prompted the whole idea for this podcast. I was in Canada shooting a movie. And my movie house of D that I wrote and directed, the first movie that I directed had just come out in the States. And what I read is in bold letters, David Duchovny’s house of D gets an F, an F, an F. And the, you know, the hairs on my neck started to do weird things. I could feel sweat dropping from my armpit to my waist, I could feel my ears getting red. It was that vertigo, just that I don’t know what else to call it. But like when you when you just feel shame or humiliation. And it’s a real interior feeling like you’re sent kind of deeply inside yourself and some kind of childhood shame. And the first line of the review was have David Duchovny brains been abducted by aliens? Who good one, yeah, it was a good one, because it I mean, that just went you know, it hurt. I get to my trailer and I’m still like in this kind of vibrating, you know, dizzying jittery state, like, I’d had 10 cups of coffee. But it was like, shame coffee, the best, strongest coffee of all. And, but then I thought, you know, I’ve I have a job to do. These people have hired me to act on their movie, the, you know, my review from another movie is not their problem, not their interest. So I kind of told myself, I gotta suck it up, I got to figure out a way to go out there and do decent work today even do good work, you know, do work. And so I do that I go out, and I have a day I can’t remember, you know, if the work was was good or bad or indifferent, I suppose it was was good enough. And then I went home, went to bed. And I woke up and I feel fantastic like, I’ve never felt better. And I remember, oh, that paper oh, that review. And I realized in that moment that I felt so light and free is because my whole life I’d been terrified of getting an F from school on, you know, from childhood on just like an F. I think at some point in my head, I made the equation f equals death. And here I was on a Saturday morning in Montreal, and the sky was blue, and I was breathing air. And I was drinking coffee and I was feeling good. And I’d had my because I realized that you don’t die when you get an F. And I’m so happy now. All these years later, to have gotten that F and to have been somewhat freed from the tyranny of pass fail of ABCD one of the Livadi, what happened to you I can a be right about it to go from D to F, I guess because of failure.


David Duchovny  05:08

Fail Better is a show where failure, not success shapes who we are. This is my very first interview. It’s my very first interview that I’ve ever done. I’ve been an interviewee I’ve never been an interviewer, and it’s a different seat. It’s a different vibe. But luckily, my first time is with a man who I’ve been fortunate enough to fail alongside a few times over the years. He lasted only four episodes on Saturday Night Live. His sketch comedy show won an Emmy after it has already been canceled. He is the man who directed the Cable Guy, and he’s responsible for zoom and are two. That’s right it’s Ben Stiller, my friend. And here’s our conversation.


David Duchovny  05:57

Hey, there you are.


Ben Stiller  05:58

How’s it going, man?


David Duchovny  06:00

How are you?


Ben Stiller  06:01

I’d get all make sure I have my cup of coffee ready.


David Duchovny  06:04

I know I got one right here. I’m just gonna slam it at some point.


Ben Stiller  06:08

How are you doing?


David Duchovny  06:09

I’m good, thanks for doing this.


Ben Stiller  06:11

Yeah, I’m so into it. Like I it’s actually, I think a really good idea.


David Duchovny  06:18

Well, I see the thing is, it’s nicely set up because I don’t really know, you know, I have this idea that it’s a good idea.


Ben Stiller  06:24



David Duchovny  06:25

But I’m not even sure how it happens or how it takes form, which is kind of exciting but also, you know, nauseous making, ya know, and the others.


Ben Stiller  06:33

Yeah, taking a chance. But it’s there’s so much to talk about in that world, I guess. I don’t know.


David Duchovny  06:38

I know, I know. What I wanted to say to you was, do you remember how we came to do Zoolander to get eyesight together? I had a small part in it.


Ben Stiller  06:49

But you know, a small yet pivotal role. That’s very important.


David Duchovny  06:53

Do you remember how it happened?


Ben Stiller  06:54

Not quite.


David Duchovny  06:56

So you sent the script or the producer sent the script to Taya to read for some role. And it was lying around the house. And I was like, what’s this? And she said, oh, that’s Ben Stiller movie, and as a wife, Ben Stiller is not sending me a script sending you sending us? Well, can I read it? And then I read it, and I think I got in touch with your reps and said, I would love to do anything that you want me to do. And you offered me the brother role, or the hand model. And I thought, I’ll do the hand model. I think I can understand that. So we go and we’re on set. And we’re shooting, what was that island? Coast?


Ben Stiller  07:39

That was the island, right? Right across from, yeah.


David Duchovny  07:44

So we’re, we’re shooting that scene. And I’ve got this crazy monologue, basically, with a few interruptions from Zoolander, which you stumbled upon goes way deeper than you could ever fathom. The fashion industry has been behind every major political assassination over the last 200 years, behind every hit of card carrying male model. We did it like three, four or five times and the fourth or fifth time I fucked up, I flubbed the line or whatever. And you interesting both said finally. And I was just so liberated by that, because there I was trying to be perfect you know, I was trying to get it right. And I just wanted to you know, that was like, a moment of gratitude I had for you as a director as a creative artist and everything to to just recall that to recall that moment.


Ben Stiller  08:38

Yeah, wow, I didn’t I didn’t remember that part of I also, I do remember from that scene that I think I screwed up my line and said, but why male models? Why several times, and we ended up leaving it in the movie. Like seemed like Derek was just stupid, was really just let me.


Ben Stiller  08:58

Why male models?


David Duchovny  09:01

Serious, I just, I just told you that a moment ago.


Ben Stiller  09:06



Ben Stiller  09:07

Everything you’re talking about is I So identify with and you know, like a little moment like that on a set. I mean, it’s so scary sometimes to just especially if you don’t know that people we didn’t know each other really?


David Duchovny  09:22

No, it didn’t.


Ben Stiller  09:22

And I was just so excited that you wanted to be a part of it. And I remember being like nervous, you know, with you there to wanting it to work out you know, like wanting you to have a good experience and wanting this.


David Duchovny  09:34

That’s ridiculous.


Ben Stiller  09:35

No, no, but for real, you know, like David Duchovny collector guy and wanted, you know, had reached out about being in the movie and jumped at the chance, but I think you really do appreciate those little moments. I remember when I was like one of the first jobs I ever had was playing a tough guy. In a bet no little movie this movie called Stella and I played her daughter’s tough like, wrong side of the tracks boyfriend, which is you know, a role I ended up getting typecast and for years and years but I, you know, it was like maybe like my second or third role in the movies, one scene or one or two scenes. And I had to like, she was like grilling some food on a barbecue outside of her apartment. And we were like on the porch and I was trying to be tough and so like I like took a piece of meat off the barbecue and I ate it. So ridiculous, but God bless the director is John Ermine and that for giving me that this opportunity to play the Sky, and I was so nervous trying to be cool. And I remember the script supervisor who’s in charge of like, keeping track of the continuity that you do the same thing every take, you know, said, oh, no, you picked it up with your, you know, left hand or you picked it up on this line, the last take, you should pick it up there, and I was so nervous because I’ve never been in that type of situation. And I remember the director just like jumped in and said, no, no, don’t don’t worry, don’t worry, he hasn’t found it yet. Let’s just let him do his thing. And that, like, it was like a little moment like that, like you’re talking about that I always remembered that the director was there kind of like going in and out, it’s okay, you know what I mean? Like all of this machinery and these things that, you know, you can get judged about or that you don’t know, when you’re walking, and there’s a difference, you know, slightly different situation but it’s the same thing where somebody just gave me the freedom to say like, it’s okay to, like, just figure it out, and, but that does get to the essence, I think of what it is to have to take these chances when you do anything, creatively for sure.


David Duchovny  11:35

I remember the first job I got was a commercial for Löwenbräu, and I was terrified. I mean, I somehow I got the commercial.


Ben Stiller  11:43

Löwenbräu was a beer for people who don’t know, it was it wasn’t.


David Duchovny  11:48

Thank you. I remember it was beer, it let it be long brown rice, the title exactly, let it be long brown, let it be lun Brown. And so I get there and they tell me, okay, here’s here, there’s no dialogue. It’s just like an image of me and an older guy at a bar and they tell me like he’s an old professor of mine that I run into, like, that’s the vibe they want to get from us. And at one point, I like very much like your meat thing. I like tossed a pretzel up into the air and like caught up my mouth you know, like, just Mister Mister at ease, you know, at the bar. And the record was like, yeah, that’s good. And then I just glommed onto it, like I couldn’t stop like tossing pretzels up in the air and Cassiopeia my mouth. And finally, I just robbed the director and we got the pretzel. We got the pretzel. And then the shame just started, like, you know, when somebody sees what you’re trying to do, it’s the worst.


Ben Stiller  12:45

There’s one audition where I had to do a whole monologue. This is like when I was like, 17 at, like for play in New York. And the monologue was about a bris, like somebody’s having a bris. And, um, you know, should know that. And the whole I didn’t know that, and I pronounced it Bri, V R I S, Bri like Brie cheese, the whole monologue. They said, thank you very much. And it’s pronounced Bris. Ah, yeah, I mean, especially at that point, when you’re just starting out, and you’re lucky enough to get work. It’s so exciting to get the work and it’s so charged. It’s, you know, I at least I always felt so nervous, you know?


David Duchovny  13:31



Ben Stiller  13:32

I mean, you know, like, all these all these things are like, I think as time goes by, I don’t know, we just changes people, I think, you know, we changes people over the years and I have a different perspective on you know, like, when I looked at myself, 20 years ago, I’ll watch like, B roll footage, which is like, you know, behind the scenes footage of like, on a film or movie, you know, of like me making jokes about something like thinking I’m really funny, and like, I look like things like he’s just knows what I look like such an asshole. Like, this guy really thinks like, he’s got it all figured out. But there’s something about when you’re young, too, there’s that aspect of like, okay, you have this a little bit, right? You just this drive.


David Duchovny  14:13

You need that you need that we also need that confidence that you that you haven’t figured it out.


Ben Stiller  14:16



David Duchovny  14:17

It’s not supreme. It’s not supreme confidence. It’s like it’s, it’s like a green confidence. And I had too like, when I first started acting, I was like, fantastic, you know, you know, fuck, you know, I’m just gonna, like, I’m just gonna, like, get, like, I look at all the X Files. I’m like, oh, man, that is just bad but there’s an eagerness. That is kind of winning, you know?


Ben Stiller  14:39



David Duchovny  14:39

And then at some point, I feel like I lost that eagerness. And then like, what do you replace that with? It just you become a different kind of a maker?


Ben Stiller  14:46



David Duchovny  14:47

Because you can’t be 21 forever in any way, you know, even in a creative way.


Ben Stiller  14:52



David Duchovny  14:53

And for sure, and there’s a different kind of creation that comes as we get older, a different relationship to it. And you know, I love get at your work. I mean, your work is incredibly varied. And what I notice is, you know, in the beginning, I see a person who’s engaged in having a conversation with the television and the movies. You know, with the medium.


Ben Stiller  15:19

I feel like I had a lack of self awareness or understanding of why I wanted to have that conversation with movies and TV other than that, I loved them, and I wanted to be a part of it. And I grew up around it, obviously, with my parents. But I have to say, like failure, you know, has contributed to that in a big way. Because I think the times where I’ve like experienced that they were pretty, you know, the there are a couple I’d say, like there to like, professional ones that really like I feel like really affected me.


David Duchovny  15:53

What do you think of specifically when you say that.


Ben Stiller  15:55

Specifically in terms of about failure?


David Duchovny  15:57

Or those failures, yeah.


Ben Stiller  15:59

Well the first one was the Cable Guy. Because with Jim Carrey, and that that movie, we had so much fun making that movie and and when the movie came out, it was not well received and did not make a lot of money at the box office. That was the first movie that Jim Carrey did that didn’t do well. And I remember picking up the New York Times review. I remember where I was at the St. Regis Hotel, and like opening up the New York Times review, which said, the first disaster movie of the summer has arrived. Oh, it’s called The Cable Guy. Because at that time, you know, like disaster movies were a big thing. And that was kind of shocking, because it was just like, oh, whoa like, I thought this was I thought, like, we were so into this, and we were having so much fun doing it. And Jim was so into it. And we spent so much time and energy making. You know, that thing of like, wait a minute, wait a minute, this I thought this was, but like, this is the thing we work really hard on and we all really think is good. But I did feel the low in terms of after that. Of like, kind of people not calling. You know, you don’t get a lot of call. First of all, you don’t get that thing when like the movie comes out and doesn’t do well. You always get like, you get a lot of like, you know, calls and like, just congratulations when things are going well when something isn’t good, like it just is silence. There’s nobody caller.


David Duchovny  17:23

There’s the worst call, which is like, I don’t care about the New York Times.


Ben Stiller  17:28

Oh, yeah.


David Duchovny  17:28

When you when you’ve stayed away from the New York Times and not read there.


Ben Stiller  17:31

Yeah, that’s the best when you get like the text of the New York Times text. I’m like, okay, thank you.


David Duchovny  17:37

That’s where, I wasn’t aware until now. Now, I guess I have to read the New York Times and see how bad it is.


Ben Stiller  17:43

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a good review in the New York Times. But, you know, it was like, then the real repercussions like the show business repercussions were like, oh, you know, not a lot going on in terms of like directorial offers, you know, because it was kind of like a high profile failure. You know, it’s just so like, it really sticks with you. Obviously, those those moments those, you know, the feeling like he’s a shame, you know, this feeling of shame. And I you know, what you were just talking about at the beginning to me like that, that’s a beautiful I love that story that you kind of woke up just feeling free because that that’s the reality of it is that nothing has changed. Okay, maybe somebody reads the review, who is a producer who might have like, hired you, who now will go like, oh, I don’t want to hire him or somebody who doesn’t like you will laugh at you. Or like talk their friend about what but in your reality in the reality of the lives that we’re, you know, living on this planet, like nothing has changed, and that like.


David Duchovny  18:44

Your dog didn’t read the review and look at you like that fucker.


Ben Stiller  18:48



David Duchovny  18:49

I wish I had a different owner.


Ben Stiller  18:50

Yeah, I mean, people who are love you and your lifestyle love you and the people who respect you still respect you. And, you know, if you really look at it, like, look at the history of people doing things and taking chances and making art, it’s just like, you can, you know, it happens literally all the time. I find for me, it’s always, it always comes back to just my own. My own feelings of insecurity, you know, that’s, that’s for me. Like, when I would look at how somebody would react to something I did negatively. It it’s usually because it’s somehow I’m somehow thinking, oh, yeah, you know that. That’s something that I agree with that I don’t you know, like in myself.


David Duchovny  19:36

You, you give it weight.


Ben Stiller  19:37



David Duchovny  19:39

If it’s negative. If it’s negative, you tend to give it more.


Ben Stiller  19:41

Right, but then you have to, like what are you going to do quit the business? You’re gonna are you going to stop doing it like you have that moment where you go, okay, they’re right. I suck I’m awful. And anytime that’s happened with me, it’s always allowed space for other things to happen in my life, you know, and, you know, eventually things change anytime you’re like, forced to have to just be with yourself. Usually Good things come out of that, because, you know, there’s so many distractions and success.


David Duchovny  20:11

Yeah, what is it success has many fathers and failures a bastard and you know, and you’re sitting there you’re alone.


Ben Stiller  20:15

Yeah, and that’s, that’s the most real time because that’s when you’re like really, really like, you know, you’re just there with with who you are and the other kind of big one for me was Zoolander two. And that was an that was, you know, that was like a really shocking one to me, because that was like later in life. And I was also like, okay, well, I thought everybody wants this. And then I was like, wow, I must have really fucked this up like, everybody didn’t go to it. And it’s gotten like, these horrible reviews, it was really, it really freaked me out because I was like, I didn’t know was that bad? Like, that’s what scared me the most on that one was like, wait a minute question. I’m losing like, what I think what what’s funny? Yeah, the questioning yourself. But on Zoolander two, it was, you know, it was definitely blindsiding to me. And it definitely, like affected me for a long time. But it also, it was the same thing only, you know, it wasn’t as young. So it’s like, it’s almost even, like, harder to because you’re like, well, wait a minute, you know, like, what? You know, but for me, though, it was the same thing, by the way as cable guy to where like, then there was a kind of a quiet time. And the wonderful thing that came out of that, for me was, again, was just like having space where like, if that had been a hit, and they said like make cylinder three right now or offer some other movie, I would have just probably jumped in and done that. But I had this space to kind of sit with myself and have to deal with it and other projects that I had been working on. Not comedies, some of them, I had the time to actually just work on and develop. And it ended up giving me the space began, really, because I didn’t really have a choice at that moment other than, like, I wasn’t like, even if somebody said, well, why don’t you go do another comedy? Or do this? Like I probably could have figured out something to do. But I just didn’t want to.


Ben Stiller  20:17

And I didn’t you want to? What’s that feeling there? Is that anger? And I don’t want no.


Ben Stiller  21:52

It was just her I think hurt and like, you know, take my ball and go home and like, you don’t want me.


David Duchovny  22:24

Yeah, right.


Ben Stiller  22:25

All right, you know what, you’re not gonna. And so I just sort of, you know, like, didn’t feel like putting myself out there. But I, you know, over the all these years, like part of, you know, talking about like what, you know, finding yourself in terms of like, what creatively you want to be and do, I always love directing. I always love making movies, I always, in my mind, loved the idea of just directing movies that since I was a kid, and not necessarily comedies. And so over the course of like the next like, nine or 10 months, I was able to develop out this limited series Escape at Dannemora of these these kind of things who escaped, that I don’t think would have happened if I had gotten distracted with something else. And for me, that was really transformative because it was the first time I was ever directing something that I wasn’t in which was, had not been my intention over all these years. And I was so happy doing it. That kind of set me off on a different path that I don’t think would have happened, you know, as a director that I wouldn’t have pursued or made the space to pursue if I’d had the success with Zoolander.


David Duchovny  27:16

I mean, there’s lots that I’d love to talk to you about, like growing up in New York. I mean, we’re both we’re both half Jews half you know, your mom was […]


Ben Stiller  28:13

Half Jewish. But yes, my mom was Irish Catholic, my dad was Jewish.


David Duchovny  28:21

Yeah, my mother was a Scottish Lutheran and my dad was from Brooklyn. Was your dad born in the States?


Ben Stiller  28:26

My dad was born in in probably in Brooklyn yeah, in Brooklyn, lived all over the Lower East Side super poor.


David Duchovny  28:32

We might be, you know, you and I should never have a baby.


Ben Stiller  28:36



David Duchovny  28:38

So to get back to like, the initial impulse, right, you’re the son of two performers. And do you think he wanted to make people laugh? Was is that is that the first thing because your parents are professional? Funny people, right? Is that like little Ben Stiller? Is he gone? I’m gonna make.


Ben Stiller  28:58

Well, maybe it’s a little while to get you know, Jerry and Ann to laugh at it.


David Duchovny  29:05

Really, is that so?


Ben Stiller  29:06

I think it’s that, you know, you folks, your parents are actors, you know, you want their, you know, it’s a whole world that you’re in where you see people paying attention to them and you as a kid, want your parents to pay attention to you and my parents were amazing. But it’s also like, it’s, you know, they were just like, you know, living the life of a comedy team who were had to like they had, you know, had to write their act. They were writing and making commercials. They were doing television episodes, they were just like, kind of doing their thing. And they brought us along with them. But like I think as a kid, you know, you see that and it’s there’s something very, you know, exciting about it, too. I didn’t really have the desire to be funny, funny, I think I remember very young, like being excited to be on a set and to see the cameras and to see you like how they said stuff up. And just like the aura of excitement when you’re about to shoot something, my, I went on the set of The Taking of Pelham 123 and my dad was. And like, being around that and going, this is the coolest thing ever, the making of movies to me was that’s what I remember as a little kid thing like, I want to be making movies.


David Duchovny  30:20

So there wasn’t a moment where you got that first laugh and you were like.


Ben Stiller  30:26

Bring us up on stage, sometimes after they would do their act, or they would do some restock productions do like a plan to bring Amy my sister and I up and, you know, we do you know, like, some lines from the play or something. And people would laugh.


David Duchovny  30:38

Yeah, and how did you feel about, you know, the the fact that the family life, the relationship was part of part of the act, right. And therefore, at some point, you must have felt like, you know, am I gonna? Do they talk about their kids that am I going to be part of the act is was there ever that kind of?


Ben Stiller  30:58

Well, there was, yeah, I’m actually I’m working on a documentary about my parents right now. So I’ve been kind of looking at a lot of their stuff and, you know, really, my dad made a lot of audio recordings of their rehearsals and their, you know, their process, which is any just recorded stuff around the house, too and there was always that sort of the my parents act, my sister and I knew it sort of inside out. And there was all these jokes that they would make that we didn’t quite understand about, you know, marry.


David Duchovny  31:26

Your sister, actually, would you would you play your dad and your sister would play your mom and you do that?


Ben Stiller  31:31

Yeah, we do the act. Yeah, that’s weird that’s I mean, we do labor just like there’s a lot of performing going on in the house. Like my parents would go away to LA to like work, like do a Love Boat episode, or do like Courtship of Eddie’s father, you know, they do a guest. Because they never moved to LA and then my sister and I would be alone for like, you know, a week or two weeks with our housekeeper, Hazel, who took care of us. And we would just like, go crazy, and then come back. And we’d like, act out, like the first act of Jesus Christ Superstar from my parents, or Pippin or something like that. So I guess we were trying to get their attention, but we definitely knew their act. And they would, you know, like, my mom would have these jokes, like, you know, I’m Irish Catholic. That means I’m paralyzed from the waist down, like, you know, it’s like, sort of like a joke, it would never fly there. You know, that was like, what would you what does that even mean? It’s.


David Duchovny  32:22

Oh, she doesn’t know what that mean?


Ben Stiller  32:23

Yeah, and it’s politically incorrect. But like, you know, jokes like that, that were my, my dad would say, this is the my wife and the mother, my two kids, my mom would say, and this is the father of one. And like, that would get a big laugh. And we.


David Duchovny  32:28

Would be laughing.


Ben Stiller  32:40

I know, it’s funny. They were brilliant, but it’s just me. But we didn’t even think like it didn’t even we didn’t question it was just sort of like, that’s the act as you know, there’s. So it was just part of it was just part of that there was like a, you know, it was a melding of the act and life and all of it was intertwined. By the way those 70 shows, because I haven’t looking at a lot of them for my parents thing. What people talked about on talk shows in the 70s was so real, that people just don’t want to just talk about real stuff. There’s not funny anecdotes, you know, that you see now on on The Tonight Show, or, you know, we’re like, they asked you what you’re going to talk about you tell something fun, people just talk about like, like, I have my parents talking about, like Barbara Walters asking my parents like, so like, when Jerry goes on the road, do you worry that he’s going to cheat on you and like, things like that, but like, for real. And everybody’s like smoking cigarettes, and or it’s just amazing, there’s just everything was just so much more, like less polished, you know, but, you know, honestly, later on, like, looking and exploring that stuff, and seeing the reality of like, what it was like to be, you know, a kid in the 70s when your parents weren’t around a lot. And we were kind of left her own devices a lot to take care of ourselves. With parents were doing the best they could, but that was that was the reality and watching your parents on TV was kind of a, you know, kind of, like, wow, you know, that reality seemed more in a way more interesting to me than the reality of our lives you know.


David Duchovny  34:17

I think when you say watching your parents on TV, I got I got emotional, you know, because it’s like, I know, they were great parents. And I know, I know, you’re not saying anything but that but like to have that substitute and then to watch you then go say, I’m going to, you know, live inside that box to you know, if they’re in there, I’m gonna get I’m gonna get in there, but they weren’t with them, you know what I mean? And, but I wonder, also, you know, because they were successful, but they were not like uber successful, and they were constantly you know, they were gigging actors, right. They were, they never could stop hustling. They never could stop hustling right again.


Ben Stiller  34:59

Yeah, no they were working for a living, they were having to do what they needed to do.


David Duchovny  35:04

When you, you must have been aware of their sense of not maybe not failure, but of anxiety and the constant threat of it all going away and stuff like that. And I wonder if that, if that was part of, of any of your kind of the creation of your consciousness towards the business?


Ben Stiller  35:24

Yeah, I mean, definitely not consciously for me, you know, I wasn’t thinking sure, because when you’re never me, looking at them, all I saw was, I, all I saw was there, they, their success there was that they were working, you don’t I mean, like I didn’t, I wasn’t comparing it, I didn’t, that looked like a huge success just being on the ball, the fact that they were doing like a $10,000 pyramid, you know, or, you know.


David Duchovny  35:45

I’m not gonna argue, like, I’m not gonna argue.


Ben Stiller  35:46

To me was the coolest shows the coolest thing in the world, like, I was so excited to go and hang out there, you know, and I think, you know, for them, whatever their own personal feelings of like, what they aspire to, you know, which is the stuff like, as an adult, now I can, and I talked to my parents about it, you know, when they were older, too. That wasn’t what I was experienced as a kid I wasn’t aware of that all I was experienced would be maybe the residual feelings or tension between them sometimes when they were having my dad was trying to figure out how to get, you know, my mom to write with him, or when she was less interested in being doing that, because my dad was more interested in doing the act. And my mom wasn’t things like that. But it wasn’t ever conscious. It was just sort of like, okay, they’re doing their thing. And then, and you know, as a kid, you don’t think that way. I think you don’t like you’re not even thinking about like, your parents issues, at least for me. I wasn’t you, know what I mean.


David Duchovny  35:59



Ben Stiller  36:13

I’m just thinking about myself. And as a kid, I’m just thinking, right, like.


David Duchovny  36:46

It’s wonderful I mean, that’s, I love that about kids. But I also don’t think a kid thinks of his dad as a failure or a success, you know, which is the weird thing when we when we become fathers or anything else. You know, my, I bet my son wishes that movie to more.


Ben Stiller  37:05

Exactly, and I’m sure your kids because you know, your kids are older, and.


David Duchovny  37:10

My kids do care. Oh, my God, my dad, you know, who I didn’t think of as a failure or success. He once said to me, I’m giving you one of the greatest things a father can ever give a child. I’m not very successful. That’s what he said to me. And I had no idea what he I didn’t really know what he’s talking about, ou know? Yes, you’re right there’s no such thing as half Jewish, just proven so.


Ben Stiller  37:37

Yeah, for sure.


David Duchovny  37:38

Now, now, because, in a way, you know, that kind of humility, you know, the humility of that is really what joins us together. You know, I was, you know, when, you know, raising kids, I was always, like, I was always kind of, like, embracing their failures, you know, and I never knew, if that was the right thing to be doing, you know, if I should be like, yeah, just get back in there until you win, you know, fucking, you know. And sometimes I was always, like, maybe you’re too comfortable with not giving up, but just like going, you know, like, you don’t always want them, you know, you’re not always a winner. And it’s funny how we kind of, we reparent ourselves when we parent our kids, you know and.


Ben Stiller  38:29

Yeah, yeah.


David Duchovny  38:30

We make different different mistakes than our parents made, we make them a little.


Ben Stiller  38:35

Definitely different. And some of the same too. I mean, you made me think of it when I, we were saying about me, like watching my parents in the TV set, and then like, wanting to give them a TV set, you know, and my, both my kids are interested in acting. You know, I that that made me think about when I went off and started doing movies and had kids, and my parents being away, that I went through the same thing with my kids, where I would be away working. And it’s at one point, just feeling that, and I think my parents had to keep working doing their thing, and we’re doing the best they could, but like, at a certain point, I had that conversation with my family, which was like, oh, you know, like, I’m away a lot. And, I remember my son just like that thing, and my son like said, like, I was going off to do like a Night at the Museum, two or three or something like that. And I was like, hey, you but you like near the museum? He’s like, yeah, but I don’t like when you’re away. And I and I feel like that, like, you know, we talked about failures, like definitely, as a parent, you always think about the things you could have done better like to be around more, you know, but I also think like, but it’s kind of like, oh, that was a little bit of a cat’s in the cradle moment, too for me.


David Duchovny  39:50

That song killed horse like it’s it’s truth. That we’re still on this thing when when we took my daughter to college. I was just on this dag, where every time there was silence in our conversation, I’d start singing cats in the cradle. Because they all laugh, but I would start to cry, I would literally start, I cry when I sing that song.


Ben Stiller  40:10

Amazing, it’s because it just captured reality.


David Duchovny  40:14

I know, and the thing about, I don’t want to let you off the hook for, you know, being away or whatever, whatever you feel is right, you know, about that time or whatever but the kind of what I told myself when I was away, if I was away from my kids working well, I knew they had, they had a loving mom at home, I knew that. So it wasn’t leaving them alone, nor were you so, but what I told myself was like, oh, I’m modeling an engaged person, you know, I’m modeling a person who’s not just defining themselves as a father of this child, you know, I’m modeling an adult out in the world doing his or her thing, you know, and is that bad? You know, like, what’s the balance, you know, is the balance, like, I’m just gonna be your father, you know, and I’m on you, I’m on you. 24/7. You know, it’s just me and you, buddy. Or is it? You know, I’m on you, when I’m on you. 24/7 when I’m here, but I’m also I’m into my life, and I’m into my work and I’m into the world you know, like, I don’t know, I don’t know the answer.


Ben Stiller  41:24

No, I think there’s elements of that, that are very valid and, of course, as our kids are now like young adults, you’re able to have those conversations with them, right? Where they can talk to talk to you about it.


David Duchovny  41:38

Hell, no.


Ben Stiller  41:39

No? My kids will talk to me about it give me a lot of shit. But also, but also, you know, like, we connect on the other levels about about the work and all because they do get it and they both are interested in that world. So it really is, you know, it’s just that’s just you know, like what would that have been if I was home all the time being I don’t even know that that would have been would have been worse


David Duchovny  42:06

it would have been like danabol even like the dad looks at him. Dressing them on the same sweat exactly right.


David Duchovny  43:54

One other thing I wanted to ask you about because like it’s weird when you get like research about a brand that you’re gonna I felt a little dirty. You know, like, I don’t want to. I don’t want to, but that you did asked.


Ben Stiller  46:14

Oh, yeah.


David Duchovny  46:14

As a kid, and I find that I want to talk about two things before we finish I want to talk about asked about most of all, I want to talk about silver mine.


Ben Stiller  46:26

If good researchers.


David Duchovny  46:29

I want to talk about silver mind control so bad, but.


Ben Stiller  46:34

Do you did you do mind control?


David Duchovny  46:36

No, I never even heard of it until the research came in from. From Ben Stiller so.


Ben Stiller  46:43

Seriously, A plus year researchers. Nobody’s ever asked me about Silva mind control. I did it when I was literally 50.


David Duchovny  46:51

Tell me what it is first and who is Silva?


Ben Stiller  46:55

I didn’t when I was 15, okay, 15 or 16, so it’s been a while. Okay, it was a guy. I want to say his name was Jose Silva. I’m not sure.


David Duchovny  47:06



Ben Stiller  47:06

He came up with a mind control method to like, basically to like visualize things that you wanted to manifest. So my friend Adam Max, who his dad is Peter Max, the artist grew up in Berlin.


David Duchovny  47:21

And I know max.


Ben Stiller  47:23

Yeah, Adam told me about he’s something somehow maybe his dad knew about it, or whatever. It was like the 70s, you know, late, late 70s. And we went down to this like, like the 12th floor of a building. I’m like, 33rd Street between like seventh and eighth Avenue, and did a seminar for like a weekend where they taught you how to meditate and can visualize, the thing I remember from it was a thing called the three finger technique. And they said, you could use this if you’re trying to find a parking spot.


David Duchovny  47:52

If you park just a park.


Ben Stiller  47:54

And you visualize the spot, and you put your thumb and your forefinger and your middle finger together and visualize the parking spot, and it would supposedly manifest.


David Duchovny  48:05

Very New York, you didn’t have you didn’t have a fucking driver’s license. So you weren’t looking for. So whatever Silva mind control was telling you, it was it was not useful.


Ben Stiller  48:14

It was something to do as teenagers that you know, wasn’t drugs so.


David Duchovny  48:19

Yeah, and my researchers say, yes, it is Jose.


Ben Stiller  48:23

Okay, correct yeah. My parents did asked, because there was a whole est craze in the 70s, which was, you know, sure, hard seminars, training, and yes, it’s self actualization. They, and they had a children’s training. So the, so my parents did the regular adult training two weekends, they go to like, a ballroom in a hotel, and they break you down. And you know, I mean, yeah.


David Duchovny  48:43

Well, that’s the interesting thing is the breakdown stuff, right?


Ben Stiller  48:47

Yeah, because it was the idea of gangs, the whole idea was to get it, are you getting it, and they wouldn’t tell you what it was other than, like, it was the idea that you have to kind of, like, accept that you are responsible for everything. So that was what kind of the idea of what getting it was, in other words, not blaming, that, you know, just kind of taking, taking responsibility.


David Duchovny  49:11

And as at 15, you’re 15.


Ben Stiller  49:13

I did it when I was like, 12, that one I did was 12 and it was children in a room for two weekends. And they had I just remembered that they had pictures of emotions, like anger, sadness, happiness, they had like different pictures of like, these cartoon characters representing emotions. And they talked to us about like, which emotions we connected with the most. And it was a little less intense than the you know, the adult training but it’s definitely weird.


David Duchovny  49:40

Well, I I knew somebody who, who like ran the forum.


Ben Stiller  49:44

Yeah, that was later version of it, right?


David Duchovny  49:46

Yeah, later version of us. And they really, they really yell at you. And they, they like try to break you down of all your bullshit and you know, all your manipulations and all that stuff. There’s always a moment and in the funny Ben Stiller film, where you fucking tell the truth, you know, you take shit you take it, you take it, you take shifts, and then you go as […] you know, it could be the mariachi guys or or you no De Niro and in the Fockers, whatever you know, but there’s always that moment where you’ve had enough. And your anger is funny, and I don’t know, that’s the genius part to me is like the people that can be, that can make the anger universally funny to all of us. And I’m going to try to relate it back to failure, because I think, you know, there’s something in there that you’re just tired of being shit on and being seen as an ineffectual failure in these movies. And I’m just wondering, you know, like, when you said asked, when I when I read asked, I was like, Isn’t that’s kinda like, he’s like an S counselor. And there’s always a moment where Ben is gonna go fucking S on you in a movie? I don’t know, I’m sure you’ve never made that connection.


Ben Stiller  51:06

I did, but I just, I like, when you said.


David Duchovny  51:09

When you said relate, relate to that moment, that moment.


Ben Stiller  51:13

And honestly, when you said that it made me think of my dad, because my dad who I think was like, truly just like one of the funniest people ever was, and where he had his, you know, most success on, you know, Seinfeld and kings, queens, with people and the way they blow up and get angry. I always felt was, that was him releasing so much real real rage and anger that he had, and you know, but he was the sweetest human being in the world who would suppress it. And he found this way to channel it in a way that was so incredibly funny, but it was coming from such a real place.


David Duchovny  51:49

Right? Right, that’s that’s the point. Is that, this is real, but I see I see it, you know, now that you mentioned your dad. Wow, when you say it, like that’s from.


Ben Stiller  52:00

A well, that’s for him, like a well of just years of like real, real pain and real anger and rage, and frustration and all those things, that he really only found a way to, I think, express through his work, you know, and he loved it. He loved being able to like, and I think he was aware of that too. And like he kind of was for him. That’s why he had so much joy in being in doing the work.


David Duchovny  52:23

Yeah, yeah. It’s beautiful, as we I mean, it’s beautiful to me to think about you guys connecting through express our style, or you know, of something that’s handed down in a way, you know, from from father to son, which is, it’s, there’s something lovely about it.


Ben Stiller  52:24

Well, I also just want to say like I am, like, I just think your like your creative impulses, I always tell you what I see but like you do so much. And it seems to me that whatever battles we all have with those fears and those insecurities like you just you continue to create and push yourself and take chances and different forms where there’s music, right? It’s so much fun playing with you that time.


David Duchovny  53:13

Yeah, we should tell him. I got I got bended drum for a couple of I like to say my band is so big that I have Ben Stiller on drums, and what I saw, you know, talk about process or whatever we’re talking about leaving on the field, you know, and I was like, you know, you say you’re a drummer, I’m like, just coming drums. That’s because I’m an idiot. And you’re like, no, I want to rehearse. I want to I want to, you know, I want to I want to be good. You know, I was like, yeah, fuck that. You know, but then you came and you you put your heart and soul into it. You came in, you know, practice with us, and I just didn’t want to fail. They loved you for I know. What a pleasure, man. I didn’t, you know, I don’t know what I’m doing, again, is good.


Ben Stiller  53:55

I like shaking about this stuff. I think it’s good to talk about this stuff, too. You know, I think it’s good for me personally like to talk it through.


David Duchovny  54:02

Thank you so much, this is great, thanks for your time.


Ben Stiller  54:05

I enjoyed doing it.


David Duchovny  54:06

I hope to see you soon.


David Duchovny  54:07

All right, I just wanted to get down some thoughts about doing the first podcast yesterday with Ben Stiller. And you know, I feel like a failure. It’s funny, you know, you have this idea of what things are gonna be. Who knows, you know, maybe I’ll figure it out for next time a little more. But like specifically, what I didn’t like was, yeah, we can get to that point where we talk about failure as you know, a sign that we should try a different road. But what we don’t get is, what’s the process? How long does it take? What is the mental process? What is the spiritual process what is the emotional process? And fuck Matt and ask any of those questions, fucking jackass. And I think Ben, with a generosity of spirit kind of touched on those things without me asking, so he probably saved my bacon as they say. I don’t know why they say that. Why did they save save my bacon? He saved my ass. Because he was super generous with his time and his his thoughts and his feelings. And just generous to be the first guy to come on with me, you know, doing this thing that I don’t know how to do and that, you know, the day after I’m like, you suck at that. It’s the first time I did this thing. I’ve been an interviewee a lot in my life. I’ve never been an interviewer. And I’d always thought that I’d be a terrific interviewer. So I was dealing with like, ooh, reality smacking me in the face, as I saw. So you can’t just play major league baseball right away, can ya?Yeah, but that’s what we expect sometimes of ourselves, isn’t it? So I think you know, failure and expectation are twins. Never quite what you imagined never quite the expected and that’s what life is, isn’t it so blahdy blahdy blah baby.


CREDITS  56:26

There’s more Fail Better with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like more of my behind the scenes thoughts on this episode. Subscribe now and Apple podcasts. Fail Better as a production of Lemonada media in coordination with King Baby. It is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Dani Matias . Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Our SVP of weekly is Steve Nelson. Our VP of new content is Rachel Neil. Special thanks to Carl Ackerman, Tom Karpinski and Kate D. Lewis, the show’s executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova, Kramer and me, David Duchovny, I mean, the company dammit. The music is also by me and my band. Lovely Colin Lee. Pat McCusker, Mitch Stewart, Davis Rowan and Sebastian […]. Special thanks to Brad Davidson. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me @DavidDuchovny, you know what it means when I say at David Duchovny. Follow Fail Better wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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