Actor Jason Bateman Plays Not My Job

Nov 23, 2011
Originally published on November 26, 2011 10:01 am

Jason Bateman is that rarest of creatures: a former child star who seems sane and successful. He starred in many '70s and '80s sitcoms, and of course, the classic Teen Wolf Too. He went on to play the nice-guy lead in Arrested Development, and also appeared in the movies Hancock, Juno, Horrible Bosses and The Change-Up.

Since Bateman was a famous child actor, we've decided to ask him about the one thing even cuter than child actors — animal actors. He'll answer three questions about Cheeta, the chimpanzee who played opposite Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan.

Originally broadcast Aug. 6, 2011.

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It's happened to us all. You go into a modern movie theater. You're enjoying the big cushy seats, the cup holders, and then as the movie begins, a creeping sense of horror comes over you, as you realize against all odds that Jason Bateman is not in this movie.



It doesn't seem possible, but it is.

SAGAL: To make up for any time that you might have inadvertently seen a movie this year without Jason Bateman in it, we invited him onto our show in August of 2011, along with Charlie Pierce, Amy Dickinson and Mo Rocca.

KASELL: Peter started by asking him if he ever worried about becoming an aging former child star.

JASON BATEMAN: You say worry, I say opportunity.

SAGAL: Really?



BATEMAN: When you thin out the herd, opportunity abounds.

SAGAL: That's true. I mean, you have this odd experience of having your childhood on film. Do you ever go back and look at yourself?

BATEMAN: Only if I want to cry in my bowl of cereal, looking at hairdos and clothes.

SAGAL: Right. You were also on one of my favorite TV shows, "Valerie," that then became "The Hogan Family."

BATEMAN: It was one of those rare shows that actually had four names. It started as "Valerie," then "Valerie's Family." Then Valerie Harper, I guess, had some sort of disagreement with the powers that be. They elected to remove her from the show...

MO ROCCA: They killed her off.

BATEMAN: ...an episode where she burned a horrible death in a house fire.


BATEMAN: And then they called the show, "The Hogans," and then "The Hogan Family."

SAGAL: Well that, I mean I never actually watched it. It was my favorite show for that reason. It was so existentially frightening.



SAGAL: Like, you could be the star of your own show, your name could be in the title and the next day, you burn in a horrible accident, off-screen.

BATEMAN: Yeah. I can't wait to see what they're going to do with Charlie Sheen.

SAGAL: Yeah.



SAGAL: We were thinking about your recent career, in that starting with "Arrested Development," you seemed to have kind of a lock on the normal sensible guy in the middle of the madness. Would you think that's accurate?

BATEMAN: Well, a lock, I'm not sure until the next one comes along. But it was definitely my job on that show to sort of react to all of the absurdity. And I really, really enjoyed doing that because I'm a big fan of comedy, and you need that component, otherwise you basically have Martians on Mars and there's nothing that interesting about that. You need to somehow make it relatable.

SAGAL: Right.

BATEMAN: "Change-Up" actually is a movie where I organically get to play the opposite of the character that you would normally hire me to play, which is how I start the film, as a real normal guy. And then when we pee in the magic fountain, you switch lives. I mean that's what happens, obviously.


SAGAL: Is that what happens when you pee in a magic fountain?

BATEMAN: Yeah. Don't do it.

SAGAL: Oh, okay.


SAGAL: By the way, were we hearing your daughter in the background a little?

BATEMAN: It was. I am doing this call in her bedroom. And she just came in and gave me a look like "what the hell are you doing in my room?"

CHARLIE PIERCE: Are you sitting under like a canopy bed kind of thing, on your stomach?

BATEMAN: There is no canopy, but I am now wearing a hand sock puppet, made out of some awful sport sock from her school. I don't know what kid she took this off of, but I don't even want to risk smelling it.


SAGAL: I understand. And how old is your daughter?

BATEMAN: She'll be five in October.

SAGAL: Oh wow. So I'm just imagine you sitting there talking to us, hugging her My Little Pony pillow.

BATEMAN: No. Well, I'm not hugging her pillow; I'm not hugging her either. I put my boot in her ass and told her to get the hell out.


SAGAL: Daddy's doing an interview.


SAGAL: Why do you need to use your daughter's bedroom to talk to us?

BATEMAN: Well, because she's already invaded my office, because she likes to play games on my computer.

SAGAL: Right.

BATEMAN: My wife is talking to anyone who will listen, on her phone in the kitchen.


BATEMAN: And the TV is on in the den and the only quiet place is Frannie's little bedroom, until she walked in here and started pissing me off.



PIERCE: What did you do with all the stuffed animals that are arranged on her bed, I'm guessing?

BATEMAN: Oh, those stuffed animals are keeping me nice and comfortable.

SAGAL: Absolutely.


SAGAL: Well, Jason Bateman, we are delighted to have you. We've invited you hear to play a game we're calling?

KASELL: What's that Cheeta? You sense danger?

SAGAL: So...


SAGAL: You were a famous child actor. So we're going to ask you about the one thing even cuter than child actors, animal actors.

BATEMAN: Okay, very good.

SAGAL: There's no more famous animal actor than Cheeta, the chimpanzee who played opposite Johnny Weissmuller in all those Tarzan movies. Answer three questions about Cheeta and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. So Carl, who is Jason Bateman playing for?

KASELL: Jason is playing for Lenny Sapozhnikov of Brooklyn, New York.

SAGAL: All right, first question. Cheeta is the holder of the Guinness World Record as the oldest chimp in captivity. He's been in retirement for many years, doing what? A: watching TV and doing abstract at his home in Palm Springs, California? B: working as Chiquita Banana's global banana-loving ambassador? Or C: just living quietly with the retired Lassie?


BATEMAN: Well, I think he is definitely out there in Palm Springs, painting away and sunning, and sunning, and sunning, because his hair's all got to be gone by now. He's got to sun that skin.

SAGAL: You're right, actually. I don't know about the hair, but Cheeta is, in fact, living in Palm Springs.


SAGAL: Where he likes to paint.


SAGAL: Look at National Geographic, watches TV. The second question: for his 75th birthday in 2007, it was a huge to-do and it included what special honor? A: the State of California declared Cheeta the official state non-human primate?


SAGAL: B: Great ape expert Jane Goodall sang him "Happy Birthday" in chimpanzee language?


SAGAL: Or C: Actor Clint Eastwood sent over a cake with the words "to a better actor than me"?


BATEMAN: I've got to go with C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Clint being modest in his Clinty way? No, actually it was B. Ms. Goodall was at the party for Cheeta and attempted to sing "Happy Birthday" with the chimpanzee hoots she had learned in Africa.


SAGAL: Yeah, okay.

BATEMAN: You gave me a stumper.

SAGAL: I did. But here's the last one. You get this one right, you still win. The last question, just a year later after that, in 2008, an enterprising reporter made a shocking discovery, what was it? A: that Cheeta wasn't a chimpanzee at all, but a gorilla with mange?


SAGAL: B: that Cheeta and Tarzan hated each other and constantly fought during the filming for the affections of Jane? Or C: that the Cheeta living in Palm Springs was really only about 40 years old, had never been in a Tarzan movie and was generally a complete fraud?

PIERCE: Oh my gosh.


BATEMAN: I have to go with C.

SAGAL: Yes, you're going to go for C: that Cheeta is in fact a fraud. You're right.


BATEMAN: There it is.

PIERCE: That's true.


SAGAL: Although Cheeta has been living in Palm Springs, celebrated, had a big birthday party, the Guinness Book of World Records, none of that is true. It turns out he really was born in the 1960s and has never been in a movie in his chimpanzee life.

BATEMAN: Monkeys are notorious liars.

SAGAL: It's true. Carl, how did Jason Bateman do on our quiz?

KASELL: Jason had two correct answers, Peter, and that's good enough to win for Lenny Sapozhnikov.

SAGAL: Well done.


SAGAL: Jason Bateman's new movie, "The Change-Up" opens this weekend. Jason Batman, thank you so much for joining us.

BATEMAN: Thanks for having me, you guys.


SAGAL: All right, thank you.

PIERCE: Thanks, Jason.

ROCCA: Bye, Jason.


SAGAL: Bye-bye.

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