'Arrested Development's' Jeffrey Tambor tells ASU students to follow their dreams

Actor Jeffrey Tambor spoke to a crowd of hundreds in Neeb Hall on the Tempe campus Tuesday.

Actor Jeffrey Tambor challenged ASU students Tuesday to achieve their dreams by beating the negative stories that follow them through their lives.

Tambor, who’s been acting since the early ‘70s, addressed a crowd of hundreds in Neeb Hall on the Tempe campus. He showed students a V-shaped drawing, explaining that they were at the bottom and their bliss was at the top left, but that people often end up on the opposite side.

“Because of pressure, we just take a little step to the side,” he said.

Tambor worked as a professor at Wayne State University for five years and has taught many actors. Many of them have succeeded, but more have quit.

“Eighty to eight-five percent of my students have quit,” he said. “I’m talented, but I’m about a b-plus, a b-minus, but these are real geniuses.”


Video: Jeffrey Tambor tells ASU students to follow their dreams

He urged students to be willing to throw their expectations out the window, and not to make decisions based on what other people wanted.

“We end up doing sometimes what our neighbors want us to do,” Tambor said. “We end up doing sometimes what our parents want us to do.”

He had to deal with his own parents’ expectations. Barney Tambor would tell his son, “Don’t celebrate; they’ll take it away from you,” while Eileen Tambor would continually berate her children in Yiddish.

“I’m positive I had a sense of humor because of that, because I had to get them to laugh,” he said.

Tambor’s mother would also ask him if people liked him, and he said it took years to realize that he didn’t need to please everyone.

“What keeps us correct can ruin us,” he said. “What keeps us in line and like the others can ruin us. What keeps us good can hurt us.”

Now, Tambor learns lessons from his four young children, whom he introduced as his teachers. He shared a handwritten list of lessons they taught him, including being possessed, audacious, incorrect, ugly, emotional, dangerous and tasteless and worshipping Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.

Tambor answered questions after about his upcoming role in Amazon’s “Transparent,” which he described as one of the best jobs he’s ever had.

He got to reprise two of the other best roles, those of George Bluth Sr. and Oscar Bluth, when the cult classic “Arrested Development” debuted its fourth season on Netflix in May 2013 after being canceled in 2006, but Tambor had nothing to say about the possibility of a fifth season or movie.

Tambor brought two student helpers up to illustrate his lessons. MCC student Liz Gunnell read an inspirational letter while Tambor challenged her to stretch her acting range.

“He made it cool,” Gunnell said. “It was vulnerable, but it was good.”

Tambor gave her advice and told her to keep in touch. He agreed to help mentor many of the acting students in the audience.

The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government hosted the event in Neeb Hall at the Tempe campus. It was the last of a series of speeches it’s hosted this year

Accounting sophomore Brandon Long, director of special events for Tempe USG, helped organize this speech and the other five speakers USG hosted this year.

He said Tambor was an easy choice for a speaker.

“Especially now with the increased popularity of ‘Arrested Development,’ he has a select following who will come out and see him,” Long said.

This, combined with Tambor’s affordability, made him an easy choice to book, Long said. However, the actor was one of Long’s favorite speakers this year.

“It went better than planned,” Long said. “He’s a very personable guy.”

Tambor ended his speech by clapping for the students attending, and giving them one last bit of advice.

“There’s always money in the banana stand,” he said.

Reach the managing editor at julia.shumway@asu.edu or follow @JMShumway on Twitter.

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