I Like Ike
Storytime with Seth Rogen #3 October 19, 2021
Actor and improviser Ike Barinholtz tells the story of a lie that went too far. Featuring Ike’s parents Alan and Peggy.
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SETH: Hi, welcome to Storytime with Seth Rogen. Today's episode: I like Ike. IKE: Everyone always asks me, how did you get started in comedy? How'd you do it? And this is that story. SETH: Ike Barinholtz is an actor writer, director, comedian. I worked with him in the ‘Neighbors’ franchise? Is it a franchise? There's two of them. Sure. It's a franchise. I met him for the first time while making ‘Eastbound and Down’. I thought he was a PA, but he was in fact, an actor on the show. IKE: I was in my hotel room and Danny calls me. He's like, Hey, what's up, man? Yeah. You know, Seth Rogen, can you go bring him some weed? I knocked on your door and I was like, what's up? And you were like, oh thank you! SETH: I thought you were a PA (laughing). IKE: You thought I was a PA. SETH: Yeah. I apologize if I was dismissive of you in any way, shape or form. (Laughing) IKE: No, no, no. I let it go a couple years ago. SETH: Just a few weeks ago. Yeah. (laughing) Uh, one thing that became very clear to me, the first time I worked with Ike is that he is truly one of the quickest thinkers. One of the most convincing improvisers I've ever worked with. His ability to create a new reality on the spot. Something with a fully fleshed out character, something with a storyline and a narrative to it out of seemingly nowhere was truly amazing to me. So my wondered, how did Ike get started in this field? What led him to becoming the type of person that could just think on his feet with such amazing ease? Let's go back to the beginning. IKE: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be an improvisor. (Jazzy music plays) SETH: Chicago, 1983 young Ike peers through the front window his childhood home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the city’s up and coming improv actors playing yes and beneath the tracks of the L train hanging out beneath the streetlight haranguing passersby, by asking for non geographical locations. IKE: These guys were legends. Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles. They did whatever they wanted. SETH: To a young Ike, being an improviser seemed cooler than anything. There were no rules and everybody in the neighborhood liked and feared them. IKE: One night after an improv show, two of the performers pretended to be police officers and walked my mother all the way home. (Ike laughing) It was out of respect. (jazzy music playing) Scene from ‘Goodfellas’ plays: HENRY HILL: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. SETH: Really? IKE: No, I'm joking. That's just like Goodfellas. (Seth laughing) I was just thinking of Goodfellas. (Ike laughing) SETH: I would watch ‘Whose Line is It Anyway?’and I just think like, if I could have that…(Seth and Ike laughing) SETH: Unlike Henry Hill, Ike did not always know what he wanted to do with his life and his path to becoming an improviser and actor was a long one with several detours along the way, as you will hear in this story, Ike Barinholtz did not even always want to be an improviser. His journey to becoming that actually was more about trying and failing to fit into what his parents and society expected of him. I also need to point out to our listeners for the purposes of this story that Ike Barinholtz is a liar. Don't believe me? Ask his parents, Alan and Peggy. ALAN: I think we're both recording now. PEGGY: Yeah, no it went off. ALAN: No no, the phone went, the light went off, but you're still recording. PEGGY: Nevermind. (laughing) SETH: Talking to Ike’s parents very quickly revealed that Ike has had a lifelong struggle with the truth. Like the time he was in fourth grade and a schoolyard coach narced him out for something he'd done in class. PEGGY: His coach said, what the hell is the matter with your kid? I said what? He said, he, Ike mooned Mr. Lieberman. I said, what? No. (Peggy laughing) that can’t be. IKE: And I was like, no I made a funny face. And she had to call the school, (sound of phone ringing) IKE: Then she was like, did he make a funny face? And my sweet art teacher, Mr. Lieberman, rest in peace goes, no, he showed me his ass. PEGGY: (laughing) So I was really furious at him for that. IKE: I didn't get to go to camp that year, which is very traumatizing for a young Jew. (Ike laughing) SETH: As time went on, the problem did not get better. IKE: For like a year I told them I had to go up to the roof every night for astronomy class. SETH: Ah, high school. IKE: And I was just smoking. I didn't even take astronomy. We didn't even offer astronomy. SETH: There was the large delivery of booze that showed up at the house one day. PEGGY: It caught my eye because the order was from Sam Barinholtz who's Alan's dad - ALAN: who was dead for 10 years. (Peggy laughing) SETH: Alright. Ike lied, Ike lied , Ike lied. And when Ike lied yet again, how did his parents react? IKE: And they’re like, oh good. They're fucking angels from heaven. They just believe. My whole life, my relationship with my parents has been this just beautifully, smooth, wonderful paved road where every now and then a manhole opens and they fall in. (Sound of crickets at night) PEGGY: Ike was very sweet. I mean, um, he was always funny, but he was just like a sweet little boy and he was really a nice looking - (Peggy laughing) ALAN: Are we allowed to be colloquial? SETH: You can be very highly colloquial I would say (Seth laughing). ALAN: Ike was never a dick. IKE: I'm very, very close with my parents. If people didn't lie to their parents, you would never get anything done. Because you would constantly have to tell them the truth and then discuss it and like parse it out and stuff, as opposed to just telling a quick, quick, super lie. You guys, I, I got to go, SETH: Yeah. IKE: Uh, dinner’s ready. You know what I mean? As opposed to, hey guys, we've been talking for 25 minutes. I have to take a shit. (Seth laughing) IKE: 99% of the time, it's a victimless lie. (Seth laughing) You’re just kind of lying to save your own ass. SETH: Protecting yourself. (laughing) Yeah. IKE: Protecting yourself, that’s all it is. It’s like lying to your boss. And it's because I'm so afraid of confrontation and more importantly, disappointment. That's the thing I don't want to disappoint them. SETH: And what type of behavior specifically would be disappointing to the Barinholtzs?’ Well, the answer to that may lie in the answer to my next question. SETH: And what kind of values did you try to instill in Ike and Johny? PEGGY: Do well in school (laughing). ALAN: Ike went to a private school in Chicago and it was a great school. (Cheesy music, like you’d hear in a commercial for a university) SETH: The Latin school of Chicago founded in 1888, a very selective private high school in the gold coast neighborhood on the north side. Notable Latin alumni include Adelai Stevenson, the journalist Neil Strauss, and the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and all that does sounds very fancy and expensive to me. (Sound of whistling like “whoaa that’s fancy!”) SETH: To understand why Alan and Peggy felt education was so important for young Ike, you kind of have to look at their family past. IKE: My parents dropped out of high school. Uh, I was the first - and I got a college degree. Peggy's parents back in the thirties and forties went to college, got college degrees. Peggy got a college degree. SETH: Alan and Peggy even met on a college campus while they were pursuing their bachelor's degrees in the dramatic arts. PEGGY: We we're both at Ohio state and we were both working on the same play together. I was in tech, Alan was acting. We were both theater majors, but they soon abandoned these artistic pursuits for a more responsible life. ALAN: After college, I did a little standup and then I decided to go to law school. SETH: So then it was law school for Alan and settling into a good, steady job raising kids, which brings us back to Ike at this extremely prestigious, very expensive private high school in Chicago. SETH: Ike did not excel in his studies. He did have another plan for how to succeed in life in the quintessentially, most American profession there is where lying is actually a huge part of the job. I would call it an asset. IKE: It's funny, my whole life, I loved movies. Um, I love TV, but I always kind of saw myself going into politics. SETH: Really? IKE: Yeah. SETH: He wanted to be president. ALAN: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. (Sing songy voice, with static-y old timey music): Ike for president. Ike for president. Ike for president. You like Ike- IKE: My grades were terrible, like I could not study. SETH: No. IKE: Like I couldn't do it. I could not do homework. I would go home and have to, like, I would stare at books and then I would lie to my parents and be like, yeah, I'm done with my homework, can I watch ‘Cheers’? And I was just terrible. It's terrible. Terrible story. SETH: Had you ever smoked weed? IKE: Never smoked weed. I was the guy in high school who was like, no, I can’t smoke weed if I want to be president. (Seth laughing) IKE: You know like Bill Clinton. Look what happened to Bill Clinton. (Old clip of Bill Clinton plays) BILL CLINTON: I experimented with marijuana a time or two and I didn’t like it. And didn’t inhale. IKE: So like, I didn't fucking touch weed in high school. (Seth laughing) SETH: Because you wanted to be president? (Radio announcer, like one you’d hear in the 1940’s): Now is the time for all good Americans to come to the aid of their country. (Sing songy voice): Ike for president. Ike for president. IKE: It's like the lamest reason. SETH (laughing): It’s like, knowing you, like it's even funnier (laughing) because you never had a shot to be president (laughing). SETH: And did you think maybe he could be president? PEGGY: (Peggy sighs) You know, did you, I don't know. I, I’ve always- I wasn't sure he did well enough in history to do well enough in school to get there (Peggy laughing). (Music plays, horns blaring) SETH: High school graduation. Ike is not valedictorian, but the dude graduated, which is more than I can say for myself. SETH: Did you consider joining the military at any point? IKE: Uh there was maybe like, like a half hour after 9/11 where I was like, should I just join the fuckin’ Marines? And then I just remembered what a soft, like urban Jewish man I am and I was like, I'm not - SETH: (laughing) I won’tl help. Osama Bin Laden is praying someone like you signs up (Ike laughing) so he could have an opportunity to kill his ass in person. Then it’s like, oh, the Jews are coming to me now? That's fucking great! (Seth and Ike laughing) IKE: So I applied to a bunch of colleges and I only got into a handful. And the one I ended up going to was, uh, Boston University’s - SETH: Ok. IKE: college of general studies (Seth laughing). SETH: At Boston University's College of general studies? IKE: Yeah. Like most people you meet, they go to like the liberal arts college or probably pretty smart and they worked hard. And the college of general studies is like if you're a dumb ass, but like, you're like the best hockey player in your town. SETH: And so how did you do it? IKE: I just, cause I, I think like I just did well enough on like my like SAT scores and like maybe like my essay that I wrote was just good enough for them to like, not look at my grades and be like, okay, if you can do this for two years, you can go to one of the big boy colleges. SETH: And did you go to college still with the hope of becoming a politician of some some sort? IKE: Yes, I did. I did. SETH: Wow. (laughing) SETH: Okay. So it wasn't exactly Harvard, but just like they did with high school, Alan and Peggy invested in Ike’s education for college. And to this day, without skipping a beat, Alan can tell you exactly how much he invested. ALAN: $14,000. (whistle noise) SETH: And with a lying, deadbeat, delusionally ambitious college freshmen heading off to a remedial secondary education is where our story about Ike the performer really kicks into high gear. (Strum of electric guitar) STORYTIME THEME SONG: Storytime. RETURN AFTER BREAK: Storytime, yeah. IKE: I think their expectations of me going into college was like maybe become a lawyer like my dad and then a major in political science. So they were expecting that. That was kind of like- SETH: Yeah. IKE: what I talked about. SETH: But once he arrived in Boston like so many other college kids, Ike was like, you know what? Fuck it. IKE: I got to school and I just went nuts. (Seth laughing) (Sound of ripping bong and rock music) IKE: I can stay out all night. SETH: He started smoking weed. IKE: There was probably like some cute girl who was like, you don't smoke weed. I was like, no, I do love it. (Seth laughing) I love it. Totally don't want to be president. SETH: He discovered his sexuality. IKE: That you could hook up or as was much more likely the case, jack off. SETH: (laughing) Yes, finally. IKE: That's a huge thing. SETH: Psychedelic drugs. IKE: Oh, these are mushrooms? Yeah let’s do some shrooms. SETH: Boston was his oysta. IKE: And then I also started hanging out with some bad kids from Boston who like, looked like they were like in the Dropkick Murphys who were like, (laughing) like thugs, I think. SETH: And Boston University's College of general studies was the last thing on his mind. His dorm room was mostly used for getting fucked up, hanging out, jacking off, and one other thing that he started to do more and more of after he got to college. Don't worry. It's not the gross thing you're thinking of. IKE: The one thing I loved doing was watching movies. I would hang out with my friends during the night and then the next day I would watch movies. Sometimes the same movie over and over. Pretty much completely stopped going to class. I remember the very end I went into, like the last two weeks I was like, I should show up, you know, make an appearance. And like I came in, I remember one of the professors looks at me and goes, who are you? (Ike laughing) It was like the last week of class and I was like, uh, lke Barinholtz? He goes, I crossed you off the list like three months ago, dude. SETH: And if Alan and Peggy could ever get Ike on the phone to ask him how he was doing, Ike would do what Ike do. And that’s fuckin’ lie. IKE: I wasn't even like, I don't know. It's okay I guess. I'm struggling to be honest in some areas, but we'll figure it out. I was just like, I'm doing well. (Seth laughing) Mostly BS. A couple Cs, but mostly Bs. Like I was just like, if I'm going to, you're going to lie, lie to make someone feel good, make them feel good. (Seth laughing) Don't like lie and stress them out. SETH: Yeah. You fully fabricated a fake life as a pretty average college student. (Seth and Ike laughing) IKE: Reach for the stars, right? SETH: It's not until Ike is on a plane heading back to Chicago for summer break after his first year that he really had a chance to process what he had done. IKE: The guilt really came in with me not telling my parents. SETH: Yeah. IKE: That was like the thing that like, you know, they would ask me, how's school going? And I, I just, I couldn't tell them ‘cause they're like the nicest people, the best people. And if I told them I was like, not going to class, they would just get angry. SETH: Yeah. IKE: And they'd be like, well, you have to work harder. And like, I literally couldn't like, I literally, if you put a gun to my head and was like, you need to pass this class, like you would have shot me. (Seth laughing) SETH: He said he physically couldn't do schoolwork. ALAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Peggy laughing) He had a disease. PEGGY: (laughing) That sounds like Ike. SETH: So at what point did the idea of taking him on a trip (Seth laughing) come up? IKE: I'm home for summer break. And, oh god. I’ll never forget. It was in the morning and my parents were like, so you finished your first year of school. That's great. And as a treat, dad is going to take you to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. And any like decent person at that moment and be like, all right guys, let's talk. Here's the deal. I fucked up really bad and I'm really sorry and I want to figure out how to fix it. What I said was, fucking sweet! (Ike laughing) Vegas and LA? Uh, yes, please. (Ocean’s Eleven type music plays) IKE: So I go on this amazing trip with my dad. Like he takes me to Vegas. I'd never been there before, and this was like Vegas before it got real, it was like still kind of old Vegas. SETH: Oh yeah, ‘95. IKE: ‘95 before it was super corporate, so cool. So we went there and we went to LA and I just fell in love with Los Angeles. I couldn't believe LA. I was just blown away by how - SETH: What did you do? What’s some stuff you did? IKE: The place I remember the most was we went to The Ivy. SETH: Ooh. SETH: The Ivy. Brick patioed, brunch restaurant on Robertson Boulevard that MSNBC once called a celebrity beehive that sees a constant stream of Hummers, Mercedes and Jaguars pull up and discharge folks who pay through the nose to be seen eating in public. IKE: I still love the idea. Um, it's insanely priced. I was like, I'm sorry. You're telling me these tacos are $40? SETH: You guys mind if I tell you a quick story about the Ivy? Let's do it. It's time for an inception-esque story within a story. Ooh! Chris Nolan would be super psyched with me. (Music plays, going back to the past) SETH: When I was very young, maybe 18, I guess, Judd invited me to go to Garry Shandling's birthday at the Ivy. IKE: Oh my god. SETH: I had very little money at the time. IKE: Mhm hmm. SETH: I literally like ordered like a side salad for myself. We eat the meal. Someone was like, let's just split this. IKE: What? SETH: Yeah, and I didn't want to be like in front of some of my idols like, no, let's not split this. I ended up paying like $109 for like a fucking side salad or some shit like that and it stings me to this day. (Whimsical, nostalgic music ends) IKE: Nothing worse than going to a nice restaurant when you're broke. SETH: (laughing) Yes. It's the worst fucking thing in the entire world. Good thing for a little Ike that when he was traveling with his dad, Alan covered the bill. IKE: I'm sorry. You're telling me these tacos are $40? (whistling noise) SETH: Let's get back to this one. (Seinfeld-esque transition music) SETH: Anyway, you went to The Ivy. Ridiculously priced restaurant (laughing). IKE: Ridiculously priced restaurant, but it was so cool. And I was just like, oh my god, LA is awesome. (Sound of camera flashing) ALAN: We have a cousin, uh, who was a filmmaker. He was probably in his mid to late twenties. (sound of another camera flashing) ALAN: And he had made, uh, a successful film or two. IKE: Yes, my cousin Adam took us to The Ivy. SETH: And it was here over approximately $270 worth of tacos, Ike’s new ambition in life started to take shape. (Sound of camera flashing) IKE: It's funny, my whole life, I, I loved movies. I love TV. (Sound of camera flashing) IKE: The one thing I loved doing was watching movies. (Sound of camera flashing) IKE: So I started. I dunno. I think I maybe like to, you know, act in movies, which is like the most George Costanza thing I've ever said in my life. (Seth and Ike laughing) SETH: I've failed at everything, maybe I can, uh, yeah, do the hardest thing. SETH: Here he was in the presence of an actual walking, talking filmmaker. What advice would Adam have for little Ike about breaking into the industry? (Sound of camera flashing) ALAN: And the three of us were sitting and Adam looked at me and I said, I'm not editing this. You say to Ike whatever you say, I'm not editing it. And Adam said, you want my opinion? And Ike said, yeah, he said, drop out now. (Sound of camera flashing) SETH: Well, that kind of posed a problem. It would be impossible for Ike to drop out because he had already flunked out. He just hadn't told his parents this yet. (Music indicating tension) IKE: Time to go back home. And we're at the hotel. We’re at The Reeves hotel. And, uh, this is pre cell phone and my dad calls my mom. Tells her we're heading to the airport. (Sound of phone ringing) IKE: If people didn’t lie to their parents, you would never get anything done. (Sound of phone ringing) IKE: 99% of the time, it's a victimless lie. (Sound of phone ringing) IKE: And it's because I'm so afraid of confrontation and more importantly disappointment. (Sound of phone ringing) IKE: That's the thing, I don't want to disappoint them. (Sound of muffled phone call with Peggy) IKE: And he's like, hey, what do you mean? What? What? And he turns to me, he goes, did you get - Did you flunk out of school? You flunked out of college? PEGGY: I got the letter back in Illinois. IKE: My feelings were first, give me back my fucking $14,000. (whistling noise) HENRY HILL’s FATHER: Why didn’t you tell me about this? It’s a letter from school. It says you haven't been there in months. ALAN: My reaction would have been basically what the hell's the matter with you? (Peggy laughing) ALAN: I mean, that's it, I mean, you know, I'm not going to hit him. Uh, you know, I didn't do that kind of stuff and he didn't want to shame them because I just, you know, my father would have said, what the hell were you thinking? So I was just imitating my father and said, what the hell's the matter with you? And he said, it'll be okay. (Sound of cars driving by) SETH: His dreams of Hollywood stardom, just beginning to brew, Ike was headed in specifically the wrong direction. To LAX and then on a plane back to his childhood home in Chicago, his presidential bid, not happening. College degree, not happening, Alan and Peggy's disappointment was just too much to bear. (solemn piano plays) GOODFELLAS SCENE: HENRY: I don't know what else to say. I know I fucked up. PAUL: Fucked up. You fucked up. You looked in my eyes and lied to me. You treated me like a fucking jerk. Like I was never nothing. Now I gotta turn my back on you. (melancholy jazz plays) ALAN: So I said, mom, and I will support you in every way, but financially you need a job. You need a car, and you need an apartment. We're not paying for any of it. IKE: And so I got a job which was like, I worked for the CTA, which is the Chicago Transit Authority. So I got my own, the smallest apartment in Chicago. And then also, like, I would still kind of hang out with like some high school kids that I went to high school with, like I was like a Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. I was like, what's up, man? (Ike laughing) Like, like I would have like seniors in high school come over and be taking bong hits. (Seth laughing) And I was like, yeah, this is my apartment. (Sound of bong rip and melancholy jazz) IKE: Knowing that I wanted to kind of act and get into it, I had no clue where to start. I was like really bumming ‘cause I was just like, I'm not doing what I want to do and I have no idea how to do it. So this is where my parents come in and save the day. THEME SONG: Storytime RETURN FROM AD BREAK: Storytime, yeah. SETH: Alan and Peggy's disappointment really did not last. And when you hear Alan talk about it now it's clear that he was really judging Ike through the perspective of someone who thought their son had to tick certain boxes in order to be a successful person. But he has since realized that Ike is not that type of person. The boxes that may be applied to some people did not apply to him. Also, I think maybe Alan started to reflect on the things that he had given up in order to have the family life that he ultimately wanted. And I think that is where he uncovered a new found empathy for Ike. ALAN: So for two weeks, I was upset and, and here's the reason quite seriously. It was unheard of tha my kid was going to drop out of college and I was more concerned initially what the parents of the other kids were going to be thinking. Um, and, and then after a week or two, I said, you know what, who the hell cares about what they think? Just be a good kid and do some good stuff. IKE: After all this shit goes down and they're super depressed and I'm super bummed out. I'm living in this shit-hole apartment. So my dad calls me and he's like, um, Friday night, I'm taking you to this thing at Improv Olympic. I remember being like, I don't want to go. I have high school friends to hang out with, you know, like we're going to fucking watch Firestarter or some shit. (Seth laughing) He's like, no, no, no, you want to go, you want to be an actor maybe? You gotta see different kinds of acting. But he took me to see this show and it was the improv Olympics, 10th anniversary. (Sound of live show, music, clapping) IKE: Now the improv Olympic, as you know, Chicago, sometimes it's the worst thing you've ever seen. Sometimes it's the funniest shit you've ever seen. (Footage from 10th anniversary show, “wow 10 years, holy cow!”) IKE: There's a scene going on. Two guys waiting in line to see a movie and they didn't say what the movie was and they're doing the scene and Tim Meadows enters and he's like, are you, dude's waiting in line to see Solo? Which was a movie that came out that day starring Mario Vanco. SETH: Of course. Yeah. The robot movie. Yeah. (laughing) IKE: The robot. Right. And the tagline for Solo in the newspaper ads was, part man part machine, all weapon. Tim Meadows. And he goes, so they say this dude's part man part machine, but all weapon, how is that possible? (Seth and Ike laughing?) (Layla by Derek and the Dominos plays) IKE: It was the hardest I think I'd ever laughed up to that point. (Seth laughing) It was this huge release in my body of all the stress and the shit and the guilt and the disappointment that I'd been kind of holding onto. It, literally in a second, just kind of all went away. I forgot about all of it and laughed so hard. TOMMY DEVITO: That mothafucka. I almost had him. Ya stutterin’ prick. SETH: Ike had never been so happy. And his dad could see it. When Ike signed up for improv classes the next day, for Alan, it was almost as good as seeing his kid graduate college. Alan and Peggy went to every one of Ike's shows. Sure, they themselves could never be entertainers because the norms that society put onto them. But as far as they were concerned, if one of their kids was going to be an improviser, it was like the whole family was improvisers. Being an improviser means nobody can fuck around with you. Not your parents, not anymore, unless that is your parents are in fact other improvisers. In which case they have an ability to in fact, fuck with other improvisers. It's a license to lie, to entertain. To come up with shit on the spot. To just walk up to motherfuckers on the street and be like, yo, gimme an object. Tell me an object. Just say an object at me. SETH: Did you never lie to them again after that? Oh, fuck no. I lied to them constantly. (Seth laughs) Still to this day. Storytime with Seth Rogen is an Earwolf production produced, edited, and sound designed by Richard Parks III. Our executive producer is Frida Perez. Additional production by Josh Richmond, Renee Colvert, Jared O'Connell and Marina Paiz with special thanks to Amelia Chappelow. Our artwork is by Robin Richardson. The music is by Andi Kristinsdóttir. Additional music in this episode by Mitch Ben. Please rate and review Storytime with Seth Rogan and follow the podcast on Amazon music, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to these things. I'm so thrilled.