Stephen Tobolowsky: When you feel lost, don’t despair

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 4.58.45 PMWe chatted with character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, an Oak Cliff native, today. He was in town for the USA Film Festival.

Tobolowsky, whom you might recognize from “Groundhog’s Day,” “Glee” and a million other TV shows and films, is not just a Hollywood actor. Last year, he released a book, “The Dangerous Animals Club,” a collection of short stories whose title comes from the club he started as a kid in Oak Park Estates. “They’re all true, and they all happened to me,” he says. But they’re not chronological, and he does not characterize it as a biography.

Our full Q&A with Tobolowsky will appear in the June Advocate. You don’t want to miss it because he is a fascinating guy. In the meantime, take this one story.

After Tobolowsky and his then-girlfriend Beth Henley graduated from SMU, they were invited to a graduate program at the University of Illinois. This was in 1974, and Dallas was “kind of the boondocks,” he says, but Urbana-Champaign “was the boondocks.” They were unhappy with their geography, but they took the opportunity to stay in theater and earn money.

They moved to California in 1976, and Tobolowsky entered show business, where he still works. In 1981, Henley won the Pulitzer Prize for drama with her play, “Crimes of the Heart.”

Here’s the takeaway:

“If I could say one thing to young people out there, it’s this. When you feel that life is taking you in the wrong direction, instead of feeling all that despair… (Unless you have a drug addiction; self destruction doesn’t count.) … but if you’re thinking, ‘I’m lost, I’m lost, I’m lost,’ just remember that it may be a way to be found, too. Illinois is where we made connections and friends that eventually led to my career and Beth’s career. Don’t despair. There may be clues around you that lead to a happy and prosperous life.”


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