Alan Alda quotes

Alan Alda

American actor, director, screenwriter, and author


Creating, Discovering

Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.

Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.

Some of the greatest things, as I understand, they have come about by serendipity, the greatest discoveries.

I was always interested in figuring things out. I'd do experiments, like combining things I found around the house to see what would happen if I put them together.

I come armed with a really good ignorance. I don't strive toward ignorance. I come by it naturally.

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in while, or the light won't come in.  >>>

I found I wasn't asking good enough questions because I assumed I knew something. I would box them into a corner with a badly formed question, and they didn't know how to get out of it. Now, I let them take me through it step by step, and I listen.

It's really clear to me that you can't hang onto something longer than its time. Ideas lose certain freshness, ideas have a shelf life, and sometimes they have to be replaced by other ideas.

Life Symphony

The meaning of life is life.

Be as smart as you can, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.

Marie Curie is my hero. Few people have accomplished something so rare ‒ changing science. And as hard as that is, she had to do it against the tide of the culture at the time ‒ the prejudice against her as a foreigner, because she was born in Poland and worked in France. And the prejudice against her as a woman.

Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.

You can't be aware of everything. You'd fall down the stairs if you were aware of every intricate thing involved in going down stairs.

When people are laughing, they're generally not killing one another.

In the midst of the sense of tragedy or loss, sometimes laughter is not only healing, it's a way of experiencing the person that you've lost again.

Here's my Golden Rule for a tarnished age: Be fair with others, but keep after them until they're fair with you.



Anyone I know who's almost died has come out of it, at least for a while, looking at things differently.

I used to not want to die in any way but in my sleep when I was a young man. I'd like to die awake now, if possible, with people around me who love me.


I'm most at home on the stage.

As an artist, as an actor, as a writer, you have to use what's personal to you. You have to be personal about your work; otherwise, it doesn't ring true.

A really great actor, in a lucky performance, can transform himself or herself. I've seen actors do that. But often it's a mechanical transformation, which isn't as interesting, and you've got to be careful how you go about something like that, I think.

When an actor plays a character, you want what that character wants. Otherwise it doesn't look authentic.

Backstage life is terrific training for an actor, seeing shows from the wings.

Awards can give you a tremendous amount of encouragement to keep getting better, no matter how young or old you are.



I think when you're acting, you usually don't have to know too much beyond how to pronounce the words you're saying.

The one thing I think I've noticed about shows that are supposed to be funny on television is that they've sort of become routinized, so there's an awful lot of mannerisms and joke lines that are sort of there to trigger laughter, rather than give actors a chance to play a moment.

You can watch actors create their illusions, but if you don't see where they get the pigeons from, you don't really know how they're doing it.

I don't really worry about the size of the part much any more. It's nice to have more time to work on the character, and to have big scenes to play. But if there's something playable there, and if it's interesting to do, then that's nice.

It's a funny feeling to work with people who you consider your colleagues and to realize that they actually are young enough to be your children.

I really don't like plays or movies that service propaganda.

All I've ever tried to do is play real people.

Really top-notch directors, I've often worked with them just to see how they work.

When I got recognized as a writer, when I got the Emmy, I was more excited than the Emmys I had gotten as an actor.