It’s Hard Out Here For a Pipkin
I’m Turk Pipkin. You might know me as a contributing editor of TEXAS MONTHLY or from the ten books and one hundred hours of television and gazillion magazine articles I’ve written. But if youre like most people these days, you’ll recognize me as that idiot narcoleptic guy on The Sopranos— “Have you heard the good news?”—or from one of the many movies and TV shows I’ve appeared in these past few years. How’d I get to be a small-time Hollywood character actor? Glad you asked…
I was born in San Angelo. I was named Clyde, after my grandmother, though I wisely let my first name slide at an early age.
“Hey, squirt! you got a granny named Clyde!”
Growing up in West Texas, the only culture was agriculture and yogurt— but I had books. I started writing when I was eleven and haven’t stopped yet.
I went to Austin to go to the University of Texas but ended up performing on the drag and at beer-soaked clubs like Castle Creek and The Armadillo world headquarters. At The Armadillo, I met my best friend, Harry Anderson, the actor and magician. Harry was the one who got me out to Los Angeles.
I did all kinds of work on Harry’s sitcom, Night Court, but you play one seven-foot drag queen one time and what gets remembered?
Two of my early movie roles were in Waiting For Guffman (I juggled ping-pong balls out of my mouth) and A Pair of Aces (I watched my pal Willie Nelson shove an egg through his head).
I was cast as Janice’s sleepy boyfriend on the Sopranos after meeting the show’s creator, David Chase, at the Austin Film Festival in 2000. My character disappeared during the third season but resurfaced wearing the worlds most offensive t-shirt.
In the past few years, I’ve written a really sad letter in The Alamo…
Refereed a coin toss with Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights…
And played a creature from beyond the pale in Richard Linklaters new film, A Scanner Darkly.
I’ve played my share of fools, but lately I’ve been working with a lot of really wise people. Willie and I recently co-wrote a book, The Tao of Willie…
But the thing I’m proudest of is a new documentary I directed called Nobelity. I got to interview nine nobel prize winners, including Desmond Tutu! The goal of the movie is for us to quit arguing about politics and start working for a better world for our children and grandchildren. Go to nobelity.org.
Not bad for a kid named Clyde!