It takes a great deal of self-aware, good-humored chutzpah to call a show “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It.” Fortunately, William Shatner is just the man for the job.
The thespian who gave Captain James T. Kirk his inimitable mojo on the cult classic sci-fi series “Star Trek” is still one of popular culture’s most beloved figures. In the process of going where no man has gone before, Shatner has conquered stage and screen, even winning Emmys and Golden Globes for his portrayal of blowhard lawyer Denny Crane on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.”
At age 82, Shatner still has plenty going on. Between tours, he designs watches and motorcycles while making the universe safe for cheap travel with his Priceline commercial spots. He even has a new reality TV show set to debut in February.
“It’s called ‘Redesigning My Kitchen,’ ” he said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t do any of the work, you understand, I just direct other people – ‘You, do that!’ I’m good at that.”
Here’s how the rest of the chat went, in advance of his Sunday performance in Raleigh.
Q: You’ve done a lot of music with Winston-Salem native and Chapel Hill expatriate Ben Folds. How did you two meet up?
A: He’d found my first album at a garage sale and he wrote a letter, saying he wanted to work with me, which my daughter was very excited about. So I called him up and said, “I don’t know who you are, but my daughter thinks you’re terrific, so you must be.” Then we met at his studio, he was terrific and we’ve become dear friends. I love him. He had this one number about a guy who hated women that he had me do something on, and it became “In Love” on his album “Fear of Pop.” Then we did an album together, “Has Been,” which was very successful. I do a song from that in the one-man show, although it’s one Ben didn’t write – a Brad Paisley song called “Real,” which seemed more applicable. It’s complicated, but what the hell.
Q: Going out in public must be like that “Saturday Night Live” skit where you tell a “Star Trek” convention crowd, “Get a life.” What’s your strangest fan interaction?
A: I had a guy from the audience at a show come down the aisle once, asking questions the whole way. I tried to stop him verbally, but he clambered onstage and he was about 6-foot-6. I’m 6-foot-2 – OK, not really – and he was approaching me and I didn’t know what to do. I was in a chair and yelled at him, “Siddown!” He did, continuing to mumble questions. But now that I was towering over him, I put my thumb in his neck so I was able to control him a little through pain. By that time, security people had finally come out, so they got him. It was some form of Spock pinch that worked. It has to be from above. Getting someone who’s in attack mode to kneel or lie down is hard to do.
Q: Is “Shatner’s World” mostly standup?
A: It’s a show that’s full of laughter, tears, observation; a lot of visuals, a little music at the end. The whole evening is an emotional ride. So far, people have stood and cheered every night. I hope they will there, too, but I can’t guarantee that. I think your audience will have a good time.
Q: How did you wind up on “Jimmy Kimmel” last year rendering a Sarah Palin speech as beat poetry?
A: They came to me and asked, would I do this? Well, why not? I do like to say yes to things, even – or especially – when it’s kind of brazen. That’s something where you can get attacked by right-wingers, so some might think of it as foolhardy. But it was fun.
Q: Whatever became of the kidney stone you sold for charity in 2006?
A: By law, gambling websites in Canada are not allowed to advertise, so they do a lot of other kinds of promotions. One of them heard I had a kidney stone and offered me $25,000, and I donated the money to Habitat For Humanity. They built a house in Louisiana, near New Orleans, and a family is living in the house my kidney stone built. I guess the buyers put the kidney stone itself in a safe somewhere. Maybe it dissolved, I don’t know. But they were after PR and they got a ton of it. I’ve offered to cut off other appendages for charity, but nobody’s taken me up on it.