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'Californication': More from the Evan Handler interview

November 22, 2008 |  3:42 pm

The Times caught up with "Californication's" Evan Handler for a story in today's paper, and these days, Evan Handler is a tough one to catch up to. He's on a 25-city book tour, including a current stretch of 18 cities in 22 days. "There's not much actual life experience going on," he said just before mounting a stage in Houston, just hotel rooms and plane rides, along with the never-ending signatures. Handler signs an "E" and an "H" on the title pages of his books, and scribbles the rest. "I can't even write in cursive; I print everything," he said, a habit learned from filling out insurance forms throughout his late 20s, when he battled leukemia.

His memoir, "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive," released in May, is a collection of essays about life after his illness. But he just now finds himself on the promotional tour. "My publisher doesn't pay for book tours for many people," he said. But he managed to latch on to a tour sponsored by the Jewish Book Council, which holds book festivals around the country featuring writers and authors who may be of interest to the Jewish community.

Of course, his book has little to do with Judaism. It's "about faith, but faith more in the secular sense of trust," he said. For a man made famous by his "Sex and the City" character that promised his mother that he'd marry only a Jew, and for whom Charlotte thus converted, here is the truth about Handler: "I run from religion," he said. "I have no interest in it whatsoever."

Here are some more excerpts from both the interview and his reading:

On not subscribing to a particular religion:
Like, to me, it's all tribalism, and fraternity and sorority stuff. It's like people want to belong to clubs and feel like, you know, their club is right and the other clubs are wrong. So I don't get it. Why would I want to think that I'm more right than other people?

On his "Californication" character, Charlie Runkle:
I was the steadying force for Hank Moody for the first several episodes, but certainly this season, I'm more un-moored than he is. [chuckles] ... I like Charlie Runkle because he's set up as a very powerful, successful guy, but most renditions of that would mean a guy who's then powerful and successful across the board. Meanwhile, here you see a guy who's so kind of hapless in terms of his experiences with women, that, you know, his desperation then perverts his sensibility.

On the difference between his "Sex and the City" and "Californication" experiences:
You know, in "Sex and the City" I dropped in five and a half years into a seven-year run, and they were already wildly successful, so it was a more regimented experience for me. Like, some of my natural choices that I might have taken, [show runner] Michael Patrick King was always like, "No, there's no dark side to Harry. It was really Michael's emphatic choice that, you know, Harry is completely loving and accepting of this woman, "even if there are things that you –- Evan –- might find more irritating [he smiles]." "With ["Californication"], it's been freer just in the sense that I'm there from the beginning, and [show runner] Tom Kapinos is more of a let's-just-throw-a-lot-of-stuff-up guy.

On Charlie's wild Season 2 story line:
I mean, I expressed a little bit of concern this season with some stuff that winds up cropping up again and again throughout, and even more later in the season. Charlie as the, uh, compulsive masturbator crops up several times this season [laughs], and I did ask [Kapinos] like, "Do you think we're going to that well, like, one too many times?" And he acted like he absolutely understood where I was coming from and, and, and ... it stayed in the script [laughs]. It actually turned out to be pretty funny.

On what his wife thinks of "Californication":
She likes the show. We often run lines together because sometimes I need help running lines and the heavily accented mispronunciations of American sexual slang are hysterical [Handler's wife is Italian]. But she really likes the show; she thinks it's funny, but she gets queasy sometimes watching me do that stuff.

On whether he's spoken to David Duchovny since his rehab stint:

No, I haven't. So the last time I saw or spoke to him was our last day of shooting. My only connection to anything that's going on is the same news articles that anybody else has seen. ... My understanding is he has been going through some stuff but that he's doing well.

On his book's rather hilarious cover photo:
My best estimate is that on that picture, I'm about 19 years old. My brother took that photo. It's wider than you get there. He's a professional photographer, and we were roommates in the East Village [in New York], and often times we took a hungover walk through the Village on Sunday afternoons after having been out late the night before, and on this particular one, he saw these faces of these ladies and he said, "Go sit down over there." And I pulled the Buster Keaton face, and I carried [the picture] around with me for decades. I always thought it'd be a great album cover or something, and so when this book came along I showed it to the publisher and I thought it'd be kind of cool to do this with an updated version on the bottom. It's the northeast corner of Washington Square Park.

On whether he ever called out Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Jessica Parker for recommending him for a "Sex and the City" character described as "boorish, overbearing and unattractive":
I never had that discussion with them. I never told them that that material's in the book, either, and I don't think they've read the book, because nobody's ever mentioned it. So yeah. ... [laughs]

Quotes from his reading:

“'Terminal' or 'incurable' are words that should only be used once the person is buried. 'Life threatening' should go for the rest of us.”

“I'm an extremely optimistic pessimist. People always ask, 'Do you think the glass is half empty or half full?' But I never know what to say, because I look at the glass and I say, 'I don't know but the glass is dirty.'”

“Sofia [his 21-month-old daughter] talks all day long ... in Italian. Her mother and her nanny are both natives from Italy and speak to her exclusively in that language while her father travels a good deal in order to, as we say in our family, 'bring home the pancetta.' So I spend the least time with her and I'm the only one she ever hears speak English, so I'm terrible, but she seems fond of me. When I'm working in my office, I get the sense that she thinks I'm the foreign shipping clerk from down the hall.”

[when asked if leukemia made him a hypochondriac] “I was a hypochondriac before the illness. It just proved I was right.”

“What I can tell you, unequivocally, is that there is no such thing as false hope. It's an oxymoron. Hope has no connotations of certainty. Hope carries no assurances of success. Hope is the one thing in this world that can never be false. Hope is exactly what is says -– a longing, a desire. Is there such a thing as false desire?”

-- Josh Gajewski