By Kristina Houck
Jeffrey Tambor was 9 when he decided he wanted to be an actor. He had stumbled upon a rehearsal at the theater across the street from his San Francisco home.
“It was the first time I ever felt love,” Tambor said. “It was the first time I ever felt connection. The first time I ever felt my own power. The first time I ever felt God.
“I found my purpose.”
For 40 years, Tambor has starred in numerous television shows and movies, including “Arrested Development” and “The Hangover” films. But he almost let fear keep him from his passion.
Tambor talked about overcoming fear and chasing passion during the second annual “Inspiring Minds Speaker Series” on Dec. 10 at Congregation Beth Am in Carmel Valley. His one-man show “What’s Keeping You from Performing Your Life?” encouraged audience members to discover what’s been holding them back from reaching their dreams.
Born in San Francisco, Tambor was the son of a housewife and a contractor. As a child, he had a bilateral lisp and was overweight. His family “put the ‘D’ back in dysfunctional,” he said.
“People think this story is about happiness,” Tambor said. “I am the son of Russian Hungarian Jews, so I know nothing about happiness.”
Tambor eventually found happiness in acting and reading — he’s part owner of a Los Angeles-based bookstore.
But when the 69-year-old actor achieved success early in his career, he let fear overcome him. He was scared of losing success.
“When I got successful, that’s when the trouble started with me,” he said. “I would drive to the set the night before to practice driving to the set. I would take the call sheet and memorize the call sheet. I would learn lines over and over until I learned them so much that I didn’t know them. I drove myself crazy. I lost my confidence.”
Tambor recalled auditioning for a Bounce dryer sheet commercial. He didn’t have to be on set until 6 p.m., but he showed up at 6 a.m. He practiced his line, “Hey, my socks don’t cling,” over and over. When he finally got in front of the camera, he forgot his line.
“My bank account got to zero, and I realized I had to beat this thing,” he said.
“I believe what keeps us from our purpose, what keeps us from our dream, what keeps us from being all that we can be is a story,” Tambor said. “My story is, ‘I’m really not good enough.’”
He asked the audience, “What’s your story? What’s keeping you?”
After earning a master’s degree in theater arts from Wayne State University in Michigan, Tambor went on to play a variety of characters in television and film, including the role of Hank Kingsley in “The Larry Sanders Show.” His character coined the catchphrase, ‘Hey, now!’ and Tambor received four Emmy nominations for his performance.
Today, Tambor lives with his wife, Kasia Ostlun, and their four children. He also has an adult daughter from a previous relationship.
“Adore everything,” Tambor said. “All of it — the ups and downs — because this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.”
For more on Tambor, visit jeffreytambor.net.