Ask Hank Azaria about the grand old time he had in Miami Beach while filming the 1996 comedy The Birdcage, and he won’t have an answer for you. Turns out his hysterical turn as Agador the flamboyant housekeeper was shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles.
Believe this bummer: Not one of Azaria’s scenes was filmed in South Florida, but the 50-year-old actor has been down often over the last 30 years visiting Mom, who has a condo in Miami. Mother and son reunite once again Saturday night, when the New York-based Azaria, best known for his voice work on The Simpsons, plays master of ceremonies for Miami Jewish Health Systems’ 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee gala. He has a special tie as his grandmother spent her final years at MJHS’s assisted-living facility. We talked before his trip:
So what will your role as emcee involve?
I will be there or otherwise my mom will kill me! I don’t really have an idea what I’m going to say yet. I will be nice. As far as entertaining people, I can improv a little, but I should probably prepare. Some of the older folks might not get my references. I may end up stealing from Jerry Seinfeld’s routine.
Your role as sleazy FBI director on Ed Cochran on last season of “Ray Donovan” was entertaining. Are you coming back?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I should find out soon where they are taking the story. It’s a fun show to be on. I would be a fan even if I weren’t on it. My guy [Ed] started out pretty normal, but I knew he was headed for freakdom. It was a question of waiting for the other shoe to drop — and drop it did. The cast is great; Sherilyn Fenn did a great job, so did Steven Bauer. He’s awesome.
You’re known for your voice work in “The Simpsons” and various comedic roles. Is it refreshing to do drama?
Yeah, I usually do stuff that is kind of out there. But you could say I played serious in Grosse Pointe Blank as a kind of government assassin. And in Tuesdays With Morrie I was a normal human being, right? But I really just do what people ask. As long as the script is good I don’t care whether it’s funny. Eclectic things make me happy.
You have a 5-year-old son, Hal [with wife, actress Katie Wright]. How’s child-rearing going?
It keeps you busy, doesn’t it? Astonishing the energy they have. I remember what it’s like to have endless energy like that. We’re relieved, we just sorted out where he’s going to kindergarten in the fall. In Manhattan, the application process is quite the ordeal. There are full-blown essays! I worked harder on this than my own college application. I’m really not kidding about that. They’re judging not just the kids, but parents too. It’s so competitive that some people who don’t get in anywhere actually have to move out of the city.
Besides applying to schools, what else are you working on?
My main project is that we’re close to selling a cable series based on a bit I did for FunnyorDie.com: The character, Jim Brockmire, is a crazy baseball announcer and making him into something bigger has been a dream of mine for years. I also have a new cartoon for Fox called Bordertown with the producers of Family Guy, which I’m excited about. I’m about to shoot a [politically themed] indie called Oppenheimer Strategies with Richard Gere, Steve Buscemi and Michael Sheen. I just did a Facebook chat as well.
Regarding Facebook, do you like interacting on social media?
You know, it’s a brave new world, it’s all gotten smaller. It’s cool to be able to connect with people. Of course there are some weirdos out there. You definitely deal with that, so it’s best to avoid the comments section. But it’s like crack sometimes — you can’t stay away. You have to look. I get treated fairly well because I’m not controversial. Every once in a while, I see something horrid. You’d be surprised by people; they say the craziest things.
The Diamond Jubilee Gala will take place at Miami Jewish Health Systems HQ, 5200 NE Second Ave., Miami, north of the Design District. Call 305-514-8623; http://miamijewishhealthsystems.org.