In 1998, you hosted Saturday Night Live, which is, of course, filmed at Rockefeller Center. What are your favorite buildings in the city? What I love about New York the most are the residences, the town houses that were built all over the city in different styles: Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian. You see all these different kinds of houses next to each other, on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. I love all of them. And I love the Chrysler Building; I love the Empire State Building. I even love Wall Street, which I think is kind of glamorous-looking. I've always had this fantasy that someday I would have an office in a great big building. Trinity Church is a gorgeous building way downtown. It looks complicated, and it's dark. There is a graveyard right next to it.
If you read Michael Cunningham's book Specimen Days, the first section of it sort of deals with New York in the industrial age, when Walt Whitman was around. You really get the feeling of what the city was like as a working city and as a place. You know, Whitman evidently walked around my neighborhood when he worked on the docks on the West Side.
What's your favorite walk? There's a lot of stuff on Hudson and 14th streets. Hudson Street is always a great street to walk down. You could start at 14th Street and Ninth Avenue and follow it all the way down through the Village, then loop around and come up. Or you could zigzag your way through the West Village. We haven't even talked about the East Village and Tompkins Square Park, which is also a cool place, a great playground and very, very green. There are a lot of vegetarian restaurants and places that are great for college kids.
You would eventually wander into a museum, right? Well, you have to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I remember going to the Met when I was a kid. It's just a magnificent museum. You can always do a special show there, or you can just choose a classic and go see the Egyptian stuff and the armor. The Museum of Modern Art is spectacular, too, and they have just finished their renovation. There's also a great restaurant in there, called the Modern. But if you feel like going somewhere really casual, there is a place called Burger Heaven in the East 50s. The Frick is kind of fun. Way uptown is the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, which gives you a different way to look at things.
Okay, what about New York nightlife? I have no nightlife - but I know Broadway! After the theater, Orso is great. The food is always delicious. The people are lovely. You know what? This is actually funny: In my neighborhood, there is this place on Ninth Avenue called Pop Burger. I've been there both at 12:30 in the afternoon with my kids having a hot dog and french fries and at 12:30 in the morning when it is a complete club scene, when people are coming in to get milk shakes and they're hot after having been in a bar all night. It's just another example of how there can be all these different lives in New York that don't intersect. They have a whole daytime life and a nighttime life. For sushi, we like Bond Street. We also go to Japonica, on University. The other restaurant we love, love, love - and we go there probably at least once a week - is Bar Pitti, which is on Sixth Avenue. Bar Pitti is another great Italian place. It's just a wonderful restaurant with great people in it. I think we are going there tonight, as a matter of fact.
Is there a nightlife place you love from your past? I didn't go out then, either. I just kind of worked and came home. Pastis is good late at night as well as during the day. I told you about Orso; that's a great place to go before or after the theater. Also good is Joe's Pub, which is right next to the public theater where I worked when I was younger. They have a lot of interesting cabaret shows, and it's a cool place to go.
After having moved around so much as a kid, when did you really feel like you were a New Yorker? It takes about a year. The first six months, the shock of actually being there and getting used to the pace starts to wear off, and then once you've been in the city for a year, you feel like you are kind of officially a New Yorker. It's when you go away and you come back and the guy who sells magazines on the corner asks where you've been. That makes you feel like you really belong to a community. That's what New York is like. I know the people in local restaurants. There are people I just say hello to when I pass them on the street. There are people I know from various playgrounds. There is a kind of great sense of community. New York rewards people who return.