‘M*A*S*H’ Actor Perfectly Summed Up the Issue with Phones in Society Today

by Suzanne Halliburton
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M*A*S*H star Alan Alda is so very old school. He learned to communicate through every means out there. But the 85-year-old still loves the human-to-human contact best.

It’s why the guy who played Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce on M*A*S*H almost a half-century ago now hosts a podcast. It’s called Clear + Vivid. And in his own description of it, Alda said you’ll learn “how good it feels” to just talk to someone. Because, Alda said, people need this “now more than ever.”

He blames our phones. We’ve never had more ways to communicate while being so bad at it. Alda discussed the topic in a wide-ranging interview back in 2019, when SAG-AFTRA selected the M*A*S*H icon for its 55th Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I think it’s why people listen to this podcast,” Alda told Gabrielle Carteris, the SAG-AFTRA president. “We all have a desire, an inherited desire, to make contact with other people. Yet we have this tendency towards anonymity. “

Then, Alda brought up an earlier societal trend.

“As soon as we got cars, we moved away from our families,” Alda said.

Then came the mobile phones, which evolved into smart phones. We all can text, post on Facebook or Instagram or tweet without ever opening our mouths to have a conversation.

“We stopped talking to anybody,” said the M*A*S*H star. “And yet we are hungry for contact.”

M*A*S*H Cast Still Is Very Close

Alda is social-media friendly. He has 243,000 followers on Twitter. And he likes to use the account to promote his podcast and reminisce about old shows like M*A*S*H. The show was so well written and authentic. But although it ran from 1972-83, it doesn’t feel dated. That’s mainly because the show was set during the Korean War, so it never was intended to be modern day. The series is all about relationships, between the doctors and nurses and the medical staff with their patients, the soldiers.

Earlier in the interview with Carteris, Alda described why the M*A*S*H cast was so close and got to be so good at acting.

“We didn’t do what a lot of actors do between shots,” Alda said of M*A*S*H. “We didn’t go over the lines a little bit then disappear into the dressing room while they light the set for a scene.”

Instead, Alda said: “We sat in a circle of chairs and made fun of each other for hours at a time. And just laughed. Played word games. Come up with stupid questions. Taking a poll — what’s your favorite ethnic food.

“People gravitated to it because it was so much fun,” Alda said of M*A*S*H. “But what would happen was, and why it was such an important acting lesson for me, that connection we established sitting in chairs as people, not as actors … The main thing was this person to person, reading each other’s faces, being in the same moment together. When they called us to the set … we got there connected already.”

Alda said the surviving members of M*A*S*H still get together about once a year for dinner. And they stay in touch via email.

Alda said there’s still “so much laughing and kidding” at the dinners. “It was just like being in the chairs again. I see so many posts on Twitter where people are glad to see we’re all still friends. “

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