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MacGyver’s Tips for Answering the Tough Questions

Richard Dean Anderson was made famous by MacGyver and has been haunted by him ever since. Rosabel Tan headed to Armageddon to watch him talking with ghosts. //

He’s a man who can fix a blown fuse with a gum wrapper, and who once built a defibrillator out of some candlesticks, a microphone and a rubber mat. But what we really learned at Sunday afternoon’s Armageddon session with Richard Dean Anderson was how to stay charming when evading insane, impossible questions.

Perhaps his unflappable skill here is due to the incomparable experience he gained battling psychopaths and aliens as MacGyver and Lieutenant General Jack O’Neill in the Stargate SG-1 military sci-fi epic. Here are four of the approaches he demonstrated on Sunday. Try them at home. Try them at parties.

The Blank

Chalk it up to jetlag, his easy charm, or the indecipherable mess of the New Zealand accent, but when host Sean Schemmel asked if he was enjoying the country, Richard stared back as though he’d said something completely incomprehensible. After a moment, he shook his head slightly, as though to clear the haze, and delivered the following line with pitch perfect confusion:

“What?”

Upon clarification, Richard stated that he did like New Zealand (“What landscape I’ve seen is gorgeous and green”) and tipped his hat especially to “Tinkytown. What is it? Hobbitville. Hobbit City? What is it? Hobbit Town. Oh, Hobbiton? Well, you know what t-o-n stands for.”

You’ll need: a poker face and fairly convincing reason for being confused

Success rate: Three stars. You’ll get hundreds of people laughing in appreciation – but you’ll still end up having to answer the question.

The Technical Glitch

The most surreal aspect of being in a room full of hundreds of MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 fans is the fact that they all know more about Richard Dean Anderson’s work than he (as someone who is neither particularly narcissistic nor autistic) ever will.

At one point, a fan posed a question about “the infamous season four episode ‘Window of Opportunity’”, a Groundhog Day-style episode that starts in the mess hall each time. In it, Dr Jackson asks O’Neill a question, but you never hear what the question is. Was the question ever in the script, the fan asked, or did it never exist? Let’s keep in mind that this is an episode that screened 14 years ago.

“I think we’re having sound problems,” frowns Richard. Eventually he relents and concedes, saying he honestly doesn’t know.

You’ll need: a piece of technology, such as a microphone or a cellphone, or a cellphone made from paper clips and a bottle cap. Ideally but not mandatorily malfunctioning.

Success rate: four stars. Better success if you’re not in the same room.

The Dart-and-Deflect

It was inevitable that some kind of ‘creative’ question would get asked. It’s Godwin’s law for MacGyver. Today, it’s whether he’s ever been “alone in a room with some rubber-bands and paper clips and thought: What can I build?”

His answer is simple, and delivered with a bemused smile: “No.”

“First of all,” he continues, “I’ve never been alone in a room full of rubber bands.” He pauses. “And if I was, I would expect to be arrested.”

You’ll need: an ability to deconstruct an unrealistic hypothetical situation

Success rate: four stars, better still if you end as Richard does, with a generous offer (“That’s quite a scenario you’ve come up with.”) and a diversion to what really drove the philosophy behind MacGyver (“Don’t use a gun, use your head.”)

The Counter-Question

Similar to the ‘creative’ questions were those which wondered how much Richard Dean Anderson, the man, overlapped with Richard Dean Anderson, the MacGyver.

At this session, it’s a dude dressed as Jack Sparrow asking him if he carries a Swiss army knife at all times, just like MacGyver does. Just in case.

Richard pauses at this point, presumably to swallow his exasperation, before countering with another question. “Have you travelled through an airport lately?”

You’ll need: another question

Success rate: five stars, because it answers the question while simultaneously refusing to dignify it.

Watch Richard Dean Anderson as Stargate SG-1’s Jack O’Neill on Lightbox – with a 30 day free trial – by clicking here.