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The Questionnaires of James Lipton, Bernard Pivot, and Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

What is your favorite list of questions? Your least favorite?

Viewers of Inside the Actors Studio are familiar with host James Lipton’s list of questions, which he poses to each of his guests at the end of an interview. These questions are supposed to reveal deep inner truths about one’s personality, but their effectiveness depends entirely on who’s answering them.

Lipton always gives credit for this list to French talk show host Bernard Pivot, who hosted Apostrophes from 1975–1990 and Bouillon de Culture from 1990–2001; he often mentions that the list originally came from French novelist Marcel Proust (1871–1922). Proust did not actually create the questionnaire that frequently has his name attached, though he did famously answer two versions of it (once at age 13, and a second time at age 20), and thereby gave the lists a certain notoriety. The lists started as a parlor game, and their original author is unknown.

As it turns out, Lipton’s list differs in three questions from Pivot’s, and neither Lipton’s list nor Pivot’s has a single question in common with either of Proust’s! But here are all four lists (the last three being approximate French translations).

James Lipton’s Questionnaire

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Bernard Pivot’s Questionnaire

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What is your favorite drug?
  4. What sound or noise do you love?
  5. What sound or noise do you hate?
  6. What is your favorite curse word?
  7. Who would you like to see on a new banknote?
  8. What profession other than your own would you not like to attempt?
  9. If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Marcel Proust’s Questionnaires

At age 13:

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  2. Where would you like to live?
  3. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
  4. To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
  5. Who are your favorite fictional heroes?
  6. Who are your favorite characters in history?
  7. Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
  8. Who are your favorite fictional heroines?
  9. Who is your favorite painter?
  10. Who is your favorite musician?
  11. What quality do you most admire in a man?
  12. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
  13. What is your favorite virtue?
  14. What is your favorite occupation?
  15. Who would you have liked to be?

At age 20:

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?
  2. What quality do you most like in a man?
  3. What quality do you most like in a woman?
  4. What do you value most in your friends?
  5. What is your principal defect?
  6. What is your favorite occupation?
  7. What is your dream of happiness?
  8. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?
  9. What would you like to be?
  10. In what country would you like to live?
  11. What is your favorite color?
  12. What is your favorite flower?
  13. What is your favorite bird?
  14. Who are your favorite prose writers?
  15. Who are your favoite poets?
  16. Who are your favorite fictional heros?
  17. Who are your favorite fictional heroines?
  18. Who are your favorite composers?
  19. Who are your favorite painters?
  20. Who are your heroes in real life?
  21. Who are your favorite heroines of history?
  22. What are your favorite names?
  23. What do you most dislike?
  24. What historical figures do you most despise?
  25. What event in military history do you most admire?
  26. What reform do you most admire?
  27. What natural gift would you most like to possess?
  28. How would you like to die?
  29. What is your present state of mind?
  30. To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
  31. What is your motto?

Quite a few celebrities have answered the latter version of this list at Vanity Fair.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on SenseList on September 6, 2006.

Image credit: By Otto Wegener (1849-1924) - détail [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



This post first appeared on Interesting Thing Of The Day, please read the originial post: here

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The Questionnaires of James Lipton, Bernard Pivot, and Marcel Proust

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